Saturday, April 30, 2005

The dust that makes the stars shine

We watched the first few minutes of Blade Runner this AM on Satellite. (Gotta love Leon: "My mother? Let me tell you about my mother.") As the credits scrolled, I thought about William Sanderson, who played lonely replicant engineer J. F. Sebastian. Karen and I once sat next to him in the coach section of a 747. Then as now, Sanderson was better known for his role as Larry on the Newhart Show (Daryl & Daryl's brother), but I pumped him for information on Blade Runner. Yes, he thought a lot of the movie, too. No, he'd never read P. K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but that didn't matter: Ridley Scott hadn't read it, either. I was in med school at the time, working on my MD/PhD. This really seemed to impress him. So we sat there, shooting the bull, each impressed with the other, two guys with crappy self-images stroking each other's ego. Well, maybe I'm projecting onto Mr. Sanderson . . . still, it struck me at the time that this fellow didn't have an arrogant bone in his body. Check out William Sanderson's page on IMDB. He's been busy. I wonder sometimes whether character actors get more work than the big boys and girls. From William Sanderson, my thoughts wandered off to another character actor, Ian Wolfe. Don't know the name? His filmography on IMDB lists 200 appearances, and that's not including over 80 'notable guest appearances' on TV. His career stretched from 1934 to 1990, when he made his last appearance as "Forger" in Dick Tracy. I remember that when he died in 1992, one of the local LA news anchors quoted Wolfe as having once said, "I was the dust that made the other stars shine." Still not ringing a bell? Here's a picture. And if you don't recognize him now, you're really too young to be reading this blog. D.

Friday, April 29, 2005

It's a Splendisaster

Last night, addled by caffeine, I lay awake trying to carve my novel's final tableau from the killing fields of Story Space. (One nice thing about Story Space: resurrections are common.) I have no fewer than ten characters converging on one place. Ten named characters. I'm not counting all those giant spiders and killer boars. So it has to be stage-managed without looking stage-managed, inevitable, yet not contrived . . . No small wonder that my approach to the ending has been asymptotic at best.
For several days, I've been meaning to write a glowing review of Dreyer's No Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream. It's Splendalicious! It's Splendarific! I've gained three pounds in four days! Maybe . . . I mean, just maybe . . . the Atkins folks are wrong, and calories do matter. Maybe it is a bad idea to douche my esophagus with saturated fat. Maybe I should go back to salads and boiled eggs for dinner. Do three pounds show on me? You betcha. My son walked in on me last night after I'd taken my shower (we are still working on this 'knocking on the door' thing) and informed me that my ass jiggles when I walk. The horror.
Hitchhiker's Guide opens tonight. If the family is willing, I'm there. A quick scan of the reviews suggests this movie may be a mixed bag, but with Alan Rickman voicing Marvin the Paranoid Android, how bad can it be? Watch this space. D.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Littlest Nailhead

I popped over to John Scalzi's blog this morning to see what he's been up to. Answer: he's been busy. Stay away from a guy's blog for four days and you end up with miles of column inches in your mental to-be-read basket. Anyway, I particularly enjoyed the photo of his daughter wearing a Gothed-out Powder Puff Girls T shirt. The caption is priceless, as is the take no prisoners expression on his daughter's face. John also posted a link to a comic called Kindergoth, which reminded me: I still have ten bucks over at PayPal (for selling my story Saul the Deserted to Neverary) burning a hole in my electronic pocket. Time to spend it on something morally uplifting, like Kindergoth. Jake used to be a kindergoth. At four, Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile was his favorite CD. Soon after, he became enamored with the rest of Reznor's oeuvre, including Closer. Um . . . especially Closer. Karen and I used to joke about Jake singing this to his k-garten teacher, but the truth is, he's always had more common sense than that. After Nine Inch Nails, he branched out into The Cure and Tears for Fears (bunch of poseurs compared to Trent Reznor, but they fake it well). Lately he's been into Pink Floyd, which, all things considered, is a good deal more upbeat. The Wall is a church picnic compared to The Fragile. Speaking of churches: thanks to this month's Harper's for teaching me the word megachurch. The latest issue features a full scale salvo against the Evangelical movement's political machine, including a new article by Jeff Sharlet, whose article "Jesus Plus Nothing" provided inspiration for my novel's Kinist Church. That's it for now, folks. Someone with a stuffy nose is bound to show up at my door any minute now. D.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Poechilotheria metallica

And you thought Metallica was a head-banger band

Below, you'll find a picture of Karen's P. metallica. Note elegant fangs. P. metallica is commonly known as the Gooty Ornamental tarantula, but . . . and this is the stunning part . . . they don't really come from Gooty! The first specimen was found on a woodpile for a train in Gooty, India, one hundred years ago, and it took close to a hundred years for anyone to figure out where they really came from. A bloke named Hendriks braved Bengal tigers, heavily armed Indian outlaws, and worst of all, the Indian Customs Export Bureau to take seven tarantulas back to Europe. He successfully bred them. You're looking at the child of one of those original seven! Primarily, however, this post is FILLER. I had to do something to push my REAL POST OF THE DAY a bit farther down the page. Formatting issues, folks: scroll down and you'll see the problem. If I knew more HTML, *&#$!@ like this wouldn't happen. D.

