Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pekish Updates and Other Things

We have a pekish update.

Not exactly film at eleven type update, but update nonetheless. Rosy's bloodwork shows that her kidneys are within the normal range, and although there is an elevated white count of the kind of white cells which signify either an inflammatory condition (like rheumatoid arthritis) or an infection, the vet dude is going with the infection thing. He still thinks that the bladder infection probably is also in her kidneys, which would explain the high white count. So...phew...for now.

Rosy is getting a little better about being able to actually make it to the pee mats on the floor before doing the squatting and straining bit, which is a good thing. It's still on the bloody side, which is not such a good thing to look at, but presumably is normal for this condition. She's back to eating and playing Prima Donna though, so that's definitely a bonus.

It's funny though, the way that animals can sense weakness in others of their kind. We have two alphas...or would-be alphas in the house. Rosy, natch, and Katie the Shih Tzu. Ordinarily they kind of have an uneasy truce, which very occasionally will result in a battle with much screaming and tearing of fur. However, although Rosy's smaller, she's much fiercer when roused, so it's a pretty even match, so they tend to respect each other's space and just pick on Clinton, the cocker spaniel, who is so subservient it's the biggest wonder he ever gets off his back in front of these two women.

But since Rosy got sick, Katie has been taking full advantage. Up to now it's just been that Katie was growling at her whenever she got anywhere within eyeshot, and Rosy would back off. But yesterday, Rosy went to jump on the couch to sit next to me, which Katie has decided should be her spot now. Immediate no-holds-barred battle ensued, with Katie flipping Rosy and grabbing her by the throat. Now I know that dog fights are more bluster than anything else, and they usually don't harm each other in their dominance games, but sheesh. It's at times like those where it's very difficult to separate what you SHOULD do from what you WANT to do. My first instinct is to protect Rosy because she's ill, but I've read enough doggy pack behavior books to know that it would be absolutely the wrong thing to do because it could wind up aggravating the situation and intensifying the problem.

Imagine your baby being bullied by that kid down the street, and not being able to do anything about it. Yeah...kind of like that :) I can't wait until she's better and back to kicking some Shih Tzu butt again!

Oh....Lema and I wound up having a very girly night last night. I was trying to install Norton on Azrael's computer, which wasn't being very cooperative, and which I finally gave up as a bad job at about 2:30. Lema was still awake, and so we decided to do girly painting nails and toenails things, and lay sprawled on the bed watching Lifetime Movie Network and drifting in and out of sleep. Oh and many Ramen noodles and dry roasted salted peanuts were imbibed and a good time was had all round.

Of course this morning we're suffering the torments of the damned, and we're both prickly and irritable and SO not wanting to do anything resembling transcription cause something happens to your EYES on four hours of sleep. But that's why God invented Starbucks French Roast and intravenous drips. And Azrael, the misguided sweet thing, brought home an AM/PM caramel flavored expresso for me when he came back at 8:30 this am. He wasn't to know that I'd only been asleep for a couple of hours at this point....so I fell back to sleep and awoke two hours later and the expresso was COLD. Damnit. I love that stuff. That'll teach me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hallooooooo

I'm back...with kisses all round. Did you miss me? Huh? Huh??

I hasten to inform you that staying away so long was DEFINITELY not my intention. And furthermore, I will state that it was NONE OF MY DOING! In FACT...if you would know if you came to visit me more often...I DID post a new post on Sunday night. A poem of the week and a pekish update.

That was before I realized that SOMEBODY had been surfing with MY computer...and broken it all to pieces! Here's the drill in our house. YOU DON'T TOUCH MAMA'S COMPUTER! And before you think that is a trifle harsh, let me add quickly that everyone in the house has at least one computer to their name...some of them have more than one. So YOU DON'T TOUCH MAMA'S COMPUTER!

The reason is, plain and simply, this is my bread and butter. The tool of my trade, if you will. When I'm sitting somewhere underneath a mountain of transcription as big as the pile of laundry waiting in the laundry room, yes, I may curse it a little bit. And yes, it's not the speediest or the smartest laptop on the block, and it may have it's own little pecadilloes as computers are wont to do.

But it's what I use to work with. And therefore is sacrosanct and immolate and YOU DON'T TOUCH MAMA'S COMPUTER.

The reason I put this rule in place is a simple one. The other people in the house have no respect for the concept of viruses and/or spyware/adware. They surf with wild and merry abandon, throwing caution - and bandwidth - to the winds. They absolutely cannot resist anything which screams "CLICK HERE, YOU MAY BE A WINNER". Which, of course is the reason why Lema has to run Ad Aware every single day - sometimes multiple times in the course of a day, and why Azrael's computer isn't running, period. Oh he can check mail if he wants to wait for half an hour for it to load Outlook. But Explorer? Fuggeddaboutdit.

So somebody...and I'm mentioning NO names...decided to use mama's computer for a little surfing expedition. Oh they were fast and sneaky and covered their tracks well. BUT somewhere along the top of whatever wave they were riding on, they hit the motherlode. I attempted to access my folder on the server of the Big Office In New York, only to find the page superceded by an advertisement for fertilizer or some other odd full-page thing. I clicked out of that to find another advert for a mastercard. and one for a virus protector below that.

Adware. The bane of professional computer users. There should be a very special place in hell for people who put this stuff out. Particularly the kind of malware adware which gets into your SYSTEM REGISTRY AND MESSES STUFF UP SO THAT YOU HAVE TO GO IN AND MESS AROUND WITH THINGS WHICH COULD TURN YOUR COMPUTER INTO A BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH IF YOU HIT THE WRONG THING!

