Saturday, April 20, 2002

And the truth shall set you free : I've been avoiding the UK and EUropean press lately, there's only so much I can take before my blood pressure rises enough to make me worry about popping some blood vessels. But Osama's mention of this article got me curious.

But Israel has committed a heinous crime. That crime is to seek to defend itself against the attempt to annihilate it. For this effrontery, a torrent of lies, distortions, libels, abandonment of objectivity and the substitution of malice and hatred for truth is pouring out of the British and European media and Establishment.

Go read the rest, it only gets better from there.
You can't keep a good ship down : The USS Cole sails again.

The Cole returns to duty with 14 months worth of repairs and the additions of many new features, including 17 stars laid in the hallway floor one for each of the sailors killed when an explosion tore a hole in the ship's side on Oct. 12, 2000.

Friday, April 19, 2002

That feeling of dread : I was sitting in the car waiting and listening to the radio yesterday when I first heard the news of that plane crashing into a building in Milan. I'm betting I wasn't alone in thinking "Oh no, not again!". As enough details came out pretty quickly, though, it seemed unlikely it was an "again" - horrible for those hurt and killed, to be sure, but not another terrorist atrocity.

I have to admit that ever since the terrorist atrocities of September 11th just about every time I've turned on the TV, the radio, or logged onto the 'net and checked the news I've been expecting it. Waiting for it, as though some part of me is utterly convinced it is going to happen again and it's just a matter of time before the other shoe drops. This isn't like the intellectual knowledge that there's a good chance it could happen again. It goes well deeper than that and is a kind of emotional certitude that it is going to happen again.

The day President Reagan was shot and the day space shuttle Challenger blew up on lift off are the only things in my lifetime that have come within an AU of what happened on September 11th. And, frankly, as horrible as those two events were, neither even came close to what happened on that day. Moreover, there was little or no chance that either event was going to be repeated any time soon - John Hinkley was quickly caught, they weren't going to be sending up any shuttles for quite a while to come. But on September 12th, 13th, 20th, all the way to April 18th and beyond, we all know another September 11th is possible. We are and should fight a war to minimize the chances of there being another September 11th, but we can never eliminate that risk entirely.

Today the feds issued a warning concerning information they'd received that banks in the Northeast might be a target for terrorists. The information apparently comes from an al-Qaida nutjob who seems to be singing like a canary. Problem is, they don't trust him and the chances are he's lying just to cause a stir. They really have nothing else to go on save the word of someone they don't trust, it seems pretty clear that they do think he's lying. But he might not be, there's no way to know for sure, so they issue the warning. No doubt they'll take guff for it when, as seems most likely, nothing happens. But if something did happen and they's had a hint of information they didn't share, they'd take a lot more than guff. Besides, it's at least remotely possible that by coming out with this information it could disrupt any terrorist plans and self-fulfill a "warnings mean nothing's going to happen" prophecy.

As it happens, I have bank accounts in a bank in the Northeast - kind of makes sense, given that I live in the Northeast. I don't go into the bank very often, that's what ATM cards and machines are for, but what if I were to need to in the next few days for whatever reason? I'm well aware that I face far more risk just getting in the car than I do going into a bank - even if a terrorist were intent on blowing up a bank in this region it's pretty darn unlikely that he'd chose one right around here. But, still, it does make you think.

I'm not cynical enough to believe that these warnings are just a matter of CYA, though I'm sure that's at least a little part of it. I can see how they could do some good, on the off chance that someone really does mean to blow up a BankBoston (or whatever) downtown somewhere maybe someone will be a little more on alert and catch them before they can do any damage. Or maybe the warning, the knowledge that someone is on to the game, might be enough to cause such a terrorist to change their plans or, better yet, do something stupid that will get them caught before they can do any damage.

The warnings also keep that sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop to the forefront. Short term I'm not sure that's a bad thing. But in the long term...?

