Friday, December 23, 2011

Ruthie's Christmas Wish 2011

I ran across a blog tonight, as one does.  I highly recommend that you read it.  It's called Ruthie in the Sky.

You know how, on Blogger, when you click on a blog's "About Me"/"View My Complete Profile" section, you are taken to the blog writer's profile?  Right!  And you know how, once there, part of Blogger Fun is being asked a nonsensical (or terribly, awfully sensible) question, to which the blog author jots a quick answer, something wry and, one prays, not too embarrassing?  Right!

Well, in the course of setting up her profile, Ruthie drew this gem to answer:

When your science teacher smashed a frozen rose with a hammer, did you warm the petals to bring them back to life?

And answer the heck out it, did Ruthie:

No. I sang to the petals and they warmed into rubies that glittered with diamond dew.
Just so you'll have one point of comparison, the clever bit of Blogger back-and-forth included in my profile went this way:

BLOGGER: Create a tagline for a new line of plastic bedsheets.
ME:  No. Meh.

Ruthie identifies herself, in general, as a middle-aged woman, a hitchhiker, a blogger, and a photographer.  I suspect that this merely scratches the surface, but we'll respect the limits of self-disclosure, and leave that but-who-*is*-she-really line of inquiry alone.

Well, here.  This is how Ruthie states it at Knol:

I have hitchhiked throughout Alaska, most of the Provinces of Canada and every State in the Continental U.S. This is my eighteenth year on the road (since 1993) and I am now fifty-six. You want to know the truth about hitchhiking in North America? Read on! And check out my blog, "Ruthie In The Sky" (created in 2004) for updates on my latest run on the road.

I have hitchhiked between Montana and North Carolina and Pennsylvania to Colorado, this year (2011) (hitchiked thousands of miles back-and-forth) and I am still posting regular updates in my blog. I am still on the road, as of Thanksgiving 2011 but I might settle in Nebraska for the winter months.

So, I may be a Ruthie Fan, is what I am trying to say, although serious consideration must be given to how swayed I am by romanticism of the highway, the byways, and all the rivers that run to the sea.

I thought, though, that you might enjoy reading her Christmas Wish for this year:

It's almost Christmas and the people in this Country have different ways of celebrating.

Today, I wonder how those who are considering doing something terrible are planning to spend Christmas Day?

We have quite a few children missing, right now. Two men with guns have already taken innocent lives.

And it's only the second week of December.

So, in the true spirit of Christmas, I am going to make this request:

Stop hate.

Because hate hurts and it makes people cry. It breaks hearts, destroys families, takes lives and it makes our Country weak.

If you can't be every person's best friend, at least don't be their worst enemy.

You may find this hard to accept still has a place in the United States.

So give a better part of you away this Christmas. Toss hate in the nearest basket and give out some love, instead.

Every day until Christmas, you will have a choice: Love someone or lose something.

Think about it.

Thank you.

Her update from earlier today is not so heartening, and Ruthie predicts that only in its virtual forms will her Christmas have the "normal" warmth and comforts of the season.

The Christmas Post: Glad Tidings, Good Yule

It's a Christmas tradition ("Holidays, we celebrate them all at Marlinspike Hall!") that some intimate and integral bit of The Manor shall fail right when we believe ourselves through the punishing gauntlet for the year.

Christmas 2011 will be remembered as the year we sent all the plumber's children to college.

Fred and I will be installing one final faucet and mopping up the standing water later today, then we are off to the Lone Alp Outlet Malls to partake of last-minute bargains.  If only people in our social circle would accept my invitation to revise their calendars and set back their clocks, but they don't want to be seen celebrating on December 27, despite the kickass bargains of the day before.

Wusses.  There would be plenty of time to normalize settings for the new year;  No one would have missed even one drop of celebratory champagne.

We are so awash, here, so bloated by an embarrassment of riches -- that I may cancel today's Lone Alp Outlet run.  If there is any need, at present, it is not for stuff.  Well, it's more that the stuff we need turns out to be things like washers-of-a-certain-size, replacement cement gargoyles and new copper gutters, an authentic supply of wattle-and-daub for the crumbling wall common to both the heavily ornamented Baroque Ballroom and the more austere Imperial Sauna -- that sort of "stuff."

Packages have come to us from across the wide world.  No one but me knows where they have been stashed, unopened and unacknowledged.  In my various foul moods, I've tucked a package here, a package there, unless my chocolate detection meter was set off, in which case, good luck ever finding even a trace of cocoa butter from those particular bundles.

The worst case scenario is that I'll have to organize something like an Easter Egg Hunt for our Christmas presents.

One of the packages, though, sits as a bit of ballast for my weird Office Rocking Chair -- the Bent Oak, painted green, that Fred says frightens him.  The weight of the package is perfect for keeping the steam-bent runners poised mid-way, mid-rock. My office, my Tao.

It's not a Christmas gift.  It came in time for the celebration of Winter Solstice, and it is from Brother-Unit TW.  An ugly mix of guilt and regret has kept me from opening it, just as I had hoped to still the passage of time before the downhill side of the axis situation could maliciously make my days fly.

