20.10.17

Culture Vulturing: Three Times Lucky

Many years ago, as a senior in college, I had the opportunity to go to England for Spring Break (yeah, I know - spring. England. Not the warmest place in the world.). Because I'd been there before, I knew that once I got to Oxford, I'd head to the ticket booth to see what I could see during my time there and in London.  One ticket?  "Henry V" at Stratford

The visual experience was stunning.  There was one scene that took my breath away, when the French army, in gleaming gold, silver and copper colors, rises up from below/behind the ragtag English army.  Just gorgeous.  And then there was the relatively unknown lead, a guy named Kenneth Brannagh.  I returned to Oxford and told my mother that I'd seen an incredible actor, one I'm sure would go on to do amazing work.  His Hamlet, which I saw a few years later, was equally great. 

One time lucky.

On a later visit to London, Thing One and I were at loose ends and decided maybe a visit to the opera would be nice.  By complete chance, we managed to get seats to La Traviata.  Which, apparently, is considered one of the greatest productions in modern times.  Now, I hadn't seen this before and I'm certainly not enough of an opera scholar to have known this at the time.  I just knew it was a wonderful evening and that the performances were incredible.  And Angela Gheorghiu? A star was born.

Two times lucky.

Two nights ago I accompanied a friend to the Lyric Opera production of Tosca.  Why?  Her son is in a children's chorus and he'd be appearing in the first act.  Ok.  I'm up for it.  "Buzz" says that the woman portraying Tosca is gonna be big.  What do I know?  I know it was a fun evening.  The production was rather minimal in terms of set, but the performers were not minimal.  And my friend's son may have decided (at the ripe old age of 12!) to become an opera singer.

So, three times lucky.

29.9.17

Lazy Thoughts

Reading... adult books, still.  And am in need of a palate cleanser - yet most of my go-to authors either published earlier this year or aren't planning to.  Sigh. Ideas?

Listening... to whatever shows up on my iPod.  It's not that I don't care, it's that there's a lot going on and I'm using my time driving to/from work to think.  Yes, I should be more mindful or present.  Working on that, I promise.

Watching... the last season of 19-2.  I binged watched most of it last weekend, but saved the last episode for this one.

Following... The Lightning Notes.  My friend Diana pointed me to them a while ago and, well, it's a "must read" in my Feedbin lists. Example:



Uncorking... nothing, at the moment.  Lots of tea being drunk, however, thanks to finding MEM Tea's outlet nearby.  Although I will have to order some from my two fave Canadian shops soon.

Looking... at my cankles and really hoping that I can get off the Prednisone soon.  I really don't want to have to buy new shoes and clothes because of this stupid eye thing.

25.9.17

The easy way out (aka "the problem with Facebook")

The other day, a friend posted this on Facebook:


As someone who has autoimmune diseases, and as someone who has many friends fighting their own battles against them, I appreciate the thought but... UGH.

Look at the last three words: copy and paste.  Why?  What possible good will that do?  Why not "type AMEN and share" or "can I get 10,000 likes" or some other (to my mind) incredibly passive way of supporting people who are depressed, fighting a disease, or otherwise pushing for recognition or bringing attention to a favored cause or point-of-view?  Instead, why not encourage people to call their Senator or other elected official to encourage them to fund medical research and health care access?  Why not donate to research hospitals looking for cures?  Or to hospitals (or health care organizations like Doctors Without Borders who provide care to those in dire situations)?  Or, in your hometown, to a hospital or nursing home so those who can't afford good care can get it?

Far too many of my friends - and there are only two people I'm connected to on Facebook who are not friends off Facebook, one of whom was my father's advisee "back in the day" so of course I had to "friend" him - post these things.  One of my relatives constantly posts links and pleas to sign online petitions , none of which I sign because they have no weight much less vetting.

Example?  The amazing support (in school librarian-land) for Carl Harvey's petition asking for support from the White House to get a certified school librarian in every school.  So much excitement, so much chatter... and ultimately, the response was "thanks, we'll pass this along"

How many of these petitions, reposts, AMENS and sharings have an effect?  It's the easy way out, the easy way to sit back and think you're actually doing something, honoring someone or supporting a cause.  And that's one of the huge problems with Facebook.  The goal, as I understand it, was to bring people at Harvard together, to get to know classmates better.  The result, or one of the results, has been to encourage a passive form of supporting those in need or getting involved.

I'm thinking of posting a request that friends refrain from reposting memes, gifs, Game of Thrones photos, etc. for a week.  How many shares do you think that'll get?  Hey: share this post.  That'll help!

24.9.17

A suggestion

After a weekendfull (ok, really more like a coupleofyearsfull) of everyone being shocked, saddened, enraged, etc. over the ever more outrageous statements by Trump, it should be clear to all that there's only one thing driving this: his colossal ego.

Does he really believe his statements? Is there any mind at work there? WHO CARES??? If it can lead all the talk shows, dominate headlines and keep attention focused on him, The Donald will say and do anything. He's the little kid who knows that as long as it's attention it's good, even when it's about horrible actions and thoughts.

So... what if we just ignored him? Let him hold a rally or press conference, give a speech, have a heart attack, skinny dip in the Rose Garden, reunite with Ivana - anything. And just ignore it. No commentary. No discussion. No bloviating by employees of former administrations. No outraged twitter reposts and responses.

Put him in a Time Out.

And do that every time he acts less than presidential. Every time he gives an inflammatory speech.  Every time he tweets to his base.

It'd drive him crazy.

But maybe, just maybe, we'd all regain our sanity.

