Monday, September 28, 2009

Random September

Have you seen the Cadbury eyebrows comenrcial? No? Go watch – it’s veru funny. BUT! And you knew there’d be a but, didn’t you? A Glass and a Half Full Productions? With a glass of milk graphic?? So in other words, giving your kid a Cadbury chocolate bar is like giving them 1 ½ glasses of milk and are they seriously trying to sell that message? Is that even ethical? Hrmph! Still, the commercial’s damn good…

Museum of Animal Perspectives. Endlessly fascinating. There are cameras by the nests of different birds, animal borne cameras showing you the perspective of another species and I’m going to stop talking now so you can go see.

Never knew there were scholars fighting about fairytales. You learn something new every day.

People of Walmart. The story. The website.

DavidG sent the list of Utah names. In case you’re looking for options to some of the more common baby names. Also, Rutland Weekend Television which was new to me, but quickly sucked me in. Hard to choose favourites but The Birth of The Rutles was pretty good, as was Gibberish. For the cat lovers, the Human Cat Perch. The City-wide Rick Roll and a test called Cheese or Font (I somehow got 58.2% and discovered that despite being lactose intolerant, I’m good at cheese names, but have no clue when it comes to fonts).

Trevor sent the link to a message from grateful women and another one about dangerous biscuits. Also, an email from someone feeling very strongly about fruit filth and a mother on the edge. A rather epic cluelessness from a banking institution and a story about how a monkey expressed to a political leader what many of us may have secretly wanted to do. And arse ropes.

Moving on to knitbloggers... Marianne sent me this link (NB: perhaps it would help if I added that link - thanks Carrie for the first alert and Marianne for leaving it in the comments) to a story about making a positive out of an extremist reaction. Like she said, nice twist. Back to cats and the 10 Cutest Cat Moments discovered over at kmkat’s (great - now I have kitten fever), where I also found out what my Pirate Name is (despite missing ITLAPD)

My pirate name is:

Captain Anne Kidd

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

And while I’m talking about kmkat, I’d like to introduce you to George.

Here seen snoozing on the most decadent throw I’ve ever encountered (birthday present from Ken who always knows what I need, because I’m telling you, this blanket? You need), George came to me from kmkat after I left a comment on her birthday post (Happy birthday again!). I hadn’t even realized there was a contest involved - I believe the comment was left late at night or at least it felt like it - so imagine my surprise when I got the email. Kmkat suggested that since I don’t knit anymore, I could pet it and call it George, so that’s what I did. He’s got a pretty special history, too. I’d forgotten a little what it’s like to hold good yarn. I miss knitting, but having George is a pretty decent substitute.

Have a happy Monday!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The R-Word

Me? Superstitious? Nahhh... (knock wood):

"'Are you in remission?'

I cannot answer. My throat is closed, the words caught somewhere deep within. I can't even answer the question in writing, instead starting the sentence and then deleting, starting another one, phrased slightly differently and delete that, too, before I even get to the part about the R-word. Just writing it in that first sentence of this post makes me feel all antsy and uncomfortable. Those nine letters positively pulse off the page, making me feel as if I am tempting fate, calling attention to myself, inviting disaster. Because we all know that the flares are out there, don't we? Know (sort of) that all that's needed for one to remember that it has a life -- your life -- to take over is saying that you're doing okay and the next morning, you won't be."

Pop over to MyRACentral to read the rest.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What A Difference A Voice Makes

Before I get going, I need to say how much I’ve enjoyed the comment section of my last post. There were quite a few groans and I almost spurted tea on my keyboard more than once - absolutely made my day(s)!

And now to something completely different...

There's a handful of authors who I'll read even if they've just published their grocery list and Jeffery Deaver is one of them. The first time I read The Bone Collector, it blew me away. Not only is it wonderfully geeky with all the forensics, but Lincoln Rhyme, the hero of the story, is a wheelchair user and the second hero of the story, his partner in solving crime (and eventually romance, as well) Amelia Sachs, has rheumatoid arthritis. And they catch bad guys using forensics, knowledge and vast brainpower. What's not to love? So every time Deaver comes out with a new book, I'm first in line to get it. And when I discovered Audible, he was naturally on my short list.

