Monday, 31 December 2007

2007 In Review

People Magazine and every other magazine has the year in review, so why not me? I did this last year, too. It was very satisfying.

5 February 2007

Things can only get better! Why dwell on last year (especially now, when I have easily forgotten it all)?

Having a Soak

My circa 1968 bathtub is wholly inadequate to hold anything more than a good-sized watermellon. (Why does that not look right?) I have a good-sized watermellon just around my mid-section. Getting in the tub is generally not too bad; getting out is an entirely different proposition. The MD and general lack of strength does not help.

We want our bathrooms done in a huge way, but no one I know can recommend a good general contractor or a good bathroom guy to do this. The few we have tried to contact on our own clearly aren't interested or have too much good work pending, since none got back to us. We are stuck - and have been for about two years.

The guy that did our bathroom in 2002 was OK, but not good. He was slow to do it and then did - and justified - doing a really piss-poor job on the tiling in the bathroom. Unbelievable. We even bought real spacers for those very expensive tiles and he still used TOOTHPICKS to space them - so naturally the job was very crappy looking. Needless to say, he wasn't invited to do any subsequent work.

So here we are with two small bathrooms that we want to happily spend money on to have them completely redone - new confirguration, all new plumbing, all new electrical, the whole works - and no one wants to do the job and no one can recommend anyone to me. How does that happen?!

I love a good soak, but I don't do it very often... the tub is around 18" wide and 5' (60") longe. I am 5'4" (64" long). If I were under 5' this would be a good size - for me. However, despite my physical flaws, I am unlikely to shrink anytime soon, and have no wish to (in fact, I'd like to be about 4" taller). So why is this so difficult to find?!

Dramatic Change?

Everyone keeps telling me I look great and I've lost a lot of weight. They are right that I have lost a lot of weight. I have been weighing myself and eating differently and working out, but I can NOT see the difference. I never can. I know why that is, but it is not fair and I wish I could see it. Almost everyone else I know does. So here is a little experiment.

I'm putting up two images: one taken in late August, and one taken on Christmas Eve.
OK. That is me at our Employee/Caddy Appreciation Day, wieghing in at just about 205lbs. (yikes...)

This is me on Christmas Eve, and I think - I'm not sure, but I think - it was taken right after I was blinded by my own flash on my camera. Luis took the shot, no doubt. The double chin is a little freaky... but this me weighing in at 170lbs. That is about 30lbs difference.

I don't know. I still see a fat woman. And I still have 30 - 40lbs to go. It is a journey that is hard but worth it. I'd like to look slimmer - slim enough that I can see the difference!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Wow, it is almost 1500. Where does the time go?

Time to relate Christmas Eve, always a fun adventure every year. I love my family but there are a lot of things that go on with them that I find mystifying. The alcoholism is amazing. We always had one alcoholic but now we are up to two. The rest of us are not only not alcoholics, we don't drink at all. It is an all-or-nothing proposition with us.

We headed to my parents' house at 1330 because my father was upset. He just got overwhelmed with the Christmas insanity, the overload of dogs (he swore earlier in the month that he would turn people away, but of course he did not), and the constant care of my mother. It just really got to him, so we did stuff and went to the store. We finally left the house around 1540 to go out to Long Island and we made excellent time. We plugged my mother into the DVD and left her watching The Black Stallion in the back seat (no back seat driving this trip), while Luis played with the traffic feature on his [ridiculous] Trio phone and kept us appraised every ten seconds of the traffic patterns. Ray and I chatted on the way out. Driving out in the daylight is easy, and with the EZ Pass, it is a painless trip. There was some stop-and-go traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway but just about six to ten minutes worth. We sailed right in from there over the Whitestone Bridge (almost unthinkable) and into Queens to the tiny narrow street they live on.

The house was actually warm and well-decorated. They always decorate nicely, but getting my uncle to turn up the heat is not easy. Someone must have snuck it up a bit without him noticing. Chuckle. It has to be Renee. She'd do it. And she is always cold, like me.

Oddly enough, Renee is never dressed up at all when we come for Christmas. It's just amusing for some reason. And this time she was in jeans and a tee shirt (which was fine) but went up to get changed (we were a little early), and then came down in a skirt and top. She had on a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood and leggings under the skirt and light-up socks under her slippers. It is a strange combination but again, the house tends to be cold in temperature and she's always cold. I can understand the layers thing.

Justine was already there but Toby came later and then the Garibaldis (I think that is the last name) came. They always come, although I find that curious. They come for dinner but are smart enough not to sit through the gift giving orgy that follows. I like them - they are intelligent, funny and well-travelled. Very enjoyable company.

Toby came and then we were in the living room chatting and I stood up at some point. Toby started raving about how great I look! I couldn't believe it. I thought I wouldn't hear much after I went to Luis' company dinner and that it was mostly people at work - my work - that saw it, but not really anyone else. But Toby was raving, and then Amy and I felt incredible. I was glowing and grinning and really loving it. This went on for quite some time and came up again and again. I was definitely the bell of the ball.

The dinner was excellent and we had a really great time. Amy made ham and I love ham. I did not have the pumpkin soup but I did have the fruit mix that went into it. The bread I did not have and I had no sugar products and I know it drove my uncle crazy that I did not use their sugar or tea or anything - I brought my sugar-Splenda mix. I stayed away from the alcohol too. You would think by now he'd be used to it.

My aunt was drinking scrub (it's disgusting) and wine at the same time. I have no idea how this began, but many years ago now (maybe ten), she began drinking a lot of wine at these little soirees and it has gotten worse over time. This year was no different. And Ray had two small glasses with scrub and a beer and I cannot recall ever seeing him drink that much! It was rather staggering. He was pretty funny, though. And he was fine by the end of the night.

[It looks like it is going to snow. I'm waiting for it to start.]

The gift giving orgy was great and I am blown away at the lovely things that we got. Amy and Raoul got me a gorgeous scarf from Ireland; Luis got a Drakkar kit. Renee and Alex gave Luis a game and I got three books, one of which I'm 75% through: You Did What, a book of historical blunders, You Said What?, a book of lies and propaganda throughout history, and Weird History 101, with things like "my dinner with Attila the Hun, I started World War I, watching Custer's Last Stand and other tales of intrigue, mayhem and outrageous behaviour".

Right up my alley!

And Justine gave us a framed photograph that she took. It's gorgeous - very Georgia O'Keefe - a close up of a flower that looks... well... like a vagina! We were laughing about that and I made the comment that it is a beautiful thing! I happen to own one and love it and use it often (it was more eloquently and poetically phrased than that). Oddly enough, there is no wire on the back to hang it up.

We stayed until around 2130 and then my mother began to complain, so I got right up and began to pack everything up and she got stuck in the kitchen talking to everyone. So I was waiting for us to troop out and we did not - I'd rather have stayed, but once I'm packed up and ready to go, that is it - I want to go!

The ride home was uneventful. We hooked Ma back up to the movie and the three of us chatted while I drove home.

Holiday Madness - Christmas Weekend

This is about the weekend right before Christmas. Next year the Christmas weekend will be right after Christmas (thanks to 2008 being a leap year, there will not be Christmas on Wednesday. My plan is to save two days and use them the two holiday Fridays - 26 December and 2 January 2009 - wahoo! I won't be the only one. And four-day weekends are not to be squandered.



Back to this year (best not to squander all of 2008 awaiting the holidays that I have just so happily survived!), the weekend prior to Christmas was really the start of the holidays, more so than just Monday night and Tuesday. On Friday, 21 December we had Luis' work holiday party at a restaurant LuNello's. Do not waste any day or evening going there. The food was OK. As with any event, the hors things that I can never spell (isn't that staggering? There is a word I can't spell) were pretty good (although mostly fried and so avoided by me) and the sit-down dinner was up there with sawdust. This is not unusual. But people, despite knowing this, never learn.



The room was run by a little man in a perfectly dreadful brown suit (very few brown suits look good) with an extremely loud voice. He was very likely gay which I could care less, although I'm always baffled by men who get those "flouncy", very obviously gay mannerisms, as though a billboard advert is required to be gay. I never get that. Why isn't homosexuality just a state of being rather than a foreign nationality? I keep hoping someone will explain it to me but I haven't met anyone who I thought mightn't be offended if I asked.



The pasta, which should have been delicious, was crunchy. Not al dente, but crunchy-undercooked. Yikes. No poaching that kitchen staff. Even I wouldn't do that to someone.