23.9.17

Achievement Unlocked!

I guess I wasn't paying attention a few days ago when I posted my review of The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole but... drum roll.... it was my 2000th (that's two thousandth) book review since starting the Killin' Time Reading blog in 2008.  Not every book I've read got reviewed thanks to work I have done and am currently doing on book award committees or read for professional review on SLJ's Adult Books 4 Teens blog.  Still, that's essentially one book every 1.8 days.

My name is Lazygal and I have no life outside reading.  For realz.

16.9.17

CRION over youuuuuu,...

Pardon the musical pun (but at least it's better than this one, which apparently has no relevance for the 30-ish and under crowd).

Anyway, as of this week we have a definite diagnosis for my eye.  Last week, a mere two days after stepping down on the Prednisone - and trust me, you do not ever want to go on a high-dose of that drug as the side effects are nasty - I started to relapse.  Fast.  Emergency trip to the doctor and yes, confirmation.  I have CRION.  It's something, like my lack of a gallbladder or missing cartilage in my knees or being a mere 5'4.5", that I'll be living with my entire life.  And the level of Prednisone I need to prevent further relapses is not sustainable over the long term.

It also means that starting yesterday, we (my doctor and I) will be monitoring my liver and kidney functions as my immune system won't be working due to CellCept, a drug that usually prevents donated organs from being rejected by the donee's body.  The good news is that the side effects, beyond an increased susceptibility to the average cough and sniffle, are minimal.  No more heart palpitations.  No more "post-vomit" mouth taste (one of the better Prednisone side effects!).  No more tremors.  And, with luck, no more relapses or fear that this will cross into my right eye.

Unfortunately, CellCept takes a couple of months to really take effect.  And you can't just stop Prednisone, you have to taper it off.  Plus, see above re: needing high levels to be able to prevent relapses. So I'll be taking both for a while.  Ugh.

Still, it could be so much worse.  I could be unable to work, or read, or watch tv or live a normal life.  I could live in Florida or Texas, trying to rebuild my life after Harvey or Irma.  I could have an incredibly serious disease that won't easily be controlled by taking pills daily.  I could be a Mets fan.  Or a Jets fan.

11.9.17

Notable Quotes

I'm FINE!
"Ruth Zardo" (Glass Houses by Louise Penny)

A propos of this post on Lightning Notes

8.9.17

Lazy Thoughts

Reading... a lot for the adult book award, not so much for the SF List.  And for some reason, three of my favorite mystery writers have released new books now so those are "palate cleansers" in between what's been a raft of bad books.

Listening... to Steely Dan.  Because. Switching to Alison Moyet before her concert next week.

Watching... almost obsessed with, to be honest, the news.  I shouldn't.  It's not healthy.  But I do worry about our survival as a country and as a species.

Following... this advice as school starts up again.

Uncorking... the last of the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir.  Need more.  Anyone going to Ontario and willing to bring me back a case?

Looking... at my apartment and wondering what I can weed/declutter next. Consider it Spring Cleaning, Part III

3.9.17

Imponderables

I've blogged before about my dislike for air conditioning. So, at night, I open my windows wide to let in all the good, fresh air (contrary to Thing Two's idea that it's somehow bad for you and To Be Avoided). Which, of course, lets in all the noises. All of them.

The noise that wakes me up at night, several times depending on how my previous day has gone, is the automated sprinkler system the building uses. It goes off at midnight, 4am and 5am. When the sprinkler heads are emerging from the ground, it sounds a lot like wild turkeys flocking (we have those, apparently they live in the graveyard behind our street), and that's what really does the waking. The sprinkling itself is quite nice.

This morning, The Herd woke me early-ish because... I'm not sure. They've been acting up all week. As I lay in bed, I heard the sound of rain, predicted to fall all day. And then, like clockwork, the sprinklers rising from the sodden ground to water the already wet grass.

This morning's imponderable? Why don't automated sprinkler systems have rain detectors? Wouldn't that make sense?

28.8.17

Am I your Eyeore?

We all have That Friend - the one who can never find the good, who always seems to have a black cloud over their head.  No one loves them.  No one loved them.  No one will ever love them.  Bad things will always happen to them. They could get a promotion and raise, and somehow it's not a good thing.  You know, like Eyeore. You want to be a good friend, but seeing their name on your phone ID or in an email just makes you mentally cringe and you have to brace yourself before answering or reading.

The past few months have been challenging for me, both in terms of my health and in terms of a family medical crisis.  I've tried to keep a sense of humor about this, tried to make light of things and focus on the good (all those wonderful day trips planned over the summer? gone.  but I did get to read a lot and relax so...).  I really, really don't want to be That Friend. And yet.  And yet.

As many of my friends are, we're starting the school year.  When I've seen colleagues during the Opening Meetings, most haven't known what's happened all summer, and for a few I've told them.  Not because I want their sympathy, but because it's the truth: no, summer wasn't what I'd planned but it was ok and here's why.  Then I started to realize, I was Eyeore:  I had nearly three months off.  I saw Hamilton.  I read so many books (so many!).  I - in perhaps a first for me - finished my Summer To Do List.  I watched a lot of crap tv, political tv (yelled at that a lot, too), movies and episodes of Chopped (don't ask).  Plenty to be thankful for, right?

So, to those readers who have been following My Tale of Woe, I apologize.  I don't want to be That Friend, your Eyeore.  And to those friends who I see as being my Eyeore, I'll try to be more tolerant.

25.8.17

Digital Detritus

Once more, cleaning out the efiles and bookmarks...

