Friday, 30 September 2005

A.W.A.D. - Colourful Words

Since this newsletter reaches almost all parts of the globe, you may be reading this on a day when there's a torrid sun or a gentle spring breeze. Perhaps you are forced indoors by a drenching monsoon or a frigid snowstorm.

But in this part of the world we are celebrating autumn, the season of colors. As the falling leaves form a feast for the eyes, it is a perfect week to talk about colors. Let's consider some unusual words to describe oranges and browns, grays and blues, and other shades in between.

Interestingly, there's even a color named after the color of dead leaves!

(FIL-mot) noun, adjective
The color of a dead or faded leaf: dull brown or yellowish brown.

[From the corruption of the French term feuillemorte, from feuille (leaf) + morte (dead). Ultimately from Indo-European root bhel- (to thrive or bloom) that gave us flower, bleed, bless, foliage, blossom, and blade.]

(in-KAHR-nuh-dyn) adjective
Flesh-colored; blood-red.
An incarnadine color.
verb tr.
To make incarnadine.

[Via French and Italian from Latin caro, (flesh). Ultimately from Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that's also the source of words such as skirt, curt, screw, shard, shears, carnage, carnivorous, carnation, sharp, and scrape.]

(FUS-kuhs) adjective
Of a brownish-gray color; dusky.

[From Latin fuscus (dusky).]

(GLO-kuhs) adjective
1. Of a grayish or bluish green or white color.
2. Covered with a powdery coating of such colors, as on grapes, plums, etc.

[From Latin glaucus (bluish-gray or green), from Greek glaukos.]

(toap, rhymes with rope) noun
A brownish gray, similar to the color of moleskin.

[From French taupe (mole), from Latin talpa.]

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Luis & Aislínge - 2001

The Great Depression - Being Unemployed

Well, I guess I should write about this. It seems to be all that is on my mind. I am home all the time to conserve money. I have nothing to do other than the myriad household tasks that need doing but are dull now. I'm always around. I can't go places if it involves money and gas is so outrageously expensive it costs to go to the store for groceries. I'm stuck without income (trust me, what UI pays is no income; at least, not enough to manage my outgo...

Being employed is a lot more to me than just having a way to pay bills and live happily in that regard. I am not happy not working anyway. I love to work. I love the work I do. I just cannot get any with the economy the way it is.

It's funny, I remember very well when there were far more openings than candidates and one needed to woo candidates with all kinds of incentives and freebies and things to get them. This was just prior to the market crash in October 2000. We would interview people who had three other prospects lined up and they would tell us how Nabisco was giving a ton of foodstuffs to prospective candidates and Joe Company was giving out this or that and what were we offering? At that time, I worked with a leading computer memory manufacturer and giving out the memory sticks at a high, high value simply was not practical. In any way! But nonetheless, I remember that so well. Now it is the cutthroat world of many, many overqualified candidates as well as normal candidates all vying for the same choice positions. We are all out there, desparate to be working and needing something close but that pays well or offers the benefits needed. Or a thousand other criteria that each person has for their ideal position.

I will admit to some needs: pay commensurate with my abilities (clearly I would love to be grossly overpaid, but I am happy to be in the normal range); good health/dental/vision benefits and a 401(k) plan. A company that is not too far from home. A company that treats its employees fairly - nothing extravagant - but is just equal and just and not consistently downgrading the various employee incentives (benefits notwithstanding - I've done benefits administration long enough to know just how much the companies are paying for this). I mean whittling away vacation/sick time, lowering morale, decreasing pay, that kind of thing. I've been there. And while it is bad enough to take those hits, it is another thing entirely when all the time you are the one announcing those tidbits that push good people to leave.

Other than that, I want to be in Human Resources, and doing the generalist work that I am good at and meant to do. I will be very, very happy to do my work and work hard for that company. Whoever they are and whatever they manufacture. I have a long history of being in manufacturing companies and I love that. It is interesting to learn about the product(s) and the making of it/them.

All I know is how I feel when I am not working. I feel like I am missing part of my identity. Some of that is the American culture. When you meet someone what is the next question after, "I'm So-And-So, what is your name?" You know that one - "What do you do for a living?" - that is what defines us, what makes us stand out. When you get home from whatever event you were at, you tell your spouse/family/friends how you met So-And-So who is an accountant or a marine biologist or a marketing specialist.