There I was, The Twelfth Card metaphorically in my hands (okay, on my iPod), so excited to dive into a new Rhyme novel and I clicked play and… well, that's not very good, but maybe I'll get used to it. I'll keep reading and besides, it's more about the story than the narrator, isn't it and I kept telling myself that, but it wasn't working. Because that's what was wrong with it. The narrator was Dennis Boutsikaris and he read that book as if he was reciting a phone book reading phonetically in a different language - wooden, dry and with no inflection at all and it was so awful that I renamed the man Dennis Butcherkaris. Yes, I know that's not nice, but neither was his narration.

Luckily, The Cold Moon - the next in the series – switched narrators and Joe Mantegna was much better. Still a bit dry, but even when I read the books myself, I occasionally found them a bit dry - the words didn't exactly sing like some other novels can do, but it was okay. It's a procedural, I don't expect the world from it, just entertain me with twists and turns and forensics. It certainly delivered that and Mantegna’s narration was if not five star, then a major improvement.

Last year, when The Broken Window came out, I rushed to see the description of it at Audible and was crushed to discover that they had returned to Mr. Butcherkaris. My previous encounter with his reading was so bad that that I didn't get the book. This is fairly monumental - it takes a lot for me to not get a book by an author I love, but with this guy, there is no focusing on the words, letting the narration be merely a delivery system. I've gone back several times, trying to persuade myself that I can handle it, but in the end, not being able to. And then, a week ago or so when the second book in the spin-off Kathryn Dance series by Deaver came out and I was looking at it on the list of books by him on Audible, I discovered that there was a second version of The Broken Window. Read by George Guidall, who I thoroughly enjoy. So I got it and an entirely new world has opened up to me.

Guidall reads so skillfully, with such mastery of storytelling that the novel comes alive. Not only is this better than Mantegna, light years better than He Who Shall Not Be Named., but it is better than reading it myself. Guidall makes this sing and I didn't think Deaver could sing, but in a perfect matchup between story and narrator, this book has me hooked to the point that I can't wait to read more. I normally have a couple times during the day set aside to read - after lunch and before bedtime - and normally, I'm pretty good at compartmentalizing the activities of the day that I don't long to read at times where I should be e.g., working. But now I am. I get up in the morning and want to read at breakfast. W hile working, I get distracted for a minute and immediately want to pick up the book and the entire day goes like that, with me fighting down the urge to pick up the book again and I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be that captured by a story again and I'm only about three hours into a 14-hour book. The temptation to take a week off and do nothing but read is overwhelming and the reason I actually say that out loud is so I won't.

There are a handful of narrators who I'd pay to listen to, even if they just read the phonebook and George Guidall is one of them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Being A Wuss: A Political Act?

The other day, in response to someone's inquiry of how I was, I found myself prattling on about the details of my pain levels and I realized that I often do this with people who knew me well and with whom I speak often. And it's been nagging at me a bit and making me wonder whether I should just shut up about it.

I don't do it because I want pity - offer me pity and I will go medieval on your derrière - and I don't do it because I want an extended conversation about it (because lord knows, most of the time the pain bores me senseless). I talk about it because… well, probably two reasons. The first one is that pain is a very much a part of my day, sometimes muttering in the background, sometimes being how I spend my day and if someone asks me how my day was, pain is part of that. The second reason is that when it’s loud, it helps to say it, to have someone else know.

Pain is a uniquely solitary experience. I can tell you about it, about the qualities of pain and how many pills I took before it simmered down, but it is impossible for you to share the experience. For people who do not have chronic pain, it is purely theoretical - they can't see it, they may be able to remember the day after they first ran 5 miles or that sprained ankle, but if you are not currently in pain, you don't remember what it is like. And pain as invisible. You may be able to see the broken bone poking out through the skin, the blood seeping from the cut or the red and swollen joint and thereby infer that the person is in pain, but you have to rely on their recounting of that pain and how much it impacts their level of functioning.

