Sunday, July 01, 2007

latest v of expression engine + a post-sicko rant

EllisLabs released version 1.6 of ExpressionEngine last week. Installing it was painless, at least for this blog which is not at all complicated.

There are some URL formatting changes that I have to look at more carefully before I upgrade some of the older installations, such as—that one would be a nightmare to fix if it breaks and with every version upgrade, something has broken. Though it takes at most an hour to get the fix answer in the EE Forum. One thing I love about EE is the phenomenal support.

So far, it’s been a quiet weekend. We went to see Sicko so now I’m convinced the insurance company will deny Stanley’s clot operation. Just because they irrationally denied the CAT scan with the first request ... please, let me be so wrong.

Sicko is a good movie. Makes it depressingly clear how very much the United States is NOT a Christian nation. Yes, the critics will come out of the woodwork and say how Canada’s system isn’t perfect, or England’s or the one in France and even Cuba. Or the stats can be this way or that way depending upon whose stats you look at for what year. But the bottom line is this: nobody goes bankrupt due to medical bills in Canada or England or in any country with universal health care. Nobody dies on the floor of an emergency room because they don’t have health insurance. Nobody gets dumped on the street because they can’t pay their bill. And these countries manage to afford universal health care. Nobody in these countries has to make a decision on whether to eat or buy medicine. The USA is a Christian nation? What bullshit.

Bitter? You bet. Broke due to our medical bills? Yep. Especially as I write out our insurance check for $815 today.

My only real quibble with the movie is how Moore glossed over Hillary Clinton’s role in killing universal health care with her arrogance, ineptitude, lack of political skill (at that time), and refusal to compromise—he made it seem as if it was just the Republicans who killed it—I was paying a lot of attention to this back then and I blame Hillary and Bubba just as much as the Republican pukes like Gingrich and Buchanan. Now she’s on the take too, getting the big bucks from the medial and pharma lobbies. So I guess universal health care is not on the table if she ever gets elected president.

My mother needs a PET scan to confirm (or rule out) her diagnosis, according to her doctors at the University of Michigan neuropsychology section. But it’s extremely difficult to get a PET scan paid for by insurance or Medicare. The diagnosis has a profound impact on treatment, planning, and care, yet we have to jump through hoops to get it approved or get her into a research program (if we can). Why are PET scans so expensive? Why isn’t it just the next step in diagnostics? Especially at a publicly funded hospital that is a unit of a publicly funded university?

Americans can be so very stupid. In Canada, in England, the attitude is, “Well, we just take care of each other. That’s the right thing to do.” Not in America, this supposedly most-Christian nation in the world.

posted by lee on 07/01/07 at 10:56 AM
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

jeopardy is wrong & cold-brewed coffee

Interesting, on Jeopardy tonight, the returning champ, a doctor, got the second daily double. It was a question about bradycardia, like the heartbeat rate for it. Stanley and I both knew the answer to that one, as did the doctor. She said “What is 50 beats per minute?” But, according to Jeopardy, she and we are wrong—they said it’s 60 beats per minute. Cost her $3,000, but she won anyway. Jeopardy blew this one. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Bradycardia describes a heart rate that drops below 50 beats per minute, compared to a normal heartbeat rate of about 72.” And that’s what I remembered from Stanley’s journey through Funky Valveland. (Oh, yes ... this was one of the Bad Things that might happen. AKA the “heartbeat of a zombie.”)

Wonder if they’ll admit wrongness and give the woman her three grand?

Independence Day was kind of a dud. I did work—for about 30 minutes, answering emails and working on updating a calendar of events. That was all, I swear.

Since it was so crappy out, I slept in (I would’ve even if it had been perfect out—only when it’s crappy, I don’t feel guilty about it), read a bunch of stuff, and spent working on version 4 of our website. I’ve been working on v.4 for about, oh, a year now. Not that much different from v.3, but built on ExpressionEngine. It’s like the shoemaker’s kids who have no shoes kinda thing—very busy building other websites so I rarely have the time to work on our own. We also watched Burn Notice, which we recorded because we had company last Thursday. Only we just recorded an hour of it, not thinking that the pilot would last longer (it was 90 minutes). Quite frustrating as it turned out we like it a lot and unlike most of the series on TV these days, we could not view it on the USA website or buy it on iTunes. So we’ll just have to watch the last half hour on Saturday, or record it again.

