Friday, August 30, 2002

More emotional...?
I should elaborate: When I say I'm "a bit more emotional", I don't mean depression. Overall, in fact, I'm feeling quite "up" and optimistic. The doctors keep congratulating me for my positive outlook. (It doesn't seem that remarkable to me: Of course I am going to recover. I'm getting better every day: I can perceive it myself. I'm a very lucky man. But, really, what are my alternatives? Either I'll get better, or I'll stay where I was at my worst: I won't know who or where I am, and I'll have to have the jokes in "Garfield" explained to me every day. Who wants to live like that? I want my life back. I'm going to have it. I'm already 90% back: I can blog. Within a couple of months I'll be able to read effortlessly, and I'll be strong enough to walk around the block, and then I'll be wholly me again.)

It's more that whatever I happen to be feeling, I'm feeling closer to the surface than previously. For most of my life I've been a reserved person, and in a lot of ways I still am, but every now and then something will hit me that I just can't conceal. It's not unpleasant, just different. I'm not going berserk; I'm just more easily affected. Does that make sense?

Which is why, although I am not the kind of person who cries, I wept with appreciation for the kindnesses you've shown me over the past few weeks, and for the concern you've expressed for my overworked wife, who's been keeping you informed, whom I've put through so much and for whom there is no adequate thank you. (She'll see this, though: Maybe that's a start.)

Thursday, August 29, 2002

On the road
Daniel here. It appears that I will be able to attend Dragon*Con this weekend, after all.

Several weeks ago, I was scheduled to appear with the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company in two plays: As voice actor in Friday�s �Dancer in the Dark�, and performing sound effects in Sunday�s Lovecraftian horror �Special Order�, scripted by me (from an original story by my wife). Recent medical problems (see below) have made it impossible for me to actually perform, but at least I will be able to see the show and meet people.

I�m very proud of my association with ARTC. The group is a collection of intensely talented people, and I�m flattered that they allow me to play with them � and delighted that I won�t miss our Big Show of the Year. If you're in the neighborhood (downtown Atlanta), stop by and say hi.

Later: On rereading that comment, it sounds rather self-promotional. Please understand that it wasn�t intended that way. I had a feeling someone might say something. Thank you so much, Ron, for not holding back on account of my condition. :)

I�m been looking forward to this event all year, and I�m just very happy that, with everything that�s happened, I�m still going to be able to go.

I can also assure you that my going will not overstrain my loving wife, to whom I already owe so much. She is committed to some un-delegatable responsibilities with ARTC at Dragon*Con, as are several other close friends, and it will be simpler for them to keep an eye on me if I am there than if I am home.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Before I was so rudely interrupted�
Daniel here. I�m home. Brief pause for a virtual happy dance. A real one is beyond me, but I don�t care. I�m home!

I still tire easily, and I am experiencing significant visual impairment -- although noticeably less so every day. (I am able to type this for myself, for example, although my typing speed is slowed to a crawl, and I am much more dependent on Mr Gates� spellchecker than previously.) This is going to be a longer convalescence than July�s, but my doctors assure me I should recover fully in a matter of two to four months.

The phrase I hear from every nurse and doctor is that I am doing very well for someone in my condition. I find this phrase hilarious, but I can�t seem to explain to the doctors why. Perhaps it bears too much resemblance to the World�s Worst Encouraging Thing To Say, �Well, it could be worse.�

And, indeed, it could be. I am able to walk, unassisted, without any version of wheels, canes or crutches, and without any noticeable limp. Although my stamina is not what it was, I am experiencing no particular weakness or disability on either side. I am alert and aware, able to follow and participate in conversations, and speak with clarity. Every now and then I experience a brief bout of aphasia; I lose a word (usually a noun). On the other hand, I know plenty of people who do the same thing, some to greater extent than I, some with much less reason to do so. Mentally, I am pretty much myself.

Well, there does seem to be one relatively trivial exception. I�m a bit more emotional than I was.

Yes, for someone recovering from two heart attacks and two strokes, I�m doing pretty darned well. I�m a very lucky man, and I thank God for that.

Thank you all for your continued well wishes. That seems such an inadequate thing to say for something that meant so very much to me.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Oreta again. But Daniel said he would try to get online later today.

Yes, he is home.

