Friday, January 27, 2006

Linus without a blanket

i fear i have made a terrible terrible mistake. actually, i know i have. i have left home without my journal. it was a tough decision initially but i chose to leave it back to save on weight. i foolishly compared this trip to my most recent of travels. an unwise error. this journey is much more like previous solitary jaunts, full of little wonders (like the Chinese bakery with a French cafe nested inside) and great nothings. as ever, my overall experience is defined by food.

tonight i dined at La Gioconda. it is a brilliant Italian restaurant in Great Neck. like in Paris, i supped at a tiny little table in the center of the restaurant, the focal point of attention. unlike Paris, however, this is New York. no one particularly focused on me. here, though a little peculiar, it is not a sin to dine alone on a Friday night.

the restaurant was loud, luxurious, and small, and i was the ONLY person present who did not know everyone else present. not only did all the patrons know the owner and staff, but they all knew each other.

as i sat and dined with the hustle swirling around me, i found myself thinking the same few things over and again. firstly, how very much i hungered for my journal. how much i wished to jot these thoughts down as the adjectives clung to my brain, like chianti to my lips. second, i found myself thinking how invigorating, how sexy, the restaurant was. it is the kind of place whose energy would excite a couple, lead them home to impassioned lovemaking-a la Moonstruck-in the kitchen. lastly, i found myself startled not by reflections that i may very well die on the vine, as my grandfather would say, but by a strong desire that-should that happen-it happen in a place like this. a place where my spirit could bubble free and get adsorbed by all these other stories, all these other passions. let my spirit become a part of this wonderful joie de vivre!

what a wonderful night. i hope yours has gone as well.

two things of note

in spite of all his actions, Alito seems certain to be confirmed. but there are small things to give hope that America will not quietly slide into the sea. props to Rodney for emailing me this-it is a brilliant reminder of the true basis for American pride at this most concerning time.

in other news, Nicole had her baby! little Conor was born yesterday. he weighed in at 6 lb 9 oz, 20 inches in length. i hear Nicole presented to the hospital 8 cm dilated and Conor was delivered after 45 minutes of labor. all i can say is 'watch out taxidrivers!' if Nicole holds to form with future chitlins, there may not be another one born in hospital. both mom and babe are healthy and whole.

those who can go hug your mommies in thanks!

peace and joy to you all-


Thursday, January 26, 2006

NOT about R or D

yeah yeah, i know. i am NY and should be out playing, not writing you all. unfortunately, i do still have to ice my ankle to keep it in check so i am stuck for a few in the hotel room.


you know how drugs companies like to say over and again that drugs are expensive because they have to pass on all the expense they incur on R&D?

well, for the eight people in the world who actually believe that hooey, here is your first lesson in Pharmacia 101:

We were informed today by our drug rep that a new company has purchased drug rights to Cosmogen and Mustargen. The new company is Ovation Pharmaceuticals- phone number is 847-282-1000 and the contact person is Barbara Jackson.
They have implemented a HUGE price increase which will price out all my current rescue lymphoma patients.
New prices for Cosmogen 0.5 mg vial- $513.75 from < $30.00 vial,
Mustargen $589 from $69 for a 10 mg vial.
Ms. Jackson was unable to allow my veterinary patients to be classified as indigent and at this time will not discuss compassoniate usage for veterinarians.
Please contact Ovation Pharmaceutical and request help for our patients.

these are drugs that were already developed and on the market, drugs that had already recovered their expense. drugs that were saving lives. Ovation cannot claim to be recooping expenses for R&D on these drugs and should not morally or legally be allowed to raise prices 800-1700%, condemning animals (and probably some humans) to death from their price-gouging.

shockingly, this behavior is allowed to continue. could it have something to do with the fact that the same lawmakers who sold out Medicare to the drug lobbyists remain in Washington, policing pharmacy companies?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

post-pubescent breast

today the WP reports on attempts by the Administration to further invade the privacy of American citizens in the name of resurrecting an anti-pornography law that the Supreme Court has already overruled.