So...a more up-to-date and expansive (and expensive) edition of Norton which includes spyware/adware protection later (Ad Aware I love you, man, but you just don't have what it takes to deal with the whole malware stuff), and an entire working day wasted trying to remove said malware from my system, I'm happy to announce that I'm up and running again. I still have adware in there...somewhere in the registry...but Norton won't let it access the net to spawn itself. Which is fine with me.

I even went to the trouble of deleting my last piece of bloggy goodness because when I looked at it with MY admittedly messed up Explorer yesterday, half the words had turned into underlined hyperlinks which took me to weird shopping sites.

So I'll have to replace poem of the week and pekish update soon. Until then, I'm happy to announce that I'm back. And that my computer now has a lock.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sick Puppy

Today was kind of a fraught one.

If you've been with me for a while you know all about Rosybelle - la prima donna of prima donnas - the uber pooch of the Racek household. She's the dog who singlehandedly turned me from cat person to decidedly crazy dog woman. I have a bag for her so that she can travel in style on our not too frequent trips away from the house. She is so much in control in this residence that she merely has to climb onto the side of the bathtub in the master bedroom and mew plaintively in that decidedly vocal way which is singular to Pekingese, and people jump up and rush over to turn on the bath tap so that she may indulge in pure running water, rather than suffering the indignity of a shared water bowl with the other dogs - who she feels are vastly inferior and will avoid when at all possible. She is too short to jump onto the bed, but instead springs up and down on her back legs while vocalizing loudly until someone picks her up to her rightful place. She can bark in short bursts which mimic what you say - two barks for 'coffee' (to which she is shamefully addicted), three barks for 'beef jerky'. She's stoic to a fault, and would rather die than admit she's in pain, as we discovered when she was still a puppy and developed a luxating patella - which to you and I is a kneecap which slips out of joint. She allowed the vet to palpate what must have felt like hell on earth rather than a leg joint without so much as a whimper. She's brave and fearless and would die for any one of her people without question.

And she's sick.

How sick, we don't quite know yet. At the weekend she was unusually clingy, wanting to be held and petted all the time - and though she's very much a spoiled and pampered little thing, she's usually fairly independent, so this was kind of odd behavior for her. She was laying around panting a lot, so I figured maybe the heat was getting to her, and made sure she had lots of water.

By Tuesday, things had changed dramatically. Usually so boisterous and madcap, she spent the day for the most part simply laying on the chair with her head on her paws and a sorrowful expression on her face. When she wasn't peeing that is. And when I say peeing, you have to understand that this is Rosy. The dog who cannot go while you watch her. The dog who when we took her on vacation to Quinault last year for a week, refused to...um...poop. At all. Because she couldn't disappear to her own little section of the back yard and do it incognito. So when I say she started peeing in the house, this was extremely unusual behavior for her. And the WAY she was peeing was odd. She'd drink something and take a couple of steps and pee...about the size of a dollar coin. And she'd give every impression of straining really hard to produce this miniscule amount.

But then I went to clean up one of these tiny puddles and realized it was red.

I called the vet immediately, but we couldn't get in to see him until today. He took her into the back (thank god) and inserted an instrument into her bladder to get an uncontaminated urine sample which he then centrifuged and tested. The diagnosis is not immediately clear. She for definite has a urinary tract infection, because of all the white cells he found there. But what's not quite so obvious is how far this infection has spread. Because the urine he tested was way too diluted to be normal, the vet explained that she had either gulped down a huge amount of water, or her kidneys weren't functioning the way they're supposed to and removing the waste products from her blood. Also, the fact that she's depressed and clingy and so not herself also leads him to believe that it's more than a urinary tract infection and at the very least the infection has spread into her kidneys. At worst? I don't even want to think about at worst.

So we were sent home with 3 weeks of antibiotics, with instructions to watch her very closely between now and next Wednesday, by which time even if it's a kidney infection, we should start seeing a change in her behavior for the better. And she has to be given another urinalysis before we suspend the antibiotics after 3 weeks to make sure that the white cells are gone. He told me that if it's a kidney infection, 3 weeks might not be enough to get rid of the problem. And we should be hearing from him either tomorrow or Friday in regards to the bloodwork he took today to see if he can narrow down any underlying issues with her.

My little furball, my little pekish girl, the house dominatrix could use some good thoughts. And some doggy Depends.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Porn Site Speak With Forked Tongue

Why didn't anyone tell me about the proposed .xxx domain for porn sites? I would have voted for it! Or..at least on its face, I would have voted for it. Cause how could any parent object to a special designation for domains dealing with "adult" material?

And then I read more, and apparently there are a lot of folks objecting to it. Why?? Who are these crazy people??!!

Well here's the deal. The whole .xxx domain thing is voluntary.

What?? Okay, let's review. Everybody but the porn...ahem...excuse me..."adult" industry wants SOMEONE to crack down on the easy availability of porn on the internet. Right? So why in the world isn't SOMEONE in the government courageous enough to step forward and say that it's time to create a red light district on the internet highway?

Follow it through...cause it kind of makes sense. Pass some kind of legal thing which states that anyone running an "adult" site can only register with a .xxx domain. Back it up with the severest of legal remedies for anyone who continues to use .com or .net. or .org or any of the others. And extend that to anyone who uses one of these domains as a front in order to forward the web surfer to a .xxx domain.