Right now, I'm just Aislínge Kellogg. That should be enough, and most of the time, when all the aspects of my life are full and I am working and healthy and happy, that is fine. But now it is not enough, because it is there in the front of my mind that I am not Aislínge Kellogg, Human Resources Generalist and I'm just Aislínge Kellogg, EMT or Aislínge Kellogg, Renaissance Faire Wench. Now I'm also Aislínge Kellogg, Unemployed Loser, which is how I am feeling.

I don't know what will happen down the road or how this will play out. I want to be positive and envision myself in that next great job... The longer this period drags on, the more lost I feel. The more difficult it is to see that vision.

Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Daylight Saving Time

Up until I picked up this book, "Sping Forward - The Annual Madness of Saving Time" by Michael Downing, I had no idea that there was anything controversial about Daylight Saving Time. For me, it is something that has been a constant since I was born (1968) and it was not something that I questioned too much or thought about... Other than the usual "why do we have it" and I was shocked to discover that none of the reasons I had been given were correct. In fact, I was surprised to discover that my penfriends overseas all observed it as well. The Bean and the mainland Europeans all do it the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October, but otherwise it is rather identical to what we do.

Michael Downing has a wonderful book and I was surprising to discover how recently the idea came about - for governments. Be Franklin actually mentioned it in 1784; however, a Mr. Willet in England first pitched it in 1907. Parliament voted it down. American drafted it first in 1909 but things move slowly in politics, so it wasn't put into action until 1918. And it bombed. No one wanted it except the white collar golf freak who was relegated to getting out on the green only on the weekends. Now of course, when one asks about why we have Daylight Saving Time, there are the standard answers (just the same as the ones that I got): the farmers lobbied for it; school children need it. Those were always the answers I was given. It turns out to be propaganda. The farmers absolutely hated it and schoolchildren were quite indifferent to it. The government pushed for it not only for the snobs of the world who wanted to have that extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day to play golf but tried to sell it to John Q. Public as a means of saving a ton of energy. The public is apparently not that stupid.

Part of the problem in the earliest history was time. Time was not the super accurate science that it is now. UTC (Universal Time) and GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) came about in the late 1880's to eliminate the confusion with time - where are we in relationship to others. And as an added bonus there was the International Date Line, an unnecessary item that creates more confusion than it actually solves.

I did learn a whole boatload of things about calendars:

(Taken from Chapter 6: Mean Time)

"When you think about it, there's something wrong with time. You don’t have to be a physicist to spot the oddities. Look at the calendar: September, October, November, December. The names of those months come to us directly from the Latin. But we have a correspondence problem. Our ninth month is named for seven (septem), the tenth for eight (octo), the eleventh for nine (novem), and the twelfth for ten (Decem). The Roman calendar was a famously inaccurate stew of religious and political ambitions, with only 304 days, ten months, and an unspecified catchall period at the end of this so-called year. These extra days were eventually codified into January and February, originally the eleventh and twelfth months. But the duration of these two months was constantly altered to lengthen or abbreviate the terms of political appointees, and after many years of manipulation, January had migrated into the autumn. The Romans ultimately developed a 365-day calendar, borrowing from the Egyptians, who had managed this feat about five thousand years earlier. Like most calendars, the revised Roman-Julian version relied on the occasional insertion of a longer year, a leap year. Even with these adjustments, though, it was not until the sixteenth century that the Roman kinks were worked out, largely thanks to Pope Gregory, who had the leap years recalibrated and, to set things aright, waved his holy hand and eliminated 10 days from the year 1582. Unlike Daylight Saving, this new Gregorian calendar was not an immediate hit in Great Britain, where papal powers were suspect. Calendars in England and in the colonies remained 11 days out of sync with those of other nations until 1752.

What is a month? Again, look at a calendar. One month appears to be an annually recurring sequence of days ranging in number from 28 to 31. Months were originally based on lunar cycles. The Maori worked with a strictly lunar calendar, but because there are roughly 12 1/2 lunar cycles in any given year, their New Year's Day changed annually, and they occasionally needed a thirteenth month. Contemporary lunar calendars are principally used to maintain religious and ceremonial traditions. Like the Egyptians, the ancient Chinese and the Maya used solar and astronomical observations to produce 365-day calendars that were not marred by irregular lunar months. Instead their calendars used recurring periods of 60 or 20 days, rounded off by predictable leap days as needed.