Adam Felber made a good case for fear about this apparent paradox:

I guess the least-interesting and most-important thing here is that the government wants to view information about our online habits, and they’re not even trying to prosecute a crime. They just want to shore up their case for re-passing that bill that the Supreme Court already called, ironically, a violation of privacy.

in addition, this vigorous pursuit against free speech, ahem i mean online pornography, involves materials defined as:

(6) Material that is harmful to minors.--The term
`material that is harmful to minors' means any communication,
picture, image, graphic image file, article, recording,
writing, or other matter of any kind that is obscene or

``(A) the average person, applying contemporary community
standards, would find, taking the material as a whole and
with respect to minors
, is designed to appeal to, or is
designed to pander to, the prurient interest;

``(B) depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner
patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or
simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or
simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd
exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast;

``(C) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic,
political, or scientific value for minors.

i don't know about you but, given the sex drive of teenage males, i think that pretty much makes any picture of any female breast count as porn, including this article on WebMD. (Office Space fans will recognize that this phenomenon may not be limited to teenagers.) if applied, one would be required to provide credit card information or another tracable identifier to visit WebMD, thus eliminating any privacy regarding personal health issues.

let's see. they already tap your phones without demonstrable cause, sell your phone records, redistrict so your vote won't count, and institute poll taxes while ostensibly supporting the VRA when redistricting can't cut it. definitely it is time for the Administration to push harder to close the citizen surveillance loop.


Bubbles by Zoƫ Mozert (1907 - 1993)

join me in joining Felber in becoming illegal! get your own pin-up here.

good news for Choice

today Senator Salazar issued a press release pledging to vote against the Alito nomination. there is no hope of swaying Allard but Senator Salazar's commitment is good news indeed.

in addition, the Supreme Court has unanimously supported the right to 'medically necessary' abortions. unfortunately, the more hairy issue still looms on the horizon and will not come to court until after O'Connor's retirement. as Justice O'Connor has been very important in decisions on Choice, this makes the potential confirmation fo Alito terrifying indeed.

if you have not done so already, please call your senators and urge them to oppose Alito's confirmation!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

gray skies may be clearing up...

so, there has actually been one other major 'fly in the ointment'. one of our dearest had an unexpected lab result- marked hyperkalemia (potassium). i hadn't written anything because it simply didn't make sense biochemically. i couldn't figure where to start in investigating. she doesn't have any of the conditions with which it is associated. i just received word (see below) that the follow-up test was normal.

if my ankle wasn't so tweaked, i would be dancing on dikes.

in the meantime, it is a reminder not to forget a lesson i teach my students. when something doesn't make sense, stop and recheck the result before chasing zebras...

"Jamie", my new friend (receptionist at Dr. ** office with whom I talk daily now) just called. Blood work from yesterday is back and potassium level is 4.1!! Very nice number and much relief. Hi 5's with all three cats and Willie.

When I asked what to do next (go back to my "normal" eating, watch my potassium, don't eat potassium, etc) Jamie said, "go back to normal and keep track of how much potassium you are consuming and come back in three weeks".

As we wrapped up the friendly conversation, she added, "given the look of your arm (bruising and swelling from the two initial samples), it very likely could have been that the potassium released was from the damaged cells at the needle site when the blood was drawn".* I wondered that all along.

*NB: in my field, this is almost entirely an Akita thing. who knew such a little woman had such an enormous animal totem?

avalanche survival survived

it was an early early start Saturday morning. we met at Ted's Place at 5:30am and carpooled up to Lake Agnes. we hit the trailhead about 7:30am, suited up and headed up the trail. it was a nice snowshoe, about 1 1/2 miles, with the sun rising and glinting through the trees. there aren't any pictures of the training because i was far too busy learning.

at the end, one of the other snowshoers and i caught a ride down the hill so two of the patrollers could do field certification on 'towing'. it was a lark, mainly because there were several flat to uphill spots. eventually Kim and i took to rowing with our poles. it seemed to help and was incredibly entertaining regardless. overall, i learned a ton from the class and benefitted dramatically from being out of doors.

not that my ankle is rejoicing...

the redness is damage from the taping. it really hurt, but boy did the tape do its job. the swelling was completely gone on Friday but man it is back now. the swelling is severe but the pain isn't too bad.

overall, ouch but it was worth it.

other bonus:
i got to avail myself of my friend's tub. this thing should be in Architectural Digest. i don't really enjoy baths, but even i will make an exception for a tub like this. skylight, wavy windows, slate tile and jets.

rock on.