That would free up a whole lot of .com and other domain names for non-"adult" related material, as well as making it possible for people to block .xxx domains completely from their computers, and for libraries and schools to do the same. If we're so interested in protecting our young people from smut, what's the problem? Take it further and make it so that you have to provide some kind of proof of age in order to access the .xxx domain system.

How can anyone find fault with this system? If...as civil liberties people like to tell us...it's the right of these people to publish whatever filth they choose to do on the internet, provided that it's only for the enjoyment and edification of adults, then why would anyone argue with the concept of a 'red light district' accessible only to adults?

But no....let's come up with a new .xxx domain, but make it voluntary for the 'offending' sites to register with these new domains. End result? The 'adult' sites get to KEEP all of the .com and other domains, and create a new .xxx domain...which would result in twice as many porn sites as are presently available!

You don't have to be insane to work here...but it helps....

Friday, August 12, 2005

Movie Mania

Swooning over 'Hearts' (coupled with my latent insomniac tendencies) reminded me of a list I saw over on Jen's blog when I was going through her archives the other day. (Yes, Jen...you amused me for hours that day...and I can only WISH I was a real stay at home mommy who cans and bakes and does REAL MOM THINGS! :) ) So anyway, swiped from Jen's blog, here is the AFI's list of the top 100 movies. The ones I've NOT seen are in red. And after looking at this list, I can safely add Movie Slut to my list of sluttisms!

  1. CITIZEN KANE (1941)
  2. CASABLANCA (1942)
  3. THE GODFATHER (1972)
  4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
  5. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
  6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
  7. THE GRADUATE (1967)
  8. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)
  9. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)
  10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)
  11. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
  12. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
  13. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957)
  14. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
  15. STAR WARS (1977)
  16. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
  17. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)
  18. PSYCHO (1960)
  19. CHINATOWN (1974)
  20. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)
  21. THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940)
  22. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
  23. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
  24. RAGING BULL (1980)
  25. E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (1982)
  26. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
  27. BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)
  28. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
  29. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)
  30. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)
  31. ANNIE HALL (1977)
  32. THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)
  33. HIGH NOON (1952)
  34. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
  35. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
  36. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
  37. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)
  38. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
  39. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)
  40. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
  41. WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
  42. REAR WINDOW (1954)
  43. KING KONG (1933)
  44. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915)
  45. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)
  46. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
  47. TAXI DRIVER (1976)
  48. JAWS (1975)
  49. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
  50. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
  51. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)
  52. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)
  53. AMADEUS (1984)
  54. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
  55. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
  56. M*A*S*H (1970)
  57. THE THIRD MAN (1949)
  58. FANTASIA (1940)
  59. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
  60. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
  61. VERTIGO (1958)
  62. TOOTSIE (1982)
  63. STAGECOACH (1939)
  64. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
  65. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
  66. NETWORK (1976)
  67. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
  68. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)
  69. SHANE (1953)
  70. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
  71. FORREST GUMP (1994)
  72. BEN-HUR (1959)
  73. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)
  74. THE GOLD RUSH (1925)
  75. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)
  76. CITY LIGHTS (1931)
  77. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)
  78. ROCKY (1976)
  79. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
  80. THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
  81. MODERN TIMES (1936)
  82. GIANT (1956)
  83. PLATOON (1986)
  84. FARGO (1996)
  85. DUCK SOUP (1933)
  86. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)
  87. FRANKENSTEIN (1931)
  88. EASY RIDER (1969)
  89. PATTON (1970)
  90. THE JAZZ SINGER (1927)
  91. MY FAIR LADY (1964)
  92. A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)
  93. THE APARTMENT (1960)
  94. GOODFELLAS (1990)
  95. PULP FICTION (1994)
  96. THE SEARCHERS (1956)
  97. BRINGING UP BABY (1938)
  98. UNFORGIVEN (1992)
  99. GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967)
  100. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

Hearts and Hopkins

Oh be still my heart.

I just got through watching 'Hearts in Atlantis', courtesy of Comcast On-Demand. Did I tell you I gave up on Stephen King books quite a while ago? I don't know why, but they just stopped moving me. I stuck with him through the godawful 'Gerald's Game', and 'Dolores Claiborne', and even went as far as 'Rose Madder', but finally a girl's got to call a halt to the madness, you know? The plots, and worse still, the characters in his books had started to become old and stale and tired.

So along the way, I missed 'Hearts in Atlantis'.

I still don't know whether it's any good in book form. But the movie definitely made me want to go out and try it. Now how much of that is due to Stephen King's writing, and how much to the sublimely brilliant acting of arguably one of the best actors around has yet to be seen. Anthony Hopkins makes acting look like something anyone could do. He just seems to meld into whatever character he's portraying, and make it completely plausible.

It's strange how he seems to have improved with age, too. I remember seeing him oh so many years ago as Frederick Treeve in 'The Elephant Man', and not being unduly impressed by his acting. Although having said that, I have to add the caveat that next to John Hurt in that movie, anyone would have been less than impressive. But by the time he starred in the remake of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' with Mel Gibson, he was on his way to brilliant. His light as air touch in '64 Charing Cross Road' makes it still one of my all-time favorite movies. And who could deny his skill in movies such as 'Howard's End' or 'Remains of the Day', not to mention the brilliantly evil Dr. Hannibal Lecter in 'The Silence of The Lambs'.

