Christmas Eve, a reflection

The daylight on Christmas Eve seemed to shine a little brighter, and the air became somewhat crisper. This is perhaps only my own personal perception of the day yet I feel as if things were much more in focus. The melodious peal of a finely crafted silver bell would surely have been a timorous footnote tucked in as an afterthought to the profoundly overwhelming glory my eyes did feast upon whilst I went about my morning. I enjoyed distant birdsong instead, and the eerie whoosh of the wind through the unclothed boughs of my maple tree.

We forwent the usual Christmas Eve dinner and made do with our local Chinese restaurant tonight. Steubenville is a peaceful town even on Christmas Eve. We needed a few sundries from the grocer and my hair was in dire need of a trim and so we ventured out into the cold.

I would never have dared to leave the house and approach any shops had we lived anywhere other than here. It is as if this were the town that never learned how to be rude. There were a few people whom I wished had a little more goodwill towards their fellow man (or children!) but most of the people that we encountered were as upbeat as a merry carol.

We were out of the beauty parlor in a short amount of time and the only thing that held us up at the grocery store was perhaps my indecision in regard to some cuts of meat and a pair of trouser socks (I should have picked up a cheap pair while we walked through Sears, but it slipped my mind.)

The evening air is tranquil now, broken now and then by a distant siren or the laughter of a neighbor welcoming in guests from the cold. Jewel boxes glimmer over hill and dale, a myriad of festive lights outlining merry homes. The world seems pensive.

Better Half and I will snuggle up with each other in the living room (he found a copy of “The Iron Giant”) and struggle to keep awake until it is time to prepare for Midnight Mass at Holy Rosary. How glad I am to be able to attend this year! (Our vehicle was at the dealership undergoing repairs during the holidays in 2006.)

These are the memories that I will savor everlastingly. This tranquility is what carries me through the year. I wish you all the best on Christmas day, and throughout 2008.


Kiwi (A Master Thesis)

Better Half comes to mind -


Wine Tasting

It is time for the annual Christmas Picture of Autrice. I have pasted it above so that you might break a rib or two in laughter.

We attended a splendid wine tasting this evening. Better Half thought it would be a romantic change of pace (he was correct) so we bundled up and headed over to Valley Wine Cellar.

Kim and Mary, the proprietors, outdid themselves. I absolutely adore their shop, if only because the colors match the colors in my own house. They are a sumptuous blend of deep reds and golden silk, pared with whimsical wine posters. It speaks of Northern Italy (or Southern France) and they have furnished it with rich drapery and an “orgasmicly” comfortable couch. Tonight the glass coffee table was laden with a plethora of fine cheeses, crackers, vegetables and dried fruits.

The Presenter, Erika Young, provided us with a sampling from France, New Zealand, Chile and Italy. I have never given much though to Chilean wines however I did find the Santa Rita “Reserva” Caernet Sauvignon to be surprisingly refreshing.

The Petalo Moscato Spumante was the crowd favorite (I am quite fond of Spumante, personally.) It has a magnificent golden color and a fine, persistent perlage. I found the rose aroma to be a delightful prelude to the sweet taste of the apple and peach flavoring.

I was smitten with the 2000 Chateau Larose-Trintaudon. 2000 proved to be a fantastic growing season in the Bordeaux region and this wine stood as an unblemished testament to that fact. We promptly purchased a bottle before they sold out.

The Macon Lungy “les Charmes” captured our fancy, and Better Half procured a bottle for Christmas day. I absolutely adore this perky Chardonnay.

Granted, these are all rather inexpensive but only a boorish wine snob would spend more than $30 for an everyday table wine. I do wonder how many people actually do use wine every day. I also wonder if I will remember to pick up a new corkscrew at the grocery store tomorrow. Our old one has taken to shredding corks.

It was a cheery evening spent with charming people. We have an open invitation to visit a neighbor’s pond (Better Half and I have toyed with the idea of putting one in our own backyard.) We also received an invitation to a Christmas gathering a week from tomorrow.

In other news:

Truffle has made a complete recovery and has spent the last few days being an active puppy. She frolicked in her first snowfall yesterday and today.

Better Half hauled all our holiday boxes up from the basement and we put together the Christmas tree. We shall spend the weekend decorating it.

It is not often that an owner can say that their hairstyle matches their dog.


A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,

Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,

"I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."
"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

(Author unknown)

The start of the Holidays, 2007

I am filled with a certain dread: the holidays are upon us and my home is not ready. Ten years ago, it would have been completely festooned the day after Thanksgiving. This is 2007 and I finally got around to putting up some garland today.

Better Half hauled up the Box of Indoor Garland this evening and I busied myself with hanging everything to perfection. The boughs must drape in just the right manner. The ribbon and beads must crimp and flow precisely so many inches per arch. The lights must spread evenly throughout the swag with no bunching or dark spots. I am either anal retentive or bipolar/OCD!

Truffle is Home

I am home!

After several days at the veterinarian, you wouldn’t believe that I was the same dog. I am feisty and curious (and famished.)

We are pleased to have Truffle back at home with us. She battled her way through the blitz of parvo and kept her chin up; a very indomitable dog. The Good Doctor vaccinated the other dogs today (bringing them all in at the same time was an adventure in itself.) Truffle is on medications and de-wormer (tapeworm.)

The pet place covered every last penny of her bill. We are tremendously satisfied with their level of customer service. My heart worries about the other exposed pups but they have a very good chance given the dedication of the business owner.

Truffle had a “first” today: she made her way up the concrete steps in the back yard. She is feisty and her determined attitude is most likely what brought about her triumph over this illness. She is also a bit demanding (especially where food is concerned) but she will be quite a lady after a little bit of training.

Thank you to all my dear Readers who kept us in prayer and best wishes these past few days. You made this challenge easier via your compassion.


C. Clymer, shoo. There is nothing for you here.

Canine Parvo Virus (CPV): what is it and how can it be treated?

I have had several requests for information regarding parvovirus. Most of my knowledge of it was out of date as I have not worked in veterinary medicine in over ten years. I found the links below to be informative.

If you suspect that your dog or puppy may have parvovirus, I urge you to seek veterinary care immediately. Do not delay receiving a proper diagnosis. You may have gathered that we waiting a day prior to seeking medical attention. To begin with, we live very rural and after hours emergency care is not an option. Further, I was able to rely upon my experience and knowledge to give our puppy supportive therapy until she could be seen by a qualified veterinarian.

The following is from

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is a serious and highly contagious disease that is a major killer of puppies as well as unprotected older dogs.

Canine parvovirus (CPV) is the most dangerous and contagious virus that affects unprotected dogs. When it was first discovered in 1978, most of the puppies under five months old and 2% to 3% of older dogs died from CPV. But subsequently a parvo vaccine has helped control its spread, and CPV infection is now considered most threatening to puppies between the time of weaning and six months of age. Adult dogs can also contract the virus, although it's relatively uncommon. All breeds of dog can be infected, but Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers are more susceptible and have less chance of recovering.

CPV affects only dogs, and cannot be transmitted to humans or other species. However, other animals and humans can carry it to dogs. Dogs who become infected have a 50-50 chance of survival. If they survive the first four days, they will usually recover rapidly, and become immune to the virus for life. Most puppies will die without medical treatment.

