Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Making Lemonade

I had an ulterior motive for going to visit relatives this last weekend. My dad's hometown has an annual picnic and they make the best lemonade evah. I've been trying to replicate it here. I use both oranges and lemons and mix it with water and ice but have been falling short of the mark. I think I know now what the trick is. Someone built some fine muddling rigs to make the process easier, but muddling the fruit and rind into the sugar releases extra goodness into the drink.

Campbell Hill Lemonade
  • Get a drink mixer or other sturdy cup of about 16 oz.
  • Put 1/2c sugar in the cup (alter amount to taste)
  • Cut an orange and lemon into large chunks with the rind left on
  • Put 2 lemon chunks and 1-2 orange chunks into the glass with the sugar
  • Muddle the fruit into the sugar for about a minute
  • Fill the cup with ice
  • Pour water over ice to cover
  • Invert drinking glass over mixer
  • Shake vigorously
  • Enjoy!

Since it's a small town and everyone we'd planned to see lived there and goes to the picnic, we didn't have any trouble finding people either at home or at the picnic despite the fact that my dad didn't call in advance to say were were flying several thousand miles to stop by. Yep. I get my training in planning ahead skills from dad and my lack of prioritizing skills from mom. This is why the packing ahead last week caught me by surprise. Didn't occur to me to remind my dad to warn people we'd be by so they could think of things to talk to us about.

As it was, all I really wanted was a quick visit - long enough to say "hi, howareya? Seems like nice weather this summer." while ascertaining that everyone is still going about their business as usual and getting out before uncomfortable silence descends. What was interesting to me was all the varied jobs that people held, mostly to bring in extra income.

My dad's uncle M used to be a dairy farmer, but since he's been retired for 10 years, he only keeps 50 cows. You heard me, only 50 cows! They breed them with an angus bull and sell the calves to someone who fattens them up to be beef. Two of their 3 sons live at home. One works in a coal mine and plants the fields and probably helps with the cows. The other used to live in St. Louis but has grown increasingly hermit like and works from home. The uncles and/or aunts are grandpa's half siblings. I think at least some of our shared genetics tends toward autism, or at least aspbergers... The third cousin wouldn't live at home if you paid him and boy do I relate to that too!

We caught up with my dad's Aunt F. and her son and 3 of his 5 daughters, his girlfriend, and one fiance. We got a couple of pictures because they're the good looking relatives due to cousin D being adopted. I haven't seen them since the girls were all under age 8 or so, so it was freaky to see them as real grown adult humans, and one with a fiance in tow! There were so many people running around getting ready for the evening at the picnic, I didn't find out what extra job Aunt F might have.

The other Aunt M had baked fresh blackberry pies for the picnic. We took them over but kept one for ourselves after buying it for $1.50 a slice. She'd moved out of the last house with the octagonal living room and had a new house built which is decorated in vibrant color. The living room was assaultingly pink, but I loved the acid yellow-green of the kitchen. She runs a consignment shop from the basement in a space she had designed for it. And the view out the bright red (more a fuscia tinged maroon) bathroom is of a neighbor's farm and 5 silos lined up like on a commercial for "more bars" of cell coverage. So I had to check and my cell coverage was great there.

She had a couple of sepia toned pictures out showing my great uncle in his WWII group (platoon?), and one from when he graduated from the police academy that were fun to look at. He used to lock us in handcuffs as kids. I think I remember screaming bloody murder and freaking out when he said he lost the key. Turns out that, at least 20 years ago, a safety pin worked pretty well to break free. Don't know if they've fixed that issue or if the plastic strips have totally replaced them.

It was good to see everyone again, even briefly. I was really struck by the number and type of various odd jobs people held, mostly self constructed and home based, that kept them going. I keep trying to push my parents into making some folk art and selling it at shows during the summer (or at Aunt M's consignment shop!), and I'm wondering if maybe this example of family ingenuity will make them realize they can do something like that without it becoming some overwhelming burden. Certainly less work than only 50 cows.