I went in yesterday at 0930 to observe his therapy, but they had taken him over to the neuro-opthamologists (and abandoned him there) so I tracked him down there, where we spent three extremely interesting and useful hours finding out that he does still have visual problems (Duh), pinpointing the exact nature of those problems, suggesting some strategies for coping with said problems, and being assured that the problems will get progressively better. All in all, the most fruitful three hours we have spent at Emory Rehab. (At some point, every medical person we have met will say, "For someone who has had (fill in the blank) he's doing remarkably well." and this place was no different "For someone who has had multiple brain lesions....")

However, I am under no delusions. Left up to their own pace, Emory would have eventually gotten around to the neuro-opthamologists. About a month from now. The only reason he saw these folk now was because I kept insisting that he was having trouble seeing. I even wrote a note for his file, so they couldn't ignore it.

After the neuro-opthamologist appointment we returned to Emory Rehab to eat lunch and to wait to be discharged, which they did at 1500. The moment the discharge papers were signed we left. John brought the children home from school shortly afterwards and Daniel spent the evening in bed, with both kids sprawled around him on the bed doing their homework.

There are a great many loose ends to tie up, but they aren't important. Daniel is home.


Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Still Oreta.

Just a quick note, because I am on the way to Emory Rehab to observe his therapy and to hear the results of the staff meeting about his condition (which I am forbidden to attend.) Grrr.

Yesterday, for the first time since he arrived, Daniel actually received therapy, rather than just assessments. They worked him hard and the Physical Therapist and the Occupational therapist say that as far as they are concerned, he can go home. Speech and visual stuff can be handled on an outpatient basis.

We'll see what comes of this after the meeting. With luck I may have good news for you this afternoon.

Daniel is still very weak. His perception problems get better each day. Oddly enough, Daniel can read small print better than large print. He makes noticable daily improvement. (His improvement is noticable even to himself, which is very cheering.) He would be making even better improvement if he could get a full night's sleep. But the Rehab Center does not seem to care about that (they moved a very noisy patient into Daniel's ward last night. The new gentleman is confused enough to need restraints and aware enough to fight them constantly, and to call for help.) It is difficult to watch.


Monday, August 26, 2002

Monday, August 26, 2002

Well, it is still Oreta.

Thank you, Ron, for posting an update in the comments section. I'll just repeat it here.

Daniel is out of the hospital, but not yet home. They moved him to the Emory Rehabilitation Center at 6:00 pm Friday.

Daniel is doing much better. He is recovering his strength and he is able to move around. His aphasa has improved to the point that very few people will notice it in a casual conversation. His vision has improved, but although he can see clearly, he has trouble making words on a page make sense. He can do it, but it is hard work. Think of it like a form of dsylexia.

With any luck he will be seeing a therapist who will help him today. Since he came in so late Friday, he is not yet "in the system". He has seen several physical therapists and occupational therapists and a speech therapist, but apparently nobody trusts anybody else's data because they keep putting him through the same evaluations over and over again. I would have expected that they would be having him walk longer and longer distances each day, for instance. Instead they do the same evaluations over and over again. Each person exclaims over how well he is doing, but no one asks him to do anything more difficult. Ditto for the occupational therapist. The upshot seems to be that he can walk around okay and do basic things like brush his teeth okay, although he has a little trouble with co-ordination and balance. Since he has been in a bed for two weeks this is not surprising.

As well as the frustration of "When do we stop testing and start therapy?" the nurses and therapists are not communicating with each other or us. Each nurse, therapist, or technician has a different idea of what he is allowed to do; so we have to choose between constantly getting into trouble or lying in bed being bored and listening to the guy across the room discuss his incontinence problems every five minutes all day and all night.

I appreciate and approve of the need to keep Daniel in a medical facility until they are sure that he is not going to have any more cardiac incidents, but I'm hoping they will send him home and let him do his therapy on an outpatient basis soon. The contrast between this and Crawford W. Long Hospital is rather spectacular. Crawford W. Long is a gorgeous hospital. Even the Emergency Room lobby looks like a hotel lobby. There are pocket gardens everywhere. There is even a small aviary. The rooms are painted in attractive colors. Emory Rehab is functionally ugly and there is no effort expended to make the wards attractive or pleasant. Personal possesions are discouraged despite the fact that the average stay is 19 days.

When the nurses leave the room the patients' primary conversation is about when they will be able to escape,er, go home.

Now, I understand that things should get better today. That part of the problem is that he came in on a weekend and is not in the system yet. I hope so, or Daniel's stay here will be much shorter than they bargained for.

I take back everything I said about modern medicine and its communication practices.

But really, Daniel is much better. We just need to lick the visual perception problems.


Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Still Oreta, but we are working on finding a laptop for Daniel to type on.