Finally, I'm resolving to stop apologizing for these things.  Deal with it.

21.8.17

Notable Quotes

"I think of books in the currency of lattes," Wilcox said, pointing out students do buy fancy coffee.  "It's a three-latte book, and you have it forever and keep it on your shelf, while the latte you'll pee out in an hour.  Somehow, we value the latte and not the book."

14.8.17

Culture Vulturing, kind of ranty

Since moving two years ago, there have been a whole lot of non-work related cultural events I've attended (work related = concerts and plays that are not quite Must Attend but really kind of are).  A short list:

Dance: BoSoma Dance, Dorrance Dance, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Music: Coeur de Pirate, Cyndi Lauper/Boy George, Sybarite5, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Jethro Tull Opera, Sinatra celebration, Bruno Mars
Plays: Hamilton, Elf, Once

Here's the problem: I hate audiences.  Terry has a great way to suggest to audiences that they put away their phones (which, duh) but it's not that - although seriously, people, stop.  That crappy video or photo can just wait.  Be in the moment, enjoy the show.

No, for me it's audience behavior.  Not when I'm at a show like Elf, which has a definite younger audience skew and is going to be filled with squealing children.  I accept that.  It's the older folks, the ones who should know better and who still, somehow, for some reason behave really badly.

Example?  The group of six friends (female) sitting in front of my row who did not stop talking and laughing throughout the concert.  There was no song they listened to, no moment they focused on, it was all talk and laughing all the time.  Until close to the end, when Thing One said "will you please just shut up for one song?" and they looked shocked.  Even more shocking, everyone in my row made it clear that yes, shutting up for a short while would be a very nice thing for the rest of us trying to enjoy a concert we'd paid money for.

Example?  The two women who insisted on standing and dancing during a concert, despite complaints from a wide swath of people who could not see the stage.  The ushers should have moved them but for whatever reason, they didn't (when approached, the women argued and refused to move).  By 30 minutes, everyone in that area was moving.  By intermission, it looked as though a huge number of seats hadn't been sold and people either were standing on the sides or leaving.  All because two people decided they were more important than everyone else's enjoyment.

Neither of those was a "those young'uns" moment.  They were all close to my age, if not older.

I don't have a ton of discretionary income.  But I do like going to things, I do like music and dance and theatre, and when selfish audience members interrupt that good time?  It makes me less likely to want to spend my money on those events.  It's ruining the enjoyment for younger people in addition to teaching them bad habits when in a public space.  Which, of course, feeds on itself.

7.8.17

Wrong adjective

When I first started driving back in the 70s, I didn't need a car because I was away at school (even when I was in college, because I got to borrow my father's car during class time).  Then I moved to NYC and never thought to buy because NYC.  Renting when needed was a far better option.  Then, 12 years ago, I moved out of NYC to the 'burbs and needed a car.

It was a great experience, finally feeling like an adult: I owned a car.  Shortly thereafter, I also bought a house.  Really racking up those adulting points, right?

Sadly, my car was totalled, so I had to buy a new one.  And because I worked over 30 miles from my home, leasing wasn't an option.  Then I moved to a new school, a new residence and didn't drive more than 10 miles a week (work being a 3.5 minute stroll from my front door), so suddenly leasing was an option.  And there was a sweet trade-in deal, so leasing, here I come.

That was three years ago and the lease was up.  So here I go, putting on my big girl pants and visiting the dealership looking to either buy out the car or lease a new one.  The best part was that the salesguy talked to me, not Thing One (who literally and metaphorically came along for the ride) and was quite helpful exploring options.

The worst part?  The 3.5 hours it took, between the schmoozing, the checking with the credit bureau, the schmoozing, the looking at the current car, etc..  And then came Mr. Business Manager, who schmoozed some more.  In fact, his opening question was, "are you excited?"

No.  I'm not.  I'm not a conspicuous consumption person.  I don't need the Next! New! Exciting! Upgrade!  and that "new car smell" makes me sick.  I need a basic car that will get me to and from work, to and from a few conferences, to and from family, and possibly a day trip or longer vacation.  All those surveys about "if your car were a person, what type of person would it be?" leave me in giggles.  It's a car, people.  It has no personality.  And my self worth is not now, has never been, nor will it ever be determined by the clothes I wear, the car I buy, the neighborhood in which I live, etc..

Was I excited? No.  I was tired.  I was eager to get this process done with.  I was pleased that I was being taken seriously as a customer.  I was annoyed by all the delay and schmoozing.

I get it, salesmen gotta sale.  But please, not around me.  Or if you absolutely must, don't ask if I'm excited.

3.8.17

Boxes, Boxes Everwhere

Many, many years ago, my BFF Karen and I used to play Barbies.  As I recall, we weren't particularly good at it, each vying for the fewest, cleanest (dare I say, minimalist?) lives for our gal.  This was in the Buy Everything 1970s, a time when Barbie came as one doll with thousands of potential outfits. 
Fun fact: the house Karen lived in was sold to author Grace Lin's family.  Cool, right?
Anyway, we didn't trade outfits or accessories, we pretty much decided which we had that we didn't want.  Not quite sure why, but we did. 


Flash forward several decades and once again, minimalism is a thing.  I've blogged about it before. This past week, I've been Home Alone and Getting Things Done, including re-weeding my books and looking through my closet and drawers for things to toss or give away.  Here's what's leaving the house as donations to local charity shops or school for sale:



I'm feeling pretty good about this!  

