Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bring back the cacophony!

I've been talking with them on the phone once each day. You parents might find this hard to believe -- those of you who think a week without kids would be heaven -- but I really miss the cacophony and tumultuous confusion. The running and laughing and yelling. I needed the first two days to get my health together and catch up on sleep. I think I have beaten that cold, by the way. But now I just want them home. I can't wait to pick them up at the airport.

A friend whose kids have been in regular baby-sitting "shares" with our kids called yesterday and said she had a meeting in a town I used to commute through, and needed to ask me something. I was sure she was going to say her childcare had fallen through, and would ask me if I could watch one of her kids for a couple of hours. I was not only ready to say yes, but I was happy about the prospect of getting some kid time. But she only wanted to know how much time she should allow for the trip. Good thing I didn't say, "Sure, I'll watch 'em!"

Some of the new people I have come to know through this blog are a lot like me. I suppose we could explain the shared character traits by way of a set of subliminal herding clues inherent in sentence structure, vocabulary, and overt themes. But how do you explain the fact that one of my new friends just happens to have been involved in the same kind of niche computer programming that I was? It's like if you were an Alpine mollusk farmer, and you just happened to run into another Alpine mollusk farmer ... in Arizona. I know, you're thinking that this woman is just claiming she knows programming. Well, I don't think so, based on the prior info in her blog. Yet there is a way to test. I can send her a piece of code with a subtle flaw in it, and ask her to debug it on sight. Now you're going to say that she'll show it to her programmer friend and have him debug it. Well maybe, but like I said I already trust her. As a programmer, an authentication scheme like this is the sort of thing you ponder. I'd give this one a grade of F. Being able to mentally test and detect the flaws in any algorithm (like the test I proposed here) is also something programmers are good at. Sometimes people find this annoying when we apply this ability to ordinary daily plans. Like, people who are just trying to get something done.

This code test idea reminds me of a story. I had two coworkers a few years ago. Both had ... distinct ... personalities and could be quite fun. But they were both immature, and much of what they did was high-school catty and mean. I got tired of the guy first, and basically avoided him. There was a lot of instant messenger chat going around the office, but I saw no need to add his moniker to my list, since I had no interest in talking to him. I still IM'd with the gal, and she was a good chat, for one thing because her life was an open book, while for his part the guy had something he was unsuccessfully hiding. He tried to be very cagey, tried to get inside people without offering his true self.

The guy and gal were best buddies, coconspirators. She was a huge Star Trek fan. I used to talk with her a lot about Star Trek. He didn't watch Star Trek and was never into it. That may help partially explain why she remained my friend and he did not.

Honest, this was going to be a really short blog entry about missing my kids. Two sentences, max.

Anyway, so time went on, and I began to notice something about the IM chats. Whenever I would ping her, she would say that she had to go pee, or needed to reboot for some reason. So she'd log off and then come back. Once in a while she would try to bring up the topic of the guy. I wasn't interested in talking about him and so said nothing in response to those bits. I began to suspect that 'she' was actually him, and the two high-school-mentality pals were playing a trick on me. So at one point I sprang an easy Star Trek trivia question on 'her.' I still remember the response:

"You're asking me Star Trek questions?"

There was a very long delay (for the attempt to reach the gal by phone, and perhaps the internet search engine usage), and then came the answer, which was wrong.

So I'll send the broken code to my new blogger friend and let you know how she does. I trust that she is who she says she is, but this will be fun.


Monday, November 29, 2004

"You disgust me"

We have some areas on the ceilings where there are water stains, which I assume contain biota. However, painting over the stains seems to be ineffective, at least in the study (the area right above my head as I type this). The stain just bleeds through again. You might think this indicates the continued presence of moisture. But we had the roof fixed some months ago, and there has been no leaking despite all the rains. Painting over the stains appears to have worked much better with the surfaces in the dining room (both vertical and horizontal ). So, the behavior differs. What I am thinking is that I will need to scrape away the thin layer of plaster that contains the stains, re-plaster, and then repaint. That ought to do it. In the bedroom, and in the study, there was some peeling in small blooms less than two inches in diameter. I scraped those away, then repainted. It looks pretty good, but since I did not try to re-plaster, there is an obvious peeled area that has been repainted. If my lovely wife does not approve of this effect, I suppose that I can put that thin layer of plaster back on, and repaint. And if I do any more peeling for the purpose of stain removal, I'll re-plaster after I peel.

So I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were talking about American and Iraqi National Guard units in Mosul picking up the bodies of ING and Iraqi Police who have been killed by the insurgency. It has been said that you cannot win an occupation. The occupations of Germany and Japan went OK, but there was no resistance. So I would modify that to say that you cannot win an occupation in the context of a guerilla war.

And one of the things an American colonel said in the radio piece disturbed me, and pointed out to me the lack subtlety in our occupation, and it's doomed nature. He was admonishing some Iraqi civilians for leaving alone the bodies that the insurgents had dumped in the streets as a warning. If I may reconstruct the quote, he said something like: "I'm amazed that you wouldn't bring in your own countrymen. You disgust me." I may have paraphrased the first sentence, but the last three words are a direct quote.

They say that soldiers are not police. They are also not diplomats. Military force can be used to destroy and deter, but not to nurture. Nation-building is possible, but not in the context of a guerilla war. Our military will never defeat the insurgents. If the insurgents are defeated, and it would be nice if they were, it will not be due to military action, but some other factor. All we are doing now is rushing like a bull from one end of the ring to another, bleeding, always bleeding, though none can stand in our way. It is conceivable, in a hypothetical way -- if we wound back the clock -- that the United States and world community could have conducted a legitimate and successful liberation of Iraq. But it would have to have been conducted in an effective and competent, intelligent way. That opportune moment for those smart choices has long since passed, and now we are in a quagmire.

I am aware that in most wars, and certainly in guerilla wars, it is the civilians who suffer most. Children lose mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Babies. But I also have empathy for the young American soldiers who have been sent to Iraq. Some are only 18. Fresh out of high school, knowing nothing about the world. Many of them, and some of their families, believe in this war as a just war the same way we saw World War Two. It is going to be so painful for them to realize that it is simply another Vietnam. Some of them are very idealistic, some of them are very sincere. It is going to be a scar across a large part of a generation. Their sense of isolation will be worse than in Vietnam, given that so many of us will have been completely untouched and unconcerned, including many of those who will pat the veterans on the back and thank them for their service. To a deception.

Here's a interesting article for you all: Cruel Irony.

Last night before I went to sleep I thought about not being able to stand up. I had this defiant impulse to stand up on the bed and throw my arms up in the air. The mature part of me said to just go to sleep, then, maturely, decided to honor the impulse. I stood up in the dark like a winning boxer. I hate this disorder. I am getting weaker and more wobbly. But I have no guilt at all about the fact that I am going more slowly than the typical profile. After reading this article about the ALS doctor getting rapid ALS, I have an urge to go down in the garage and break some things with a sledgehammer or other implement. In his honor. Excuse me a moment...

Wow, that felt good. I captured it on videotape and will put it into the video project I am leaving for my kids for when they are teenagers.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


The clear skies I mentioned yesterday mean that the blankets are off our part of the world, and with the clear comes the crisp. Yesterday while watching those movies I opened the window to let in fresh air. And because that made the heater fire up, I turned off the heat. Come along about evening I was shivering in my thick jacket, then went to bed and shivered under all the blankets my lovely wife usually piles on herself while I loll half out of the covers. We must be going through a cold snap, I thought. Long about breakfast time this morning I remembered that the heat was off. Silly boy.

But I did write 10 poems last night and this morning. I kid you not. I've never done that in my life. And they all look like keepers.

Plus the iPod got a workout.

I did more touchup painting his morning, and it's drying now. Every half hour or so, I'm going to put an additional coat on that spot on the bedroom ceiling.