What is a month? It depends on how you look at it. A lunar month is the average time between two full moons, or approximately 29 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes. A solar month is the time lapse between two passages of the sun through the vernal equinox, or about 30 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes, and 3.8 seconds. A sidereal (star-based) month is the time taken for the moon to complete one revolution around the earth as measured by the observation of a fixed star, which adds up to something like 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes.

These profound variations and complications have been with us for centuries, and yet in the twentieth century, the most sustained public controversy about time focussed on one allegedly saved hour of daylight. The moderns were not unaware of their ancestors. "If Congress turned as often to Roman precedent as often as the fathers of the republic," editorialized The Nation in 1918, "the Daylight Saving bill would have passed long ago; for the Romans were confirmed daylight savers." Like many cultures, the Romans divided daylight into twelve equal hours, so that each hour varied seasonally from 45 minutes to 75 minutes, lengthening as the earth tilted Rome toward summer. And "Roman occupations of the day being arranged with reference to sunrise," continued the Nation:

The Roman who began work with the fourth hour, would on the longest day of the year, when the sun rose at about 4:50 A.M. and set at 7:50 P.M., reach his officina at 8:35; on the shortest day, when it rose at 7:40 A.M. and set about 5:40 P.M., he would be there about 9:50. Thus was accomplished in summer a saving of an hour and a quarter."

It seems that there was quite a bit more confusion than anyone had thought. I had known about the issues with the Ceasarian calendar - that there were ten months and that they were malleable depending on the length of the year and terms in office. I did not know that January and February came in to cover months eleven and twelve... I always knew that a sidereal year is different from that of our standard year. I knew the difference between a solar and sidereal month as well - this is all astronomy 101. No one in astronomy uses the solar times or lunar times - we use sidereal times.

I guess a controversy should always remain so. Either that or the temptation to muck about with time was too much for George Bush Jr to avoid, so he has done the following:

Date change in 2007
On August 8, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This Act changed the time change dates in the U.S. Beginning in 2007, DST will begin on the second Sunday of March, and end the first Sunday of November. Note that the Secretary shall report to Congress on the impact of this change. Congress retains the right to revert the Daylight Saving Time back to the 2005 time schedules once the Department study is complete.

Spelling & Grammar:
The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Similar examples would be dog walking time or book reading time. Since saving is a verb describing a single type of activity, the form is singular.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an 's') flows more mellifluously off the tongue, and Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.Part of the confusion is because the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, but it is not as politically desirable.

I guess the next logical question (since this is my blog) is where do I stand on Daylight Saving Time. I love it. That's right. While usually I can be counted on as having the dissenting opinion on almost anything, this is one institution that I love and embrace. And as much as I despise Bush (and I really, really do with every unemployed fiber of my being) I do like the new legislature of tacking on a month to daylight savings. I am not totally unaffected by it. I never experience any difficulties in the spring when we spring forward. True, we do "lose" an hour but it is not something I'm aware of. I usually stay up late on those two Saturday nights anyway and change the clocks prior to going to bed. I have to be careful to change them all, however, or I will be in trouble. No, the spring is fine. In the autumn, when I change the clocks back and "gain" that lost hour, I am a mess! It takes a good solid two to four weeks to adjust to the morning change. At night I am not too bad, other than the feeling that 1800 feels like midnight. But getting up in the dark not once but twice as the days grow shorter presents a problem or three. I found myself having the devil's own time staying awake in the mornings.

But I can adjust and I love the sun setting close to 2100 in the evenings!

Tuesday, 20 September 2005


Wondering what brought that on? Curious as to why, after two peaceful, happy posts I am suddenly off on a tear? Because PEOPLE WHO MARKET THINGS CAN BITE ME! I made a post two weeks ago and was appalled to see that my e-mail showed a response to my blog that was nothing to do with it - it was some yahoo selling something! Oh, yes, and two more - no, three more scum-buckets have just commented (not really) to my blog but they were just trying to sell me drugs or web ads or whatever - ruining all the pleasure I derive from my blog! How can this be?

I joined the Do Not Call lists and the Do Not Send Me Junk Mail lists and they are great! They truly work. The days of getting morons calling my house all throughout the day are gone. I joined a Do Not SPAM list and I have yet to see any improvement. I suspect I never will. Jerks can SPAM me all the live long day and no one can stop them. I hope someday that this will end. For now, it seems that I am meant to be a victim to this stupidity.