Monday, January 16, 2006

update on my cousin (UPDATED)

Last week Wednesday they did a biopsy on Paula's tumor collecting 8 samples. She stayed overnight and went home with two small titanium plates and 5 staples in her head. After a couple days of rest she was up to her old self. They sent me home with a staple remover!

On Monday we had an appointment with our nuero-oncologist and he shared the pathology with us. Paula has a Grade II oligodendraglioma. The oncologist said it was the "best brain tumor to have, if you have to have a brain tumor". It has the longest prognosis of the types it could have been. He told us that the median survival for people with this tumor type was over 10 years. (For those of you that are not "math types", median means 50% are above and 50% are below) The future is still unknown, but will include radiation and chemotherapy. We strongly feel that your thoughts and prayers were with us as we heard the "good" news.

I would like to again thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I would especially like to thank the JM Foreign Language department that braved tonight's weather and a trip to Stewartville to deliver 3 full meals, gift certificates for more meals, and enough snacks to last us a long time. It really means a lot to me and my family to be receiving the kind of support that you all have shown. Thanks again


"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me." Philippians 1:21-26

For the first time ever in my life, God visited me in a dream. He told me to read Philippians. I did. I knew very little of Philippians other than that it was in the New Testament and that it was one of Paul's letters. It is still hard for me to believe, but it is so very true. Through this book of the Bible, God told me I was going to live for a long time, approximately 8 hours before the neuro-oncologist, Dr. Uhm at the Mayo Clinic, told me the same thing. Yes, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I have the best type of brain tumor a person can have.

I am so amazed and touched by all of the emails, cards, flowers, gifts, and prayers that have been sent and said for me. I am not exaggerating when I say there have been thousands of prayers being said for me, and God has responded. Never before have I had such a strong faith as I do today. If God would have told me to read Luke and the Christmas Story, I would have said I had an overactive imagination. But Phillipians? Even I couldn't have come up with that one on my own.

So for you who want details, here they are:
I had my biopsy last Wednesday, 1/11 in the early afternoon, was in the Neuro-ICU overnight, and was home by noon Thursday 1/12.
The tumor is a Grade 2 Oligodendroglioma (the slowest growing/dividing type of tumor). It is possible that I have had this tumor for 5-10 years.
We are still waiting on genetic testing which will look at the actual DNA structure, specifically chromosomes 1 and 19, which won't affect treatment but will tell us a little more about prognosis.
I will be meeting with the radiation oncologist as well as a chemotherapy specialist within the next 1-2 weeks to determine the best treatment for me. Dr. Uhm wants to put together the "Best team possible" for me, which I told him I would greatly appreciate. Recent research has shown that combined radiation and chemotherapy for the lower grade tumors can be more beneficial than one or the other alone. They routinely combine the treatments for the Grade 3 and 4 tumors and are now conducting clinical trials for the lower grades. It sounds like 6 weeks of radiation with or without chemo.
There will be no surgery as the tumor is too large to safely remove without damaging the healthy brain cells.
Cognitively, I am at a score of 100 out of 100 on the Karnofsky Index, which shows that the tumor hasn't impaired my neurological functioning.
Since I had a seizure, my risk of having another one has increased, so I will be kept on Keppra for at least a year, just in case. I can, however, be safely at home with Maya and Jacob.
The median survival rate for this type of tumor is 10+ years. I have never done anything in the middle of the bell curve, and I don't plan to start now.
This web site has a great explanation of brain tumors:
There are still lots of questions, but the big ones have been answered. I'll be here for lots more birthday parties and Christmases. And you better believe I am going to live a lot fuller now that I know what I know. I expect all of you to do the same. And, I expect that you will ALL go find your Bibles and read Philippians. It is my new favorite book of the Bible.