Faith has no anti-meme

Here is an email I received yesterday: I was listening to your show today (4/23) and your discussion about vampire bat saliva as an anti-coagulant used as the basis for formulating a new drug. In disseminating this factual information, you also stated that this anti-coagulant function in the vampire bat evolved over thousands of years, which I do not believe to be a fact, but conjecture. Do you know as a scientific fact that the vampire bat was not created with that ability? I'm very leery of evolutionists and their theories. Evolution, after all, is still a theory, and not a proven scientific fact. Although the theory of evolution may be generally accepted, it is still a theory. This fellow was kind enough to let me use this email, so I won't be mean. After all, he's not the first person to confuse me with alternative medicine guru Dr. Ronald Hoffman, nor can he help having the wrong idea about evolution. He's not alone: according to the Gallup folks, one third of Americans consider evolution to be 'one of many theories', 'not supported by evidence'. (One third do think evolution is backed by evidence, and one third stated they didn't know enough about it to have an opinion. Yay, US educational system!!) As a former scientist (can I call myself that? Or should I say, 'former scientist wannabe'?), I have a reasonably thorough knowledge of the nitty gritty details of evolution; I understand both the arguments Creationists use, and the proofs debunking those specious arguments. This format is far too limited to even scratch the surface. Besides, Mark Isaak's Talk Origins Archive has a stunningly exhaustive index of Creationist arguments and their rebuttals. (Regarding the one third of Americans who don't believe there is any empirical evidence backing the theory of evolution, see this page at the Talk Origins Archive for the exhaustive response.) HOWEVER. As a writer, I'm captivated by the letter-writer's use of the word theory. You see, scientists are saddled with a word whose common meaning is very nearly the antithesis of its proper scientific meaning. To the common man, just about any half-poached idea can warrant the label of theory. I have a theory that Brittney Spears is actually Orlando Bloom, cleverly disguised. See? All it takes to hatch this sort of theory is an imagination, and not a particularly good one at that. But to a scientist, a theory is far more than a random brain fart. Wikipedia has a somewhat vague discussion of 'theory'. The best bit of this discussion: a theory is a model of reality. A good theory explains aspects of our world, solar system, universe; a good theory enables us to make testable predictions regarding features of nature we have not yet investigated. A scientific theory is therefore not a hunch, guess, or hypothesis, as these are not generalizable to other aspects of nature. (My theory of Brittney Spears' true identity does not enable me to make predictions as to Michael Jackson's species.) Nor do scientific theories have an equal footing with religion, faith, or philosophy. Apples and origins, kids. Apples and origins. Is evolution a good theory? When it comes to the natural sciences, evolution has been an unparalleled success. It's a stupendous theory. That makes it somewhat less solid than real numbers and somewhat more solid than matter. Not that this will have any power whatsoever over the Creationists, for they possess something far more adamantine than the theory of evolution: they have faith. Faith is the arch-meme, the mega mind virus that trumps all others. Reason has no clout with faith. You might as well treat colon cancer with black coffee enemas. D.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Penile Collagen Injection for the Masses

