Monday, October 31, 2005

Contest Pimpage

Demented Michelle has posted all entries to her Halloween Prank Challenge here. Head on over, read 'em, and vote for your favorite. You've probably already read my entry, but what the hey, read it again. I know y'all can't get enough of my hacky sack. Elsewhere in the 'osphere, Invisible Lizard is hosting a challenge (details here) for NaNoWriMo participants. As I understand the rules, contestants who fail to complete their 50K words must clean the toe jam from those of us who finish. Yeah. Something like that. D. Technorati tag: , Okay, I'm kidding about the toe jam . . . but I still can't make head nor tails of the rules. My brain is still fuzzed over from the move, I suppose.

Weird Halloween

Not what I'd call my first choice for Halloween. Only decent stuff I could find at the viddy store: Evil Dead, Reanimator 2, and Ringu. And what does Jake want to watch tonight? To Kill a Mockingbird. Um . . . not scary? Maybe I'm in a bad mood because I'm using my kickass new gas range/oven and the house smells like natural gas. That's not right, right? At least I figured out how to use my kickass new dishwasher.
Halloween never used to be my favorite holiday. That would be Hannukah, for obvious reasons; second favorite, July 4th. Call me a revolutionary at heart. That, or a pyromaniac. What is it with me and incomplete sentences today? I seem to be hung up. On them. Maybe I'm gearing up for a month of crappy speed-writing. Here's what I remember about childhood Halloween: almost nothing. My only costumes were cheapy store-bought rigs with simple gowns, masks held in place with rubber bands that always broke way too early. If I have my goody sack in one hand and I'm holding my mask to my face with the other, how do I knock? With my foot, naturally. Some neighbors objected to my door-kicking technique. I watched the Charlie Brown Halloween Special every year. I don't know why; I hated every aspect of that show, from Charlie Brown's pathetic "I got a rock," to idiotic Linus's Great Pumpkin religion, to Snoopy, who nowadays makes me think those dog-eating cultures have the right idea. I carved unimaginative pumpkins, mostly for the seeds. Yum. Soak in brine, rub off most (not all!) of the stringy orange guts, then roast in the oven until crispy. Chew up whole. Your colon will thank you for the fiber load. No, I had to hit adulthood to fall in love with Halloween.
My favorite Halloween: second year of med school, Karen and I held a Reanimator Halloween party. We played a video of Reanimator for our friends, who were told to bring food shaped like body parts. Our friend Dean brought a chocolate cake shaped like feet. Karen carved out a watermelon, made it look like a head (pumpkin-style), filled the shell with fruit salad, and stuck a bunch of yellow Gatorade-filled hypodermic needles into the watermelon rind. I have to finish cooking dinner. Nothing fun, unfortunately: pork chops, yams, and broccoli. D. Technorati tag:

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cuz Beth's doing it

Not far off from CHUD, eh? D.

What to watch on All Hallow's Eve

I doubt you'll be surprised to learn that Halloween is our favorite holiday. When Jacob (now ten years old) announced he didn't want to go candy-raiding this year, it saddened me. I didn't ask him why, mostly because I dreaded the "I'm too old for that now" response. It might have more to do with his lack of a costume, but that pushes the issue back one step. Why didn't he pester me about the costume months in advance, as he's done for the last seven years? He hasn't even asked to carve a pumpkin. Damn it, I'm going to get choked up if I keep thinking about this. On the other hand, I'm also relieved. Thanks to the move, I'm sore as hell, and there are a lot of other things I should be doing besides crafting a cool costume, buying a pumpkin, or blogging. Nevertheless, I'd like to do something special. I think we should rent a movie. Here's my short list of films to watch for Halloween. I dislike slasher flicks, so you won't find any of the usual recommendations here. 3. Reanimator (1985) Even stuffy Pauline Kael, a critic who never liked a single Kubrick film, loved Reanimator. Based loosely on H. P. Lovecraft's Herbert West, Reanimator, this film sets the bar for all humor-horror films. Jeffrey Combs gives his best over-the-top performance as West, David Gale (who's a dead ringer for Senator John Kerry -- watch it and tell me I'm wrong) as the evil Dr. Hill, and Barbara Crampton as the Dean's daughter and winner of my Best Movie Breasts Ever award. Reanimator gives new meaning to the phrase giving head. Who says you need a penis to satisfy a woman? 2. Dead Alive (AKA Braindead, 1992) Ever wonder what Peter Jackson was up to before he got all cozy with hobbits and elves and such? Rent Dead Alive, the funniest zombie flick ever filmed. Engaging young Timothy Balme plays a young man with amorous intentions towards the beautiful Paquita (Diana Penalver). But will his domineering mother (Elizabeth Moody) let him out from under her thumb? Featuring the dreaded Sumatran rat monkey (one bite and you'll be feasting on brains), interesting new uses for your lawnmower, and the largest vagina dentata ever committed to film. If Karen were writing today's blog, this would be number one. Come to think of it, it should be number one, but I'm too lazy to change things now. 1. Parents (1989) In what might be described as the dark side of Leave it to Beaver, Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt star as the eponymous mom and dad of darling moppet Bryan Madorsky. Madorsky plays Michael Laemle, a child who develops increasingly paranoid fantasies about his folks. Are his parents extraterrestrials? What are those leftovers made of? The film was billed as an SF comedy, but horror seems a more apt genre for this nugget. By the way, Karen does not endorse this recommendation. She warns that it's depressing and disturbing. Happy Halloween! D. Technorati tag:

Behind the NYT Select firewall

Today's New York Times Op-Ed lineup features Nicholas Kristof, Frank Rich, and David Brooks. In brief: Kristof calls for Dick Cheney's resignation, Rich charts the Cheney-Bush Administration's far-reaching deception and manipulation of the American public, and David Brooks calls us lefties a bunch of paranoid wackos. It's a beautiful Sunday morning here on America's northwest coast, and I can think of nothing better to do but read the NY Times online, drink my coffee, and try not to move too much. Blogging is always an excellent excuse to not move too much. My back isn't kvetching too loudly, but the day is still young. Rich's column is the must-read of the three. (Note: I haven't found full text of Brooks's column, but the snips I've read are worthwhile only for amusement value.) From Rich's column (One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada, reprinted in full by Nevada Thunder): There are many other mysteries to be cracked, from the catastrophic, almost willful failure of the Pentagon to plan for the occupation of Iraq to the utter ineptitude of the huge and costly Department of Homeland Security that was revealed in all its bankruptcy by Katrina. There are countless riddles, large and small. Why have the official reports on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo spared all but a single officer in the chain of command? Why does Halliburton continue to receive lucrative government contracts even after it’s been the focus of multiple federal inquiries into accusations of bid-rigging, overcharging and fraud? Why did it take five weeks for Pat Tillman’s parents to be told that their son had been killed by friendly fire, and who ordered up the fake story of his death that was sold relentlessly on TV before then? These questions are just a representative sampling. It won’t be easy to get honest answers because this administration, like Nixon’s, practices obsessive secrecy even as it erects an alternative reality built on spin and outright lies. Rich then goes on to detail just how pervasive that alternate reality has become. My favorite line: with regard to Cheney's three-time denial that he'd ever said (on TV, no less) that the link between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence had been "pretty well confirmed", When a man thinks he can get away with denying his own words even though there are millions of witnesses and a video record, he clearly believes he can get away with murder. Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof (Time for the Vice President to Explain Himself, reprinted in full by Peking Duck) calls for Dick Cheney to fess up on the Scooter Libby fiasco. If Mr. Cheney can't address the questions about his conduct, if he can't be forthcoming about the activities in his office that gave rise to the investigation, then he should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr. Bush should demand his resignation. Yeah, right. Instead, we'll get more "we won't comment, since this is an ongoing investigation" crap. The truth will be pulled from this Administration like a rotten tooth. Meanwhile, For the Record thinks the call for Cheney's resignation doesn't go far enough. Instead, Bush and Cheney need a one-way ticket to the Hague to be tried as war criminals. Hoo-rah! Wingnut David Brooks weighs in (that would be featherweight) with The Prosecutor's Diagnosis: No Cancer Found, quoted at length over at Strictly Speaking. What hypocrisy -- Brooks accuses Democrats of either inflaming the public's paranoia, or exercising their own. Sound familiar? Yet the current left wing "paranoia" has, as its goal, the desire to see justice prevail. The Cheney-Bush Administration's paranoia has resulted in the death of over 2000 US soldiers and the maiming or death of countless Iraqi women, children, and, yes, adult men -- I mean, really, are they all insurgents? Lloydtown also nails the wingnuts for their hypocrisy. No Cancer Found. Give me a break. First the wingnuts work themselves into a tizzy by claiming that Fitzgerald will overstep his original charge; then, when he proves a responsible public servant, Brooks exults in the lack of a smoking gun. Wake up, Mr. Brooks. The investigation hasn't stopped. If anything, with Scooter Libby's indictment, it just received a huge boost in momentum.
Ah. That's much better. By the way, I must be doing something right. Someone slammed me on the "hot or not" rating button (right sidebar), so I've managed to tweak at least one person's button. D. Technorati tags: , , , , , , .