A good SK movie and Anthony Hopkins...my cup runneth over :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Poem of the Week

Okay...a little delayed this week, courtesy of The Big Septic Caper.

Whenever I hear stories of young men and women heading off for Iraq, this is the poem which never fails to come to mind. I think no matter what your feelings may be on the wisdom of the current conflict, and whether or not you agree with it, you have to feel for those young people over there who are fighting and dying for something much bigger than they.

Wilfred Owens served in World War I, so he knew from where he spoke. Unfortunately for the world, he was killed a couple of hours before the Armistice was declared, robbing us of one of the most eloquent of the war poets.

THE SEND-OFF - WILFRED OWENS
Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed
And lined the train with faces grimly gay
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men's are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up they went.
They were not ours,
We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In Which We Sing In Praise of Thomas Crapper

No posties yesterday.

And there was a reason for that. The reason was grounded to a large extent in the fact that I was making regularly scheduled trips to the grocery store in town all day long. Was I being forgetful? Was I cooking vast amounts of food which required many many trips to the supermarket?

No.

As a matter of fact, everyone in the house was afraid to eat yesterday. Because eating...eventually...leads to waste production. And waste production wasn't being very well addressed yesterday, even though it was on all of our minds. In a BIG way.

You might recall that a week ago we had a problem with a toilet which backed up and overflowed. And then got better. Well, the thing is, we only THOUGHT it got better. What actually happened was that it was in constant communication with the toilet in the kids' bathroom on the other side of the house, and they were formulating a plan. To both decide to malfunction on the same day.

By Monday afternoon our toilet was stubbornly refusing to work. Oh it would flush all right. And the water would head downwards. Only not downwards as in ...down the U-bend. More like downwards as in ....all over the floor. Oh...and the sink and shower drain and tub drain would all gurgle in an extremely unholy fashion.

Now as it's the time of the month where we are desperately awaiting the next paycheck, I thought...oh well...at least we have the kids' bathroom. We can use theirs until we have to dig deep and shell out for a plumber. But oh no. The toilets had other plans. We were informed by the children that THEIR toilet had also overflowed, but that Xander had plunged it and everything was fine. I know, I know, this should have caused warning bells to go off in my brain, but it seriously didn't. Until Monday afternoon when I went to use their bathroom and flushed it. And all of the water went down like it's supposed to....and promptly came out all over the floor THROUGH THE BOTTOM OF THE PEDESTAL!!

We do have this kind of insurance protection which covers certain items in the house. We used it when our range decided that it wanted to throw a wobbly and only use three burners instead of four, and make the last one live even when turned off. But I didn't think it covered plumbing. So we got it out and checked. Hey Presto! It covers plumbing! So we called, and after finding ourselves in computerized hell for a while, finally got to talk to a real person who said she would call plumbers in our area and find one who could come out.

And then....nothing.

That's when I started transporting the kids to our local Fred Meyer in order to use the toilets. I thought that maybe it was too late for a plumber to come out, and we wouldn't hear from them until tomorrow. So we all went to bed...except for Azrael who's taken a filler job while he waits to hear from the job he really wants...and he's presently working graveyard at an AM/PM..with a WORKING BATHROOM damn him.

First thing yesterday I had to get all the kids up and drag them, sleepy eyed and complaining, over to Freddy's so that we could use the facilities. I had to wake Azrael up from his slumbers in case the plumber called. Which of course they didn't.

They still hadn't called by the time we made our SECOND trip of the day to Freddys. By this time, I was starting to get a little peeved about the lack of plumber contact. So I called the insurance company again. Who didn't have a record of us calling them the night before. So I had to make out a new ticket. And she'd call me back. Which she did, in half an hour, to let me know that she'd called the plumbers that contract with them in our area and learned that the earliest someone could come out was Thursday. THURSDAY???!! You expect me to use Freddy's bathroom facilities for TWO MORE DAYS??!!

The second option was that we get a plumber ourselves, pay upfront, and then the insurance would reimburse us. Well, naturally by this time, it was a case of you've GOT to do it. So I started calling plumbers. Now the other problem with the insurance not getting back to us was that the time was now 10:30 in the morning, and most plumbers have already decided their schedule for the day. The first one I called told me they were fully booked, and despite the fact that it was an emergency, and they have emergency 24/7 coverage, that doesn't mean 24/7 coverage like actually coming out and fixing stuff. But I could call them back if I didn't get a plumber.

Then I called the man who has now become Saint of The Week in my eyes. See, I don't much care for plumbers, having been ripped off by many of them during my tenure as a homeowner. I actually spoke to a real plumber rather than the receptionist, and he asked me to tell him what was happening with the toilets. After hearing the sorry tale, he asked me where I lived.

HIM: Being out in Buckley, I bet you're on a septic aren't you?

ME: Yep.

HIM: When did you last have your septic tank emptied?

ME: Um...it's been a while....

HIM: A while as in more than two years?

ME: (Not wanting to tell him that we've lived here almost ten years and never had it emptied)
Um...yeah...?

HIM: You need to call someone and have them come and empty your tank, cause see, there's
this baffle where it joins the house that can get full of like....soap and stuff, and if it gets
too full and too plugged up, nothing can get through.

ME: And that will fix the problem with the backing up of the toilets and the gurgling drains?

HIM: I would be very surprised if it didn't.