It's true. Women phone me from all over the country, ask my advice, and then write articles about what I say. They get published in various womens' magazines with babes like Cameron Diaz on the cover. Just buy the May edition of Marie Claire and see for yourself (I've been quoted in Cosmo, too.). So that you don't have to trouble yourself with Cameron's "secret passions" or the article "SEX with strangers (the naughty trend YOU need to know)", go straight to page 201 and listen to yours truly holding forth on the subject of acid reflux. Whatever you do, don't turn the page, or you might see a very tasteful black-and-white photograph of a blonde knockout being orally pleasured by . . . oh, I dunno . . . someone with dark hair. Maybe it's her husband. Yeah, that's it. The article (spoilers! spoilers!) is about vaginal rejuvenation surgery and G-spot collagen injection. This last bit caught my attention. Get this: it costs $1800 and is supposed to improve orgasm. And it lasts about three months before the collagen is absorbed. Waves of ozone spilled from my dizzily cranking flywheels. G-spot collage injection? I once injected collagen into a woman's lips to make them more Julia-Robertsy, so why not? While we're at it, we* could advocate clitoral collagen injection for women whose men are permanently lost at sea. (Where, honey? Where? Damn. Thought I had it that time.) Or penile collagen injections: semi-permanently ribbed for her pleasure. Tweaked white women like Jocelyne Wildenstein get plastic surgery to look like lions. Southern California parents want their pre-teen daughters to have breast implants to hurry along their modeling career (sorry, no link for that -- I'd have to sift through too many kiddie porn sites, and I'm not that twisted). Some guys are getting horns and whiskers surgically implanted. And then there's Michael Jackson. And so I ask you: why the hell not? I have an answer, but before I share it with you, take a look at this blog, wherein writer Katie attributes all of this to . . . SATAN! Why say no to G-spot collagen injection? Simple good sense: there's no track record. Wait for the double blind trials, people. Why say no to the Jocelyne Wildensteins and Michael Jacksons of the world? Because they're in piss poor taste, that's why. I mean . . . look at them. Come on. By the way, there are no such things as 'penile collagen injection' or 'clitoral collagen injection'. I did an advanced search on Google and it just ain't there. Thank heavens. D. *'We' in the sense of 'extended medical community', naturally. As an ENT, if I stray below your collarbones with anything other than a stethoscope, stop me.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

So that's why no one's leaving comments!

Before I forget, thanks to Crystal for posting this very nice bio of Philip K. Dick on her blog today. PKD, uneven though his oeuvre might be, nevertheless left us with The Man in the High Castle, a highly atypical take on the what-would-have-happened-if-the-Nazis-won-the-war scenario, and a wealth of other thoughtful and thought-provoking novels, many of which had their plots wiped clean to become vehicles for trash actors like Arnold the Schwarz and Tom Cruise (who, I'll have you know, is even shorter than I am). My personal favorite: PKD's Valis trilogy , a one-of-a-kind fusion of SF with Gnosticism. (And how, I wonder, might the last 2000 years have played out, had the Gnostics gained the upper hand? I wonder if PKD ever considered writing that one.) Something happened to Dick -- was it a dream? A drug-induced hallucination? I don't know, but he turned it into three novels. And thanks to Debi for pointing out that folks needed a blog to post comments here. Has to do with the settings, dearest. I had it on some sort of bloggers-only setting, but that's been changed. Now, anyone and their uncle can leave comments. Here that? You have no excuse. (No, Debi, not you. And sorry, again, that I turned you into a double bloggerer. How I love that word . . . bloggerer.) Note to the non-blog-savvy: click on 'Archives' to pull up the full list of April posts. D. PS Good writing day. 1250 words, and I finished the chapter. I feel good about it, with reservations. PPS Chief reservation: I might feel awful about it. Haven't made up my mind yet.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

We be jammin'

Today, I worked on the novel until just after noon, extending one scene and finishing a second, particularly difficult one. 1500 words in all, which makes this an above-average writing day. I also managed to get down to the gym (four times this week!) AND did a bunch of shopping up in Oregon. Dinner tonight: spanakopita and bastilla. Gotta use all that phyllo dough; it turns to dust in the fridge. Thanks to Crystal for turning me on to Apple iTunes. I've stayed away from music downloads for years; as an author-wannabe, I've had no desire to violate another artist's copyright. (Hey, did you catch that? Another.) But iTunes is LEGAL. A buck a track, and they give you some nifty software for free. Here's my first CD, a big 80s / big 90s compilation: Blue Monday - New Order It's a Mug's Game - Soft Cell Mirror In the Bathroom - The English Beat How Soon Is Now? - t.A.T.u. Heroes - David Bowie Cities in Dust - Siouxsie and The Banshees Fire and Ice - Pat Benatar Gone Daddy Gone - Violent Femmes Tears of a Clown - The English Beat Hand in Glove - The Smiths Sex Dwarf - Soft Cell Precious - Pretenders Pretty In Pink - The Psychedelic Furs Mirror In the Bathroom - The English Beat Behind The Wheel - Depeche Mode Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes Yes, I burned Mirror in the Bathroom twice. It's that good. Are there some omissions here? A few. No B52s, Boomtown Rats, or Madness. No Clash (intentionally -- I got tired of them in the dorms), no Talking Heads, no Chicago. (Hee hee. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.) Next time around, I'll leave out Bowie's Heroes. Good song, but it just doesn't fit. Now, Crystal, I ask you: looking at a list like this, don't you feel a bit like my facilitator? For the folks: relatively more recent photo of Jake below. This picture is only four years old. Cheers, kids. D.

Arch Rock, Oregon

Jake, December 2000

Name that automatic weapon.