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A moving experience

Freshman year at Berkeley, I lived in a boarding house. I took breakfast and lunch at the International House, and my house mom fixed me dinner Monday through Friday. On the weekends, I had to fend for myself. More on that some other time. For now, let me leave you with one suggestion: bran flakes do not make a tasty crust for ling cod. I stayed in a single furnished room with my roommate, Russ*. Thus, when I left home for college, I didn't even need to bring a mattress with me. All of my belongings fit into the trunk of my brother's car: a bike, my clothes, an electric frying pan, a mixing bowl, a few utensils, record albums, a couple dozen paperbacks, and a few assorted tchotchkes. First furniture purchase: a collegiate bookcase -- four cinder blocks and three wood planks. I could still fit everything into the trunk. (That's the boot, Keith.) I didn't graduate from the single-trunk-move until I left Berkeley. By then, I had acquired a mattress (but no frame or box springs. Who needs 'em?) and a motheringly huge desk I'd bought at the Ashby flea market. I loved that desk. To this day, the sight of a large, blank, perfectly flat surface, a stack of clean paper, and a sharpened #2 pencil stirs the geek in me. As an added bonus, inside the desk I found a purple tie with a cow painted on it. The tie's grease spots made it extra special. When I bought the desk and the mattress, I'm sure I never considered the consequences. I had begun a lifelong relationship with U-Haul. At first, I only needed a helping hand with the desk and the mattress. The rest I could do myself. After Karen and I got married, the furniture acquisitions began in earnest. The moves became more difficult, but we still managed it with the help of friends. By the time I graduated from the ENT residency, we needed professional movers. You know what I remember most about those moves? Creative critter transport. We had eleven snakes at one point, including two eight-to-nine-foot boa constrictors, so the back seat of our car sported many tied-up, writhing pillow cases. No, we were never pulled over by the police. That would have been interesting. When we moved to Texas, we brought our two tortoises with us on the plane as carry-on luggage. We hid them in backpacks and stashed them under the seats in front of us. Since big tortoises are notorious for being able to claw through concrete, I dropped a good bit of money on those backpacks. When we arrived at our rental home, I discovered they had both fouled their temporary homes, so I took the packs outside, hosed them out, and then started whapping the first pack on the deck's railing to knock out the excess water. I became aware of the drone of several dozen tiny helicopters poised in attack formation inches from my face. Regarding what happened next, the chronology remains unclear to this day. The following things took place, perhaps in this order: I let out an unholy wail. One of the wasps separated from his brethren and dive-bombed my belly. I teleported from the deck into the living room, somehow managing to close the screen door along the way.** It took months for that sting to heal. By the way, that was the same move wherein I shaved off half a fingertip. Just Texas's way of saying, "Howdy, Jew-boy! Welcome to Texas!"
No injuries today, although my lumbar spine is kvetching. I should sleep well tonight. D. *A guy who deserves a blog all to himself -- 'nuff said. **Note added in proof: Karen says, "I'm surprised you don't remember this. You destroyed that screen door. You didn't close it; you went through it."

Friday, October 28, 2005

NaNoWriMo approacheth

We're moving tomorrow, in case you missed my poem, so I doubt I'll have time to blog until the evening. Only then will you learn what body part I accidentally crushed/flayed/pierced in the act of unpacking. (Yeah, right -- like I'm gonna finish unpacking tomorrow. Dream on.) Three days left to plan for NaNoWriMo. My muse is attacking this task with all the fervor of two Mormon boys on bicycles being told, "Park those bikes, boys, come in, and set a spell." Note that my muse is so taxed by NaNoWriMo that she has no energy left over to craft humorous metaphors. Here's a glimpse. Working title: Get Well Soon Blurb: An ambitious young alien plots to make his fortune by abducting Earth's finest greeting card writer. Main character: Pip, a Benevolent*. Highlights: Hollywood snark, clever digs at cyberpunk, surprising plot twists, a hard-as-nails love interest, lots of action, kinky extraterrestrial sex, and more! D. *For everyone out there who is not Debi or Maureen, the Benevolents are Whitley Strieber-style aliens (you know -- Communion?) who have an obsessive fondness for human culture and Earth contraband.

This is not schadenfreude

As I and millions of other Americans await Pat Fitzgerald's announcement this morning, I want to point out that my barely restrained glee is not schadenfreude. This is not partisanship, either. The atrocities committed in America's name in Iraq began with Bush 41, continued under Bill Clinton, and achieved maximal evil fruition under Junior. Junior is merely the ripe-to-rupture pustule on a boil that's been growing for some time now. No, this is about seeing justice -- well, I was about to say prevail, but we're a long way away from that still. Today, justice will get its nose through the doorway. With luck, it'll muscle its way into the room and not budge until it flushes every last crook and liar down the drain. Over at Huffington Post, James Moore writes in The Criminalization of Criminals: Leaking the names of CIA agents is not politics; it is a crime. Lying to congress about evidence for a war is not politics; it is a crime. Failing to tell a grand jury that you met with a reporter and talked about the CIA agent is not forgetfullness; it is a crime. Deceiving your entire nation and frightening children and adults with images of nuclear explosions in order to get them to support a bloody invasion of another country is not politics; it is a crime. Anyone other than Karl Rove and Lewis Libby and Tom Delay who does not get this, please raise your hand. The three of you will need to stay after class for further instruction in civics. That's putting it mildly. We're talking about DEATH, people, DEATH on a grand scale. Check out the images of terrorized and wounded Iraqi children on Maryscott O'Connor's diary at Daily Kos. We're talking about the death of CIA operatives left out in the cold thanks to the Cheney Cabal's vendetta politics. We're talking about the death of 2000 American soldiers, and counting. We're talking about the death of tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children -- look at those photos. How many of those Iraqis were insurgents, and how many were innocents? And this, all of this, is being done in the name of the American people. Time after school is the least of it. These bastards need to be deprived of power, shamed, humiliated before the eyes of the world, tried and punished for their crimes against humanity (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, extreme rendition, the continuing savagery in Iraq). Even now, Dick Cheney and George Bush want to retain the power to torture detainees. Impeach Bush and Cheney. Throw out every Senator and Representative who supported this war and still lacks the gumption to say this was and is WRONG. As pointed out in a recent Kos diary, the decision to go to war in Iraq wasn't a mistake. It was criminal . . . and criminals should be punished. I've seen every cherished American principle perverted under this Administration of thugs. If justice intrudes on this gang's party -- no matter how small, be it only a single indictment for perjury -- then it isn't schadenfreude if I break out the champagne and celebrate myself silly. It isn't schadenfreude at all. It's hope. D.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ends and odds

First the ends, For my Republican friends, And now the freakin' odds. For we're moving this weekend (What a pain in the rear end!) Not lounging like lazy old sods. Yes, we're changing our digs We'll be squealing like pigs Cuz that's how much we love U-Haul. That's a lie actually I drive trucks into trees And low-slung concrete garage walls.* Karen's learned from experience To keep me at a distance From lifting and driving and sharp stuff.** What I do best is opine And occasionally whine While the movers do all the hard puff-puff. Our first home we've remodelled But we must have been addled To think we could do it on budget. No countertops or floor covers Bathrooms still ugly buggers And yet we're near broke. Oh, fudge it! It tires me to the bone To abandon this home Even if it's to go to one better. Only one silver lining -- Stopping most of my whining -- We left all of our really good porn there. D. *Karen swears I have driven trucks without crashing them into concrete beams or tree branches, but I have no memory of such successes. **Once, while unpacking, I shaved off half a fingertip on broken glass. Ever hear the saying, "Humans have no memory for pain"? Bullcrap. I remember every second of that experience. My favorite part: the way every last paramedic and nurse had to unwrap my finger to look at the damages. That hurt.