After swinging by the picnic and running into some more folks who knew my dad as a grubby little spoiled brat, we hopped in the car, a vivid metallic cobalt Camry rental, and headed north through corn country to my mom's hometown. I only recently learned that my dad's family moved there when he was in high school because that's where his mom and dad were able to get teaching jobs at the same school after my grandma finished her degree. I think that's touching. Probably was just practical, but it reads as touching so I'll stick with that.

My mom's mom is still very much in love with my step-grandpa. They welcomed us with hugs and more homemade pie, this time blueberry. Grandma had on some funky gold shoes to match her outfit. She's planning to retire from delivering Meals on Wheels this year after more than 50 years of service. At no point did she act like she was 92, although now that I think on it, how would a 92 year old act? Holding hands and kissing her sweetie, feeding the birds and squirrels (picture to come), beating each other at rummy, going out to eat, whathaveyou. Pop recently had his 88th birthday party and got lots of cards. Now I feel like a poop for not sending one even though my parents reminded me. He also had a button saying, "I've survived... damn near everything" which I liked.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go in person was that my other grandma is not doing as well. When I call her on the phone, she asks how I like CA, I tell her I like it here and she asks me again. Recently she hasn't been answering the phone at all though, and I stopped calling. Which makes me feel lousy even though I do wonder if it helps or not, so I wanted to see her in person.

As far as I can see, aside from having no muscle tone to speak of, grandma is healthy as a horse, but getting forgetful. Not al.zhi.emers forgetful, but just losing focus on the now and irregular short term memory. She recognized us right off even though we woke her up from a nap. We did state our names for the record which helped to jog her memory, but there was no hint of "why are you here?". We had a nice chat containing a few, "Hi, I'm Tom!" elements during which she reassured us that the were taking good care of her. And they were. She was dressed appropriately, and whoever is doing her hair and nails is competent. Grandma is pretty thrilled with the nails since she bit them her whole life and only in recent years was able to grow them out. The closer friends and relatives and in-laws look in on her pretty regularly too.

After a lunch with lots of Illinois corn, we went back for another brief visit. She remembered that we had told her we'd be coming back, but fretted repeatedly about the fact that she hadn't gotten out front to meet us. This is what's weird with the memory - she asked after my mom who had stayed behind, clearly knew we were coming back, but didn't realize she'd already said "I wanted to meet you out front" about 13 times. By the time we calmed her out of that, she got confused between me and my cousin (our fault for bringing up too many topics at once, I think) and it was getting time to go. I fiddled a bit with the pictures around the room, and we took off. It's hard on my dad seeing her failing like this but all in all, she's better off than many. I think too much new-ness throws her off a little. And since she loves being "taken care of" (hence the no muscle tone) it's a pretty sweet deal for her to be taken care of full time, even if it would drive me mad.

Anyhow, there was more to the trip, and I have more to say and pictures and such, but I really should pack for my San Fran trip tomorrow...


Oh, and this isn't postdated, so you know I made it through the earthquake fine. It's the 2nd one I've felt since moving here. The 5.8 earthquake was only minor shakes out this way. I'm guesstimating it was about 60 miles SE from here and there are some mountain ranges in between. It was like sitting in a bowl of jell-o. The tremors rumbled on and on for what felt like a long time but was probably 20 seconds. Long enough though to have a conversation about it while it was happening. We had no lingering effects I know of but probably had to rework a couple wafers.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Author Review

I've read Suz's Into the Fire and I loved it. It was the standard "format" of about several different story threads tying into one conclusion. The "spine" of the book was Murphy and Hannah meaning that they are the couple to get their happy ending. Other people in the book don't get this guarantee. (Something like if a mystery author finds 2 vic but only solves one of the two.) The other POV characters were Izzy, Sophia, Decker, Dave, and Eden. The troubleshooters are dealing with the aftermath of a previous tragedy and starts off grim. Izzy meets "the most beautiful woman in the world" and starts off on top of the world. Then these plots intersect and take on a life of their own. But for the first time ever in a Suz book, I kind of ignored part of the book to focus on Izzy. I loved his scenes and couldn't get enough of them.