We have ReplayTV and I tell everyone how wonderful it is. Number One Selling Point: it skips telly commercials. This makes it worth its weight in gold! Anything that takes adverts out is worth its weight in gold! So if someone makes something that can make SPAMming illegal and catch the evil perpetrators pay (or go to jail! Yay!) then I will happily get it and not count the cost!


George Chris

Where do I start with George? Everyone should have a friend like this. Even though we have not been as close as we once were long, long ago, I still regard him as one of my closest friends. I'm not really sure how we drifted apart. But I remember how we met and how much fun we had.
We met right around this time of year when I was 17, starting my senior year in high school. I had met Julie, a new kid who was either a freshman or a sophomore in my school. She was great - very petite with large green eyes and a very punk hair cut and wore clothing very similar to mine. When I began doing the punk thing in high school no one had seen that before. I was definitely way out there to them. But Julie came along and she was way out there too. We got to be friendly - me with my half-shave head and blonde tail and purple hair in the front and her with her short spiky hair with blonde pieces and the heavy eye liner. We hung from time to time. And one day she had me over to meet some friends.

It was three people from Passaic County - Gemma, her boyfriend (whose name, oddly enough, I cannot recall, and George. Gemma and I hit it off initially and so did I with her boyfriend. George and I hit it off even more. But to me, at the time, he was an adult, not a quasi-adult like we were. He was 24 and so grown-up - his parents didn't hassle him and he had a car. I did not even drive then.

By the end of that night, Gemma hated me, I had made semi-friends with her boyfriend (the reason she hated me, ironically) and George and I were fast friends. After that, I was never home. We hung out all the time. We did everything together. Most fondly I remember how we'd go to his house (his parents were rarely around) and we put on movies - Highlander, LadyHawke, etc, and sit around for HOURS drawing. It was a magical thing. We also were doodling and drawing and doing artistic things. We had a great time.

He also took me up to the Renaissance Festival when I was 18, and look what that started! I am working there for my 19th year now. Thanks, Mordred!

He and I would also take pictures. Well, he took pictures of me - two different sets at two different times. Some are purely artistic and I could post them on here but some were lewd. Actually they were all quite artsy. But some were less dressed than others. I wish I looked like that now, though. I had a great body back then. A nudie shot of me now would scare people!

But now I see George a few times a year, all during the eight weeks that is the Renaissance Festival. After that I don't see or hear from him nor him from me. We keep saying we will be in touch but we never are. I don't know why that is. Some day, though, I would like to think we will be.

Here's to my future with George in it!

Monday, 19 September 2005

Fun In Parsippany - The Parsippany Fall Festival

Yesterday was the Parsippany Fall Festival, an annual event where the township shuts North Beverwyck Road down from Vail to Knoll Roads and there are street vendors, foods, rides and other fun activities there. This is usually the last or next to last Sunday in September and I have found that as an EMT I really enjoy going to this little festival. For one thing, it is time well spent doing something for the squad and a chance to spend a day with different people. For another thing, it gets all but the tiniest amount of my Finance hours done for the year and leaves me with maybe one more hour to put in. Since I also like to be around for EMS week to do whatever the squad does to make the township aware of our services, that finishes my Finance hours. This leaves me with House hours, and I make most of the clean up dates for the squad, so I have all my time put in to vote.

This year we did the usual selling soda, iced tea and water, and made a goodly amount of money; we did the usual free blood pressure screenings and as something new (and dramatically overdone by all the others there) we had donation jars out for Hurricane Katrina survivors. However, what separated us from everyone else was that our money was going toward getting our ambulance (66-1) down to the Gulf Coast. I even stood out in the middle of the street, screaming at the top of my lungs, "PLEASE HELP US GET OUR AMBULANCE DOWN TO THE GULF COAST!" I had some donations come in - one person even put in a $10 bill! Yay!

After a while the yelling in the middle of the road got really old (and my throat really hoarse) so I brought the bottle back to the table, did some more soda passing duties, then took another trip around the various other tables that were set up. I had a free massage (sigh...), bought a couple of bottles of the most amazing honey teriyake sauce, got myself a gorgeous autumn wreath, and finally a Parsippany sweatshirt. I love the fall festival.