OMG...an honest plumber!! Someone who didn't want to come out, charge us an $80 service fee and then tell us we needed a septic company!! After writing down the name of this company which is the ONLY plumber I will use in the future EVER, I called the septic compay he had recommended to us. The lady there recognized the fact that four people cannot share a space without a working toilet for very long, and said she'd have someone out to us within two to six hours.

And they were there. WHEN THEY SAID THEY WOULD BE THERE. And the pumping was done, and the smell was created - bad news for Lema who sits right next to a window air conditioner pulling in air from the outside right over this septic tank hole. And within an hour, we had ....ta da!....working toilets and ungurgling drains. And there was much rejoicing.

So now we are back to using the grocery store for buying groceries, and we can start looking at people in the eye again instead of avoiding eye contact with the clerks in case they recognized us on our fourth visit of the day.

I SO do not do the pioneer thing well.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Courageous Convictions

Know what I despise more than people who don't have the courage of their convictions, and are swept into voting with the herd, even when they believe something completely different?

Those who disagree with the herd, but go along with them because they have plans to write a book further down the line, knowing that they'll make a killing because it's an insider's view of a controversial topic.

There should be a special place in hell set aside for people like the two ex-Michael Jackson trial jurors who came forward today to say that despite the fact that they voted not guilty when it actually MATTERED, they actually felt all along that MJ was guilty as charged, and really did violate that young boy and all of the others who were mentioned but not charged in the indictment.

It made me feel physically ill to see Eleanor Cook, 79, telling the interviewer how she knows God has forgiven her, and she's forgiven herself. Well I'm so glad for her. And that she's 'speaking out now because it's never too late to tell the truth'. Um...hello? Actually it IS a little bit on the tardy side. Maybe the time to have 'told the truth' would have been on the actual verdict form. Sorry, but 'they went along with the others once they realized that the others would never convict the pop star' is a big heaping scoop of something brown and smelly. Standing firm on their convictions would have resulted in a hung jury. A hung jury would have given the prosecutors the option of retrying the king of pop in front of a different jury. One which maybe wasn't so 'full of blinders that they wouldn't take them off long enough to see the evidence that was there.'

It made me especially sick to recall the infamous press conference the jury gave following the acquittal, and Ms. Cook's attitude towards the victim and his mother during this conference. If you really and truly disagree with a verdict, and only go along because you feel pressured and intimidated into doing so, why are you sitting there so smugly following this verdict you so adamantly disagree with, and letting us know what grifters you think the boy and his family are?

So that leaves two options. Either you're changing your tune now that you have a new book coming out telling the world about the insider's view of the Jackson jury, and those dollar signs are looming large in front of your eyes, or, and this is way more sinister, you had plans for the book from the very beginning, and despite your difference in opinion with the bulk of the jury, went along with them anyway. Because...for god's sake, who wants to read a book from a juror on a hung jury? So much better and so much more lucrative to read one written by a juror who actually came up with a verdict, particularly if we can add the pathos of being forced into a decision we disagreed with.

Either way you slice it, it reeks to high heaven. This poor kid, along with all of the others MJ has used and abused, was vilified in the press courtesy, in a large part, of these two people. I'm so glad that God has forgiven Ms. Cook, and that she's forgiven herself. Maybe someday all the victims will be able to also.

The Wide-Awakes

Ah...insomnia's a wonderful little beastie.

It's presently 4am, and I'm watching the delicious eye candy that is Brad Pitt in 'The Devil's Own', as a little Irish follow-up to 'Waking Ned Devine' which I watched previously. The rest of the peeps wimped out hours ago, so it's just me and Comcast's On Demand, and we're getting along famously. It occurred to me that I could have SO used On Demand 14 years ago when Xander, the colt boy was a newborn.

I was reading blogs the other day and came across a tortured post from a lady who had just had a baby and was unlucky enough to come up with one of the 'wide-awake kids' on her first attempt. OUCH! I remember when Xander was a week or so old grumbling something along the lines that had he been my first child, there would NOT have been two others!!

This was a child who hadn't read the manual. He wasn't aware that babies are supposed to sleep for large portions of the day. In fact, he seemed to have completely skipped over the 'sleep' section of the manual in its entirety. Don't get me wrong...he wasn't a nasty, colicky, can't sleep and cries a lot kind of kid. He was more of the 'okay, I'm here...amuse me' type of breed. For the first two or three months my husband and I didn't occupy the same bed at the same time. We slept in shifts. He'd go to bed at 7 and get up at 12:30. I'd go to bed at 12:30 and get up at 5:30 when he had to leave for work. Sleep when the baby sleeps? HA!! I also had a 17 month old, who couldn't be left alone for the 30 minutes the baby might close his eyes during the day. And their naptimes NEVER coincided. And I thought...like the mother in the blog...that I would die of sleep deprivation. All of the well-meaning advice from other people, all of the expensive toys and gadgets purchased out of desperation, the slings, the swaddling, phased this kid not one jot. He wasn't going to miss a second of this brand new life if he could help it.

And of course, like all the other mothers of 'wide-awakes', I lived to tell the tale. I didn't tell that to the lady in the blog. She wouldn't believe me. I wouldn't have believed me.

I haven't thought of those days in quite some time, until I'm sitting here at 4am watching all of these deliciously good films, and remembering back through all of those years to when we didn't even have decent cable, and there was precious little to keep me occupied aside from a certain tiny person, who, to be frank, as much as I adored him, I could really have done with seeing JUST a little bit less of.

And maybe it's that 14 years of forgetting about those horrendous early days which, despite knowing my child-producing days are over, makes me feel broody.