But if you're reading this and wondering why I go on and on about Suz, here's an Author Review on another site that pretty well sums up her style and the good stuff she does as an author. I left a note in the comments too. Your mileage may vary, but I find few authors to compare with her.

Info about my trip to visit relatives will be forthcoming. Probably.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Was That Me?

My massage today mellowed me out in a big way. I have various aches and pains and my muscles tend to be tense. On the plus side, except for my gut and girl parts, very little of me jiggles. On the minus side, when my muscles knot up, they do not let go! This massage therapist is great for me. She does a blend of regular ol' massage to start out, which feels nice but is not terribly theraputic, and lots of theraputic stretching of muscles and tendons and what not in my specific problem areas. It turns out that I have more problem areas than I thought.

The shoulder knot that drove me crazy for 3 days last week and then felt bruised but less knotted for 2 days after the massage is doing much, much better. I don't have any instances of trying to pick something up only to drop it when my arm spasms, and sitting in a chair doesn't make me want to scream. But the rest of my neck is tight, which is what drove me into the office for chiropractic in the first place, and I have some scar tissue in my abdomen from a hernia repair that I'd really like to see if I can get it smoothed out and broken up some.

Several years ago, my crunchy-granola neighbor had a car accident and turned to Rolfing to get her body back to normal, and this worked for her. It involves really digging into the muscles to tear them apart a little to allow them to relax and realign. I hear it also sometimes involves screaming in pain. While I really think the deep tissue massage is the way to get at this hernia repair scar, I hadn't found anyone who does a deep enough massage to be effective. I did look into Rolfing in particular, but the 3 practitioners in Boston whom I interviewed were all schkeezy true believers who I didn't want to have touch me even a little. I have tried other massage but until this lady I had kind of given up hope.

So I got my shoulders and hips stretched today, which felt good in a rather painful way. The endorphins from the pain then made me a little stoned which led to an extremely zen evening doing exactly what I should be doing, which is packing for my weekend trip. I can hardly believe it! Usually I'm up 'til 4am the morning of a trip frantically making the hard decisions. Then I have about 2 hours of sleep and leave for the airport and generate all that "I haven't had enough sleep and I'm all stressed out" sweat which mixes with the "crammed in steerage" sweat and really starts a trip off right. But with the exception of a couple details I have to take care of tomorrow, I'm done packing on Wednesday. Before bedtime. For a trip on Friday. I know! I can hardly believe it myself.

It started out innocently enough. I was taking a shower to wash the massage gel off, and starting a load of laundry so I'd be able to wear one of my cute new shirts again. I found myself making a packing list in my head while shampooing. The list started getting long, so after I dried off, I started writing it down. From there it wasn't too hard just to pack, although I did toss on a tie-dyed dress in case I had to walk in front of windows.

I was able to be somewhat detail oriented while waiting on the laundry. I gave a pretty thorough cleaning to my pill container which had turned strange colors. I re-bagged some toiletries that were in some really ratty ziplocs. I dug out the stuff I wanted to return to my mom and squished it in a space bag. I lysoled the luggage and left it in front of the slider to breathe. I made my own gorp from my stash of Trader Joes nuts and dried fruits. I cleaned out my wallet and purse. I confirmed that my emergency credit card is active and found my frequent flyer number. Then I made a mug of Rooibus (red-bush) chai tea from my very last hand packed teabag so I could use the tin to take some tea with me because I really prefer assam tea to orange pekoe, and the tea wasn't getting any younger. And except for the stuff I wrote down to finish tomorrow, I'm done. Weird.

But good weird.

(The not-good weird is that in order to take only a carryon and not get tagged by the TSA, I can't take sunscreen or hand lotion or my first aid kit, and I have to use the contact solution that makes my eyes dry out. I'll be wearing the wonderbra in case I have to smuggle on some extra eye drops that don't fit in my miniscule ziploc. Who thought it was safer to re-bag chemicals in unmarked, non-sterile packaging again? Sorry, rant for another day. Don't want to harsh my mellow.)