28.7.17

Face Value

Because it's summer, and because Prednisone really does start to bring back ever-popular acne, I decided to get a facial.  Now, I've had many over the years in a variety of settings and from a variety of aestheticians.  In other words, I'm no newbie.  Plus, between my daily routine (which includes lots of sunscreen, even in winter, and sunglasses) and genes, I don't look my nearly 55 years.

This time, I was told that I had gorgeous skin.  That I was clearly doing the right things.  But... I should come back every three months for "cell renewal" and every six months for "deep treatment".  Because... I guess I don't look young enough?  I need to do more?  I could be more gorgeous?  The upsell was so strong here that I just knew I'd never be back.

Most places promote products.  I'm happy with what I use, and if I am in the market for something new there are places to go where I can get something that also works, or works better.  But the promotion part I understand and can deal with.  Just say no, right?

When I'm told that I could use "education" and need a rigid regime to keep looking young?  Just Say No.  I'm happy with the way I look... mostly.  The things I'm not happy about, I can live with (and have, for over half a century).  And - most important - looking my age is not a crime.  It shows experience.  It shows a life lived.  It shows I have more to do than worry about things like fine age lines and sagging skin and age spots.

And that's ok.

26.7.17

Getting Things Done

Thanks to my doctor prescribing Prednisone, the past two weeks have been relatively productive. Unsure how that works? Well, about 30-45min post-dosage, I start to feel a rush. A caffeine rush. A five shots of espresso caffeine rush. And then... Things Get Done. Most of the physical stuff is finished, so now I'm binge watching tv while organizing efiles and doing other cyberwork.

 As part of that organization, the Do This Now folder on my desktop is open and I'm trying to figure out what that "Do This" means, now that "Now" is here (as opposed to the "when you saved this" of several years ago). While dealing with this health issue, figuring out what's going to happen at work this coming year and trying to help my in-declining-health parents isn't exactly stressful, it's not exactly easy going either. So it feels like the right time to post this as a reminder to myself, and others:


  • Be present with whatever you are doing and whoever you are with.
  • Add something beautiful to your life on a daily basis (e.g., flowers).
  • Do some enjoyable activities whenever possible.
  • Walk, work, and eat at a relaxed pace.
  • Take a short break after meals to relax.
  • If possible, go outside at least once per day and notice the simple things such as the weather, scenery, etc.
  • During the day, whenever you remember, notice and tension in your body (jaw, neck, diaphragm, shoulders, etc.). Breathe deeply and gently stretch and relax any tense areas.
  • If you notice your mind racing or worrying about the past or future, take a minute to breathe deeply and gently focus on something in the moment such as your breath, scenery, birds. Try an emotional shift.
  • Wear comfortable and loose clothing when possible. Take off your shoes when you can.
  • Avoid holding in feelings day after day, but instead, find a safe place to feel, express and embrace them.

(via)

17.7.17

A Study of (my) Reading Habits

It's no surprise that I've been reading for a very long time. And that my blogging has lagged recently. So this meme, via Terry (who got it elsewhere) is a perfect way to blog... about reading.

PART ONE
1. What was your favorite book as a child?  Good Night, Moon, which feels like a cop out because, well, it's perfect.
2. What’s the last really good book you read? Because I'm on a book award committee, I can't give you the last really good adult book, but in the children's/YA category Dreamland Burning, a wonderful retelling of the Tulsa riots (or pogroms, choose your word) in the 1920s.
3. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Fiction.
4. Do you finish every book that you start? If you don’t, how do you decide when to stop reading? It took me nearly 50 years, but I am no longer a 'clean plate' reader.  For the award, I have to read 100 pages of books I request.  For other books, 50 pages and out.
5. List your ten favorite books in four minutes or less. Write it down because you’ll revisit it at the end. Oh no.  I just can't.  Which genre?  I could list ten favorite authors, or ten in a specific genre, but overall?  Nope.  Just can't.
6. Do you reread books? Which ones? I aspire to having the time, and fewer books on Mt. Bookpile to reread.  Which would be the oeuvre of Julian Barnes and Robertson Davies, the Chalet School series and several other past favorites, like Shadow Castle and Possession.
7. Do you read poetry? Why or why not? Not usually, because books in verse feel forced.  But occasionally I do and I'm always glad.
8. Do you remember the first “grown-up” book you read? Leaving aside that many books I read as a child were actually adult books (Treasure Island and Little Women were not written for kids!) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (read when I was 9-10), Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt.  I'll admit a lot of it went over my head and on rereading years later I was quite surprised.
9. Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Robertson Davies. C.S. Lewis.  A.S. Byatt.  Julian Barnes.  And many, many mystery and YA writers (like Rex Stout and Garth Nix)
10. How often do you read books that are more than one hundred years old? Right now, rarely. But when I finish with this book award, probably once or twice a year.
11. Is there a type (or types) of book you never read? Not really. Unless you count textbooks.
12. How do you choose what to read? Reviews and recommendations from colleagues, professional publications, students and friends.

