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neurotwitch

news

Monday, January 24, 2005

our wedding

We did it. We pushed back the start time to 6:00. Mary Pugh, our justice of the peace, arrived with her daughter (picture taker and assistant) to perform our ceremony, which was quite lovely and not at all religious, exactly what we wanted, and we liked her a great deal. Maureen, Jeff, Kate, and Ben arrived from Natick, MA—it took them twice as long as it usually does to travel the distance, and the trip was very stressful. But they arrived intact, and I was so happy that they could be here. Stanley got Helene—there was no way we were going to have our wedding without her presence. We were married in front of the fireplace in our living room, which I didn’t think could happen there because it was so packed in there from emptying the storage bin, but Stanley surprised me and cleared it out! The dogs cavorted and barked during the ceremony, and the cat crouched in the corner watching—I expected him to climb Stanley to get up on the mantle, but he behaved.

Afterwards, Maureen and Jeff took us all to dinner at The Lime here in Norwalk, which is our favorite restaurant on the planet, and the food was wonderful. We came back to our house afterwards for our “wedding cake” (double chocolate fudge cake from Stew Leonard’s) and toasts.

It was a pretty wonderful wedding. It was a close to perfect as it could get without the rest of the family here, but we didn’t give anyone much notice and we would’ve been insane with worry about anyone traveling to get here from Florida or Michigan, so we’ll celebrate with them when we get to Michigan next August. It would’ve been nice if Alice could have been there too, but at least she was in the hospital finally getting better.

Kate took some pictures, as did Chrissy, the JP’s daugher—I will post them soon.

Thank you to everyone who sent their good wishes. We’re deeply grateful. And we will keep everyone up to date regarding Stanley’s heart saga. (I can’t wait until the valve job is over and Stanley is fully recovered).

Now I just need to get caught up on sleep or rest or something. I managed to get all of the shoveling done (more on the way tomorrow), so maybe that explains at least part of my exhaustion. Maybe the rest is stress. Couple of mornings of sleeping in a little extra and I should be ok. Stanley ordered a Snow Fox snow thrower (electric shovel?) because I asked him to—I don’t think we need a big snowblower because there isn’t THAT much driveway and only 80 feet of sidewalk, of which I only need to have a 12-inch-wide path cleared. Of course, when if finally does get here (from Amazon), this winter will turn snow free most likely, so I won’t get to try it out. I wish.

posted by lee on 01/24/05 at 08:56 AM

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

wild horses & the kindness of strangers

Check out WestportNow.com for the tale of two horses loose on I-95 this morning. Some amazing photos. Scroll down past the “folks walking their dogs in the snow” stuff to see the sequence of photos.

And bless the kindness of strangers. I was shoveling the driveway out, red-faced as I always get upon exertion (my Celtic heritage, I guess). A guy driving by in a pickup with a snowplow saw me, backed up, gestured for me to get out of the way, and plowed out the driveway! I wanted to find out his name and thank him but he tooted and took off before I could. He saved me a couple of hours. I’ll look for an opportunity to return the favor by lending a hand to someone in need.

Now I just have about 80 feet of sidewalk to do, which I’ll tackle a little at a time since the city plowed so much snow on it (the sidewalk directly abuts the street). If it’s too much, we’ll pay the fine because it’s not worth dropping dead over.

UPDATE: My niece just commented and said there are leaving soon to get here for our wedding! I hope the trip isn’t too hard; I trust their common sense enough to know they won’t push it.

Some blizzardy photos of Ginger and Stanley, last night:

Ginger euphoric

Stanley looking at conditions

posted by lee on 01/23/05 at 10:14 AM

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a foot of snow to celebrate

Four years ago, when I moved in with Stanley, we moved in a blizzard. So it seems particularly fitting that a blizzard would herald us on our wedding day.

Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as the predictions. No power went out; the tides didn’t flood the coast. There’s traffic out. And the snow is pretty fluffy so, when the wind dies down a little, it won’t be a brutal shoveling job.

Our ceremony was scheduled for 3:30, but we’ll probably push the time back so there’s a better chance that my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew will be able to get here from Boston, which was also smacked around by the weather. And it will give us a little more time to deal with the driveway and then go get Helene. Us ... I mean me, since there is no way Stanley is going to shovel any more this winter unless there is some freak snowstorm after his aortic valve is replaced and he’s fully recovered.

I am even more profoundly happy about taking this step than I ever expected to be. I am also surprised at how excited our family and friends are that we’re finally taking this step. The main reaction has been, “well, hell, it’s about time.”

UPDATE: Our ceremony is at 6:00. My brother-in-law said they got about 20 inches in Natick, and will start digging out and will let us know if they can make it. Gotta call Helene ...

posted by lee on 01/23/05 at 07:12 AM

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Friday, January 21, 2005

famous artists school site launched

We finally soft-launched the Famous Artists School website redesign! We’ve been working on it for months. We still have to add in the emagazine and some additional sample lessons, examples, and resources. I’m particularly looking forward to getting the emagazine up.