On Monday, we went to see Dr. Robinson. When Dr. R. entered the exam room, he said to Stanley, “Why am I seeing you?” My answer would have been, “Because you told him to see you in two weeks ... ” but Stanley just said, “To say goodbye.” The heart part is done—it’s still amazing to me how fast Stanley healed and recovered this time (though he still tires easily, but not as easily as last week and so on). And Stanley can quit the coumadin on Thursday (though I could tell Dr. R. was reluctant to let him, but did because Stanley is supposed to have surgery next Tuesday.) Stanley is supposed to see his cardiologist next week, though I’m not sure why. Oh, and though they never definitely identified the bacteria that caused the infection, the docs remain convinced it was Bartonella.

We stopped at the Dairy Queen in Fairfield to get Blizzards to celebrate. Stanley got the chocolate cherry concoction, and I got a Snickers Blizzard. We splurged on large ones, but discovered that large is too much. And, finally, a three-year craving is done.

Oh, please, let Oxford approve the operation, so Stanley can get the calf clots removed and we can put this nightmare almost completely behind us. (Not totally—it’s going to take us a long time to recover financially and there is still the damaged kidney that is forever.)

Ginger had a very bad series of nights—she finally stopped shaking. Norwalk’s fireworks on Saturday were particularly long and loud and Westport’s were really bad on Tuesday night, plus there are all the neighborhood pyros who clearly didn’t get the wimp fireworks sold by Stew Leonard’s. I hope they’re done. Thursday it’s supposed to storm though, so the thunder will probably send her down to the cellar again. Jello dog.

The New York Times mentioned it. Cold-brewed ice coffee is supposed to be superior to hot-brewed coffee on ice. Well, that’s easy enough to test. The recipe is 1/3 cup of coarsely ground coffee beans to 1.5 cups of water, mix the coffee into the water let sit for 12 hours or longer and then strain it. Dilute it with water 1:1 and add milk or cream to taste. Easy enough.

Guess what? It IS superior. Tastes more like good coffee beans smell and isn’t acidy or bitter. I tried diluting with water and adding half and half, which was good, then a 1:1 coffee to half and half, which was even better but not enough better to justify the calories. My most recent version is 1:1 coffee to 1% milk with a bit of half and half added—now THAT is the mix for me. Yum. The half and half is just enough to add the mouth-feel I like. Tastes like a smooth and rich iced latte with a very nice, almost chocolate aftertaste. I used Green Mountain Harvard blend beans ground in a burr grinder. I’m out of those beans, but have a great French vanilla coffee bean from Coffee & Tea Warehouse (the best vanilla coffee I’ve ever had—I’m a vanilla-flavored coffee fanatic) that I’m going to use next.

Try it, it’s easy, and let me know what you think.

posted by lee on 07/04/07 at 09:42 PM
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Friday, July 06, 2007

clotty stuff & an einstein update

This morning, Diana from Dr. Gagne’s office called with the news that Oxford approved Stanley’s operation. What a relief! I was dreading the prospect of another appeal and Stanley’s despair at ever getting his leg fixed. So we’re to call Monday morning early to find out when he’s supposed to check in, and on Monday they’ll do an EKG and blood tests to prep for the operation on Tuesday. I think he’ll also get prophylactic antibiotics as well, though Dr. Saul extended his antibiotics regimen for another week so I doubt there’s an organism, good or bad, that could survive in Stanley’s body. I hope.

The operation is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday. I don’t know if Stanley will have to stay overnight on Tuesday.

Stanley was really looking forward to getting his PICC line yanked out this week and was upset that the antibiotics were extended. I told him to suck it up—better another week than another month+ going down with a staph infection. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I just have a better memory of what happened two years ago than he does. And I’m just too exhausted to face another catastrophe.

Stanley also canceled his appointment with Dr. Lomnitz on Tuesday and said he’d call back about making another appointment. The scheduler warned him that Dr. Lomnitz will be booked up solid so unless he makes an appointment soon, Stanley will be out of luck. Hmm. I think I’ll keep my thoughts to myself about that one.

I’m glad the operation is a Norwalk—it’s much easier to run home and take care of Ginger and the kitties. Less than two miles (vs. 16.5); less than ten minutes unless I manage to try it during rush hour. Parking rates are much saner than at Bridgeport Hospital, too. And the nurses are allowed to tell us what’s going on.

The only thing I’m wondering about now is if Stanley has to get general anesthesia or local. I hope local—I’ll find out Monday or Tuesday morning.