PART TWO
13. What’s more important to you: the way a book is written, or what the book is about? The way it's written.  A well-written book can transform a dull topic (see, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) and a poorly-written one can kill a great topic (not naming names).
14. What author, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with? C.S. Lewis
15. If you could hang out with a literary character for the day, who would it be? I want to be bold and say Pippi Longstocking, but at my age I'm just not up for that level of activity.
16. If you could be a literary character, who would it be? I have no idea.
17. Have you ever written a fan letter to an author? No.  I've never been tempted, either.
18. Is there any book that, if I professed to love it, you would be turned off? Is there any book that would impress you in particular? Nothing would impress me, but if you said A Confederacy of Dunces I wouldn't accept book recommendations from you.
19. Is there a book you feel embarrassed about liking? Nope.  An adult reading picture books, middle grade books and YA books really doesn't feel that way about reading.  Perhaps an occupational hazard?
20. Are there books you feel proud of liking or having finished? Again nope.
21. Have you ever lied about having read a book?  Yes.  Mostly books I was supposed to read when I was in school, like Revolt of the Masses by Ortega.
22. Do you keep track of the books you read?  Not before 2007.  Now I use GoodReads and a notebook for my award reads.
23. How do you form opinions about what you read? Is it engaging?  Do I buy the world (fictional or non) that the author is presenting? How does it compare to other books I've read?
24. What authors do you think are overrated? Underrated? My lips are sealed.  Doing Readers Advisory for a living means I love all books, all authors.  Publicly, at least.

PART THREE
25. Do you ever read self-help books?  On occasion.  Last one?  Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
26. What’s a book that shocked you? Can't think of one.  I'm sure there were, though.
27. If you could force every person you know to read one book, what would it be?  I'd never.
28. What book would you recommend to me in particular? I don’t know you. (Terry's response, recycled here because it's accurate)
29. What books/authors have you been meaning to read for years? Why haven’t you read them yet? Anthony Trollope, because I think I need some really dedicated reading time.  And Mt. Bookpile, of course.
30. What kind of book do you consider “a guilty pleasure?”  I'm nearly 55.  I don't have "guilty" pleasures, just pleasures.
31. Has a book ever changed your mind about something? No.  Not really.
32. If you were terminally ill, what book or books would you read?  As much of Mt. Bookpile as possible.
33. Do you have any passages of poetry or prose committed to memory? Can you recite something to me?  Huh?  If you were here, I could.  Some Shakespeare (do young'uns memorize speeches still?).  Some Longfellow.  The usual suspects.
34. If you could change anything about the way you read, what would it be? I'd say faster, but at 1000+wpm I'm not sure that's necessary.  Perhaps regaining the ability to read in a moving car/bus.
35. Was there any time in your life when you felt as if a book guided you in a profound way? Guided, no.  Touched, on the other hand... definitely.
36. Return to the list you made at the beginning. What titles, if any, would you change after our conversation? No.  I stand by my lack of list.

14.7.17

My own private episode of House

Remember the TV show House? Some medical mystery is presented... differential diagnoses are offered... treatments proposed and tried... nothing works... then, amazingly, Dr. Gregory House has some brainwave and YAY! Healing.

ACT ONE
The morning I'm supposed to leave for a conference I wake up with a very, very sore throat, possibly strep (I work in a school, after all). My doctor takes a look, swabs my throat and comes back with "nope, you have mono". MONO??? Yes, the disease everyone else gets in junior high or high school, I've managed to get in my early 40s. Yes, I know who I was kissing. No, I still haven't forgiven OR forgotten. And, like chicken pox or other childhood diseases, getting it as an adult is worse.

The bloodwork continues to show an active disease for two years, only vanquished by Xanax, under the theory if we suppress the stress in my body maybe things could go back to normal. The problem is that I now have Epstein-Barr and will have it, along with flare-ups, for the rest of my life. I start to practice what's called ECAM, or Energy Conservation and Management.

ACT TWO
My throat - again! - feels a little swollen, and during a routine visit to my endocrinologist she suggests I see my primary care doctor to get it treated. My doctor, like so many nowadays, doesn't really pay attention and the next six months are filled with tests and potential diagnoses and nothing really works. The swollen glands seem to disappear on their own, and my endocrinologist, at my next visit, thinks it was probably a run-of-the-mill infection that healed itself. My take-away? More ECAM and be very careful because this can - and has - happen again.


ACT THREE
In early December I discovered there was something a little off with my left eye and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. One examination later, I have a diagnosis: optic retinitis in my left eye. Now I need to see a neuro-ophthalmologist for treatment. Two days later, my eyes are being redialated and I'm doing a number of what I'll call "inner eye" exams. Yep, the optic nerve in my left eye is severely inflamed. Remedy? IV drop of steroids. Just to rule out other problems, I'm tested for MS, NMO, lupus and Lyme disease. The problem with the first three is that they usually manifest in your 20s-40s, and I'm in my mid-50s. Surely there'd be at least one other symptom before now? Of course, there's the idiopathic form of OR and that's the one I probably have. One MRI and some blood tests later, they're all ruled out.

The steroids seem to work, and by March my eyesight is 20/40 (with glasses, I'm usually 20/15 and pre-treatment that eye was 20/400). Fun fact: in Massachusetts you can drive if you have 20/40 vision. Except things in my eye weren't blurry, they were foggy. No amount of corrective lenses would fix that and most of my sight is through my right eye, with peripheral help from my left (this is mostly affecting my central vision). The six-month check up should be a breeze, right? Except... remember that episode of House? How the first treatment works, until it doesn't?  That's me.

June arrives and my vision is 20/70. My doctor is - to put it mildly - concerned and surprised because that is not how this is supposed to work. She starts to talk about possible other causes, and mentions a word that I never thought I'd hear: sarcoidosis. Yep, the House crew's go-to "this is what we think it is although it's never been that before but one day it might be" differential diagnosis disease. I could have that. Only a CT scan can tell. Annnnnd... no sarcoid (the 'in' term for sarcoidosis). CT is fine. So is a second MRI of my "orbitals" (which are eye sockets and let me tell you, when you see the results on the screen, you'll think you're related to Darth Vader!). Oh, and my first doctor is leaving so I need to see someone else. Soon.

