Friday, December 19, 2008

Hmmmm..... a list

Hmmmm, A list that apparently wanders around blogs, Courtesy of Katie. Bah, almost impossible to tell what's bold here! I need a better way..... aha HTML to the rescue the things I haven't done are now in tan.
1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars (The best way to sleep, always did as a teenager in the summer)
3. Played in a band (I am presuming that Orchestras, and String Quartets count)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (small ones)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo (I have played solos on viola in competition, I think that counts)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort ( I think so, built many snow things, I remember a snow throne)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (I think being naked in a hot tub with strangers counts)
27. Run a Marathon (not built for running)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (No, but stayed overnight on the inland passage Ferry in Alaska, far better than a cruise, spent the day chatting with local native Americans and watching Orcas and eagles, and was on a boat with 20 others tooling around in the sounds in BC, catching and eating fish, hopping off to go hiking so I am counting this)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (not terribly material for an American)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (No! No! Help!)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (Bought panhandlers hot knishes and hot coffee on cold winter days in NYC but that doesn’t count)
44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (film student variety)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies ( sold Campfire girl candy, that counts)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (Like Katie, Chapters)
81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (it settled out of court though, and now that I am a PhD I will never be picked again. Lawyers do not want thinking people, they want maneuverable people)
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (never going to happen, though I have had many kittens and have God Children)
95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


It is finals week. I am writing exams and grading. Grading and writing exams. Finishing spreadsheets for hundreds of students. I have spreadsheets with thousands of entries.

I am a monotasker. When I get into a groove the task at hand fills me up. The task at hand displaces all else.

When I drive for hundreds of miles I reach my destination as a road zombie, only focusing on the distance, my head full of trucks, tail-lights, and music.

When I am a zombie I can barely speak. My eyes are glassy. My wild hair is wilder.

Right now I can only focus a few feet in front of my face. My head is full of numbers. I have posted carefully diagrammed keys to the last few quizzes and test on the walls outside of my office. I have been here almost 12 hours. I should go home.

I have two more exams to write, some more grading, and I need to finish writing equations in Excel to automatically drop some lowest scores.

I need to go home.

I am pulling zeros down a column so that my equations will work.

I need to go home


I really should go home

I should



Tuesday, October 14, 2008


My father's twin passed yesterday at noon. I have not yet spoken to my father. he left a message on my machine, and I did not hear it until this morning.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


My mother called me at work on Thursday, her voice shaky. “Your uncle Bill is in the hospital. He has had a stroke, or a hemorrhage, Nina said he was in great pain. He may not live the next few hours. Your dad is at the Symphony office. I am afraid to tell him, he’ll want to drive right down, but we won’t make it”

My parents live in Oregon, my uncle Bill a ways outside of Sacramento, California. It is about an 8 hour drive. My father will be 82 in a couple of weeks, as would his twin brother Bill.

I talked to my mom a bit. I told her to be ready to pack, but not to start until my father was home. Nina said she would call back when she knew more. She had told her daughter, but not her son, as he is dealing with his wife’s health problems at the moment.

I have seen Bill and Nina only a few times in the last 30 years. When I was a child we saw more of them and their two children, close in age to my brother and I. There was an unpleasant rivalry between our families then. The twins were not fond of each other, neither were their wives. We children, cousins, got along fine. As the years passed, my parents and Bill and Nina mellowed, becoming rather fond of each other, rivalries faded into distant past.

We had a big joint birthday party at my cousin’s house in California for the twin’s 80th birthday. A picture of them and their older sisters is in an earlier blog.

My mother calmed down on the phone. She said she knew I would be the right person to call, being always rational and calm. I think that indeed that is usually true.

I wonder. So far I not really been upset at a relative’s death. People die, life goes on. It is sad for those who are close to them. Is it that no one truly close to me has died? I have cried long over dead pets. Long ago I figured out that that was because they are my responsibility. Their death, or loss of quality of life quite dependent on my choices, my care. I have also been lucky. No one very close to me has died. What will happen when it is a good friend, or my parents? I adore them, and they are not young. Most of my adult life I have lived thousands of miles away from them, so I see them typically once in a year, on occasion twice.