I'm going to go get it now, and we can open it together.

I'll be right back, then.

Whew.  It's heavy.

Okay, first:  TW, your handwriting is eerily similar to Brother-Unit Grader Boob's tiny écriture.  Also, can you hear me channeling the Nana Person:  "$14.95 for shipping? Are you meshugana? What’s this mishegas?"

Let me find some scissors -- or a sacrificial pen -- with which to attack the straps of tape.  All right, here we are, and I am already choking up, for the first thing I see... is TW.

Trim and healthy-looking, mustachioed and shaded (both with glasses and a hat), nattily dressed, standing beside a tent in what looks to be a field of sleeping Dead Heads, none of whom appear to be conscious, much less dressed and ready for anything.  Not like *my* brother!

This is an odd thing to notice... and I cannot defend it with even one descriptor... but TW looks calm, more than anything.  Calm.  The eye of a sleeping hurricane.  Maybe it's just that he is the only put-together human in view, but I get the sense that he is the Go-To-Guy;  He's Mr. Dependable.

Next, a handwritten note, in which he is faithful to the tradition we established a few years back, according to which I am the recipient of riches unimagined.  The tradition began in the winter of 2009, and started this way: "...thinking it would be a way to save money and be a marvelous gift, I asked my two brother-units for used copies of the two books that had been the most formative to the person they each have become."

From that silly request has come so much delight, delight gathered in heavy boxes, then shipped hundreds of miles, and so, to testify against the silliness of purchased presents. My brother Grader Boob never responded to the challenge; My brother TW has never stopped.  For the series of blog posts inspired by TW's gift boxes, enter "gifts" into the search thingy up above the blog title, in the left corner.

Guffaw.  Or just CLICK HERE.  I am so stupid this morning.

Another photo, a real snap shot, of someone mid-climb, somewhere in the Grand Canyon, TW's backyard playground.  I don't think it is him, though. But why would he send an unidentified picture of someone else? ["It's him," said Fred, "No doubt."  Well, okay then.]

A beautiful card -- he never, ever forgets Fred, though he insists on calling him "aitch," and we dare not correct him, Lord knows what all those years of brain-baking sun have done to the lad.  Anyway, he knows, as does anyone who knows me the least little bit, that Fred is, himself, an indescribable and under-appreciated gift.

Christmas is also Fred's birthday, making it a holy day, in deed.

Alfred Lansing's Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage.  Honestly?  Fred will love it... and I appreciate that it is "a tale of survival."  [Yes, Fred did get the big eyes over it...]

More hand-beaded hippie-chic jewelry, necklaces, medallions:  Yay!  I love this stuff.  Talismans. No... amulets?  Handcrafted anything is lovely, the hint of southwestern indian art/artifact, also sweet.

Another woven placemat (this is fast becoming our first private joke), within which is a beautiful slice of stone -- geode -- of a beautiful translucent round brown.

Also: pearly.  Definitely pearly.

The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack, 5 CDs. Cool.

The Pogues: The Ultimate Collection.
A Grand Canyon patch.
Joni Mitchell:  hits.
Ensemble Alcatraz:  Danse Royale (songs and dances from the 13th century).
Tom Waits: nighthawks at the diner.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

The Folger Consort: A Distant Mirror, Music of the Fourteenth Century and Shakespeare's Music.
Freddie King is a Blues Master.

E.E. Cummings:  Collected Poems 1922-1938 -- flipped open to the portentous poem on its page 225:

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

The Original Soundtrack From the Movie Rockers.
The Seldom Scene: Old Train. Ah, I am precisely in the mood for this.

Seldom Scene on Tommy Hunter Show - "Wait a Minute"
Uploaded by BluegrassLibrary to YouTube on Jul 9, 2008

Wait a minute, did I hear you say
You're goin' far away again?
Try to change it, I can't take
The lonely nights without your love

Do you want the road
To get the music done and move along?
What good does it do
Play your songs for her and hear her say?

Wait a minute, did I hear you say
You're goin' far away again?
Try to change it, I can't take
The lonely nights without your love

Rollin' along and life's been
Good to you but even so
She comes to you, late at night's
The time you hear her say once again

Wait a minute, did I hear you say
You're goin' far away again?
Try to change it, I can't take
The lonely nights without your love

Waitin' for you thirty days
And nights without a rest
I got to hold on, twenty-five to go
And once again or I'll hear her say

Wait a minute, did I hear you say...

Itzhak Perlman: Saint-Saens, Sarasate, Chausson, Ravel
Janice Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Co.: Live at Winterland '68.  Oh, wow.
The Chieftains: Celtic Wedding.  {unsightly fist-pumping}
"The concept for the album was to musically recreate a 14th century Breton wedding ceremony, and became the first in the musical voyages tracing the influences of Celtic music around the world."

One sealed packet of Lilly Miller Leaf Lettuce Seed, Prizehead.