This week was my fist appointment with the new doctor. We went over the progression of this problem and the previous testing, and then he tested my eyes. Yep. Worse. 20/100 in three weeks. As he put it, "you've lost several lines in a short time". Lines, I guess, being shorthand for "we're enlarging the lettering but if this were one of those large eye charts you'd be a few lines of text away from where you were three weeks ago". Obviously, a new differential diagnosis is required, along with new treatments and testing.

What's the differential? CRION (a chronic, remitting version of what I have). Syphallis (um, say what???). Rheumatoid arthritis. A few other relatively rare things I don't want to think about. But probably I'll be immunosuppressants for the rest of my life. Yay? Treatment right now is oral steroids, which could also lead to ulcers, bone density loss and the ever popular weight gain and 'roid rage.

ACT FOUR
Stay tuned.

19.6.17

Imponderables, things that irk me no end edition

I may not be the most tolerant person out there, but if you're reading this blog you probably already know that.  And probably don't care.

I've complained, via twitter no less (see below), about this trend to Scare People About the Weather Forecast.  Apparently, in addition to naming winter storms, the Weather Channel now feels it's important to state how many people are "at risk" from the day's weather systems.  And just like that, Bill Karins on MSNBC follows suit.


Let's leave aside why the Weather Channel, not NOAA, is suddenly the gold standard.  Let's just ask ourselves, if (as is the case today, June 19, 2017) that 65MM people are "at risk" the other 300MM living in America are perhaps immune to any weather.  Is there an inter-dimensional portal out there, protecting the rest of the US?


17.3.17

Have I got a deal for you

Thanks to the delayed winter storms and Spring Break and a never-ending cold, I've been watching more tv than usual.  And because I've been a politics junkie for a while, much of that it stuff like MSNBC and C-SPAN, so I'm getting a lot of what's going on in Washington.  And... it's depressing, isn't it?  No matter who you voted for, you should be depressed by the tone of conversation, the lack of presidential demeanor and the spate of "fake news"/"alternative facts"/Tweetstorms pouring out of that city.

Yesterday's press conference was a case-in-point.  Reporters trying to get a clear answer from the Press Secretary, who actually gave one of the worst storytime readings I've ever heard (and I've judged the NYC storytelling competition, so I have some expertise in this).  They did a great job of not laughing in his face but it was close.  It's fascinating theatre.  Crap politics, but you can't have both, right?  (at least, you can't these days)

One thing that I think is getting lost in all the budget bother: our president claims to be a Master Negotiator.  Everything he does is framed that way, and most of his campaign promises were along the lines of "better deal" or "renegotiate".  The Draconian nature of this budget and his government reorganization may be just that, a position that simply can't be defended or that will pass but will serve as a point from which to negotiate.  And then, when the budget or government size his advisors (because I simply can't believe that Trump himself actually has a clue about any of this) actually want, it can be TRUMPeted (see what I did there?) as a HUGE WIN.  #MAGA.  Etc.

I'm reminded of the episode of Star Trek TNG where Scotty tells LaForge that he always padded the time needed for a repair so when it came in well under that prediction, Kirk would think he (Scotty) was a genius.


Lost in their calculations is that the way this is playing out means many people will feel as though no one has their interests at heart, from the president to their representatives.  Also lost is the fact that while ultimately I may send less to Washington, I'll be sending more to Boston (and you, dear readers, will be sending more to Albany, Sacramento, Austin, etc.) as programs fall on the shoulders of state governments and those taxes will rise.  And rise.  As our president says, Sad!

5.3.17

Sliding back and forth

Since Thanksgiving, things have been... difficult.  The fact that we spent part of that day at the animal ER saying goodbye to Mallory should have been a clue that there was more to come:

  • December 5 my eyesight suddenly took an odd turn, with a massively inflamed optic nerve in my left eye.  Things are still not back to what the neuro-ophthalmologist calls "baseline" but she did warn me that it could take 3-6 months.  And no, no guarantee that it will never recur.  
  • Early February, a migraine led to a norovirus which morphed into a head cold that is still (still!) plaguing me.  Even a wonderful shopping trip (new Lamy pen, new Hermes scarf) and high tea to celebrate turning 54 didn't help... on the other hand, doing all that with a fever probably wasn't the best plan I've ever had.  Every time I think it's all gone, it rears its ugly sinus-filled coughing head.  
  • Two weeks ago, BoyCat was running to the litter box ever few minutes.  I know that that means - a possible case of FUS (now known as FLUTD).  Back to the local animal ER.  No blockage.  The same pattern yesterday.  But this time his bloodwork said Urinary Tract Infection.  So today we're heading back for an antibiotic shot.  Oh, and BoyCat?  Really, really, really hates being touched, let alone going to the vet.  Should make for a fun afternoon.
The good news is that I'm reading for two book awards (Alex and the new Excellence in Science Fiction for Children award).  My staff is doing amazing work.  And in four days Spring Break starts.  Over two weeks to slide forward a bit.  Wish me luck.

18.2.17

Sometimes, newer is better

Today's Friday Five post over at Philosophy Mom contained this question: 1. About how many family Christmas photo-cards did you receive [in 2016]?

I wryly smiled at this, because the family Christmas card thing is relatively new, right?  And we all sort-of hate it, but it's an easy way for others to send a personalized card (personalized to them, anyway) and to subtly keep us informed.  The kids are bigger.  The waists are wider.  Oh, there's someone new (engagement?).  What happened to the dog?  OMG that poor cat, stuck in that outfit.  Etc.