I did more stuff there, some free blood pressure readings, more passing out sodas, and then I sat down in one of my chairs and between low blood sugar, the heat and not doing anything I fell asleep in the chair. I think someone took a picture of me - Bob said something about there being photographic evidence of my napping. Around 1645 I woke up and at 1648 we got our first call of the day. We went down to the call - a bit of strange thing, that - and the person signed off. A total waste of our time but that is fairly typical, sad to say. We went back and were delighted to see that the whole thing had been packed up and we were ready to go! Cool. We processed back to the squadhouse and I came home.

And so another Fall Festival has gone by.

Saturday, 17 September 2005

A Quick Word

A lot has been going on; I do have a large post in progress, in my Drafts folder - I don't want to put it up until I am finished. But in the weeks following Labor Day weekend, we have had a death in the family, a birth with the closest of friends, a new dog introduced, a job ending and a job beginning. That is a lot in the span of two weeks. Anyway, fear not. I'm still writing and still have a million things to say. This time of year is always extraordinarily busy - the New York Renaissance Festival, the Parsippany Fall Festival, work (when I have it), house stuff to clean out for autumn and prep for winter, etc. Plus this is my absolute favourite time of the year - I love autumn to distraction.

More will follow soon, especially now that my assignment has ended!

Saturday, 10 September 2005

So Many Things... Where To Start?

The Post-Labor Day Week in Review

This last week has been terrible in capital letters with one exception. It's a biggie, too, but the rest of the week was really quite awful. I guess we will just have to roll it all into one post. Time is in short supply at this time of the year, especially for me. I have work (until Thursday, 15 September, anyway), Ren (the New York Renaissance Festival) and riding. That leaves me with very little time to do anything else.

Well, the four day weekend was fine. I had Friday off (thanks to the gods for that!) and had breakfast with Medicine Man and then went to get my hair done. It took a little longer than usual - for some reason, my hair only became brown the first go round, not burgundy. The second time it came out great. And in fit of bravery, I had my eyebrows waxed! It was not a bad experience. It was shocking when she yanked the fabric off but really so fast that it was not truly painful. It looks good, too. And unlike shaving, I won't need to worry about the new growth until November or so!

After that I went to my parents' house and spent time with Ma, Ray, Frankie and Bridget. It was fun. After that, Ray and I ran some errands together - we went to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions they had, then to Stop N Shop for a couple of things and finally to Toys R Us for a set of planets that glow in the dark and hang from the ceiling. We had a good time and then I dropped Ray off and came home. I hung up the planets and adhered some of the day-glow stickers that came with the kit to the bedroom ceiling. It looks really cool - with and without the lights on!

The three day weekend at the Renaissance Faire was OK. Saturday and Monday were excellent money days with a lot of business and - for this year - big crowds. Sunday, by contrast, was a total bomb. I couldn't explain if I wanted to - the weather was the same as the other two days (perfect) and nothing else was different, so I am at a loss as to how this could be. But it was. Just as well, I suppose. I couldn't keep my eyes open so I went home early. Monday the Phantom was supposed to be there... and nothing. No phone call, no note, nothing. He never came and David, Dorita and I were quite worried about him.

Tuesday was an uneventful day - work was nice and I picked up my check at the agency and deposited a lot of money before going on call - but when I returned home from rig check, all hell broke loose. Flyboy and Quilt Queen had a poor doctor's visit that morning and I called all the numbers I had - Tom's cell, Alayna's cell, their house phone, Flyboy's mom and a coworker and could not find anyone. And then Hamlet, Dave's cat (Dave in Montana), died. He was a mess. And there were other calls. And Phantom called to let me know he was safe and did not say much about whatever had upset him but he worked it out of his system (I guess) by driving. He drove to the middle of Massachusetts and turned around and came home. That is a LOT of driving, especially with gas prices as they are.

Well, Wednesday brought some answers. Flyboy and Quilt Queen had to go to St. Clares hospital by direction of the high-risk pregnancy doctor, who determined that the oxygenated blood flow from the placenta to the fetus wasn't what it should be and she wanted the baby out NOW. Once at St. Clares, it was determined that for such an early birth with a baby as underweight as this one, Morristown would be the better hospital to be in for the neonatal care. With a lot of finagling by my wonderful Lieutenant, Bob Heinzerling, they were transported to Morristown by ambulance and she was thoroughly checked out there. After some monitoring, cooler heads prevailed and decided that the fetus should remain in Mom, and they needed to really carefully watch things. So they were there for the duration. Until the baby came, Mom couldn't leave and Flyboy had the special pink wrist band to admit him to the room at nearly any time.