Harriet Miers, WIP

Withdraw in peace, Harriet. You've been a trooper from day one; with your blog, you have faithfully kept us posted as to your struggles. , Dubya's A-number-one fan and top pick to be the new kid on the Supreme Court block, withdrew her name today. Yahoo News has a neat quote from Senator Trent Lott: "Let's move on. In a month, who will remember the name Harriet Miers?" D.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stephen Colbert soliciting fan fic

Yeah, you heard me! Stephen Colbert, lately of The Daily Show, now of the eponymous Report, wants your fan fic. Here are the guidelines, which I have lifted from Stephen's blog: No show to recap this morning, but we've got plenty in store this week! We're finally going to start posting some of the excellent fan fiction you guys have been sending in - keep 'em coming! I do want to remind you all that we have certain ground rules, which some people have been breaking. Specifically:
  1. All fanfics must be broken up into chapters, and sent in piece-by-piece. I appreciate the effort you put into The Colbert Odyssey: Search for the Codex of Wisdom, Shelly F. of Piedmont, KY, but sending me a 1700-page novel via overnight mail and checking the "recipient will pay shipping" box is not cool!
  2. It doesn't count as fan fiction if you just take a copyrighted work and insert Stephen as a character. I'm looking at you, Pete G., author of Harry Potter and Stephen Colbert and the Half-Blood Prince.
  3. Finally - and I didn't think this would be a problem, but it is definitely a problem - PLEASE keep your fanfics R-rated or less! We've been getting some stuff that… I just… well, I'd never heard of some of this stuff before. And then I made the mistake of looking it up on the Internet. Please, just... just stop.

That's it! Actually, one more thing. It turns out that a lot of people are submitting fanfics with similar storylines - great minds think alike! However, we've received more than enough submissions on the following topics:

Stephen saves the world Stephen the astronaut Stephen is a superhero Stephen becomes President Stephen hangs with Jesus Stephen abducted by aliens Stephen and Jon Stewart are buddy cops Stephen in the Wild West Stephen wins aliens over to our side Stephen the race car driver, with special appearance by Paul Dinello Stephen presides over futuristic alien techno-paradise Stephen on Broadway

OK, those are the rules – keep emailing me those submissions (!)


Get crackin! Come November 1st, you won't have the time for such shenanigans, thanks to NaNoWriMo.


The coming coup

Could orchestrate a coup d'etat? Merriam-Webster defines as "a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially: the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group." Here in the US, we have a constitutional government. When the President is sworn into office, he takes the following oath: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. If the President takes steps to suspend the Constitution, he is by definition engineering a coup. Still, most folks wouldn't see it that way. This essay by political scientist Daniel Hellinger covers the history of the suspension of civil liberties by US presidents. How many Americans remember (or ever learned) that Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1861? Defying the Supreme Court, Lincoln imprisoned thousands of draft resisters and Southern sympathizers. Yet no one ever accuses Lincoln of orchestrating a coup, except perhaps those good ol' boys south of the Mason-Dixon Line who still fly the Confederate flag. Thanks to the Patriot Act, the US Constitution ain't what it used to be. At present, the Bush Administration's position is that they can throw anyone they like in jail -- indefinitely, without trial -- simply by claiming this is necessary for national security. George W. Bush can use this argument to overturn major sections of the Constitution, as detailed on this web page (scroll down to the list of potential executive orders). So: it's bad now, but it could get much worse. The s are hours away, and there's talk of an expansion of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's scope to include George W. Bush's role in the Niger forgeries (the supposed "proof" of Saddam's nuclear WMD program). "Bush's brain" and VP 's Chief of Staff will almost certainly be indicted tomorrow. Will Cheney be named as an unindicted co-conspirator? Can Dubya weather the upheaval? This is a guy who has already laid claim to dictatorial powers. What will he do when his back is up against the wall? How far will he go? From the conclusion to Professor Hellinger's essay: Violence and international crisis have often raised the question of what balance should be struck between security and civil liberties. However, rather than defend the “homeland” from terrorist attacks, abridgement of civil liberties has more often been aimed at suppressing dissent, advancing some other agenda, or boosting the careers of unscrupulous politicians. Instead of boosting the careers, read protecting the careers. Considering that loyalty is one of Bush's obsessive traits, what will he do to protect his friends? I don't have much confidence in our President's self-restraint. I believe things could get mighty scary in the coming days and weeks. If the Executive branch of our government goes renegade, I worry that Congress will be too divided/conflicted/cowardly to defend our civil liberties. The Supreme Court may stand up for the US Constitution -- that is their job, after all -- but there are precedents for US presidents ignoring the SCOTUS. Lincoln did it (see above), as did Andrew Jackson*. But there's one more wild card out there. Take a look at the oath taken by our armed forces: I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. Coups can't fly unless the ruling cabal has the military's support. What will our generals do if they are faced with internal conflict between defense of the Constitution and obedience to the President? D. *The Removal Act of 1830 authorized the removal of all native peoples over a vast area east of the Mississippi River. The Cherokee took the case to the Supreme Court; Chief Justice Marshall ruled in their favor. President Jackson ignored the Supreme Court decree, stating, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." Note to my faithful readers: So y'all wanted humor and sex, not to mention more of me making a fool out of myself, and I gave you politics. Sue me. There's always tomorrow. Um, wait. Tomorrow's Fitzmas. How can I be funny about Fitzmas? I'll try to find a way. For now, if you're jonesing for sex & a laugh, check out Wickipedia's page on sexual slang -- but make sure you have at least a half hour to kill.

Review of City Slab 2(3)

My review of City Slab Volume 2, Issue 3 is posted at Tangent Online. Check it out. D.

MoDo with your morning mojo

: Dick at the Heart of Darkness
In this morning's NYT Op-Ed, MoDo sings what we lefties have known all along: it's the three of them, and Bush. Remember John LeCarre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? "There are three of them and Alleline," George Smiley says, reflecting the general wisdom that boss man Percy Alleline is too dimwitted to be the Russian mole. Now we know, thanks to Colin Powell's point man Colonel Wilkerson, that a cabal runs our government, headed by VP Dick Cheney and packed with the likes of Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Paul Wolfowitz. There are three of them (or more) and Dubya, you might say. Full text of MoDo's op-ed piece can be found at Cyphering. Snip: It's exactly what we thought was going on, but we never thought we'd actually hear the lurid details: Cheney and Rummy, the two old compadres from the Nixon and Ford days, in a cabal running the country and the world into the ground, driven by their poisonous obsession with Iraq, while Junior is out of the loop, playing in the gym or on his mountain bike. Yes, it is exactly what we've known all along. Soon, maybe, I hope I hope I hope, Pat Fitzgerald willing, we'll be cleaning house. I think it's too much to ask that the American people never again elect a cypher to the office of the Presidency. D.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wonder Boy 10/25/95

I made Beth's peanut butter cookies for Jacob the other day -- he really loves 'em with white chocolate chips and pistachios** -- and I'm making homemade pizza for his birthday dinner tonight. Usually, I use a focaccia dough (two cups of bread flour, one cup of water, one teaspoon of salt, one packet of yeast, one tablespoon of olive oil), but the crust always comes out too thick. Good, but thick. So tonight, I'm following The Fanatic Cook's thin crust pizza recipe. Cross your fingers.
I'll save more Jake stories for future birthdays, but here's one for today. As a toddler, Jake was a perfectionist. If he couldn't do it right, he wouldn't do it at all. This drove us crazy because he wouldn't talk. We knew he could talk. Just knew it. One day, at a Vietnamese restaurant in San Antonio, Karen and I leaned in towards Jacob and pointed at a young Texan couple at a nearby table. "Bubbas, Jake," we said, keeping our voices low. "Buh-buhs. Buh-buhs." "Buh-buh," Jake said. It was his first word. "Yes!" we cried. "You did it. Now do it again. Bubba. Buh-buh." Nothing. He kept his mouth shut for another year, and then he began talking in full sentences.
Happy Birthday, Jake!
You're Ten Now No More Free Ride
You'll find the classifieds on your bed.
D. **Yes, Beth, I'm tweaking you.

We need a little Fitzmas

Haul out the shackles; Put up the rope before my spirit falls. Fill up the stockade, We may be rushing things, But indictments should rain down now. For we need a little Fitzmas Right this very minute, Neocons red blood flow, Rove's balls in the light socket. Yes, we need a little Fitzmas Right this very minute. Need a little Fitzmas now! Tomorrow's Fitzmas, the Good Lord willing. D.