Who says research isn't necessary for soft science fiction? At the moment, I'm working on my novel (okay, technically I'm goofing off) , and I need to know what to call the name label on the breast of a military uniform. Surely they're not called appliqués. So far, I've settled unhappily on calling it a label. But my Google search led me to these grinning, realistic-but-fake-gun-toting Cimmerians here. What, you ask, is a Cimmerian? As best I can tell, they're fun-loving Americans who like to hammer each other with paintballs, except these paintballs are tiny enough that they don't sting. They dress in full military gear and they use weapons that (the website reassures me) are indistinguishable from the real thing. No snide comments from this quarter. Seems to me, if their weapons are indistinguishable from the real thing, they might take live rounds just as well as micro paintballs. Reminds me of a story from my indentured servitude in the Kedes Lab. Our lovely dishwasher once put us in line by relating that she'd purchased an ouzi by mail order. It was a bee-you-tiful gun, she said, but so difficult to put together. Still, she'd managed . . . Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn't. We didn't bitch to her much, after that. D.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Hunger

No, not Tony Scott's moody Deneuve-Bowie-Sarandon vampire flick, but rather, the pit-of-the-soul carb craving only two years of Atkins Diet induction can spawn. That's right, I've never made it out of induction. Oh, would I love to make it out of induction. Six months ago I overcame 20+ years of lassitude and joined a local gym. I reasoned that if I increased my activity level, I'd be able to eat more carbs. But then something interesting happened: I discovered that I'm a mesomorph trapped in an endomorph's body. Or, as I learned this evening on, I am Sylvester Stallone trapped in Roseanne Barr's body. Yo. I began trimming off inches, replacing fat with muscle. This was all well and good -- I have a nice, hard tukhas now -- but it galls me that I can't get my weight below 160. Indeed, as of this writing, I'm having a devil of a time cracking 165. I think I could tolerate this number if my stomach would flatten . . . but it won't! Damn me, I can feel that washboard lurking in there, that six-pack yearning to be free, but I'm told by the gym jocks I'll have to starve and dehydrate to really get that definition. I've been shooting for a Body-Mass Index of 25. That's 155 lbs for me. It ain't gonna happen. The few times I've made it to 159 (thanks to food poisoning, stomach flu, that sort of thing), I've binged my way back to 163. I caught a recent news item that the Feds are going to loosen these guidelines, thereby creating far fewer obese people in the United States, but I can't seem to find the exact stats. What BMI do I shoot for now? If they raise the bar to 27, I'M LEAN! This is the stuff I think about as I do my 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer, trying not to look at the 90 lb woman next to me who could kick my ass in two seconds. (Her boyfriend was working out, too. "Hey, Ron! This guy's bugging me. Horm* him for me, will ya?" Well, maybe three seconds.) Because I'm not assertive around guys who could bench press me, I never gripe about the music (Jurassic rock today . . . AC/DC, Aerosmith, etc.) or change the TV (Seinfeld of all things). On the drive home, I put on an old Cowboy Junkies CD and let Margo Timmins' satin voice mellow me out. I'm okay now. Atkins dinner for me tonight: a four-egg omelet, five strips of bacon, and two pieces of low carb toast. Handful of dried cranberries and a stinkyfart bar (love those sugar alcohols) for dessert. I made pesto for Karen and Jake, so I can't eat that, and I'm sick of salads. But I'm not complaining. (What, you thought I was complaining?) I'm keeping the weight off. I can see my wiener when I go pee. Some things are important. D. *Hormed: a verb cherished by all of us old enough to remember Rogue:
. . . . . I . . . . . . I @ . . . . . . I I . . . . . . . . .
Translation: you are about to get hormed by a quartet of Intellect Devourers. "Your mind reels from the Intellect Devourer's ego whip." Ah, the good old days: when it took imagination to enjoy a computer game.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

World of Warcraft ate my brain.

Surgery day for yours truly here at St. Mammon Community Hospital. This means I hustled my butt out of bed at 7, skipped my coffee, and got into the hospital by 7:20. When will I learn that it's okay to get in a few minutes later and not skip the coffee? For a few months now I've had trouble working on the novel at night. I've been productive on the weekends, but my evening writing has slowed to a crawl. (Oddly enough, though, I wrote "Troll Lover" mostly at night.) This annoying problem coincided with our purchase of Blizzard's World of Warcraft. I doubt this is coincidental. WoW is an MMORPG, in case you were wondering; however, if you know what an MMORPG is, you surely don't need to be told that World of Warcraft is one of 'em. (Okay, okay. My parents are reading this. MMORPG = massive multiplayer online role-playing game. Doesn't that help loads?) My preferred character is She Witch, a rogue troll, but occasionally I slum with the Alliance in my other guise: Scyther, a Night Elf huntress. When you play in the Night Elves' realm, WoW plays this dippy music that is PLAINLY a rip-off of the incidental music used in Lord of the Rings whenever those dippy elves are on screen. I've tried to make Scyther as butch as possible, but that's a tough gig when you're an elf. Need I mention that we bought this game for my son? Tonight the muse is as dry as a baby-powdered ass. I'm outa here. Gotta go collect mushrooms or chop off a paladin's head . . . some damned thing. D.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