The source of CPV infection is fecal waste from infected dogs. It has been diagnosed anywhere groups of dogs are found: dog shows, obedience trials, breeding and boarding kennels, pet shops, animal shelters, parks, and playgrounds. Dogs that spend their time confined to a house or yard and are not in contact with other dogs have much less chance of exposure to CPV. It's easily transmitted via the hair or feet of infected dogs, and also by contaminated objects such as cages or shoes. CPV is hardy and can remain in feces-contaminated ground for five months or more if conditions are favorable. Although most disinfectants cannot kill it, chlorine bleach is quite effective. There may be other means of transmission of CPV, but they are not known at this time.

Two forms of CPV have been identified: diarrhea syndrome and cardiac syndrome. Diarrhea syndrome, or enteritis, has an incubation period of five to fourteen days. Dogs with enteritis act like they are in extreme pain. Early symptoms are depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, high fever, and severe diarrhea. Feces can be either grayish or fluid and bloody. Rapid dehydration is a danger, and dogs may continue to vomit and have diarrhea until they die, usually three days after onset of symptoms. Others may recover without complications and have no long-term problems. Puppies can die suddenly of shock as early as two days into the illness.

The second form of CPV is cardiac syndrome, or myocarditis, which can affect puppies under three months old. There is no diarrhea because the virus multiplies rapidly in muscle cells of the immature heart. Puppies may stop suckling and then collapse and die within minutes or days. No effective treatment is available for cardiac syndrome, and surviving puppies may have permanently damaged hearts.

The initial diagnosis of CPV can usually be made by a veterinarian after observing the dog’s symptoms; however, vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by a number of diseases. The rapid spread of illness in a group of dogs is another indication that CPV may be the culprit. A more definitive diagnosis of CPV can be made by testing feces for the virus, either at the veterinarian's office or through an outside laboratory.

Treatment for CPV should be started immediately. Hospitalization is necessary, except in relatively mild cases. Dogs must be kept warm. Dehydration is treated by replacing electrolytes and fluids and controlling vomiting and diarrhea. Antibiotics are used to prevent secondary infections. No drug is yet available that will kill the virus.

The easiest way to prevent CPV in adult dogs has been through annual vaccinations, although increasingly, veterinarians are recommending that vaccinations be administered every three years. Puppies need a series of booster shots, because of uncertainty about when maternal immunity wanes and the time the vaccine can provide puppies with their own immunity. This may be as early as six weeks of age or as late as fourteen weeks of age. If there is still a high level of maternal antibody present in the puppy, it will interfere with a vaccination. Veterinarians recommend that puppies get boosters every three weeks until they are sixteen weeks old, and they should be kept separate from unvaccinated dogs. Vaccinations given to puppies as well as adults also protect against other serious canine diseases like distemper, infectious hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and coronavirus.

Parvo vaccinations are usually required for participation in puppy obedience classes and for boarding your dog at kennels. A vaccination does not guarantee that your puppy will be safe from the virus, but it's good protective insurance.

A parvo-infected dog can shed the virus in his feces, which makes him extremely contagious to other dogs. The following precautions will help prevent the spread of this disease.

· Keep the dog isolated from all other dogs for at least a month after recovery.

· Pick up all the dog's stools in your yard.

· Use chlorine bleach and water to clean food and water bowls. Wash the dog's bedding in bleach and hot water. Disinfect all areas that the dog has been in, including linoleum floors, crates, etc.

· If you have any other dogs who are two years old or younger, or who have not had parvo vaccinations, take them to your veterinarian immediately for a booster shot.

· Feed your dog a bland diet until he recovers. Reintroduce regular food slowly.

A healthy puppy or adult dog should never be allowed contact with the feces of other dogs when walking or playing in public. Dispose of waste material properly and try to keep lawns, sidewalks, and street gutters clear of feces from neighborhood dogs.

Treatment for canine parvovirus is supportive and the goals are to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Because the disease progresses so quickly, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible.

In most cases, hospitalization is required. Treatment usually involves intravenous (IV) fluids, anti-nausea medications, and antibiotics to prevent secondary infections. Infected dogs should be kept warm and away from other dogs and activity should be restricted.

Treatment for CPV is not always successful, even when it is started promptly. In dogs that recover from infection, improvement may be seen in 2 or 3 days.


Puppies that are infected with CPV have a guarded prognosis (expected outcome). For dogs that receive prompt medical treatment and survive acute infection, the prognosis usually is good. Severe infection often has a poor outcome. Mortality is high in cardiac CPV and is about 10% in the more common, intestinal CPV. Following CPV infection, dogs may be contagious for up to 2 months.

For those who would say "I can't afford treatment, so I'll take my dog home."

There are a few holistic web sites that offer tips. I suggest Healing Parvo Puppies - Home or Vet Treatment or (

I would strongly urge you to not take your dog or puppy "home to die" without thinking of his or her comfort. The actual death itself, unsupported by medications to relieve pain or chronic suffering, is horrorific to watch.

A final note to breeders and "do it yourself-ers": all vaccines MUST be kept cool. Follow the directions on the package to determine the correct storage methods, including proper refrigeration temperatures. Do now allow the loaded syringes or the phial itself to sit out on a counter while you slowly work your way through a litter of puppies.

This information is only provided as a jumping off place for your own fact finding.

Followup 19 May 2009: I had an image featured above that was originally sent to me in pamphlet form via a friend in the veterinary field. I am pleased to say that the image it is actually the work of Jean-Yves Sgro. It originally from this scientist's website at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and derived from PDB Xray data by others (PDB ID 4DPV). The original and highly detailed image can be found at: Please see the comments section for more information.

The image is copyright protected (and not public domain, as was erroneously implied in the pamphlet) thus I have removed it. If you would like to see the face of parvovirus, please stop by here. My apologies to Sgro. Delaney, you might want to double-check the pamphlet's sources.

Truffle Update

We heard from the sellers. They were quite concerned and told us that they would cover all veterinary costs. This is a huge burden off my shoulders.

We do not have an update from the vet (they shut down their front office at 5 PM on Tuesdays.)

Truffle Update

Update (combination of several calls to the vet throughout the day):

Truffle survived the night. The Good Doctor reported that she was alert this morning and placed her paws on his chest in order to lick his face. She vomited a little of her water earlier today, and had kept her lunch down (as of 5 PM.) She is still resting on a hot water bottle.

Visits are not allowed as she is in the ICU. She is receiving antibiotics and subcutaneous fluids throughout the day. Her prognosis is still guarded and her percentages are still low. My poor girl.

We have not heard back from the sellers as of yet. Better Half intends to place himself on their doorstep at 10 am tomorrow. I shall have to work hard at keeping him temper in check. His anger is not simply due to the financial damages (which increase by the hour!) but he is also upset that our hearts have gone through so much hell.

As silly as this sounds, this puppy shattered the thick mantle of depression that had been pressing me into the ground. Her intelligent eyes and her total dependency upon me for her needs drew me from my shell. When one is depressed, one simply does not wish to participate in life. I found myself daydreaming of little training sessions, of playing with toys and of grooming. I taught her to fetch on Saturday and we were working on "sit"; she was already mastering housebreaking.

Sunday was hell. Parvo can devastate a puppy. She spent most of Sunday conserving what little strength she had. I remained awake with her all of Sunday night and into Monday morning. When the Good Doctor decided to hospitalize her, I began to cry. I kissed her and handed her to him and I felt wretched for not being able to "mother" her into good health personally (or professionally, as I do not work in the field any more.) As we drove from the parking lot, I sobbed and Better Half comforted me.