One ceramic Trader Dicks' Easter Island Head-Thingy, closed with a rubber tub stopper, within which were wrapped:
one rubber magic lamp;
one Grand Canyon National Park 75th Anniversary pin;
more beaded hippy jewelry;
a crystal to hang at the embrasure;
a piece of crumbling sandstone upon which there may be the imprint of feathers -- no, fern fronds (much of which is now embedded in my keyboard, grrr.).

Here is the Christmas Brunch *salad* menu at Trader Dick's Restaurante Orozko, which I invite you to peruse while I get the vacuum. Just the salad part, mind you.  I'm hungry!

Jumbo Prawns Cocktail with Cognac Remoulade 
Seared Rare Ahi with Tobiko Aioli 
Smoked Salmon & Rainbow Trout 
with Condiments and Mini Bagels 
Antipasto Platter 
Marinated Mushroom & Artichoke Salad 
Imported & Domestic Cheese Board 
Nugget’s Caesar Salad 
Dungeness Crab and Fettuccine Salad 
Baby Spinach & Shiitake Salad 
with Warm Sesame Ginger Dressing 
Field Greens with Dressing Selection 
Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella with Balsamic Syrup 
Holiday Waldorf Salad 
Ambrosia Salad 
Crispy Duck Green Bean & Pasta Salad

Okay, all better!  My keys are now pristine and I swiped a burrito out of the fridge.

Next in the box of gifts:

Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver, A Novel (Volume One of the Baroque Cycle).  A Brother-Unit and his historical novels, never enough reality!
Oops, and here is Volume Two -- The Confusion.
Ah, and now I remember that there is a promise of Volume Three in TW's note.  That's good, as the frustration of ending a trilogy on its second part might be soul-crushing.

I'm thinking of starting the journey tonight, as I am struggling through a truly nasty novel at the moment.

Another snapshot, TW in front of a nuclear blast site sign.  He appears to be in the middle of nowhere.  Ummm, and as odd a remark as this is, coming from a sibling, he has gorgeously tanned legs.  This was the era of the short short.

One charred toothpick, perhaps a gift, perhaps not.

The Grateful Dead:  wake the dead.
Women of the World: Celtic II.  From the eighth cut, Pamela Morgan's It Ain't Funny:

His lullaby, the waves outside his window
His father and himself made a wonderful pair
Five hundred years of fishing in his family
Still the government wouldn't listen when he said
"trouble down there"
It ain't funny- it ain't funny no more

Fat cat smirking in the land of plenty
Making jokes about a people from a gentler time
Sanctioned and applauded the whole gang rape of the place
But like any rape they blame the victim for the crime
It ain't funny it ain't funny no more

Now the Newfs are becoming a strain on the Ottawa wallet
There's no need to be nice- what's left is up for sale
And the best small boatsmen in the world are on the dole
Stupid and lazy according to the Globe and Mail

It ain't funny
Nobody's laughing now
It ain't funny
Something has changed somehow
It ain't funny, it ain't funny no more
[From the Newfs in Ottawa Facebook Page:

Newfoundlanders live in houses not shacks.. we eat fish sometimes but are not all fishermen... hip rubbers are convienient but not a provincial fashion statement... we are smart.. we speak funny, loudly and do so with pride... we are friendly...we are free.. we are amazing .. and we are in Ottawa...still fighting the fight to FREE Newfoundland!]

Dylan's Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: The Royal Albert Hall Concert.
Clannad: Banba.
Kate Wolf, An Evening in Austin.
Cumbia Cumbia: A Selection of Colombian Cumbia Recordings
Orchestra Baobab: Specialist in All Styles.
Orchestra Baobab is a Senegalese Afro-Cuban, Son, Wolof and Pachanga band. Organized in 1970, as a multi-ethnic, multi-national club band, Orchestre Baobab adapted the then current craze for Cuban Music (growing out of the Congolese Soukous style) in West Africa to Wolof Griot culture and the Mandinga musical traditions of the Casamance. One of the dominant African bands of the 1970s, they were overshadowed in the 1980s and broke up, only to reform in 2001 after interest in their recordings grew in Europe.
Ella Fitzgerald, These are the blues.
Sarah Vaughn, This is jazz/20.
The Girl From Ipanema, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook.
The Time-Life Treasury of the Blues.
Les Négresses Vertes, Mlah.
Patrick Bell, Celtic Harp.
The John Renbourn Group:  Live in America.
Pietro Mascagni, Cavalleria Rusticana.

One audiocassette recording from 6/22/82, of The Clash at San Francisco Civic Auditorium.

One bit of broken plastic, now further broken, and gone, mostly, after the arrival sur scène of Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten.  I hope we won't be rushing him to the vet... He looks distinctly proud of himself, with that "mine, all mine" look of puissant pussy cat.

Two snapshots, poor quality, excellent subjects.  A bird in the hand in front of what looks to be the sea wall at the end of the world, backed by a beautiful rainbow -- and some bushy-headed guy in an Ireland tee shirt.

Okay, so Fred pointed out that it is a bit unusual to have electric wires strung in the middle of the ocean.  Another familial holiday gift, the grandfather's glaucoma.  I am blind as a bat.  Apparently, that snapshot is of the brother-unit and his girl feeling one another up in the desert.

