Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weeds and Life

I'm a weed puller, myself. I know I have a gallon container of Roundup hanging around here somewhere, but I haven't even pulled it out for years now. My yard is almost entirely chemical-free, which not only saves me a lot of money I don't have, it keeps me a lot healthier. I'm allergic to almost all that stuff. Mine is a yard for hypersensitives.

I think it keeps my plants healthier, too.

I do have to remember that those weeds have been providing some shade and a sort of green mulch in certain areas. After a big-time rainy season weeding job, some odd things can happen out there.

A few months ago, at the beginning of the rainy season, I splurged. I bought something I used to use back in my disposable cash days, and will try to keep up with now: corn gluten. About $50 worth covers my whole yard. Twice a year is good. What it does is, it prevents weeds from growing in the first place. The seeds germinate, then they die. It's not 100% perfect, especially until after the second application, but it's really great. I only have about 20% of the weeds I would have without that stuff. At this time of year it's seriously noticeable.

Two other ways I do weed control are that I have absolutely no grass, and I mulch heavily with pine bark nuggets. Where I have weeds right now is mostly where I didn't use the corn gluten or the pine bark.

Lucky for me, I actually like pulling weeds. It's sit-down work, which is always a requirement. Plus I get to see lots of great bugs and snakes and lizards that way. And find old pennies and stuff in the dirt. Artifacts.

Not to mention, the pure joy of feeling all the abundant life around me. Birds everywhere, even a pair of beautiful rare and shy orioles. Anywhere I sit I'm surrounded by plants I've rescued or grown from cuttings, by the incredible lush growth and happiness of healthy nature we get out here. Or that we can get if we pay just a little attention to its realities, and give it love and nurturance instead of battling it.

What I'm pulling down today is mostly these vines we get called bitter gourd, they smell funny and make bright orange little gourds. The glorybower on the east back fence takes over pretty quick too, and it's a beast. A lot of cutting, and a lot of getting scratched by it. With the right tools, it goes fast. Around a half-hour's work gets it back where I want it, a couple times per year. Less time than most people use to mow their grass that I don't have.

It brings scads of butterflies, and its luxurious growth covers my collection of empty pots and other nursery supplies. Keeps it from looking junky out there. When that glorybower grows too lush, I get lots of new stuff for the compost heap.

Last time I plundered the compost heap there was about 500 gallons of the richest, finest, most beautiful black gold you ever saw. It feels almost like peat moss in your hands. Like velvet. You gardeners out there know what I'm talking about. Grabbing a handful of this stuff is like holding a little piece of gardening heaven. Oh, it smells of earth and Mother Nature and plant food and life and goodness.

It's too rich to use straight up; a good mix is 50% - 67% compost mixed into our yard sand. I used it so much on the plant rescues, I'm almost out! I think there's around 30 gallons left. Ha! Running out of important dirt once again, story of my life.

I spend virtually no money on any of these activities. I do have some tools, and I tend to beat them up and have to replace them. I buy corn gluten, Spray-n-Grow micronutrients together with this liquid fertilizer they sell, and rarely some magnesium, palm food fertilizer, and iron chelate. A little chain saw oil as a hurricane prep. I spend around $200/year for everything I use. Say another $100 average for what plants and seeds are actually purchased.

But that's about it. No machines except an electric chainsaw, so no gas, no repairs. All my containers are free, the beautiful wood to grow epiphytes on, the compost, the plant pots (plastic or fancy ceramic ones), stakes, yard art, the plants themselves...Even the wire and such to attach orchids to the wood, or to hang the wood when I'm done? All that is almost always free for me.

Which is good, because I have less than zero money. Also good because I can't help getting a real kick out of Free Stuff. I'm one of those ultimate recyclers. Garbage picker? Naw. This comes from people giving me things they *hate to throw away,* or from our tidy debris piles waiting for The Claw after the hurricane, or on Bulk Pickup Day once a month. I'm rescuing things from their ultimate doom: being designated as Useless, and sent to a nasty grave at Mt. Trashmore.

Instead, they come home with me, where I bring them back to life.

Tired but Happy

On Tuesday, my guy comes home for a week's vacation. Me, I'm jumping for joy.

And as it happens, I finished my little bricklaying project yesterday.

I keep going out and admiring it.

This means I can now turn my attention back to rearranging my little backyard nursery. Like weeding it. Down here in the rainy season, if you turn your back for ONE MINUTE the weeds eat your yard, threaten your house, and start plotting to take over the whole town. If I'm really brave and unembarrassed maybe I'll post some pix to show you what I'm talking about.

I never did get Walter's Western Garden's pix posted for him to admire on the road. He may see it in person by the time I get to it!, oh well.

And kmom is here too! She started her annual snowbirding a bit early this year. She drove her new used car all the way from Chicagoland. Got here safe and sound, had a good time doing it, and still made it in time for her hairdresser appointment. you GO kmom!

It's a beautiful day and the yard is calling me. I hope all y'all have a wonderful day, too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Man rejects first penis transplant

I like penises. I think they're nice.