We spent Monday waiting for "the dreaded phone call" telling us that she had passed away. My emotions were (and still are) at a raw state. Tuesday has been spent in status; will she live or will she die? We watch our older dogs for symptoms. I pray. I try to distract myself with the television or my Facebook account.

My parents' anniversary is today. I had scribbled a little message in the daily bible devotions book that I gave my mother last year, which tickled my Mum. Their card will arrive late as I did not mail it in time.

The rains have let up and I can go back to pretending the leak in the roof is nothing but a figment of my imagination. Truly what else can I do at this point? We haven't the money to get the cricket fixed. We shall probably have to skimp on our regular bills just to cover the veterinary costs.

Please pardon my bland writing style. Dear Readers, I can honestly admit that I really don't give a damn about expressing myself with any panache.

Evening Truffle Update

Latest news around 5:00 PM. She was alert and showed some interest in the vet tech. She was curled around a blanket and hot water bottle.

In other news, the damned leak in my office is back. We have had rain for most of the day and tiny drip paths of water are trickling around the Dread Pillar.

My coping skills are at an all-time low. The depression that has been present since last year has gnawed most bitterly at me today. I am at the point of apathy towards the leak (let the house fall in.)

We have wiped down surfaces in the house and have done several (bleached) loads of laundry. We have only to wash our bedding and the clothing we wore over the last few days (and the throw rugs in the kitchen) before calling that task "done". I will begin the carpets a little later on tonight.

Truffle Update: grave news

Truffle Update

We brought Truffle in to Crestview at 10:30 this morning. Her vet, who we absolutely adore for his positive outlook and good humor, was shocked at her level of lethargy. As he stated in regard to her apathetic response, “this is not a puppy.” She had no energy. He asked us to leave her in order for him to run tests and take x-rays.

The Good Doctor phoned twenty minutes ago: prognosis very guarded. Truffle’s Parvovirus score lit up before the control registered. What this means is that she “tested very positive for Parvo.” I had hoped in my heart that my intuition last night was incorrect. I am emotionally devastated. Our little 2.2-pound pup has frightening mortality rate. The Good Doctor will do his best with subcutaneous fluids and some antibiotics.

I contacted the place where we procured Truffle; they are normally closed until Wednesday. Better Half had already left a message earlier, after we came home from the vet. I left a rather terse message at 1:45, explaining the test results and recommending that they contact the owners of pups that might have been sold recently to include Truffle’s littermates. I am beyond angry.

Of course, our own dogs are at risk. Our two elderly dogs do not do well with the 5-way, and so they have not been vaccinated in a few years (they are 14 years of age.) Nutmeg never, to our knowledge, had her puppy series, as she was already a “stray” rescue at six months of age. Zephry and Sammi have been vaccinated fully.

Better Half is at the store buying gallons of bleach. We will need to bleach out the couch covers and all blankets and clothing that came in contact with Truffle. I will also need to shampoo (and possibly bleach!) my rugs. I shall bleach the kitchen floor and bathroom floor. Truffle’s toys are getting a soak in bleach.

What the fuck is wrong with the breeder? Surely she vaccinated the litter prior to releasing them for sale! The bitch (meaning Truffle’s mother) should have full vaccinations and the antibodies would have been present in the milk. We were told that Truffle’s dam was AKC and shown, ergo her vaccinations would be up to date.

The place where we acquired Truffle was kept very clean, with paper changes done immediately after soiling. The two women who ran the business were knowledgeable. It is possible that exposure to the virus occurred after they had received the litter, however. Parvo is an evil bastard to fight. It can take four to ten days for symptoms to appear in an animal, but the animal can actually begin shedding the virus only four days after being infected. As Truffle was already showing symptoms on Friday (what I mistook as carsickness) it stands to reason that she picked up the Parvo either from the “pet place” or from the breeder.

Dear Readers, please say a prayer for us today. It’s Christmas, and we stand to lose companions (six if we include Truffle), two of which we have had since Better Half and I first married.


My level of frustration is at an all-time high tonight. Truffle has been unable to keep any food down since we took ownership, and perhaps the problem was prevalent before we even picked her up. I do not know. I do know that she threw up during the car ride home, which I attributed to motion sickness. She seemed to do all right yesterday but threw up this morning, and again this evening.

I am not one to panic under normal circumstances. I did work as a veterinary technician nearly a decade ago. I do know the signs and symptoms of parvovirus and I am pleased to say that Truffles does not seem to have them (visually, not counting the vomiting itself.)

This leads me to wonder what could cause vomiting. She may have chewed up something and ingested a large enough part to cause an obstruction between the stomach and intestine. She would have had to chance upon this prior to our receiving her, as I do not keep toys about that can be easily chewed (as we have large dogs that could choke on a small toy or who might shred anything not made of industrial grade rubber.) We have no gravel that she could have eaten, or any rocks at all in our turnout area (which is actually an asphalt driveway with a little mud patch to the side.)

Coupled with this concern is the fact that she seems weaned on boiled poultry and does not eagerly eat kibble or boiled rice.

I combed out her undercoat and discovered that she is on the thin side, which may indicate that the problem has lasted for over a week. She has been lethargic all day today (an indication that she needs nourishment!)

I simply do not have answers and we do not have emergency vet services in this tiny town. I can only wait until tomorrow when our local vet opens his doors.

In the meantime, I have been worrying myself sick. I am not too proud to admit that I actually fell back on faith and laid hands on the sweet pup, begging God to give her strength and to allow us to find answers in time. Truffle rests in Zephyr’s bed, on the corner of my desk. Her breathing is even but my imagination tells me “it’s labored and she looks pathetically weak.” She is not at a pathetically weak stage, of course, but she does lack energy.

I am feeling intense anger at the moment. Why would anyone offer pups that may have medical complications? Why would anyone put an owner through this?

My disquiet stems from the years that I did work in the veterinary field. It also stems from past experiences with my own beloved pets. I know that diagnostics and treatment can run into the thousands. I also know that we do not have thousands (or even hundreds.) I am willing to try, however, if our vet is willing to let us make payments. She is too sweet a dog; she deserves a chance.

Thus begins my overnight vigil. I will remain awake to tend to her until we can get her in for an emergency exam. My challenge will not lie in remaining awake but in controlling my imagination.

Please excuse my complete lack of flair in this post. I am stressed out.

Tea and Truffles on Tuesday

Hello. My name is Truffle. I am named after the chocolate version of the highly sought-after edible species of underground ascomycetes. My registered name will be Tea and Truffles on Tuesday. I was a gift from dad.

I am seven weeks old and was chosen because of my serene temperament and clever curiosity in regard to my surroundings. I am a Pomeranian and my new mother (this crazy Autrice woman with a camera) has wanted one of those ever since a friend sent her pictures of his.

I am the mistress of cute.

What makes me so cute? Is it the fact that I bear a resemblance to a fat caterpillar when I run? Is it the tufts of fur or my markings? Yes yes, these are all powerful Cute tools, but what really tugs at the heart is my size. I make teensy Italian Greyhounds look as if they were clumsy elephants!

I am so adorable that the Big Rough Shepherd loses all of her Big Rough attitude and turns into a gentle pool of motherhood. I need only roll over and issue pouting vocalizations.

My siblings love me. They haven’t any choice. No one can resist my cuteness factor.