Ha!  My world, made of things seen wrong!  Thus far in this blind journey, the corrections have all been amusing, if not always instructive.

Good Yule, all, and thank you, TW.  I hear rumblings out in the common area.  It might be time for me to hold a flashlight and mumble words of encouragement, for I think we've sprung another leak.

Geocentric (Ptolemaic) model of the universe from BibliOdyssey: Celestial Mechanics
The image above is "cropped and cleaned up somewhat from a newly digitised hand-written manuscript, online at Harvard University's Houghton Library: [MS Typ 57] 'La Sphere du Monde..', 1549, by Oronce Fine."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Free Access: Predictors of Pain Relieving Response to Sympathetic Blockade in CRPS Type 1

Good Thursday, Dear Readers.
Happy Solstice!

I almost passed over the notice I received about this article's publication, irritated by what seemed a blithe acceptance of sympathetic blocks as an always appropriate first-line response in treating CRPS.  If you're a regular here, you know I'm a tad touchy about medicos who don't update their knowledge, who continue old ways based on old understandings.

Good thing I looked closer and saw this was from the good people at TREND (Trauma Related Neuronal Dysfunction), "a knowledge consortium that integrates research on complex regional pain syndrome type 1, and supported by a Dutch government grant."

Better, they address my concern upfront, and first thing. They even manage to be polite about it. So long as folks persist in waltzing down the yellow brick road proclaiming "sympathetic nervous system dysfunction" as the crux of the matter, there will be people subjecting themselves to (no kidding) hundreds of sympathetic blocks, whether they "work" or not. This culture of treatment is crucial to the support of pain management clinics that rake in cash -- hand over fist -- for procedures, procedures, procedures.

I would love to see an undercover investigative report of one of these procedure factories, where many patients are told they will not receive pain medication unless they submit to procedures, procedures, procedures.

Though I had not teased out all the details, this was roughly my situation early on in my CRPS treatment saga. Newly diagnosed, I had been suffering from CRPS for two years at that point. Delay in diagnosis and treatment is too normal, unfortunately. The anesthesiologist in question told me blatant lies about various medications, as well as telling me to stop taking the narcotic pain regimen in the manner of frozen fowl, cold turkey. "Oh, you can just stop taking it. No problem." A few seizures later... Ha! He would not condone taking Baclofen, saying "it's for crazy people." (We've yet to figure that out.) And nuts I must be, because today, seven years later, Baclofen may be all that keeps me from permanent installation at the psych hospital.

[Hell, I no longer look upon my potential for Funny Farm residence as something to be ashamed of... Today, I daydreamed about the relief that might be inherent in going insane, so long as that journey involved immunity to pain, as well as the elimination of the lies and good manners necessary to the oh-so-civilized suffering of pain. Maybe I wouldn't be so obsessed with wanting to bitch slap the sweet people brave enough to stay in my life.]

Anyway, after the Nth sympathetic lumbar block to no effect, as I lay prone waiting for Nth-plus-one, it occured to me to ask why we were continuing, arduously continuing, to do them.

He was scrubbing at the sink, back to me, and had laughter in his voice: "I guess it doesn't make much sense to you, huh?"

I wonder how differently I might have behaved had I missed that joyful (ka-ching ka-ching) tone; Had he been facing me, his serious doctor-face might have made me doubt myself. Because no, it did not make sense to me, that I was being bankrupted for treatments that weren't in the least helpful.

Sympathetic block Nth-plus-one never happened. Fred was grinning from ear-to-ear.

The next pain management guru is the one I am still with, though I believe he'd be happy were I to leave. He turned out to be from the opposite end of the spectrum and believes me so far gone with the disease that the only appropriate modality is pharmaceutical management. Please note that I have tried to soldier on, revisiting physical therapies, going daily to the gym (until my bones started snapping), riding the Ketamine train, et cetera.

There just are not many pain management doctors/clinics that happily marry appropriate procedures with judicious drug maintenance. The procedure joints are like factories without the predictable factory outcomes; The places that just hand out prescriptions are, hands down, best at killing hope.

Back to these good TREND researchers! Their purpose is cleanly delineated -- how to ensure that patients receiving blocks are the patients most likely to have relief from them. And as I said, they immediately address the whole "sympathetically maintained pain" thang -- not dogmatically, but clearly enough.  Emphases are, of course, mine:

Complex regional pain syndrome exhibits some signs and symptoms that may indicate sympathetic autonomic dysfunction, yet sympathetic blockade produces inconsistent improvement in this condition.

In a prospective series of patients with complex regional pain syndrome type 1, the success rate with sympathetic blockade was moderate (31%), and no signs or symptoms predicted block success.

The use of a sympathetic block (SB) for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in the management of complex regional pain syndrome type one (CRPS-1) is based on previous hypotheses concerning the involvement of the sympathetic nervous system in the pathophysiologic mechanism of this disease. The nociceptive afferent input was believed to cause hyperactive spinal neuron activity, which stimulated the sympathetic neurons to induce arterial spasms, ischemia, and edema.