Way back when on my Penis Day posts, I explained I like all sorts of other Parts. Which is true. Also, that I'd be talking about them, too, in future posts. I do hope my discussions of hands and feet and such shows I don't have an entirely one-track mind.

This one? Poor guy!
Man rejects first penis transplant
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Monday September 18, 2006

Chinese surgeons have performed the world's first penis transplant on a man whose organ was damaged beyond repair in an accident this year. The incident left the man with a 1cm-long stump with which he was unable to urinate or have sexual intercourse. "His quality of life was affected severely," said Dr Weilie Hu, a surgeon at Guangzhou General Hospital.

Doctors spent 15 hours attaching a 10cm penis to the 44-year-old patient after the parents of a brain-dead man half his age agreed to donate their son's organ.
The procedure, described in a case study due to appear in the journal European Urology next month, represents a big leap forward in transplant surgery; it required complex microsurgery to connect nerves and tiny blood vessels.

The surgical team claims the operation was a success. After 10 days, tests revealed the organ had a rich blood supply and the man was able to urinate normally.

Doctors have previously succeeded in reuniting men with their sexual organs after traumatic accidents or attacks, but the Guangzhou operation is the first in which a donor penis has successfully been attached to another man.
Although the operation was a surgical success, surgeons said they had to remove the penis two weeks later. "Because of a severe psychological problem of the recipient and his wife, the transplanted penis regretfully had to be cut off," Dr Hu said. An examination of the organ showed no signs of it being rejected by the body.

Jean-Michel Dubernard, the French surgeon who performed the world's first face transplant on a woman who had been attacked by a dog this year, said psychological factors were a serious issue for many patients receiving certain "allografts", or organs from donors. "Psychological consequences of hand and face allografts show that it is not so easy to use and see permanently a dead person's hands, nor is it easy to look in a mirror to see a dead person's face," he wrote in the journal. "Clearly, in the Chinese case the failure at a very early stage was first psychological. It involved the recipient's wife and raised many questions."

In 2001, surgeons were forced to amputate the world's first transplanted hand from Clint Hallam, a 50-year-old New Zealander, who said he wanted the "hideous and withered" hand removed because he had become "mentally detached" from it. The original transplant was conducted by Prof Dubernard's team at the Edouard Herriot Hospital in Lyons, who have since performed the world's first double arm transplant.

Andrew George, a transplant expert at Imperial College, London, said: "Doing a penis transplant should be no more complex than anything else. But it takes time for nerve sensations to kick in and it's not clear whether the patient would ever be able to have sex with it. The question is whether it's right to be doing a transplant for what may be seen as cosmetic reasons.",,1874818,00.html
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

That Scooter Rides. Yes it Does.

Lest we forget: The purpose of the exercise, all along, was the scooter.

Specifically, being able to drive it in and out of the house without having to hump it over those two steps leading into the house.

My lovely neighbor BB uses a golf cart. She's been watching the bricklaying festivities with interest. Not to mention, she spotted my black mica rock glowing like diamonds in the sunshine all the way from her place a few days ago - which stuff really floats my boat. She's sort of *kitty corner once removed* to me.

So I wanted her to be here for this. I sent the following email:

~You are hereby cordially invited to witness the Inaugural Test Drive of the k ranch Scooter on its Newly Refurbished and Reconfigured Brick Patio and Front Porch.~

She came, she saw, I conquered.

The scooter conquered, I mean.


Oh yes, it worked beautifully.

She sat in her golf cart, and me on my scooter, taking off for tiny joyrides here and there, circling around her like Indians around a wagon train. I ramped it up to full speed and went flying up the steepest part of the incline on the decorative spiral. I almost popped a wheelie, that time.


The only thing I'll have to watch for is this: When I'm backing out the front door and doing a 3-point turn, I MUST turn first to my right, not my left. *Right* means I back over the bricks on the front porch. *Left* means I may accidentally go too far, and go over this little sidestep of bricks leading into the carport. That would SO not be good.

I'm just ecstatic.

BB ran out of bird seed during my long focus on bricklaying and/or convalescence. Her nephew could bring her some, but I try to keep her supplied from Sam's, where it's seriously cheaper. So I picked up a nice big 40# bag yesterday. Her hungry doves and blue jays and what-all are probably lined up on her driveway right now, waiting for her to get up, looking all pitiful and mournful - *But where's our breakfast? don't you love us any more?*

And she'll see one of my happiest uses for a scooter: hauling Important Stuff around. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ghost Dragon Bones

I sold one of my little sweethearts yesterday. A collector type customer drops by from time to time and covets my rarities. This was one.

Euphorbia lacteas make wonderful bizarre shapes, which I adore. The rare white form is just stunning. The little tiny round white things on the ends of what look like thorns? Those are leaves.
They're so cute! they just crack me up.

This cruciform shape is pretty on its own. But the way this guy curled and then sprung new growth on his *arms* makes it look to me like he's dancing. A very happy looking plant. Why I took pix from all angles, to show you how he dances.