In the long term I wonder if that feeling will ever go away. If there will ever come a time when I will turn on the TV without half expecting to see live coverage of another September 11th... Or something even worse.
He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaack (and the squirrels are rejoicing) : Protein Wisdom appears to be back up - with a vengeance. Jeff apparently had some serious snark pent-up, you absolutely positively should not miss this post or this one.
Home Improvement : We went to see Big Trouble today. I confess that I wasn't expecting a whole lot, maybe something along the lines of Galaxy Quest which was amusing enough but pretty lightweight even for a comedy. Big Trouble was a lot better than I was expecting. It's relatively short, taken from a Dave Barry novel, and has a rather large cast - this is not really "just" a Tim Allen movie. The jokes come in fast and furious and the plot takes enough right turns to go around the block a few dozen times, but it all works pretty well. My only quibble, and it's a minor one, was with Zooey Descanel's character. She goes for the Winona Ryder Lydia character from Beetlejuice delivery and it just doesn't work without the goth.

Personally I haven't found a lot of comedy to be to my taste in the last year or three. Woody Allen just creeps me out and every one of his movies seems to revolve around whatever his latest neurosis/psychosis might be - I have a theory that you have to be a boomer to "get" Woody Allen. Much of the rest of what tries to pass itself off as comedy has been way too juvenile. Sorry, but when you're reduced to ejaculate hair cream or pastry sex objects as your centerpiece joke I'm not overly interested.

I did pick up Bedazzled not long ago. Brendan Fraser may have an acting range that's all of three feet wide, but he's got good comedic timing and looks guaranteed to inspire a naughty fantasy or three. Liz Hurley? Hey, she hawks Estee Lauder so she's at least got good taste. I didn't expect any more out of Bedazzled than I did out of Big Trouble and I was just as pleasantly surprised. Liz Hurley can act? Whodda thunk it? Most of the time when a model tries to act it's downright embarrassing, which is why I had relatively low expectations for the movie. But Hurley was excellent as a vamped up Satan and she and Fraser played off of each other wonderfully.

Anyway, if you're in the mood for some light comedy and care to brave the giga-theatre near you, go see Big Trouble. If you just want something to rent and watch give Bedazzled a try.
I wonder what they meant by that? : I wonder if Arafat has read this -

Bush administration officials who met recently with former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked why Israel is not getting rid of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, Netanyahu told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a meeting yesterday, according to a source close to him.

I wonder what they might have meant by "getting rid of"?

He also told Sharon it was more difficult to explain to the US why Israel is not acting to remove Arafat than to justify the current military operation, the source said.

Be afraid, Arafat, be very afraid.
Tortured analogies (or - "Well, you did ask..." ) : I must have seen this clip about a thousand times by now -

"I have to ask the Bush administration, the international community, is this acceptable that I cannot go out the door," [Arafat] said, his voice rising with apparent exasperation.

Well, now that you mention it... Why yes, yes it is.

I know it has been debated endlessly both in upper Blogtopia and the press in general, but I still can't decide if this has all been a rope-a-dope or not. I suppose we'll never know for sure, if it works out right they can claim it was regardless and if it doesn't they can say that was never what they intended. It sure is starting to look like whether it was intended as one or not, that's how it's working out.

(For those two people on the planet who don't yet know what a rope-a-dope is, go rent "Broken Arrow", it's the first place I ever heard of it and there's a good explanation in there. Basically it's a boxing thing. In some boxing match way back when one boxer managed to trick another boxer into thinking he was pretty much out of it. The tricked boxer kept throwing tons of pretty much ineffectual punches until he was well and truly exhausted, at which point the tricker walloped the trickie and won. Why it's called a rope-a-dope I've no idea.)

An awful lot of people, including me, would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in Arafat's office listening to what Secretary Powell told him (come to think of it, the Israelis probably do have a bug or two hundred in there). Somehow I doubt Powell had a lot of kind and comforting words for Arafat, even though apparently Secretary Powell's job in all of this is to play "good cop".

The Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular have gotten some rather depressing news lately. They don't know which, not that it really matters, but either the game has changed or it never was what they thought it was.

For a long time now Arafat and company have been playing "bait the dog". To them Israel was a really mean tempered dog on a leash held by an owner that wasn't really paying a lot of attention. They could sneak up, whack the dog on the nose, and run away safe in the knowledge that the dog's snarling and barking would get the owner's attention in time for the owner to yank the leash and stop the dog from biting their hindquarters off.