In certain cases of CRPS-1, the pain may be attributable to a sympathetically maintained form of pain that is classically defined as pain relieved by SB with local anesthetics. Consequently, SB frequently is performed for the management of CRPS. Current treatment guidelines for CRPS-1 limit the role of SB to selected cases that are refractory to conservative treatment with pharmacologic therapy and physical rehabilitation. When a single SB with a local anesthetic (diagnostic block) proves successful (50% or more pain reduction for the duration of action of the local anesthetic), repeated blocks or a more definitive sympathetic blockade using radiofrequency lesions may be considered. A review of the literature shows that SB with a local anesthetic in patients with CRPS resulted in pain relief in approximately one third of patients. Predicting which patients would benefit from SB would assist physicians in patient selection and reduce the number of unsuccessful invasive SB procedures, along with their potential complications and side effects.

January 2012 - Volume 116 - Issue 1 - p 113–121
doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e31823da45f
Pain Medicine

Predictors of Pain Relieving Response to Sympathetic 
Blockade in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1

van Eijs, Frank M.D.*; Geurts, José M.Sc.†; van Kleef, Maarten M.D., Ph.D.‡; Faber, Catharina G. M.D., Ph.D.§; Perez, Roberto S. Ph.D.‖; Kessels, Alfons G.H. M.D., M.Sc.#; Van Zundert, Jan M.D., Ph.D.**


Background: Sympathetic blockade with local anesthetics is used frequently in the management of complex regional pain syndrome type 1(CRPS-1), with variable degrees of success in pain relief. The current study investigated which signs or symptoms of CRPS-1 could be predictive of outcome. The incidence of side effects and complications of sympathetic blockade also were determined prospectively.

Methods: A prospective observational study was done of 49 patients with CRPS-1 in one extremity only and for less than 1-yr duration who had severe pain and persistent functional impairment with no response to standard treatment with medication and physical therapy.

Results: Fifteen (31%) patients had good or moderate response. The response rate was not different in patient groups with cold or warm type CRPS-1 or in those with more or less than 1.5°C differential increase in skin temperature after sympathetic blockade. Allodynia and hypoesthesia were negative predictors for treatment success in CRPS-1. There were no symptoms or signs of CRPS-1 that positively predicted treatment success. A majority of patients (84%) experienced transient side effects such as headache, dysphagia, increased pain, backache, nausea, blurred vision, groin pain, hoarseness, and hematoma at the puncture site. No major complications were reported.

Conclusions: The presence of allodynia and hypoesthesia are negative predictors for treatment success. The selection of sympathetic blockade as treatment for CRPS-1 should be balanced carefully between potential success and side effect ratio. The procedure is as likely to cause a transient increase in pain as a decrease in pain. Patients should be informed accordingly.

This article may be accessed for personal use at no charge through the Journal Web site,

Author Information
* Consultant Anesthesiologist, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management, St. Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg, The Netherlands. † Research Associate, ‡ Professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, § Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands. ‖ Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology and Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. # Biostatistician, Epidemiologist, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Medical Technology Assessment, University Hospital Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands. ** Consultant Anesthesiologist, Department of Anesthesiology and Multidisciplinary Pain Centre, Hospital Oost-Limburg, Genk, Belgium.

Address correspondence to Dr. van Eijs: Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Mailbox 5800, 6202 AZ Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Magic Movie: Treats In A Ball, A Ball In A Box

I put treats in their Slimcat Food and Treat Dispenser Ball, placed the ball in an empty cardboard drink box, then tossed the whole IQ Test on the floor.  As it had not been long since they'd eaten, the majority response was an underwhelmed feline "meh."

Still, there we were, y'know?

First up, Dobby. Dobby is scary smart -- also, we think, elven (hence the name). The confused and confusing runt of Marmy Fluffy Butt's litter, Dobby is the smallest of the three cats you see. Marmy is the long-hair with the curvaceous sashay and the attitude..

Since Dobby is currently in a too-cool-for-school phase, and Marmy believes in profiting from other's labor, only Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten took on the box and its promise of a snack.

Buddy is always hungry. Always!

(Buddy is the cat wearing the box.)

This is one of those Flip Video Magic Movies, in which the content is chosen by some miniature cinematic wizard.  So what you have here is the uncritical very short version of our morning's boredom.

My Solstice gift to the menagerie arrived yesterday -- a pound of bonito flakes. What fun I had breaking down the large stinky bag into a dozen or so smaller zip-lock bags. I had no clue the stuff was so pungent.

I predict a bonito flake theme in the next Manor movie.

Dashi, anyone?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's gonna be a Rockin' Birthday Eve

After a response time delay that successfully separated my stomach lining from its mother-organ, the assistant to Dr. ShoulderMan called last Tuesday evening with a date for surgery.  It's gonna be a Rockin' Birthday Eve Event on 23 January.

I was able to refrain from asking her to specify the year.

I was, as they say, fit to be tied from the rush to wait.  [I pity the fool who tries to get me into that straitjacket.]