But then I think back to a few short years ago, before this trend.  Each card - birthday, Christmas, Arbor Day, whatever - came with what I called family confetti included.  What's family confetti?  Those small photos, maybe 1"x2", that came along with the larger, for-framing/wallet-size photos we all had taken on School Photo Day.  And there were always so many of the smaller ones it was easy to tuck them into cards so that family and friends could see how cute/big/well-dressed your darlings were.

One year, I included photos of Howard, Pravda and Mallory in our outgoing cards.  I doubt anyone got the hint.

What's odd to me is that people expected you to save all these photos, but they don't seem to expect you to save the Christmas card.  Perhaps that's because with the advent of the digital photo age, and the prevalence of photos on Flickr, Facebook and other cloud sites, they're not rare and precious (I knew that when my father took photos of my niece taking her first right step.  then her first left step.  then her second right step.  and second left step.  etc. - we get it.  the kid can walk.  yay?).

If you're into decluttering, as I am (most of the time) it's great: I toss my cards at Epiphany and move on.  Some cards I keep the front of for Friends Who Collage/Scrapbook.  I could scan photos if I wanted.  Or not.  And now, no guilt about getting rid of the confetti, because it's not there. Sometimes, new really, truly is better.

7.2.17

Digital Detritus

More from the never-ending, never-fully-emptied Twitter and Feedbin saves:

24.1.17

Imponderables: A Spam Recipe

Usually I hear that some one has heard of my incredible probity and compassion and is interested in helping me help others, because some foreign person (who may or may not share my last name) needs help accessing the millions of dollars they've inherited (or won).  And, of course, I ignore them because... I don't need to finish that, right?


Today's mail, caught helpfully by my spam filter, includes this gem:


Granted, I've been a tad forgetful recently, but I'm reasonably certain that arranging this transfer (not to mention the meeting when this was all set up) would be something I'd remember. 


I do wonder, however, how many people actually get caught by this stuff.  I mean, we've been getting these messages and pleas for almost as long as email has existed - is anyone taken in?  or do the spammers live in eternal hope that one person, somewhere...

18.1.17

Not Guilty, Your Honor

Terry recently posted a flashback to a post he wrote about guilty pleasures.  Thing Two once confessed that Gilmore Girls was a guilty pleasure.  Here's my problem: the word "guilty".

Perhaps when I was younger, I had guilty pleasures.  But now, as a mid-century adult?  Nope.  If it's a pleasure, I'm not going to feel guilt.



There are definite times when guilt invades my life.  For example, when I recognize I could have been kinder to someone in pain.  Or when I don't take action (through laziness, usually, or being too rushed to do it now and then forgetting) that would help someone.  There are fleeting flashes when I get one of those pleading letters or emails (or, now FB posts) asking for help that I could give, when I know it's a worthy cause but not my cause.  That's it.

I don't feel guilty if I break my diet.  I don't feel guilty when I fail to live up to my standards.  I don't feel guilty when I watch pure trash (ok, what I think of as trash) on tv rather than actually getting things done.  I don't feel guilty when I take a mental health day at work.  Rather, I might feel pleasure with a tinge or embarrassed or defensive or ashamed or sad.  But not guilty. Because I'm in my mid 50s.  And part of being an adult is admitting that something gives you pleasure and enjoying that.

4.1.17

Digital Detritus

I'm starting the new year right: decluttering and organizing while watching the Hoarders marathon.  So inspiring!  Here's some digital detritus (my new name for the Links Galore posts) for your pleasure:
(more to follow - my goal is Feedbin Zero and Twitter Saves Zero by MLK Weekend)

1.1.17

New Year's Meme 2016

Totally stolen from Philosophy Mom!  And what better way to recap / get ready for a better blogging 2017?

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Opening prompt... let's focus on something good (the bad will come later!).  In 2016 I went to several tasting dinners, which I have done before but this time one of those was a whiskey dinner and the other saki.  Whiskey hasn't been something I've ever enjoyed before, but the combination of people at the table and the different tastes made for quite the nice evening (and by "nice" I don't mean "drunken" I mean genuinely nice).

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did manage to lose some weight, and tried to be more organized.  I usually don't do resolutions, but my intention is to be more composed, more deliberate in the new year.  That includes my food intake (no more eating what I know only looks good but doesn't taste the way I want it to), activity (get back into shape - time's a-ticking!) and professionally.

3. Did anyone close to you get married?
Not this year.  There were two engagements announced, one wedding will be in April and the other next January.

4. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Depends on how you define "close".  Thing One's family has great-aunted me twice in the past month with a third on the way.  For those keeping track, that's 10 greats.  Probably many more on the way.

5. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes.  If by "anyone" you mean "any living being":


Mallory Le Chat
1999 - 2016

We knew he was getting old, and quite possibly blind.  But I had hoped he'd somehow make it a few more years (yes, 17 1/2 is old for a cat, but still...).  On Thanksgiving, we said goodbye and snuggled for the last time.  The remaining three members of The Herd are still, one month later, figuring out the new normal.  And since they're 8 and 6 years old, with luck we'll have many years for them to figure it out.

6. What countries did you visit?
Only one trip to Montreal this year.  Because work.  But next year... We'll see.

7. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Honestly, I don't think I lacked much in 2016, but getting together with friends more than I did would be nice.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
It's got to be a tie between the overhaul of the library collection (25,000 books weeded and another 25,000 moved, mostly over the summer) and hiring three great members of the library team.  Both took a lot of work, physical in the case of the former and mental in the case of the latter, but Academic Year 2017 has been going really well as a result!