And I wonder if that invisibility is part of the reason pain is viewed with suspicion from others, including doctors. And why people are supposed to suck it up, have a stiff upper lip and bear their cross in silence. I once read a comment from a user on MyRACentral who wished she could be like someone in her town who’d had a severe case of RA for decades, yet had never uttered a word of complaint and always had a smile on her face and my reaction to that was a big WHY?? So we don't bother other people with our pain? So we can keep the icky parts of illness and disability away from others? Is the goal of all that silence to modify our experience for other people's comfort? And what effect does it have when we modify and diminish and remain silent? Is this why people are so clueless about what big, chronic pain requires and so many are persuaded that they are a wuss if they ask for pain meds? Or that so many doctors remain ignorant about pain and treatment of pain to the point that they don't treat it? Another user wrote this

My doctor told me early on that if I start with pain meds my body would eventually become used to the dosage and I would always need more. He said I would eventually wind up with a morphine patch or something similar. I knew I didn't want that so I elected not to take pain meds.

And of course, then there are the doctors who choose to remain so ignorant about a disease like RA that comes with chronic pain that another user told this story

The RA dr. does not believe in pain med…. and my GP is going to start reducing my pain med., vicodin 4 x a day because he thinks the meth should be taking over now. He talks to me like I am an addict and is treating me mean … I asked to see a pain dr. and he laughed at me … He says no Dr. will touch me.

And it's not just GPs who can sort of be forgiven for not knowing the ins and outs of RA, but I read story after story about rheumatologists who "don't believe in pain meds," think your Enbrel or your Humira or your methotrexate should be taking care of the pain, because once the RA is suppressed, you have no more pain, right? Except you do, when the cartilage’s been eaten away and bone grinds against bone, it bloody well hurts. And from where I sit, refusing to treat their patients' pain is tantamount to abuse, but they can and they do, because the pain as invisible.

And that solitary aspect of pain is one of the reasons I wish that we could somehow developed a technique for "plugging in" to other people's experience. Can you imagine what would happen if instead of trying to explain, I could just say feel this?

But since we can't do that yet, I'm starting to wonder if talking about your experience of pain can be a political act? Whether it is discussing physical pain, the pain of grief or refusing to sanitize fairytales, maybe stopping the silence would make it less deviant to be in pain. Be less necessity for judging someone a wuss if they talk about their pain. Maybe there would be less social pressure to grin and bear it.

So I think I'll continue to talk about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Too Far. Just Too, Too Far

I’d planned to write about something else today, but got majorly sidetracked by a fit of apoplexy. I'm on a couple of email lists and one of the members is an older gentleman, quite conservative, who delights in sending really awful jokes (that are often so awful that they're very funny) and sometimes, he sends jokes and opinion pieces, right wing ones. I usually just skim-and-delete because he's entitled to his opinion, but the latest one has me foaming at the mouth and as I appear to be incapable of ranting at my elders, I'm going to do so here.

The e-mail in question is entitled "Life Magazine Photos, Old History - but could it happen again?" And by the time I got to that e-mail, there was a follow-up talking about the astonishing early colour photography, but how the last two frames were a bit much. I got little paranoid and ran the attached pps file through my antivirus and my anti-malware programs first and then sat back to check it out and it turns out to be as destructive than a computer virus would’ve been to my equilibrium (or more). It's a collection of Life Magazine (supposedly) photos from the Third Reich, Hitler in various stages of whipping huge crowds into a frenzy, massive crowds doing the Sieg Heil (so disturbing still), Hitler with his generals and relaxing with friends and I wouldn't say I was enjoying it as much as again wondering how on earth an entire country fell under this man's spell. And then came the last two frames.

Penultimate frame: three rectangles next to each other with three faces, underneath each is the word "change". On the left is Hitler, above him the words National Socialims, on the right is Lenin and above him Marxist Socialism and in the middle, President Barack Obama, looking particularly malevolent and above him Democratic Socialism. At the bottom of the frame "in troubled times, the fearful and naïve are always drawn to charismatic individuals."

Final frame: a small square with Barack Obama raising his index finger and underneath this picture the word "Obey!"

And I have just about had enough of this bullshit. I have no problems with people disagreeing with their leaders, their colleagues and their friends if there is some thought behind it, but this? This abuses freedom of speech to such a degree that I'm nauseous. I grew up remembering the Nazi occupation of my country, I grew up listening to stories told by my parents and their friends about what happened during that occupation and I find it offensive to the point that it's almost making me cry that these people are using a terrible, terrible time in living memory for the purposes of making a point. A point that can only be made because the fuckwits live in a democratic country that will let them say anything they want.