My son likes to play at being rebellious from time to time, and making a show of preferring Mommy to Daddy. But every night when he's in bed he tells me he loves me. Nobody asks him to, and he says it first. I'm a good dad. There are more reports of him hugging my photo at his grandparents' house.

I can't wait till he gets back and can sass me some more.

And yeah, in case you're wondering, I have done a little crying. Not the kind you have to worry about, the therapeutic kind. Most recently for example this morning when I was listening to part of the Dylan 30th anniversary concert, and the crowd started cheering for the entry of a familiar voice, which I recognized as George Harrison. And then I remembered that George is dead.

I jogged two blocks (not exactly what we'd call a normal jog, boys and girls) and then walked the rest of the way to the gym. You know that really light workout I have? Well, I did half of the reps, only. I don't want to shock the muscles. Just want to remind them.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


I suppose that the absence of my family has given me the opportunity to learn how much I would sleep if there were no other forces acting upon me. It's about nine hours. And also it has given me a chance to listen to my body and it's symptoms, without the distraction of performing without listening, because there is work to do.

And it has given me the chance to do touchup painting, more of which I did today.

My email filter is great. I set it so that any mail from someone not in my address book or in my sent-to addresses goes to the Junk folder. I even made it play a different sound when that happens.

Now the man who in his last post strongly hinted that movies were not worth watching, must tell you that he rented two more: Bandits (with Cate Blanchett), and Dr. Strangelove (I never have seen it). I did this based on the advice of the young woman at the video store, who says that The Gift is another good Blanchett film.

Rather than drive, I walked the nine or so blocks to the video store, because the sky is so crisp and blue, with lovely white clouds swirling in it.

What can I say about my walking? It's different. I wouldn't say challenging, but something you gotta keep your eye on. You know how, after you've been working out, maybe running, playing soccer, or dancing, and your muscles are really tired (but happy), and your gait is a little wobbly? Mine is like that.

I have always been a fast walker, and ALS hasn't changed that tendency. But half the way home I noticed that I was pushing too hard, and made a conscious effort to slow down.

How odd that in the old days I could run to the video store and back, and not feel that I was warmed up yet. And then go for a real run. Could I still jog? I bet I still could.

Maybe today, or maybe tomorrow, I plan to walk/jog down to the gym and lightly move some weights around.

Are you worried about me? I say, don't be. What else can be done? Every known thing that can be done, we are already doing. It's not as though some emergency operation, or a lotion, or ingesting ground marmot teeth will make this stop. The only thing to be done is to slow it down. Slow it down. By being happy, positive, healthy, and not worrying! Let's count our blessings, not fret our losses.

I'm going to have a big fat turkey sandwich soon. And watch these movies. While the paint dries.

2:00 PM: Now THAT was worth watching! "Bandits" is fun, and a smart movie. Cate is fantastic, and Billy Bob does a very good job. It's a comedy, and yet serious. A+ for this film. I liked Billy Bob's cornocopia of symptoms, particularly when he loses control of his legs and tries to climb back into his chair. Which reminds me, later, when I get more rubbery, I am going to be a LAUGH RIOT. People are uncomfortable with disability, and fear fuels humor, and I got it baby, so you all better wear diapers so you don't pee yourself laughing.

Favorites lines:

"You know the hardest thing about being smart? I always pretty much know what's gonna happen next. There's no suspense."

"I'm feeling very fragile at the moment, and I don't think I should be alone."

Two wonderful friends from out of town stopped by today and we went to a nice cafe and had wonderful extended intellectual discussions. Sometimes, in recent years, I wondered if I really was an intellectual, or if that was just a self-flattering label that I had adopted merely because I am smart, follow current events, read books, and apply philosophical and analytical reasoning to almost every question. Maybe, I thought, to be a real intellectual you have to argue about Kant's influence on Marx, and have a PhD. But I no longer wonder about that.

8:05 PM: Dr. Strangelove: The comic special effects in which the B52 bombers flick through the sky with no apparent aerodynamic impediments, and the ground rushes by, while the B52 casts the shadow of a B17, are highly gratifying. As are all the performances. Favorite quote:

"You can't fight in here, this is the war room!"

This film was released in 1964 and pokes fun at the reigning paranoia of that time. Only one question, where is the Dr. Strangelove film of OUR age?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Cate Blanchett in Heaven

No, she's not dead, the movie is called Heaven. While Cate Blanchett herself is lovely and fascinating (that's why I picked the movie), I am not sure that even that justifies sitting down an doing nothing for an hour and 28 minutes.

Time is precious. I guess I might be willing to rent another Blanchett movie if the whole point were to linger on her and celebrate her, as an actress. The way they do with other big-name actresses. Like who? I don't know. I don't watch many movies.

This one is OK. Spoiler alert! ...But the details of the clever escape plan are laughable, in that it could have fallen apart so easily at so many points. A bigger flaw is that her motivation for setting the bomb is given too late. The film should have shown her discover the girl student, and then go to the funeral, and then grab up the bomb. That would answer the question of why not just use a gun. And no, it's not an intriguing mystery that I enjoyed pondering. It just seemed like bad film making. And there is still no way I can imagine any intelligent person setting a bomb. That just makes no sense. Even if distraught, she should have known it was stupid and sought some other means.

It would have been a much better film if there had been more about how much older than him she was, and if she had said that she did not love him. I'll choose complexity and tough balances in my films, if the other option is simple Hollywood stuff.

Worth watching, sure. Whatever.

Today I changed the batteries in the thermo hydrometer and it's remote sensor. And I went to the store and priced LEDs. I want to investigate building my own indoor LED lamp. It seems like it would cost less than $50. That's better than the $139 I have seen quoted. But then, I might never do it.

Yesterday I took a walk around the block, and today I did too. The legs work fine but they are more noodly than they used to be. Also, the problem with my left index finger has spread to my left middle finger. I think as a result of the most recent cold. Which I appear to be fighting off.

Even better, and this is the real gem, today I spoke to my lovely wife on the phone and she said that my boy was talking about how much he loved me, and that it was sad I had not come on the trip, which made it almost not worth it. My wife brought a couple of pictures of me with them, and he was hugging the pictures.

I talked with him on the phone yesterday. When dropping them off at the airport he told me to write a note about what it was like to ride the train home. I did, and taped it to the wall for him to see when he gets back.


Thursday, November 25, 2004


The three most precious people in the world to me are in the air right now, on their way to see my wife's parents. I just got home and checked their flight status on the web. For health reasons, I decided not to go. The kids were both sick recently, my daughter had a runny nose this morning, my wife is also fighting the cold, and I still have the sinus goop and tiredness from the same germs in me. Airplanes are a great place to catch an airborne illness, and travel, even when it is fun, is stressful for me. And stress makes me catch colds. And I have this theory that stress, and illnesses, accelerate my ALS. My wife is undertaking an incredible feat by traveling alone with two small children. But she is a master of planning.

It's terribly sad and I miss them immensely. They will call me daily and I will pick them up at the airport when they get back.

The original plan was that all of us would leave before Thanksgiving and would be there already today. Then the illnesses struck. Last night my wife made us a truly fantastic Thanksgiving dinner. It was so good. Guess what kind of sandwich I'm going to have for lunch after I finish this blog entry. Turkey.

There are lots of house projects to do. I look forward to receiving praise from my wife when she gets back.

My lovely wife asked me to test for lead on a portion of the wall where some paint was peeling away. I just tested it, and it was negative. Yay! This is an old house, and we have tested in many places. The only positives we got are on the rear doors, where the paint has rubbed away and exposed older layers. One of my projects is to replace those doors.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Today is looking a bit more calm as well. My son drew this person. The dot on the abdomen is a belly button.