Einstein is now a year old. A year and a week or so. She is a gorgeous cat who looks like she’s very self-assured and knows who’s in charge (and it isn’t my mom or dad!) Here’s her latest portrait, taken by Dad (click to enlarge):

Einstein Cat Fleming at 12.5 months, taken July 5, 2007 by James Fleming

The comment included with the photo is: “This is as close to outdoors as she gets. Unless she scoots between my legs and makes a break for freedom, which she tries on a daily basis.” It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens when we get there in late August: three cats, one dog. Ginger loved Einstein when she was a tiny kitten last summer so I’ll be curious to find out if she still does. Ginger barks at Slink, and always has—I think she’s jealous (I’m her human!) and she has caught Slink stealing her food. The latter reason is probably the more important one. As far as Twitch goes, Ginger and Twitch are utterly indifferent to each other most of the time, though Twitch is really in charge. Twitch can sleep all day in Ginger’s bed in our office, and the silly dog doesn’t care. But if Slink tries to curl up in the bed, Ginger chases him out. And Twitch will curl up with Ginger if the house is really cold, like it gets on very windy winter days. Right now, I’m still shocked that it’s already July. It was May, and I was figuring out where to plant my seeds and planning on roto-tilling the garden Saturday (as in May 26) then in the blink of an eye it’s July. The two tomato plants I got in before the trip to the ER seem to be thriving, with a tomato on each and lots of blossoms (they’re container plants). But the ones I put in when I could around June 7 are healthy, but very short. Very few seeds were sown—just a couple of pots I put together. I did get some cleomes in and some of them are blooming and just gorgeous. I wonder, if I plant some seeds this weekend, such as cosmos and zinnia, will they grow and bloom? I guess it can’t hurt to try a few and see what happens. So much I didn’t get done. But some things are starting to look up. Not everything. I will feel better when Stanley is able to walk without pain again. But right now, I have about a quarter inch of cope left. I have a yoga dvd and I think I’d better start using it to learn some yoga so I can be sane when I’m needed for other problems that have to be dealt with. Wouldn’t hurt to be limber, too ...

posted by lee on 07/06/07 at 08:59 PM
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

a lot more complicated

Stanley is watching tv now, starting to look at little better now that his anti-nausea stuff and the morphine kicked in. Looking at the tv? No, I mean sleeping—that binary state he’s in post-operation.

The surgery took 4.5 hours. He’s got a good strong foot pulse again, and his foot has pinked up again (though he’s still pale in the face). Dr. Gagne was hoping it would be a fairly straightforward procedure where he could just go in a remove the clot or, if the clots were too old, do a short bypass.

But that was not to be. Dr. G said it took quite a while to figure out what was going on because there was so much inflammation and then they saw there were just too much to be able to salvage, so they bypassed the bad stretch of artery which, from every indication, is the length of his calf. So not a short bypass. Too many old clots (which wouldn’t have been old if the endocarditis would’ve been caught during the cardiologist’s checkup ... yes, I’m very angry still). Dr. G. said he managed to not cut much of the muscle to get at stuff and tried to keep it as minimally invasive as he could.

So, the clots are bypassed. Finally. But Stanley won’t be getting out tomorrow—Dr. G. said he thinks maybe Friday. I hope he was just being conservative, but S is having such a rough time of it now (throwing up a lot of blood from when some tube was put in him during general anesthesia or something—and he didn’t want pain meds until the nausea stuff stopped, and it took quite a while to get that ordered ... ) that it wouldn’t surprise me. Whatever—I just want him better.

The waiting room here at Norwalk Hospital is way better than the Bridgeport Hospital waiting room. Free coffee (that pod stuff), located next to the cafeteria (cafe coffee is good, and some of the food, but the choices are extremely limited and nothing but diet stuff to drink—all with that crap aspartame ... ), very comfortable chairs (I managed to fall asleep for an hour!) and the blue coats actually helped people out. I hope I never have to see it again.

He’s had good nurses so far. One pretty strict one who kept trying to get him not to watch the blood draw (he always watches the blood draw) and they’ve managed to do everything through his PICC line so he’s not being stabbed every few hours for more blood. So I’m glad they left the line in, as much as he hated it.

So, the progress report is “so far, so good.” The only problem would be is if the leg pulse is diminished or goes away. I’ll feel better when his face is less pale—hopefully tomorrow. He’ll get to eat breakfast, I think—he hasn’t had anything for almost 24 hours—the last bit was some red jello the tech gave him last night.

Long day. Heading home at around 10:30 or so—it’s not fair to the dog to leave her much longer, though she’s a very good girl.

Springfield, Vermont? I don’t picture any nuclear plants in Vermont ... a weird choice. I voted for Springfield, Michigan, even though I’ve never heard of it.

posted by lee on 07/10/07 at 05:53 PM
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

plans? hah!