Please pass this email on to anyone you feel would like to know what's going on with me. The more support while I'm going through this, the better!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

Loving you all,
Paula Faye Roth Ramp

too soon

Dear [my Mom],

My name is ** and I have been assigned to your workers compensation claim. I am happy to see that you have made a good recovery after such a traumatic injury.

I am contacting you today to determine if the City of Los Angeles should share in the cost associated with your injury. We would like to know if you are represented by counsel and if a Lawsuit has been filed against the City of Los Angeles. If not I would like to speak with you regarding the events leading up to your injury.

I appreciate your time. Thank you.

i knew the time would eventually come when someone would decide there should be a lawsuit over the accident but frankly none of us are ready or interested. sure, it has been almost a year, but every day brings new challenges for us all. i don't think there is anyone that is really emotionally capable of handling this. of the choices, though, i probably have the most understanding of everything and the most equanimity (by virtue of my geographical distance) so...

if he wants, have him call me at [my computer's phone number] or my cell or email. also, do you want to have Jeanene fax me the accident report so i can speak to him intelligently? i am also happy to call him directly to talk if that would be more efficient.

and we're off.

i had hoped to never have to read the report. i already get sick just remembering the intersection (we accidentally ended up there trying to find dinner one night), but Mom and Rol shouldn't have to face this, especially given current challenges and the guy's obvious cluelessness. i actually am somewhat offended that he approached this the way he did without consulting Jeanene (the onsite case manager for WC). she would have pointed out some of the obvious things-like the fact that a person with a head injury will not remember the accident or immediate 'events leading up to'-and would have brought more tact and compassion to the matter.

the nightmare that goes on and on and on. no wonder we cannot get back to pre-accident living.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


or 'keep on keepin' on and things will eventually not suck so much.'

initially i thought i would write an ode to my ankle, but the plan failed. as i am currently not speaking to my ankle, i certainly am not going to address it with sparkling wit and lyricism.

i know, i know. its childish and 'won't help anything' but sometimes that it is the only way to get along.

so i hear you thinking, what did you do now you obstreperous thing?

not really sure. i have my ideas but nothing that would stand up to peer-review. Saturday i did end up snowshoeing with another CPNR patroller. it was gorgeous and we went about 6 miles. as usual, about 5 miles along, my ankle went 'clunk' but didn't feel unpleasant afterward. Sunday i gave a continuing education lecture at CSU Annual Conference. Monday i biked* to work (brr, i need different winter bike gloves!) and knocked out a couple things. headed over to the student rec center* and 'tore it up'. it felt great to really push my muscles and heart and they have remodeled the place since i was last there so it was really quite fabulous. biked home, quiet evening and to bed.

[*New Year's resolutions]

woke Tuesday with a painful right ankle with focal swelling. both the pain and swelling worsened precipitously over the first hour or so that i was up. called the health center but they were closed for training. couldn't go anywhere, had no milk for lattes or cereal, and didn't think it wise to stand to cook.

small meltdown.

finally called one of the receptionists whose daughter is a client and friend to see if she thought her daughter might be able to bring me milk. Endie to the rescue! snap! milk, movies, soup, candy and analgesics appeared along with a few minutes of company to cheer me.

Originally uploaded by jacquichris.
Wednesday Endie gave me a lift to the doctor who was very nice and showed me that i have torn my talofibular ligament (the red one) and maybe also partially torn the calcaneofibular (the yellow one). he then got me in right away with the PT. after an hour of testing, measuring and stretching, she decided i had endured almost enough torture. they actually have an inflatable boot that fills with ice-water. all i can say- 'good times' and no i don't really mean it. 15 minutes of that and then she taped me in and good. the tape actually hurts more than the ankle did beforehand.