I know he'll go to a good home. But I'll miss him. He was special.

But...I got $40 for an 8-10" plant. I got the big mother plant for free, as a rescue, and I have another big freebie now, that one a gift from a neighbor who moved away.

Several babes, none quite as great as this, but fine. They fell off the parent plants as I was moving them around. So I let them dry a bit, stuck them in a pot, and then did nothing else whatsoever to them.

I didn't water, feed, anything.

That's what they like down here.

So even though I'll miss him, I did well
and feel lucky. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bricklaying is easy as pie.

Easier, actually. I can make biscuits like nobody's business, but that pastry crust thing has always eluded me. I rest the dough, refrigerate it, use lard instead of butter, it doesn't matter. Can't do it.

The kind of bricklaying I'm doing now is the easiest of all, for two reasons. First, it's dry paving. *Dry,* in masonry work, means you don't use mortar. So all I'm doing is putting bricks on top of smoothed sand. Simple as can be.

Easier yet? I'm not building anything new. The bricks and most of the sand are already in place. I'm just picking up my old porch and patio to make them into a smooth ramp, where before there were a couple of small steps in there.

So the only work involved is getting more sand - which we have in abundance in our back yards here - and picking up and relaying the bricks.


I should really do this up right, and show you before and after pix, in nice Order of Doing...but I'm so busy taking advantage of every non-raining moment, I'll have to let you into the story right in the middle. I'll try to keep it unconfusing!

Here's what it looks like this morning as I get ready to work.

(Please, kindly overlook the peeling paint, the half-scraped front door, all that. I'll get to it, I promise.)

I call the part under the roof the *porch,* and the open area with the decorative spirals is the *patio.* The spirals are there for fun. I had a plain-jane patio there earlier on, and got tired of it. I wanted to make something fancier. So I combined a lot of different brick patterns, and blended them in with the little walkways along the driveway and all over the front yard.
Posted by Picasa Since I was building a ramp into the patio, of course, I had to raise it everywhere it joined with walkways. Both of the spirals had to get raised too.

The last two pix show the spirals close up.

This area leading into the house is where one of the little steps was. Now it's all one level. No scooter issues here.

Pic #2 looks out the front door toward the street. Where the front porch meets the patio is where the other little step was, before.

The picture of the porch is from a few weeks ago, after hurricane preps cleared everything off the porch. I've laid out the spiral, sort of as a *rough sketch,* but then I had to wait for the weather to pass before I could work them into the sand.

Posted by PicasaThe fourth view looks from the carport to the porch. Making a slope using bricks isn't easy. Here the slope is steep. The little wall of 4 bricks is mortared in. I didn't want to raise the level of the whole porch, or build the little walls higher. So I sloped the *ramp.* Here I had to use half bricks to make the slope work out.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering those 9/11 losses...

My heart is with all those who lost so much on this day - but no terrorist will hijack my heart.

Last year I watched a public TV documentary, a tribute to this day, and it remains the most moving one I've ever seen. One person interviewed was a rabbi who thought and thought about how to remember the dead. He found some records of the messages the WTC people had sent out from their cell phones to their loved ones. Saying *goodbye.* He wrote the messages down, word for word, so carefully, and set the words to a chant. He chanted some for the interviewer. Simple words - I don't think we're going to make it, I love you mommy...

I honor his careful and thoughtful and loving way of honoring the dead and the bereaved. It speaks for me, in its haunting and eerie beauty, when I can't find a way to express it myself.

A friend of many years' standing lives out in California now. We met working together at a post office in the Chicago area. I was 19 and married to my first husband, and he was around 26 and fresh out of the Marines. An MP, he was, a sergeant. We were an *item,* briefly, a few years after my divorce, but had the good sense to realize right quick that *it wasn't meant to be.*

We'd already developed the sort of friendship where you know that person has your back, always, forever. As sometimes happens, that friendship only got stronger after we realized any other relationship wasn't in the cards. We may not talk for months or longer at a time - but then pick back up in the middle of the last conversation we had.

He moved to Hollywood. I moved to Florida. I went on to marry Walter, and my friend was one of the 10 guests at our tiny wedding. He went on to marry Little Miss Attila, and LMA later became my blogmom. We bought our houses around the same time, not knowing the other couple was even shopping. We do those parallels pretty often.

From way early on, the Attila Hub and I fell into this habit of calling each other with news of our local natural disasters. Then we added man-made ones to the list. Riots and such.

So as I watched the towers get hit and fall - I'd been watching Good Morning America at the time - I called him. I hated to call there so early, I hate to wake people up, especially with such terrible news. My overriding feeling was that anyone in a major city like LA might be in danger's path, and ought to be warned what was happening.

The answering machine picked up. I had the sense someone might be awake and listening to my message (which never bothers me a bit) - but how all that unfolded at the House of Attila was something I never found out. We were all, of course, paying more attention to other news at hand.