And Then, All Will Bow Down Before Me

No one emailed me today, asking me what my master plan might be for Shatter*. No one asked this question because, as of this writing, you’re all content to lurk. Nevertheless, I felt no one’s question warranted a well thought out reply, and here it is. I fully expect no one to respond to this column to let me know his (or her – hard to tell with no one, that oddball) reaction. As with all great plans, I’m starting small. Page by page, I have been editing my medical website, placing eye-catching icons** linked to Shatter at the bottom of each page. The Medical Consumer Advocate generates a good number of hits. Some of those folks are bound to wonder what on earth a guy like me will write in his blog. When I get some sense that folks are actually reading this column, I’ll move on to step two: my discovery of the Virgin Mary in a square of matzah. That’s right, I’m going to find a matzah cracker with the Blessed Virgin’s image in it, and I’m going to post that image exclusively here, on THIS page, along with an article urging all readers to email this link to seven of their friends. If they do so, they will have good fortune for seven years; but if they fail to do so, they will be cursed with ill luck for the same interval. I believe this to be a sound marketing strategy. But to what end, no one asks? Well, once I have a real readership, I’ll serialize The Brakan Correspondent on my website. Periodic appearances of You Know Who – perhaps on rye bread, or in the iridescent sheen of an old slice of roast beef – may be necessary to drive my readers that way. We’ll have to see about that. In any case, the inevitable will happen. Tor Books will offer me a sweet contract, and my novel will become a smash overnight sensation. And then (says no one) all will bow down before you? Foolish, puny nobody. Not yet. Does anyone bow down to J. K. Rowling, John Grisham, Stephen King, or Dan “Well it was just a Cracker Jacks rebus” Brown? NO. Authors get no respect. Except on The Daily Show. With the success of The Brakan Correspondent, fellow yid Jon Stewart will have to invite me on the show. He’ll have read my book, naturally, and he’ll zoom in on one rather embarrassing detail, that the spider god’s name (Obrah, translated, ‘she who eats’) sounds suspiciously like Oprah, as in Winfrey; and, furthermore, didn’t I call Oprah Winfrey the Troll Queen in the story, “My Troll Lover”? And what do I have against Oprah, anyway? I’ll save the situation famously with some smart and snappy reply, so winningly in fact that Oprah, watching at home, will be quite charmed. She’ll have me on her show, and the repartee will make my stint on The Daily Show seem like a wake. Ratings will soar. Oprah will offer me a regular spot. And THEN all will bow down before you? Pipe down, you. No, my friendship with Oprah will merely ensure inclusion of my novels in her Book of the Month Club. I will become fabulously wealthy***. I’ll be offered movie contracts on my books weeks before I’ve penned the outlines. I’ll become close friends with Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, and Tim Burton; they’ll put me in the movie versions of my books – bit rolls at first, supporting rolls afterwards. I’ll suck, naturally, but that will hardly matter. What will matter – and this is the important bit – what will matter is, people will forget I’m a novelist. (My original profession will show up as a Trivial Pursuit question circa 2015.) They’ll know me only as a familiar face. That little, old, bald guy who always gets the girls. (What? Oh, come on! nobody says. And yet, if Jack Nicholson can snag Helen Hunt, why can’t I have Heather Graham?) At some point I’ll be elected president of the Screen Actors Guild; shortly after, Governor of California. I think you know where I’m heading. With my feet up on some big oak desk on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue**** and with my finger on one of those infamous buttons – you know what I mean, you’ve watched Dr. Strangelove – then, all will bow down before me. D. *This BLOG, okay? **Okay, so I drew this lame bird on Paint Shop Pro. If I manage to win the Fantasy Challenge with “My Troll Lover”, I’ll win the prize: Saborra will do some commissioned artwork for me. Then I’ll have a delicious icon at the bottom of each page. ***Michael Crichton will spare change me as I leave my Bel Air manse. Bill Gates will ask me to float him a loan or three. ****They say that in this country anyone can become President. Ample proof can be found by studying the careers of every US President from Richard Nixon on.

Monday, April 18, 2005

So, you're saying this is NOT my fault?