My friend Lisa was dismayed when her brother died recently. He was in his early 40’s. It was an ugly situation. The situation angered her, but what dismayed her was that she did not mourn her brother the way she mourned the loss of her cat some months before.

Another friend has lost both parents to cancer in the space of three years and it hit her hard. My sister-in law lost her mother right before she married my brother a few years ago, and her father a couple of days ago. I spent some time with him last Christmas, the beautiful white Christmas in the mountains. He had good taste in wine and food and conversation. I liked him.

Yet another friend’s mother has been battling cancer for many years. The battle is not going well these days. She is having a hard time.

My uncle Bill did not want to resuscitated, did not want to be on life support, did not want a funeral or memorial. He was a man of strong opinions. As of last night he was in a coma on life-support, waiting notification of the rest of the family, and their decision. I’m not sure what I think about that. In some senses, when you are gone, or effectively gone, I suppose what is done is for the benefit of any remaining friends or relatives. On the other hand, I think it wrong to be kept physically alive for a long time, costing lots of money, only because no one has the nerve to pull the plug.

Many years ago, when I was in my 20s I worked in a medical research laboratory. I was pretty much a lab rat, doing assays to measure vasoactive mediators. I lived very close to the hospital and laboratory in New York City though, and was single with no real demands on my time (and how nice that was!) so I was the choice to be brought in, sometimes on a moments notice, to get samples from interesting cases and process them for analysis. Some of the doctors in our group were working on a disease that had been lethal, idiopathic pulmonary hypertension. We were a pediatric research lab, so our patients were primarily children. We had good luck with toddlers, staving off the disease until the child’s lungs and cardiovascular system grew and recovered. Our first patient was 2 when we started, she lived, and last I heard was doing fine.

We did not have good luck with young adults. One handsome blond track star steadily declined, became increasingly uncooperative and obstreperous during our treatments, not unexpected as our treatments weren’t working on him, and quit the experimental procedures. A beautiful, soft-spoken woman from a Carribean island was a model patient, only an occasional tear leaking from her large dark eyes over her pain and fate. They died, hearts failing from their disease. I would ask at some point and hear of their passing.

Then we had a patient who was neither a toddler nor a young adult. His name was Jose. he was our first patient who was actually local, from the neighborhood. He was about 7. He loved baseball and was a cheerful child. The doctors tried this and that and the next thing. He would hold steady for a little while, not improving but not worsening, then he would get worse. The disease was killing him. One day we had him in the cardiac cath lab yet again. I was there in a lead apron with buckets of ice and tubes for samples. I talked to Jose while yet another treatment was tried and pressures monitered. Then all the doctors left the room for a bit for a huddle over the treatment.

They came back in with grim determination. More medicines were given. They watched the monitors. Jose’s systemic blood pressure began to fall. I was given some more samples. The pressures fell further. In hushed voices the doctors fretted about possible negative results that they knew were a risk. Suddenly the medical personnel in the room went into a rush. I stood their watching, not being part of the medical team as they tried this then that to keep his systemic blood pressure from falling. The stress level in the room shot up.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked.

“Keep him awake!” snapped a doctor.

So I talked to Jose, asked him about baseball, told him some silly jokes. Jose smiled, and talked for a bit, then in spite of my best efforts, he fell asleep. I was sent away with my samples.

An hour or two later the doctors came back to the lab, away in the research wing. I was just finishing processing the samples for later analysis.

“How’s Jose?” I asked.
The doctor looked at me with disbelief.
“He’s dead” she said, and walked out. I was left standing there, shocked.

Another doctor walked in. “I didn’t know he was dead” I said.

The second doctor looked at me, eyes hard. “Yes, he’s dead, and it was because of what we did. We knew the treatment might, if it didn’t help. I’m surprised you didn’t know. Why do you think we asked you to keep him awake? The treatment to lower his pulmonary pressure stood the risk of bottoming out his systemic pressure, and because of what we used, we would not be able to reverse it.” He did not have long to live, so we took the risk.

I went home that evening, ate, watched TV, went to bed and curled into a ball, miserable. If I had known would I have worked harder to keep him awake? Consciousness helps keep the blood pressure up a smidge. It would probably have been impossible to keep him awake, I was told. That death hurt. The others didn’t much. That one hurt because I had a small responsibility, and because I did not know.