Aren't they precious?

Have your internet eyes been raped yet by the sight of ? I think this blogger says it best: Vanaf hun negende vermaken deze twee evil-Olson-twins onder de naam Prussian Blue, allerhande zieke amerikanen met hun nazi-propaganda.
"We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white … we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."

Dan liever toch maar die aan anorexia lijdende idioot en haar tweeling zus.

Not sure what that means, but 'deze twee evil-Olson-twins' and 'anorexia idioot' says it all.

I'm not going to say anything nasty about these two girls. They're thirteen years old, so I'll have to save the wicked snark for their VILE DUMB-ASS PARENTS.

The twins are a musical duo, don't you know, and they're bringing their message of racial purity to the hungry ears of trailer trash skinheads everywhere. If they come 'round your area, give them a warm welcome, okay?


Monday, October 24, 2005

Coitus interruptus

Have any of you ever been in the thick of it with your spouse when all of a sudden the cat started myowrowling outside the window, and you tried to ignore it, but then your son came tap-tapping at the bedroom door, complaining, "I can't get to sleep with the cat making that racket!" And after putting on your clothes and getting your son back to bed, you let the cat back in, figuring she needed something to eat, but she only wanted to get back outside again, and then she waited just long enough for you and your spouse to get hot and heavy again before myowrowling a second time, so you let her in and figured, "Oh, to hell with it, let her watch," even though she wouldn't stop complaining, but still you managed to get the job done (thinking, This is not what I had in mind when I imagined a threesome), and afterwards put the cat out again, only to have her snap up in her jaws the dead mouse which is what she wanted to show you all along, and then she brought it into your bedroom and proceeded to crunch her way through it on your carpet, because, damn it, she wanted an audience, too? Not that any of this happened. I'm just asking. D.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

And the winner is . . .

One long-ass paragraph: After waxing the racing stripes on my woody, she buffed my chassis with hands as smooth as a chamois. I compensated by adjusting her headlights and performing a tune-up, revving her engine until it purred. Her wheels flanking my underbody, I inserted my dipstick to make sure she was sufficiently lubed, then scoped out her spark plugs with my diagnostic tool. She lost all cruise control then, begging for more torque and increased acceleration, pushing me beyond the speed limit with a flagrant disregard for improved gas mileage. No problem with my 6-speed manual transmission. I greased her rear spoiler before she clamped her fenders around my exhaust outlet. I almost lost it while tailgating her, but managed to keep my tire properly inflated. I shifted into gear, applying my hydraulic clutch, which sent her anti-lock braking system into overdrive. Traction control became difficult with all the skidding and fishtailing. Then our radiators started to steam so we flipped on the defoggers. When her bucket seat lurched, I ratcheted her safety belt as my rod pistoned her battery. I thrust into fourth gear with a powerful gas emission, blew my horn, and burned rubber across the finish line. Daisy, I'll be emailing you just as soon as I figure out how to do a Barnes & Noble gift certificate. Thanks to all for playing! D.

It's a fv(king extravaganza!

Your dose of puerility for the day. From the Jammy Blog, one of my link exchange partners, comes this link to an instructive video on the word fuck. This should help all you writers remember the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb. While you're at it, check out Jammy's photos demonstrating why you shouldn't fuck with your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife. D.

Good Bad Sex Challenge: last call for votes

Okay, you anonymous contestants (you know who you are!) This is your last chance to vote. All entries are posted here. Email me your votes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entries. You may not vote for yourself. My email addy is: azureus at harborside dot com See ya, D.

Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure

Props to Nevada Thunder for posting the full text of today's Op-Ed column, "Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure." Right from paragraph one, Rich focuses on the question which should be on everyone's mind: given the lack of WMDs and no provable tie between and Al Qaeda, why did we go to war in Iraq? Rich finds somewhat different motivations among the major players. On the one hand, the Rove-Bush camp wanted to secure Republican victories in the November '02 midterm elections. Bush's post-9/11 political capital had hit the skids, thanks to the bungled effort to capture Bin Laden "dead or alive" and waning American interest in an extended Middle East war. Hence the impetus towards something dramatic: Mr. Rove could see that an untelevised and largely underground war against terrorists might not nail election victories without a jolt of shock and awe. It was a propitious moment to wag the dog. On the other hand, we have the Cheney-Scooter Libby-Wolfowitz camp: Mr. Libby had been joined at the hip with Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz since their service in the Defense Department of the Bush 41 administration, where they conceived the neoconservative manifesto for the buildup and exercise of unilateral American military power after the cold war. Well before Bush 43 took office, they had become fixated on Iraq, though for reasons having much to do with their ideas about realigning the states in the Middle East and little or nothing to do with the stateless terrorism of Al Qaeda. The desires of these two groups converged with the plan for a war in Iraq. Rich: "the path was clear for a war in Iraq to serve as the political Viagra Mr. Rove needed for the election year." The answer to Why? Republican hunger for unmatched political control of the United States government, and neocon wet dreams of a world-dominating American military juggernaut. Why? Because they wanted to rule our country with an iron fist. Because they had that same glorious vision for the rest of the world. And we all know what absolute power does, don't we? D.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Arsenic for Type A personalities

Curses, Jurassic Pork! I didn't need to see this link, which offers a gizmo telling you how much your blog is worth. What's his algorithm? That's what I want to know. Is it a function of incoming links, hits per day, or what? Meanwhile, Karen wants to know: How do you cash in? The kitchen still needs countertops! Candy, your site has me beat about 6:1, no surprise. Yup, that's my yardstick of success -- the Smart Bitches. D.

Maureen Dowd fixes a Judy Miller kebab

Peking Duck has reprinted 's Op-Ed piece in full*. In "Woman of Mass Destruction," Ms. Dowd begins by examining what she likes (liked?) about . I get the sense it's a case of one strong woman admiring another. Then Ms. Dowd reminisces about Miller's bitch mode: Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times's seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing.

At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, "I think I should be sitting in the Times seat."

It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.

She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw.

Ms. Dowd succinctly covers the flaming arc of Miller's career, and closes with what we've all been thinking:

I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.

Hmm. That assumes The Times would have her back; yet it's looking more and more likely that she'll soon be out on her butt. That's okay. With her unique brand of inflammatory fiction, I'm sure the Weekly World News would have her. Let her cover the Bat Boy Beat.

At the moment, the liveliest discussion on this Op-Ed can be found at Huffington Post.


*Such tactics are necessary because the NY Times now buries its most popular Op-Ed items (Dowd, Rich, etc.) in the Times Select Black Hole. Screw them. Their paper is in a state of crisis thanks to Miller, and what do they do? Alienate people by trying to score a buck.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Good eats

It has been ages since I blogged about sex -- four whole days, if you count my recent nut sack memoir. When I look back at the past few days, I have to ask myself: Why all this angst over the state of medicine, when I could be talking about oral sex? Check out that photo of Einstein. Not too many people know this, but it was this very photo which snagged Marilyn Monroe. One look at it and you just know Al could do the velvet bandsaw. I contend that there isn't enough oral sex in the world. Dubya's second term would be far more successful if Laura cut the librarian act and pushed his head into the thatch once in a while. Dubya has clearly forgotten that his primary job is to serve the people, and service begins at home. Get lickin', George! Look at your dad smoochin' Barbara in the bleachers. G.H.W. Bush knows what to do with his mouth. All those goofy things Babs said at the Astrodome? That's cuz G.H.W. had just sucked her silly, and 9/10 of her blood supply was devoted to a raging case of fem wood. Yeah, there's not enough oral sex in the world, especially among the religious right and the neocons. Clearly, if they aren't getting any, they don't want anyone else to, either. You know what we need? We need a bumper sticker campaign.
Your Country Needs You: Blow a Protestant Treat Your Local Neighborhood Evangelical to a Box Lunch Eat a Muffin and Save a Soul
Fortunately for the world, the times may be changing. A recent study reported that half of all teens in America (ages 15 to 19) have had oral sex. This study had a couple of interesting angles. First, numbers of guys and girls on the giving end were roughly equal, thus dispelling any sexist notions you might have that guys were browbeating their girls into going down on them. Go guys! You've clearly learned an important life lesson: 'Tis better to give than to receive. Or, Thou shouldst damn well give if ye expect to receive. Something like that. Second, and most disturbingly, there's a trend among today's youth to regard oral sex as a less than intimate act. Remember the baseball rules of high school sex? In my day, oral sex was a triple. Nowadays, it's a walk. Honestly, I don't understand this. Your mouth is your most intimate organ. Think about it! It's right next to your brain. You talk with it. You eat with it. French kissing is the most intimate sex act. Sixty-nine is a close runner up. Screwing? It doesn't even come close. Doesn't it say something that you can be unconscious and have intercourse? Only one person needs to be awake, and I'm not even sure about that. Considering the fact that guys get wood during REM sleep, it might be possible for two lovers sleeping in the buff to just sort of roll against each other in just the right way. It could happen.
I wonder if Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have oral sex. Considering that Michelle has had fourteen vaginal deliveries, the possibilities are, well, wide open.
Lame Excuses for Sex, #4
Me: Aw, come on. I got myself all hot and bothered writing tonight's blog. Karen: No. Uh-uh. This is a slippery slope -- Me: Hopefully. Karen: If I give in to you on this, you'll do nothing but blog about sex. Think how bad that will be for your traffic. Me: Shows what you know.
Parting shot: Flintstone or Betty Rubble? To hell with that; did you ever see any of the episodes where Pebbles and Bam Bam had grown up? I'll take Pebbles. She looked tasty. Betty & Wilma were frumpy to the max. D.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dammit, I was certain I'd be Inigo Montoya