I managed to stay away from the greasy stuff and the sweet stuff. No off-the-approved-list foods and no desserts. I'm always a little tempted by that but I loaded up on fruit and felt great. I was less than thrilled that most people there had no idea I'd lost weight, other than Nick, who complimented me and asked if I had lost a lot of weight. And John's wife Liz noticed and was raving - that felt great! Otherwise, no one noticed.



I like most of Luis' coworkers in a passing way, but they are all saddled with kids and so the men all talk about sports (I cannot contribute at all to those conversations) and the women all talk about their kids; ignoring the fact that most have kids that are grown, have they nothing else in life to talk about? This is 17 years of insipid conversation.



At the end of the night I met Julie, whom I immediately disliked, and her "boyfriend/father" guy, and I don't know how I felt about him. She was an immediate turnoff. You need to work hard to make me not like you that fast.



Saturday I went to my parents' house as usual, and then was home by about 1630 for Anna's impending arrival, which thanks to traffic was pushed back to 1800. Groan. They arrived around 1820, and we went downstairs. There is always a high price to be paid when it comes to seeing Anna and Kirk - too much time spent with their father (Luis and Anna's father - I don't believe I have ever met Kirk's father and I think he died a couple of years ago).
I love seeing them, but time spent with Luis Sr. is never a good thing. He is a lecturer, a know-it-all and a martyr... never good things in and of themselves and the combination is deadly. I could happily go without ever talking to him again. And the funny thing is that after some chitchat and then his father recommending all cheap places to eat (never gonna happen with this crowd), we all ordered food from Kabob Paradise and then when it was ready, Luis, Anna and Kirk all ran out to pick it up, leaving me with-- AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!



I could not believe that they did that. Maybe they did not see it for the obvious bailing out that they did - although you can't sell me on that - but I certainly did. Luis Sr...? Who knows. Even if he knew, he could care less, since he knows we will be a captive audience at some point.



The food was excellent, and the conversation was a little more even, since even Luis Sr. had to eat. And then at the end of dinner, he suggested that we should all go to Florida together and he will show us all the different places that had meaning to him. I did not say a word. The answer is no. Luis can go and put in for days of torture, but quite frankly, I would never do that to anyone I loved. I could not think of anything more boring than that, and I would kill myself before signing up for something as wretched as that.



We came upstairs at the end of the night to open gifts, which must have been around 2130... Anna and Kirk gave Luis a game and a pocket watch from Scotland; they gave me an ambulance front with my name on it (it's a ceramic ornament) and a Scottish heather necklace that I love; Luis Sr. gave myself and Anna another ugly Hummel (I have no one to regift it to, so I will probably toss it. He made the comment that every year he gave me one, where are they? I did not have the nerve to say I regifted them and what is wrong with him, giving me those?! I wish I did), me a set of tea bags and Anna probably the same; Luis got a bag kit that sucks all the air out of the special baggies (there's something that will never get used), and he got (I love this) a teapot and matching cups. Wow. He knows his own son not at all. Not even a little bit. A teapot and cups. That is a perfect gift for me - not at all for Luis! He also gave me the book The Joy Luck Club and Luis The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Again, another thoughtless gift, one designed to turn Luis into the man he thinks his son should be... he would never buy Luis science fiction or something that he would want to read.



Well, I benefitted! I got a teapot and cup set that I like!



We finally went to bed and Anna and Kirk went to the Sheraton on Smith Road, where they always stay.



Sunday was a lazy morning, just the way I like them. Anna and Kirk came here around 1100 and we went out to breakfast sans the outlaw, who declined to come - ah, that overwhelming paranoia has a benefit to it! - so it was a great time out! We had a great time.



We came back and I spent a little tiny bit of time downstairs but mostly I bailed out and left them. I really could not take a minute of Luis Sr. more than I had the whole weekend. I got ready to go over to Lauryn's and left here the same time that Anna and Kirk did to head back to Virginia.



I had a wonderful time at Lauryn's and did not get home until 2030. That was only an hour later than I planned. I went to bed on a happy note. And Lauryn loved her Christmas gift, so I was very, very pleased - when I'd seen it, I knew it was perfect! A very good ending to a long weekend.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Falling Asleep as I Type

I am not cut out for this late night crap. I stay up later on weekends just because I can. And also because I go to bed so early during the workweek (except for Thursday, when I am tortured by people with communicable diseases and frequent fliers late at night).

I went to bed around 2330 last night and was up around 1930. Now it is 0000 and I have a headache and I keep nodding off. It seems to have been dark outside forever. (Although I did notice toni--last night, that the sun is setting just a hair later than before.) I'm soooo tired. I just want to make sure that I win this little bid and then that is it. Off to bed! I can sleep until whenever I want.

I really should run down to the car and get my water out of the trunk. I'm down another 3lbs and that is not just me cutting out sugar and eating mostly protein but also thanks to drinking a boatload of water that is flavoured and doesn't have sugar!

0038

I did it! I carried the three flats of heavy water up here! They weighed a ton each as far as I'm concerned. But just a few months ago, I could not have done this. I hung up all of the jackets, got the laundry, put on my Car 66 sticker, checked Luis' vehicle for any left behind things, went through my car, took out the garbage, and brought up those flats. And then I couldn't open the bottle of water I picked out... strange!

I make the most of going downstairs once the outlaw goes to bed!

What Was I Worried About?

I thought I might have trouble getting in an average of a post a day, but on 29 December I managed five posts (unless I sneak one last one in after this), and yesterday I got in - what - seven or eight! There is still tomorrow and Monday. Tomorrow we are slated to get snow and ice starting either 1300 (if you listen to NOAA) or 1800 (if you listen to weather.com). I don't know if either is right... I'm going with 1500 - right smack in the middle!

Naturally this will be on Sunday, just to make my MONDAY commute more exciting! Hmmm... how did I know this would happen?! And there is more on tap for Monday and Tuesday. We have certainly had a lot snow in December... not that this shouldn't happen. It is a winter month. However, we have not typically had much snow in December. Mostly it happens in January or February. Maybe we are getting it out of the way sooner rather than later. (I'm too funny, right?)

Anyway, it seems that the weekend and the holidays have allowed me to get a lot of my mental musings out of my system and on the air; well, the Internet, anyway!

So it is that I am up to 369 postings with this one. At the same time, I am watching with some interest a rerun of Ugly Betty, watching with great intent a book on ebay called The Book of the Moon that is up for bid with not a single other bidder on it that ends at 0114 tomorrow (it actually ends 2214 PST, but I'm not in the PST timezone, I'm in EST). I always have to add in those three hours. I guess ebay is in California. Isn't everything?

It will be interesting to see how many postings I will manage.

"Who Believes in Astrology? Who Doesn't?"

This is taken from the Turkish Daily News:

Astrology is actually considered a pseudo-science whose practitioners study the planets and other celestial bodies and their effect on humans and human affairs to predict the future. It used to be considered the same as astronomy Astrology is strictly forbidden in Islam, in the Qur’an and in the hadith or traditions that were written down and offered guidance for Muslims’ daily lives… Mohammed believed that astrology was some kind of sorcery.
GÜL DEMIR and NIKI GAMMISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

Is it possible to meet someone who could tell one the future and then have that future come true? Would one believe anyone who said such and such was going to happen? And if it did happen, how would one feel? Astrology has been around for some 10,000 years and astrologers believe that they can predict an individual's future (This could be a city or even a country) by determining the position of the planets and stars. Certainly it is based on observations of individual traits and cosmic correlations over those many centuries. One can easily surmise that people who believed that substances in nature such as trees, rocks and streams were animate would also believe that the stars and planets might be animate, especially since they could see them move in the night sky over the course of a year. This study of the heavens at night was also very useful for telling time and the seasons and for navigating ships while at sea.

Astrology is actually considered a pseudo-science whose practitioners study the planets and stars and their effect on humans and human affairs to predict the future. It used to be considered the same as astronomy, the oldest of sciences that today is one of the most progressive sciences. The main difference is that astrology includes the individual in its system while astronomy does not. The Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were among the earliest believers in astrology.