When I play chess online, my standard 'greet' says that I voted for Kerry, and asks where the other player is playing from. Most people (especially those overseas!) agree with me about Kerry. Some scoff. Here's one, in which the conversation was conducted while playing chess:

htomit says: California
htomit says: Kerry is dumb
htomit says: kerry lost... hahahahah

you're not old enough to vote

htomit says: are you friends with Vegas High rooller or whatever his name is?

i play chess

htomit says: guess how old i am


htomit says: yep
htomit says: are you crazier then yo friend
htomit says: what did you vote on the propisitions?
htomit says: ????
htomit says: cool name

i usually vote against bond measures, which pass my debts on to kids

htomit says: what does that mean

read newspapers and you'll know

htomit says: what about prop 71


htomit says: ya

I was against the bond aspect of it but voted yes

htomit says: you should have voted no


{Game 444 (htomit vs. brainhell) htomit resigns} 0-1


Tuesday, November 23, 2004


We got a respite today. Everyone slept well last night and the kids woke up in good shape. The boy went to preschool and the girl went to spend time with her toddler friend and a babysitter. My lovely wife and I ate lunch in the pleasant backyard with a friend. Most welcome.

Monday, November 22, 2004


The baby girl woke up demanding milk milk milk! She can't have any, because she had diarrhea yesterday. There are some things she can have, but she rejects them in a rage. Her mom is starting to come down with the cold, and I am a tad bit worse. The boy only had diarrhea once this time and is eating normal foods again. He's chipper enough to have woken us up several times last night starting around 2:00 AM, and my wife handled him each time, which I suppose did her no good.

Today was the day we were supposed to fly out to visit family on Thanksgiving. We're not doing that, though we have tentative plans to do it a few days from now.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Bug spreads

Woke up with a bigger patch of throat distress, a goopy nostril. Germs spreading. The baby girl was absolutely miserable last night at dinner. Crying all the time. But this morning she is much more chipper. She wanted to crawl up on the bed with Daddy. Her hardworking mom, who had been up with her for quite a while, took the moment to slip into the bathroom. "Get up, Daddy," said the girl. She says this whenever I am lying down. "Read book," she said, handing me a slim volume with thick, cardboard pages. I wanted to save my voice. So I read through it slowly and softly. "Read 'nother one," she said, marching over to the bookshelf. The mom came out of the bathroom, I reported on my condition, came down here to take these pills, and blog a bit. I'll go upstairs and take a shower. The boy is up and very cranky and yelling a lot right now. Sigh. Parenting is not an elective. When I try to take a break and chill out in order to help my body fight off germs, then my wife has an even bigger burden. But I do it anyway, because I just cannot stand the thought of the infection traveling down into my lungs and giving me yet another hacking cough. I hate that and I am tired of it. August, October ... November?

He's yelling and screaming, feet are stamping loudly. I'm going to drift like a cloud into my shower.

Now picture eating during a tantrum on one side and pitiful crying on the other. My stomach has come to expect it, curled in its corner.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Woke up this morning with a small patch of sore throat at the top. This is not good because (a) I don't want to get sick again and (b) it argues against my getting on the plane with my family for the cross-country trip, and my dear wife would have to travel all alone with two kids.

Or we might all have to skip the trip, because the girl has caught what my wife says is her fifth cold in a row, and might not be ready to travel either. We don't know how she got it, as she has been home with us the whole time. Except perhaps at the doctor's office where the other sick kids were when she went in for her ear ache. Ironic.

The boy, due to his being sick and not eating regularly, has been a crank-storm from time to time. And I wonder if this problem might be somewhat mitigated in a large extended family all under one roof. Then the cranky child can go to aunt #3 or uncle #2, make a play at rejecting the bad, bad parents, and find solace. In our house, eventually he just comes back to us, and the mere sight of us may re-ignite him.

11:41 AM: After my lovely wife got back from taking the girl to the doctor, she stayed at home with her while I took my son to the local swimming pool with the goal of him passing out of level one. His friend has passed into levels way beyond this, but my son has stayed at level one for years while his mother patiently poured time (and some money) into repeated lessons at level one. Today was the big payoff. He had no trouble at all. I think she wanted him to get tested today, two days before we are scheduled to leave town, so that the disruption of the holidays didn't throw his skills back.

He said it was easy.

This morning's doctor visit reveals that my daughter has fluid in her lungs. (That sounds like pneumonia to me). She's now on a stronger antibiotic.

Friday, November 19, 2004


The kids are both on antibiotics, the girl for an ear infection that looks bacterial, and the boy for his lungs rattling.

Early this morning I woke up with that ever-so-faint tickle/pain/itch at the back of my sinuses where one of those tubes comes out.

Am I getting sick? The charming little girl has sneezed in my face more than once.

My sister is here doing art with the kids while my wife attends to some appointments.

My friend overseas mailed me the poetry and photos from long ago. The photos are fun but I don't think any of the poems merit inclusion in the book. So I'll be kicking that off soon. Except that I want to edit the PDF, and I accidentally deleted the word-processing document on which I based the PDF. So now I am pasting the contents from the PDF back into the word processor. But I have to reconstruct the formatting, page by page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I have begun using the "Next Blog" button that Blogger provides, looking at some of what else is out there. From time to time (roughly on every tenth blog), I leave a comment, as brainhell. Some of those bloggers come here and comment in return.

I believe that Blogger does not truly take you to a random blog when you press this button. It usually tends to take you to recently-updated blogs (though not always). And, while usually it takes me to a blog I have never seen before, there are some blogs it takes me to frequently. An example is a sports statistics blog. No idea why. Maybe you can pay Google (which owns Blogger) to "pump up" your blog? I wouldn't be surprised.

Now here are some responses to recent comments I have been receiving:

I feel that the most unfortunate result from the turf war that happened at hatter89.blogspot.com was that your comment on cats and toast was overlooked, as I had not the chance to comment on it. I am sure we are all very pleased to have this conundrum cleared up. Just one little thing: what if it was a big bit of toast?
mstrhenryjgolding | 11.16.04 - 12:35 pm | #


If it were a big bit of toast then I would expect to see some effect on the cat's rotation. The term 'big' is ambiguous, and we don't know whether you mean it to refer to the mass of the toast while the dimensions remain the same, or whether you mean that the mass and dimensions both scale up. At the point where the mass of the toast is a significant fraction of the mass of the cat, I would expect that the cat might blow the landing and wind up on its side, or even it's back. Once the toast outweighs the cat, then we might expect jelly on the floor, except that, if we assume that the toast retains typical toast density, then, in order to outweigh the cat, the piece of toast becomes quite large -- and aerodynamic effects do too. The density of a cat is greater than the density of toast, so we then have a case where the center of gravity of the ballistic object is forward of the center of drag along the vector of its motion. This is an aerodynamically stable configuration, and would tend to place the cat's feet on the floor first. The density of the jelly may be equal to or greater than that of the cat, so if enough jelly were on the toast, then these effects might cancel out. But given the typical jelly thickness, this would be a very large piece of toast relative to the cat. If the piece of toast were to be several multiples of the cat's mass, then clearly the toast lands jelly-side down. But in no case does the cat-toast system 'hover,' as some have suggested.

Thank you for the comment on my blog. If you go to her website, I think the song may be on there. Listen to it, I think it could change your opinion. If not, that is the beautiful thing about music as well. It affects everyone different.y.
vegasgustan | Email | Homepage | 11.17.04 - 1:54 am | #


I found the lyrics but not the song. And the site made me think that only her latest album is on iTunes. I went to iTunes thinking I would set up an account and buy the song (for 99 cents), but, unlike so much that Apple does so well, the account setup screen actually would have required me to think. I pressed the cancel button. I concur with you, though, lyrics can be great when sung. Just look at "Two Tickets to Paradise." ;-)

I'd like to ask your permission to place a link on my blog to yours as it is one of the best i have seen, a truky well written blog,

The_Hatter | Email | Homepage | 11.17.04 - 8:55 am | #


Gladly granted. And thanks for the compliment. You're the second person who asked permission. Maybe that's the etiquette I should follow, because I have been linking to other people's blogs without asking them. I just assumed that since anyone can read on the web, anyone can link to what they read.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Monkey see

I've been meaning to blog about kids, but never seem to get around to it. Here I'll list some of my unsupported assertions. I don't have the energy to construct a supported case for these assertions, as sleep has not been regular. My son has resumed his practice of waking us up at night. No amount or type of coaxing, coaching, threatening, punishing or bribing has ever worked. It's just something he needs to do. Fortunately it seems to go in a cycle. When the cycle completes in a few weeks or months, we should be able to sleep again.