Daniel continues to improve. The aphasia is better, but still there. The speech therapist is very encouraged. Today he picked up the breakfast menu and read it. Big step. His vision is coming back -- there is a noticeable improvement from when the nurse checked him last night and the neurologist checked him this morning.

I was wrong, he isn't seeing a physical therapist, but an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists make sure you can do things like brush your teeth and take a bath. She is very pleased with his progress and let him sit up in a chair today for about ten minutes. He is still quite weak though and took a long nap afterwards.

They did an MRI last night but I haven't heard the results (except that the technician commented that he still has blood in his brain which was no surprise.) The neurologist says they'll run another CT scan in four or five days so it sounds like we are going to be here for a while.

Daniel stayed up a little late last night listening to the election returns in the McKinney-Majette race. Go Majette! I've heard some folks complain about the Republicans crossing over to vote Democrat, but honestly, the Democrats gerrymandered that district to such an extent that there is no hope of a Republican ever being elected. So the Republicans decided to make their votes count and vote in the Democratic primary. This is not what the Democrats intended, but is sort of poetic justice. "Photodude" has been following this story very intensely if you want more details.

Sigh. I realize that in the above paragraph I should have put two links, one to a map of Majette's district and another to Photodude's blog, but I don't know how to do that yet. I promise to learn as soon as I can.

Anyway, Daniel is getting better each day.

Thank you all of you.


Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Still Oreta.

What a difference a day makes! Let's see, first, Daniel is out of ICU and in a regular room. It's a "telemetry" bed so that they can keep track of his vital signs, but at least he's not hooked up to the IV tubes and the wires. Everything that goes beep is at the nurses' station now, which makes for a much quieter room.

Second, they have pretty much decided he does not have a staph infection, so he doesn't need the picc line after all. They ran four blood cultures(two each day) and there was staph in only one of them, so they think it may have been a contaminant.

The cardiologists are still negociating with the neurologists and the current plan is one aspirin every other day. They will also be running an MRI which the neurologist says will give him an idea if Daniel is really susceptible to this sort of brain bleed and that should affect the medications as well. Although I am frustrated by the communication I am receiving from the doctors, I am confident, from various comments they are making, that the doctors are talking to each other, which is really the most important thing at this point.

Daniel has been seeing a speech therapist for several days now, and he should see a physical therapist today. I hope the physical therapist will say that it is okay for him to get up out of bed to perform various necessary bodily functions, because Daniel is really, really tired of the alternatives.

The aphasia continues to improve.

He's not getting much rest -- he sleeps but doesn't remember falling asleep, so he doesn't feel rested, and of course he is awakened every few hours by someone doing something; taking a blood sample; checking his blood glucose level; checking his blood pressure....

Things continue to improve. Thanks for the messages and comments.


Monday, August 19, 2002

Monday, August 19, 2002

Oreta here again.

Gosh. Thank you, all of you for the comments, especially yours, Dr. Stoufflet.

Daniel has weathered the weekend well, with his aphasia getting much better and his pulse and blood pressure responding to the oral and patch medications. He can move around on the bed without it sending his pulse through the roof now. I don't believe I have mentioned it, but he also has a staph infection, so he has been running a low-grade fever. They've been giving him tylenol, which controls the fever but doesn't do much for his continuous headache.

Friday's CT scan was good and they will be running another one today. Today should be a big day. As well as the CT scan they will be putting in a "picc" line. This is a special IV which can stay in longer and which can be used to deliver the intrevenous antibiotics that they want to use on the staph infection. For what it is worth, the doctors seem confident they can lick the staph infection. The plan was to start him on some aspirin today, cautiously. Since he had another mild "cardiac incident" one night last week ("angina" is the word I pried out of the doctor) the cardiac doctors really, really, really want him on some sort of blood thinner. The neurology doctors, of course, have a different opinion.

You know, I could have cheerfully gone the rest of my life without learning the difference between a "C-line", an "A-line" and a "picc-line".

Because they work the nurses in twelve hour shifts and because we've been here for over a week, I'm getting to know the nurses. I can't tell you all their names because they persist in wearing their badges wrong side out. :-) The nurses all have their different styles. Some are in and out of the patients room all the time; some vigiliantly sit at the nurses station staring intently at the monitors. Some are comfortable with patient families; others less so. The older nurses are comfortable asking me to hand them stuff and to do things; the younger nurses not comfortable with that. Some are sticklers for rules; others not. All of them are less hard-nosed about rules then they were the first few days.