The astrologer has developed a system in which the location of the various planetary bodies and their locations may determine how and why a person may behave in a certain way or undergo some action directed at him or her. For the astrologer, it definitely does determine this but for the nonbeliever, there's no way to tell. It may be merely coincidence that a prediction comes true forgetting all the other predictions that did not.
Telling the future was not just left to the astrologers. There were sacred oracles such as Delphi in Greece or prophets like Homer's Cassandra who always prophesied the truth but was cursed that no one would ever believe her. Human beings seem to like knowing the future, however perfect or imperfect a science or pseudo-science might be. On the other hand, we see that on critical occasions in ancient Rome, those who prophesied were banished lest they be bought to say something less than the truth.

In astrology, the first step is to draw up a birth chart that is based on the date of one's birth. One's sun or main sign of which there are 12 is determined by that date so if one is a Scorpio (born between Oct. 23 and Nov. 22), one will exhibit characteristics that have been imputed to the sign of Scorpio such as determined and forceful, jealous and resentful. In addition, if one knows the time of birth, the astrologer can provide much more accurate information about one and one's personality because a person is not just affected by the sun sign, one also bears the characteristics of other signs and the planets and moon. Perhaps as a Scorpio, one of the other influences might be Virgo who is disciplined so if your Scorpio is particularly well organized, one must blame Virgo's influence. There are also suggestions that the electro magnetic waves that reach earth from the sun and planets also have an affect on human beings.

The horoscope that is developed from the information provided by a birth date has been described as a reference map. It will show where all the planets were on the day one was born and someone trained in reading it, will be able to say what kind of character one has and for instance what obstacles one might encounter in future and therefore can avoid.

One has to then assume that a person's life is based on the birth date and the influence of other signs. This is startlingly close to statements made about DNA, that it contains the elements that will determine one's entire life. Research carried out involving the DNA of identical twins who were separated at birth has shown similarities that would be unbelievable if they were merely coincidental. It is suggestive of predestination in certain areas such as sickness.

Astrology in Islam
Astrology is strictly forbidden in Islam, in the Koran and in the hadith or traditions that were written down and offer guidance for Muslims' daily lives. In Islam the Prophet Mohammed is considered the last prophet and there were to be no others after him. So the Prophet could prophesize but no one else could. That ruled out anyone attempting to tell the future. In addition it is known that Mohammed believed that astrology was some kind of sorcery. Others condemn astrology as practiced by those ignorant of true knowledge and by the unbeliever.

Even though anyone transgressing the prohibition would be unable to achieve whatever he might have expected to for 40 days, it didn't stop people from going to people who told the future. Today among the popular ways of doing so are reading coffee grounds, bones, palms, horoscopes and tarot cards. Although most people in the Middle East drink tea, it is made in such a way that the leaves are strained out and so the tradition of telling fortunes with tea leaves never began.

In the early days of the Turkish Republic, many people were going to fortune tellers and astrologers to learn whatever they could about the future. They were interested in what would happen in Turkey and even more so, wanted to know about the country's leaders like Atatürk. It became so ubiquitous that the government outlawed it. You would think it some kind of witchcraft. Keep in mind that readings can be for cities and countries as well as people, if you know the birth date or founding date. The Internet can even provide a birth chart for the Turkish Republic.

In spite of the prohibition on fortune telling, today it's no problem to find a café in Istanbul where there's a professional coffee cup reader and it's a normal question to ask when a group of friends get together and drink Turkish coffee – someone almost always knows a little bit, taught from childhood by older women. Like other old laws still on the books, it's ignored.

What's in store for 2008?
Well, most astrologers believe that 2008 will not be a great year for the world. For example they say: The housing market crisis will continue and have a strong impact on the worldwide economy; the crisis over the value of the dollar will lead to more and more countries to look to the Euro; the Internet will gain even more popularity although it already has millions of users; developing countries will cease to provide regular telephone service encouraging the further use of the mobile telephone and saving billions of dollars in providing telephone cables; Turkey will again have negotiations on full membership in the European Union postponed for its attacks on outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists; and the weather will continue to be wildly unpredictable as climate change speeds up.

A year from now we will look back to see just how accurate these and other predictions were. Until then, Happy New Year!

I don't know if I believe in it or not. It sounds nuts, but then again, who is to say? It makes sense, too. But I like suspending my belief and I certainly can't see disallowing it in religion - talk about the suspension of reasonable belief! That is the ultimate in hocus-pocus. I would much sooner throw in my lot with astrology and Nostradamos!

A Look at Animals (Part II)

SAN FRANCISCO - The director of the San Francisco Zoo said Thursday that he had overstated the height of the sheer wall in the tiger grotto - and that the tiger that killed a teenage visitor on Christmas Day may have been able to escape over the walls. Manuel Mollinedo said the height of the sheer wall in the tiger grotto was 12 1/2 feet, not 18 feet as he previously stated.

Outside experts immediately questioned whether that height was adequate. But zoo and police officials stressed at a news conference that they still have not determined exactly how Tatiana, a Siberian tiger, escaped from her cage to kill 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and badly injure two others. At the news conference with police outside the gates of the closed zoo, Mollinedo also corrected his previous figure for the width of the grotto's dry moat. He said it was 33 feet across, not 20. Mollinedo said that inspectors from the American Zoological Assn. had not raised concerns about the security of the structure in visits prior to the incident. He said he would invite an association expert to assist in a reevaluation of the site.

The zoo director said the rear doors of the tiger exhibit were secured during the escape. "My speculation is that the animal came out of that grotto at some location," Mollinedo said. "How she was able to jump that high is amazing to me."

The accreditation organization, which was founded in 1924, said it would wait for a report from the zoo to draw any conclusions. But in a release posted on its website, the association said the incident was the first "visitor fatality resulting from an animal escape at an AZA-accredited zoo."

"The zoological association does not specify wall or moat dimensions, but the recommended height is 16 feet - a 14-foot wall or fence, plus a 2-foot ledge pointed into the enclosure at a 45-degree angle, said Ron Tilson, conservation director at the Minnesota Zoo and coordinator of the association's Tiger Species Survival Plan. He is expected to be the AZA expert who will inspect the tiger grotto. "I know from personal observation that an adult Siberian male tiger -- a little bit bigger than an adult female - can step on its hind legs and reach its paw up to 12 feet," Tilson said. "And any cat that can get its paws on a ledge can get up on the ledge."

Asked why a tiger had never previously escaped from the 1940s-era grotto, Tilson replied: "It probably didn't want to."At the San Diego Zoo, one tiger enclosure uses 12-foot walls on two sides and a 16-foot wall on the third - equipped with a 4-foot curved barrier at the top that extends inside the enclosure. All the enclosure walls are electrified at the top. In the zoo's Wild Animal Park, tigers are enclosed by a 13-foot fence topped with a 5-foot inward-curved barrier.

United States Department of Agriculture inspectors arrived at the San Francisco facility Thursday to conduct their own investigation of the zoo's animal care, Mollinedo said. The zoo plans to improve the big-cat exhibits, installing new fencing, surveillance cameras and electrified wires. Contrary to published reports, Police Chief Heather Fong said police had no information to suggest that any of those who were attacked dangled a leg or other body part over the sheer wall, perhaps making it easier for the tiger to climb out.

She said police found a shoe print on the railing of a low fence that separates the grotto from the visitor walkway and that police are trying to determine if the print matches any of the shoes of the three victims. But she denied published reports that a shoe was found beyond the fence, inside the enclosure. The only lost shoe, she said, was found at the Terrace Cafe, about 300 yards from the grotto, where police encountered the two badly injured victims and fatally shot the tiger.

Fong provided some new details of how the incident unfolded. All three victims were at the grotto when the attack began, she said. When Sousa was attacked, the other two, who are brothers, yelled to distract the tiger. Tatiana released Sousa and turned toward the brothers, injuring one with claw slashes and bites.

The brothers fled to the cafe, but the tiger followed and mauled the second brother there. Responding to the emergency call, police found Sousa dead near the grotto. After being alerted by zoo staff that the animal was heading toward the cafe, they pursued and found the tiger mauling one of the brothers.

"They saw a victim seated there on the ground. They saw blood coming from his face," Fong said. "They heard him saying, 'Help me, help me.'" The tiger ignored the police officers' shouts. When a second squad car arrived, Tatiana turned on the officers.

"To protect the victim as well as everyone else, they fired," killing the animal, Fong said. Nineteen minutes elapsed from the time officers were dispatched to the time the tiger was killed, she said. Fong said earlier reports that several tigers had escaped were the result of multiple sightings of the same tiger. The two brothers remained hospitalized in stable condition Thursday at San Francisco General Hospital.