My snark is misdirected, also irrelevant.  Turns out ShoulderMan's assistant, a nurse who is In Charge Of Everything in that particular workshop, had been out of the office the preceding five days.  It was my MDVIP Dr. Go-To-Guy's right hand woman who set me up with expectations... 

I'll let it go, this nonsense, let it float up to heaven tied to the end of a wildlife-smothering mylar balloon with bird-garroting ribbons streaming down, landfill fodder.

[Yeah, that's right, I'm crazed by all the balloon releases that people announce -- as tributes to children dead from evil cancer, usually.  I guess the balloon signifies childhood and the act of watching attached wishes and sentiments rise to the assumptive vault of heaven is cathartic. My vote goes to... I dunno... quilt panels and living memorials of plants and trees.  I'll shut up now.]

I have been brought pretty low of late by things physical, something that is only truly possible by the acquiescence of the mind to things petty.  I've caved in, near implosion, from debilitating sweats, for example, that seem to be accompanied by vicious head and neck aches.  But mostly, it's been the Return of the Spasm that has had me wailing, alone, behind carefully closed doors.

Okay, that's a lie.  I have stopped closing the doors, mostly because every ear in Marlinspike Hall is now entirely immune to the impact of my screams, and never did much react to my cries, anyway, preferring that I announce myself with tasty offerings, via the dinner bell, or with folded clean clothes, after the alarming bark of the dryer timer.

It's not that Fred and La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore don't care;  It's more that no one can sustain the level of pity that I require, especially over an extended period of time.

Thank God for blogging, eh?

Even the Feline Remnant has developed a disturbing catty commentary on my painful inertia.  Dobby has begun leaping onto my blimpy red oozing legs without the least bit of apology, no hint of embarrassment at my yelp of pain.  That glint in his eye had better be a trick of the light.

Personally, I think that with just a tad more dedication and practice, the Indentured Staff, Haddock Middle Management, and Comedic Cling-Ons, all, could whip up sufficient sympathetic fervor -- but that's just me, the hopeless optimist.

The spasms seem to only last about two hours -- that'd be for the one, at most, two, extended sessions of yowling jerkiness per day.  The rest of the time, it's a blitzkrieg sort of experience that clearly derives from techniques of guerrilla and modern urban warfare.  Rapid, apparently disorganized small strikes meant to demoralize as much as disable.  Enmity buried in the ordinary, wide-eyed innocence masking murderous intent.

What?  No, I do not think that the characterization of schtuff (above) is excessively self-important and self-pitying.  What's wrong with you?  Whose blog is it, anyway?

I thought we'd found the formula to defeat CRPS' spasticity, or, at least, the appropriate drug.  It's no surprise -- It's Baclofen.  Also good for hiccups and alcoholism, not necessarily in that order.

Unfortunately, Baclofen can leave me drooling, which begs the important question:  Is life more worth living as a Somnolent Slobberer than as a Total Jerk?  We are trying to ignore the clamor of outside voices, those ninnies who feel no shame in telling me what I ought to do ("Just distract yourself, don't over-medicate!"; "Eat a banana!").  There is always one Ninny who wants to blame a low potassium, who hasn't heard that cantaloupes, prunes, and papaya beat out the banana, or that tomato juice with a baked potato will fill the void, as well.  Be all that as it may, my potassium is fine.

Où est donc le fil de ma pensée? 

Anyway, the Baclofen stopped working, and I cut it back from 80 mg per day to 50-60 mg total, with the result that I no longer spew spittle about The Manor as I twist and twirl and scream.

How is the CRPS, overall?

The Edema Wars continue on, skirmish by skirmish, no real victor in evidence.  I had to spend three days straight in bed to bring down the puffy, liquid nature.of my legs and hands.  It's no longer an extraneous detail, this edema, for when it is uncontrolled, my legs are in the red zone, but with patches both very cold and very hot.  If diuretics, elevation, and rest work their magic and my fingers and ankles reappear?  Then the CRPS slips into deep purples, and every appendage is ice cold.

In terms of pain, CRPS rarely lets up.  The few moments when I am not in pain really are attributable to either unconsciousness or Blessed Distraction.  Unfortunately, pain and sleep are not friendly with one another, so I continue to sleep very little, with the result that pain seems worse, and life, hopeless.  It's wonderful, those occasions when I do get good rest, and simply amazing how much less pain I perceive.  (The lessons of Reality-as-Perception are popular review topics around here.)

Highest on the list of Blessed Distractions?  Books with pace.  The Republican presidential nominees (though we fear their entertainment factor may begin a steep decline as that peculiar segment of the electorate begins to weed, in earnest). Suppression of cat hair in my environment. Cooking and baking.  Crossword puzzles. Counseling the inpatient addicted carnies during their stay in Haddock Rehab (headquartered in the barn).  Short parkour and ballet vids on YouTube.  Bed-bopping and wheelchair-whirling to familiar golden oldies, archaeological rock.  Checking for updates to Pete's Pustulant Pimple over at PopThatZit.  Dobby the Runt, Marmy Fluffy Butt, and Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten.   Fred.  La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore.  The Crack Whore across the country lane (We sometimes sit and listen to her soliloquize in the middle of the night;  Lately, she has addressed one astonishing speech after another to her Ugg boots.).