Communication continues to be a problem. The doctors come when they can, which is usually when I am away and in Daniel's case there are a lot of doctors. One of my frustrations is that there is no central place or person to ask a question of. This may be a function of being in the neurology/surgical ICU where there are a variety of reasons a patient is there. Daniel's needs are very different from the patient three doors down who had a tonsilectomy a month ago which has started bleeding uncontrollably. (He's doing okay and moved out of ICU three days ago). This is different from the cardiac ICU where there were a variety of problems but they were all cardiac problems. It is possible to get different answers from different doctors -- some are optimists; my favorite is a pessimist. And some come in to talk to me after only a cursory glimpse at his chart. Then after giving me some generic information they go out and go over his chart in depth with the nurse. It would be nice if it were possible to schedule a daily briefing. It doesn't have to be with a doctor; it could be with a "patient advocate", say a nurse practioner, who could review the results of yesterday's tests with me and talk to me about the what to expect. So far I am getting some of my best explanations from my priest (it is very convenient to have a priest who was a med student before deciding to become a priest.) It would have been a great deal of help if someone had turned to me last Saturday and said, "He's going to get worse before he gets better." It's not difficulty in understanding the doctor -- it's difficulty in getting the information. I should not have to ask for the results of his CT scan or blood cultures.

Again, I'm not really dumping on modern medicine, because I know very well what state Daniel would be in even twenty years ago. But my concern is -- if they aren't talking to me, are the doctors talking to each other?

Well, it's time for me to go back to the hospital since visiting hours will be starting again. I've been shuttling between work and the hospital and home -- fortunately they are all 10 - 20 minutes from each other depending on traffic.

I'll post more when I can get back to a computer. Thanks everybody.


Friday, August 16, 2002

Friday, August 16, 2002

Oreta here.

Nothing much to report. Daniel's pulse and blood pressure continue to be elevated. His aphasia is about the same and he still can't see to the right -- it's not that the right eye doesn't work -- it does. But the brain simply isn't processing the information it receives. They will be doing another CT scan today to see how well the two bleeds are being absorbed.

His pulse and blood pressure continue to be elevated.

He is still not eating well. Part of that is being ill. Part of it is the hospital food. They used to cook it on site and it was okay. Institutional food, but well-prepared institutional food. Now they bring the meals in from outside and the food is simply not edible. IMHO, the executive who made this decision should be forced to eat the same food the patients get for a week. The policy would change.

Many years ago when I was in college at Clayton Junior (now Clayton State) the campus was considered to be one of the most "accessible" campuses in the Georgia system. Why? The student government association had a policy -- one day a year they rented a truckload of wheelchairs and everybody from the college president on down tried to go through their daily routine in a wheelchair. I tell you, this event had far more impact on accessiblility than any amount of government regulations.

Well, I'm wandering off the subject here. Y'all take care. thanks for the comments.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Thursday, August 15, 2002

It's still me, Oreta.

Daniel's aphasia is much improved but his heart is not happy. He still has an elevated blood pressure and pulse rate. The cardiologists would like very much to put him on blood thinners; the neurologists are vetoing that. He is, however, off most of his IV medicines and being treated with oral and patch medicines (A lot of them -- he had to take seven pills at lunch). He is beginning to eat, but not a lot, so it looks like we are going to be in ICU for another couple of days.

Thank you very much for all your messages.


Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Oreta redux.

We are still in a holding pattern here. The fourth CT scan shows no change. No new hemmorhages (good); no increase in the two known ones (also good); and no decrease either (not so good, but not bad either. Expected.).

He still has the visual impairments. Basically he can't see anything on his right side -- the eyes function but the brain is not processing the information. There is a fair amount of aphasia, which is a fancy term for difficulty in understanding and using words.

The hospital is "weaning" him off the iv cocktail of cardiac medicines they have him on. They want him on oral medicines and skin patches so that he can be moved out of ICU onto the regular medical floor. That part of the process is doing nicely, but I have slightly mixed feelings about it. I will be very grateful that he is well enough, but frankly, I've been spoiled by the quality and quantity of the nurses here in ICU at Crawford Long. The regular floor nurses have many, many more patients so they don't have time to do the kinds of things the ICU nurses do. His day nurse has been adjusting his medications in little increments constantly, playing around with all the different ones to get his pulse and blood pressure exactly where the doctors want it. There appears to be as much art as science to this. Eye of beta-blocker and toe of calcium-channel blocker...Wool of nitro and tongue of esmolol.....

Other than that, it's a waiting game.