9. What was your biggest failure?
I'm on the introvert side of the spectrum and not breaking out of that more, even via email or snail mail, was a definite failure.  Part of the composed intention is to literally compose more (blog posts, letters, emails).

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Oh yes.  Almost a month ago I woke up with something a little off in my eye.  Turns out I have optic neuritis, aka an inflamed optic nerve.  Major steroid infusions helped, and now it's just a question of time (as in possibly months to a year) before we're back to what the doctor calls "baseline".  The good news is that it's only affected one eye, so my reading hasn't suffered.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new scarf (no photo available now, but perhaps later...).  It was my reward for spending all summer working 7-11:30 in a non-airconditioned, unventilated library doing incredibly physical labor.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Thing One, duh.  He's been a rock throughout the optic nerve adventure.  Plus giving in to my whims.  What's not to celebrate?

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Several of Thing One's family who truly support the awful (racist, misogynist, xenophobic) side of our incoming President.  If I had any luck I wouldn't have to see them until 2018, but with three newborns and a major Birthday/Anniversary Celebration this year, that's doubtful.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The Herd.  We were at the vets pretty much every week over the summer, and at least once a month after.  One had a growth on her chin, another a tummy infection (the spaying scar - don't ask, but she looks like she has a human belly button, which is not normal!), Mallory's illness, and one really, really doesn't like vet visits.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Really, nothing.  This seems to have been a stress-filled, work-filled year.  So perhaps "starting 2017" is the correct answer?

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:
  • happier or sadder? Calmer.  Which could be a way of saying "happier".   
  • thinner or fatter?  Thinner.  But not by much.  Next year...  
  • richer or poorer? Richer.  I've been much more careful with spending.  If I could only sell my house, saving would be a lot easier! 

17. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Taken advantage of living in my Birthtown.  There's so much going on, and great day trips to be taken.  Again, next year...

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Spent time at the vet. Stress eating.  Played backgammon and cribbage on my phone, rather than getting caught up with professional stuff and/or reading magazines while watching tv.  I may have read 345 books, but I have nearly a year's worth of The Economist and Atlantic Monthly in an accusatory pile.

19. How did you spend Christmas?
Almost the same way as usual: opening presents at breakfast, then having the Traditional Chinese Dinner.  No movie this year (nothing at the times we wanted, plus my eye problem).

20. How did you bring in the New Year?
Reading.  Sleeping.  There will be a nice NYD brunch today, though.

21. Did you fall in love?
No.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Hmmm... there were several I really liked: 19-2.  People of Earth.  Happy Valley. Winter. Those are new ones I've discovered.

23. What was the best book you read?
Because of the Book Award, I can't really talk about my real favorites.  I'd really have to think about YA books I loved; sadly, none stood out.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I was going to say "none" but then I remembered (as if I could forget!): Bruno Mars.  I got to see him play Mohegan Sun, in the most amazing seats, as part of a weekend with some HS friends.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?
Didn't really see many movies this year.  In part because I don't see the point in spending all that money for something ultimately "meh" (if I could do that with food I know won't taste as good as it looks like it wants to taste, I'd be so much thinner by now!).  And in part because so few really benefit from the Big Screen so I'm willing to wait for Netflix.

26. What was your favorite live performance?
PNB's performance at Jacob's Pillow.

27. What did you want and get?
My "reward" scarf.  A great team to work with.  

28. What did you want and not get?
Good health. A summer travel experience.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
For the third year in a row, my birthday (number 53) was also a snow day at MPOW.  This year that won't happen because its on a Sunday.  But maybe either Friday or Monday will be one!  Hope, as they say...

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Selling my house.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Not quite "capsule wardrobe" but I've settled on green/grey as my colors and am paring down my wardrobe to the pieces I really like and look good in.

32. What kept you sane?
How presumptuous: am I sane?  Seriously, though... until Thanksgiving, I'd say it was my early morning and bedtime cuddle with Mallory.  There really is something about the purr that lowers blood pressure, eases stress and makes you feel loved.  After Thanksgiving, Thing One (who doesn't purr, or fit in my arms as comfortably).

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
None.  Is that elitist of me?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Not the election (although that did!) as much as watching otherwise intelligent people embrace the really awful things that were bring promoted by the winning candidate.  And watching serious fault lines develop among colleagues and students who weren't on the same side of that issue (I really do understand not wanting to vote for Hillary - I didn't! - but The Donald?  His ideas are so vile.  And those who think he's ok are just beyond my comprehension).

35. Whom did you miss?
No one.  I spent more time with people I like this year.  I missed not spending more time with them.  Does that count?

36. Who was the best new person you met?
One of my new team members.  A professional colleague who I finally met in person.  The other members of the Book Award Committee.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
I'm getting older.  Watching my health is important.

38. What was your favorite moment of the year?
Two: attending one of the best professional development sessions I've ever attended, back at my alma mater (which just made it all the sweeter). And the weekend spent with some HS friends.

39. What was your least favorite moment of the year?
3:45pm, Thanksgiving Day. Saying goodbye to my Mallory.

40. If you could go back in time to any moment of 2016 and change something, what would it be?
Nothing.  I mean, there are things I didn't love, that I would love to change, but ultimately I couldn't change my eye issue or keep Mallory alive.  So... nothing.

41. What are your plans for 2017?

  • Lose weight / get in shape (well, better shape than I am now)
  • Continue to enjoy my work on the Book Award Committee
  • Get better organized (declutter plus time management)
  • Take a fun trip somewhere 
  • Be better about being connected to family and friends