There's a new category of CRPS misery -- skin.  Skin that rips and tears, bleeds and blisters, openly weeps and lightly leaks.  Skin that burns, skin that, once broken, refuses to heal.  I suppose my new friend, The Fistula, falls in this category.  The Fistula had stopped leaking and I was full of hope that it would go away, but then I mopped all 27 of The Manor's medieval and early renaissance kitchens last week... and wouldn't you know, the hole in my upper arm turned bright red and produced stringy yellow pus.  The idea that this thing has tunneled all the way from my shoulder prosthesis is so... gross.  *Bleck*!  *Ack*-*Ack*

My right leg is particularly prone to skin weirdness, as well as injury, upon which skin weirdness thrives.  Between cat talon punctures, dropped laptops, and doorway collisions, the leg is pocked with holes and eruptions, and regularly bathed in the terrible brine of lymphatic fluid.  It can be depressing.

Prior to my last visit with MDVIP Dr. Go-To-Guy, I decided to do some heavy maintenance of that leg, and took a brush to it, thinking that maybe the crud and crap could just be scrubbed away.  (Very sleepwalking Lady Macbeth.)  In the shower, perched on the plastic chair [that has a screw poking through its seat right into mine own seat, ouch!], I administered a brief flurry of boar bristles.  Never again.  I still burst into spontaneous fits of bleeding if I leave that leg haphazardly upright, or should I remove the Hello Kitty Band-Aids.  In addition to what can only be described as holes, new pores on steroids, there are shiny, raised, red whorls.

My hands primarily burn, though there are now stabbing pains on the outside of the palm and up the side of the pinky finger, with the foremost complaint-worthy problem being edema and slowness to react, clumsiness.  This puts a real crimp in my legendary culinary knife skills.

We've been keeping Ruby the Honda CRV defrosted, de-iced, juiced up, and just generally ready because the infection in my left shoulder is raging, and there have been a few afternoons when it seemed like I was becoming septic, or, at least, loopy.  I sometimes get hit with chills and sweats simultaneously, cannot get warm, and wrap myself up like a papoose destined for frozen tundra.

So that's the state of things.  My goal is simply to get to January 23 in as great a condition as possible, with a mind prepared for another long haul of seek-and-destroy.  ShoulderMan will team up with another local folk hero, Infectious Disease Dood, and together they'll organize the antibiotic or antifungal (ewww) attack during the post-op period with the spacer in place.  If they are successful, ShoulderMan will be able to regift me with a shoulder (most likely a "reverse" prosthesis) in about three to four months time.

I am so lucky to be in their good hands.

Now... to get there. and with sanity intact!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How I Learned That Mother Teresa's Nobel Acceptance Speech Was A Hate Crime

While I enjoyed Hitchens, he lost his way.  Or found it.

Whatever.  We diverged when it came to Iraq, and man, O man, has it not come down to Iraq, in the determination of so many things (things in the right now of so many things)?

That has to be said, given the smallness of this honorific, given that I don't drink anymore, though I daydream about single malt scotch, given that Hitchens up and died, damn it, at only 62, damn you, cancer, given that I am Queen of Equivocation, frequently wrong, and fervently so, only 62, still full of suave spittle, what was it like to be so right?

Stupid cancer.

I still think "John Ashcroft a greater menace than Osama bin Laden,"  but could totally get behind Hitchens' disdain for Mother Teresa:

[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

I just reread her Nobel acceptance speech and my disgust at it is turning my stomach. And it has been years since I last read it, you'd think something in me would've changed -- tempered like bitter chocolate -- maybe even matured.

But just as lovely, silky smooth chocolate will seize at the hint of cold water, I still die to read that "[t]he poor people are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things."

This nun stood in Bhopal and begged us to forgive Union Carbide.*

Not only do I no longer drink, I no longer smoke as well, which virtue was much harder to attain.  Most people are saying, index aside the nose, that cigarettes and booze predisposed Hitchens to esophageal cancer -- certainly they must have assisted him in denying the cancer's symptoms until it had reached such an advanced stage at diagnosis.  I don't know.  Cancer sucks.

Forget the nun.  Move along.

Why add to the Hitchens ink on the occasion of his death?

Because Henry Kissinger is a war criminal and we all know it.
Because Ronald Reagan truly *was* "as dumb as a stump."
Because he was probably right about Bill Clinton, too -- but I cannot admit that, cannot discuss that, since Bill Clinton still has his uses to me, and by his atonement, the world will benefit. Like most everyone, I will treat Hitchins-on-Clinton as a bunch of [hauts] bons mots.

But really, why this late post, full of nothing new?  Why more in a week full of a lot, already, about Hitchens, about reading Hitchens?

Because when I read Hitchens then, when I read him now, my hate ignites. Not my conscience, not really (that's my pretension, my particular torque on the truth), but my perky, oh-so-courageous hate.