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Which Fantasy/SF dumbass are you? I'm John Sheridan. Who the fV(k? I never watched Babylon 5. How could I be like this dweeb? Karen got Jean Luc Picard and Jake got Wesley Crusher. Somehow, I don't feel like I'm in the right family. (I was kinda hoping Karen would get Seven of Nine, but no such luck.) On a lighter note, this image made me feel all warm and cozy. (Beth, do NOT click on that link! It shows a small spider in a person's ear canal. You've been warned.) Okay, want some serious reading? Check out the post below. D.

Patient beware

Last week, I wrote about the anguish of making life-or-death health care decisions for a child (Sorrow in the trenches). As part of that discussion, I used hemicorpectomy as an example of an operation so heinous no one in their right mind would say yes, sign me up -- unless the only other option were the death of one's child. I encourage you not to google 'hemicorpectomy'. Hell, you're all writers (or, at the very least, intelligent readers). You can figure it out. Trust me, you don't want the details. At lunch today, I checked Sitemeter to see who was visiting my blog, and surprisingly enough two people found me by searching 'hemicorpectomy'. I followed this back to the Google search page, where a link to an Annals of Thoracic Surgery article caught my eye. I clicked on it, read the abstract, and wanted to spew. Yeah, I'm dumb enough to think, "Hey, I'm a doctor, I can read anything." But this . . . oh, man. A seventeen-year-old boy underwent a high hemicorpectomy for what turned out to be a malignancy best treated by chemotherapy: "No preoperative tissue diagnostic endeavor was made. Final pathologic diagnosis showed this tumor to be Ewing’s sarcoma. This communication alerts the thoracic surgeon to the need for definitive diagnosis of posterior mediastinal masses with vertebral body involvement, particularly in children. Induction chemotherapy is the accepted standard of management of these sarcomas. " Translation: this boy's doctors did not biopsy the tumor prior to making the decision to operate. After the operation, they learned that this was a type of tumor best treated by chemotherapy. Conclusion: you should have a definitive, biopsy-proven diagnosis before proceeding with surgery. Let me be very clear about this. I'm not a thoracic surgeon. I can't begin to guess at the surgeon's thought processes leading up to the decision to cut. For all I know, the outcome (Ewing's sarcoma) was an extraordinary rarity, a one in a million shot. I can imagine comparable scenarios from my own field, but how comparable are they, really? Do I have any right to pass judgment here? No. I don't. I'll let you guess what was going through my head, and I'll move on to my main point: Patient beware.
Once upon a time, doctors called the shots in all treatment decisions. You ignored your doctor's advice at your peril, and God help you if you questioned his decision. Nowadays, so we're told, treatment decisions result from an open discussion between doctor and patient. The doctor provides information regarding the various treatment options, including a discussion of the risks and benefits of each. Armed with this knowledge, the patient makes the choice which feels right to him. In reality, the doctor often knows (or thinks he knows) what's best for his patient, and can bias the discussion so as to convince the patient to make the 'right' decision. This isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes we really do know what's best . . . um, based on available information. Within the limits of current treatment options. Knowing full well that no one can predict the future, and that what's best for the first 99 patients might well be lethal for number 100. Once again: Patient beware.
No, you don't have to freak out every time a doctor puts you on antibiotics. Or, do you? How badly can patients get nailed by relatively innocent treatment decisions? At one time, docs handed out estrogen pills to post-menopausal women without a second thought. Now we know better. The history of medicine is full of such reversals. You could go mad worrying about what might happen. Great example: at least once a month, a patient will return for followup and say, "I didn't fill that prescription. I took one look at the side effects and said, 'no way.'" Never mind that those side effects are rare. Never mind that the patient took at least some risk by not treating his condition. Guess what? No matter what you do, there are risks. Choose your poison. Yes, you can get nailed by a single pill. Swallow it and your life may change forever. Is this likely? Of course not. Should you lose sleep over it? Probably not. It's a question of relative risk. Check out this webpage, wherein the risk of shark attack is compared to several other things (lightning fatalities, bicycle-related fatalities, and so forth). See how your predictions match up with reality. Next time you swallow that tab of penicillin, you're not likely to die or experience life-changing illness. Same goes for minor surgical procedures. What about open heart surgery? Cardiac catheterization? It starts getting messy.
High stakes = high emotion. High emotion = Clouded decision-making capabilities. Clouded decision-making capabilities = increased chance the patient will defer the decision to his doctor. What does this mean? When it comes to minor decisions, many patients will question and quibble. But when it comes to the big stuff, such patients will look their doctor in the eye and say, "What do you think I should do?" That's right: when it matters most, many patients will try to abdicate all responsibility for their care. And some doctors will let them. Think of that Annals of Thoracic Surgery case. What if the parents had given the surgeon the third degree? "This sounds pretty extreme. Is this really the only treatment option? Huh -- what -- chemo and radiation? What about that? Wait, how do you know surgery is our only option?" For God's sake, people. Ask questions. The scarier the situation, the more questions you should ask. ASK. If the answers aren't clear, KEEP ASKING. Still not clear? Get a second opinion. Do the options still suck? Go to a university hospital and get a second opinion. Yes, sometimes second opinions delay care and lead to a worsened outcome. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and go with the first doc who offers treatment. But you can still ask questions. Ask, ask, and keep asking.
I wanted to write something fun this evening. I really did. Perhaps you're thinking, "This would never happen to me. I would never be this dumb." I hope you're right. D.

Getting out the vote

Thanks to Marlys, Bonnie, Lingual, Daisy, and Scott for responding promptly on the vote. Just a tease: with five votes in, there is no clear cut front-runner. Seems y'all like your bad sex dished up in different ways. The rest of you: get crackin! heheheheheheh he said crack. D.

Friedman's Op-Ed: Leading by (Bad) Example

Good government and good parenting are not too dissimilar. Thanks to my dose of the Duggars last night, I'm thinking about child-rearing techniques. Seems to me the most effective technique is to set a proper example for your children*. What are the Duggars teaching their children? The "goodness" of conformity. Yeeech. Thomas Friedman has written a fine op-ed piece on the Bush Administration's "do as I say, not as I do" hypocrisy vis a vis Iraq. You can read the full text here, at fbihop. Bottom line: how do we expect to lead the world when the example we set at home is so atrocious? Okay, folks, I have patients to see. More Duggar goodness later. (Big hair! Ruby lips! Slapstick editing techniques! And more!!!) D. *One of the main reasons I'm disappointed that Louisiana or FEMA never tapped me as a volunteer: it would have set a vivid example for my almost-ten-year-old son. I know my willingness to volunteer made some impression on him, but I think the lesson would have been much more memorable if I'd actually done the deed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What kind of Muffin are you?