The zoo remained closed Thursday as the investigation continued. The tigers were locked in cages behind the grotto. "When we open the zoo," Mollinedo said, "the zoo will be safe."

I wonder if I believe that. The zoo was not compliant with the rules of how to safely keep really large dangerous predatory cats. Hmmm. How does that work? How is it that this wall is four feet under the specified height and no one noticed? And the moat may be large but these aren't housecats... they can swim. They can run. And they absolutely can leap. And then there is that suspicious part of me that thinks that 17-year-old kids - and these were kids - were not in there just to visit the zoo!

That is just me, but I have faith in people to disappoint this way. That sounds very negative. That doesn't sound like me, does it? And yet, there is a cynical side to me. That is the same side that isn't thrilled to know that a family will lie about telling us as EMTs that they mentioned a patient's disease that is communicable when they did not. I find it staggering what people lie about, but they do lie.

I think that the tiger got a bad rap on this, I really do.

A Look at Animals

Ray was telling me about animals that showed up in the news in 2007 - there was a show on the telly that was reviewing this. At this point in the year, in any year, the telly is overloaded with stuff that happened over the course of the year ending. People who died is usually the biggest topic, but frankly, you can do this with anything.

And then Ray asked me if I'd heard about the San Diego zoo. You know me - the answer was no. I never watch the news, I only ever see snippets on the Yahoo! main page or from other people. Since I don't see the Yahoo! main page that often, I get most of my news second- and third-hand from others. It turns out that this bit of news escaped from my notice. I guess no one I know thought it was much news.

So it seems that a tiger went nuts and killed one man and seriously injured two brothers. Here's one original news article about this:

SAN FRANCISCO — The big cat exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo was cordoned off as a crime scene Wednesday as investigators tried to determine whether a 300-pound Siberian tiger that killed a visitor escaped from its high-walled pen on its own or got help from someone, inadvertent or otherwise.

Police shot the animal to death after a Christmas Day rampage that began when the tiger escaped from an enclosure surrounded by what zoo officials said are an 18-foot wall and a 20-foot moat. Two brothers who also were visiting the zoo were severely mauled. Police Chief Heather Fong said the department has opened a criminal investigation to "determine if there was human involvement in the tiger getting out or if the tiger was able to get out on its own."

Police said they have not ruled anything out, including whether the escape was the result of carelessness or a deliberate act. Fong said officers were gathering evidence from the tiger's enclosure as well as accounts from witnesses and others.

One zoo official insisted the tiger did not get out through an open door and must have climbed or leaped out. But Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on TV, said such a leap would be an unbelievable feat, and "virtually impossible."

"There's something going on here. It just doesn't feel right to me," he said. "It just doesn't add up to me."

Instead, he speculated that visitors might have been fooling around and might have taunted the animal and perhaps even helped it get out by, say, putting a board in the moat. Similarly, Ron Magill, a spokesman at the Miami Metro Zoo, said it is unlikely a zoo tiger could make such a leap, even with a running start.

"Captive tigers aren't nearly in the kind of shape that wild tigers have to be in to survive," he said. He said taunting can definitely make an animal more aggressive, but "whether it makes it more likely to get out of an exhibit is purely speculative."

The police chief would not comment on whether the animal was taunted.

The same tiger, a 4-year-old female named Tatiana, ripped the flesh off a zookeeper's arm just before Christmas a year ago while the woman was feeding the animal through the bars. A state investigation faulted the zoo, which installed better equipment at the Lion House, where the big cats are kept.

Zoo director Manuel Mollinedo said Wednesday that he gave no thought to destroying Tatiana after the 2006 incident, because "the tiger was acting as a normal tiger does." As for whether Tatiana showed any warning signs before Tuesday's attack, Mollinedo said: "She seemed to be very well-adjusted into that exhibit."

It was unclear how long the tiger had been loose before it was killed. The three visitors were attacked around closing time Tuesday on the 125-acre zoo grounds. Four officers hunted down and shot the animal after police got a 911 call from a zoo employee. The zoo has a response team that can shoot animals. But zoo officials and police described the initial moments after the escape as chaotic.

The dead visitor was identified as 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. of San Jose.
The two injured men, 19- and 23-year-old brothers from San Jose, were upgraded to stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital after surgery. They suffered deep bites and claw wounds on their heads, necks, arms and hands, said Dr. Rochelle Dicker, a surgeon. She said they were expected to make a full recovery.

The zoo's director of animal care and conservation, Robert Jenkins, said the tiger did not leave through an open door. "The animal appears to have climbed or otherwise leaped out of the enclosure," he said. But the zoo's director admitted, "We're still not too clear as to exactly what transpired."

Hanna predicted other U.S. zoos would reassess their tiger enclosures if it turns out the tiger was able to leap out. He said he never before heard of a zoo visitor being killed by an animal. "It's much safer going to a zoo than getting in your car and going down the driveway," he said. Hanna said that since zoo tigers are well fed, it is unlikely the animal was looking for food when it got out. "Were they taunting the animal?" he said. "Were they throwing things that were making it angry?"

The first attack happened right outside the tiger's enclosure — the victim died at the scene. Another was about 300 yards away, in front of the zoo cafe. The police chief said the animal was mauling the man, and when officers yelled at it to stop, it turned toward them and they opened fire. Only then did they see the third victim, police said.
About 20 visitors were in the zoo when the attacks happened about an hour before the 6 p.m. closing time, officials said. Employees and visitors were told to take shelter when zoo officials learned of the attacks, and some employees locked themselves inside buildings as they had been instructed to do if an animal escaped. There were five tigers at the zoo — three Sumatrans and two Siberians. Officials initially worried that four of them had gotten loose.

The zoo was closed on Wednesday. Officials said they expected to reopen the place on Thursday, but the big cat exhibit will remain closed "until we get a better understanding of what actually happened," Mollinedo said. He said colleagues from other U.S. zoos will be brought in to help re-evaluate the big cat exhibit.

After last year's attack, the state fined the zoo $18,000. The zoo added customized steel mesh over the bars, built in a feeding chute and increased the distance between the public and the cats.

Tatiana arrived at the zoo from the Denver Zoo a few years ago, with officials hoping she would mate with a male tiger. Siberian tigers are classified as endangered and there are more than 600 of the animals living in captivity worldwide. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman Jim Rogers, said his agency is looking into the attack for violations of federal animal-welfare laws.

The San Francisco Zoo is as an accredited member in good standing of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Animal escapes at accredited zoos are so very rare and each one is different," association spokesman Steve Feldman said. "But we are always looking for ways to improve safety for our visitors."

It has come to pass since then that the wall is far shorter than it needs to be to keep tigers inside. And shooting the tiger? Honestly? It never occurred to anyone that keeping a large feral creature in a display might not be a great idea? That these animals aren't still wild?

I'm not a member of PETA (I would not consider it, either). I love animals. But to hold something like mauling men (kids) who were very likely doing something stupid and/or mean against the animal? The animal you are holding captive? Really, now. That is the height of hubris.

An Answer to "Exposure to C. Diff"

I shuffled out here this morning to check my e-mails while eating my breakfast (hey, I'm down below 170lbs now! OVER 30lbs gone! Life is good! I have only been to the gym to do yoga once a week and not any other day to just work out and get fit. Despite that, I'm still losing weight!


Yahoo!)


OK, back to the topic at hand, which is much more serious, I had a response to my C. Diff posting from last night around 0040. Last night? No, it was way too late on Thursday night, which had turned into Friday morning before I knew it. I was bloody tired, but still managed to do a little research and then post about it.

Amazingly enough, a blogger in Canada saw my post! I'm pleased that someone outside of the close circle of friends and some great bloggers saw it, but the reasons for finding my blog were not the best - not for the Canadian blogger.

This person contracted Clostridium Difficile in 2007 after having to take an antibiotic which - typical of antibiotics - killed the "good" bacteria in the digestive tract and allowed the negative flora to flourish. I am not a big fan of antibiotics for that reason. Although like e. coli, a certain amount of C. Diff is normal, it is too easy to disturb that precarious balance and skew the amounts.

What appalled me the most about this was the Merritt Hospital's lack of BSI precautions and insisting on all patients and others to use one centralised bathroom that was not immaculate anyway. Unbelievable. I may not always be thrilled with the loo in St. Clares (Denville) or Morristown Memorial or St. Barnabus, well... they are not that bad. And patients do NOT use the same facilities that others do.