Only that's not the game anymore and maybe it never was. What's happening now is more akin to a 98lb weakling going up to a 250lb bodybuilder and periodically kicking him in the shin then running away laughing maniacally. After a little bit of this the 250lb bodybuilder really starts getting tired of this crap, especially as he knows he could easily flatten the annoying 98lb weakling without even trying. But the 250lb bodybuilder has a truly giant friend who keeps holding him back, telling him that the 98lb weakling just isn't worth getting that worked up about and maybe the 98lb weakling has "issues" and deserves a little pity. So thanks to the 250lb bodybuilder's good nature and his giant friend's convenient (convenient because it isn't the giant that is getting kicked) pacifism, the 98lb weakling has been getting away with this for quite some time. Occasionally he doesn't run away quickly enough and the 250lb bodybuilder manages to slap him, but that's about it. The 98lb weakling has become convinced that he can do this indefinitely.

Unfortunately for the demented 98lb weakling, he can't. Eventually either the 250lb bodybuilder is going to get fed up enough to ignore his giant friend's counsel, the giant friend is going to decide enough is enough and stop trying to hold back the 250lb bodybuilder, or, most likely, both are going to happen. Either way, the 250lb bodybuilder is going to get kicked one too many times and go after the 98lb weakling, likely beating him to a pulp and doing a nasty job of it out of pent up frustration.

And that's where we are today. Of course in these sorts of situations the 98lb weakling - Arafat and his cronies - can never figure out why it is that the 250lb bodybuilder - Israel - is stomping on them nor can the figure out why his giant friend - America - has basically given up on telling him not to. They've gotten away with this before so many times, the giant friend has always been there to step in and stop the bodybuilder, why is it different now? It's all... It's all so unfair! I only kicked him a few times, what's the big deal? I promised not to do it again... Sort of. Well I won't do it again today. Or maybe just not this hour. What's the problem? Why won't the really big guy stop this other big guy from beating the crap out of me?

I have to imagine that Arafat knew he was in trouble on September 11th, he just didn't know how much trouble. The giant got kicked in the shins in a major sort of way and maybe wasn't going to be so apt to be patient or counsel pacifism in the future. But then, after a few months, it must have seemed like everything was back to normal. The giant was back to holding the bodybuilder back and everyone went back to form. Only Arafat and company kicked Israel in the shins one too many times. No one with an ounce of self-preservation instinct can tolerate that forever, no country can tolerate having her citizens blown up at random by psychopaths no matter what their cause.

When Powell got sent over everyone - Arafat, the Europeans, the Press, the other Arab countries - all breathed a sigh of relief. Finally some sense, the giant was coming over to stand in the bodybuilder's way. But it didn't work out that way. The giant said all the same words but nothing changed. Whether there was a wink and a nudge between them or not, the giant really didn't do squat to hold back his bodybuilder friend. Whether it was or wasn't a show, it all added up to the same thing.

The one thing that is now clear is that no one on our side of the pond really believes Arafat's half-made promises that he won't go kick Israel in the shins again the first chance he gets. It no longer matters whether Arafat is incapable or unwilling to stop the terrorist atrocities against Israel carried out in his name, either way his promises are worth nothing.

The press, both here and abroad, has been spinning Powell's trip as a big failure. They, like Arafat, expected the same old thing. Powell would go over there, mouth a few demands at Arafat, Arafat would promise to comply but ignore his promises, Powell would scowl really hard at the Israelis and cause them to back down, and everything would be back to business as usual. That's not what happened so it must have been a failure, right? The press seems incapable of even considering that their perceptions are wrong, that Powell's trip did exactly what it was designed to do, because they're working from the same old playbook. To Arafat, the other Arab states, and the press, Arafat is a legitimate head of government and what Israel is doing is intolerable. But is anyone in the White House taking that seriously? It sure doesn't seem so.

Is it acceptable that Arafat can no longer go out his door? It sure is as far as Israel is concerned and it doesn't seem to be overly bothering anyone in the US administration. Whether it was intended as a rope-a-dope or has just turned out that way doesn't seem to matter at this point.

Either way, Arafat is the dope and he has been quite effectively roped.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Be nice to the Proteins : Protein Wisdom is currently having problems with their DNS lookup and apparently getting everything fixed is going to take a day or two. Until then you can reach them here. I hope they cleared up soon, that's one of my favorite places to sow dissension!