Last year, LMA wrote a post about that day in her life, including the phone call. It surprised me how much it meant to hear how that little piece of the story line ended. No reason for it that I can see. Human nature, I guess.

So thanks, LMA, for filling in the blanks.

The rest of this day I devote to Walter. It's his birthday, and I love him, and I want him to have a happy day. A birthday that didn't get hijacked by terrorists.

Eyeless driver arrested in the U.K.

You've probably guessed I like to see us all do whatever we can to overcome our limitations, and have lots of fun in the process.

Even for me, though, there's such a thing as Over the Top.
Eyeless driver arrested in the U.K.

Posted Sep 6th 2006 4:05PM
by Damon Lavrinc
Filed under: Etc., Safety

There are plenty of friends out there. Some are closer than family and others are mere acquaintances. For Omed Aziz, his friend was willing to risk his life, Aziz's life and a few other late night motorists in an effort to give Aziz a piece of his world back.

Omed Aziz lost both of his eyes during an explosion in Iraq. He also left behind a few digits from his hands, most of his hearing and now suffers from severe tremors in his legs. With that in mind, you could image the Oldbury police's surprise when they found Aziz driving a Peugeot in the wrong lane, while taking direction from his friend in the passenger seat.

Although legally blind and certainly impaired, the police reported that Aziz masterfully made his way around a few corners and a roundabout, before crossing into oncoming traffic.

Aziz now holds the distinction of being the first blind motorist ever convicted of reckless driving in the U.K., while his co-pilot is awaiting trial for aiding and abetting dangerous driving.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Poor Mr. Foot. He Needs a Scooter.

It must have been 2004 when I first got the scooter. The MRSA abscess and cellulitis episode with Poor Mr. Foot went from late April through August, 2004. They saved the foot - not to mention, the leg and my life - but although he looks remarkably great, there's a lot of invisible damage deep inside.

The tendons, blood vessels, nerves, muscles, everything in there is full of scar tissue, since MRSA'd infected almost the entire foot. You can't really tell by looking, but he's a bit de-fleshed - he weighs less than the right foot. The pulses are still good, but that may not last forever. He's already colder than the other foot - not enough blood circulating in there.

Realizing Poor Mr. Foot was permanently maimed is what finally inspired me to try to get a scooter. I'd actually needed one for years.

I elevate my feet constantly. They both have problems with edema, rheumatoid arthritis, a nasty painful inflammatory condition called plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, a blister disease, diabetes complications...I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but you get the idea.

Elevating them keeps the swelling down, using good old gravity. This is critical. Swelling constricts the blood vessels and all even worse than the scarring alone. Constricted blood vessels means less blood gets distributed. Not getting enough blood in any tissues is unhealthy, right? It starves them of oxygen, and keeps waste products in there that should be cleaned out during blood circulation, as our cells usually do. If I drive for several hours - one of my favorite pastimes - both feet swell, just because I have them down, de-elevated, to drive.

Worst of all: swelling creates more scar tissue in the bad foot. Cells deprived of oxygen die and make scars. The more scar tissue that builds up, the worse the circulation. Then MORE scar tissue builds up. The more internal scarring, the shorter his life will be. If and/or when the blood circulation is impaired enough - when those pulses aren't good any more - then he'll starve to death. After all our hard work, after the miracle of that surgeon saving the foot in 2004? I really, really don't want to get him amputated.

Walking, especially on a hard surface, is not good for bad feet. Standing is killer. If some situation leaves me standing up, after around 30 seconds I start leaning on one foot then the other, transferring the weight-bearing load. Swaying from side to side. Sure, some people misinterpret this as some eccentricity. I couldn't possibly care less. The pain I feel if I'm in that state removes my embarrassment real quick.

Oh! - and! On the scooter, I don't have to be afraid of falling. I'm SITTING DOWN. I can cover far more territory just on that freedom alone. For me, falling down means more bruising, fractures, cuts that get MRSA infections, tendonitis...Not safe.

Short version? If I walk on that foot, it swells up, and hastens the day it gets amputated. Meanwhile, it causes serious pain. A scooter means I don't walk, I ride. I get a longer foot life, need less narcotics, and I'm much more safe from injury.

I won't go into the full story of Poor Mr. Foot here yet. I'm trying to be just thorough enough to make it clear why using a scooter - such a ripe target of derision! - can be critical to a person's health. If I show you how it went with me, then hopefully it'll help you understand how it would go with you, in the context of your own health and mobility issues.

The pain of a MRSA infection is stunning. When it involves bone, even peripherally, it's worse yet. After the infection finally cleared, and the drain healed closed, it still hurt bad. So between the pain, and the very real danger posed by walking on it, I was definitely immobilized.

As you may have gathered, I greatly prefer to be active when I can. My other disabilities already cut way down on my activity level. Not being able to get around was a bad thing.