Assertion #1: Monkey see - Anything your kids observe you do, they will eventually repeat. So if you shout when they misbehave, they will pick a time to practice shouting at you or at others. If you interrupt, they will pick times to interrupt. If you scoff, they will scoff. They don't pick an appropriate time or even a semi-appropriate time. You can tell they just want to try things out. If you don't do these things, your kids will do them anyway.

Assertion #2: Monkey hear - Anything they hear you describe, they will eventually try. This is why I don't want my son to hear the story of when my wife rode her tricycle down the front steps. She's still got a nice long scar from that, and while it may be difficult for him to try it on our steps, I don't want him to seek out a location to try something that approximates the story.

Assertion #3: Patience makes princes - Listening carefully and respectfully to your child, granting their wishes equal weight to adult concerns, including them in the decision-making, and giving them a sense of responsibility and equality, leads to little spoiled princes and princesses. They are a child and you are an adult for a reason: They learn from you.

OK, done with the assertions, Vignettes now...

I have lots of clear memories of being a kid, a very small kid, even of being a baby. It's not supposed to happen, but in my case it did. I don't request that you believe me.

When I was a small boy, probably three or four, I had some kind of distress in my eyes, probably dust, and I licked my fingers and stroked them on my eyes in an attempt to soothe the problem. I may have blogged about this already. Anyway, it became a habit, and I did it many times a day for months and months. I recall my parents trying to get me to stop. My son does this now. The only comfort I can take is knowing that I did, eventually, stop.

Then there is nose-picking and facial-tissue refusal. I remember doing that too. Nothing my mom could say would convince me to use a Kleenex, and nothing we say convinces my son. I used to turn away or walk away the same way he does, and pick.

Also there is wiping your mouth on your sleeve rather than your napkin. The napkin is something they can agree to, but not something they can integrate. I remember feeling picked on every time I was referred to the napkin.

Put all this together, particularly when they are sick and coughing, the way both my kids are now, and you tend to want to avoid touching their hands. I remember, as a small child, clearly thinking that when two people are doing something together, their hands should touch. It wasn't as though there was a lack of hugs and back-patting in my family. I wasn't craving physical contact, I just thought that (adult analysis now) it felt more important, like you were part of a team, if your fingers touch the fingers of the other person when doing things. A handoff of some object like a book or a toy happens in a moment, but I remember distinctly reaching higher up so that my fingers would touch the fingers of the parent handing the thing to me. My son does this too. You can hand him something with a mile of free surface for him to grab it by, and somehow his fingers wind up on yours. When doing things, adults generally don't expect a lot of finger contact, and in fact we adroitly avoid it, without giving a thought to it. Imagine handing something around a conference table at the office. Now imagine this one colleague, no matter what you gave them, a pen, a report, a phone ... always touching your fingers with theirs. Seeming to make a point of it. Weird, huh?

My daughter hasn't adopted this habit yet, it comes when they're older. I love my kids, but I don't want to catch the cold they have right now. So when I hand my son things, I tend to hold them up high so that he has to reach, and can't get my fingers.

By the way, my son got his cold by drinking from the glass of his playmate, when she had a full cold going. That's another thing you can't convince them not to do.

He hasn't eaten anything all day, and when they're like that you can't say "You need to eat" or "Would you like it if I made you a ... ?" So I told him that when I was a small boy and was sick, I used to eat a saltine cracker with a little bit of honey on it.

That's sort of not true: I once ate saltines with canned peaches. That was after my father made me go without food for 32 hours. Dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Breakfast, lunch. Actually, he had my mom tell me that I could eat as soon as I apologized to him. At the age of only seven I had stopped talking to him because he yelled at us so much. He waited until dinner on a Friday night to implement his plan. I guess he must have figured that I might have chances to eat at school, so he situated the showndown on a weekend.

I was hungry. I apologized. He was such a prick.

Anyway, we're getting off track here. My son said he wanted to try a saltine with honey. So I made him one. Only one, because I want him to ask for more.

I pretended to be a waiter, and delivered the cracker with great pomp. When he asked for another one, I made him two more. As I set the plastic plate down next to him (He is sitting on the back steps), his little hand shot out immediately and our fingers touched. As adults, we have this unexamined habit of waiting just a moment while the person who has handed us something shifts back. I washed my hands meticulously, and when when he asked for more crackers, I told him that I used to eat them with a little tiny bit of cheese. He wanted to try that. In this way I hope to keep sneaking food into him.

He's sick, and he's acting really cranky and also emotionally fragile. He gets upset over any little thing.

I'm going out there to offer more special crackers.

He ate more special crackers. Then after about 45 minutes he threw up. We decided to put him to nap early, and the poor guy needed it. As I was taking his temperature with the ear thermometer (102.7), he turned around and did another of those little habits that I used to do as a kid, and that he does now. I used to part my lips and blow a stream of air upwards, originally towards my hair, but then for no purpose. Yet another habit. I recall my parents asking me not to do this. Just like they asked me to keep my fingers out of my mouth. As the taller people, they were the ones likely to get the blast of air in their face. Now my son does it too, and just like I try to be so clever and avoid the finger smear, I like to kid myself that I can avoid this too. As I took his temperature he turned and and blew air directly into my mouth and nose (I was talking, but breathing in). He didn't do it on purpose, it's just another habit.

I went downstairs to report the temperature to my wife, who was feeding the baby, and we both smiled and rolled our eyes when I told her how he'd gotten me. Then I went back up, to give him Children's Tylenol, and he was was very good about it, even rinsing the little cup. My plan was to have him rinse it and replace it, so that my hands didn't touch the cup and encounter the germs. Clever. He was gamely helping. I bent over and held out the bin of medicines to him, telling him which one to put it on. Our heads got closer ... closer. Whuff! The blast of air right in my face again.

I dropped the basket of medicines and yelled at him: "Don't DO that!" He started to cry. I hugged him and apologized, told him my crankiness was not his fault. Then I put him to bed and read him a story.

As I was leaving the room he asked me to lie down on the floor and sleep next to him. I had done that a couple of times when he was a toddler, when he was very sick, and I was so worried about him. This time he wanted it for the comfort value. I told him that I needed to eat lunch, and that I would check in on him. I just had to eat.

In parenting, you often have to choose between your child and your death. I favor keeping the parent alive for the benefit of the child.

My son, if you read this some day when you are older, I don't want you to think that you were a burden to us. We love you and you changed our lives. I would never, ever want to live without you. But when you are a parent, it sure is fun to complain.

Monday, November 15, 2004


So I had this dream. The time period was WWII. My wife was also in the dream, and she was a fighter pilot for the Luftwaffe. In the broken logic of dreams, the way some things just happen to be, and don't make sense to a waking mind, but go unexamined in the dream, I was a pilot for the allies. And my wife and I often clashed in the skies. I briefly recalled an image of the tangled vectors of air combat, her plane flashing past mine.

And yet in the unexamined way of dreams, we still had this love relationship. Unexamined. The only thing my mind did examine was: What kind of plane was I flying? You have to understand that the 262 was the first jet-powered fighter, and was far superior to anything the allies had. I decided, in the dream, that maybe I flew some kind of experimental things that could match up to the 262.