Thank you, all of you, for your messages. I've been reading them to Daniel and I'm sure he is grateful for them also.


Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Oreta here again. There is not much to update. The third CT scan shows no more hemmorhages and not much change in the two that are there.

While I admire much about modern medicine, I find that I am increasingly frustrated with its ability to communicate. If I may be blunt, the doctor-patient relationship frequently reminds me of the auto mechanic-automobile relationship. The mechanic does not explain to the car what he or she is doing; neither does the doctor explain to the patient. Hospitals are even worse, because of the number of medical professionals involved. Furthermore, there seems to be no one person who pulls all the strands of care together. Certainly there does not seem to be a person who communicates to the patient, or the patient's family.

So, I'm still a bit puzzled by what is going on and I may be using the medical terms incorrectly. Daniel has had two hemmorhages in his brain. If I understand correctly this is a kind of stroke, just not the blood clot kind that is most common. The problem is not that there is not enough blood getting to the brain, but that a combination of high blood pressure and too much anti-cougulant has caused blood to leak through the blood vessels.

At the moment he has some trouble speaking and lacks vision in his right eye. This is not the kind of stroke where one side of the body doesn't work -- it's really mostly a software problem not so much hardware. Think "corrupted files." Daniel is extremely weak and his heart is not happy, but they have him on medication to control the way his heart beats and to control his blood pressure. They ran one kind of a heart test yesterday and will run another kind today.

He's very weak and still in what is called the "acute" phase. They will wait a few days and run another CT scan. (A CT scan is a series of x-rays of the brain taken from multiple angles and then put together by a computer into something that tells a doctor what is going on in the brain. The whole set up looks very much like a science fiction movie set. But it is x-rays and they don't do those casually these days.)

The problem seems to be that the blood in the brain puts pressure on the brain and irritates it, which also causes swelling. The nurse tells me that the maximum swelling occurs around 72 hours after the hemmorhage. Depending on whether or not the first one happened Friday morning when his headache started or 0300 Saturday when it became bad enough for him to wake me up, we should be approaching that point. When the swelling goes down, we'll see what kind of permanent damage, if any, there is.

However, I want all of you to promise me that if you don't have a history of headaches and you ever, ever, have a headache that hurts so much it is hard to think, you will go to the ER. Immediately.


Monday, August 12, 2002

Hi. It's Oreta again. Yes, that means what you think it does. Daniel is back in the hospital. I took him in early (0400) Saturday morning. He has a small hemmorhage in the right temporal lobe of the brain and a somewhat larger one in the left occippital lobe (People who know something about medicine please forgive my spelling.) The situation does not appear to be life threatening and so far does not appear to be severe enough for surgery, but it is serious. I'll know more today after they run the (third) CT scan.

I'll try to post further news, but the ICU room has neither phone nor internet connection, so my postings will be somewhat spotty.

I hope you will have Daniel back and typing soon.


Friday, August 09, 2002

The Friday Five:
1. Do you have a car? If so, what kind of car is it?
It's a Nissan Pathfinder.

2. Do you drive very often?
Daily. I gotta job.

3. What's your dream car?
One that runs. Cars are tools, I don't form emotional attachments to them.

4. Have you ever received a ticket?

5. Have you ever been in an accident?
Yes, but not since 1971.
Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Blue - what is it that bums you out and makes you feel blue?
Due to my odd work schedule, Tuesdays are the only day I see much of my family.

Twosome. Light - what is the light at the end of your tunnel?

Threesome. Special - who is that special someone who has seen your bluest of blues and your light of the tunnel?
My lovely and loving wife, of course.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Monday Mission
1. Ever considered just deleting your Blog and not doing it anymore? What prompted that and what stopped you?
Nope. Although I'm constantly trying to decide just how personal to get. Once it's on the web, it's hard to take back.

2. How about a quick review of the last movie you saw?
I'm assuming you mean the last movie I watched for the first time, rather than settling in for a comfortable re-viewing of an old favorite. In the theater: Spider-Man. I liked it. On video: Legally Blonde. Disappointing.

3. What's your favorite gadget? Are you lusting for any new ones? Will you ever be satisified???
My favorite gadget must be the computer I'm using right now, a Dell Dimension 4400. I want a portable CD player that will play CD-Rs full of MP3s, but I won't be spending the money for one anytime soon. "Lusting" is too strong a word: I'm pretty satisfied right now.

4. What "table game" do you enjoy playing most with other people? Have you played it lately?
I haven't played any games lately. I used to be big into "King Maker" and "Risk", but not for many years. I'm not sure I even own a set of either any more.