Now I have time to drink that cup of tea, re-read some Izzy POV scenes in ITF, think about whether I should take little "nice to see you" gifts along, sleep on the packing job to decide if I need to edit or not, and blog. And get some rest so I don't look worse than the octogenarian and nonagenarian relatives I'll be visiting in southern Illinois. Now to see if I can repeat the miracle next week for my San Fran trip.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Into the Fire

The latest Suz Brockmann comes out today! It's called Into the Fire and you should buy it and read it. If you're a long time fan, maybe give a refresh read to Flashpoint and Into the Storm for the recurring characters, or just read ITF once, go back and read those two, then come back and read ITF again.

Here's a spoiler free review. Even the summary cover text posted after it isn't too bad, spoiler wise. Myself, I've started to avoid spoilers - I don't want to know everything. I know that the main couple winds up together at the end because it's a romance, but Suz is known to be pretty evil to her secondary characters. And I like to be surprised. I keep trying to read her books slowly to wallow in the world building for a couple of days, but that plan has not been working so well recently. They're thriller/suspense after all, and I think she does a great job with pacing.

She also doesn't stick to traditional "perfect, whitebread" characters for all she writes about Navy SEALs and counterterrorist action. The previous novel All Through the Night featured a hero and a hero - and all the proceeds go to Mass Equality in perpetuity. In this novel, there's an Black/Asian/Irish Hero and a limping, deaf heroine.

Check out the front display at Borders or B&N today. Buy, buy, buy! If for no other reason than to see if my name made it into the Acknowledgements again. But the best reason is that she writes a fun story that can be read over and over.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Things I used to mock, but now use all the time and would mess up my day if they were gone:
  • cell phones
  • car wash
  • bottled water
  • pre-washed, ready-to-eat produce
  • dishwasher
  • orthotics
  • to do lists
The first and last ones especially. I love having a cell phone. Best thing ever for my no-planning lifestyle. I can be driving around and think, "hey, I'm near a friend's house" and call them to see if I can drop by. Or I can plan to meet someone and give them status updates on my lateness. Or say "I'm by the elephant but I don't see you...Oh, the other elephant... of course." when trying to meet someone near a landmark. Not to mention that this blog post wouldn't exist without a to do list.

The car wash and bottled water are specific to being in CA. I didn't need them much before moving to SoCal. But if I want to see through my windshield, and not be embarrased by my ride, it must be washed regularly. Since they know this in CA, most car washes come with an interior vacuum and trash removal, then interior and exterior glass cleaning. Love it. The bottled water is because I travel greater distances by car in CA and despite being 20-40 miles from millions of people, there are places out here where I would want to have emergency water with me which is drinkable after a week sitting in 120F heat. My emergency water is kept in the car and I consume it regularly.

The bottled water and pre-wash veggies I used to mock as being lazy and wasteful versions that any eco friendly person would be able to do for themselves. Not true. Turns out that the alternative to pre-washed peas is NOT unwashed peas, it is Doritoes or Snickers. The alternative to bottled water is not tap water, it is Dr. Pepper or Squirt. I still shop at the farmer's market and rinse all my produce in the 25% vinegar wash, unless I'm just boiling it right away like corn, or water will kill it like mushrooms. But if I'm away from home and jonesing for a drink and a crunchy snack, a bag of snap peas is healthier than the chips by far, and the water from my trunk is both better for me than soda and much, much cheaper than buying it piecemeal. Yes it is true that these things can replace their more labor intensive cousins as well, but not even that is terrible, given the number of people I've seen running water at full bore for several minutes while they wash a single, semi-disposable food or drink container. Does 10 gallons of water down the drain outweigh the resources to create and procure a new container, putting even the eco friendly argument on shaky ground?