We would have been able to better decontaminate everything had the family actually told us along with the rest of the medical history that our patient had been treated for C. Diff. We are not ones to wait or ignore any communicable disease, whether it is airbourne, blood blourne or general contact-driven. We all wore our gloves and all washed our clothes the moment we got home. We contacted all those involved in the call and had them warned.

The daughter, who wasn't onscene and showed up at the hospital between when we'd gone and when we returned two hours later with Patient #2, told me specifically that her mother had been on a very strong antibiotic for five days and she should no longer be contagious. Wow... I'm always blown away by the general lack of knowledge the general public has!

Not Misty - she really did her research with this.

I am going to post her reply here, so that my circle of family, friends and bloggers can see this and keep that educational torch going. I learned a lot just from reading this - education is almost always better served by those with experience, rather than those who are well-read. I'm well-read, but so what? In this case, that is meaningless. This is important:

MY STORY and some FACTS:
CLOSTRIDIUM DIFFICILE

What Is Clostridium difficile?
Clostridium difficile is a spore forming bacteria that has been associated with outbreaks of diarrhea and colitis in hospital patients and long term care facility residents. Almost all patients at greater risk of acquiring Clostridium difficile diarrhea are elderly or have other illnesses or conditions requiring prolonged use of antibiotics.

Symptoms and Duration:
Watery diarrhea is the most common symptom, but abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain may also occur. Some patients may be asymptomatic until exposed to antibiotic treatment.

Incubation Period:
There is no incubation period. People in good health usually don’t get Clostridium difficile disease, only people that are hospitalized or on antibiotics are most likely to become ill.

Recovery, Long Term Effects & Immunity:
In the majority of patients, the illness is mild and full recovery is usual, although, elderly patients may become seriously ill with dehydration as a consequence of diarrhea. Treatment is not recommended if there are no symptoms. In people with mild diarrhea, stopping the use of antibiotics together with fluid replacement usually results in rapid improvement. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to give specific therapy against Clostridium Difficile itself.

How Is Clostridium difficile Spread?
People with C. difficile infections carry the bacteria in their intestines. The bacteria produce a spore, which is shed in the feces of an infected person. The bacteria can be passed from person to person through direct contact, environmental contamination (bedding, commodes, bedpans, sinks, anal thermometers, handrails, etc) and can be carried on the hands of health care workers as they move from patient to patient. The spore can survive in the environment for up to 70 days. They prefer to live in dry, dusty areas.

How Do You Prevent Clostridium difficile Infection?
• Thorough hand washing is the best prevention. Hands should be washed after handling contaminated waste (including diapers) and prior to eating, feeding, or providing personal care.
• Follow enteric precautions with known cases of C. difficile in health care facilities to limit the spread of the illness to others.

Hi my name is Misty2007: I have found your BLOG because I recently was a British Columbia, Canada - victim of C diff and I've placed a www.google.com search on any Internet articles that are published on C diff, so I was mailed your blog tonight. I have done massive amounts of research since I was first diagnosed with C diff this past September 2007, as I needed to understand what this 'disease' was all about. It almost killed me, so when I had periods I could function, I researched.

I am a young 47 years old and was healthy until end of July 07 – when I decided to go for a mammogram which came out abnormal. My doctor rushed me in for a core biopsy to be done. Once completed it came back positive for cancer so an excisional biopsy was then scheduled. Near end of Aug-07, I ended up with pneumonia so my doctor treated me with a two week course with the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin. I diligently took these antibiotics so I would be well enough for my excisional biopsy.

On Sept 24th-07, I had my excisional biopsy and then returned to my home town of Merritt BC. Within three days I was running fever and things just went from hell to the hand basket. My breast incision became infected and I was put onto 5-day (outpatient) intravenous antibiotics for the infection. Oct 4th-07 – I was so ill, running fever, vetigo, vomiting with severe watery diarrhea that contained intestinal casings and blood. On Oct 7th I was diagnosed with C diff. I can barely remember the next four weeks. I fought dehydration and my white blood count was way out of whack. My electrolyte balances were affected; my potassium and sodium counts were out of whack. Thank god for my husband's care for me and carrying me up to the hospital.

After the C diff diagnose, my doctor explained the IMPORTANCE of taking probiotics, while taking antibiotics. I WISH he would have told me that while I was taking the antibiotics, (any time ANYone takes any antibiotics) instead of AFTER contracting the C diff. I was prescribed Flagyl (the most common treatment) and liquid Vancomycin antibiotics, stronger and more effective, against the more resistant strain of C diff, which I had. My doctor started to panic and wanted to admit me back into hospital but from my research I told him NO. He asked me why as he said, people are dying from this!? He told me two people died within our health area in the last two days.

I told him I believe I got this infection while in hospital. And I didn't think the hospital had the budget to give me the flexible care I needed. (which I would get at home) He says he thinks I got it from talking the antibiotics. I wasn’t up to arguing and how could this ever be confirmed? But I told him IF I was going to die, it was going to be at home. I went home and my family starting bleaching our house. I was in bed for endless time, my husband bought spray bottles but we bleached the kitchen or bathroom every time I walked into these rooms, (anytime I touched anything) - (in fear I would infect my family) using 10/1 water / bleach concentrate, light switches, door(s) knobs, walls, floors, (bedding bleached), all hard surfaces in the house.

Then I had a friend contacted a nature pathic who sent instructions for me to massively take probiotics. The probiotics are loaded with LIVE GOOD bacteria that will FLUSH the bad flora bacteria (C diff ) from my digestive track. I was told you cannot over-dose on GOOD (flora) Live bacteria but you can die from over-load of bad flora bacteria.(C diff) I won’t publish my list of probiotics that did work for me, but if anyone wishes to know – Please ASK.

My husband went to the health food store and he told the health food store staff what I had. (They confirmed what the nature pathic recommeneded.) They recommended four different products that we bought by the case(s) and after getting approval from my doctor (who was quite impressed) I started to take these LIVE probotics in-between taking my antibiotics. I couldn’t eat food for almost ten+ weeks. Yogurt & probiotics were my diet. My stomach would not hold food or digest anything and I had severe bloat. I would violently throw up. I found it a challenge to take the probiotics as they had to be taken 3 hours before or 1 hour before each antibiotic dose. When I first started taking the probiotics it created a war inside me, which I wasn’t sure I was going to WIN.

I was in constant contact with my doctor, (If I didn't call him, they were calling me) and I had to attend the hospital to receive IV for fluids as the C diff bacteria was stripping it all from my body when I ingested fluids. Oral fluids such as water and electrolyte replacement solutions were necessary. I had to spend the occasional (6) nights in hospital due to dehydration, but I was very careful about what I touched or who touched me.

I requested the hospital staff in the hospital to use gloves (for their protection and MINE) as none of them seemed concerned about contracting C diff, or spreading the spores to other patients. Thursday night - I was concerned one night while I was in hospital for IV, as I was feeling so deathly ill, while I was in the Emergency room full of elderly person(s). I asked the nurse if I should be using a different ‘bathroom’ like one that was separate from the one everyone else was using. The nurse told me oh no, everyone here has to use the same one.

Having C diff, I had no choice but to use the bathroom ( 3 times) during my hour & half IV treatment and the bathroom was the same the PUBLIC used, as well as everyone else from the Emergency ward. The first time I went into the bathroom there was vomit in the sink, no toilet paper, there was ‘wet liquid’ of some type in front of the toilet and paper towel had been used (instead of toilet paper) and it was over flowing from the garbage can and onto the floor. Hence: the cleanliness of the bathroom concerned me greatly. I pushed my IV pole back to my ER bed and layed there, for the rest of my IV treatment.

Then a patient was brought in from Kamloops. He was transferred in by ambulance. He had a lady with him that did most of the talking to the nurse and doctor. I layed there and listened as my IV re-hydrated me. This poor man was so out of it he couldn’t understand or speak. The lady with him explained to the doctor that he had had bowel surgery at Kamloops Royal Inland Hospital two days before (on Tuesday) and this was Thursday night. This unconscious male patient had surgery on Tuesday and after surgery they didn’t have a room for him so they kept him in the hallway until she (lady friend or sister) complained about it and then Royal Inland sent him back to our Merritt hospital. The Merritt nurse tried to talk to this patient and he was not understandable. The doctor came and tried to talk to him and he was incoherent. The lady that was with him ( was a friend, or sister) explained to the doctor that he had bowel surgery and the situation of him not having a room after his surgery and that he was kept in the hallway.