Here I am again!

Please, what's not to love?

I'm especially sweet when I'm asleep!

Today was my first full day with my new family. I ran in the backyard for the first time today. I also had my first ice cube (Nutmeg showed me how to play with them, and she was kind enough to crack them with her teeth so that I could enjoy a small piece.) Consequently today was also my first experience with a “brain freeze”.

Yesterday was my first bath. I was carsick on the drive home. (Thankfully, mother didn't have her camera on her. I looked horrid.)

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you.

Better Half and I took pleasure in a relaxing holiday. We watched the Macy’s Parade, lazily prepared our dinner and goofed off. Our (orgasmic) duck cooked to perfection, the Parisian green beans tasted spectacular, and the giblet stuffing (a tradition in this household) was moist. It was an effortless yet elegant fare and we completed the meal with a pumpkin pie.

Really, more people should aspire to unwind on a holiday.

Steubenville has a bit more culture: some enterprising team opened up a wine cellar nearby. Better Half bought a lovely 2004 Zinfandel Mendocino produced from the Graziano vineyards. He blended the duck seasoning to compliment this wine. It was a flawless match after decanting.

Today is Black Friday and I haven’t any interest in leaving this house. People are undeniably impractical. Has Christmas become so commercial that we can not usher in the holiday season sans the repulsive compulsion to shop? Are we so rapacious that we insist upon bestowing our family members and friends with rubbish procured at half price at Penny’s or Wal*Mart? Do our children really need more than ten toys under the tree and in their stockings? Bah, humbug.

Christmas is a time to ponder peace and goodwill towards mankind. That reflection should take place every day but often we are too caught up in our own selfish amusement to spare the poor soul next to us any thought. It is as if Christmas has turned into the time to purge all the guilt from our systems: I am so sorry that I have neglected you for 364 days but we shall make amends; please enjoy this tube of underwear and a singing trout. Bah, humbug.

If you really must bestow a gift, do it when I need it most. Offer a shoulder when I am on the verge of a good cry. Match my laugh as we sit together and watch a comedy. Take me out for a light supper when my body is too sore to cook at home.

I am most fortunate that my husband does all of that just when I need it most. He will go out for bread and upon return shout, “close your eyes!” and then present me with a stuffed bear or a card. It is the thought that counts and his little offerings strip away my pain and warm my heart. I haven’t a clue as to what he is giving to me for Christmas. I would be content with hearing his laugh and sharing the couch.

My parents can not afford to give a plethora of gifts. My mother requested a short gift list and I told her that my biggest hope was to put my office put in order. She is sending a gift card from Lowe’s and that shall cover the cost of paint. Would a sweater or jewelry be better? Hardly. Sweaters go out of fashion and jewelry can’t all be worn at once. I will reflect upon my parents’ love and generosity every time I sit down to type.

What are you doing on Black Friday, dear Readers? Are you out in the crush of humanity frenetically attempting to check off your gift-giving list? I advocate that you take a moment today to reflect upon those that you shop for. Give what is needed to those in need. Giving Christmas gifts to everyone will not make you seem generous or benevolent if you pay no attention to these people throughout the rest of the year.

Theobromine Revisited

A clever N’Tran caught an error in my “brainy” scribbling. The picture was cropped too closely and some bits were left out.

I shall make amends:

This is Theobromine. It is quite similar to Caffeine. Both are vital to my existence.

(Woooo. Two Hydrogen and a Carbon separate the two! Now you know why a dash of cocoa mix in your coffee seems to blend so well. For the chemically challenged: the caffeine is on the left.)

In addition to coffee beans, caffeine is also found in tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola nuts and guarana seeds. It is composed of a skeleton consisting of a fused five and six-numbered ring comprising carbon and nitrogen atoms to which are attached carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, all arranged as shown in the figure above. Molecules which are based on the same skeleton as caffeine are called purines, and two examples of such molecules, adenine and guanine, are constituents of our DNA. Another closely related purine is theobromine (Figure above, right side), which is a constituent of the cocoa bean, and hence is found in chocolate.

Coffee flows through my veins like a wicked fuel, empowering me even as it causes my heart to detonate out of my chest. It is only natural that I top it off with a bit of chocolate. How better to enjoy the endorphin release?

The chemical skunk works have their noses to the grindstone in frantic endeavors to merge these two magnificent things into one utopian creation. A bit of synthetics here and a touch of synthetics there: bliss achieved.

Molecular recognition of xanthine alkaloids: First synthetic receptors for theobromine and a series of new receptors for caffeine

Synthetic receptors (H3, H4, H5 and H6) are designed and synthesised for the first time for theobromine, a xanthine alkaloid used as a diuretic. The synthesis of the receptor H6 is achieved by Co(PPh3)3Cl-mediated homocoupling of 3-(ethoxycarbonyl)benzyl bromide 12 under mild conditions. New caffeine receptors (H7, H8 and H9) are designed and synthesised. The binding results of theobromine and caffeine (both by NMR and UV studies) are reported.

My God! Is it not delightful?


Sunday Scribbling #85: I carry...

I carry…

The ghosts of memories; regrets that I can not undo.

I carry…

The blissful smile of two sweet children; tucked into the corners of my heart, the recollection of those happy days uplifts me.

I carry…

The sorrows of the world; the bloodied sands in Darfur, the famished people in Zimbabwe, the tortured looks of the orphan children in the Ukraine as they rock in their cribs.

I carry…

My family in prayer; may God bless them and keep them sound.

I carry…

Burdens and obligations, laughter and tears, anger and depression.

I carry…



Roadchick's technical support

Once every so often I reemerge in blogging land and scamper to all my friends' sites in order to catch up with their life and times. I am pleased to say that Roadchick did not leave me hanging today. I promptly opened my "new post" feature and began typing this. (Perhaps not "promptly", as I did need to wipe the sprayed coffee off of my screen first.)

Roadtrip: Technical Support

Autrice loves the 'chick's humor.

SS #84 - Left & Right: Between Minds

My “left-brain” is too lethargic to deal with any actual work this morning and it has entrusted my “right-brain” to come up with a post for this week’s SS entry. Alas, my right-brain tends to follow all known mapping for brain hemispheres. My left-brain is perfectly content to allow my right-brain to maintain this (grossly inept) way of thinking, as it enables me to be more productive at work whilst tricking the right-brain into a false state of precocious euphoria. In other words, I think that I am being absolutely brilliant with this creative post when in fact it is rather prosaic and insipid (according to my left-brain.)

I have the bad luck of being able to utilize both brain hemispheres equally. Further, I have the misfortune of harnessing the most extreme traits of each hemisphere. That aptitude tends to generate a lot of strife in my life. There is no middle ground.

I am a very logical person. Every diminutive detail must be “exactly so” in order for me to take pleasure in my surroundings. I stipulate that all facts be proven. Words and language are the means by which I survive. I excel in mathematics and hard science (although I do struggle with dyslexia.) I revel in chaos theory. My comprehension skills and my pattern recognition propensity are exceedingly advanced. I am practical. I do not take chances – because I have already plotted out the end result of each step (again, chaos theory.) My left-brain is a cerebral snob.

Then my right-brain manages to gnaw through the straps. God help us all.

Logic is for fools and seekers, but dreamers run on caffeine and creativity. Sure, we can reason, but do we “get it”? Do we see the big picture?