This weekend, I planned on doing some heavy cleaning. The dusting and vacuuming have been neglected for more than a month and the dust monsters and furballs are conspiring to smother us as we sleep. If not for good fans, we never would’ve made it.

But I forgot about that post-crisis numbness that sets in. You know, the kind where a good, solid eight hours of sleep doesn’t begin to touch that bone-level exhaustion.

Saturday, I stared at the same paragraph in the New York Times for 15 minutes before I realized I didn’t even know which article I was reading. About all I accomplished, besides paying bills, was to trim the lovely flowers Candy sent Stanley so they’d last longer, water the plants on the porch and the small garden (five or six tomatoes now!), and dig out and dust one of the side tables (liberating it from 30 pounds of magazines I’ll never read). Oh, and I went to PetCo to get cat food before the kitties started nibbling on the dog. I’d gone to Stew Leonard’s Friday afternoon for the groceries we needed for a couple of days (and came home whimpering—too much humanity) and to Walgreens for Stanley’s meds, so didn’t need to go out anyplace else. And I made a great dinner—Sharon left us a wonderful care package from the Westport Farmers Market so we dined off that. Tuna salad and good tomatoes and corn on the cob and berries—it finally felt like summer to us.

stanley's 46 staples and 12 stiches

Stanley’s leg looks like someone took a baseball bat to it, at least, today it does. The photo, which you can click to enlarge if you want to, was taken Saturday morning before the real bruising started turning a lovely shade of green-purple. He pushed it a little lot on Friday so took it very easy on Saturday. It’s swollen and black and blue. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but we see the infectious disease doctor, Zane Saul, on Monday so we can ask him. It’s still draining, but the good draining and not the awful draining like he had with his staph infection. He’s still on IV antibiotics—it will be wonderful to reclaim the quarter of the living room that’s taken over by medical supplies and IV poles. Maybe Monday Dr. Saul will take him off the antibiotics and pull his PICC line. But if not—better to be safe than sorry. So what’s a few more quarts of yogurt ... He has, I think he said, 46 staples and 12 stitches. He’s mostly irritated that he can’t go back to his installation and finish work for about ten days—he has lots of web work and research work to do, but he has clients who’ve been patiently waiting for him to recover so they can get their window treatments hung and computers fixed. We had a couple of completely stupid arguments where we just yell at each other, at least on Saturday we did. Neither of us took it seriously—it’s just frustration and exhaustion breaking through. Sunday, we managed to get a little bit more housework done. Very little. Stanley did some laundry, I cleaned up our George Foreman toaster oven from last week’s bruschetta and mozzarella “pizza” (it’s a very strange toaster oven—some very dumb design features. But I like it anyway—I’m not sure why.) and got rid of still more magazines. Stanley showed me the notice from the Norwalk tax assessor’s office: they’re going to be snooping through our houses over the next couple of weeks so they can jack up our property taxes again (we already pay nearly $6,000 per year). So Stanley said we should just leave the house a big dust bowl, in hopes that they lower our assessment. Ha. Even sparkling clean (which lasts for all of two hours before dust and fur start taking over again), it’s clear that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. And we received a notice from our home insurance company, Nationwide, where we’re told that it would cost $355,000 to replace our house, rather than $275,000 or whatever it was, so our homeowner’s insurance is being jacked up in October. We don’t know by how much yet. Things keep getting better and better ... I just wish I knew when the tax snoop, from J.F. Ryan Associates, is planning on dropping in. The letter just says between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. over the next two weeks. To set a value on our house for October 2008. That will probably push a few hundred more senior citizens out of their houses here, like it did during the last re-evaluation. The worst part of the weekend came Sunday morning about 4 a.m. Yes, I was awake, doing computer maintenance stuff and odds and ends. Ginger had to go out. She was out quite a while, so I went outside to see what she was up to. Meanwhile, Twitch was hovering around the door, trying to get out. When I let Ginger back in, the effing cat slipped out the door and made his break for the trees. I tried to stop him and jammed my left ring finger so hard against the door I think it might have a fracture—it’s swollen and sore as hell. But that didn’t matter. I had to find that damned cat. In the dark. In the fog. Steamy out, I felt like I was in a sweat lodge. Mosquitoes snacking on me. Went in and got the flashlight and proceeded to search. We live on a half-acre plot with lots and lots of shrubbery, all of it mid-summer lush. I checked the tress (Twitch is a climber, usually)—no luck. So I’m out there, poking through the bushes with a flashlight, calling “here kitty fucking kitty,” and hoping 1) that I could spot the stupid cat and 2) the neighbors wouldn’t call the cops. “Some perv is in the bushes with a flashlight ... ” I finally spotted him running across the driveway to the gully that runs between our property line and the school property—and down the gully he went. Making those stupid cat sounds they make when they’re having fun tormenting their human. Calling him, but not too loud because I didn’t want Stanley to hear me and wake up and hobble around the yard on his gimpy leg and rip his stitches out, toying with going down into the gully and risking getting my eyes poked out and bothering Mama Skunk or whatever ... Eventually, the stupid cat got tired of playing with me, and came out and threw himself on the ground like he does when he wants his belly scratched. Waiting for me to pick him up and take him inside so he could eat and sleep. He always does. But I always panic, anyway—I never know if this will be the time he ends up in the street and gets smushed or strays too far and gets truly lost. I told him that one of these times, I’m not going to go looking for him, but he just looked at me and sent me a mind message: “Yeah, right.” Sometimes I truly hate that cat. Off to bed, long day tomorrow, to the doc’s office and lots of catching up to plunge in to. A lot. But, it seems, the worst is behind us now, as far as Stanley’s health goes. I hope.