Hitler instituted a program of ethnic cleansing that ended up killing 12 million people and that was "just" in the camps - let's not talk about how many died fighting that war. Hitler was Kristalnacht and the Aryan race and Auschwitz. Obama is talking about health care reform, introducing certain aspects that could be construed to be similar to the universal healthcare currently laying waste to the country of Canada (my god… the streets are running with the blood of innocents just outside my window).

I tried to find this pps file somewhere on the net so I could link to it, but gave up after a couple of Google pages filled with videos and vitriolic screeds comparing Obama to Hitler and really. There are limits. There really should be limits in a civilized society. Disagree with the politics all you want, say you don't like the man - I did and did so frequently about the previous president of the US - but trotting out what can arguably be the worst symbol of atrocity in the last century at the slightest provocation is just ridiculous. I make fun of Fox "News" all the time and one of the things that I make fun of them for is the complete disassociation from the truth the talking heads on that channel have - and to be honest, I think I make fun of it because contemplating how someone who considers themselves a reporter, commentator or anchor in a news association could deliberately tell lies… well, isn't that what they used to do in Germany in the 30s? Oops, did I just go there? I believe I may have…

Have a bias. Go ahead - have a bias, carry it on your sleeve, let it influence to some degree (if you must) how you report the news, how you discuss politics, how you disagree with your leaders (and I certainly do – Stephen Harper, I’m looking at you and cannot wait until you no longer are my Prime Minister), but direct lies? The extreme right in the US appears to have lost all grip on reason or sense of fairness and now they are just making up shit and the really, really scary thing is that there are people out there who believe it. When you're in a position to inform, when you have influence, whether you’re the news or a politician trying to oppose a government initiative or hell, just talking to your neighbour, you need to careful and you cannot just send this kind of hate out there to people who trust you to deliver the truth, who believe what you say and act accordingly and… Well. Obviously, they can. Because they did.

Apparently, these people who live is what they call the bastion of democracy, the model of what can happen when you have freedom of speech, have forgotten that with great power comes great responsibility.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Autobiographical Book Collection

One of Laurie's recent posts was a transfer meme from Facebook in which you list 15 books that’ll always stick with you and in a grand gesture, she tagged everyone who read it. And it made me think about the books I have left on my shelves.

For years now, miscellaneous neck issues have prevented me from reading books in the traditional manner, instead listening to audio books, but for a long time, I hung on to my rather extensive collection of "real" books. And then at some point, I took a look around and had the overwhelming urge to minimize the amount of stuff in my home. Luckily, this was around the time where Michele volunteered to help me achieve that goal and it's something we've been doing on and off for a couple of years now. First there was the storage room, then the kitchen and then we started on the bookshelves. The project isn't finished yet, but when it is, then there will no doubt be a post about the before and after. However, today is not that time. Today's about books. More specifically, what I've kept.

Because I have kept some books. As we went through the shelves, Michele and I hit a groove of the lightning quick process of her showing me the books, me making a decision of discarding or keeping and it was a rather fascinating process at that. Turns out there was an astounding amount of books buried on an astounding number of shelves that I felt nothing for, that could easily be either thrown in recycling or deposited in my building’s communal spot for things you want to get rid of (and they usually disappeared within 24 hours). And then there were the ones that I couldn't get rid of, books where the thought of letting them go made my heart twinge and I quickly learned to listen to that instinct.

We are almost done now - with the books anyway - and looking around on the ones that are left, reminds me of a scene in the movie High Fidelity. Our protagonist (John Cusack in his best rumpled cad-about-to-grow-up mode) owns a record store and has an extensive personal collection in his apartment that he periodically goes through and reorganizes. In this one particular scene, someone asked him what system he's going to use next and he says autobiographical. My books are like that, representing moments in my life connected to the book, stories that changed me, stories that altered my perspective on the world, stories that absorbed me, and filled me up so much that despite being unable to read them again, I cannot let them go. And so, what I've kept expresses who I've been and what's made me who I am today, distilled down to maybe a quarter of the books that used to be here (of course, we won’t discuss the hundreds of audiobooks on my harddrive…).

So here, in no particular order, are 15 of the books that are still part of my home.

Anne Rice, The vampire lLestat

Guy Gavriel Kay, Fionavar Tapestry (it's a trilogy - is it cheating to just call it one book?)