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Catch the Hawkspirit : Given that I'm going to be at the hospital for much of tomorrow (well, today, given that it's now well past 2AM) I probably won't be doing a lot of blogging. But I've got something even better for those of you who might be bored, my sister's 'blog. It's a 'blog she writes dedicated to the goings on in the lives of her two young sons. That might be boring if my nephews weren't astoundingly wonderful kids and if my sister wasn't a gifted writer with a talent for observational humor. But they are, and she is, so go and see. It'll be a good break for you from all the warblogging stuff.
The rest of the story (or, at least, part of it) : I mentioned in an earlier post that I spent much of Friday at the hospital with SWVCTM and her father while they did a bone scan on her. Today I took her to the Oncologist so she could get the results.

First a little about a bone scan, for those who've never had the pleasure. Basically what they do is take a glow-in-the-dark syringe out of a lead box and inject you with a radioactive dye - I'm not kidding, they really do keep it in a lead box. They inject you with this stuff and tell you to go twiddle your thumbs for a couple of hours. The radioactive material is absorbed most heavily by bone cells that are active and growing quickly, which does not happen to include most of the skeletal structure of an adult but does include any cancerous cells. Cancer cells tend to be very active and grow quickly. That's the whole idea behind chemotherapy, it disrupts any quickly growing cells. Unfortunately that's a bit like using a sledgehammer to go after a fly since there are other cells in your body - among them, bone marrow, mucus membranes, and hair follicles - that also grow very quickly and chemo disrupts them as well. Still, it beats the alternative.

Anyway, once the radioactive material has had a couple of hours to circulate through your system they have you lay on a table and they run a scanner over the entire length of your body and then again underneath you. The result is a piece of film a little larger than an 8X10 piece of paper. The outline of your body is vaguely visible as a shadow, but what shows clearly is your skeleton as well as your bladder and kidneys - that's where they dye is going to be excreted. Areas that might be cancerous show up kind of like darker blobs because they have absorbed the most radioactive dye.

It's very weird to me to look at one of these bone scan films, maybe it's just me but it's almost shocking. It's one thing to know that there's a skeleton inside you, another to see it like that. Seeing an x-ray of, say, someone's hand showing the carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges just isn't the same as seeing their entire skeleton.

When I was a kid and taking A&P (Anatomy and Physiology) we had two skeletons that we used as part of our studies. The skeletons could be disassembled, which was necessary as we had to memorize each and every part of every bone in the human body - and, trust me, that's a lot of Latin. Near the end of the first semester the class was down to less than a dozen students out of thirty-some-odd who had started. We were sitting around one day and someone asked the guy teaching the class if he knew anything about where the skeletons had come from. He didn't know anything for sure, of course, but he could and did speculate about their probable sex, race, approximate age at death, and such. He went on for some length and for most of us it hit us rather suddenly that these... These things that we'd been handling day in and day out for months had once actually been living breathing people no different from us. We all knew that intellectually, of course, but it hadn't ever really hit us emotionally before that moment. It was for me my first real brush with the idea of mortality as something other than a vague concept.

I had another, more personal, brush several years later. I came down with my own cancer at a very young age. I'm not even sure how young, other than to know that it's visible in pictures from when I was eighteen - it was probably there before that. It wasn't diagnosed until I was twenty, mostly because no one thinks to look for skin cancer in a teenager since that's virtually unheard of. It turned out to be basal cell carcinoma, one of the most benign and easily treatable skin cancers there is. Except under extremely rare circumstances, basal cell really poses no threat. It'll just continue to grow and if you let it that can be a problem. When it was first diagnosed they burned it out, which is the standard treatment, and I pretty much thought that was that.

Unfortunately that didn't work, years later the cancer was back. When that happens they can't burn it out again as it'll simply keep coming back. The best solution was something called Mohs Microsurgery. Basically they cut out a section, take it to special on-site lab facilities, map where the cancer is, then go back and do it again - repeat until the sample is clear on all sides. It's fairly rare that they have to do that, in fact (at least at the time) there are only two surgeons in the state who are qualified and have the facilities necessary and I was one of the youngest people it'd ever been done on.

It took eight hours of surgery before they had gotten all of the cancer. I was awake the whole time and the surgeon kept talking to me the whole time to make sure that I was lucid and all of that. The cancer was just under my right eye so even more care than what would be usual in what is a very careful surgery was required. By the time they were done there was a hole in my face about the size of a quarter going very nearly all the way to the bone.