The site is almost entirely driven by ExpressionEngine from pMachine. The shopping cart is done with ZenCart, which was fairly easy to customize once we figured out where everything is. ZenCart is almost perfect—and definitely a far, far better shopping cart than many we looked at. We had to change the cart FAS had been using because it just couldn’t handle the myriad shipping options, which depend on both zones and weight. Gotta say, it sure makes it easy for clients to manage their own stores, which is above and beyond what most carts offer. Awfully good software for just a donation.

We decided to do the site with ExpressionEngine because we wanted staff to be able to change the content on the site without having to dive into the html. The one thing that would have made it even nicer would have been a way to automatically have the navigation display “here” depending upon the entry—maybe down the road. Then we could have dispensed with having to use a different template for each page. This setup, though, will save us hours and hours of maintenance work. Oh wait, maybe that’s not such a good thing ...

What we particularly liked about doing this site, besides really liking the people who own the company, Cortina Learning, is that the products are great. It’s hard to find good home study art courses that offer everything you need at affordable prices—I think these products achieve that. And there are a couple of new ones dealing with bleeding edge topics in the works—I’m really looking forward to seeing those.

A site launch is a good end to this long, strange week. I have to get some screenshots so I can add them to the InfoPulse portfolio.

posted by lee on 01/21/05 at 02:11 PM

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

nice stuff, part one: good press

It’s so exciting: the January 16 Sunday New York Times has a great article about WestportNow.com. Featured in the Connecticut section, which is delivered on Saturday around here, it’s titled “Did You Read The Computer Today?” by Bill Slocum. If it get posted on the NYT website tomorrow, I will link it. The gist is it’s about two hyper-local news sites, WestportNow and KENTTribune.com, which covers Litchfield County, the motivation behind each, and a lot about Gordon. It has a good photo of Gordon and his dog, Abby.

It’s nice to see it featured, especially since we just launched an interactive map feature with two maps: Westport Teardowns and Properties Sold. The software/database is by Illinois-based MapTeam. The “Westport Teardowns” is a pretty interesting feature. In Westport, people have a tendency to buy a house, then tear it down and replace it with a Big MacMansion. Some houses warrant being torn down, but many are wonderful houses; there is one 200-year-old house slated for the wrecking crew. It’s changing Westport from a charming New England town into an overbuilt exurb that is rapidly losing its historic character.

posted by lee on 01/15/05 at 02:24 PM

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

poynter online mentions westportnow.com

Steve Outing talked about WestportNow.com in his E-Media Tidbits blog at Poynter Online:

Community News Photography
WestportNow is a “citizen journalism” website (published in blog format) serving a tony Connecticut community of 26,000. Run part-time by Gordon Joseloff, the site puts special emphasis on photography by community members. You can see the work of more than 50 citizen photographers in the site’s “Year In Pictures 2004” feature.

It was fun making this section, and if we’d planned it earlier, rather than doing it as a spur-of-the-moment kind of deal, it would have captions. Gordon wanted a quick and dirty solution in order to get it up quickly since it was such a last-minute wish. We could have used PhotoShop’s automated gallery maker for a fast gallery, but it’s not a very workable solution. So we embedded the gallery in an iframe on the page to keep the look and feel consistent with the rest of the site, and made the gallery with an astonishingly easy-to-use application called Web Album Generator by Mark McIntyre. You can find WAG and another great piece of software, html editor Araneae (for hand-coding websites) at ornj.net. We loaded the pictures into WAG, organized them by date, generated the album, tweaked the stylesheet generated by the program, and there you go. WAG allows you to insert captions while making the gallery but, with 400ish pictures and a need for speed, we decided to forego captions. We will probably build something in to automate the generation of the 2005 year in pics when we implement WestportNow on an ExpressionEngine platform, which we have to so very soon since it’s outgrown its Movable Type platform. As to Outing’s comment, “While most of the images that run on WestportNow.com aren’t professional quality, many are.” I think he misses the whole idea of what the photos are all about. I don’t quite get the point of that remark; it’s patronizing and it isn’t particularly useful. Does the fact that he doesn’t think some of the photos measure up to his standards of what consistutes “professional quality” in any way detract from what’s good about community contributions to their local news source?

posted by lee on 01/05/05 at 11:04 AM

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

christmas time in dearborn heights

My sister Carolyn got a digital camera for Christmas from her son Aaron—and here are some of the first pictures she took:

Jamie's new puppy

Jamie got a new dog. Cara says it’s part Jack Russell terrier and part something else. Stanley says it looks like the “something else” is a bloodhound or a coon hound—it would be funny if it howled instead of barking. It’s about one-sixth the size of Jamie’s last dog. This one looks like it’s going to be a little bigger than Cara’s pugador, Chuckie.

Brian opens something for his new car

Cara’s youngest son Brian is opening a present. He told us he starts technical school in March; plans on studying network systems and will be going full time, from 9 to 2 every day. He has the perfect job for a student: security guard, working nights. Looks like he got stuff to keep his new car looking spiffy. Brian visited us last summer—we had a lot of fun.