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Nicholas Kalashnikof, Prince: The Story of a Siberian Stallion

Josephine Hart, Damage

Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time

Randy Shilts, And the Band Played on: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic

Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

Susan Falludi, Backlash

Jean M. Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear

Michael Marshall Smith, Only Forward

C.J. Peters, Virus Hunter

Henri Charriere, Papillon

Stephen King, The Stand

Terry Pratchett, Pyramids

As Laurie said, feel free to consider yourself tagged, but maybe share a few in the comments first?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Parenting Teens with Rheumatoid Arthritis

This week's HealthCentral post wonders what if it's not you who have RA - what if it's your kid?

"When I was a teenager, I wanted nothing to do with doctors, hospitals and physical therapists. I was done with blood tests, trying medications that weren't working and soaking my hands in paraffin wax until it accumulated and became a gross glutinous glove that made my skin smell disgusting."

You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dear Buskerfest

Dear Buskerfest,

It's no secret that I'm not fond of you. For years, you've invaded my neighbourhood the last weekend in August and when I say invaded, I mean take over and fill up sidewalks and streets to the point that I can't get to the grocery store for the throngs of people. A few years ago, you added an extra day to the point where your bloated festival takes up four days, which means that for four days, my neighborhood looks like this

Don't get me wrong, I love a good festival as much as the next person - sure, it's not always easy to get through the crowds when you use a wheelchair, but Woofstock (for instance), which also invades this neck o’ the woods for 3 days in June, is a lot of fun. What makes your shenanigans particularly bothersome is the fact that the buskers? The reason we're all here? The entertainment? Is hard to see for me. After all, when this

is your view of the aforementioned acts, not once, but all the time, the fun is next to nonexistent. The fact that more often than not, the four-day long weekend falls on or near my birthday just rubs salt in the wound.

There is something about you that makes me feel disabled. My neighborhood is very accessible, as close to barrier-free as they get - there are lot of us wheelchair users here and almost every store and building are accessible and often not just in the sense that there is no step, but including automatic door openers, checkout aisles that are wider, staff who volunteer assistance without infantilizing you and most of the time, my ability to participate in this community and use its services and facilities is not that different than any of my able-bodied neighbours. Until you come to town, that is. Between the throngs, the stalls and equipment blocking the sidewalk and street, having to take a long circuitous route to the grocery store, your perky volunteers blocking all entry to the rather vast area of the neighborhood occupied by you, making it difficult for me to get through to aforementioned grocery store and did I mention this

it is impossible not to become aware that life would be so much easier if I could travel walking. After several years of this nonsense, I'll admit I started taking a bit personally. Sure, I made a joke of it because intellectually, I knew you were not deliberately trying to make me and those like me feel unwelcome at the festival. Although I'm sure you'll agree that placing the donation box on opening day last year at head height for a fairly tall (and walking) person

could be construed as assuming we would not attend, but I put it down to a particularly dimwitted staff having a "bright" idea. Because believing that a street festival in the city of Toronto is deliberately putting up barriers to people who use wheelchairs and scooters is just… well, paranoid, isn't it?

And then you came back this year. To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed that first day when I got to berate one of your employees - politely, because I'm Canadian and when I say berate, I mean ask nicely - about the sharp and pointed screws being left on the sidewalk after constructing the entry arch as being a decided risk for flat tires and oh look, there's more than one. There are many. All over the sidewalk. Serving as a minefield for wheelchairs. And then the next day, you'd finished building that entrance and it looked like this

Yes, you really did have to squeeze in at the sides – first a minefieild, now an obstacle course!

And the normally very accessible and wheelchair-friendly restaurants in my neighbourhood who normally don't have a patio decided to get in on the game (example only, there were more than this one)

And even if I wanted to sit inside, the ramp to the sidewalk is placed outside of that enclosure and now I can't go to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, either. And that's when I knew. I have not been paranoid. I have not been influenced by crowd-induced crankiness, people having fun without me (despite being right in front of me) or an inability to let go of the All about Me-infused birthday thing, but that you really, truly appear to not only deliberately exclude those who travel seated, but somehow managed to infect my accessible neighbourhood with that barrier-filled attitude like a particularly virulent strain of Head Up Yer Arse.

So is it any wonder that I snickered when I saw your flyer. Of which you have printed thousands, likely hundreds of thousands

It's a small thing. It doesn't make up for the rest of it, but it was very, very satisfying.