I believe! I expand conscious thought and see beyond the physical to the metaphysical!

What if? Let us entertain a fantasy, born from a mere philosophical reflection - if the physical begets the metaphysical, and the natural begets the supernatural, then…

Wait, I’m wrong. The supernatural begat the natural. Isn’t that something? I feel the urge to write a poem about it now. Perhaps I will. Not now, though. Right now, I want to go to Lowe’s and pick out colour chips. I’m tired of green walls. I think I’ll choose lilac. I could get a small can. No, why waste money? I’ll get a big can. I’ll get two. I’ll have different colours in each. Yes, that’s it. Maybe I’ll do a maroon for the far wall and a yellow for the wall nearest the door? My desk would look much better if it was angled different. I’m so spatial.

Perhaps my brain functions have something to do with being transgender? One of my dearest friends insists that my right-brain is nothing more than my inner gay man struggling to “get out”. It is my creative side. It takes risks. It LIVES and embraces life fully. Who needs logic when you have common sense?

The right-brain is aware that it is wrong about a great many things. It fully understands and it is not stupid. When one bends the framework of reality, one can begin to think outside the box. The impossible becomes possible. (My right-brain is attempting to break into a show tune. Fortuitously, the left-brain has resumed control.)

Least you assume that I am bi-polar, dear Readers, allow me to reassure you: I am. However, my left-brain will proudly inform you that my IQ tested considerably high. My right-brain will snicker into its sleeve and add, “She lacks social skills! Doesn’t that prove it?” The best way that I can surmise my method of looking at the world is this:

My left-brain deciphers that as C7H8N4O2 - Theobromine

My right-brain says, “Ooooohhhhhhhhhh CHOCOLATE! YUM!!!!!!!”

Both hemispheres really do mesh together well when there is a common goal.

I am certain that everyone will post their “take” on this week’s Sunday Scribbling; I have decided to give you a few options for some constructive right/left play. I wish that I could offer you more. Unfortunately, the left-brain has picked up the cheese knife and is slowly advancing on the right-brain (which is completely unaware of impending danger due to its sudden fixation with the way dust seems to glitter in the sunbeam streaming across my office.)

Have fun, fellow Scribblers!

Other places:

Right Left Brain Test

Right Left Brain Test - Word Version

Left Right Brain Hemisphere Personality Test

The Right Brain vs Left Brain test PerthNow

TestCafe - Brain Type Test - Questions

Learning Styles

Those were all quite banal. Try These:

The Trippiest Optical Illusions on the 'Net - Switched: Gadgets, Tech, Digital Stuff for the Rest of Us -- Simple IQ Test -- The free and simple online intelligence test !

Kecksburgh UFO's, Clinton aids and Nazi Acorns

One winter night in 1965, eyewitnesses saw a fireball streak over North America, bank, turn and appear to crash in western Pennsylvania. Then swarms of military personnel combed the area and a tarp-covered flatbed truck rumbled out of the woods. Now a former White House chief of staff and an international investigative journalist want to know what the Pentagon knows, calling on it to release classified files about that and other incidents involving unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

15 hours ago, according to the Associated Press, “NASA has agreed to search its archives once again for documents on a 1965 UFO incident in Pennsylvania, a step the space agency fought in federal court. The government has refused to open its files about what, if anything, moved across the sky and crashed in the woods near Kecksburg, Pa., 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh”.

The AP article continues its perky narrative, stating “Traffic was tied up in the area as curiosity seekers drove to the area, only to be kept away from the crash site by soldiers.

The Air Force's explanation for the unidentified flying object: a meteor or meteors.

"They could not find anything," one Air Force memo stated after a late-night search on Dec. 9, 1965. Several NASA employees also were reported to have been at the scene.

Eyewitnesses said a flatbed truck drove away a large object shaped like an acorn and about the size of a Volkswagen bus. A mock-up based on the descriptions of local residents sits behind the Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department.

UFO enthusiasts refused to let the matter die and journalist Leslie Kean of New York City sued NASA four years ago for information.

"This is about the public's right to know," Kean said. "We would be doing this lawsuit regardless of whether UFO groups were interested in it or not. It's a freedom of information issue."

The agency has turned over several stacks of documents which Kean says are not responsive to the request, an argument that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan agreed with.

In March, Sullivan rejected NASA's request to throw the case out of court, resulting in negotiations that led to the agency promising last week that it will conduct a more comprehensive search.

Kean said Friday that she sued NASA rather than the Army because the space agency a decade ago released some relevant documents on the case.” 1

I find it peculiar that people are still enchanted by UFOs. Kecksburgh is only a short distance from me, as it so happens. I might delight my dear Readers by driving out into the Pennsylvania woods and snapping some photographs of the model. I will return home, claim to have been impregnated by bigfoot’s love child, and sell the story to the National Enquirer for hundreds of dollars.

I poked about the 3w and found an article by Richard Stenger (CNN) dated October 22, 2002, and titled “Clinton aid slams Pentagon’s UFO secrecy.”

“Now a former White House chief of staff and an international investigative journalist want to know what the Pentagon knows, calling on it to release classified files about that and other incidents involving unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

"It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon," ex-Clinton aide John Podesta said Tuesday.

A Pentagon spokesperson could not be reached for comment regarding the requests for information.

Despite earning little credence, cases of strange aerial phenomena that defy explanation abound -- whether witnessed by thousands of Arizona residents, commercial airline pilots or a U.S. president.

The new initiative is not setting out to prove the existence of aliens. Rather the group wants to legitimize the scientific investigation of unexplained aerial phenomena.

Podesta was one of numerous political and media heavyweights on hand in Washington, D.C., to announce a new group to gain access to secret government records about UFOs.

Specifically, the Coalition for Freedom of Information (CFI) is pressing the Air Force for documents involving Project Moon Dust and Operation Blue Fly, clandestine operations reported to have existed decades ago to investigate UFOs and retrieve objects of unknown origins.

Mysterious case?
One of the most mysterious cases, the Kecksburg, Pennsylvania incident of December 5, 1965, is the first cited in the group's request for records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Despite an official government story that the object was a meteorite, some eyewitnesses claimed that a military truck took an acorn-shaped object the size of a small car from the rural Pennsylvania crash site to an Air Force base in Ohio.

"We can't come up with a reason why this information is being withheld. The government won't even acknowledge that the incident took place but we know that it did," said Leslie Kean, a California-based freelance reporter who drafted the FOIA request.

In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the government did take the UFO search seriously and top generals considered the pros and cons of informing the U.S. public, Kean said, citing top secret memos.

In 1969, however, the Air Force terminated Project Blue Book, concluding that no reported UFOs were threats to national security.

Paradoxically, Kean notes, the military continues to deny some requests for UFO information by citing national security concerns.

Trying to stamp out ridicule
Backed by the Sci-Fi channel, the CFI hopes to reduce the scientific ridicule factor in this country when the topic is UFOs.

"There's definitely evidence of strange phenomenon in the world. These are well documented," said Kean, who has written for The Nation, the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

"Most people don't think that there is evidence because they haven't look for it. There's such a little green men mindset in this culture. It's hard to work your way through that."

The CFI director Ed Rothschild also works for Podesta's public relations firm, PodestaMattoon, which is coordinating the new group at the behest of the Sci- Fi channel. He said the initiative was a call for serious investigation, not a publicity stunt for the cable network.