The dishwasher is in there as an apology of sorts to my former roommate. I didn't "need" one then. I do now. And the orthotics always seemed like something for inferior people who failed, but now I can't stand up for more than a few minutes without them. And they tend to make my heels fit my shoes better which I like too, although avoiding the feeling of walking on broken glass is plenty sufficient reason.

The jury is still out on boxed wine. I'm thinking I should get some and check it out.

Yo blogland, what did you used to think was idiotic and now find essential? Mine can't be a comprehensive list. Or is there a group of people you formerly didn't sympathize with and now do?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just Good

Following the example of "Someone in a Tree", I popped my blog into Wordle and got a pop art version of the blog. All I can think of to describe it is: "same song, second verse, sideways accent, whole lot worse!"

Well, I can read the big font words too:
See! Just really little...
Get Good like can one got.

And here I thought "and" and "but" would top the list. Maybe they take out "of, to, the, and" and the like. Yes. it turns out they do take out common words. If you undo that decision it becomes really boring. But I played around with some other options and got this, which I like a little better with the colors and horozontility of it.

As long as I'm on the topic of wordplay, we had an amusing discussion at lunch. We eat at SouPlantation on tuesdays. I really like their cream of mushroom and was talking it up to the guy who tried the thai meatball soup and found it lacking. So he went off to try my favorite and another colleague asked if he was going to get "Cream of Mischief" soup.

Then we had a discussion of alternate energy and preparing for a funeral and various body disposal methods. It devolved into suggesting that the slogan for "Soylent Fuel" would be, "I run on dead people."

To summarize the good things, or rather, I just got good somethings:
  • Wordplay is fun
  • I've been sleeping well this week - getting sleepy at 11 and going to bed by 12
  • The masseuse at the chiropractor is excellent

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't Just Do Something

In the Freakonomics comments, someone mentioned that some common advice from his Med School dean was "Don't just do something; stand there!" Basically it means don't waste resources just so it looks like you're doing something if the something you're doing will not be of benefit. I wish someone would tell this to politicians. As I understand it, GWB (Great White Bonehead?) is overturning Daddy's offshore drilling prohibition. CA still has its own laws and should continue to disallow it, but still. One can only hope the congress doesn't roll over and play dead on this one too. Contrary to what the president thinks, "failure to act" is perfectly acceptable to this American when acting is is just that. Acting.

If this article and many others can be believed, removing this protection will not help our oil supply much if at all. And not for about 15-30 years. I'm no anti-oil gal. I love to drive and I seriously considered oil drilling as a career. But the numbers on this don't add up. At the cost of losing years of tourism dollars and fishing at otherwise pretty nice coastlines we get 6 extra months of oil at todays usage rates. The Sau.di's probably spill that much every week.

Maybe it won't be a total trainwreck, or shipwreck, but the effects won't be invisible. Every oil well has some seepage. The industry employs some really good engineers to minimize waste, but it's expensive and there are diminishing returns at a certain point. It can be kept to a minimum with careful enforcement of careful regulations (making the crossover point of diminishing returns more environmentally favorable), but after this administration, I'm not counting on those regulations still existing, or getting enforced if they do. There is value beyond oil in the land and neighboring waters. If we're really that hard up for oil, I have a friend with a tappable farm in Texas that wouldn't mind some extra income. I just think that if we have areas already available, we should use those before we offer up paradise.

I remember watching a nature show that was profiling some equatorial waters which had been overfished. They managed to set aside 10% of the the local shallow waters as a no fishing zone and were really good at getting after poachers. After just a couple years with this really quite minor concession, most of the species that they were concerned about dying off completely had come back in fishable numbers, even while fishing continued in the other 90%. Just by having a little space for R&R where they wouldn't get hassled.

Some serious irony is that GWB has or is considering setting aside 640,000 acres of ocean near Guam (no where Americans would be hassled by it) as a nature preserve so he can go down in history as a great saver of wildlife. Um. Yeah. In the meantime, the great destroyer is stomping all over things that were settled long ago.