posted by lee on 07/15/07 at 08:59 PM
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Monday, July 16, 2007


When I opened my eyes to see why Ginger was so agitated this morning (not barking agitated, just tense and pacing and whimpering agitated), I saw Stanley cleaning something up off the bathroom floor. I told him to stop; that I would clean it up—I didn’t want him moving around so much. He said, “I need help.” He was mopping up big splotches of blood.

He said his incision split open about three inches from the end and started gushing blood—he said it filled up his sock. So I said, “Let me call Dr. Gagne,” and followed the blood trail downstairs to get the number. This was about 8:15 or so. I got his service and they said they’d page him right away—but, I later found out, he was in surgery and couldn’t call back. Nor could any of the other surgeons in the practice, apparently. I generally like the staff at his office, but they need to call back when they say they’re going to call back, particularly during an emergency. They never did. (Dr. Gagne did call around noon, but too late, we were long gone.)

After trying to get some kind of an answer for more than an hour, I ended up calling the on-call nurse at Oxford to find out what to do. I’m really glad they have that service, though I would’ve called all of my numbers until I got some answers. The nurse established that Stanley wasn’t in danger of going into shock from blood loss (or panic), and after asking a bunch of questions, she said, “Take him to the ER.” Ack. I hate the Norwalk Hospital ER—we never get any answers from them. (Today was no exception.)

So, since the blood gush had abated considerably, I had time to cancel his appointment with the infectious disease doc and oh, yeah, brush my teeth and suck down some coffee so I could drive without getting into an accident. Trouble with late nights is that early morning (for me, anyway) emergencies are really rough. Stanley said he’d drive. “Yeah, right, like you can guarantee you won’t pass out from blood loss if the gusher starts up again.” He agreed that maybe he was less than rational at the moment. I drove.

What’s the point of valet parking for ER if you have to walk half a block back to the ER door? There’s not even a place for anyone to sit ... stupid. Anyway, I got him in there and we were stashed in one of the old rooms way back in the corner. Which was fine with me—there was a tv in there and a bathroom attached to the room. Except that the floor was filthy:  dirt and clumps of hair (not strands, clumps—looked like the aftermath of a hair-pulling fight) and monitor tabs, really cruddy. Eventually, a nurse came in to find out what was up. She used that doppler stethoscope to check the pulses in Stanley’s foot and, wondrous day, the pulse was good and strong. So the bypass didn’t rip out or anything. I was so, so, so relieved—I could feel my blood pressure dropping.

Eventually, Dr. McGovern showed up. Asked some questions, eventually looked at the incision after Stanley asked him if he wanted to. The bad part was the swelling—we could see it get puffier. The more it swelled, the worse the pain. Dr. M says, “well, we’ll watch it” or something like that—he seemed so hyperactive he was almost twitching. Maybe it was too much caffeine. He never completed a sentence and he never really answered our questions, so we still don’t know why the incision split. “Well, that just happens so ... do you want something for the pain? I’ll call your surg ... well we’ll just watch it, we don’t want to cut it open, more scarring, more scarring that way and we don’t need to ... just pools low, see the bruising, just pools ...  ”

So we watched the noon news on Channel 8 and most of Judge Lopez and eventually Dr. M came back and said, “he said he’ll see you at his office Wednesday, we’re gonna let you go, just stay off it ... I’ll have the nurse put a dressing on it ... ” and left. And forgot to ask the nurse to dress it.