You are a Cartoon Muffin! You are a Cartoon Muffin! You have a great sense of humour and a quirky way of looking at things. We always think you are joking, but we're never quite sure. What kind of muffin are you? brought to you by Quizilla Be forewarned: if you read all possible responses to the questions, I can't vouch for the safety of your keyboard. Vomit, you know. Bad for delicate electronics. One of these days when I have nothing but oodles of time on my hands, I'm going to author my own Quizilla quiz. The possibilities are endless. What kind of heathen are you? Or: What deadly sin are you? Or, my favorite: What kind of sexually transmitted disease are you? What do you think? In preparation for Discovery Health Channel's airing of that H.P. Lovecraft classic, The Duggar Horror -- ah, excuse me, I mean 14 Children and Pregnant Again, I have put up a link to my Muffin Saga under This Week's Favorites. We're watching it Right The Fuck Now. And oh. My. God. Is it ever cutesy-pie.
I learned something fascinating from our town's Red Cross director (at least, I think he's our director; we weren't introduced). He was deployed to Louisiana for the Katrina disaster. He told us lots of fun stories (like the one about the sheriff who hijacked a Red Cross food shipment at gunpoint, only to be arrested for theft hours later), but here's the interesting bit: Louisiana didn't give out any temporary licensures to out-of-state volunteer physicans, nor did FEMA. WTF??? Over thirty thousand docs signed up to volunteer. Did the State or Federal governments make use of any of these volunteers? I asked him if there were enough local physicians to cover the need. His response: "What local physicians?" Go figure. We need national licensure for physicians. If that's too radical, we need some way to cut the bullshit red tape that keeps volunteers from volunteering. This is ridiculous. D.

The Good Bad Sex Challenge: Voting Rules

1. Please note that two entries, I and O, are above the word limit. Sorry, folks, but rules is rules. 2. Please also note that we received another entry (P) just under the wire. 3. After reading the entries, please send me your vote. Clearly indicate your first place, second place, and third place pick. A simple "X, Y, Z" will tell me you want X in first place, Y in second, Z in third. 4. Only contestants may vote. The rest of you can make comments in response to this thread, if you like. 5. You may not vote for yourself. 6. E-mail me your vote at: azureus at harborside dot com 7. If you're one of the anonymous contestants, clearly indicate in your vote which entry belongs to you (that way, I'll know you're not voting for yourself). My thanks go out to all entrants, even the guy with the happy knife. Great bad sex, folks! D.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Good Bad Sex Contest: All Entries

As of this writing, not all entries are eligible for the vote. See my last post (below). I'll post a voting thread tomorrow. Click here to read all entries. I've given up on trying to get Blogger's Expandable Post feature to work -- hence the link out :o( D.

This is important!

Act now or risk losing everything!
Two contestants are over the word limit: LingualX (205) and d. (291). If you want to be eligible for the vote, please respond to this post with the edited version of your entry.
Help a CSS idiot
For the contest, I want to use Blogger's "Read More!" feature (expandable post). I've followed the instructions, but it's putting the "Read More!" blurb on all my posts. THIS IS NOT DESIRABLE. The FAQ makes it look like I can decide which posts have the "Read More!" What am I doing wrong? For now, I'm going to change my "Read More!" to "Don't click here."
Duggar Mania coming soon
Out here, the Discovery Health Channel will be playing "Fourteen Children and Pregnant Again" tomorrow night. Karen and I will get to see the Duggar swarm for ourselves. Needless to say, if I see anything bloggable, you'll be the first to know. Think I've already milked the Duggar cow dry? (I love that image.) Think again. Look at what Rodney Dangerfield did with respect. D.

Contest Reminder

Today is the last day for the Good Bad Sex Challenge. Caress the steamy pink lips on the right sidebar to review the rules, read the entries, or post your own hot item. Go on. You know you want it. Tonight, I'll copy stuff over to my word processing program to check word counts. The limit is 200 words. I'll post a separate top o' the blog thread with all the entries (listed anonymously), and you can vote in response to that thread. Remember: you have to play to vote. D.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Say hello to my little friend

So Candy has a thing for Harry and the Danglers, eh? Candy, I dedicate this one to you.
For the first year or two after we got married, Karen and I lived on campus. I focused on my preclinical course work while Karen built lasers and TA'd undergrad chemistry. One night, I noticed something new about my nuts. "Karen. Look at this." "What?" "It's never done this before." "Oh, Christ, Doug. You could have warned me." "Now, come on. Look at it. Does this look familiar?" Teeth clenched, lips not moving: "I don't know." "You've looked at it. Doesn't this look weird? . . . I mean, you have looked at it before, right?" She made a careful study of my scrotum. Next to my right nad, I had a balloon-like swelling. It didn't hurt, but it certainly didn't belong there. "I think there's something called a hydrocele," I said. "Or maybe a spermatocele. Or maybe it's a hernia. Or a tumor." "You're the medical student. Why are you asking me?" "I was hoping maybe it had always been there, and I just hadn't noticed." "Doug, your hands are down there a hell of a lot more often than mine are. If anyone would know, you would." Good point. I decided to go to the student health center on campus. There had to be a night nurse there, right? Maybe even a more advanced medical student, someone who had seen a few testes. Maybe even a doctor. By the time I got there, I was anxious as a tom cat in heat. I charged in, found the nurse, pulled her aside into the hallway. We were all alone, she and I, but I didn't exactly want to do this in the waiting room. "Look at this, would you? This just isn't right." I dropped my pants and framed it with my hands, just like this: Only instead of a smiley hacky sack, I had my hairy nut sack well in hand. "I was getting ready for bed when I noticed it," I said. I moved it this way and that, gave it a good going over like I already had a dozen times that night. "It's never been like this before, I'm sure of it. My wife doesn't even recognize it. I was getting ready for bed, and, like, I don't know, maybe I was scratching myself, I mean it's not like I'm scratching myself all the time, but this time when I did I felt this big swollen thing that had no business being there. I mean, look at it. I'm a medical student, but I don't know what this is. I dunno, maybe a hydrocele, or a spermatocele, or a hernia, or, oh God, please don't tell me you think it's a tumor. You don't, do you?" I looked away from my right nut and looked her in the eye for the first time. She kinda looked like this. "I -- I -- I'll get the nurse." She was an undergrad, eighteen years old tops. Probably a volunteer. "Um, sorry," I said as I stuffed my goods back in my pants. "Busy clinic like this, I'll bet you see that all the time." She backed away, stricken. I never saw her again. She didn't call, didn't write. As for me, my little visitor disappeared by the next morning. He never showed up again, either. *** This is my entry for Demented Michelle's Halloween Trick or Treat Prank Contest. It's not much of a prank, but it's all I got. And, gee whiz -- if I'd been putting her on, it would have been one hell of a trick, eh? D.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A lack of perspective

While Jake and I waited in the restaurant foyer for the tow truck to arrive, a young woman bitched to the hostess about the lack of a fire. "We came all this way for the fireplace. A nice fire on a Saturday night, that's why we're here. And you're telling me you can't light a match?" The hostess smiled at her like she was six -- an accurate assessment. "Like I told you, Ma'am, there's a problem. The restaurant fills up with smoke. I can't help you." "But that's the only reason we came here. This is our special evening, we have all our friends together, and we want a fire." Our hostess shrugged and smiled, which seemed to tweak the young woman even more. "You could call the owners. They could give you permission. Why can't you call the owners?" I don't know how many times the hostess had gone over this, but it was obvious she'd decided not to waste any more breath on this nitwit. No matter how many times this woman rearranged "owner," "special evening," and "just a match," all she got for her troubles was a smiling, head-shaking hostess. Finally, she stalked off in a huff. "That woman lacks perspective," I told the hostess. Maybe I found this especially silly because Mother Nature had nearly smeared me and my son a half an hour earlier. Or, perhaps it's because I'm a doctor and it takes more than a faulty fireplace to upset me. I've been known to tell my patients, "Yes, it's cancer, but it's a good cancer. I was afraid of much worse." And I often tell them, "It's my job to worry about the really horrible things so you don't have to." It only occurs to me now that some folks might go home and worry, "What the HELL is he worrying about? Now I'm really worried." Sitting there listening to that dingbat whining about the lack of a fire, I found myself wishing for superpowers. Remember the end of The Crow, when Eric Draven inflicts all of his dead wife's suffering on the bad guy, compressing weeks of horror into a few excruciating seconds? Yeah, something like that. I wanted to give that woman a brief taste of horror. Nothing damaging, mind you, just eye-opening. As in: Look, you. This is what's really important.
Right now, I don't have bupkes for Beth's Smart Bitches Day or Michelle's Trick or Treat Halloween Contest. My muse is holding out on me, the wench. What do you want? Tell me. Tell me! By the way, I really really want to spend some serious kitchen time with Beth. Tonight, she's making pie crust. Check it out. I suspect she's filling that crust with something, but you never do know with Beth.
On a more positive note, I made a sizable dent into my next Tangent assignment, Issue #7 of City Slab. Delighted to report that the lead story, David Niall Wilson's "The Milk of Paradise", is a hit. Editor Dave Lindschmidt sets up some pretty darned high expectations in his opening comments, but Wilson's story delivers. Just a teaser: the story is based on Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan. Yee-haw, what a tale. D.