I went to visit them in the hospital on Wednesday evening and while it wasn't the most gorgeous of accommodations, it was in a good hospital and they were taking good care of them. And that is what matters! We got to listen to the heartbeat thumping away like a galloping race horse (the fetal heartbeat is between 125 and 150 - very fast!). It was a good sound - the sound of life!

Ever since last Friday, after a night with no calls at all, I was filled with a sense of foreboding and dread. It had been too quiet, too easy last week and this week, we were going to pay for it... I couldn't shake that feeling.

Well, on Thursday, I had a busy day. I had to run to two different doctor's offices - my OB/GYN for my Depo Provera shot; then to my GP for my second hep inoculation. Then I ran home and changed to be on call. We did rig check and then I went home. I was home for maybe 15 to 20 minutes when we got a call to go to Rockaway Meadow School for a laceration on a leg. As we were pulling onto the field (my first ambulance off-roading trip!) we heard Car 65 get blown out for a multiple injury MVA [motor vehicle accident]. I had a sinking feeling that we may end up on that call as well. Anyway, at the school, I thought the patient would be a kid. Instead, it was a man my age and some kid had run his bike into him by accident. He was lying on the ground with one ankle very securely wrapped in an ace bandage and propped up on a helmet. We loaded him into the ambulance and I drove off the field, stopped while they replaced the bandage and rebandaged the wound, then headed up to St. Clares with sirens wailing and moving along the highway fairly well. Baby's first patient trip (not really, but first one on my own)!

When we were enroute to the hospital, Car 65 back-up was blown out for the MVA call on Mazdabrook Road, in front of the Care One nursing care facility. After that, it would be us - very few times can either squad get a third rig out on a week night... I had a bad feeling that we would be needed on that call eventually. As it turns out, we were - we had gotten Leg Lac to the hospital and just as I was backing in, we were blown out for the accident. We unloaded Leg Lac guy in record time, grabbed sheets and blankets and while Bob drove like a madman to the scene, Rob and I actually managed to make the stretcher without getting killed in the back. It was not easy!

We arrived onscene to chaos and confusion. Both of 65's rigs were there as well as Car 69, to use the jaws of life on the one vehicle. Our patient was the driver of an SUV with some damage, but not needing the jaws of life - and he was a doctor. I have to say, however, he was the best patient we have had - and usually medically trained people are the absolute worst patients! This gentleman was my age, with no apparent injuries other than a headache from hitting the windshield. He was wearing his harness, but due to his height (or lack thereof), he was really close to the wheel and his head hit the windshield anyway!

So we did all the right things, collared him, boarded him and took him to the hospital. He checked out okay by us - we checked him over for trauma. He complained of a headache but otherwise was stating that he was fine. Still, best to get checked out. He was an excellent patient, though - usually medically trained people make lousy patients.

We got in from that call around 2030 or 2100. I came home and puttered around the house and finally went to bed around 2200. I was very asleep when the phone rang. It was my mother - she was hysterical. I could hear her voice, even though Luis had picked up. He handed me the phone, saying, "It's your mother." When I got on the phone, she wailed, "Frankie's dead!" She said a couple of other things, but she was so upset that I could not understand a word. She told me she was going to put Daddy on (Ray) and then I had to hold on while he pulled himself together. By then I was upset too. Frankie was my dog, too. Ray got on and he was a mess. He told me the whole thing - that Frankie had been in pain during the day and he had called the vet's to ask about giving him aspirin or something. The vet's office instructed him to not give Frankie anything and that they would see him the next day (Friday) to take x-rays. Well, that night just before they called me, Ray came downstairs and Frankie was on the floor. He had been on the bed and Ray thought that maybe he'd fallen out. So he said, "Come on, boy, let's go for a walk." Frankie moved but did not get up. Ray went over to him and heard him give an agonal breath - gasping - and he turned on the light. Frankie gave another gasp and died. Just like that. So they called me. I wanted to go over there, but Ray told me not to - after all, what could I do? So I stayed home - just as well.

I called Phantom and cried to him for a while. There was no sleeping for me. I tried but ended up getting up and writing e-mail.