After they were certain they'd removed all of the cancer they had me sit up on the end of the table while a nurse took pictures to document what had been done. The surgeon was out of the room, it was going to be a few minutes before the he was ready to start the plastic surgery end of things that would close the hole up without, hopefully, making me look like bride of Frankenstein for the rest of my life. The nurse, for whatever reason, asks me if I want to see and offers me a mirror. Stupidly - though later my sister, in between ranting and raving about it being the most unprofessional thing she'd ever heard of, pointed out that by that point I'd been pumped full of enough drugs to drop a horse - I agreed. What I saw was my own mortality, a hole in my face going down through muscle, tendon, and bone. I only looked for a split second before very nearly passing out, but what I saw was both horrifying and fascinating. For that split second I was one of those skeletons hanging in the A&P lab. Not a unique person, but the traumatized parts that make up me. I've seen far, far worse traumas to the human body, but seeing it in yourself like that is an experience best avoided.

Seeing the results of a bone scan is a bit like that. I can name all of the bones in a human body, I know how they're put together and, of course, I know that there is a skeleton inside of every one of us. But that's all intellectual knowledge, emotionally it's rather distant. Seeing it all laid out like that, a person reduced to one of those skeletons hanging in the A&P lab, makes it into emotional knowledge - often a very different thing.

After they'd done the bone scan SWVCTM, her father, and I sat in the waiting room twiddling our thumbs. That's most of what you do in a hospital, twiddle your thumbs and wait a lot. The nurse or radiological technician - I was never clear on which she was - who'd taken SWVCTM in to get the actual bone scan came out and informed her that they wanted to get a spinal x-ray. This wasn't a good sign as a spinal x-ray isn't part of the standard procedure. If they wanted one it probably wasn't because the bone scan had been clear. But of course they don't tell you why they want a spinal x-ray, in fact they don't tell you anything at all. Apparently they would much rather you speculate or they figure you're too stupid to realize that this is probably not a good sign. After the spinal x-ray was done we left, not really knowing anything more than when we'd come in other than what we could speculate.

This afternoon I took SWVCTM down to the hospital to pick up the films. Her Oncologist, and thus her previous chemotherapy and other treatment, were at another hospital a couple of towns over and we needed the films to take to him. We went down to Radiology and, after some waiting and signing papers guaranteeing them your first through third born child if you didn't return the films post-haste, they gave her a large envelope with the bone scan and x-rays in it.

Of course the minute she got back to the car she opened the envelop and started searching through it. what she was looking for was the radiology report which would have the bad news in relatively easy to decode med-speak. No radiology report, apparently they don't want patients to have access to that, presumably because by reading it they might actually learn something about their state of health and we really can't be having that. We found out later that they had faxed the radiology report to the Oncologist rather than simply putting it in with the films we were transporting.

And people wonder why I distrust doctors.

Neither SWVCTM nor I are radiologists, of course, but that didn't stop us from looking at the actual films. A bone scan just isn't that hard to get a very gross read on even if you don't know a whole lot about the subject. Bilateral symmetry means that things should look roughly the same on one side of the skeleton as the other. They didn't. Most of the proximal half of the left humerus was one big black blob. There was a dark area on the spine which was no-doubt what prompted the desire for a spinal x-ray. There were a couple of other areas that looked like possibles, but those two were obvious. Any hope that it was all a big mistake pretty much ended right then and there. While not exactly heartening, it wasn't a big shock either.

So I drove her to the cancer center to see her Oncologist. Now understand that up until a week and a half ago I hadn't driven in better than a decade. It's not that I don't know how, I did drive for about four years or so in my early twenties. By my mid-twenties I reached a point in my life where I didn't have to drive and didn't want to drive and I hadn't driven since. But with SWVCTM's left arm and shoulder being out of commission, she can't drive. Someone had to be able to get her to doctor's appointments and such. Her father could, and did indeed take her to the bone scan, but he has a job and all and, being a housewife, I don't. Thus I don't have the same sorts of time pressures he does, there isn't anything I've got to do that can't be put off if necessary, and it makes much more sense for me to take her - especially since most of the doctors involved already know me. So I started driving again after a very long hiatus. Fortunately it seems to be one of those "like riding a bike" things and I had far fewer problems - especially where handling a standard shift is concerned - than I'd expected. But I'm not exactly the most confident person in the world - to put it mildly - under the best of circumstances, so driving still makes me tense and probably always shall.