I blitzed a lot of my old friends with emails today, alerting them to the presence of this place. Start posting comments, folks. Many of you guys know each other. Jake had his neurology appointment today with Dr. Ali in Ashland. (This is the boonies. We have to drive three hours to find a pediatric neurologist. In exchange for this isolation, we get a beautiful coastline, drop dead gorgeous countryside, a real estate market that is booming like you would not believe, and . . . drumroll . . . no HMOs.) Dr. Ali called me after seeing Jake and told me he has 'chronic tension-type headache'. I confess ignorance on this one. For me, headaches are divided into categories: sinus headache, nasal headache (yes, there is such a thing), cluster, migraine, atypical migraine, MPD (myofascial pain disorder, a close relative of TMJ), and oh-my-God let's get your head scanned YESTERDAY -- rule out tumor, in other words. I'd heard of tension headache, naturally, but I didn't know you could have a tension headache that lasts, in Jake's case, six weeks. Good doctor that I am, I consulted a reliable resource to learn more about chronic tension-type headache: the web. Here's a link to a MAGNUM article on chronic tension-type headache. MAGNUM = Migraine Awareness Group: A National Understanding for Migraineurs. They got their information from a neurology textbook, so it must be true. Honestly, though, Dr. Ali explained everything very well to me, but I needed to see it elsewhere, in writing, simply to feel reassured that it wasn't my fault. What's in a name? Turns out 'tension headache' is a misnomer. It has nothing to do with tension. The fact that I'm making this fifty pound nine-year-old read from an 11th grade literature textbook, that I'm expecting him to kick ass in algebra and learn physics, French, and typing besides, might be making him miserable, but isn't the cause of his headache. (We're home-schooling.) To quote from that MAGNUM site, "Tension-type headache is multifactorial and poorly understood." On the other hand, tension-type headache "may be triggered by physical or psychological stress, lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression." Oops. Bottom line, the kid is all right. Focus on the positive. By the way, Karen tells me Jake entertained Dr. Ali with his comic stylings, cribbed largely from the collected works of Monty Python and Steve Oederkerk's Kung Pow: Enter the Fist., wherein the bad guy announces, From now on, you will refer to me as Betty . . . (one of Jake's favorite lines). Trust me, this gets old after a while.
Coming soon: And Then, All Will Bow Down Before Me.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Two dishwasher loads in one day. Not bad.

I got up at 7:30, futzed on the BBS for an hour, then settled down to work on The Brakan Correspondent. This chapter has been a bear. Cree and her father have reached a pivotal moment, and it's essential that each of their actions be not just understandable but inevitable. Yesterday, I doctored Cree's scenes; today, I cut away to General Voss and his hijinks. Much more fun to hang out with the Dobolu horde than the poor doomed Huurans anyway. It took me three hours to write a little over 1000 words. Not bad, not great. Afterwards, I finished getting whupped by Jacob on the Warcraft boardgame (yes, there's a boardgame), and then I rewarded myself by cleaning the kitchen. Next, I hopped over to the BBS, did some critting, then got started on dinner. On the menu tonight: beef shank ossobuco and focaccia. I added too much olive oil to the focaccia dough, which led to a pleasant discovery. The end result was much airier than usual, almost cake-like. The ossobuco turned out well, too, even though I didn't have any lemons. While waiting for the ossobuco to cook, I played a bit of World of Warcraft, but Jake took that over as soon as I figured out how to buy a pet. He's upstairs right now, training his newly purchased scorpid, Jeff. Tossed off that computer, I came downstairs and started a mammoth project: I'm revamping Medical Consumer's Advocate. I've added some cool links to the ear candling page, in case you're interested, including a link to the infamous butt candling website. Anyway, with over 160 articles to edit, this is going to take some time. Karen's taking Jake to the neurologist tomorrow. With a normal CT, MRI, and labs, it's unlikely Dr. Ali will find anything. I just hope he'll have some useful treatment recommendations. I promise to be more interesting next time. D.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Doped exorcist philosophize the raw(a) vaudevillian with anisometric Ceratopogon