My rheumatologist's office advocated for me with Health Options, my *Medicare HMO.* It got approved shortly before Thanksgiving, 2004. I was finally able to cook again. Slowly, still way weak, and clumsy. It took me two days, but I made Thanksgiving dinner for Walter and me. Everything we wanted, and more. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, asparagus, acorn squash, cranberry sauce, corn I think? - but the whole nine yards. I sweated half to death with the effort, I burned myself by accidentally leaning on the stove from this unnatural height, but I did it. Remembering that dinner can still make me cry.

That was the last year scooters were free under my Medicare HMO. The next year, there was a $500 deductible. I made it, just under the wire.

The total cost as billed to the HMO, however, was only $195 - both then and also last month. So a person applying today would most likely NOT have to pay a full $500; they'd get the discount price.

Mine is a *house scooter.* I was told that the only way to get it into a car, to take to the store for some shopping, was if one installed a lift or a trailer hitch and scooter platform. The cheapest arrangement at the time was around $1200. And Medicare would never, ever, most adamantly not, pay for that.

What the medical supply company my HMO uses never told me was that they're made to come apart so you can put them in your car.

The battery pulls out. That's often the heaviest part. The seat pops off. The handlebars get lowered. This all takes about three minutes. The heaviest piece to lift into your car is often less than 30 pounds. Ideal? No. But certainly workable.

NOT being told this at the time caused a lot of problems in my life. Walter and I agonized over some way to find that $1200, and it just could not be done.

It never occurred to me, back then, to surf the net for scooter info. That's how I finally found out it was transportable. When I called recently to get the old scooter fixed, and was told if they couldn't fix it they'd get me a brand new replacement, I surfed. When I learned I could have been transporting it all along, I tell you, I was outraged. Ballistic.

But that's another story, too.

So, in answer to anyone's question about how to get a scooter - here we go.

If you must buy one out of pocket - if there's no way you can get it covered by insurance - let me know and we'll see what else we can do. But since it's usually covered under the right circumstances, find out what those circumstances are. Remember you may still have to meet a big deductible. Even so, going through the insurance company can save you a significant chunk of change.

First, call your insurance company. Ask what their requirements are for getting one. Do you need a Letter of Medical Necessity, for instance? If so, must it be from your primary, or your specialist? Ask them what, exactly, that letter needs to say to get a *Yes.*

Then, talk to whichever doc needs to do the request, whether it's a prescription, a LMN, or something else. Ask outright if the doc will help you get a scooter. If they hesitate or say no, ask any other doctor you can. It's easier to get approved if the doc doesn't feel hesitant.

The commonest negative reaction you'll hear is this one: *Oh, but if you get a scooter, you'll be less active! You'll rely on that to get around, when you should be exercising!*

This is complete and utter bullshit. It comes from the Old School Stiff Upper Lip Theory of: More Suffering. As in, *More Suffering is Good For You! It's Better For Your Health!*

When I got my scooter, I made that Thanksgiving dinner. That was exercise. When I shop at Sam's or Walmart or wherever, using the store's electric scooter, I get FAR more exercise than without it. Why? Because without a scooter I sit at home. I can't fucking walk right. I can walk a little. When I go shopping, I MOVE. I get in the car, I get out of the car, I walk to the scooter. I get in and out of it when reaching for high shelves in the store.

In other words, I'm active.

Every scooter person I've talked to says exactly the same thing. We have a life again. We're busy again. This *assistance makes you LESS active* theory was never, ever, based on any fact or study I've ever found. It was just a bunch of patronizing bullshit, spooned out by people more satisfied by scorning us than by the truth.


So here I'm hoping this post can help someone take hold of the truth and of this aspect of their health, and get themselves scootering about.

Seriously. It matters. So feel free to stop by with a comment, or send me an email, if I can help you in any way with this.

Jean! GUYK! Did you feel the earth move?

Sep 10, 1:26 PM EDT

Strong earthquake shakes Gulf of Mexico; no damage reported

By PHIL DAVIS Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A strong magnitude 6.0 earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday sent shockwaves from Louisiana to southwest Florida, but no damage was reported, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The earthquake, centered about 260 miles southwest of Tampa, was too small to trigger tsunami danger, the agency said. The USGS received almost 1,500 reports from people as far away as North Carolina who felt the 10:56 a.m. temblor.

"This is a fairly unique event. There is no danger," said Don Blakeman, an earthquake analyst with the National Earthquake Information Center. "I wouldn't expect any substantial damage, but it is possible there will be some minor damage."

Florida counties along the gulf called the state emergency operations center with reports of tremors, but no significant damage was reported, spokesman Mike Stone said. Gov. Jeb Bush was informed of the situation, Stone said.

Although the earthquake was classified as unusually strong, it was not powerful enough to generate a tsunami or other dangerous wave activity, Blakeman said.
The epicenter is an unusual location for earthquake activity, but scientists recorded a magnitude 5.2 temblor in the same location on Feb. 10.

"Technically, it's not Florida," Blakeman said. "It's out in the Gulf of Mexico. This kind of occurrence is unusual in that spot, especially for an earthquake of this size."