Friday i go back to be remeasured and taped. was supposed to be doing an avalanche training session in the field Saturday. the PT says that she thinks i will be good to go if i am 'good' beforehand, am willing to tolerate numbness during (the taping will decrease circulation to my toes) and accept there will probably be plenty of pain on Sunday. she doesn't think i can make it worse though and understands the mental health benefit.

the good thing is that i probably didn't break anything and that the PT will help me strengthen both ankles to prevent injury in the future. small comfort when the tape is poking at C fibers in the night. the pain isn't bad enough to require narcotics but is plenty enough that i can't concentrate. basically the only thing i have to break up the monotony is videogames and eventually even Ratchet and Clank gets old.

well, that is about all from here. hope your New Year's resolutions are causing less trouble than mine!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

better watch out, better not cry

Big Brother is here, he doesn't care who knows it, and he says we can't do anything about it:

Last month Goodman, an 81-year-old retired University of Kansas history professor, received a letter from his friend in the Philippines that had been opened and resealed with a strip of dark green tape bearing the words “by Border Protection” and carrying the official Homeland Security seal...

A spokesman for the Customs and Border Protection division said he couldn’t speak directly to Goodman’s case but acknowledged that the agency can, will and does open mail coming to U.S. citizens that originates from a foreign country whenever it’s deemed necessary...

However, Mohan declined to outline what criteria are used to determine when a piece of personal correspondence should be opened, but said, “obviously it’s a security-related criteria.”

via Crooks and Liars.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Alito unplugged

Listen live!!!!!!

links aplenty

between personal issues and work deadlines, i have gotten so far behind on commentary that i am no longer positive where all these guys go and don't have time to sort it all out. i know i put them here for a reason, so have at it! i am adding my guesses [blind] for fun. let's see how i do...

gutting McCain

Abramoff guilty plea

wiretap on CNN

i have no clue

another Right-wing do as i say, not as i get arrested for

more on religious political leaders that are rotten at the core

Bush gives back 5.6% of ill-gotten gains-the NYT whiffs it again

Felber comes clean, inspired by Our Leader's example

Alito-oil, foot-washing next?

Friday, January 06, 2006

prayers requested

here is the update from my cousin's wife:

OK. Here I am. I have been thinking about all of you so much in the last couple of days, hoping to give everyone the information I want to give. It's not all here yet, and I can't wait any more before talking to you. I am not good at not talking :). Most of you know the basics, but I'll start from the beginning.

On the 26th, I got the stomach flu and threw up multiple times. By 9 pm, I began having seizure type activities after passing out. I went via ambulance to St. John's in Maplewood as we were visiting my family for Christmas. They thought I was just dehydrated and pushed fluids into me, but I just wasn't bouncing back. When the next ER Doc came on shift, he looked at me and thought I should stay overnight. After a long evening, I was finally in bed at 3:30 a.m. I saw a resident rather early who was concerned about my seizure activity and he consulted with the staff physician who ordered a CT scan. Immediately following the CT scan the staff doctor was in my room saying there was something seen on the CT scan and they needed to do an MRI. They had also seen abnormalities in my EKG scan from the ER and wanted to do more testing on that and to move me to the telemetry floor upstairs for ongoing heart monitoring. I was also having gobs of fluids pumped into me throughout all of this time for dehydration.

After the MRI, I went to my new floor with new monitors and an immediate echocardiogram to check out my heart. It sounded like the neurologist would review my MRI and talk with me in the morning. Within 20 minutes of hearing that he would see me in the morning, he was at my bedside telling me that I had a brain tumor on my left frontal lobe about the size of a tangerine. Needless to say, we were in shock.

I was transferred to Mayo on Wednesday morning and saw the residents within 15 minutes of arriving in the ER and to my room in Domatilla - very very smooth and comforting. They had me preop for surgery thinking there would be something immediately the next day. Once I saw the neurosugeon Fredrick Meyer, things slowed down quite a bit and took a calmer slower processing option. He gave me 2 options, one of biopsy followed by radiation and one of craniotomy (removing 80%) of the tumor followed by radiation.