But she did anyway, at my request. Pressure bandage, which Stanley took off and re-did as soon as we got home because he can’t stand the smell of those sticky Ace bandages. Stanley finished the infusion he had to stop and we cleaned up puddles of blood. (The floors are almost 200 years old—what’s another stain or two?) I remade his infectious disease doc appointment for tomorrow (I don’t like the people at that office so far—the receptionist and the scheduler were both abrupt to the point of being rude. And I didn’t know we’re seeing someone other than Dr. Saul because he’s on vacation—not that I mind since I don’t care for him much.) And made the appointment with Dr. Gagne for Wednesday afternoon.

That blew away my day. I’d almost gotten that quiet spot back (an uneventful weekend helped a lot) but that’s been shot to shit again. And I got no work done, or almost nothing done. But he’s okay. And maybe we’ll find out the why on Wednesday.

My next project is getting copies of all Stanley’s medical records so I can have them all together—I am so sick of having them spread all over Fairfield County with different pieces here and there. I need them consolidated so nothing is missed—it’s so damned hard to remember everything each time we have to recount his medical history for the latest specialist. I figure it might cost me a couple of hundred in copying fees and an entire file drawer, but I’ll feel much better. I wish the hospitals and docs would digitize their record keeping—would love to be able to put it all on a memory stick so I could have it when we travel.

Ah well. Off to Stratford tomorrow—maybe we can even stop at the Habitat for Humanity Re-store on the way home, see what they have there.

posted by lee on 07/16/07 at 08:59 PM
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

getting there

Things are moving along. We’ve been so busy this week that I am actually looking forward to Friday being a non-eventful day. I’ll finally be able to get in a full day of work again, barring anything ugly from Murphy.

No more bloody mornings. Tuesday we went to see the infectious disease doctor. We didn’t see Zane Saul because he is on vacation (yay). Our doctor was Goran Miljkovic. Who looked faintly like Luka Kovac and definitely sounds like him. Anyway, he listened to Stanley, took a look at his incision to make sure it wasn’t looking like it might be infected, and said he’d been on the big-gun antibiotics long enough to have killed the Bartonella or whatever the hell it was that caused the endocarditis. Almost eight weeks of it, counting the pre-valve time.

But what made Stanley very happy was getting his PICC line removed. He hated having the tubes and assorted lumens or whatever the hell they’re called hanging just above his elbow, and he hated having to spend more than four hours a day pumping meds into himself. But he hated the pain he was in from the endocarditis even more, so he didn’t complain much about the IV regimen. There was a lot of leftover antibiotics and paraphenalia which, unfortunately, we could not give back to the pharmacy (and get our money back), so he donated it to a nurse who collects supplies for a doctor serving poor people in South America. We much preferred that to tossing the stuff.

Wednesday, we went to Dr. Gagne’s office. In a deluge. It was very hard for either of us to get up that morning because it was the type of weather that just says “sleep, sleeeep ... ,” but we managed. Dr. Gagne was a little late because he was trapped by a flooding Route 8 on his way back from Griffin Hospital, but he’d called to let us know so we didn’t mind waiting. Nothing anyone could do about it, anyway.

Dr. G. looked at the incision and talked to us for quite a while, telling us that the bloody nightmare was blood pooling and basically that Stanley needs to elevate his leg above heart level more than anything else (though walking periodically). Pretty much telling Stanley that he shouldn’t have been walking as much as he was. He also told us that Stanley could switch to a full-strength aspirin tablet a day instead of the criminally expensive Plavix when his prescription runs out. I like Dr. Gagne a lot; so does Stanley. He seems down to earth and not as full of himself as too many doctors tend to be.

Today was spent going from place to place to pick up or order Stanley’s medical records. We have two more doctors to ask for our medical records from and Norwalk Radiology. We picked up the records from Cardiology Associates (I don’t think they are all there, though probably most of them are), the trans-esophageal echocardiogram movie and all of the Xrays and CT scans from Norwalk Hospital. We ordered records from Bridgeport Hospital. I think we’ll have just about everything there is to be had within a couple of weeks—then we’ll have the complete set all in one place, at last.

We looked at some of the CT scans—science is amazing. There appears to be more damage to the right kidney than we thought—like half the kidney is gone rather than just a bit of it. But, of course, it’s entirely possible that we’re reading it wrong. But somehow, as much as I’d like to be way wrong, I don’t think we are. I think if one more medical person says to us, “Well, sure, part of your kidney is gone, but you’ve got two of them!” with that dumb cackle that tries to make it seem okay. It’s not. At any rate, I’m going to see if I can capture a couple of the images and post them—it shouldn’t be too hard since the viewer is a browser-based application.