I pull into the hospital parking lot and it's clear that SWVCTM is more than a little tense. If I'd been thinking I would have realized that what she was tense about was the upcoming news from the doctor, but being the self conscious sort I jumped to another conclusion.

"Is my driving making you nervous?" I asked.

She mumbled something I didn't quite catch but which sounded to me vaguely like a yes.

"What?" I asked. "You think I'm going to get us into an accident and kill you on your way to a doctor's appointment to be told you're dying?"

Okay, so maybe you had to be there. But it was the first time in a while I've heard her really laugh.

We go into the cancer center and talk to the receptionist. For whatever reason the receptionist wants to verify some of SWVCTM's information so she starts reading it off of a computer screen. About half of what they had in their database was wrong. This I completely do not get. SWVCTM has been in this cancer center literally dozens of times in the last year and a half, how in god's name could they still have half of the information on her wrong? They didn't even have her insurance down right, which makes one wonder how they successfully billed her insurance for all of the myriad treatments and visits she's had there already. Anyone who thinks that assembling large databases on people is a good idea has never dealt with how screwed up even the small ones can be.

We sit in the waiting room and... wait. And wait. And wait. A half hour passed when her appointment was supposed to be they come out to get her and we go back to a treatment room. And we wait. And wait. And wait for another half hour. I sometimes wonder if doctor's offices and hospitals aren't part of a pocket universe made up entirely of nested waiting rooms.

Finally the Oncologist comes in. He's a very short little middle-aged Italian guy - very cute, in an odd sort of cuddly looking way, he even has a cute accent. Normally he's rather jovial, given to joking and such, but today he looks like someone kicked his cat, beat his dog, and then hit him over the head with a baseball bat - that's never a good sign. As he's seen SWVCTM numerous times, he knows she's not fond of BS and prefers to hear bad news straight up. He tells her that the left humerus has a massive met and there's another one in the lumbar region of her spine - basically what we'd already surmised. There are possibly a couple of others, but he doesn't think so. The spinal met clearly worries him, for reasons that I should have thought of but hadn't. If it presses on the spinal column, well it doesn't take a doctor to figure out what that'll cause.

The big worry is whether or not the cancer has spread further. Breast cancer itself won't kill you or, really, cause any major problems in and of itself - the breast is not a major or necessary organ. Breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone again won't generally kill you in and of itself, though it can cause very serious and major problems. Breast cancer that has metastasized to a major organ - the three most likely being the brain, liver, or lungs - will most definitely kill you. If it has metastasized to the bone it obviously has a tendency to metastasize and likely will metastasize again, probably to a major organ. So the question is whether it has or not.

If it hasn't made it to a major organ than they can slow it down and the probabilities are that she has between five and seven years to live. If it has made it to a major organ, she has about two years. Those are the medians, it could be less or it could be more - no one can accurately predict such things but it does give you the general idea. Her relatively young age as such things go, the fact that the original tumor was estrogen negative and almost progesterone negative, and the speed with which these mets have appeared do not help the equation any. I'd hoped the numbers would be better, and it still may turn out that she'll have a lot more time than the doctors think, but at this point I wouldn't bet anything on it. There's simply too many good and obvious reasons to believe that it's not only that bad, but probably a little worse.

So now they'll do a series of tests on her to try and determine if the cancer has spread. They did a chest x-ray this afternoon to look for possible cancer in the lungs. They also did another x-ray of the shoulder to determine if there's a break - the cancer having weakened the bone considerably. Tomorrow they'll do a complete blood work-up to look for liver abnormalities and signs of cancer markers. Then they'll do a CAT scan to see if there's any signs of brain tumors. After that they'll do an MRI so they can have a better look at the spinal met and gauge how dangerous that is. Tomorrow is going to be one very busy day.