It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby

You'll find the full text for Rich's op-ed piece "It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby" at Grass Roots News and Truthout. No commentary yet (as of this writing) from Daily Kos or Huffington Post. Arianna has a good deal of commentary about 's mea no culpa, and you can read that here. Oh, my droogs, the pot's about to boil over. I can feel it in my Berkeley liberal bones. Snip from Rich's article: There hasn’t been anything like it since Martha Stewart fended off questions about her stock-trading scandal by manically chopping cabbage on “The Early Show” on CBS. Last week the setting was “Today” on NBC, where the image of President Bush manically hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity construction site on the Gulf Coast was juggled with the sight of him trying to duck Matt Lauer’s questions about Karl Rove.

As with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Bush’s paroxysm of panic was must-see TV. “The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts,” Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove’s serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in “Psycho.” Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.

I love Rich. Maureen Dowd often nails a good image, but Rich knows how to slam-dunk the whole damned story.

Rich summarizes the now well known facts of the Valerie Plame case: how the Bush Administration conspired to discredit a critic of their Iraq policy, Joseph Wilson, by outing his wife (Valerie Plame) as a CIA agent, thereby jeopardizing her whole network of field operatives. For you non-Americans reading this blog, this is treason, a death penalty offense. But Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald still has to (1) prove it, and (2) determine how far up chain of command the conspiracy went.

Next, Rich covers the history of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which formed in August, 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq. He outlines the circumstances that provided a climate of hubris, an enabling environment that permitted the WHIG boys (and girl -- don't forget Condi) to perpetrate this crime: namely, the fact that their inside man, Attorney General John Ashcroft, had his hands all over the case. Snip:

Though Mr. Rove may be known as “Bush’s brain,” he wasn’t smart enough to anticipate that Justice Department career employees would eventually pressure Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest, clearing the way for an outside prosecutor as independent as Mr. Fitzgerald.

Rich concludes his article by wondering whether we'll learn "how our . . . democracy was hijacked on the way to war." This coming week, we will at last see the fallout of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation. I'm hoping his indictments will be the first step toward getting our country back on track.

Speaking of "on track": remember The Bridge on the River Kwai? British POWs, led by stalwart Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), are forced by their Japanese captors to build a bridge. Nicholson scores an odd sort of victory over the enemy by not only building the railroad bridge but making a damned fine job of it. That bridge becomes Nicholson's obsession. Even though the other British POWs point out to him he's helping the Japanese, Nicholson will see that bridge built, come hell or high water.

I see parallels in the Plamegate snafu. The Bush Administration sought to win a war; never mind it was a war that had nothing to do with 9/11 or Usama Bin Laden. Winning that war has become Bush's bridge, his obsession, and he'll play straight into the enemy's hands to get the job done. By trashing our Constitution with the Patriot Act and the practice of extraordinary rendition, and by committing high treason in the Plamegate scandal, the Administration has done more to serve the enemy than Bin Laden could ever have accomplished through acts of terrorism.


This should surprise no one.

My Drag Queen Name is Monica Chan.
Take The Drag Queen Name Generator today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

If you're really cool about it, and if you get me drunk first, I'll even show you the pictures. D.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A joyous blog meme; Jake & Doug's near death experience

Gabriele has tagged me. Now we're even. This one looks kinda fun . . .
Search your blog for the word "joy" used in the context of "happiness." If you cannot find the word in your weblog, you may use any of the select list of synonyms below. joy — amusement, bliss, cheer, comfort, delectation, delight, ecstasy, elation, exaltation, exultation, exulting, felicity, gaiety, gladness, glee, good humor, gratification, happiness, hilarity, humor, jubilance, liveliness, merriment, mirth, pleasure, rapture, regalement, rejoicing, revelry, satisfaction, wonder If your weblog does not include a built-in search engine, then you can use Google to search it only for the word you wish to find. If you’ve found the word and it was not used facetiously or sarcastically, good for you. All you need to do is link to your earlier entry, and write a few words about that joyous moment. If, however, you have no joy (whole words only) in your weblog, you must dig deep in your soul and find something wonderful in your life right now. One little thing that fills you with warmth, that bubbles you over with quiet happiness, or tickles you with its good-hearted hilarity, or makes you glad you just took a breath, and are getting ready to take another. It doesn’t have to be anything big. A smile someone gave you; your cat on your shoulder; the way the light angles through your window and casts rainbows on your floor. All it has to be is something genuine, something real, something that matters to you. Because we all need joy in our lives, and need to take the time — from time to time — to recognize it. And sometimes, we need to pass it on. Even if we’re a big pain in the ass when we do.
Is that a long-ass set of instructions, or what? Anyway, here's the link: Jump for Joy, a painting by my friend and all-around cool artist Kenney Mencher. And I did, indeed, feel joy when I saw this painting. Oh, how I laughed. Kenney likes to create images that spark the viewer's imagination. He wants us to concoct a story to fit the painting. He's successful, too. I have his Fortuna hanging in my office lobby, and it's impressive how many different stories my patients come up with to explain it. As for Jump for Joy, here's my story. High school quarterback bets his girlfriend's best friend that he'll dominate the Friday game, doing lots of whatever it is quarterbacks do. (Sorry. Don't know much about football.) If he wins, she'll suck his stinky toes. If he loses, he'll strip buck nekkid, grab the pom poms, and make a spectacle of himself. In the game, she watches in growing horror as he intentionally loses the bet. Hence her less-than-impressed expression.
I tag: fiveandfour, Eugie, Candy, Robyn, and Lilith. Get joyous, y'all.
Before I forget: my Tangent Online editor, Eugie Foster, is vying for the title of Christmas Babe, or something like that. The server was jammed up this morning so I couldn't vote. When I finally get through, Eugie's getting all twelve of my votes. I don't even need to look at the other candidates -- that's how dedicated I am to my editor.
Jake and I went to Medford today for a fun-filled afternoon of rampant consumerism, camel toe-gawking, and general mallratting. At Barnes & Noble, we picked up Chris Paolini's new book (Eldest), Terry Pratchett's Thud!, and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. This last one is on Jake's recommended reading list for college. Looks interesting, but I can already hear him griping about the new words. On the way home, we had a near death experience. Highway 199 is one of those killer roads: narrow and curvy, with long stretches in which the driver has a sheer rock face on one side, a precipitous drop on the other. We'd had a rainy day, so the road was wet. Pitch dark too, of course. We came around a curve and I saw what looked like a bunch of dirt clods filling my lane. No, Maureen, I wasn't speeding. I had no choice but to drive over this crap. Long and short of it (considering it's 11:49 PM, you're getting the short of it), we had TWO flat tires, but I managed to get the car over to the side of the road without incident. I flicked on the hazard lights, assessed the damages, cursed, and flagged down some exceptionally nice folks. They drove Jake and me to a restaurant where we called 911 on the land line. Uh, yeah -- did I mention that this happened in an area where my cell phone had no service? Yes, "near death experience" is hyperbole. Still, I can't help but think how much worse this could have been. Jake and I are fine. Even the car will survive. But but but but . . . two flat tires, pitch dark, wet road, cliff on one side, steep drop on the other. Damn. That's it. Damn. You're not going to get much profundity out of me at 11:55 PM. G'night. D.