Either that, or I truly have lost my mind.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Killing Moon

There's a reason why lunatics are so named. Something to do with truly crazy people reacting to the various phases of the moon with increasingly insane behavior until the full part of the moon has passed.

I think this holds true for those of us who are classified as plain old mentally ill, also.

I have a cornucopia of psychiatric disorders - lucky me!! Never one to pass up something if it's free, I seem to have stuck my hand into the barrel and pulled out a mountain of them. My old psychiatrist - back in the days when we had Boeing insurance and could still AFFORD a psychiatrist - gave me a laundry list on my first and second visits with her. Some were not a shock to me. I was visiting her because my panic attacks had reached the point where I was seeking medical attention, concerned that I was having some kind of problem with my newly biopsied lungs. Nope. Just good old-fashioned hyperventilating so no matter how much you breathe, you feel like you're suffocating by degrees kind of panic attacks.

And I knew that my inability to leave the house without someone with me, and my tendency to avoid shops, markets, tube stations, road bridges, long car trips, etc were probably rooted in the wonderful mental illness known as agoraphobia. (Which I discovered had an altogether different and higher plane, which I had achieved through my brilliant karmic skills - agoraphobia with panic disorder.)

And yeah, I guess I should have caught on to the fact that not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, having no energy and no zest for life, and wishing I didn't have the agoraphobia so I could get to the store and purchase large bulk volumes of pills and sundry bottles of alcohol with which to wash them down, just MIGHT have been bordering on the eventual diagnosis of severe major depression.

But a couple of them caught me unawares. I didn't know that my insistence on minor rituals in order to be able to write, and my having to go back and check that I'd actually completed a task several times before I was certain could be borderline OCD. And I didn't know that some of the other wonderful symptoms I'd been experiencing my entire life could be PTSD, inspired by some less than wholesome childhood and early adulthood experiences.

And so it came to pass that I became a pharmacological warehouse. I was popping more pills in a day than I'd seen in a year prior to my foray into the world of mental illness treatment. And I was visiting a psychologist on a weekly basis to 'chat about things'. And it did work. It really did. I began to see why I acted the way that I did in certain situations. I learned how the things we are taught, both overtly and subliminally about ourselves as children and adolescents are burned into our psyches like acid through a plastic bottle. And I learned that people with depression and agoraphobic tendencies usually have a minor problem with passing seratonin from one neuron to the next. Hence the advent of the new breed of anti-depressants, the SSRIs, (selecrive seratonin re-uptake inhibitors), which prevent that first neuron from grabbing all the seratonin and not sharing with its neighbors.

I worked my way through the pharmacy shelves, from Prozac to Paxil, and Zoloft to Effexor, with some nice little shots of Xanax thrown in for good measure when the hyperventilation monster bit me in the arse.

And then I began to notice that odd things were happening to me. Yes, I was nice and level, with no real mood swings, and no desperately miserable lows to speak of. But there were no highs either. I couldn't find myself giddy or jubilant or excited about anything. The same magic which had evened out the depression had also robbed me of the other end of the emotional rollercoaster.

So when my husband died, and we lost Boeing benefits, and none of the affordable medical coverage available to us included mental health treatment, I stopped taking the pills. Seriously - who can afford to pay $500 a month in prescription costs alone? I weaned myself from them, remembering my psychiatrist's dire warnings, backed up with internet research, about the dangers of stopping any kind of psychotropic medicine cold turkey. And it was hard. And having been free of the sour parts of the depression for a long time, I had forgotten how bad they can feel. But I reclaimed myself - my mood swings, my depression, my agoraphobia - they're all a part of me.

But at what cost?

For I now find that having stood outside of it without all of the insanity going on in my brain, I can kind of see a pattern emerging. And it's directly tied to the phases of the moon. My own personal moon - the menses. What other women suffer as moodiness and irritability during that PMS week, and the first couple of days of a period, manifests in me as wild and wicked mood swings. Times when I need to closet myself away from other people, and hope that the week does not bring something which runs the risk of unbalancing my fragile equilibrium.

As happened yesterday.

I woke up to find Azrael and Xander had left the house. There was a scrawled message on the chalkboard, "Gone Fishin'", and an email from Azrael telling me that they were out 'driving around' and 'male bonding'. I felt a flash of irritation at the fact that they had a) not told me they were going in advance. b) not told me WHERE they were going, and c) not given any indication of when they would return.

But I swallowed it and started working on transcription. However, on looking up finally and realizing that the clock was reading 3pm, and they'd been out of the house since 10 am, and there had been no phone call to let me know where they were, or that they were okay, I began to start to worry.

Now in this stakes I have a few things going against me. Firstly, as previously stated, I am not exactly the world's most well-balanced individual at this time of the month. Secondly, I am a writer, which gifts me with the ability to imagine all manner of hideous events able to befall two people out in a car, who knows where. And thirdly, I lost my husband very suddenly. He was in the hospital for exploratory surgery. He'd had the operation and was recovering nicely. Until two days later when I had an emergency call from the hospital telling me I needed to get down there right away. He was dead before I could arrange for transportation (I didn't drive at that point). So I know that people - even those who are the closest to you - can suddenly disappear from your life without any warning whatsoever. And that can make you crazy in itself.