Additionally, we had just found out that my wife was a clone. And in these materials we had read there was some discussion of the clone's lover, and that section described a switch that could be thrown to reverse some effect. No, not the effect of their love. No, not my memory of her. Something undefined. My waking mind thinks that the switch we wanted to throw in me represents a reversal of the ALS. I wanted the switch thrown, but I wasn't sure whether it should be pushed toward my head or toward my toes. I checked with my wife, to get her opinion. The answer was: Up toward the head.

I told her how much I love her, and we discussed her status as a clone. I don't know quite why she or I thought it mattered, but she was worried that there might be many of her, maybe 50. I tried to reassure her by saying that in all my experience I had never encountered another copy of her.

I woke up. I had gone to bed with a headache, and now it was much worse, and pounding. Ow! Ow!

So, even though the baby had been making restive sounds all through the night (she's still a bit sick), I just had at get at the collection of pills we keep in a basket in the closet right outside the kids' room. Amazingly, I managed to extract the basket, take an Excedrin and a Tylenol, and put the basket back without waking either of the kids.

It was 4 AM when I got back to bed.

The headache faded (thank you, drugs!) but I didn't get back to sleep. So I organized this blog entry in my mind. At 5 AM the baby wailed for Mommy, and my wife managed to calm her down and get her back to sleep.

As my wife got up to soothe the baby, I got up to go into the bathroom, and walked into the doorjamb, hitting my right knee something fierce. Lots of whispered cursing. Boy, that hurt!!!

We settled back in bed and soon enough my son came in to say that he couldn't find his water bottle. I went and got one for him, which is rare for me, since my wife has handled all the night work since the diagnosis.

My left triceps and pectoral have been twitching over the past few days. I haven't had much major-muscle twitching since I was diagnosed (sometimes in the hand or foot, though).

There is this thing I do to try to stop the twitching. Often I can find a posture for the limb such that the muscle is under the right amount of pressure, or relieved of the pressure, and stops twitching. I have this idea that doing so is good for me and slows the progression. I could ask my doctors, but I am pretty sure they would say they don't know, but if it makes me feel good, by all means. People who don't have ALS, and don't know how it works, can only offer so much.

I attribute the twitching to the five pushups I did the other day, plus the banana boycott. (I am starting to eat bananas again, with bran flakes). Three pushups never bothered me that much. It's just a reminder that I should get regular, very light exercise. At least twice a week. But because of the various coughs and such, I haven't been doing that. I am starting to feel better, so maybe I can get back into it.

Except that both the kids ran slight fevers yesterday. Their mom is taking them both to the doctor this morning. She works very hard to take care of them, and to try to help me resist the ALS, including trying to let me get the sleep I need. We both agree that it would be best if I and the kids did not have sniffles or colds when we get on that plane for the Thanksgiving trip.

It seems like every time I go to the gym and work out, one of the kids passes a germ to me, and I get sick that night. So I think I'll stay home today.

Joke of the Day: Major insurance companies keep sending me junk mail with offers to sell me life insurance. Heh!

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Scary nap

Wow, is a nap supposed to scare you? I almost never nap, but today I did from 2:00 to 4:20. It took me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and I still feel like I'm on thorazine. Not that I would know. My baby daughter has had the sniffles or a cold for it seems like a month now, and my wife and I have been plying her with tissues. Sometimes she has a mild temperature. You know, try as you might, there is no way to completely avoid mucous contact with a toddler. My son had a mild temperature today. I guess that the Death Nap was my body's way of trying to fight off those germs.

I took a Claritin D 12-hour extended release tablet about an hour before the Death Nap. The warning on the back says that "taking more than directed may cause drowsiness." I think I took one two days ago, but that was before bedtime. So let's chalk it up to that.

Why in the world are you reading this blog entry?

Let's see, I changed my pill routine a bit. See, many of the pills I take are to be taken with food (whereas, naturally, many of the others are to be taken on an empty stomach). So now when I get up I drink the creatine mixed into water, and take the riluzole and fish oil. Then after my shower I make breakfast for the family and take the Co-Q10 and the rest of the danged pills, such as the E and the C, with breakfast.

Also, progress on the rubble front: See, I had been putting five gallons of rubble each week into a plastic garbage bag and putting that into the household garbage can. Carrying the thing from the garage to the garbage can was awkward because the bag might rip, and because it is heavy. From time to time I toyed with the idea of laying the garbage bag into the can, and emptying the rubble into that. Impractical. Then I finally realized that the garbage can mouth is wider than a 5-gallon bucket. So now my approach is to put the plastic bag over the bucket, upend the bucket into the garbage can, then withdraw the bucket, and tie up the rubble. Problem solved. Amazing how long it takes me sometimes to figure the simplest things out.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

10 months

Happy tenth-month diagnosis anniversary! I may be a little gimpy and clumsy in ways that you as an observer might not notice, but so far I am holding up well. My goal is to get to 12 months in good shape. Then my goal becomes to get to two years in good shape.

Bonus childhood vignette: My parents had some kind of gathering at our house for people from my father's work. I was probably eight years old, and very full of myself and annoying. For example, I thought that making rude or weird sounds was just the height of humor. People will milling around everywhere. I noticed that one man tended to avoid me. He was the only one I hadn't talked to, and, I guess, performed for. When I would approach him he was always on his way somewhere else. When I said something to him he would smile, and say something brief and friendly on his way out of the room. It went on this way for quite some time, as I kept testing him and became sure that he was doing it on purpose. I finally decided that he didn't enjoy my company. It was a revelation. It didn't change my behavior, but over the years it stood as an example in my mind that a person doesn't have to stay around people they don't appreciate.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Social Security

OK, this morning I completed the electronic part of the application for Social Security benefits. Now there are some documents I still have to send the. Things like birth certificate, medical information...

My buddy John has been doing more and more pushups every day. He started at 48 or something, and now he is up to 63 or something. He’s a frightening creature, really. And I’m sure this 63 is not his daily total. It’s probably just one set of many.

He keeps sending me emails saying how many pushups he’s done. Then he wants to know what my self-measured inhalation volume is. It used to be about 5000 mL before all these respiratory infections, and right now it is holding at just below 4500. I think it will come back up as my lungs clear.

Anyway last night I had a dream I was doing pushups on the bed to send a score to John. I did six in my dream. Here, let me try it now...

Phew! Five and a half. Phew! Wow!

Anyway, then in the dream I started making a blog entry. About something. Not sure what. There were words involved but they probably did not make sense.

Anytime you read or say or hear any words in a dream, it’s something that you wrote. It shows your creative capacity.

My four-year-old son decided to call my father on Veterans Day and thank him for being a veteran. The way he explained it to my father was “You didn’t want our country to get hurt.” I think my father told him about going to England and France and Germany.

It looks like the election was stolen by means of hackers manipulating the databases. That’s just my opinion. You would think I would be up in arms and screaming about it. Well, some part of me might be, except that the rest of me wants to stay relaxed. There are some people sniffing around this thing, and Black Box Voting is just one of them.

What we need in this country, perhaps more even than to expose the election fraud that happened this time, is to get voting machines which are less vulnerable to hacking, and which are checkable. Right now, when the vote is cast, it goes somewhere and there is no way for anyone to check. The software that runs the machine is secret. The software that runs the machines should be public, and the each vote needs to be verifiable. There are various ways to do this involving encryption techniques, which I won't bother to go into.

The solution is known. America's power elite just doesn't want to know. We can't afford more stolen elections. Time to get real voting machines.

Someone from the insurance company just called to say that my long-term disability has been approved and a check should be going out Monday. We Shall See.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Swallow, whistle, cough

People with ALS has trouble swallowing thin liquids (water is the thinnest beverage), because it tends to leak around our imperfect throat muscles and drip into the airway, causing coughing.