IIPM is listening

The Indian Institute of Planning and Management () story, detailed in full at, has dominated Technorati's "top searches" board for over a week. It's pissing me off. How do you create humorous riffs on an acronym? Alzheimer's victim , best known as 's love slave, well, she's a walking joke. The latest: will be leading the planned Nazi march in . I'm kidding. As for 's memory loss, I wish I were kidding. If that were a joke, it would be in extremely poor taste. Here in the New York Times, she has the nerve to claim she forgot her source. The woman has the credibility of Fletcher Reede. Awright, awright, that's enough whoring for the weekend. If I do any more of this, I'll end up with testalgia. Ask Beth, she knows what it means. D.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sorrow in the trenches

Luis Vierra (not his real name) came to our clinic thinking he had sinusitis. Sixteen, handsome enough to draw crowds away from a boy band convention, and with a haawt & steady girlfriend back home, Luis had much better things to do than sit around all day in the County Hospital clinic. He couldn't breathe through his right nostril. As for the swelling alongside his nose, he figured that "just happened" with sinusitis -- that and the pain, a dull, penetrating pain, like brain freeze from hell. The numbness of his cheek skin puzzled him. It didn't puzzle us.
Despite what we told our interviewers, very few of us went into medicine because of a selfless desire to help others, relieve pain, or vanquish disease. Some pre-meds wanted to be doctors because they feared death. Others did it because they were raised in medical families and knew nothing else. Back in the late 80s, a few idiots even did it for the money. If wealth is your number one goal, do not go into medicine. I had several twisted reasons for going to medical school, but more on that some other day. It took me about ten years to figure out the real reason, which is my hatred and fear of illness. I don't fear death -- when I'm dead, I'm dead. You know something? "Fear" is too weak a word. Illness terrifies me. If you don't understand yet, read on.
Luis's odd combination of cheek numbness and piercing pain was one of those paradoxes cancer so dearly loves. Nevertheless, whoever first examined Luis must have felt that twinge of denial we all feel in this situation. I'm going to touch his cheek and it will all be soft tissue swelling. I'll look up his nose and see pus, maybe a bit of redness. But, no. The swollen area beside his nose felt like granite. His right nostril gave us a window on the tumor that would change him forever. A biopsy and a CT scan later, we learned it was far worse than what we had first imagined. He had chondrosarcoma, an aggressive cancer. It filled his maxillary sinus and had eaten away much of his cheek bone. It had worked its way up into the orbit, too. We wouldn't be able to save his eye. Only four or five years later, we would begin hearing reports of successful treatment with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. The only treatment option at the time, if I remember correctly, was surgery with post-op radiation. To have any chance of success, the surgeon had to completely remove the cancer with the first operation. You couldn't go halfway on chondrosarcoma. I imagine the choice seemed depressingly simple to Luis and his family: agree to the operation or die. His parents signed the consent.
A few years earlier, in medical school, I heard about a child who had an advanced pelvic cancer. He hadn't responded to chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery was his only option. Unfortunately, the operation would be a hemicorpectomy. Hemicorpectomy is every bit as vile as it sounds. I won't distress you with the details; you can google it, if you wish, but be warned: it doesn't get much worse than hemicorpectomy. I remember the rage I felt hearing about this. Why would the surgeon suggest such a horror? On hearing an explanation of the procedure, how could the parents do anything but assault the surgeon, or at least scream at him to leave the room? Back then, I didn't understand that parents will do anything to save their children. Anything. Even if the odds of long term survival are 5% or worse, most parents say yes, because the alternative is unthinkable. I don't know what happened to that child.
Before his operation, Luis's girlfriend and family stayed at his bedside. On those rare occasions when they weren't around, Luis would hang out by the chart racks charming the young nursing students. He was a shameless flirt. I didn't see his operation, but I know it took all day. His youth and strength served him well, and he got through it without complications. My job as intern was to change his dressing once a day. One thing about cutting back to healthy tissue: the surgeon cuts back to healthy nerves, too. Luis required hefty doses of morphine to tolerate these daily sessions. I could have used some Valium, but interns don't bitch or whine. You bite your lip and do your job and keep your thoughts to yourself. The main thought, the one I had each time I changed Luis's dressing: He looks like a Netter drawing. His operation went beyond a total maxillectomy, including sacrifice of the eye, the lateral half of his nose, his upper lip, all of his cheek skin. I could see into his nasopharynx. I could see the base of his skull. Back then, our head and neck surgeons did delayed reconstructions. The idea was to allow the wound to heal slightly (granulate, for you folks in the biz) so that the graft would stand a better chance of taking. The graft would be a free flap: a portion of flesh taken from elsewhere and fitted in place, artery hooked to artery, vein to vein. Luis's void would be filled with featureless flesh. He survived that operation, too, but by then I had moved on to a different service.
I heard bits and pieces of what happened afterwards. His girlfriend broke up with him. His cancer recurred. He was told he would have to have the flap removed so that the cancer could be removed. Given that bit of bad news, he locked himself into a bathroom with a rifle. Someone managed to talk him out of killing himself. I don't know what happened to the child with pelvic cancer, and I never heard the end of Luis's story, either. By the time I was back on service as a second year resident, Luis was gone. No one talked about him. I didn't ask about him, either. I knew better. I did my job, bit my lip, and kept my thoughts to myself.
Parents aren't alone in making these desperate decisions. It tires me to think of all the adults I've known who have chosen the harrowing, maiming operation in exchange for a glimmer of hope. Now, at last, I have a patient who told her surgeon no. I'm doing what I can under such circumstances: I see her regularly, I make sure her needs are met, and I'm giving her a good understanding of what to expect at the end. I'm not abandoning her, and that's the main thing. But it's one thing to decide such a thing for yourself, quite another to decide it for your child. What would I do? I hope I'm never in that situation. I hope none of you are, either. My best wishes to you all. D.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Two penis anecdotes from the hallowed halls

Today, Beth wrote about her new doctor, who sounds like my kinda gal (professionally speaking). I considered blogging on my philosophy of patient care, but then I thought, Naaaw. I'm gonna tell two dick stories. Both tales come from a year I revisit in nightmares: internship.
The Punitive Foley
Foley catheters are inserted up a patient's urethra and into his bladder to drain urine. For lengthy operations, Foleys are necessary to prevent bladder distension. They're useful in critically ill patients, too, since they allow the doctor to closely monitor a patient's renal urinary output. Foleys have lots of worthwhile uses. Hell, I used one the other day to try to stop a nosebleed. In the wrong hands, Foleys are dangerous weapons. On my urology rotation, my second-year resident got paged to one of our hospital's most dreaded medical wards: a ward that catered exclusively to drunks and drug addicts in withdrawal. "Patient bleeding from his penis," my R2 told me. "Bad Foley. Wanna come along?" Bleeding? Bad Foley? WTF -- was it barbed, fer cryin' out loud? Of course I wanted to come along. Once we hit the ward, the story spooled out faster than Hemingway's fishing line. A nurse caught one of the drunks peeing off the side of his bed. She called a medical intern, asked for and received an order to place a Foley catheter. She inserted it, then inflated the balloon a wee bit prematurely. (Um . . . you're supposed to inflate the balloon when the end of the catheter is inside the bladder, not the prostate gland.) I heard most of this secondhand from my R2, cuz when I got to the ward and saw this guy moaning and bleeding from his penis, my gorge overcame my curiosity. Sorry, but I have no followup on either the patient or the nurse.
The Lame Excuse
As an ENT intern, my best and worst rotation was on the ENT service. On the one hand, the call was one night in four, and the patient loads were in the single digits. On the other hand, if I made a mistake on my own service, it could dog me for the rest of my training. The attending physicians, those guys and gals who would one day write my letters of recommendation, were ever watchful. One day, my chief resident called me onto the carpet. "Did you place Mr. 04yt-n's Foley?" She was a blonde frosty enough to do justice to any Hitchcock film. I could tell from her voice that the correct answer was No, but I answered truthfully. After all, Mr. 04yt-n hadn't screamed when I'd inflated the balloon, and he hadn't bled from his penis, either. What could be wrong? "Um . . . yes?" "You gave him a paraphimosis," she said, only without the benefit of hyperlinkage. That link, by the way, is safe to follow, rather educational, and will probably not induce nightmares. Unlike this link. "Which is what, exactly?" "You've done your urology rotation." "Well, yeah --" "You should know what it is." My R2 took pity on me. "Mr. 04yt-n isn't circumcised, right?" By then, I was so baffled by this exchange that I probably shrugged. "No. He isn't circumscised," said my chief, biting every word. "What are you supposed to do when you place a Foley in a circumscised penis?" "Roll back the foreskin." "NO. What do you do AFTER you place the Foley?" "Um . . . " Wash my hands? Kiss the patient on the cheek and say, Call me? Come on, Hoffman. Think! Or at least keep your mouth shut. "You're supposed to roll the foreskin back down," said my kindly R2. "If you don't, the foreskin constricts the glans, and it swells. Badly." Cool waves of relief washed over me. I grinned ear-to-ear and said, "Hey, I'm a nice Jewish boy. What do I know from foreskins?" My chief, still biting her words: "You're also a doctor, aren't you?" Zing. This story began and ended with my team -- I think. If my bosses were snickering about me, they were kind enough to do so behind my back. By the way: the patient did fine, no thanks to me. D.