"The Sci-Fi channel has had an interest in [UFOs] for some time. The difference here is that they are focusing attention on the serious, factual side of the issue, and that scientists have not had a chance to thoroughly examine it," Rothschild said.

"Of course it could help programming. But Sci-Fi thought they had some resources they could bring to the table." 2

Clinton aides are involved. This does not surprise us. We are surprised because this aid was not listed as having burrowed into Clinton’s pants. We have unearthed the deepest conspiracy to date by proving that there was at least one aid that remained chaste during his administration, dear Readers. Rejoice!

One of the more ludicrous theories states that the PA UFO was, in fact, a Nazi secret weapon. The full story can be found at THE KECKSBURG ACORN RINGS THE BELL. I really haven't any aspiration to paste it here although I do find it fascinating and more engaging than the two news articles.

The fact is that I live near a UFO landing site (or the site where a nosecone tumbled to earth mid-flight, or a town where people need to lay off the moonshine. Take your pick.)

1 Associated Press, October 27, 2007 NASA to search files on ’65 UFO incident
2 Richard Stenger, CNN, October 22, 2002 Clinton aide slams Pentagon's UFO secrecy

The Moon

The moon hung low in the sky last night, spherical and pure and clad in a prismatic halo (we called those “moon doggies” when I was a child.) Indeed, I could not recall Luna appearing so pristinely white. She outstripped the satin of a virginal bride’s gown; the glow of new fallen snow in deep winter would seem tainted and dim in comparison. She hung like a pregnant goddess swollen with the promise of autumn and danced coyly behind the remnants of the wispy clouds.

I stood there, ignorant of the wind’s chilly bite upon my skin. I stood steadfast and as still as a deer contemplating the safety of a meadow. I stood and took notice of the breeze rustling the leaves and the echoing click of a dog’s toenails on the wooden deck. I gazed ever upward, mesmerized by the purity of the moment as well as my own realization that I was insignificant within the vastness of our entire universe.

The moon, for her part, remained impartial. She glowed and I resigned myself to simply admiring her.

Sunday Scribblings #82: Hospital

1242, "shelter for the needy," from O.Fr. hospital "hostel," from L.L. hospitale "guest-house, inn," neut. of L. adj. hospitalis "of a guest or host," from hospes (gen. hospitis); see host (1). Later "charitable institution to house and maintain the needy" (1418); sense of "institution for sick people" is first recorded 1549. Hospitalize is from 1901, "Freq(uently) commented on as an unhappy formation" [OED].

My translation: that which occupies much of your time during a period in your life when you would rather be at home in your own bed instead of poked and prodded to the point of being more physically ill than when you entered the building. Should the surroundings not cause you discomfort, the bill will certainly bring on heart failure.

I have seen my share of them.
(Much thanks to If you would like to see the images that they have available, please feel free to visit them. YES, Autrice violated copyright law and "borrowed" the cartoon.)

Are You Honest?

Are You Honest?

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

Please scroll down slowly and give due consideration to each line.


You are in Florida , Miami to be specific. There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper, and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly
hopeless. You're trying to shoot career-making photos.

There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive furor.


Suddenly you see a woman in the water. She is fighting for her life, trying not to be taken down with the debris. You move closer. Somehow the woman looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it is. It's Hillary Clinton! At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take her under forever.

You have two options:

You can save the life of Hillary Clinton or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world's most powerful and brilliant women.


Here's the question, and please give an honest answer....

Would you select high contrast color film, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

TV Wars, IV

If there is one exasperating thing in my life, it is that the idiot box is currently located in my office. I have tried to get Better Half to see the light concerning this disruptive device. This morning was no exception.

Ideally, the idiot box would be situated in the living room. Although I loath the idea of having my living room “trashed” by daily living, it would be worth the hassle of daily cleaning if only to grant me the ability to work in my office sans any distractions.

I have been outlining my novel for some time now and thought I would sit down and scrape out a rough draft of the first chapter. Better Half awoke whilst I was taking a break, plunked himself down in the room, and proceeded to scan the “free movies” selections being offered on Comcast digital today. He would, of course, pick the hokiest 1960’s comedy western (replete with asinine mouth-harp twang music and a squeaky-voiced female lead) and persist in watching it. Needless to say, I found it more than distracting.

I did voice my objection, which met with momentous resistance and a snide “Mornings are my time on the computer” remark. By this time, I am completely out of my writing mindset and I can not focus on the emotional elements that I am trying to convey in the first chapter. (I have turned to blogging my frustration instead.) I am pissed, frankly.

Pissed: synonymous with livid, fuming, irate, incensed, furious, more irate than a bag of rabid cats.

It shall pass. I know that he didn't do it on purpose.


A Quiz

This came in from MoosooPerk. Thanks, doll! (My mother can slap me later for publishing it.)

An engineering professor is treating her husband, a loan officer, to dinner for finally giving in to her pleas to shave off the scraggly beard he grew on vacation. His favorite restaurant is a casual place where they both feel comfortable in slacks and cotton/polyester-blend golf shirts. But, as always, she wears the gold and pearl pendant he gave her the day her divorce decree was final. They're laughing over their menus because they know he always ends up diving into a giant plate of ribs but she won't be talked into anything more fattening than shrimp.

Quiz: How many biblical prohibitions are they violating? Well, wives are supposed to be 'submissive' to their husbands (I Peter 3:1). And all women are forbidden to teach men (I Timothy 2:12), wear gold or pearls (I Timothy 2:9) or dress in clothing that 'pertains to a man' (Deuteronomy 22:5). Shellfish and pork are definitely out (Leviticus 11:7, 10) as are usury (Deuteronomy 23:19), shaving (Leviticus 19:27) and clothes of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19). And since the Bible rarely recognizes divorce, they're committing adultery, which carries the rather harsh penalty of death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:22).

So why are they having such a good time? Probably because they wouldn't think of worrying about rules that seem absurd, anachronistic or - at best - unrealistic. Yet this same modern-day couple could easily be among the millions of Americans who never hesitate to lean on the Bible to justify their own anti-gay attitudes. ~Deb Price

A Slow Friday

There are a few indications that fall weather has finally arrived. One need not step outside or switch over to the weather channel on television. One need only look around our house.

The first indication is the appearance of our breath in mist form (as Better Half always waits until icicles take shape on his moustache before switching the AC to heat.) As it so happens, Better Half switched over to the furnace an hour ago. Will wonders never cease?

The second indication would be the flocking of animals to our bed at night. No, dear Readers, Better Half does not perform a Tarzan shout to draw them in. They simply come. Five dogs and two cats will inexplicably creep from the snowy banks surrounding our bed and make themselves quite at home on top of the comforter (or under it.) It is one thing to wake up in the early morning sunlight and see your husband smiling at you. It is quite another to roll over and see a greyhound smiling at you.

My body rejoices as the furnace air surrounds my skin. My muscles and joints are loosening up and my hands and ears no longer sting. I love cold weather but my body has little tolerance for it.

I am still taking the Chantix (Varenicline) tablets. The results are impressive. It does in fact do as advertised and my cravings have been cut down to soft nicotine fits once every so often. The medication is not a nicotine substitute – one simply finds that they quit “cold turkey” after a week. You forget to smoke. Granted, I did finish off my last pack of cigarettes two days ago (ten days into the program) but that pack lasted me a week and I would not have bothered had they not been in the house.