We haven’t watched Stanley’s Heart, The Movie yet. I saw the trailer when I watched the “regular” echocardiogram at Bridgeport Hospital, and it scared the hell outta me.

Nothing is scheduled Friday! I mean nothing medical—I have work scheduled and I have to do some billing and get an estimate out. It’s been about two weeks since I was able to get a “normal” day of work in—I much prefer my rut, thank you very much. I’m looking forward to Stanley being able to travel again so we can get up to Natick (via Rhode Island so we can see Candy’s show before it closes). And in just over a month, we’ll be heading to Michigan I sincerely hope—that’s when I’ll start to recuperate from all this, I think.

We’ve been watching Burn Notice on, I think, USA—love that show. Sam is a perfect role for Bruce Campbell and I think the only actor that could do Westen better than Jeffrey Donovan would be George Clooney. Good dialogue. I like the character Fiona a lot, though Gabrielle Anwar’s lips look weird, like collagen injections gone awry. And Sharon Gless as Michael Westen’s mama is great. I love how she portrays her—a character, but not overblown or hammy.

Tonight I watched the first episode of Mad Men. So far, I think it’s well-written and interesting. It’s early-60s setting was weird to watch—the early 70s in Detroit was not much different from the early 60s in New York, it seems. The Selectric was old hat by the time I entered the workforce, but the attitudes toward women are all too familiar to me from those days. The women’s movement took a while to permeate the Midwest. Quite a while. Maybe it’s a good thing to show what it was like not so very long ago, the racism and sexism that was considered ok if it was even thought about at all. One line that made me laugh was Draper’s (the lead character, star of the ad agency) line about love being invented by ad men to sell nylons. I like seeing 1960 typography and the fashions, though I think the music pretty much sucks. But I don’t know if that will wear off quickly and I’ll get tired of the glib stuff or the underlying, well, immorality of it all. Not immorality in the religious sense, but in the sense that here is a bunch of people who don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but themselves. A vile bunch. The writer managed to make a vile bunch of mafia people fascinating—I never got into the Sopranos though, so I don’t know ...

posted by lee on 07/19/07 at 09:44 PM
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

staples are gone

Stanley’s staples were supposed to be removed yesterday, but Dr. Gagne was in emergency surgery. So we went today.  They’re gone! Dr. G. said things are looking good. There is still one three-inch stretch that Stanley has to pack because the edges haven’t joined together, but I guess that’s par for the course. So now Stanley gets an ultrasound done on August 7 and sees Dr. G. again on August 9, with a visit to the cardiologist sandwiched in on August 8.

Normally, by this time, we would’ve had our vacation countdown calendar up and our hotel room booked for our trip to Michigan. I’m just waiting for everything to be over for a while—like no checkups or anything scheduled until after we would get back. We’re still shooting for heading to Oscoda on August 19 and arriving there on August 20 Even more than past years, this will be a working vacation, which doesn’t bother me so much as long as we get a few days to just do nothing but read on the beach and spend time with my parents and go to bingo (hopefully with my parents!) Stanley is really hoping his leg is healed enough to walk with Dad.

We need this vacation. So very much. I guess I’ll book the hotel room and just hope I don’t have to change the reservation. I have just over three weeks to finish a couple of projects, get well in to a couple more, get the billing caught up and sent out—oh, I guess I’d better go order those plant watering things from Stoke seeds ...

posted by lee on 07/26/07 at 09:30 AM
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a new generation of chickenhawks

Max Blumenthal visited a College Republicans “convention” recently. They’re no different than the chickenhawks I remember from Vietnam days. Cowards, every one.

Generation Chickenhawk: The Unauthorized College Republican Convention Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.

posted by lee on 07/26/07 at 09:49 AM
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Monday, July 30, 2007

let the vacation countdown begin ...

Today I booked a night at our favorite on-the-way-to-Michigan hotel: the Comfort Inn in Warren, Ohio. If all goes well and things continue improving and Murphy doesn’t show up to kick my ass again, we’ll be there on August 19. Twenty days and counting ... We even ordered vacation duds (well, some new t-shirts and stuff—Casa Flamingo doesn’t have a dress code, thank goodness), Greenies enough so the dog won’t go into withdrawal, We are so looking forward seeing Mom and Dad we’d leave tomorrow if it were possible.