She said the Royal Inland Hospital transferred him because she "was getting loud" that he was not in a room. She then went on to tell the doctor he had not had a bowel moment since his bowel surgery and she was concerned about that. The Merritt ER doctor asked a few more questions then ‘the lady’ told the doctor that the patient had some bleeding from his rectum. She said she had been told this by Royal Inland staff. The doctor instructed the nurses to get the patient up and take him to the bathroom, to see if he could have a bowel movement. I lay in my bed across from him & I started to reel and FELT like screaming NO, no! I just used that bathroom and I’m infectious. But I didn’t – and I have felt guilty ever since.

I did though make a complaint to the Infectious Disease Control (CDC) in Kamloops BC the next day.I told them this entire story and that I felt very bad as this poor man was very likely to have become infected by me. Please remember I was very sick and this was also the same nurse that told me to use that bathroom, then took that poor man to sit where I had sat three times with severe C diff diarrhea. Kamloops CDC told me that Interior Health has very high standards of cleanliness and I told her bullshit!

• I have seen blood pressure cuffs used on me and then taken and used on the next patient.
• I have seen my used IV pole disconnected from me and pushed back into the available equipment line-up.
• I explained about the bathroom conditions.
• The CDC specialist told me that there would be no way that they would do this and I corrected her AS I was there! She wasn’t and I’ve seen this several times while I have been treated for C Diff.

I lived thought being diagnosed with C diff, and was horrified when I realized what Clostridium difficile, or C. Diff was, probably just as you are worried. I have researched and researched & do feel I have great understanding of this disease. Even when I spoke to the CDC specialist she said they maximized on their budget with “Wash Your Hands” posters. I said NOT good enough – it needs to be explained to the PUBLIC and to people that when they enter hospitals (care homes) or as like you – EMS personal that “WHY” the need to wash your hands.

EACH and EVERYTHING that you touch or someone that touches you can be infected with contaminated species of sorts. I am sorry my story has been so long but I’m telling you this to help you understand. Our health authorities or CDC centers (which C diff is classified as being a Infectious Disease) – they all white-wash the situation and you are not going to get the ‘truth’ from them.

As an EMS person, WEAR GLOVES like every person has HIV or C diff. You can get C Diff – Material Safety Data Sheets information: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/msds-ftss/msds36e.html. Perspectives of Health & Safety: http://www.hchsa.on.ca/products/newsltrs/sa_w2004.pdf Page 21 - Scrub (wash) your arms, hands & face every chance you get. Don’t wear your uniform home. Stay away from BAR soap as anyone that is contaminated with C diff, leaves spores on that soap bar. USE liquid hand soap, as it it cannot be contaminated by someone who may be ill or colonized with C diff without knowing so.

The only way that you would be able to become infected by a person that did have C diff, was if you touched their feces or an area that contained their feces and then ingested it. (STOP putting your hands in your mouth, at all times) Most victims of C diff unknowing ingest the bacteria. Such as IF a C diff patient was in hospital and a hospital cuff (blood pressure machine) was used and then that same cuff was used on another patient. A person infected with C diff does shed C diff spores and the next patient then has that cuff wrapped around their arm – once the blood pressure cuff is measured and removed – that person might scratch their arm and then wipe their mouth. IT’s that EASY to spread the bacteria but the CDC and hospital authorities don’t want to let the public know that because it would cause public PANIC. I’ve read the articles. Use www.google.com to search NEWS articles just as I have and it will verify what I am saying.

I will say that I have lived through my challenge with C diff and my husband has slept in the same bed as me and he has not become contaminated to our knowledge. We washed and bleached bedding daily while I was very sick. (Not everyone might have this hygiene though.) He is not sick. AND - It’s hard to say regardless of our efforts, he might have colonized with the bacteria but to this point:

# 1 - My husband (and grandkids) have been well
# 2 - He has not used any antibiotics
# 3 - In case of Illness, Oil of Oregano is natural instead of consuming prescription antibiotics.
# 4 - If he did need to use even Oil of Oregano, he (I) would USE probiotics in-between each dose just to prevent the bad bacteria from over-taking the good flora.

My doctor has been great and very supportive of the natural products I have taken, through this entire ordeal, and I keep researching about C diff. I have found much conflicting information about C diff and when I say conflicting it is more in the sense of what the hospitals, agencies and government wants us to know (OR not know) about it. When I first starting researching, I was trying to figure out how I was infected.

But my Drive is to EDUCATE, educate the public about CLOSTRIDIUM DIFFICILE or C diff I found it very interesting there was a WHIMS sheet on C diff.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Drink and Driving Advert

Obviously this was not an advert to encourage drinking!

No, it was a great bit of work. The car with the drunk driver was full of liquid, and this guy is driving while mired in alcohol, his head just above the liquid line. The narrator went on to say that the police are much better and will get you for driving over the legal limit. The police are shown triangulating in on locations, and then out in the field, the policeman's back to the camera and the driver rolling his window down with alcohol pouring out. My gods.

A little stereotyping here: the redneck rolled down his window and beer poured out. The businessman rolled his window down and clear fluid with olives poured out. The young, popular, good-looking guy opened his door and red liquid came flooding out. Some popular kid's drink. It was very obvious what they were saying there (and it wasn't good). But the advert was very effective and I certainly hope it works.

A New Year's with no drunks? Naaaaahhhhhh!

Credits are Meant to be Watched

When shows air, everyone wants to see them. When shows end and show the credits, everyone wants to leave. Especially when they go to see movies. I insist on sitting through the credits. Granted, I have extra incentive now, as they list HR people at the end (or near the end, anyway) and they also list "film babies" - all the children born during the making of the movie.

Now, when I watch CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Spike, the next episode starts while the credits play from the previous episode played. What is up with that? People other than actors and writers work very hard to make these shows happen. Electricians, sound people, stage hands, you name it. These are all major components of making any show, whether it is telly, movies, an advert (gods help me for saying that, you know how I feel about adverts...), whatever. The people behind the scenes make that as much possible as the front line staff.

Not reading the credits is just wrong. And besides, they have Human Resources people work on this - what's not to love?

I CAN Do It!

1328

I have three and a half days of 2007 left and I'm up to 360 posts. Slapping five more posts in this amount of time with most of it being weekend will be too easy. (You do realise that now that I have thought/said/posted this, I'm doomed, right? Murphy's law...) Really, though. I have managed, in the space of two evenings, to really catch up - and the posts are not all cut and paste type things, but my usual endless blathering about... whatever!


I have been VERY bad today. Very bad. Between the lack of sleep and the upcoming remainder of the holidays I am completely uninspired to work. I suppose this happens to everyone. I hate when it happens to me. This is not to say I've done nothing. I haven't done anything truly noticeable. I did my filing. Let me rephrase that: I did my gawd-awful, piles to the cieling, unvbelievable pile form hell of fucking filing. How's that? Are you getting a better image of just how much filing there was?


I hate filing! Hate it!

1837

I know it needs to be done, but it is boring. And I cannot have anyone else do it, as everything is so confidential. I would love to have someone do it for me, but that is not possible. So it will be an hour or so of filing, once I have it in alphabetical order. Not my favourite thing. But the timing is good.


It's January, almost, and this means DOWNTIME! The only break I get while at work. I want to do training, I want to finish the many things on my to-do list, and I definitely have basic things that need to get done. I have two weeks to do it. I am going to go through each and every file, make sure that everything is there and that everything is where it should be. If it is not there, then I will list it and make a packet for the employee to fill in and return to me. Or else.

I also need to weed through the files and see what can go up to Hogan's Alley and what needs to remain in my office. Unfortunately, I suspect must of it needs to be in with me. Hogan's Alley is not easy for me to get in and out and I need these things right there and accessible.

Oh, the things I am going to get done!

Back to this, I am now up to 362 posts. Clearly I can do this!

Ebay Brutality

I'm not sure how brutalised ebay is - I'm putting someone's kid through college, at least collectively.

I discovered ebay in late September while searching for Old Farmers Almanacs online. They had them and dating back considerably farther than I thought I'd find them. As it stands, I have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them. It was getting too confusing and I was getting repeats. I may need to part with a couple of those.

The oldest one I have to date is 1814 - yowza! They are really interesting, especially those very early ones. I have not been at all successful in finding any from the late 1700s. If anyone has them, they are not parting with them.