We were called out at 0240 for a "confused male" who was transported to the hospital and on the heels of that we went out for someone who needed lifting assistance. We got back in at 0430. I had gotten no sleep after talking to my parents and the Phantom, so I was exhausted. I slept until 07:35, then took a shower and went to work. I looked pretty awful. And I was still quite upset. And then for lunch I went to my parents, to help Ray take Frankie to the vet's for disposal.

It was horrible. Frankie was wrapped up in a beach towel in Ray's workroom. It smelled strongly of fecal matter - unsurprising. When a body is dead it relaxes and the bowels and bladder usually let go. Ray uncovered one back paw for us to pet and then broke down and cried and said, "My baby boy is gone." He started sobbing and I did, too. We were both a mess. He gathered him up in the towel and we got in my car and I drove to the vet's. We dropped him off and Ray signed off on the paperwork and paid $60. We were still very upset. We went home and I cried with Ma for a while too. We sat around and talked a little before I returned to work. At work I cried some more and my coworkers told me to go home - I was too upset and exhausted and I should go home and rest. I did, which was nice. I was truly whipped.

I cried a lot over the weekend too but being at the Faire helped. It was a welcome distraction.

On Friday afternoon, Flyboy called. He was very happy and told me that he and Quilt Queen - now "Quilt Mom" - are the proud parents of Matthew Thomas, born on Wednesday night (7 September) at 21:21. He weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces - he is tiny! But he was breathing without assistance and other than being really small and helpless, he was fine - the healthiest premature baby ever! I was delighted to hear it - some happy news after a perfectly dreadful week!

On Tuesday, 13 September we went to Morristown to visit Quilt Mom and to meet Matthew Thomas. He was tiny - tinier than any baby I have ever seen - but he was a good colour, perfusing perfectly with a strong heart beat and tiny hands and feet that moved around! He was perfect. He still is and he is gaining weight and really maintaining his own. Once he is able to control his own body temperature and successfully digest food (including maintaining a high caloric intake than output), then he can come home.

He's beautiful and healthy as a horse!

So we had a death, a birth, an end and a beginning - all in the same week!

Monday, 5 September 2005

Old Cat; Unwanted New Tricks

When it comes to cats, life can be a mystery. I have had mine now for about 14 and a 1/2 years now... some better than others, clearly. But they are my fuzzy babies and I love them. And no matter how annoying some behaviour is, they are still a hell of a lot less work and annoyance than children!

Ariel is the black and white cat to the right, Chelsea is the tortoiseshell tabby to the left. This was taken in our old house across town.

Lately, possibly inspired by the Phantom's constant issues with his own cat, the Russian Insane One, she has been coming into the bedroom to meow - incessantly - for... whatever. I don't know what she wants. They never go without food and last night I after I fed them their once a day serving of wet food they got more dry. The water was there and the litter boxes are still clean. So what is the problem? Who knows.

It's never Chelsea, either. It is always, without exception, Ariel. And it is daily. They never get fed in the morning. No matter what, I need to sleep until my alarm goes off and I am not allowed! Why is that?? Not that the cat could tell me but am I sure I would want to know?

I don't think she actually has any complaint. A lot of the time I suspect that she is frustrated - she normally sleeps with us but as age creeps on she is less able to jump onto the high waterbed that we have. It is quite high. It has six draws on each side, two rows of three - so it is a bit over a metre high. Maybe what I need to do is place a ladder-sort of set up of items at the foot of the bed that she can make two half-sized jumps to get on the bed. Surprisingly Chelsea has no trouble getting on the bed! She just hops right up and runs over to see me!

Just anything to make the crazy meowing at 04h00 STOP!

Friday, 2 September 2005

Drugs And Your Family...

Ever wonder what happens to people when they age? Well, wonder no more. Experience from my grandparents, parents and patients has taught me a lot. So has the modern world and the companies that make pharmaceuticals.

When my grandparents were alive, I watched them get older. There were the obvious signs... weight gain, moving slower, less hair, more grey. Then there were the subtle things that I did not see. Higher blood pressure, caution with driving and stairs, things that a kid really wouldn't notice. They did take vitamins but there were no maintenance medications about, no pain killers, no sleeping aids, and they did not seem to need any of these things.

My Pop-pop had a heart attack in 1980, when he was roughly 72 or 73. He was in the hospital for some time and he had told me that he awoke in the middle of the night with massive pain and had been screaming. It sounded terrible. As an EMT it sounded a lot like a myocardial infarction, and it was.