5. Have you ever been obsessed with something so much that it was close to causing you physical or mental harm? If not, have you known anyone else who has?
Only blogging.

6. Did you grow up in a family or community that displayed racist or prejudice attitudes? Did it influence you in any way, either toward or away from those views? How did you manage to avoid it, or did you?
Yes I did. More I cannot say without breaking confidences. I avoided it because, by the time I was old enough to perceive them, I was old enough to reject them as an affront to logic.

7. Good grief, I am starving! You got anything to eat around here?
What are you after? If it's a snack, I got tons of popcorn. If it's a meal, I can rustle up some burgers or chicken and rice.

BONUS: What did you tell them?
The truth. Perhaps you'd better move and change your name.
Am I the only one...
...who knows where the original hampsterdance song comes from? Is this one of those open secrets that everyone knows and pretends not to, or is it really that big a mystery?

LATER: I fixed the link. Sorry. And good luck finding the Original Song there: I couldn't.
Some people shouldn't be handling money
From HappyFunPundit:

Tales of Mathematical Inadequacy
...The total was $14.72. I handed the young woman a $20, and waited for my change.
Then disaster struck. As the woman pressed the 'total' button, a look of fear and confusion swept across her face. A look not unlike the one the cat used to get when I came home with a bag of hot sauce. This girl was clearly troubled. Nay, frightened.
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"The cash register! It's.. It's not giving me the amount of money you need. It must be broken." she replied changelessly.
A quick subtraction in my my head. "You owe me $5.28".
The girl looked up, startled. A number? The man just said a number? How could he know? After all, the machine won't give the number! "Uh, I better find a calculator."

The story gets better -- although, as Professor Reynolds points out, it would be funnier if it weren't true. I remember when one of my college roommates wondered out loud what ten times eleven was. Without thinking, I said "one hundred and ten."


"One hundred and ten. Ten times eleven. It's one hundred and ten."

"Let me just get a calculator and check that..."

You do that, partner. You just do that. And think about how much more time you'd have on your hands if you didn't have to struggle with ten times eleven.

Math is not that hard, yet businesses insist on putting people in charge of their cash registers who haven't mastered it. Is there a shortage? Look, making change is the easiest thing in the world to do once you learn the trick. You don't subtract, you add.

"$14.72 out of twenty, that's..." It ends with a number other than zero and five, so you know you'll need pennies. Grab some and start counting up from what the customer owes you as you drop them into your other hand. "...seventy-three (plink), seventy-four (plink), seventy-five (plink)..." I don't think it's asking too much to memorize those numbers that are only one coin from a round dollar. Grab a quarter. "...and twenty-five makes fifteen dollars..." Now you've eliminated the coin change: You're at fifteen dollars on your way to twenty. That one ought to be pretty easy, too. "...and five makes twenty." Now you've got $5.28 in your hand -- the correct change -- and you didn't have to subtract anything. And count it out to the customer the same way you just counted it: Don't just drop it in his hand like a hanky full of snot.

Try that a few hundred times, if you must, to convince yourself that it will work every time. If you can't master it, get out of the cashier business. And better take a grown-up with you when you go shopping for yourself, or you're going to be shortchanged every time. After all, you won't know any better, and maybe the cashiers you encounter will be smarter than you. The odds don't seem to be good, but it could happen.

How the hell are you ever going to know whether a two-pound bag at 89 cents is a better buy than a five-pound bag at $1.99? And Heaven help you if you encounter a 60-ounce package.

Maybe you'll just eat out. No, wait, that's where I came in.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

I knew there was a reason I don't buy many CDs
...but I don't think it's because I'm awaiting the arrival of Amanda Latona. See if Charles Dodgson makes as much sense to you as he does to me.
Do you really want to hear this?
I'm coming up on one month after my heart attack, and recovering nicely. I'm not moving very fast, every other sentence seems to be "Is it really that late?", and I am hungry about half the time (on a diet my wife thinks is too generous), but these are trivial complaints. It certainly beats having my loving family complain that "No, he doesn't 'look natural'."

I've written an essay (seven letter-sized pages of ten-point type) about the event, which people who read my print fanzine have already seen. It covers (so far) the five days from the attack itself through my release from the hospital. My wife keeps asking me when I'm going to put it here. It's fairly self-indulgent--It's not like I invented heart attacks. Mine doesn't seem too different from most. And compared to "SWVCTM"'s continuing adventures over at It Can't Rain All The Time..., it's a downright happy ending.