Aaron and his bowling ball

Cara’s oldest boy Aaron looks like he got a new bowling ball for Christmas. (Pretty Christmas tree behind him!) Aaron works about 80 hours a week making auto glass. He says he likes his job a lot. Aaron hasn’t been out here to visit us yet—with all the hours he’s working he might not get to very soon. I don’t thing he’s been to Connecticut since he was a baby (which seems like yesterday).

Kristine's last Christmas without Matt

Kristine seems to be having a good time. So far, it looks like this may be the last Christmas she has to spend without her fiancé Matt, who is serving in Iraq. Supposedly, he gets to come home February 18. He was scheduled to go to Kuwait for six weeks before heading home, as I guess a sort of debriefing period, but that was canceled until at least after the Iraq elections at the end of January (if they happen). I think it sucks that teleportation is a fantasy because I would love to be in Dearborn Heights spending time with my family there again—the trip in November went way too fast.

posted by lee on 12/22/04 at 10:29 PM

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Monday, December 13, 2004

they figured out how to cause psoriasis

Next step is figuring out how to stop it, which looks promising, according to a news story in Reuters today:

They found that it takes a combination of a protein called STAT3 and an active immune system to cause psoriasis, which experts estimate affects as much as 2 percent of the population.

Their finding suggests that psoriasis may start with an over-enthusiastic attempt by the body to heal wounds.

And the researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center made a skin cream that blocked the process that leads to psoriasis in mice.

“We may have found an entirely new treatment option for psoriasis,” said M.D. Anderson’s John DiGiovanni, who led the study.

“We have developed a mouse model that exhibits all the major features of human psoriatic lesions and shown we can reverse those steps.”

and

DiGiovanni’s team first looked for activated STAT3 in the skin of psoriasis patients and found high levels of activated STAT3 in psoriasis lesions in 19 of 21 of them.

They bred a mouse in which STAT3 is always turned on in the keratinocyte skin cells, and these mice always developed psoriasis.

The researchers then developed a solution containing a small piece of DNA called an oligonucleotide, which was designed to prevent STAT3 from activating genes.

It helped clear up the lesions in the mice.

“This study opens the door to a whole new kind of therapy for psoriasis,” said DiGiovanni.

Dare I hope? I wonder as I sit here writing this with crab-claw hands—the lesions are particularly painful today.

Here is the abstract from the journal Nature Medicine, the article is Stat3 links activated keratinocytes and immunocytes required for development of psoriasis in a novel transgenic mouse model

Here we report that epidermal keratinocytes in psoriatic lesions are characterized by activated Stat3. Transgenic mice with keratinocytes expressing a constitutively active Stat3 (K5.Stat3C mice) develop a skin phenotype either spontaneously, or in response to wounding, that closely resembles psoriasis. Keratinocytes from K5.Stat3C mice show upregulation of several molecules linked to the pathogenesis of psoriasis. In addition, the development of psoriatic lesions in K5.Stat3C mice requires cooperation between Stat3 activation in keratinocytes and activated T cells. Finally, abrogation of Stat3 function by a decoy oligonucleotide inhibits the onset and reverses established psoriatic lesions in K5.Stat3C mice. Thus, targeting Stat3 may be potentially therapeutic in the treatment of psoriasis.

It costs $30 to read the entire article, so I’ll pass on it at this time.

I hope they’re finally on the path to a real treatment for psoriasis. I volunteer to test the cream when it goes into trials. It would be great to have an effective treatment since I can’t yet afford to go soak in the Dead Sea for two weeks. Maybe it won’t be a poison. Maybe it will even be something I can afford ...

posted by lee on 12/13/04 at 09:51 AM

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

save money on drugs

Consumers Union launched a Consumer Reports website for prescription drugs. Best Buy Drugs only has a few reports right now: statins, arthritis meds, and heartburn / acid reflux meds. It’s a start. I’ve always been shocked at how much a friend of ours pays for Lipitor—I’ll print out the statins article for her and see if it will help her save some money.

Maybe they’ll cover drugs for psoriasis one of these days. The last prescription I had was for Dovonex and, had I bought it at Walgreens, would’ve cost me more than $100 for a tube of the stuff. So I got it from Canada for about 60% of the U.S. price. I’m glad I did that—saved myself mucho dinero. And the damned stuff doesn’t even work for me. It makes my skin feel like I dropped battery acid on it. The Canadian pharmacy I used is Canada Drugs—I liked them. They were very careful, even calling my dermatologist to make sure they understood what the hell she scrawled on the Rx slip.

Speaking of drugs, I think this brouhaha about baseball players and steroids is a bunch of crap. Who the hell cares what some athlete does? He, or she, is an athlete, not a brain surgeon or a bus driver or someone working at a job that actually matters. They’re entertainers, nothing more. Stanley gags on the hypocrisy of all the moaning and groaning about athletes and steroids as we watch prime time television with four ads per hour for drugs. So do I. Especially since the pharmaceutical companies seem to be spending more money on marketing than they do on research and development.

Too tired to rant any more. Off to play Vaults of Atlantis on Pogo ...

posted by lee on 12/09/04 at 08:53 PM

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