By the time the clock had wound its way to 5pm and there had still been no word from them, I was borderline hysterical. I couldn't believe that anyone would torture a person in such a way. Don't they KNOW how much I worry? Haven't they SEEN my reaction when one of the Teen Peeps is fifteen minutes late coming home from their friend's house? By this time I could already imagine the knock at the door, and the nice policeman shuffling his feet because he knew what he had to tell me and how I would react to the news. I mean, this wasn't just a thought...this was I could ACTUALLY SEE IT imprinted in my mind.

They arrived home finally at a little after 5:30. Azrael stuck his head around the door and said, 'Just wanted to let you know we're home.' and went off out the back to hammer things into the porch. And the panic monster which had been threatening to break loose for hours, finally exploded into something more akin to white-hot fury.

How DARE he?! How DARE he make me suffer like that, and then breeze into the house and act as though nothing had happened? Did he honestly have no CLUE what the past few hours had been like for me?

Much snarling and gnashing of tiger teeth ensued. The two horses bolted off to their rear paddock and cantered around, throwing me glances of disbelief, as though they couldn't figure out how I was being so terribly UNREASONABLE about the whole thing, when they had just been out having FUN.

So now my problem is thus. I don't know how much of my reaction is normal. See notes on mental illness above. Yeah, I probably overreacted, but did I have the slightest cause?

Your call.

Enquiring lunatic minds want to know.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Books

...and why we like to get them for free rather than through Amazon.

Well firstly, obviously cause of the whole 'free' thing always being super-appealing. As we have a book review section on our website at http://www.gothicrevue.com I have become a book snatcher. Thanks to wonderful PR folks like the ones at Time Warner, and Bantam Dell, and lots of small independents, I've been somewhat spoiled. These folks give me lists of upcoming books, with accompanying blurbs and snippets, and invite me to choose which ones we'd like to review. Ah yes. Such a chore it is. *sigh*. So I amble through the offerings and point out my choices, and request that they be culled from the herd and dispatched to the office at all speed.

And lo...does it come to pass. And it is good.

And since I have to be extremely attached to a book/movie/videogame/cd - or conversely, think that it's complete and utter shite - in order to write a review, I am often in the lucky position of getting to read a book and THEN send it on to a reviewer so that they can use their skill and brilliance and craft a well-reasoned and thoughtful review. It's a bit like droit de seigneur or prima nocte without the virgins.

But sometimes I find myself in a position of seeing a book I want which is either no longer hip enough that the publisher wants to push it, or the property of a book publisher who doesn't believe that a website with 130,000 hits a month is trafficky enough for them to send out a review copy. Or they want a guaranteed perky little review. Which I don't ever guarantee.

And in those events, I am left with no alternative but to....gasp....BUY A BOOK!! *lays back in chair and fans herself with the top of the laptop* My poison of choice is Amazon.com, just because they're from Washington originally and have a huge distribution center here, and you get your books at lightning speed without even having to pay 2 day shipping charges. Always a big plus. Patience has never been one of my virtues.

The problem with this is that now I have something invested in this book. When I'm getting promos from publishers, there's no expenditure beyond the postage necessary to send it on to a reviewer. Amazon.com makes you PAY for their books. (Unless you get one of the *second hand* books...more on that later.) And lately I've been making some really crappy choices. I just finished reading Sarah Wise's "The Italian Boy" - a true crime tale of bodysnatching and murder in pre-Victorian London. It received some decent reviews. The little sneak peek at the first two or three pages looked promising. And I am hideously attracted to true crime stories, particularly those which are a little unusual. It should have been a WINNER.

Actually it was boring as hell. She went into some nice detail about Victorian England and poverty and crime...but not enough. She delved into bodysnatching....but not deep enough. It felt like skating over a lake where you could see rotten things below the surface, but the ice was too thick to make out any real details. I fell asleep on it. I have NEVER been known to fall asleep on a good book.

Oh, and by the way, what's UP with Amazon's used book thing? Time was, a person could make quite a profit by selling their used books there. Those days seem to be LONG gone. Amazon's obviously done deals with large second hand book sellers, who are pricing their books at ridiculous rates. Considering at Amazon owns the first 99 cents you make on a sale, how can anyone compete with people selling books at 90 cents? Unless you have an 'in' with Amazon, you're paying them 9 cents to get rid of your book!.

A pox on those people.

Unless they have a book I want and can deliver it in less than 2 days.

I am SUCH the book slut.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Family That Plays Together....

...should have been out here today helping us to get the back porch ready for screening. We had originally hoped to begin the actual process of replacing the screens today, but after getting out there and taking a look at how sad the woodwork looked, I decided that we needed to rip out all of the old nails, staples and bits of old screening, sweep it all down and repaint it.

So Azrael, the Teen Peeps and myself spent the afternoon and early evening pulling and sweeping and hammering and painting. Luckily none of us are arachnophobics, since most of the spider population of Buckley, Washington seem to have been renting space in our back porch. Unfortunately, I haven't been seeing any of the rent money, but I think we met The Landlord. I was sweeping the last area, underneath the overhang above the steps, and uncovered the LARGEST non-tarantula I have ever seen in my entire LIFE! Hey...I'D pay money to this guy.

After causing a huge spike in the homeless arachnid population, we started painting the areas which are going to be screened hopefully tomorrow. Now it's all glisteningly black and scrummy looking instead of faded brown and moss-covered. Much more upmarket, much less redneck.