But, unless you say "God, no!" or (worse) "That's all right, we expect Old Farts to talk about their medical problems", I expect you'll see it soon, probably serialized over several days.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Attack of the grammar weenie
Mr Lileks, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed in the opening sentence of today's Bleat--

When you dine out with human beings less than 1000 days old, you have to pick your spots carefully.

(In fact, my son is just past 4000 days old, and we still have to choose restaurants carefully. Something to look forward to.)

--but while I normally marvel at your command of the language, this morning your fingernails screech on my metaphorical chalkboard. You have less of things you measure, but fewer of things you count. The beloved, world-famous Gnat is fewer than 1000 days old, not less. She has less age, but fewer years; Less experience, but fewer experiences.

I can't explain why this bothers me. There is a commercial in (sadly) frequent rotation on the radio here, that proclaims that a certain brand of copier has "less moving parts", and I cannot prevent myself from responding, "fewer moving parts". "Less moving parts" makes no sense, unless the parts are smaller. Not fewer, but smaller -- having less size.

In fact, come to think of it, I can't recall the last time I heard anyone use the word "fewer" about anything. Perhaps it is obsolete. Never mind.

I also have an unfortunate reaction to the common usage of "literally" as an intensifier. If I am "literally" beside myself, it does not mean that I am more upset than if I were "merely" beside myself: It means that there are two of me. Proclaiming an overused metaphor to be "literally" true is distracting at best, grotesque at worst, and incorrect in any case. Literally.

And then there's "hopefully", but I can't bring myself to get too upset about that one anymore. It should modify a verb, with the meaning of performing an act in a hopeful manner. It is more commonly used as a sentence modifier, indicating that the speaker hopes that the events spoken of come to pass. As such, it is the most insidious form of bias, since it so often passes by unnoticed. If you mean "I hope", say "I hope". If you don't mean "I hope", be extremely wary of "hopefully".

No reporter should ever use the word in straight news.

LATER: I think I probably overreacted. Although I do believe that "less" is horribly overused at the expense of "fewer", this probably wasn't the best example I could have picked.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

The shape of things to come
I don't often get premonitions, but it seems inevitable that there's a real medical breakthrough on the way. With so many people looking for it, someone will almost certainly find it. Although they may not find it where they were looking.

Drug promises lovers a whiff of instant passion
SCIENTISTS have developed an "instant" alternative to Viagra. The new anti- impotence drug, PT-141, is a nasal spray designed to stir the passions of both men and women within minutes.

Anti-Smoking Drug Can Cause Spontaneous Orgasm
...The chemical ingredient in Zyban, bupropion, increases the amount of your happy brain chemicals. No one knows for sure why this suppresses the nicotine craving, but as an added benefit, bupropion can boost sexual desire in women. Interestingly, a woman taking this medicine reported a "spontaneous orgasm" while shopping. With that kind of side effect, who needs to smoke?

For God's sake, don't take them together!
Got 'im... too late
Sometimes I'm glad I'm not a real journalist: This is one of those times.

When the Kern County Sheriff's office announced that those two teenaged girls had been raped, it didn't surprise me. It's not as if the law was hot on the guy's heels from the moment of the abduction: He had plenty of time. He had a record. And what other motive could he possibly have had?

But every reporter and editor in the country froze. They all have firm policies about not naming rape victims in reports. (Sean Hannity was silenced for five full seconds when he heard about it, live on the air during his radio show.) But the girls' names and photos were already the lead story at every news outlet, local and national. Countless pre-taped reports were already set to air throughout the evening and overnight hours. No one, apparently, anticipated the story developing in this manner.

Except me. I was startled that the girls were named in the early reports, given the (I thought) likely motive of their attacker.

On the other hand: If they hadn't been named, if their faces and circumstances hadn't been widely known, would their abductor have been caught? Would he have been caught in time? He was clearly preparing to kill them and dispose of the bodies.

Personally, I'd rather be alive -- and well known for something I'd prefer nobody knew about -- than anonymously dead. Here's hoping everyone directly involved in this case feels the same way. It would sadden me terribly to see this awful story conclude with a lawsuit.
"I'll take the flippin' obvious for $100, Alex" headline of the week
Gets extra points for not being as trivial as it appears.