It didn't help my mood that NPR, who I should be able to trust to give me real information, is falling down on the job, again. I woke up to a story where they interviewed someone in Florida who makes a living from the beaches basically agreed with me and science, then someone in another Gulf State who has natural gas wells offshore. The "opposing" attitude was "we're doing our part so Florida should do theirs". The reporter basically left the piece with the totally incorrect impression that
  1. drilling in protected waters off Florida would substantially affect our oil supply,
  2. gas prices would come down now if we drill in Florida
  3. anyone who is against drilling isn't doing their part for America.
It's one thing to offer up alternative viewpoints in an article. It's another thing entirely to give equal weight to the opinions of the insane. Yet it keeps happening. I don't mind so much that the opinion gets airtime. Sometimes todays crackpots are tomorrows geniuses. What I mind is that the crackpot's ravings don't get the smackdown and rational analysis the audience deserves. I was wondering if it would help if I told NPR directly just how much they pissed me off rather than just blogging about it. But when I saw the headline about the destroyer in chief doing something just to be seen doing something (since he's completely incapable of wielding our diminished influence to improve our economy in the global market and thus really make a difference) it just reinforced the idea that the media has become the president's echo chamber and they probably don't even care anymore if what they report has any rational basis since their lies and lazy reporting get validated right from the top..

What the hell is so hard about saying "yeah, we're going to give up this minor thing, to get a major return in the future" and just sticking with it until the future happens? We're not ruling out every oil well in the country - we already have lots of untapped land and water available, we don't really need this bit. And if we do develop it, you heard it here: It's going to go wrong and I told you so. I'll see you at the beach museum. I bet Disney will make a great one.

EDITED to add:
I just heard the president's press conference on the radio. I'm really impressed that the reporters didn't spend their whole time coughing *bullshit* into their hands. And for once, they asked some good questions. They got back "rah rah go team, my way or the highway, cartoon overview" answers and the president showed yet again how condescending and intolerant he can be. It's like we elected Cartman for president.

But my point was more to make an analogy. Say we have a cabin in the woods and this winter is colder than usual and we need to burn more wood to keep warm. In the past, when our family owned the big employer in town, we could get aged, pre-cut wood from the neighbors for a decent price because they wanted to stay on our good side. But we've mismanaged that company into the ground and laid off a lot of people and the stock tanked, so the wood supplying neighbor is in need of extra funds and is charging us more than we'd budgeted for the wood. So instead of trying to fix things at the company and just sucking up the extra wood cost until it turns around, we're going to and cut down the tree great grandma planted in the front yard that provides shade for the porch, support for swings, and the best curb appeal in the county. Despite the fact that one needs to let the wood sit for months before it's ok for burning. But that's ok, it "shows the neighborhood" that we're "willing to sacrifice" so they have confidence that the cost of wood will settle down soon. Nope. All it does is make us look short sighted and desperate.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Random Sunday

OK, just pretend I spent this week blogging about:

How long it took photobucket to upload these pictures of our fireworks hill on fire. (Aprox 2 days). It started small.
slightly bigger fire on the hill
It got a little bigger before they put it out. This was the worst of it. (You can sleep again, mom.)
fire on the hill

The Robert Crais booksigning for Catching Darkness at my little local store, and meeting someone at the booksigning who knew Suz Brockmann from her rock band days.
RC holding up NYT ad for book

Getting a sleep study with all the attendant electrodes and other monitoring devices displacing my PJs.
my semiheadless bust with electrode wiring draped everywhere

Going to a BBQ / pool party with my SWE group on saturday and allowing myself enough time to make and package for transit some deviled eggs and chocolate dipped strawberries, and having fun making and messing around with presentation. I forgot the camera at home because I was charging the battery after it didn't really want to take this photo.
chocolate covered strawberries on new green Ikea tray with flowered paper and shadow of my arm obscuring the shot

The fact that you can get avocados on just about anything in CA, so my burger at the bbq had ketchup, mayo, avocado, sprouts, lettuce, pickles, and man was it tasty.