After the hospital stay he was released with instructions: lose weight, eat better (although he really did not have a poor diet) and quit smoking. He and my grandmother both quit smoking, which saved me the trouble of throwing away and hiding and flushing their cigarettes down the toilet. Pop-pop took an aspirin once a day to keep his blood thin. Their diet was lower in sodium, lower in fat, higher in fruits and veggies and smaller portions. He lived to 80 and died from kidney failure and never had so much as a flutter from his heart. My grandmother... well, that is a mystery. She may be alive now, although I highly doubt it. While it is true that the good die young and the wretched don't, she'd be pushing 100 and I find it hard to imagine that she'd have that much bitterness to still be alive. I don't know what she died of... I suppose just old age, as she was quite healthy, really. Physically, that is. I don't know many people who were so unhealthy emotionally.

However, that is neither here nor there and nothing on the pharmaceutical market could fix what ailed her.

Wondering about my maternal grandparents? There is not much to tell. My mother suspects that she, her sisters, and my grandmother had/have muscular dystrophy. This is mostly speculation as none of us have been definitively diagnosed. They all have/had muscle weakness and I have it, too. It is hereditary, whatever it is. But that had nothing to do with her death in 1985. She died from pancreatic cancer. She had a mini-heart attack before that. As far as I know, she was not on any maintenance medication, either. Until the cancer, at least.

The thing of it was that my paternal grandparents both lived to fairly ripe old ages, took hardly any drugs, and did fine. This brings me to my parents.

Ray has hypertension. My mother has hypertension. No dieting and proper physical maintenance for them, they went right onto medication for it. I suspect the doctor was happy to prescribe and not actually attempt the fitness/diet conversation. That wasn't that long ago, maybe 5 or 6 years.

Ray also tried phen-phen (and we all know how well that worked) and Vioxx (yikes). Now he takes... let me think... toprol, lunesta, tricor, and a handful of other pharmaceuticals that, thanks to the Union's now-lousy health plan, costs more than I care to think.

And this brings us to my mother. I love my mother a lot and I'm close to her. But we disagree strongly on the drug thing... her feeling is that if there is a pill/parenteral/whatever that can fix whatever, she'll take it. So she is taking a ton of medications. She has two "tackle boxes" filled with pills. I don't even know all the stuff she is taking but I do know some are anti-depressants that work with other drugs (she doesn't take those as primary medication, but to balance out the side effects of other medications - if I understand correctly). Just what she needs. I know the list includes concerta, ambien, tricor, and a multitude of other things. Sometimes these things clash. Sometimes she has some bizarre side effects. Sometimes I think that this not my mother but some other person... she has exhibited some terrible personality changes as a result (I strongly suspect) of the drugs. It's disturbing and distressing and I hate it.

But she is a victim, like so many others, of the pharmaceutical industry. Have a problem? We have the cure! Can't lose weight? We have the surgery! Can't concetrate? Have a pill or three! Hypertensive? Don't give up on those totally unhealthy foods and huge portions, just take this or that or those pills! It's quick, it's painless, it's great! Oh, and don't read that pesky fine print with the side effects that may include headache, nausea, vomiting, fever and oh, did we mention death? Nah, that only happened to one person and those evil lawyers make us mention it but ignore it... Welcome to the wonderful world of the quick fix.

It's not all bad. Ray used to be plagued with the worst psoriasis and it has magically cleared up with this new injection he is taking. He also has his strength and ability to work and be comfortable and not feel arthritis and is feeling physically able as well. This is a wonderful thing. This is one drug that is truly neccesary - it is not a fast fix to something that could be rectified another way. I'm on board with that all the way.

I use Depo Provera. It is a contraceptive parenteral that is injected into the fleshy part of my hip once every three months. It is wonderful. It not only takes away the worry of pregnancy but it eradicted my menstrual cycle entirely - a VERY good thing! My menstrual cycle was a major illness once a month that totally incapacitated me for two to four days out of every month. Employers do not like employees who chronically miss two to four days of work every month. Again, a neccesity that I need. These things are good.

But the rest is not. And how do you fight it? I do, I stay away from most medications - even when I should suck it up and use them. But for my mother, if it is a pill and can provide the quick fix, she wants it. If it is surgery and can provide a quick fix, she wants it. Where does it end?