The Old Farmers Almanac started it but by no means does it end there. I briefly got into bidding on some of the crystal balls (that is an extraoridinarily broad term) and found a couple of montrously gorgeous flourites and one carnelian that is breath-taking. That was fairly short-lived, though - most come from the Asian countries and that is a long old haul for anything to come. It took about 55 - 60 days to get them. Yikes... I hate waiting for things and that was crazy. It also cost me as much in shipping as the item to get them.

At some point I realised that this would be a great way to get bank notes. Oh, boy! Is it ever, and guess what... there are plenty of other people thinking the exact same thing. This is where the brutality comes in. With Old Farmers Almanacs, the audience is very small. There is a certain amount of bidding done, but not too many people are all that interested in this particular thing. Bank notes are an entirely different story.

I would patiently bid on a note, and then five others would bid for it, and drive the cost up. There were times I'd be watching it as the countdown began and someone else would sneak in and suddenly bid on it with 15 seconds left, leaving me in the dust. I find now that I am the first one to engaging in sharking - bidding at the last possible moment to outdo another bidder. It is not nice and not very satisfying to do to others, but it often works. Gods know, it's been done enough to me.

So I now write down the coming due bids in my binder so as not to forget and then lay in wait for that last-second ambush to get the note or Almamac or whatever. The holidays have actually worked quite well in my favour for this... most people are busy enough to not manage getting away in time to look at whatever item they are watching or bidding on and I manage to get it.

Of course, I have discovered that this is also a great way to ensure that we will be blown out for some kind of call on Thursday night. Last week I had one active bid that I lost to being out on one of three calls. (I was very lucky, though - no one bid on the item and I asked the seller if he or she would relist it and let me know. The seller did and it is up tonight. I've already bid on it to show good faith on my part.) Last night I was watching two different notes that were ending ten minutes apart. We were on our way back from St. Clares as the first item closed and in the squadhouse when the second closed. Gone. History. Toast. I should have bid on them but never had the time.

I did get lucky. I had something else up for grabs at 2330, and I put in a bid for it as I knew I'd either be out or asleep. I'm glad I did. The novice that bid on it originally did so five days earlier and likely forgot. He or she never did see the email that s/he'd been outbid nor did s/he check on it. So although I'd gone to bed and then was called out at 2308, I won the item (an 1854 Rochester dictionary! US$10.00 - WAHOO!).

Tonight at 1912 one bid is ending on an 1870 Old Farmers Almanac, at 2252 on an 1899 Old Farmers Almanac. Tomorrow there is a 1315 bid on one New Zealand dollar and another bid at 2003 for an Ulster bank note. An Ulster, Ireland bank note. Tell me that is not the coolest thing? I'm waiting for a couple of Isle of Man and Northern Ireland notes, among many others! Maybe today's mail...

A Truly Good Person!

Usually I'm a little abrasive and can turn people off a little too easily with my strong opinions. But the posted comment below proves that there are some wonderful people out there who won't be put off by my rantings and often heretical statements even if it is not positive about something in which they may be interested.

Enter Mary, or "Crystal Chick" (the blogger name makes sense if you go to her blogs); Mary seems to take me and my less-than-positive remarks about astrology in stride and even agrees with some of what I feel (too many people making a quick buck here or blindly believing), and posted this back. I loved reading it and will reply when I can!
Happy and healthy and fun 2008 to you, too! Always hold onto that sunny attitude!

CrystalChick has left a new comment on your post "Astrology is Perfect Science Like Astronomy":

Fascinating article. Originally, astronomy and astrology were one science as far as I know. For a time I guess there were only a few who understood how to work with it, and also, there have been times when it was only used for royalty and other V.I.P.

I don't know all the differences between Vedic and Western astrology but the science part that coincides comes from constellations, coordinates of planets, and other bodies in the Universe. The debate may be as to what interpretation one should give personally to an impersonal thing like a planet. But astrologers have been making people scratch their heads for many, many years. Those that are really good at it have a high accuracy in prediction. Obviously, there are those who try to use it to turn a buck and you get all the hotlines, dial the stars, that type of thing which, for the most part, only feeds on the needy and easily mislead.

If you were to have a consultation with a reputable astrologer, this could run in the hundreds of dollars depending on how many charts you wanted done and what type of information you were looking to receive. And it's a give and take too as most astrologers are NOT psychics and do need to talk with the client. It's a matter of determining ones energy patterns via what the planetary positions were at birth... or any given time thereafter... and figuring out how that individual uses that energy. For every positive there is a negative. And there is family influence and heredity as well. It's complicated!! But when someone really skilled at all of that works with their client I feel that person can gain alot of insight into their strengths and weaknesses and opportune times to do this, that, or the other thing.

Now, that said..... am I qualified to do that? NO Even tho I have been reading on the subject for MANY years and know the basics of chart interpretation, etc.... I still consider myself a student. I know those who do it professionally and are pretty successful and I considered going further with it awhile back but ended up deciding to wander down other paths. It's very fascinating and I love it when I have time to get into certain areas of it, but for the most part, I don't use it daily. It's neat to observe people tho. As the ancients did over and over again. They found patterns. The phases of the moon, the planets continually following their orbits, etc. it might have seemed that at different times people would show certain characteristics that repeated often. So it's an empirical science I guess. And it has to do alot with psychology too, how one tends to react to certain situations. A psychiatrist would see certain patterns in a person, astrologers would determine whether one is using the positive or negative aspects... etc.

I think if you are finished reading the book you had gotten a little bit ago, you probably have a decent grasp of the basics.

I can't remember exactly what your other posting was regarding astrology... something about a free download chart or basic description. Those are fun, but for entertainment only. Obviously, they are reports generated by a computer, programmed to give information based on certain placements, but the art form of astrology is blending all the information together to form something more personally relevant to the one getting the reading. There are some ways that all Aries may act alike or some might have a heavy influence of planets in a certain area of a chart, that all may be common with others. But with only 12 signs and many many more types of personalities walking around, it's not easy to just catagorize people into one sign or another. You may be very Taurus-like with regard to work, but very much like a Sag when at home, or whatever....all 12 signs appear somewhere in ones chart. ETC.

I'm still full and tired from all the holiday festivities so forgive my ramblings... I lost the original response to your older post on astro but I really wanted to throw my two cents in at some point.

Wishes of peace to you and yours in the new year!

Chat again soon. Mary :)

ICE - In Case of Emergency

We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in its memory but nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our closest family or friends. If we were to be involved in an accident or became ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn't know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency?

Hence this "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) Campaign

The concept of "ICE" is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As cell phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name "ICE" ( In Case Of Emergency).

The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents, there were always mobile phones with patients, but they didn't know which number to call. He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognized name for this purpose. In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital Staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialing the number you have stored as "ICE." For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc. A great idea that will make a difference!

Let's spread the concept of ICE by storing an ICE number in our Mobile phones today!

Please forward this. It won't take too many "forwards" before everybody will know about this. It really could save your life, or put a loved one's mind at rest.

ICE will speak for you when you are not able to.

This is Freaky

Luis can do this with a deck of cards and quite frankly, I have no idea how he does it. Same with this Website: it is clearly a process of elimination, but how? And there are still enough variables that this should not work so well.

Still... I tried it and it is really neat!

Science Tests Theories on the Star of Bethlehem

Mark Kidger of the European Space Agency confesses to a certain obsession at this time of year -- one that has nothing to do with the big bang or dark energy. "It's probably the oldest mystery in astronomy," the British scientist said.

Kidger is speaking of the "Star of Bethlehem," the heavenly sign in the Gospel of St. Matthew that guided the wise men in their search for the baby Jesus.

Although it is no longer a staple of planetarium shows, the star and its story remain as fascinating for astronomers and historians on this Christmas Day as they have for almost two millenniums.

Modern technology and scholarship have opened many new windows on the event -- and a bibliography on the topic runs into the hundreds of titles. Kidger has been hooked on the subject since he was 17. "It's a fabulous story," he said, and "at the moment, it's almost impossible to prove one or the other of the rival theories is right. You can have your opinion, but nobody can say they're definitively right on it."

Was it a comet? A supernova? A spectacular convergence of bright planets? Can we run our celestial computers backward and rediscover it? Or was it a myth or a miracle, inaccessible to science?

"It may be asking too much of astronomy and history to provide an actual event," said Owen Gingerich, a retired professor of astronomy and the history of science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "This could simply be an interpretive myth to make a point. ... I think we just do not know." That hasn't stopped generations of researchers from seeking an answer.