Assuming the tests don't find anything more pressing, from there they'll put her on radiation therapy. That will, hopefully, rapidly deal with the problems in the arm and shoulder. It won't make the cancer go away, but it should eliminate the pain and allow her to regain use of that arm. Once that's done they'll put her on another course of chemotherapy to try and slow the cancer down. At this point that's all they can do, slow it down. The cancer will get her, the treatments are going to be designed to make it take as long as possible for that to happen.

I called my sister when I got home to tell her the news. She's known SWVCTM almost as long as I have and while they aren't particularly close she likes her and respects her quite a lot - the latter being more than a bit of a rarity for my sister. For the first several minutes, as I described the news of the day, there was silence on the other end. I know she was hoping it was all a big mistake and even when you know it probably isn't it's a shock to hear it for sure. It's depressing, but I'm getting used to that shocked silence and I certainly understand. What do you say to news like this? There's not much of anything you can say. I'm not even sure what to say and I was there.

If you were in an accident and horribly injured I'm the kind of person you'd want to have around. I have the training, skills, and knowledge, as well as the ability to stay calm and do what must be done, to keep someone alive until professional help can arrive. Blood, guts, gore, that doesn't bother me, in an emergency situation it's all abstract anyway - you'll have time later for a mini-nervous breakdown. But death, that bothers me. That bothers me a lot. You'd think that a thirty-something who's seen more than her fair share of nastiness would have made some kind of peace with the concept, but I haven't. In fact I don't deal with it at all in my own head. I suspect that somewhere inside I have a pathological fear of it or something. That's probably why seeing a bone scan or a hole in my own face bothers me so much when seeing a broken bone sticking out of someone's leg wouldn't.

It's one thing to know intellectually that people, including people you care very much about, are going to die. "Everyone dies" - yeah, eventually. Someday way in the future. It's quite another thing to have it hit you emotionally and know that in at least one case it's going to be a whole lot sooner than you ever expected. The difference between intellectual knowledge and emotional knowledge can sometimes be vast, for me in this it's universes apart.

I don't know how to deal with this, I don't know if anyone really would. For right now I'm not really dealing with it, instead I'm focusing on whatever the next step is. What does she need? Okay, she needs to be here, here, and here for tests. And then...?

I don't know how to deal with this, but I guess I'm going to have to learn.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

What do they wear under those robes anyway? : Victoria's Secret is going to the Supreme Court. It seems some guy started his own stores called Victor's Little Secret that sell, ummm, "everything for romantic encounters" - if you get my drift - and VS is pretty ticked about it. It seems pretty clear that Victor is likely going to get screwed, blued, and tattooed here as he's already lost two rounds and it doesn't seem like he's got much ground to stand on. Still, the potential for hilarity here is enormous. I bet SCOTUS sets a new world record for use of euphemisms with this one...
Just a little touch-up... : Botox has been approved by the FDA for cosmetic use. I confess to being a little surprised, Botox has been being used for purely cosmetic purposes for what seems like eons now, I wasn't aware that it was all off-label.

The makers of Botox, Allergan, Inc., seems to feel that this will open the floodgates. I can just imagine the adverts they're planning - no doubt they already have them in the can and have had for some time. I don't know, I have my doubts it'll make much difference. Botox, for the three people on the planet who don't know, is short for Botulism Toxin. When injected into muscle it effectively paralyzes it, this results in a reduction of wrinkles and lines and thus can make you look younger and less uptight. Problem is, it ain't cheap. Worse yet, the effect is, unsurprisingly, temporary. We're talking in the $500 - $1,000 range for something that lasts about four to six months. Also it can effect your ability to make expressions, especially if overdone - talk about the mannequin look.

As I said, Botox has been routinely being used for this for a while, apparently off-label. I'm guessing that most of those forty-somethings who are interested and can afford it are probably already getting it. Me, I'm hoping that by the time I hit the forty-something mark there'll be a treatment available that won't have the word "toxin" in it.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Doornail city? : According to the ever hunkalicious Rummy there's nothing new in the new OBL tape -

A newly surfaced videotape showing elusive al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden appears to be cobbled from videotapes recorded last fall after the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon Monday.

"Anything I can tell or was told, at least thus far, the impression is that it is not new. The tape is new, but it does not reflect anything of (bin Laden) from recent periods," he said. "There isn't any reason that anyone who has communicated with me can find to believe that they are anything other than somewhat dated."