The most prevalent vibration, which last for about 20 seconds, was felt on the gulf coast of Florida and in southern Georgia, Blakeman said. But residents in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana also called in reports.
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The worst is over

For now. I think.

And in the context of what all else we think of at this time of year, my own struggles can seem so insignificant.

Yet they are, still, mine, and need dealing with.

It's been a month since my last big health adventure. I saw the Infectious Disease doc several days after my ER visit. The MRSA cellulitis was already cleared. Being on one anti-MRSA antibiotic at the time I was infected surely helped, as did catching it so fast. No screwing around putting off going to the ER, no more, not for me. I'm real big on keeping my Parts attached to my body.

To watch what so clearly could have segued into an abscess, cool off and calm down and shrink and disappear, was like a blessing from on high. A tiny little miracle.

The reason I was so sick wasn't just because of the infection. I had a reaction to the Rifampin too. Those special antibiotics are so very toxic; it's why they usually hospitalize patients who take them. They suck your blood constantly in there, checking your liver and kidney function, ready to pull the IV bag if the antibiotics are making your organs crash.

Bleed me they did on my Wednesday visit, desperately seeking a usable vein, infiltrating and digging around and trying somewhere else, mangling my right hand - the one uninfected from MRSA, but surgery-scarred and riddled with tenosynovitis and little mycobacteria lumps.

Yuck, huh?

Rifampin can make you sick even without those organ problems. The doc asked about my symptoms. Excruciating muscle pain - usually with me it's connective tissue pain, joints and bones, tendons, but not muscles so much. Vicious headache. Weakness, shaking, trembling, sweating. Dizziness, like too much Happy Hour. She asked, --When you close your eyes is your head spinning? --Exactly.

She said, Remember that you are very sensitive to any medications, especially antibiotics. Those are symptoms of a Rifampin reaction. You don't have to show liver damage to react this way, it's a different kind of reaction. Being on Minocycline makes it worse, they work together, the reaction is much stronger. You've been on that for eight months now. We keep most patients on it only 3-6 months. It's time to stop.

So I'm off both antibiotics now, and slowly, slowly, mended.

Sick weak shaky people - with really bad feet! - have trouble walking around. Which brought me to address my scooter issues.

See, getting one of those little electric scooters a few years ago made a big positive impact on my life. Ah, the mobility-blessed just have NO idea.

But at Wilma time, it broke.

And some fool at Health Options or elsewhere had told me I'd have to pay a $500 deductible to get mobile again.

It turned out, this was Not True. That's when you buy a new one. A broken scooter, they are supposed to FIX. Or replace.

Finding this out, of course, I got all excited. I did get a new scooter, no cost, but it's defective. So a whole new Scooter Saga has been working in my life lately too.

Meanwhile, I've wanted to fix something else to get that mobility going. The brick path and patio leading into my house had two steps. Not very high, say a 2" and a 4" one. High enough that getting the scooter in and out the front door was a mess.

The only cure was to raise the brickwork. Make it a ramp. In principle it sounds easy enough. But any of you who've done it know that dry paving isn't as simple as it looks.

Now try putting a rising curve in your 2-dimensional plane of bricks.

Considering the state I was in, and the need for some soothing Happy Work to occupy my feeble body and mind - something I could abandon for the day if an hour's work exhausted me - it seemed like just the thing to do.

So, yeah. I've been bricklaying. Pix to follow.

And every brick I put in place, every disrupted area I smooth out, adds a tiny repair to the damage and destruction that weighs on our minds, this time of year.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Report: Miami journalists on U.S. government payroll

Sep 8, 4:25 PM EDT

Report: Miami journalists on U.S. government payroll

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ AP Hispanic Affairs Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- Ten journalists, including two staffers with The Miami Herald's Spanish-language sister paper, received a total of more than $300,000 from the U.S. government for working on a radio and TV station aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government, the Herald reported Friday.

Pablo Alfonso, who reported on Cuba and wrote an opinion column for El Nuevo Herald, was paid almost $175,000 since 2001 by the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting to host shows on Radio and TV Marti, according to government documents obtained by The Miami Herald.

Olga Connor, a freelance reporter who wrote about Cuban culture for El Nuevo Herald, received about $71,000, and staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covered the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years, The Miami Herald reported.

Alberto Mascaro, chief of staff of the U.S. Cuban broadcasting office, confirmed to The Associated Press that all 10 journalists had received payments but said he did not have the details and declined to comment further.

Alfonso and Cancio were fired and Connor's freelance relationship with the paper was ended.

Alfonso and Cancio declined to comment to the Herald. The three did not respond to e-mails seeking comment sent by the AP.

Jesus Diaz Jr., president of the Miami Herald Media Co. and publisher of both newspapers, said the individuals violated a "sacred trust" between journalists and the public.

"I personally don't believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it's a government agency," he told the Herald.

Al Tompkins, a professor at the Poynter Institute for journalism, agreed that journalists are obligated to inform their employers before they accept outside work and must avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

But he added that newspapers are responsible for ensuring that everyone in the newsroom understands their ethical standards.