Tonight, at 8:35 p.m., the electricity went out. All of Strawberry Hill went dark, at least as far as we could tell. The lights and tv flickered a couple of times, then black. Which triggered the fire alarms at the school next door—two firetrucks responded. I didn’t mind too much at first. Then it lasted—we rarely have blackouts that last more than 10 or 15 minutes—and lasted. When we realized it was going to be a while, we decided to go to Stew Leonard’s and get our weekly trip there out of the way (we usually go a lot later on Monday evening). Hoping the lights would be back on when we got back so I could see Hell’s Kitchen.

Ah damn, no lights, no Chef Ramsey and I was looking forward to it all day. I’ll have to watch the rerun next Monday.

I called the Norwalk police—the general number—to see what the story was with the power outage. In every town, city, hamlet, whatever, that I’ve lived in, from New York City, Detroit, and Phoenix to Roscoe, New York and Westport, Conn., I’ve always been able to get information on the current disaster or emergency: hurricanes, blizzards, sand storms, floods, heat, power outages. Even if it’s just “Sorry, ma’am, we don’t have any information yet.” Especially with the demise of local radio, the police have been a source of information—I discovered that back in my days as a reporter for my college newspaper and a reporter for a small community paper in Manhattan.

So are the Norwalk police a source of information? Hell no. “Why are you bothering me?” asked the woman answering the phone “front desk.” She switched me to dispatch, where the guy answering the transferred call (why to dispatch, I don’t know) was even ruder. Call your power company, I was told. I asked if they have the phone number since I couldn’t find my phone book in the dark. They don’t even have that information.

Every time we’ve dealt with the Norwalk PD, they’ve been rude. When that idiot rear-ended me as I was turning into my driveway, at town hearings, at association meetings, when we had to call several times to get them to dispatch someone to stop the 3 a.m. street grinding in front of our house. Just rude. I watched them in the ER at Norwalk Hospital in May—they were rude to staff and rude to victims. I have never seen anything like it. The chief, Harry Rilling, was just plain nasty at the association meeting we went to last fall about the traffic on Strawberry Hill. He spouted such patronizing bullshit to all of us taxpaying citizens that I just wanted to go punch him in the nose.

So if the police chief is a nasty piece of work, there’s no way the rank and file would act any differently. It’s so bad at the Norwalk PD that a former captain, who is now a chief at a town in Massachusetts, went on record on News 12 and for the Norwalk Hour talking about how awful they are: “‘If you could walk the halls invisibly, it would be very easy to hear the unrest, the apathy and the discord that resounds throughout that building,’ Cashin said ... ” I don’t know why the Norwalk PD has such a shitty attitude. And I don’t know why the mayor never says anything about it. Time for a new mayor, maybe?

I did finally get the CL&P phone number and called. They didn’t state the cause of the outage, but assured us that most outages last about two hours. We’re convinced the outage is the result of CL&P cutting a cable or something as they dig up the Post Road to put the transmission lines underground. And lo and behold, exactly two hours after the lights went out, they came back on.

The power outage reinforced how ill prepared we are for anything that might last a while—a bad hurricane hit, a flu pandemic ... we did fine tonight, short-term stuff is easy since Stanley is pretty careful about flashlights and batteries. Strawberry ice cream for dinner (it was too hot to move without a fan going). Playing with the radio to try to find a local station (what a joke). I’ve been thinking a little about disaster survival since I glanced through a bird flu wiki a couple of weeks ago and realized we’d be lucky to get through two weeks if we had to. I’m no longer under any illusion that something Bad won’t happen here. I’m still working on this.

And now for something completely different. The first photo is Slink, on his back in the window behind Stanley’s stretch of the desk. He manages to wreak havoc even when he’s stretched out in a window. The next one is of Twitch, who either is trying to suck fresh air from under the bottom of the door or didn’t notice that his nice, hot patch of sunshine moved. Click the pics to enlarge.

black cat in the window: Slink, July 30, 2007

Sunshine goes away today: Twitch the cat, July 15, 2007

One more digression: we’ve been watching John from Cincinnati—and I can’t figure out why. I don’t like any of the characters and can tolerate only three of time (Butch Yost, Kai, and the character played by Pablo Guzman), the show makes no sense that I can discern, there are very few surfing scenes ... Stanley says we watch it just to see if anything happens, or what it all means. I’m not sure I want to give it any more time. We stopped watching Meadowlands because we realized that we didn’t just not like the characters, all of them, but we actually disliked them and we do not care what happens. It’s too grim to tolerate watching it—the payoff isn’t worth it. But we loved Damages and State of Mind and I think I’ll get in to Mad Men. Maybe. Summer tv isn’t as barren as it used to be (yes, I’m a tv junkie—so what?)

posted by lee on 07/30/07 at 07:45 PM
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