Deciding to go shopping for low cut shirts instead of building these cabinets
stack of flat pack boxes of cabinets on the floor

Hating how bulgy I am, because I just miss fitting into honest XLs.
pretty top I like but which barely fit

Finally deciding on 19 shirts of approximately 190 things I tried on with a minimum of 70s patterning an colors, which was harder than it should have been.
19 shirts in really bright colors laid out on my couch

If you look closely, you can see I went with the "if I like the style and it's comfy and flattering, I'll get several in different colors" method of selection, so 10 of the things are one of 4 styles in different colors. It was funny, most of the clothes were orange or lime green. I could be a chameleon in my condo.

Reading at the pool with an uneven application of SPF30.

Getting a new bluetooth enabled phone only to find out that it cuts out after 25 minutes instead of 33 and has no decent free ringtones to speak of. Bleah. I have 14 days to chat people up to see if it keeps dying young. And see if it works with my hands free doohickey. It was the "free with the plan" phone.

See, it was a pretty busy week. I thought of all sorts of things to blog about but didn't blog. I'm kinda ok with that since the pictures for this uploaded pretty quick. All of this was pretty much good, happy stuff.
  • Catching Darkness is another good read
  • I've got date shirts
  • the enhanced strawberries were described as "nature's most perfect food"
  • and I got to swim and make vitamin D to my heart's content.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

And the Sky Lit Up

Happy 4th of July all!

My town does a respectable little fireworks display. They set them off from a hill near the mall so everyone can park at the mall parking lot. They turn off the safety lights for the show so the view is good. They work with the local NPR station to simulcast a patriotic medley and did a good job of switching fireworks with different songs. There were some funky ones that shot up and appeared to zig zag, but it was closely timed repeats that gave the effect. They had a few that burst in the big ball, then started zigging and zagging all over (my favorites, I think). They did a couple of smiley faces, something that was probably supposed to be a square, several disk shaped ones and smaller balls with orbitals. I enjoyed it.

I didn't bother taking pictures because while my tiny Elph/power shot is good for lots of stuff, it doesn't let me manually override it in the way I need to get good pictures of fireworks, or the little bit of the hill they set on fire with the fireworks. Whoops! They got it put out in about 5 minutes, but since I was sitting around talking on the phone or reading a book waiting for the traffic to clear, I got to see some of it.

Today, I woke up feeling pretty good for once. This was good because I was meeting a friend in Westwood for an early matinee of Hancock. Who runs movies at 10:30am? Of course that was perfect for seeing on a big screen in a movie theater that cares about the film its running on its only screen and has good sound, then heading out for lunch. I had heard a rumor back when I had trouble with traffic detours that they were filming a Will Smith movie on the 105. Shor' nuff, the opening sequence was probably what I saw on the road because that stretch of road is the 105. And not in any way connected to the other roads or buildings they flew over or jumped on. Total Hollywood mishmash of places. On the whole, I liked the movie. There was a worldbuilding premise I had a little trouble with, but it didn't kill the movie for me halfway through like it did for Roger Ebert. My friend's biggest quibble was the product placement of Dunkin Donuts's coffee when you really can't find DD out here. There could have been more of Will in, um, less. If you like him or Charlize Theron or superhero movies generally, go see it. I'd give it 3/5 stars - watchable, fun, enjoyable, wouldn't probably watch it again on purpose, but wouldn't leave the room if it came on. Avoid spoilers.

After the movie, my friend and I had a local lunch then decided to hit up IKEA. She's normally without wheels, and IKEA is less far from her place than it is from mine, and she wanted a chair that she'd been dithering over for 3 years. We had a good time together, both got a headache from the sheer overload that is IKEA, then came back and had "Red Mango" frozen yogurt. Much superior to the too-sharp pinkberry, IMHO.