Assuming this is true, doesn't it seem to add weight to the theory that OBL is a smear on a rock somewhere and probably has been for quite some time? If he's still processing oxygen then why would anyone cobble together a "greatest hits" tape? Smells of desperation, don't it?

One can hope...
Put your money where your mouth is : Suha Arafat apparently wishes she had a son to sacrifice -

Suha Arafat said there would have been "no greater honor" than sacrificing her son to the Palestinian struggle for independence if she had one, al-Majalla said in its April 14-20 edition. "Would you expect me and my children to be less patriotic and more eager to live than my countrymen and their father and leader, who is seeking martyrdom?" she said.

Talk's cheap, last I heard Palestinians now support equal opportunity when it comes to filling openings for murdering suicidal nutjobs. Want to take bets on the chances she'll come out of where ever she's hiding and volunteer?

As for her husband, the "father" - it's never a good sign when a political leader is described as the "father" of his people - of the Palestinians, wanting martyrdom -

Arafat saw Powell to the door, and they shook hands, but Arafat did not emerge. ``Arafat did not come out for security reasons,'' Erekat said.

Gesturing to the building next door, where Israeli soldiers peered out of half-open windows, Erekat said, ``You see the Israeli snipers all around. We are not going to take that risk.''

But... But I thought Arafat wanted to be a martyr?

Yeah, right. As if any of those snipers were going to do squat anyway. If they wanted Arafat dead he would have been dead long before now.
The name of the game? : The name of the game is amnesia -

His [Saudi Prince Abdullah's] speech won wide applause, and the Arab League adopted Abdullah's land-for-peace formulation unanimously and also approved a reconciliation between Iraq and Kuwait, which Abdullah, along with Egypt, helped to engineer.

Sharon began his full-scale assault to destroy the Palestinian Authority on March 29.

"Abdullah is hurt and humiliated," said a State Dept. official. "He made what he felt was a generous offer, only to see it entirely ignored, not just by Israel, but seemingly by the United States."

Wait a dag-blamed minute. Ignoring for the moment that the Saudi peace plan was a pathetic joke, exactly what planet is the author of this UPI article (Richard Sale) living on? Exactly how stupid do they think people are?

Don't answer that...

To read this you'd think poor Abdullah got up and put his bum on the line to make this magnanimous offer to the Israelis only to have it callously ignored for no reason whatsoever, thus hurting the poor prince's feelings. The mean ol' Israelis just decided to mount a full-scale assault for no reason at all.

But there's one little detail the UPI's "terrorism correspondent" left out. Care to guess what it is?

Could that be, ummm... Terrorism?

Yes! You win a kewpie doll! There was this little thing that has come to be called the Passover Seder Massacre. You may have heard of it, in fact I think even UPI covered it. You would think that little incident, where some of Prince Abdullah's Palestinian buddies decided that a Jewish holiday would be a really neat-o time to go blow a bunch of people up, might, just maybe, be relevant when discussing the timeline of events. Not even mentioning it is kind of like discussing the events leading up to the US attack on Afghanistan without mentioning OBL, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or the September 11th terrorist atrocities. Trying to do so would be absolutely ludicrous, but when discussing the recent Israeli military operations ignoring little relevant things like, oh, Palestinians blowing Israelis to kingdom come is simply par for the course.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Watch your head : And you thought the glass ceiling was bad? Well now there's the gluey chair, the sticky steps, and the double brick walls (is that anything like a double latte?).

I'm guessing the ultimate hazard is a sticky-gluey double glass wall - and you know how common those are.
I fought the law and the law won : Colorado is considering a new law which would, shock of shocks, only allow police to confiscate your property if you were actually convicted of a crime. What a concept, huh? And, worse yet, the money and property they are actually able to take won't automatically go to whoever takes it.

Unsurprisingly, the local law, in the person of Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter, is none too pleased about this -

He said due to the unpredictability of juries, some cases that resulted in acquittal clearly should have brought a conviction. In such cases, law enforcement authorities working under Mitchell's bill would have to return property seized from the suspects that may have helped in committing crimes, Ritter said.

Well boo-hoo. It's nice to see that DA Ritter respects jury decisions so much. It's so much more convenient when people like him get to decide if they can take your property or not rather than worrying about messy things like unpredictable juries that might actually decide against him for no reason.