I don't know if I blogged about this yet but there was a time shortly before I started going to the doctors when I was at a restaurant with my wife, drinking water, and all of the sudden I spewed out all this water into her hair. It spewed because I was trying to hold it back in that brief instant when you realize something horrible is happening. Mercifully, I don't think much of it got on her face.

We PWALSes are advised to duck our chin down when swallowing. I do that often, but I have my own technique which works for swallowing with no chin tuck. I think it works for the same reason the chin tuck works.

What I do is force the water forward, and while I do this, the back of the mouth (probably aided by the tongue), pretty much seals up. Then I use the cheeks to mash the water towards the back while at the same time opening the gates. This all happens in an instant. I had to pay attention to my swallowing in order to be able to come up with this description for you.

"You" being someone with ALS who might benefit from swallowing lessons. My able readers would have been well advised to skip this section, but I didn't advise them.

Throughout my life I have been able to emit this really loud, shrieking whistle by curling the tongue and blowing out the side of the mouth. I can also do the normal rounded-lips whistle, but this shrieking whistle is a different thing. Anyway, I can still do it, sort of, but it is no longer loud and sharp. It's kind of warbly and pathetic. I think the problem is that my tongue muscles no longer respond as well, and cannot form the ideal passage for the air.

That horrible cough continues to recede, and I only cough a few times a day now. Mostly on attitude change: lying down, getting up. That sort of thing.

I just want to add, if I may, that I am aware of two people who have it much tougher than I do. One, a woman, has newly-diagnosed ALS ... plus a history of self-emplyment which threatens to deny her Social Security benefits and Medicare. The other, a man, has very serious cancers and is weak from the awful operations. And he has to go back to work Monday so that he can try to hold onto his health insurance. In both cases, this is disgusting. May I just say that there is something deeply wrong with the way we apportion health care in this country?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cheerful interventionists take note

When it comes to war, any place you begin to think about or discuss the topic could be the wrong place. But let me this time start with these pictures of an American soldier, wounded and about to die, being worked on by a medic. I want to start here this time because of a certain type of guy who cheerfully supports the use of military force in almost any circumstance, because he is or was part of the military, and has pride and confidence in what the military can do. This cheerful interventionist almost always talks about how he supports the troops, and he likes to bring up individual stories of average American boys in the military. Handing out toys. Fixing a school. That danged truck, stuck in the mud again. To him I say this time you were warned that it might not be a good idea to send our boys in. This time hundreds of thousands of people, who you scoffed at, said so. This time the evidence for war was absent while you cheerfully supported the idea. But now hundreds and hundreds of those American boys who you claim to love are dying in pitiful circumstances like this son did. Next time, please next time, you should mean it when you say that war is a last resort. So that we don't have to learn the same lesson every thirty years, paid for with the lifeless bodies of thousands of our earnest American boys. Who you say you love.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004


I’ve been doing some painting in the garage. The cabinetmaker built us a cabinet, but I have to paint it before it can be installed in the kitchen. Painting’s not as simple as it sounds. A cabinet has lots of edges and angles and corners, and on every one you have to make sure you don’t leave a little bead or rim of paint. No bulges or drops. Paint is supposed to be smooooooth.

We’re going to have to find a butcher-block surface to put on top of it.

The lulu.com self-published poetry collection is coming along. I paid a graphic designer to do the cover, and guess what, it’s much better than I would have done. A friend now living overseas is going to send some copies of poems I wrote over twenty years ago. Found in a box in the back of a closet. So I’ll wait for those to come in the mail, and decide if I want to include any of them in the collection.

I found an ominous note in the section about ISBN services and getting on to Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

Typically this service gets your book listed in the major online booksellers inventory, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble; however each bookseller has the final say as to the inventory that gets selected for selling.

The fact that I don’t recall seeing it before now may indicate that it is new, and that my dollars spent buying this service will go (hah hah, sucker!) to waste. A pity to flush dollars, but it would still be possible to buy the book via lulu.com itself. It just feels more cool to say it’s on Barnes & Noble.

Bedtime has already occurred. But things are not quiet. The baby girl is sick and crying. My wife took over for me when the girl was having trouble coming in for a landing, and for that, among many other things, I am grateful. The boy, having not napped at preschool (he always skips it, and we always pay the price when he comes home), is staging a rebellion.

My lovely wife cut my hair today, a first for her. Usually I cut it myself.

The baby girl is so good at using the ------. She said she needed to --- and ----, and she did. Just as promised. We had a good conversation.

I'm going to file for Social Security disability benefits. Amazing how long you can put off something like that. It's not denial (I hope), I just had a choice today: Paint the cabinets, or work on the forms. My hope is that by blogging about it, I'll follow through soon.

My son has developed this act of singing ... a song that we all know ... in the worst possible way. He deliberately awkwardifies it. He's imitating a friend of his who, out of nervousness I guess, decided to sing this song as loud and macho as he could, at a preschool show. But since this other boy flubbed it just a bit and it sounded so awkward anyway, my son has been riffing on that, singing it worse and worse each time. I cringe. He loves it. It gives him power.

I don't know if I have subjected you to it yet, but I have a theory and lecture about how most of the kid agenda, after the age of three, is about Being Significant. They need to be important. And if that sometimes means being annoying, so be it.

In the past few days my son has let down his guard and just plain had fun and been nice, for hours at a time, and I found myself being really pleased to be with him, and several times just told him how much I loved him and appreciated him.

To some friends I have sent the draft of my long and gassy, dry essay on the state of the world. They have made useful comments. Once I incorporate those, I'll subject you to it.


Monday, November 08, 2004


Back in college days, Ed wanted to get on the lacrosse team so he decided to go with me on my nightly run up the hill and back. We needed something to chant in that pseudo-military, male tribal sort of way, so we used this from a Kurt Vonnegut novel:

I got the clap
and the blue balls too!
The clap don't hurt
but the blue balls do!

Possibly on account of this shouting, a campus police car pulled up along side us as we were coming back down the hill off of our run. The officer didn't say anything, or shine any lights or indicate that we were in trouble, he just coasted along with us. It was dark and we couldn't see him, just the car. Ed decided that we should run faster. Not by way of escape (we could have cut down hill through the brush for that), but I guess as a display.

So there we were, running flat out on a downhill, for about 100 yards. As we began to slow from our sprint, the officer's voice quietly said: "I clock you at 22 miles per hour," and then he drove off into the darkness.

We weren't even 22 years old yet.

Non-sequitor bonus link.

Boy chasing update: After dinner I played chase with my son and managed to stay ahead of him. I may have even gained ground. Then I chased him pretty well, though I caught him by trickery. This is the same course on which he was able to catch me last month. So maybe I am having a good day. Then I tried chasing him barefoot, thinking it would improve my traction and thus cornering speed. But the bare bones banging on the floor hurt, and the left big toe kept catching on the ground, and if I had continued I would have curled it under and hurt myself. So the overall result was encouraging, though.

Arafat reportedly has liver trouble. So the way I project the story is this: He needs a liver transplant. A couple of lefties in the USA offer to give them part of theirs. But the State Department blocks it. Then he gets a liver transplant from an organ donor, someone who died in Israel. In a pizza joint. That was blown up. By a one-way human bomber. It's the small daughter of an Israeli rabbi.

I know this would never actually happen. But it certainly would generate a few headlines.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Spider hand

Things I kept meaning to blog about...

In the early days of this blog, I meant to tell you that I started doing this exercise against the shower wall that I called the spider hand: using all the digits on the hand to do a sort of push-up. And I was pleased that the digits on the hand became stronger. But I never got around to blogging about that.

I don't do the spider hand anymore because the fingers on my left hand just don't seem up to it. The index finger has trouble straightening out. You probably wouldn't notice it unless I tried to point at something with my left hand. But I'm right handed anyway.