Romance Blooms in Cozy Corners of Cinemas
For the first time in Bombay, three upmarket cinemas have each set aside a dozen seats, called "Close-Up Corners," for couples wishing to watch a film together.
The seats -- priced the same as other cinema seats -- are bigger and designed for two people with no arm rests between them.
In conservative India, where public displays of affection are frowned upon, young men and women rarely dare to even hold hands for fear of censure or getting a "bad name."
"This is the ideal place for couples to spend time together," said Hameed Shaikh, general manager of a suburban cinema, adding the "corners" were proving popular with college students.

Culture strikes another blow for individual freedom. "It's stupid to be prudish." Not as stirring as "Give me liberty or give me death", perhaps, but a lot easier to dance to.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

I admire the thought that Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings has put into the Cynthia McKinney story. (That's here, here, here, and here. And the AJC breaks the story here, although they don't mention where they must have heard of it. Ah, well.)

It needs to be said:
Arab-Americans have as much right to try to buy Congresspeople as Jack Valenti does.

Can't argue with that. However,

Something tells me Arab-American organizations get McKinney for free.

That seems credible, too. That is to say, her mouth came first. She isn't an idiot because she's getting Muslim money, she's getting Muslim money because she's an idiot. Somehow, that doesn't seem to reflect well on anybody involved.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Henhouse, meet the Fox, he's here to help
Isn't it obvious?

We shouldn't be amused by the ineptitude of government; we should be outraged. The idea that an institution as fundamentally unaccountable as the federal government might be given even more power to hold the private sector accountable is, to say the least, laughable.

Read the rest at
The personals
Monday Mission 2.30:
1. What is your favorite snack food? Does anyone you know have weird tastes in snacks?
Everybody I know has weird tastes in snacks. My favorite? Before the heart attack I would have said barbeque corn chips. I also have a soft spot for Hot Tamales. Of those things I can still have in any quantity, it's popcorn.

2. Ever caught yourself saying "well it can't get any worse" and it does? What's the story there?
You're asking a guy who just had a heart attack.

3. What's your attention span like and how has it served you?
Uneven. What was the question?

4. Do you believe in the existence of extra-terrestrials?
"Believe"? I do not believe that this question has been settled. But, as Carl Sagan said, if there isn't life elsewhere, it's a terrible waste of space.

5. What do you think of the whole "crop circles" phenomenon?
They're all man-made. But it's fascinating to see the lengths to which some people will go in order to deny that.

6. Ever had a time where you begin visiting with someone you don't know all that well and just find you "click" like long lost pals? Tell me about how that came to happen, and who was it? What kind of things do you have in common?
That never happens to me.

7. What funeral do you remember most vividly?
My friend Peter's. He died of AIDS, and I hadn't really accepted that until I saw the box containing his ashes at the memorial service. I still miss him.

BONUS: How can I forget you, girl?
You'll be seeing me in all the old familiar places...

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Lions. How late do you lie in, or are you an early bird? 'fess up, no lying here.
I work until 1am, and often don't get home until 2am or later. I think I've earned the right to sleep until 10:30am or so.

Twosome. Tigers. What brings out the tiger in you? Interpret this how ever you want, just warn us if it is rated other than pg *grin*.
I don't think I have a tiger in me.

Threesome. Bears. Bare it all for us. We always complain about the parts of our bodies we don't like. So here, tell us your favorite part of your body...
My head, because that's where I am.

The Friday Five:
1. What is your lineage? Where are your ancestors from?
England. I am as pale, pasty-faced and white-bread a guy as you could want to meet. There is nothing exotic in there anywhere.

2. Of those countries, which would you most like to visit?

3. Which would you least like to visit? Why?
I don't really want to go anywhere I have to fly to get to.

4. Do you do anything during the year to celebrate or recognize your heritage?

5. Who were the first ancestors to move to your present country (parents, grandparents, etc)?
There are no written records.
Got 'im
Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris are safe. And the guy who abducted them didn't live to see the next sunset. That's how these stories are supposed to end.

Now, I recognize that I'm an old fogy. And I certainly won't play blame-the-victim. But have we really reached the point where sixteen-year-olds can be out "parkin'" at 1am Wednesday night without further comment?
"Young supporters of Hamas celebrate" the deaths by bombing of five Americans and two Israelis in Jerusalem. Here's the party: Here's the scene of the crime.

I cannot begin to convey to you the blackness of my mood.

LATER: Fortunately, Photodude gave the matter a little more thought, and arrived at a conclusion that elevates this incident from Just Another Bomb to true Evil Incarnate.

"This is not about dying for a cause. This is not about killing Zionists. This is about destroying all hopes for peace. We don't want peace. We want to kill. Arabs, Americans, Jews, it makes no difference."