Here's where everyone begins:

Wise men from East
The story of the Star of Bethlehem resides in just one source, the Gospel of St. Matthew. It says "wise men" traveled to Jerusalem from "the East" to inquire about "he that is born king of the Jews." They told King Herod, "We have seen his star in the east and we have come to worship him.

"Historians believe the "wise men" were learned astrologers, perhaps Jews from Babylon in what is now Iraq, or Zoroastrians from Persia -- now Iran. The Gospel says they arrived in Judea during the reign of King Herod, who died in 4 B.C. The Gospel suggests that Herod hadn't seen the star himself. But his priests, citing prophesy, directed the wise men toward Bethlehem. And the star, "which they saw in the east went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." In A.D. 248, the Egyptian scholar Origen suggested it was a comet or a new star, not a planet. The Greek words Matthew used suggest that the star appeared suddenly in the east, at the first light of dawn.

"It could be a comet that had come around the sun and become visible, or a nova [an exploding star] which suddenly flared up," Kidger said.

The German astronomer and astrologer Johannes Kepler argued in favor of a supernova after he witnessed one in 1604. That idea prevailed for centuries. But "modern astronomy can show quite clearly that it wasn't a supernova," Kidger said. Such explosions leave tell-tale remnants of glowing gas that can be seen and dated. "And there is nothing there that is 2,000 years old."A planetary conjunction? Modern computers enable astronomers to determine precisely where all the planets visible to the naked eye were during that period in the last decade B.C.

Rare conjunction
A big break came in 1968, when Roger W. Sinnot noted an extremely close conjunction of the bright planets Venus and Jupiter on June 17, in the year 2 B.C. Writing in Sky & Telescope magazine, Sinnot said the conjunction was so tight that "the fusion of the two planets would have been a rare and awe-inspiring event."

A.W.A.D. - Words Borrow From Other Languages

If you speak English, you know words from at least a hundred different languages. That's because English has borrowed words from languages everywhere, and continues to do so.

All living languages borrow, though not to the same degree. Each new word brings its own color to the mosaic of the language, just as each new person does to a population, making it richer and vibrant.

We see words derived from Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, etc. every day, but this week we'll look at a few words from languages that are not so well known -- Javanese, Coptic, Tamil, Shelta, and Hawaiian -- and also learn a little about those languages.

lahar
(LAH-har) noun
An avalanche-like mudflow composed of volcanic debris and water, originating on the slopes of a volcano.

[From Javanese lahar (lava). Javanese is a language spoken on the island of Java, Indonesia. It has about 80 million speakers.]

adobe
(uh-DO-bee) noun
1. An unburned, sun-dried brick made of clay and straw.
2. Silt or clay deposited by rivers, from which such bricks are made.
3. A building made of such material.

[Via Spanish and Arabic from Coptic tobe (brick). Coptic is the classical language of Egypt, a form of Egyptian with heavy influence from Greek.]

catamaran
(kat-uh-muh-RAN) noun
1. A boat with two parallel hulls, joined by a frame.
2. A quarrelsome person, especially a woman.

[From Tamil kattumaram, from kattu (to tie) + maram (tree, wood). Tamil is spoken in Tamilnadu, a state in southern India and in Sri Lanka. It has about 70 million speakers.]

moniker
(MON-i-kuhr) noun
A person's name or nickname.

[Probably from Shelta, a language used by itinerant people (known as Irish Travelers) in the British Isles. It has about 86,000 speakers.]

kahuna
(kuh-HOO-nuh) noun
1. A priest or a medicine man.
2. An important person (usually in the phrase: big kahuna).

[From Hawaiian kahuna. Hawaiian is a Polynesian language spoken in the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific. The number of native speakers of the language has decreased to just a few hundreds.]

Exposure to C. Diff

We had two emergency runs tonight, which means that there was one less call from last week. Last week we had three runs, each with 20 minutes of downtime in between, just enough time to catch your breath and remove your shoes, but not much else. They were, surprisingly, all medical calls and all emergent... So often we are taking completely non-emergent patients (much like call #2 tonight).

Tonight's call #1 was over on Califon Drive, on the other side of town (this is normally Car 65's area, but their primary rig was out and had only one person respond to the backup call. He remained onscene in his personal vehicle and helped us when we showed up, but it was our call.) The patient, an elderly lady who fell while attempting to go to the bathroom, conveniently fell into the bathtub... I'm not sure how that was convenient or to whom, since it took the collaborative efforts of all of us to get her extricated safely from said tub.

The husband mention a history of Alzheimers, blood pressure, but no mention - none - of C.Diff. Here's the skinny on C.Diff:

What is C. diff?
C. diff is a microorganism that is one of the many bacterial organisms normally found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. There are many such bacteria that are normally present in the body; they aid in digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. C. diff is present as normal GI flora in about three percent of all healthy adults and about 10 to 30 percent of hospitalized or chronically ill patients.

If C-diff Is a normal GI flora, why does it make people sick?
C-diff usually is not harmful in the patients that have it in their GI tract. However, under certain circumstances, C-diff can grow out of control in the GI tract. This overgrowth of C-diff produces toxins within the GI tract that result in severe infectious diarrhea and inflammation of the large intestine (colitis). It is when these things occur that C. diff goes from normal, harmless GI flora to dangerous infectious organism. In fact, C. diff is the most common cause of hospital-associated diarrhea.

Why Does C-diff Overgrow?
In the GI tract, there can be “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria. Good bacteria assists in digestion and the absorption of nutrients but also helps control the growth of “bad” bacteria. In other words, good bacteria protects the GI tract from “bad” bacteria. C-diff overgrowth occurs when the good bacteria fails to prevent the overgrowth of C. diff. This can happen for several reasons.

Antibiotic Use – We all know that antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that are causing infection somewhere in the body. At the same time, the antibiotic can kill the “good” bacteria in the GI tract, allowing the “bad” bacteria such as C. diff to grow unchecked, producing the toxins that cause severe diarrhea. Some estimates say that about 90 percent of all health care associated C. diff is related to broad spectrum antibiotic use.

Anti-ulcer Medications – Anti-ulcer medications decrease the acidity of the stomach which in turn prevents gastric reflux and ulcer formation. However, altering the acidity of the stomach and GI tract can kill off “good” bacteria, allowing C-diff to grow out of control. In addition, altering the acidity of the GI tract can create an environment that is perfect for “bad” bacteria such as C-diff to grow unchecked.

Long Hospital Stays – A combination stress from illness, weakness from laying around in a hospital, and the potential for C-diff contamination from patient to patient makes extended hospital stays a risk factor for C. diff infection. In fact, C. diff infections within hospitals is a major problem for all infection control departments. Special isolation procedures are in place to limit the spread of C. diff from patient to patient via health care workers.

Underlying Chronic and Acute Illness – As mentioned earlier, acute and chronic illness can weaken a body’s defenses, making it more susceptible to C. diff infection.

Age – Like many infectious illnesses, people older than 65 years of age seem to be more at risk for C. diff. In addition, younger children and infants are also at a greater risk. Most likely, the risk is greater in these age groups due to weak or immature immune systems that are unable to fight a C. diff infection.

Immune System Suppression – Chronic diseases like HIV and cancer that are characterized by suppressed or weakened immune systems have proven to increase the risk of C. diff.

How Does C. diff Spread?
C. diff is present in the stool of infected people. It forms spores that can be transferred by direct contact to toilets, bed rails, towel racks, etc. People can also spread the spores from hand to mouth when coming in contact with contaminated surfaces. C. diff spores can live and infect up to 5 months on environmental surfaces. Unfortunately, C. diff spores are not killed by traditional disinfectants used by hospitals when cleaning. Chlorine bleach at a concentration of 1:10 is the only agent that effectively kills C. diff spores on environmental surfaces.
What are the Symptoms of C. diff Infection?
There are three primary symptoms of C. diff infection: watery diarrhea that may contain blood or pus; fever; abdominal pain, cramping or tenderness

Do I have any expectations of coming down with this, as I wore the appropriate gloves and did what I should have done? No, I really don't. Still... had we known, we could have deconned immediately and also warned the three officers onscene and dispatch and Chris from Car 65. Not to mention, at 2340, this is less than ideal. I was dog-tired and wanted to go home and back to my nice warm bed! The one I'd been dragged from kicking and screaming while asleep. That bed!

Groan.