So. Uncle Bill. He will probably be the first of his four siblings to pass. He and my father are the youngest. One of my older cousins has died after many decades of drug abuse. I was never close to him. I do wonder how my father feels. He was joking with me last night when I called. He was serious about his brother of course. I am unsure if he bottles things up, or whether he too is not feeling a lot, though surely more than I do.

I wonder about levels of feeling. What will I feel when my parents go? I wish I talked to them more. I REALLY wish that I saw them more.

I wish I knew more family history... but in a sense, why? I am single, no children, there will be no passing down. When I am gone there will not be any need to for me to have had that information. Is there truly a need to know any of the family personal past? For instructional purposes perhaps.

My mother must be thinking of my father, and of mortality, what if it was my father instead of his twin?

What if when I lose someone dear to me I am not devastated? What if my usual calmness reigns? Should I be grieving for every lost relative, grandparents, cousin, uncle? I am not an entirely unemotional person. Why are some so very shaken, and others less so?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Hurricane watching in Ohio is typically a "spectator sport" as Noelle says. One watches the incoming fury heading towards distant places with bated breath. Will it intensify? Will it weaken before landfall? Will those crazy people staying put in its path get hurt or will they in fact be OK?

I like the Weather Underground site. I read Jeff Masters' Blog. I read comments on his blog sometimes. There is a weather nut posting a gorgeous satellite picture of Ike in the gulf at night, clouds coiled like beautiful ghostly shell against the darkness. The coastline patched with lights from the cities. Another poster sends a link that allows one to watch four Houston News broadcasts at once.

"Houston, we have a problem..."

One of the features at the WU hurricane site is a projection of the Hurrocane's path. There, Ike was to strike Galveston, move in through Houston, weaken to a category 1, then turns more north, becoming a tropical storm, then a tropical depression as the winds diminished. Then Ike was projected to arc east... and pick up wind speed? Head into the Great Lakes as a Tropical storm then a category 1 as it skids off into Canada?

I was puzzled. Surely not. Some hurricanes do come to die over the great lakes. I remember Katrina sitting on us for days, nothing left of her horrible fury, just fine soaking warm rain.

I asked. Surely the model is in error? No response.

So. Ike tore through Galveston and Houston and Beaumont wrecking havoc, though fortunately with much less loss of life than he could have caused. Then Ike weakened, curled north, then northeast swallowing the rainy warm front that had drenched us... and picked up wind speed, wrapped all that rain into a tighter, heavier block and roared up Ohio tore over Michigan, lake Erie and into Canada.

Here in Youngstown the wind was ferocious and it lasted for hours. It was picking up strongly near sunset on Sunday. It was sunny, hot, humid, and very windy. The trees were bending.


The wind just got worse and worse until midnight, then it howled away for a couple of hours. We are far from the tropics so calling Ike a tropical storm or hurricane up here would be inaccurate. Nonetheless, though the remains of Ike were actually many miles north of my house, the winds here were gusting over 70 mph.

My trees managed to hold on, though branches and leaves were lost.

My neighbors big black Cherry lost hold and crashed into my yard, tearing part of a red maple with it, and crunching my compost fence. The cherry was a lovely healthy tree. The roots were torn right out of the ground.


We got no rain, only the wind of Ike's remnants in the distance. Undoubtably, if we weren't so far north, Ike would have been back to being a category 1. No rain. Only wind.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Long time, no post

I have thought of hundreds of things to post about over recent months, but have not posted. This will be not much of an exception, rather a series of questions and observations.

Why is being a war hero supposed to qualify one to run the country?

Why are people such hypocrites?

Why is the air in Arlington Texas so horrible?

Why do "animal rights" bills that will actually harm animals appear with such frequency?

A note on that question. Michigan has a pet seller bill up, HB 6395 would make it nearly impossible to sell a home raised kitten in Michigan, or to place rescued cats. Only shelters and pet stores would be able to. To home raise and sell you'd have to have a $200 liscense for EVERY county where a buyer might reside along with being fingerprinted and have a police background check done, and it would not be legal to let your kittens sleep in bed with you or get on the couch or run around on carpet. Crazy.

How can people who try to pass themselves off as conservative fundamental Christians be so un-Christian, being pro-war and anti helping the poor?