Another thing is that the endless stream of colds and coughs, plus the bouts with the evil one, have put me on a nearly continuous series of symptom holidays. That doesn't mean the ALS symptoms stop, it just means that I lend them no weight, since I am messed up, and any weakness, stumbling or clumsiness must be due to the current temporary affliction. Valid or not, this is my psychological trick. At least it prevents me from worrying. Also, the endless stream of torment has mostly kept me from going to the gym or jogging. How well am I jogging these days? I'm not sure. I ran briefly with my son at the playground today. But can I really run? I dunno.

And then there's the nail clipper. Until this year I used a small metal nail clipper like you probably have. Then one day when I was in the store, I bought a large one with big blue plastic bits around it. I thought I had lost my old one, and this was the only kind they had. I was going to blog that the big blue plastic one was kind of geriatric, but perfect for me, since it was easier to hold and use, and provided more leverage. I never got around to blogging that. Everyone needs to cut their nails, unless they Howard Hughes. You know why Howard Hughes doesn't cut his nails? He's dead! The last several times I have cut my nails, I noticed that my left hand was having real problems cutting the nails on the right hand. I clawed for every last it of leverage I could get, and still it was a challenge.

Now I have no problem cutting my nails. I simply put the blue plastic-clad clipper on top of my thigh as I am sitting, insert the nails of the right hand, and press down with the palm of my left hand.

Problem solved and I feel as non-disabled as ever. But I wonder: What will happen at the end of the line someday when my tricks for coping run out? Generally, I mean. It looks like this problem will be solved until I can no longer move my arm. But generally speaking, when will I suffer a true inability?

We talked today about my cousin, who at my age has been struck my multiple, very deadly cancers. I am so glad I am not suffering what he is suffering. He's not worried about clipping his nails. He is, I think, worried about the extreme pain, and whether he will survive the month.

My cursed nail clipper doesn't matter to him, and I'd be ashamed to have him hear my worrying about it. But... But I am supposed to take care of this guy known as brainhell, and if I don't concern myself with his issues, I would be remiss.

ALS is often a fast killer, and I am so lucky that it moves slowly in me. I felt so fortunate tonight as I rocked my daughter in her room, sang to her, and put her in her crib. The luckiest man of the face of this earth.

I watched two movies recently on his computer. Time for me to come out of the closet: My wife and I both use Macintosh computers. I have extensive knowledge of Windows machines, from working with them for years. They're getting better, but they still are laughably bad in so many amateur and childish ways.

The movies were "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "K-PAX." They were both good enough to watch and recommend, but I still had criticisms of both of them. I tend to critique things I like. Things I don't like I don't bother thinking about.

Friday, November 05, 2004


Did battle with the evil one again. Maybe it was the Marie Callender chicken pot pies? The big plates of spaghetti with cheese? Not sure. But I am getting tired of this recurring problem. One more thing to monitor.

I think it's time to cut out the daily morning banana though. The banana was supposed to deliver potassium and prevent cramps.

These constant battles with the evil one (inter-mixed with bouts of coughing) are starting to wear me down. I've had two episodes of harsh cramps in my left calf while sleeping. It may have been from the big hike in the big city the other day (but that was only eight blocks each way, and I did take it easy). And my left forearm started twitching again like it hasn't all year, while I was giving the sweet baby girl a bath. I can tell it's just that I have been under too much stress from the evil one.

What a great thing for you to read about in my blog. But I'll have something worse for you soon: My dry analysis of the state of the world.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


Oh dear. I seem to have caused some mortifaction* in the Bushrasphere.

It's always the unintended cuts which are the unkindest.

She blogged about a song that she liked. I commented that I liked it too, but I must be getting old for not seeing what was so original about it. In this blog I made fun of teenagers who blog about what they are listening too, but then did it myself. Bushra is not a teenager and I was not making fun of her. I called her 'dancy.' Bushra wrote that she feared that this would happen. That someone would categorize her. I apologize. But I didn't mean it that way.

This is all pretty much inside baseball to those of you just wandering by in the hall. Why should you care? Indeed, the rest of this blog entry is about blogging, so you I won't blame you if you skip it, innit.

I went to the big city today to record a piece for radio. If I already know you, I'll probably send you the info so you can listen. If not, then not.

A world-famous person walked by. I saw him but did not recognize him. So what? Did I tell you that I once shared carrot juice with Allen Ginsberg? Famous people come and they go.

But the engineer in the studio wanted to know about my previous pieces, so I told him. He said he remembered one. Then he had some interesting things to say about the election, and rather than drone on and on, and on, I gave him the URL to my blog, and said my opinion was there.

Maybe he has a blog. Maybe everyone on the trains I rode today has a blog. As I was walking into the studio I felt the need to use the restroom. "Donde esta el baño, por favor?" came to my mind. Not sure why. I thought I might say this to the person at the desk, but then I thought it might be rude and oddly nerdy. I'd stick to English. When I signed in, the lady at the desk picked up the phone and spoke, in Spanish, to the Asian woman who I was meeting, telling her that I had arrived. "Por favor, donde esta su .. uh .. el baño?" I said. One has to go down a flight of steps.

The connection with the sound engineer was in person, but then got handed off to the blogosphere. I don't think I have ever met someone in person who I met while blogging. Pretty sure about that. But I did meet a good friend, a longtime friend, over the internet, due to our mutual interest in computer modeling of biology and evolution. I've met him in person.

I've never met dancy Bushra in person, though I've told her she is welcome to visit our family if she ever comes to the undisclosed location where we live. I met her and know her only via blogs. She chanced on mine shortly after I started it.

I’m better in writing than in person. People usually respond to my writing by saying good things about it and about me. I chanced on a woman who is taking care of her ailing mother, and blogging about it, and we made friends through a series of emails. She’s a former journalist just like me. Hence a lot of typing occurred. It turns out that she also writes erotica. I haven’t read much erotica, ever, though I recently met (in person) a woman who writes very admirably about the erotic, mostly from her own experience. I can spot good writers, and she’s one. So there. This other woman, the one who takes care of her mother, writes mostly fictional erotica. I surmised that, and she told me I was correct. So there.

...Then, when I went to get the URL, I noticed that the page says they’re all fictional, right up at the top. I plead that I did not notice that when I went there. By the way, the layout on this page looks really blurry and bad on my browser. I’m not criticizing the design, just saying that the letters get huge and overlap other text.

Which brings us to Bible Man. At first I considered him just a curiosity, and pointed him out in this blog, the way you would point out a squirrel having sex with a pack of cigarettes. Then we exchanged some emails, and he became a person to me. Understand, he’s a person I consider very misguided, even dangerous. But he’s real. He didn’t just react with complete anger to what I said. He reacted with some irritation of course, but did not turn into an abuse-hurling bot, like so many might. We’ve sent more emails back and forth, and though I disagree with much of his approach to life, I can tell that some part of him is open to open thinking, and is listening to life and trying hard. He’s going to make a lot of horrible mistakes, but he seems like a person to me, and has earned my respect in the way that you can respect people who, by rights, should be your enemies. Very cautiously.

No, he did not cheat on his wife. He is also not a drinker. He says.

I think Bible man should sort himself out without making so much reference to God. But then, someone who thinks faith is the answer to all things, and finds undeniable truth in that, may not notice themselves misapplying faith. To him, that sounds impossible. But if I smash my hand with a hammer, should I try to heal it with Javascript? After all, Javascript is really powerful.

Is Bible Man my substitute for talking to the Republicans, now that the election is over? Well, if so, it should take up a lot less time than that job did. Am I trying to heal him? No way? Convert him? Save him? No way. He’s going to be what he is. Maybe at most I will plant a seed. He’s not my job, not my concern, not my project. But the internet blog phenomenon did make it possible for us to talk to each other about the deepest issues of his life.

How odd.