My “everyday” eyeglasses frames have broken and I am barely tolerating my “dressy” frames. They are heavier and, although they look good, wearing them throughout the day leaves an impression on my nose.

Really, it is slow around here and I haven’t much else to report (that I would want public.)

A no-prompt prompt


Hello World!

It has been quite some time since my last sincere post. I will not bore you with the details, darlings (as if anyone actually still reads my blog, no thanks to my continuous prolonged absences.)

I am delighted to report that we did manage to get our outside decorating completed. The Grapes of Wrath are now adorned with their fall leaves, the back deck is now clear of all furniture and various bits (we did not have much of an opportunity to utilize it last season.) The downstairs living room and dining room have been set up, miscellaneous furnishings are now in the garage, and I am ready for the holidays.

Better Half tends to take a lazy route when I am not up to speed. This usually manifests in his apparent inability to actually groom himself. I have been living with a mad science project – a botched cloning attempt to merge Grizzly Adams and Attila the Hun, mixed with a smattering of cactus and wire terrier cells. I put my foot down today and hauled him into the bathroom, whereupon I plucked the caterpillar on his forehead, tackled the wispy thinning remnants of his hair, and shaved his face.

I have always enjoyed shaving Better Half. It was one of our rituals when we were first married. I have also suspected that, had I not made the endeavor all these years, I would now be trapped in wedlock with a human beard. Not a well groomed beard, mind you, but rather a thatch of facial hair resembling a dying juniper.

Regardless, the Upper Ohio Valley Camera Club meeting is tonight and it is important that Better Half appear human. I would rather people see him as his ex-Navy SEAL self rather than as a bum looking for the soup kitchen. He appears ten years younger when he is truly groomed.

We heard the most pleasant news this weekend: Better Half’s father might fly out for Christmas. We are optimistically thrilled at the prospect. I have wanted Dad to visit for Christmas for years and it would be absolutely fabulous to have him celebrate with us this year. We are already planning a holiday menu, replete with either goose or duck and a variety of treats from the Market District in Pittsburgh.

My parents are well. I miss them terribly and would give anything to have them also visit for Christmas but I know that a visit would not be feasible, as my father does not have much in the way of vacation time. They could always fly up but I do not think that my mother would consent to boarding her Maltese. However, a large part of my heart would dearly love this “gift” more than any material things that they could ship me.

I began my prescription for Chantix on Sunday. It states that I will loose the urge to smoke after four days (we shall see) but that I should plan on quitting seven days after the start of the medication. I have had no adverse reactions to the pill but I have found that I am able to go longer between cigarettes (which is an accomplishment as I am a brutal chain-smoker.)

I’m hoping to catch up with AnnieElf and RoadChick this week via their blogs. I did speak to TFMM last night; hearing his voice always cheers me up. It is quite melodious and I appreciate his intelligence.

It is nearly time for the meeting and I have some work to finish up. Thank you to all who have sent emails and stayed in touch.



I have not bothered to update my blog in a while due to some ongoing problems with my health. I am alive and kicking, but in a feverish and groggy manner.

We have put our furniture arranging and fall cleaning on hold temporarily. We did manage to complete the dining room and have only a few articles to set up in the living room (at the moment, knickknacks are simply placed in order to keep them out of the way.) I am hoping to have the energy tomorrow to finish hanging drapes.

Thank you for all your concerned emails. I have not had an opportunity to write to anyone yet.


Sunday Scribblings: Hello, my name is...

Hello, my name is…

Softest sound,
Quiet as drops of dew
That slides from the blade
Of grass, touching
Lightly upon the soft earth
Before being swallowed
By the thirsty sands
Surrounding the impression
Left by a form that fell
Just as the moon rose
Last night.

The hunting owl
Wings spread in flight
Cast little warning
In shadow form as
She glided in silence
Over the fields of wheat
But her eyes,
So yellow and clever
Found quarry before
The quarry found her

It sat there
Whiskers twitching
As ever-growing teeth
Gnawed thick-shelled seed
And it did not pause
Except to sniff
Captured puffs
Perfumed with hay and
The sweetest grass
Touch of mums
Taste of roses
And the tangy zest
Of lawn chemicals

She did not
Utter a single sound
As she tipped her tail
And altered her path
Swiftly the ground
Passed beneath her
Leaf, grass, stone
Pebble, pollen, dust
All swept by
As she brought herself
Nearly nape of the
Earth in flight

Clever piercing talons
Extend down swift
Forward lock and
Grab as her prey
Squeals in the harsh
Silver light of moon
And then she rises
Upwards to heaven
The weight meaningless
As her wings boost
Feathered body
Toward home again

To the nest
Three sets of eyes
Soft squawks utter
And she alights there
The scent of brood
Touches her nares
Before great beak lowers
And shreds the morsel
That will provide
Chicks with strength

Come the dawn
Dew drops glisten
And the depression
Remains in the grass
And in the sand
A struggle happened
Here and the grass
Remembers, as does
The half-eaten seed
Forgotten on the ground.

Hello, my name is
The cycle of life.

"Other Men's Sons", a review

I have had the most extraordinary day. Perhaps it was the moments spent with Pat and Wally Kutteles in their Kansas kitchen, sharing their journey and embracing their loss. Surly the wine I sipped with Scott Merritt at the Sutton Place Hotel bar only enhanced this day. It may even have been from the euphoria in regard to missing the moose as I was whisking along the road towards Shaw’s wedding. I am currently in another era, smiling triumphantly as the words “You don’t hit girls” rings in out clearly across the campus of a Swiss private school.

Gifted writers paint with words; they create pictures. To state such in regard to Michael Rowe’s newest book, “Other Men’s Sons”, is to say the Sistine Chapel is worthy of being clipped to a refrigerator by a plastic red “A” letter magnet, along side other stick figure drawings and stained soccer schedules. Rowe surpasses the puerile “painting pictures” expression, transcending it as a master weaver would intertwine golden threads of knowledge and compassion into a tapestry filled with palpable elements. I confess that I have yet to pick up one of his essays and not felt as if I had experienced the state of affairs first-hand, either as a bystander or in his subject’s own shoes.

One does not see the pictures in their minds; rather, one is spiritually thrust into the environment at hand, an active participant in the story itself as it winds its way along. Rowe entertains even as he elucidates, propelling the reader on a causeway of emotional highs and lows. There is pure literal intent in my last turn of the phrase for Rowe is indeed the master architect of bridge builders between worlds.

“Other Men’s Sons” is a series of essays that have thoughtfully been divided into three interlacing entities: Mosaics, Portraits and Portfolios.

“Mosaics” are a collection of essays that, as Rowe explains in his introduction, consist of nine essays that are “primarily culture criticism and journalism that explores the tone of the time and the nuances that inform gay culture. Never heavy handed, and possessing literary poise that renders the soapbox as a useless tool utilized by those lacking wit, Rowe doles out his sage opinion with eloquent flare. He uplifts even as he critiques. He challenges the reader to see beyond stereotypes and set thinking. He is both advocate and adventurer, stripping away the misconceptions so commonly held by those who are distanced from the subjects at hand.

“Portraits”, the second category, is a collection of profiles. Clive Barker, Phillip Ing, Peter Paige, Gale Harold and Drew Harris share an equal amount of time with Angie Moneva, a young heterosexual girl who grew up in a distinctly gay neighborhood.

Rowe defines Mirrors as “essays that are autobiographical in nature.” Nestled in this heading are four stories that allow us a personal glimpse into the workings of Rowe’s world.