When republicans talk about "winning" the war in Iraq, what exactly are they referring to? Didn't GW Bush declare the war to be OVER years ago? And what exactly are we trying to "win"?

Why don't the Human resource people and legal people and payroll people and administration actually research the laws that they quote when they change things around supposedly due to those laws?

As a corollary: Why is it that I, who am pretty dreadful when it comes to legal documents, finances, laws, and tax documents, am able to unearth and understand the actual interpretation and exemptions to said tax law in about 20 minutes, when the professionals at my Uni could not find said law or explain it to me in over an hour and a half of office hopping.

If human life begins at conception.. does that mean that most women trying to get pregnant are committing manslaughter everytime the pregnancy fails, or they fail to get measurably pregnant?

Eggs do get fertilized, but fail to develop most of the time.

If a fertilized egg splits and becomes two identical twins, do they have only one life, one soul between them?

If two fertilized eggs fuse and become one baby (it happens) does that individual have two lives/two souls?

Since when do we make religious belief (like when you personally or your church thinks "life" begins) law?


Why did the hot water hose break off the back of my washing machine?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What I Want in a President

After a long, and to me, odd discussion on Presidential candidates with Rian this evening I have decided that I want to list in some way the characteristics that are most important to me in a President. None of this deals with how to tell if a person has these characteristics, or how to get such a person elected.

I am going to try to number them in the order of importance. I expect that I will forget things or re-order later. Since I feel free to modify what I have already written, be warned.

Oh, and I have had blog posts in my head for ages and haven’t been writing them. Shame on me.

OK, my President

1) Should have as a fundamental goal, the improvement of the health and welfare of all Americans, people in other countries and the earth as a whole.

2) Should be intelligent, able to think quickly and under pressure, be able to absorb new information quickly.

3) Should have long term vision, to be able to foresee as best as possible what the impact of what we do now will be on people and the planet in the future.

4) Should be able to convince, and to wheel and deal with others in power if necessary to get things done. There is no point in being a wonderful idealist if you can’t accomplish anything.

5) Needs to be able to make the hard choices, risking lives to save more, not risking lives over things that aren’t truly worth it. Sometimes a lesser of two evils must be chosen, or one good lost to gain a greater good. So a sense of balance and all the shades of gray.

6) Should have a sense for the People in this country, and what the people as a whole need. Our government is supposed to be “By the people, for the people” not by and for businesses, or the rich above others.

7) Should understand foreign countries, foreign governments and how to help keep our relationships with them good, productive, and for the benefit of people everywhere.

8) Should have the wisdom to be able to change direction when new information arrives that makes such direction changes appropriate.

9) Should be able to choose advisors well, and to be able to keep information flowing amongst them.

10) Should have a keen sense for the importance of knowledge and information, and for their corollaries, education and research to make it available to all.

11) Should have a strong sense of fairness and justice.

12) Needs to be able to rise above attempts to bog them down with small irrelevant stuff, stay focused on the job!

13) Should speak well, be able to transmit important information well, help convince the clueless and the mean-spirited the importance of things that may not superficially seem to immediately benefit an individual.


Things that do NOT matter to me in a President (in no particular order).

Who they have slept with.
Whether they go to church and/or what church they go to.
Whether they have ever lied about personal things, unrelated to the job at hand.
What color clothes they wear.
What color skin they have.
Whether they have ever done illegal drugs.
Whether they have ever told a bad joke.
Whether they have ever changed their minds (though I might expect a nice rational
discussion of why the mind was changed)


Things I do NOT want in a President (in no particular order)

One who sticks to their course even after it is clear it was a bad idea
One who regularly chooses gut feelings or such (horoscopes, messages from God) over rational examinations of information.
One who gives businesses way more priority than people
One who makes sure the rich get richer, even when the poor are getting poorer
One who ignores impact on the environment
One who sifts through data rejecting all that don’t support their plans and accepting only
that that does, in other words ignoring reality to support their agendas
One who silences people based on ideology
One who never bothers to think things through
One whose decisions are based largely on personal (or friends and family) monetary gain
One who ignores the cost in lives and/or human welfare of their policies
One who ignores our constitution forgetting people and their rights, forgetting separation of church and state, etc.