Stay with me on this.
  1. Karen and I sat in the same room with Jake while he had his MRI. Noisy as hell, but any of you who have had an MRI know that already. There's also something scary as hell about that jumbo Tesla-jelly-filled donut (no small wonder I write lots of valium prescriptions for my patients undergoing MRI scans), and that reminded me that
  2. Things used to be much worse. In the old pre-MRI, pre-CT days, we used to order myelograms. Basic idea: inject something radiopaque (dark on X-rays) into the spinal canal, tip the patient upside down to let the material get into the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain, and shoot some X-rays. This was painful, and also -- early on -- quite dangerous. Why anyone ever thought it would be okay to inject oil or thorium dioxide into the cerebrospinal fluid is beyond me, but hey, we used to radiate kids for acne and ear infections. Then I remembered
  3. Didn't poor Linda Blair have to scream her lungs out in The Exorcist when they made her pretend she was having a myelogram? Maybe I'm the only person who recalls that scene, but in my opinion it's THE only scary scene in the movie; the rest is pure camp. So
  4. I decided to investigate this a bit by googling Exorcist + myelogram, expecting perhaps that another blogger, my doppelganger, perhaps, might have already written a piece like this. Instead, I discovered
  5. There's a whole world of websites that dope their meta tags with words like 'exorcist' and 'myelogram', websites that want folks like me to come take a look in the hope that here, at last, I will find some commentary on Linda Blair's myelogram. Some of these sites sell prescription drugs; many more are porn sites. Now, I consider myself a student of human perversion, but even I had not heard of bangboatbackseatbangers. (Look for yourself if you're so damned curious. Despite the neologism, the sex is horribly pedestrian.) But it gets even better.
  6. A website with the title line, 'Breast pain progestin -- hungry titties taste the studded pubes with wet maidenhead' actually sells Ultram; the same website has a separate page (with identical content) entitled 'vioxx and aspirin allergy -- Statuesque vulva smack the knobbed teats with thin balls'. And I'm thinking
  7. Man, they really want to sell Ultram, and
  8. I could write this stuff.
The horror, boys and girls. The horror. D

Friday, April 15, 2005

I should be tickled silly

Last night I had one of those moments. I realized that in a few hours' time, our lives could change forever. Why? Because this morning, my son had an MRI of the brain. He's had a constant headache for the past five weeks. His mother and his pediatrician both seemed ready to write this off as a particularly nasty viral crud, but I've seen too many kids with brain tumors. It didn't help that the mom of one of those patients came by to thank me last week. (Sure, it's nice when people do that, but it stirred the pot.) Nor did it help when I told myself that those other kids were a lot sicker than Jake. They had much worse neurologic symptoms (says I), they LOOKED sick, and so forth. That little creep in the back of my head (trust me, you want your doctor to own a creep like this) merely said, "It could STILL BE SOMETHING HORRIBLE. You can't drop it just yet." And so we got the head CT last week. Normal. Does that let Jake off the hook? No! Some of the nasties will only show up on MRI. So why do I bother with the head CT? Go figure. Last night, I thought about Life after Diagnosis: the mental distortion that comes from hanging on to hope, when the odds are so slim; the painful trifecta of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy (what's worse: living through that, or watching your child live through it?) The loss of function. The dissolution of personality. We doctors are a fucked up lot. By this morning, I'd gone past that stage. As Jake's appointment neared, I found it more and more difficult to dwell on 'what if'. Now I was in Writer Mode, already assuming the MRI would be fine, mentally composing my daily blog entry. Realizing: asshole, this isn't about you. But writing, like medicine, is a fundamentally egocentric activity. (More on that some other time.) Well, Jake's fine, naturally. Otherwise, we'd be flying or driving to Portland right now. Next up is the neurology appointment on Monday in Ashland. Jake went through the MRI like a champ, by the way. He barely flinched when the tech injected the contrast, and weathered the nauseating flushing reaction that came with it. He saw the films afterwards and commented on what a nice looking brain he had. I looked through the films, too, with quite a different frame of mind (that fuzziness -- is that just volume averaging? And what's that dark spot -- flow void, or something else?) Obvious enough that there weren't any big gumbas, to use the technical term, but was there something subtle present that only the radiologist would see? Nope. The radiologist gave us a clean bill of health, too. So. I should be relieved, tickled pink, delighted. I am relieved, but I still feel tight. Really go figure. D.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Who says I can't give it away for free?

For the past two months, I've been bruxing over "Cornucopia", my first story to make the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine's almost-but-not-quite-yet cut. Today, I received my ASIM: Sorry email. They have a policy not to keep stories -- even stories they love -- for more than a few months. All this is depressing, naturally, BUT, and I paraphrase their email, 'if you've made it this far, we're sure you'll have no trouble placing this story.' Ahem. Surely they know how tough the fiction market is (not to mention the humor market)? With Planet Relish defunct, where else can humorists go? Yeah, the occasional funny story shows up in F&SF or SciFi.Com, but when it comes to my personal brand of raunchy yucks, ASIM's the best market. I'm tempted to email them back: Look, guys, if you want to hang on to "Cornucopia" a few months longer, go right ahead. I'd like to see the story published where it belongs. I like that where it belongs bit. Up until that moment, the underlying message reeks of desperation. But with where it belongs, I've placed my lips firmly upon their collective editorial asses. I'm told this works sometimes. On a not-quite-unrelated note, I've posted one of my older short stories ("Omega Point Books") on the website. OPB is a homeless waif of a story . . . until now. John Scalzi's blog, Whatever, inspired me to do this. Scroll down to John's April 11 post -- he has some very interesting thoughts on copyright, fair use, and fan fiction. He's made me realize the wisdom of giving stuff away for free. Why post "Omega Point Books" and not "Cornucopia"? Hey, if I've made it this far, the ASIM editors are sure I'll have no problem placing my story. Do you think I'm nuts? D.