Tompkins said the Marti payments point to an institutional problem, especially when taking into account a recent photo montage in El Nuevo Herald. The paper later acknowledged the montage made it falsely appear as if two Cuban police officers were ignoring prostitutes.

The AP's e-mail and phone messages for Diaz were referred to Robert Beatty, Miami Herald Media's general counsel and vice president of public affairs.

Beatty said the papers' employees have consistently demonstrated a high level of integrity, and that it is their responsibility to disclose any real or perceived conflicts of interest.

"We have faith that our employees understand that practice and the principles that underlie that practice," he said. "And when they don't, we take action."

He told the AP that the payments were identified in documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Other journalists who received payments included Diario Las Americas opinion page editor Helen Aguirre Ferre and reporter and columnist Ariel Remos. Ferre told The Miami Herald she didn't see a conflict of interest, and Remos said he enjoyed the freedom to speak his opinion on the stations.

Aguirre is the daughter of the paper's editor Horacio Aguirre, who did not immediately return a message left Friday by the AP.

Also listed as receiving more than $11,400 this year was WJAN-TV reporter Manuel Cao, who got into a videotaped confrontation with Cuban President Fidel Castro in July during the Mercosur Summit in Argentina.

During the fiery exchange, Cao questioned why Castro won't allow a prominent doctor and dissident to leave Cuba.

"Who pays you?" demanded Castro.

"No one pays me to ask questions, that is my job," Cao yelled back.

Cao's news director also received payment but did not immediately return a message.

The Miami journalists are not alone in receiving payments for their time, said Larry Hart, spokesman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent U.S. agency that overseas Radio and TV Marti, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, among other groups.

Hart said most guests receive payment, adding, "for decades, some of the most prominent journalists in America have been paid to be on Voice of America."

He acknowledged that in recent years the practice has become far less common and could not say Friday if any AP staffer had been paid by U.S. government media outlets. AP policy states that freelance work must not represent a conflict of interest for either the employee or the AP and that no fees should be accepted from governments.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon paid a consulting firm and Iraqi newspapers to plant favorable stories about the Iraq war and rebuilding efforts.

Hart said the Miami journalists were in a different situation.

"These people are saying what they want to say," he said.

The Cuban government has long accused the United States of paying South Florida journalists to promote anti-government propaganda.

The U.S. Office of Cuban Broadcasting is prohibited by federal law from broadcasting over U.S. airwaves, but its programs are streamed over the Internet.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pet Python Kills Man in Indiana

Sep 5, 11:27 AM EDT

Pet Python Kills Man in Indiana

LANESVILLE, Ind. (AP) -- A 14-foot pet python crushed its owner to death, authorities said Tuesday after finding the snake loose in a southern Indiana shed with the man's body.

Patrick Von Allmen, 23, was found Monday evening in the shed near Lanesville, about 15 miles west of Louisville, Ky.

A medical examiner determined that the death was consistent with asphyxiation caused by compression of the neck and chest, said Conservation Officer Mark Farmer.

"When you're dealing with a wild animal species, you take on a certain amount of risk," he said.

Von Allmen had told family members he was going to treat the snake for a medical condition, farmer said. He was alone in the shed with the python for about three hours before his body was found.

Relatives said Von Allmen had 10 to 12 years of experience handling reptiles, according to authorities. The family got the snake as a pet five months ago, Farmer said.

Indiana law does not restrict ownership of snakes, and the python was returned to the family.

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Jogger Trapped in Fla. Swamp for 4 Days

Sep 5, 8:41 AM EDT

Jogger Trapped in Fla. Swamp for 4 Days

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A missing runner was rescued from a Florida swamp after spending four days stuck in the muck with only the waist-deep water to drink.

Eddie Meadows, 62, had left for a run over his lunch hour Thursday but never returned to his office at a nearby University of Central Florida research park, authorities said.

He was spotted among the brush and trees Monday morning as friends and colleagues searched for him.

Meadows was parched and covered with bug bites and had consumed swamp water to stay hydrated during the four day ordeal, said university police Sgt. Woody Furnas. Furnas said the area has thick silt and muck that can act like glue.

"He had great spirits, and he was very adamant about getting a drink of water," Furnas said. "He said he slept a lot and stayed down in the water."

Furnas described Meadows, a contract employee with the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, as "a strong guy. He's in good shape. He's a marathoner."

Meadows was taken to Florida Hospital East. A hospital spokeswoman would not discuss his condition.

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Victim Chases Thief, Gives Him Money

Sep 2, 1:14 PM EDT

Victim Chases Thief, Gives Him Money

U.S. Video

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) -- A 75-year-old woman ran after a man who stole her purse, got it back and gave him a tongue-lashing - and $3.

Betty Horton said the man apologized to her and said he was broke.

"I said, 'Why didn't you just ask me for some change? I would have helped you. I would have gladly given it to you,'" Horton said.

Horton was putting groceries in her car Wednesday when she noticed her purse was missing. She saw a man running with the bag under his arm.