We also passed some seriously heavy traffic on the 405N due to a small bit of hillside going up in flames. It was doused and just blackened char by the time we passed it but I didn't think the traffic would clear, even with the stop for frogurt, so I took the opportunity to see if there's another way through them thar hills. And there is. Beverly Glen is a lovely little meandering canyon road sporting very few places to fall to one's death. It goes a little slow because the single lane road is narrow, homes are built close to the edge, and the visibility isn't grand and you get stuck behind poky people in your one little lane. But if you know this stuff going in and think about how superior it is to be going poky there with a view (of homes, mostly) rather than being in stop and go traffic on the freeway, it's quite enjoyable. I'll have to remember it. And I need to remember to take my Mullholland Drive tour sometime. I hear it's a fun road too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Insides Outside

When I get an idea for a blog post, I tend to put it in the critical blogging path, meaning I put off blogging until I get the big idea out. Sometimes this is good, sometimes I just feel guilty for not updating more often. I know that I like the blogs I read to get updated as often as possible. This week was one where I put all the mental and prep work toward one post. This one.
So you can see my guts.

I had a few reasons for wanting to share my CT scans (that's CAT scans for you old school folk):
  1. When do I not share?
  2. Update on the pulmonology visit
  3. Thanks for the second opinion
  4. Cool pictures

Thanks to being maid of honor in a radiologist's wedding, I got a great second opinion on my condition. It made me more confident in the initial report and my pulmonologist said, "well you've certainly made my job easy." This is why they sent me for a lung scan after not finding kidney stones in the ab scan. The grey blob to the left of the arrow is a sequestration of some lung material which is not properly connected to the rest of my lungs. The circle with the orange * is my descending aorta. The bit coming off of it pointed out by the red arrow shouldn't be there.
CT scan pointing out aortic branch

You can see it better here. It's the bright little barrel in the lower left lung near the spine. The aorta is the tube in front of the spine. This one is brighter from the contrast die. The sequestered bit is fed by the aortic branch instead of the pulmonary artery and does not discharge lung mucous properly. Whenever I think of lung fluid, I think of my internship at Owens Corning Fiberglas (yes, 1 s). They had barrels of "simulated lung fluid" to check to see if their products dissolved in it because if the glass dissolved, it wouldn't cause cancer. Unlike asbestos. My problem, it is not cancer. It's really not even a problem.
CT scan with contrast showing mucous plug in right lung

It's only a problem if it gets infected. So far so good. Probably a good idea if I don't start smoking. Then I mentioned that I don't get restful sleep (without proper acupuncture) and the pulmonologist said, "Tell me about that! That's much more interesting!" I have a new sleep study coming up in a week or so. Whee. In the meantime, here are some more pictures.

This one inspired me to start taking screen shots.
CT scan, vertical slice with hole in neck

Because I think it looks like The Scream.
Edvard Munch's famous painting

Except for the giant heart that looks like a bag. So in this one, the heart looks a lot more like a heart. And there's something I circled in orange that looks like a basement cat, which is to say 2 glowing eyes. The liver is the other big grey blob on the left, I'm pretty sure. I also like the rib slices.

CT scan of chest, vertical slice

Here's another vertical slice from the abdominal scan. It's interesting because it's the slice that shows a lot of identifiable parts. Liver, small intestine. Ok, so 2 big organs that are really identifiable. And some bones and leg muscles.

CT scan

For the curious, Here's the horizontal slice showing the location of the vertical slice. And you can see my boobs.

chest CT scan with slice through heart and lungs

Here's a very similar shot with the contrast dye which shows the blood vessels branching into the lungs. And more body fat. Yeesh.

chest CT scan showing heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

And one more vertical slice showing cool organs. I can ID the liver (it's ubiquitous!), the kidneys (which look like embryos in this slice), the lumbar vertebrae of the spine (bright!), ribs, large intestine, blood vessels. Props to anyone who can identify the mystery blob on the right. It's under the left lung, opposite the liver. Is it, by chance, my spleen?
CT scan of abdomen showing kidneys that look like embryos

Cool, eh?