It is here that we meet Shaw in the piece for which the book is named. We find ourselves stepping quietly into Rowe’s world and indeed into his marriage and family life. We experience him as a true nurturer and a superb parental figure in the life of another man’s son. We find ourselves laughing alongside him as he struggles to adapt to the common rivalry between adoptive parents and biological parents, unfamiliar surroundings, antiquated small-town thinking, and wandering moose along the bumpy road as he and his spouse make the life journey towards Shaw’s wedding.

“Our Libraries, Ourselves” allows us to glimpse the passion of a brilliant mind. In is address as the keynote speaker at the 2003 GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards, Rowe urges gay writers to write “the stories of our lives” even as he urges librarians to purchase them and make them readily available to those who would benefit from reading them.

“Let them see that generations before them – indeed before us – found the strength to live our lives with dignity, grace and courage, effecting change and redressing injustices through actions, deeds, and, ultimately, our literature, which succeeds us,” Rowe writes. He likens the space occupied on a library shelf as a “garden where not only tolerance, but understanding, love, friendship, and bridges, spring up.”

He speaks passionately about the significance of his own marriage in a short piece titled “From This Day Forward”.

Perhaps his greatest donation to the literary world is “My Life as a Girl”, the revealing look at the dilemma of transgender people. Michael Rowe shatters the misapprehensions regarding transgender by revealing his own childhood struggle to harmonize his inner self with his physical self. Rowe is wholly inspirational in his explanation of the emotions and approach held by those who are transgender. This is perhaps his most luminous endeavor and should be held as required reading for any seeking answers in regard to understanding the various dimensions of gender identity.

To label “Other Men’s Sons” as “a book for gays and lesbians” is to do a disservice to all those who strive towards building bridges between our communities. The hallmark of a good writer is that he or she leaves their reader wanting to know more about a subject. I found myself hoping that there might perhaps be a just one more essay tucked into the book, the pages stuck together by accident.

Rowe brilliantly leaves us wanting to know more about our neighbors, our friends, and our acquaintances within and outside our communities. He leaves us holding onto the rails of the bridge mid-crossing. We desire to go the full distance, to continue along the conduit that he has provided, in order to embrace every man’s son or daughter as our own, to work towards understanding and acceptance of each other as a complete society.

Reagan Diary Rumors - the End!

A lot of speculation has been flying in regard to the "Reagan" quote, penned by Michael Kinsley. It is time to give credit where credit it due, for in the end it is the satire that survives whilst the speculation shrivels and dies.

Kinsley is best known for his quote, ""A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth." He is an American political journalist, commentator television host and liberal pundit. Primarily active in print media as both a writer and editor, he also became known to television audiences as a co-host on Crossfire. Kinsley has been a notable participant in the mainstream media's development of online content. (source: Wikipedia)

I first became aware of him upon reading his commentary in Time Magazine, "The Quite Gay Revolution", which can be found

But what about Reagan's quote, you ask?

Michael Kinsley, a man known for his clever sense of humor, penned the "quote" in an article after he had been tipped off that he was mentioned in Reagan's diaries. He did so June 2007, for the The New Republic. "Kinsley ruminated about why the president might have had occasion to mention his name in a diary entry, and offered several flight-of-fancy suggestions" (source: Snopes.)

"Direct quote" from the just published REAGAN DIARIES. The entry is dated May 17, 1986. 'A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne're-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work.' (I have highlighted the "tip off" words for you.)

Did Reagan call G.W. Bush a ne’er-do-well? No. Reagan did not write this in his diaries. The quotation is pulled from an article titled
"My Lunch with Reagan" by Michael Kinsley in the New Republic (vol. 237, issue 1, 7/2/07). And, not surprisingly, the quotation is taken out of context. In its original context it's easy to tell that it's meant as a joke:

The literary editor of The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, brought the joyous news. "Guess what, Mike. You're mentioned in Reagan's diaries." The diaries were published recently by HarperCollins and were
generally well-received. Edited by America's historian-on-steroids, Douglas Brinkley, The Reagan Diaries apparently reveal Reagan to be more thoughtful than he is normally given credit for. Of course, our standards in the area of presidential thoughtfulness have plummeted in recent years. Still, the fact that Reagan was writing it all down was news, and an interesting departure from presidential tradition. Traditionally, presidents use a hidden tape recorder.

But I was more interested in the me angle, frankly. And it was a puzzle. What on earth could Reagan have written? I indulged my imagination, and my ego:

"January 22, 1983. Mommie [Nancy] says that Kinsley's column this week in The New Republic undermines the entire philosophical basis of my administration. O dear O dear, I had better not read it."

Or: "October 6, 1987. Why does Kinsley keep picking on me? He is the only thing standing between me and the total destruction of the welfare state. But, ha: I will destroy him--destroy him utterly-- or my name's not … not … not … . Say, they had 'State Fair' on TV last
night. What a wholesome, clean-cut young man that Pat Boone is."

Or: "May 17, 1986. A moment I've been dreading. George brought his ne'er-do-well son around this morning and asked me to find the kid a job. Not the political one who lives in Florida. The one who hangs around here all the time looking shiftless. This so-called kid is already almost 40 and has never had a real job. Maybe I'll call Kinsley over at The New Republic and see if they'll hire him as a contributing editor or something. That looks like easy work."

I hope that this is the end of such rumors. Whilst I had a good chuckle at Dubya's expense, I find that Kinsley deserves the credit for such wit.

Behold the mighty #2 pencil!

Behold the mighty #2 pencil! It is an understated object, with its body reminiscent of the color of a school bus (which were yellowish orange in my neck of the woods.) It feels much slimmer in my grasp now as compared to my elementary school age hands. It is an object that brings back memories. I happened upon the pencil whilst waiting for Better Half to complete his doctor’s appointment and found comfort in it.

The smell of lead and the smell of lead applied to paper is still familiar to me. The very sound of the leaded point as I scribble my notes is like hearing a forgotten symphony. “Tap Tap” accompanies each punctuation mark or capped letter and at the beginning of each stroke. I can not help but notice that my handwriting has not improved much since my youth.

I relish the rough fell of the exposed wood under my index finger. It brings to mind scantron tests (“Class, take out your #2 pencils…”) and ropy yarn used to tie back bunches of hair. I think of Mickey Mouse pencil cases, Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby book bags, Bionic Woman and Little House on the Prairie lunch boxes and the ever-present scent of those damned pens that smelled like fruit. I owned none of these things (with the exception of the Bionic Woman metal lunchbox.) Much like the boys, I preferred a simple #2 pencil and a cheap blue or black pall point pen.

My mind harkens back to the dusty school room in Simi, where my classmates and I frantically write our hearts out, our heads bent low as we toil to pour forth our knowledge during a pop quiz. The lead slowly wears down from the effort as the very winds wear down the summit’s peak; I cast my eyes about in search of my Pink Pet eraser that was lost so many decades ago. The classroom silence is punctuated by the occasional sniff of breath from a child or the soft grinding “schk schk”of a manual sharpener.

The quiz time would run out and the tense scowls would slide off our faces like eggs slipping from a Teflon pan. We would raise our desk lids and stash our precious #2’s in the pencil rack, then snatch up our recess necessities and snuffle towards the door. The pencils, much like the unvarying test schedule, would always be waiting for us upon our return.