As we're all music junkies - specifically '80's music - we had to drag a computer outside and set up speakers in the porch, and have the music going loudly enough to cover up the noise of hammered fingers, and our less than perfect vocal accompaniments. Surprisingly enough, this had the added attraction of frightening off the lecherous old redneck brothers who live next door, who didn't show their faces out in their backyard ALL EVENING! Maybe we've hit on the perfect way to take a plunge in The Pool Of Death unmolested in the future. Just play Frankie Goes To Hollywood at ear-bleed volumes and we'll have the backyard area all to ourselves!

We might even get these screens up before the end of summer!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Poem of the Week

I've decided that I'm going to start sharing one of my favorite poems once a week wit y'all. So here is the first one which came to mind. I remember studying W.H. Auden for O level English Literature in school, and this was by far my favorite of his poems. Very, very simple language, which makes the underlying menace even more horrible.

O WHAT IS THAT SOUND - W.H.AUDEN
O what is that sound which so thrills the ear,
Down in the valley, drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear
The soldiers coming.

O what is that light I see flashing so clear,

Over the distance, brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
As they step lightly.

O what are they doing with all that gear,

What are they doing this morning, this morning?
Only their usual manoeuvres, dear,
Or perhaps a warning.

O why have they left the road down there,

Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in their orders, dear.
Why are you kneeling?

O haven't they stopped for the doctor's care?

Haven't they reined in their horses, their horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
None of these forces.

O is it the parson they want, with white hair?

Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
Without a visit.

O it must be the farmer who lives so near.

It must be the farmer so cunning, so cunning.
They have passed the farmyard already, dear,
And now they are running.

O where are you going? Stay with me here!

Were the vows you swore deceiving, deceiving?
No, I promised to love you, dear.
But I must be leaving.

O it's broken the lock and splintered the door.

O it's the gate where they're turning, turning.
Their boots are heavy on the floor,
And their eyes are burning.

Good Vibes Needed - Apply Within

All kinds of good and happy vibes are required for Azrael right now, as he awaits the results of a job interview he had today. If you could throw some in the general direction of his prospective boss too, that would be great. If he gets the job, he'll be running a supply rental company just up the road from where we live - almost zero commute - making a sizable chunk of money and decent benefits.

If he doesn't get the job he's going to be thoroughly miserable and downhearted and sulkified.

Guess which option I want?? :)

On a different note, we finally had to move all of the books out of the bathroom today. Which is kind of funny, because earlier I was going to blog about how many books we actually had in a relatively tiny room which holds a toilet and a shower. I think I counted ten books - all in varying stages of completion - and was curious as to how many other people wind up with a library in the toilet? It's not exactly a question one can usually throw out there in polite conversation.

Anyway...before I could get around to blogging about all the books, we had a slight - ahem - is there a polite way to say this? Toilet malfunction. Luckily all of the books got tossed into the larger bathroom area (we have a bathroom off the master bedroom, and the toilet's in a separate closed off area...kind of thing) and so escaped being swamped by the cascading and non too sweet-smelling toilet run-off. Aren't you glad I shared this with you?

At least we didn't wind up having to call a plumber, which is a good thing cause I didn't fancy having to sell a child in order to pay the bill. And the floor is tiled - although it's carpeted outside of the door, so now you have to walk through this swamp in order to reach the nice, dry floor of the toilet.

But the books are safe.

Hot, hot, hot.

How in the world do folks in the South DO this hot weather thing on a permanent basis? Is it something that you're just genetically more able to deal with cause you're born there or what?? And I know...I know...what we call HOT to you guys is more like..."Oh, better get your jacket cause it's going to be a chilly 86 degrees today", but there's nothing as relative as the kind of heat you're used to.

I'm not a Washington native. I was born and raised in England - specifically Nottingham, which is in the Midlands, and where 75 degrees is considered a heatwave. I still remember the day I arrived in Seattle-Tacoma airport on a sunny day in August of 1988. I was dressed for English weather, meaning a long sleeved shirt and jeans, as it was a warm summer day around 70 degrees. I stepped out of the airport terminal in Washington and it felt like I was walking into a blast furnace, as the temps here were closer to 85 degrees. I immediately melted into a large, sticky puddle on the sidewalk and was never heard of again.

Actually that part was just something I added for emphasis.

I've now lived here for almost 17 years, and I STILL can't take this summer heat. It turns me into this languid slob creature who lies around panting like a dog when I'm not flinging myself into The Pool Of Death with wild abandon, knowing that the creepy redneck guy next door is leching over the fence but being completely BEYOND CARING.

Our nice, proper English weather behaves in a very nice, neat and orderly fashion. Our weatherman once said that English summers tend to follow a specific pattern of having three hot days followed by a thunderstorm, with attendant cooling rain, before going back to the heat again.

Now that's a pattern I can work with.

Washington is somewhat different. Here we have rain which begins at the end of October and doesn't let up until April, followed by a couple of months of indecision - umbrella or t-shirt - umbrella or t-shirt - screw it...take both. And then we have summer.

Summer is a time when we see NO rain. And the grass shrivels up and dies, and we can't water it because the local governments have no short term memory and are incapable of coming up with a method of retaining all the zillion gallons of rainwater and snowmelt from the mountains and giving it back to us during the summer. Instead, on the second day of summer there's always a dire prediction of drought, and threats of cutting off the water if we keep using it for rash things like bathing and drinking. Of course, that 'drought' never comes to pass. I think there's just a drought department in Olympia which has to justify its existence on a yearly basis.

Summer is when things just DON'T GET DONE in our house. It's also the time when I have fond thoughts of moving to the north of Alaska and getting up close and personal with some polar bears.

This heat is too much with me.