After spending the majority of my day in the hospital on Thursday, I was told I could go home. I couldn't wait to see my babies* and we were home by 6:15 that evening.

The main person I hadn't talked with that I needed to before making any major decisions was the neuro oncologist who was described to me by one of my angel residents as the "quarterback". He was on "Holiday" in Canada with his family and Pat and I were able to visit with him at lenth at the Gonda building yesterday. This is what has been decided:

1. We will do a biopsy followed by radiation and probably some form of chemotherapy as this tumor has been termed "large" and "big" - not what one wants to hear from a World Renouned Mayo Neuro Oncologist :)
2. We may wait to find out more about my heart abnormaility (found inverted t-waves and slight ischemia/scarring) before the biopsy, depending on what the surgeon feels comfortable with.
3. They believe it is a low grade tumor, but won't know more about specifics without seeting it under the microscope. Once they know this, they can fine tune my treatment more.
4. I have been on anti-seizure meds (keppra) as well as steriods (decadron). As there is no swelling on my brain, they are tapering me off the steroids which will decrease the anxiety and fatigue i have had as side effects.
5. Because i am young (30 in case you were wondering) and no real past medical history, they feel that treatment will be very helpful for me. Once they know more about the tumor, we'll be able to have more prognoses and life expectancy numbers.

I hope I can give you more info in the near future. Writing this email has totally wiped me out. Please continue to send me your emails, I won't be able to respond, but I definitely am getting your thoughts and prayers.

I love you all very much, and I truly believe there are millions of angels among us - including all of you.

Please feel free to forward this on to anyone you think would like an update.


prayers requested from anyone for whom that is appropriate and consistent with their beliefs. please comment if you are so moved so i can communicate your involvement to aid their encouragement.

*they are ~3 and 1 years of age.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!!

my New Year's Eve went just swimmingly, as i hope did yours, and extended late into the afternoon yesterday. after making plans to rent a 4-wheel drive vehicle and get the heck outta Dodge, i found myself swamped with invites on Friday. try as i might, i was unable to attend all the parties but did make it to shindigs in Fort Lupton, Longmont, and Fort Fun.

the highpoints:
- Fort Lupton: i learned firsthand what a pirogi is and indulged in both steamed and fried varieties.
- Longmont: i mastered the finer points of Texas Hold'em and was invited to join a weekly game. (Luck, be a lady!)
- back in Fort Fun, i almost stopped to invite a cop to the party after he tailed me 10 minutes. at the last second, he apparently lost interest and headed off into the wilds. the female impersonator was gorgeous, the stairway divine for grand entrances, the iridescent silver boa (with tails) tempting, the vodka martinis killing, and the bubbly abundant. (who knew Auld Lane Syne could be sexy?) all in all, it was probably best that i forgot my camera.

i am not entirely sure but think i agreed to host an over the top dinner party in anticipation of my birthday. the hosts at the last gig had been intended guests to my party last year, but my mother's unfortunate womano i vano experience put a kabosh on the event, never rescheduled. they reminded me that i owe them a party so now i'd better start building a guest list and menu... a little daunting as i have no staircase, no piano and over half my friends have moved away.

still, no one can set a kitchen on fire like me and i still have a couple weeks to regenerate a friend base suitable for fine and frivolous dining. speaking of which, those in town for January and interested, please let me know!

today i finally got hold of Mom. she reports that the flight was taxing but survivable, the baby squishy and cute, and their overall experience positive. this hurdle out of the way, we can start planning our trip to Manhattan for my birthday! suggestions welcome-i haven't been since shortly after 9/11 and i suspect a lot has changed since then.

all in all, a very successful end to a hideously challenging year and propitious start to a new one. so i bid you all

Welcome to 2006-May it bring you all joy, love, and wonder each of its 365 days!