* For those of you wondering: "'Mortifaction?' Is that even a word?'" Well, no, it's not. But I bid you remember that I am a master of language, and I can do whatever I want. Even break the rules. This made-up word is a reference to "liquefaction," a real word found in Robert Herrick's poem. If you are planning to mock my mastery with my own typos, make sure you use a spell-checker first.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

An iPod heresy

By the way, and this might seem like heresy to a dancy young lass like Bushra, but I think I have noticed that the bad headaches I get come after listening to the iPod.

I'll test and let you know. Because I am in no mood for the news today. Maybe not for the next few weeks either.

We're starting with Joni Mitchell singing "Down to you", then skip over the Copeland and Gregorian chants to the Smiths, doing "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want." Nothing to read into that. Move along, move along.

Recently in this blog I wondered why some people are so into their music. I have snickered at those blogs where teenagers list the music they are listening to. But, oh yeah, now I remember: analgesia and escape.

Neil Young.
99 Red Balloons (German version).
Alanis (Jagged little Pill).
Tom Waits.
Radiohead doing "Creep."
Joni again doing "Trouble Child"

...Plus lots more Joni.

I still believe in America, just like I believe that I will outlive this diagnosis of a 100%-fatal syndrome, and dance with my kids at their college graduations. America stands for hope, and that’s why I believe in America, no matter how crippled it might be at any one moment. Though America is crippled, and the cure has yet to be found, let’s not give up on her.

I know that I have the strength to endure the calamities ahead: I’ve already lived through 12 years of the destructive and venal rule of Reagan and the first Bush. And this time I have no regrets, because I know that we did everything we could. The case was made very clearly.

Given the discrepancy between the exit polls and the ballot tallies, as well as the fact that voting machines used were based on designs with inherent ease-of-abuse features, a reasonable person may now tenably believe that the election was stolen, and that Bush actually lost. Profound as this crime is, what am I to do about it? If there was substantial fraud significant enough to throw the election, it was very carefully done, so as to escape being obvious. And undetectable fraud is not something we can concern ourselves with: If you can’t prove it, it didn’t happen. Yes, American voting machines still need to be improved, brought up to some kind of minimum rational standard, but as of now we have to accept the consensus result, even if we are simply accepting a crime.

I have no regrets. The choice was stark. I haven’t blogged much about this, but I have spent over a year in daily conversation with Republican voters on the internet, posting several times as day. I won’t call it a battle, because my approach was to always remain civil, and try to focus on the issues. This approach brought me volumes of ridicule and personal attack. My hope was that perhaps some people who were sitting on the fence might grow disaffected with the abusive tactics of their allies, or might see some validity in some of my points. At least I hoped that they would come to think that I was a respectable person, even though I voted differently. One of my major strategies was to adopt some of the tenets of the rightist agenda, and show how the current administration fails miserably to reach even its own goals, much less in matching the values of the American people. I gave money to the Democrats and to MoveOn.org, the first time I had ever donated to a campaign. My wife volunteered at a phone bank. A neighbor traveled to an adjacent swing-state to go door to door there. We did all that we could and that’s why I have no regrets.

While it may be comforting to reflect that over 55 million Americans, or 48% of those who voted, were not fooled by the current administration, that’s no comfort when there should have been a landslide of rejection, given that the case was so stark and clear.

So why the outcome?

I personally believe that the confederacy that the Republicans have built over the years is a minority and saw its high-water mark in the 2000 election. This is the confederacy of racists, religious bigots, the amoral super-rich, and angry ignoramuses. But if they are a minority, the outcome of yesterday’s election should have been different. I think the factor that made the difference was war, and the right-wing media nurturing misconceptions on an agar of ignorance.

Any unpopular war has a lifecycle. Even though the internet age and the media have compressed that lifecycle, it is still the same. The time will come when most Americans see the incompetent blunder in Iraq, and the vast global strategic mishandling of the war on terror, for what they are. But we are not yet in that point in the lifecycle. We have passed out of the stage of initial support and into the phase of dread and attempts to find safety. It is ironic and sad that many among us, preyed on by right-wing media, seek safety in supporting the very man who brought on the trauma.

But keep in mind that the average I.Q. in the U.S. is 100. That’s a human reality that cannot be changed. Also keep in mind that America, like so many other countries, is a prisoner of its history. I feel that America’s history is, on the whole, a tale that inspires hope. But we are still afflicted by the sins of slavery, and the awful pride that was the Confederacy. If you are not an American, you may not understand what I am talking about. But there are many people here who, without even knowing it, are living lives that are echoes of the attempt to retain Confederate values after the Civil War.

The feigned family values of the Republican party leverage this retrograde constituency. The gay marriage issue serves as a case in point. The Democrats are by no means a progressive party, but they do have a tendancy to be more open to broad societal changes that carry the weight of historical inevitability. But there is a friction over such issues, and the price to be paid is paid by those who are more tolerant. Hence the Democrats paid the price, but not just for this year's advances in gay marriage -- They will always pay the price for any cause of justice the party does not outright oppose. Too bad. But the price has to be paid sometime.

To my friends overseas I say: Your country would never accept the leaders we accept, but your country is different. Try to understand that America will emerge from this darkness some day. To friends at home I say: Don’t despair, but instead keeping living and thinking freely, the conscientious people that you are.


Monday, November 01, 2004

Chicken Drugs

Halloween was good last night. Both kids had a fun time, and we got lots of compliments on the homemade costumes.

Since we will be taking a long plane trip around Thanksgiving, and since plane trips are swap meets for respiratory infections, the wife and I thought I should visit the doctor before the trip.

The objectives of the trip were to have the doctor:
1. Listen to my lungs.
2. Look in my nasal passages for evidence of allergies.
3. Recommend whether I should go to an allergist.
4. Prescribe contingency antibiotics just in case I get sick during the trip.

The bit about contingency antibiotics was the advice of the people at the ALS specialty clinic. It's a good one. It never would have occurred to me.

In addition to the lingering remnants of the cough, I still have a bit of the sniffles from exposure to cold air during the Halloween costume party at my son's preschool. (There were three Spidermans.)

My blood pressure continues to improve, and was 128/86. I think the key is the one-egg-a-day limit.

The doc said my lungs sounded good. He looked in my nostrils and my mouth and said I do have some evidence of allergy. I asked how he could tell the difference between allergy and cold, and he said that a cold makes things red and swollen, and an allergy makes them pale. He said I'm pale.

He said the sequential steps for dealing with suspected allergies are as follows:
1. Ignore it.
2. Try an OTC antihistamine like Benedryl or Claritin.
3. Use a prescription antihistamine.
4. Combine steps 2 and 3.
4. Go to an allergist, who will likely prescribe shots three times a week.

I don't like getting poked with needles, and neither do you. Anyway, the doc gave me a sample of a prescription antihistamine called Astelin. He had me squirt it up my nose then and there. He said that I should feel a difference within an hour. That was an hour ago, and I still feel the same: Slightly stuffy, and when I talk, I tend to wheeze or cough. Same.

He also gave me a prescription for the contingency antibiotics. This time it's Cipro. You've heard of it as the famed protection against Anthrax. But you may not have known that our nation's last line of defense, so to speak, has also been routinely given to millions and millions of chickens in their feed, every day, for years.

In case you have not read Laurie Garret's The Coming Plague, please do so. And you'll know why feeding antibiotics to chickens is a bad, bad idea.

But Cipro is still the champion antibiotic, so the fact that the doc prescribed it to me means he wants to keep me alive. Plus, he knows I am heading to a backwater where simply puzzling out the alphabet, much less modern medicine, is baffling to most people. That’s a joke, Honey ;-)

It appears that the Astelin causes me to cough, a lot. The severe coughing started in the late afternoon after having used the Astelin in the late morning. I applied the stuff one more time in the evening and the fierce coughing continued. I'll call the doc and plan to discontinue.

Nov. 2, 4:00 PM: The doc called in response to my message left with his staff, and said cough aggravation was not a common side effect of Astelin. He agree with my decision to discontinue use, and suggested Claritin. I was coughing like mad while talking to him.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com