I can clothe hate in facts, discuss the failure of Mommy Dearest to provide pain relief for the agonized dying** -- never mind treatment for the sick -- while hoarding money. [There is that damned nun again!]  I can accessorize my hate with as many instances as anyone of the crimes of religion, and I'm equipped to snark on God all the livelong day.

This is no obituary, there is no summary "at the end of the day" kind of finish.  My queasy stomach is as equally turned by those praising Hitchens' "brave" and "humanistic" death.

But I do so tire of the automatized contrarian, mostly because rigor is no comfort, and rigor's largest and most hate-filled lie is that rigor is truth.  I don't know where the lie is best knotted, where it is knit together, but I suspect it is at the juncture of rigor and our notions of consistency.

We praise that which is internally consistent.  We reject that which jars.
The iconoclast, too, is held to our schoolkid's standard, and fervently so when the iconoclast needs transformation into a curmudgeon.

If we cannot do that, if we cannot work transformatory magic on Christopher Hitchens and his deep well of hatred, if I cannot do that, and so acknowledge my own profoundly deep well of hatred, then every false step becomes a conscious choice, a studied betrayal.

Reading over this, I am so glad that I know what I mean, and extend you my best wishes for comprehension!

Has the left forgiven Hitchens for his post 9/11 stances?  Can we forgive him what he called his biggest "paradox"?  Does the left feel the twinge of hate at his inconsistency, at his finger poking the puffed chest of its romantic nature?

If we admit we hated Hitchens, must we, like Tariq Ali, be draconian about it, and saw the man in half?  Is it impossible that the Old Hitchens holds an internally consistent structural logic to the Wrong Hitchens of the post-9/11 world?

These are, as they say, interesting questions.

Because it is hate that I think most about when I think of Christopher Hitchens, dead at 62.

**********     *****     **********

* From Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict by Aroup Chatterjee:  

In December 1984, three and a half thousand people died in Bhopal from inhaling toxic gas, leaked by the multinational giant Union Carbide, in the worst industrial accident the world has ever seen. The number of people actually affected cannot be logged as the effects are long-standing and future generations would probably continue to suffer.

Mother Teresa, whose post-Nobel reputation within India was then very high indeed, rushed in to Bhopal like an international dignitary. Her contribution in Bhopal has become a legend: she looked at the carnage, nodded gravely three times and said, 'I say, forgive.' There was a stunned silence in the audience. She took in the incredulity, nodded again, and repeated, 'I say, forgive.' Then she quickly wafted away, like visiting royalty. Her comments would have been somewhat justified if she had sent in her Missionaries of Charity to help in any way. But to come in unannounced, and make an insensitive comment like that so early on, was nothing short of an insult to the dead and suffering. In the wider world however, her image became even more enhanced, as she was seen even more like Jesus Christ, who would turn the other cheek, although in this instance the cheek was not hers. People in Bhopal were not amused; it is said that the only reason Mother escaped being seriously heckled was by dint of being an elderly woman.

Mother Teresa's propaganda machinery handled her Bhopal trip in the following way:

As she was present to the agony of Calcutta, and that of India's other great cities, so Mother Teresa was present to the anguish of Bhopal, a city four hundred miles to the south of Delhi, when a cloud of smoke enveloped a crowded slum on the night of December 3, 1984. The Missionaries of Charity, who had long been working in Bhopal, escaped being among the victims because the death-bringing gas was blown by the wind in a different direction... Even while the dead were being cremated or buried, Mother Teresa rushed to Bhopal with teams of Missionaries of Charity to work with the Sisters already on the scene. 'We have come to love and care for those who most need it in this terrible tragedy,' said Mother Teresa, as she went from centre to centre, from hospital to hospital visiting afflicted people. 7

This is an extremely clever play of words, as 'Mother Teresa was present to the anguish of Bhopal' means literally that; 'teams of Missionaries of Charity' means the couple of nuns who accompanied Mother to Bhopal; but the verb 'work' is employed in a very broad sense. 'The Missionaries of Charity (who) had long been working in Bhopal' is however entirely true, as they have had a small but neat home for destitutes (called Nirmal Hriday, like the one in Calcutta) for many years.

Another of Mother's biographies has a photograph in it with the following caption:'Helping A Survivor of the Chemical Leak at Bhopal, December 1984'8.

The photograph concerned shows Mother daintily offering a marigold flower to a woman moribundly lying in a hospital bed.

** I retch, I retch:

The poor are very wonderful people. One evening we went out and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition- and I told the Sisters: You take care of the other three, I take of this one that looked worse. So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, as she said one word only: Thank you - and she died. I could not help but examine my conscience before her, and I asked what would I say if I was in her place. And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself, I would have said I am hungry, that I am dying, I am cold, I am in pain, or something, but she gave me much more - she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face. As that man whom we picked up from the drain, half eaten with worms, and we brought him to the home. I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, loved and cared for. And it was so wonderful to see the greatness of that man who could speak like that, who could die like that without blaming anybody, without cursing anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel- this is the greatness of our people.