Does my butt look fat in these scrubs?

Surgery day for yours truly here at St. Mammon Community Hospital. Not only will my cases fill up most of the day, but we have Surgery Committee Meeting this evening, which promises to be as fun as a Roman ad bestias execution. Will it be the wolves today, Sir, or the hyenas? The lions, perhaps? Oh, good choice, Sir. Bravo. (Oh, Hoffman. You're just p.o.'d cuz they never have Atkins-friendly food at those meetings.) D.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It never stops.

One reason I continue to fork over the cash for my subscription to Nature is the quality of their book reviews. In the March 24 edition, Simon Singh covers John D. Barrow's The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless, Endless. Here's a quote, but the full text is linked above. "We learn that one of Hilbert's students committed suicide when he failed to solve a particular mathematical problem. Hilbert was asked to speak at the funeral, so he stood at the graveside and matter-of-factly explained that the problem was not particularly difficult and that the young man had merely failed to look at it in the right way." And I'm thinking: as much as I would dearly love to read this book, will I? There are so many books I want to read before I die, and yet I can't find time to get through more than one or two a month. That's how far we humans exist below the infinite. D

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tales of the Dying Earth

I live in a place where we have to drive 90 minutes to get to a real bookstore (Borders in Eureka). Amazon will only get you so far; sometimes a guy has gotta browse. This last Sunday, I picked up Jack Vance's Tales of the Dying Earth: all four novels in the series are now available in one volume. I found a nice bio on Vance here at Answers.Com. Vance is my hero: 88 years old and still chugging out novels. Can't get much better. Here's a link to his latest, Lurulu. At least, I think it's his latest. This guy stays busy. D

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sin City, yeah!

Karen and I went to see Sin City this afternoon. We left Jake behind, which turned out to be a good thing -- way too violent for him. Almost way too violent for me. I didn't do a Joe Bob Briggs-style amputation- or decapitation-count, but it was up there. Fortunately, none of it was particularly realistic. Good stuff, however. I can't think of a movie which captures the look and feel of a graphic novel quite as well as Sin City . . . The Crow comes close. Not a great writing weekend. I've done a fair bit of critting for others, and a lot of thinking about my prologue. Lev has given me a lot to chew on. Leading with my villains has thrown more than a couple of people, so I may go back to an older version of the prologue where I opened with one of my protag, and quickly segued into my villains -- first, clearly identifying them as such. That dumbs it down a bit, but clarity is paramount. D

Las Vegas, circa 1998 Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 09, 2005

My Troll Lover

Sometimes I wish we lived in a world where you didn't have to be Stephen King or Neil Gaiman to get a short story collection published. Shorts come out of me like nobody's business. It took three days to write "My Troll Lover". Would have been two, but last night I left it with a lame ending, and that had to get fixed. Spin the penultimate scene like so, add a new last scene, and voila. The result made me feel all gooey inside -- a good kind of gooey. "My Troll Lover" is a sober meditation on sexual identity in the postmodern adolescent demimonde. Here's an excerpt: Mitzi Gaines and the rest of the Spirit crowd had started in on me as soon as the Ghost was out the door. “Troll tramp, troll tramp . . .” Yeah, on and on like that. Bitches. They kicked me off Varsity Cheer when I first began dating the Ghost. If he were Negro I could sue, Daddy said, but the law gave no protection to trans-species . . . relationships. And the way Daddy said that, I could almost hear it. You know what I’m talking about. Troll tramp, troll tramp . . . Proper girls don’t date trolls. We don’t touch them; we don’t kiss them; we certainly don’t allow them to rake their pointy triangular teeth through the frizz above our Holy of Holies. Okay, so it's really just a fluffy bit of mind candy about horny* kids. Fun to write, fun to read. I had to break away from The Brakan Correspondent because, honestly, my poor birdies are taking it in the tail right about now. I needed "My Troll Lover" to pull out of this funk. Steamy troll-foo is up at the BBS, if you're interested (Fantasy Challenge). Let me know what you think. Doug Hoffman
*Ah, puns. Toe jam of the humor pantheon. You gotta love 'em.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Pilot Study

Here it is. Number One. This is a test . . . D