"Good thing I had my running shoes on," Horton said.

She ran past businesses and saw him in a residential area standing over the unzipped purse, she said. She threatened to shoot his ear off, although she didn't have a gun.

Horton said she put money in his hand and told him, "Now get the heck out of here." Police arrived, but the thief - whom authorities described as a 40-year-old man - was gone.

"Seventy-five years old and I can still take care of myself," Horton said.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Guy Gabaldon, diminutive World War II hero, dies at 80

Guy Gabaldon, diminutive World War II hero, dies at 80

By MATT SEDENSKY Associated Press Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- Guy Gabaldon, who as an 18-year-old Marine private single-handedly persuaded more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers to surrender in the World War II battle for Saipan, has died, his son said. He was 80.

Gabaldon died Thursday at his home in Old Town, of a heart attack, his son, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Hunter Gabaldon, said Monday.

Using an elementary knowledge of Japanese, bribes of cigarettes and candy and trickery with tales of encampments surrounded by American troops, Gabaldon was able to persuade soldiers to abandon their posts and surrender. The scheme was so brazen - and so amazingly successful - it won the young soldier the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism, and fame when his story was told on television's "This Is Your Life" and the 1960 movie "Hell to Eternity."

"My plan, as impossible as it seemed, was to get near a Japanese emplacement, bunker, or cave, and tell them that I had a bunch of Marines with me and we were ready to kill them if they did not surrender," he wrote in "Saipan: Suicide Island," his 1990 memoir. "I promised that they would be treated with dignity, and that we would make sure that they were taken back to Japan after the war."

Gabaldon's small stature (he was less than 5 feet 4 inches tall and about 130 pounds) and the piecemeal Japanese he picked up from a childhood friend helped him earn the trust of the enemy, who believed his story of hundreds of looming troops. In a single day in July 1944, Gabaldon was said to have gotten about 800 Japanese soldiers to follow him back to the American camp.

His exploits earned him the nickname "the Pied Piper of Saipan."

The private acknowledged his plan was foolish and, had it not been pulled off, could have resulted in a court-martial. His family suspected his initial disobedience - though they say officers later approved - might have kept him from receiving the Medal of Honor.

"My actions prove that God takes care of idiots," he wrote.

Gabaldon also said capturing the Japanese amounted to more than just a badge of honor for him.

"When I began taking prisoners it became an addiction. I found that I couldn't stop. I was hooked," he wrote. "It became a way of life."

Born March 22, 1926, in Los Angeles, Gabaldon signed up for the service on his 17th birthday and arrived on Saipan on D-Day. His military career was cut short after two-and-a-half years after he was wounded by machine gun fire. He spent the years that followed running a variety of businesses, including a furniture store, a fishing operation and an import-export firm, and the unsuccessful pursuit of a California congressional seat in 1964.

Services for Gabaldon were scheduled Tuesday in Cross City, where a Marine color guard was to fire a 21-gun salute and present his wife, Ohana Suzuki, with a flag. His remains are to be scattered on Mount Tapochau on Saipan and in the U.S.

Besides Jeffrey Hunter Gabaldon, of San Diego, he had 10 other children, eight of whom are still living: Guy Jr., and Manya, both of Orlando; Russell, of Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Antonio and Yoshio, both of Saipan; Raymond, of Las Vegas; Hanako Cruz, of Modesto, Calif.; and Aiko, of Old Town. He is also survived by 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His first marriage, to the late June Tikunoff, ended in divorce.

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Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin dead

This is one of those headlines that first makes me think, oh, surely a hoax! - but it seems it's true.

This really makes me sad. Sure, he could be over the top silly sometimes. But as a person who loves critters, and wishes more people could appreciate rather than fear them, I was so happy when this guy came on the *wildlife TV* scene.

I think he did more to further respect for animals than anyone else in my generation. And with his love of life, and of his wife, and of those two young kids that he seemed to want so bad for so long, I wish he could have lived for another 50 years. Just to enjoy it all.

I am so, so sorry to hear he's gone.
Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin dead

Article from:
By staff writers
September 04, 2006 02:14pm

THE Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, is dead.

He was killed in a freak accident in Cairns, police sources said today.

It is understood he was killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest.

He was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary when the tragedy occured.

Ambulance officers confirmed they attended a reef fatality this morning at Batt Reef off Port Douglas.

Irwin's body is being flown to Cairns.

It is believed his American-born wife Terri is trekking on Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and is yet to be told of her husband's death.

Irwin - known worldwide as the Crocodile Hunter - is famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchcry "Crikey!".

The father of two's Crocodile Hunter program was first broadcast in 1992 and has been shown around the world on cable network Discovery.

He has also starred in movies and has developed the Australia Zoo wildlife park, north of Brisbane, which was started by his parents Bob and Lyn Irwin.

Tributes have already started pouring in for the larger-than-life character.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who used a photograph of his family at Australia Zoo for his official Christmas card last year, hailed Mr Irwin for his work in promoting Australia.

Irwin was heavily involved in last year's "G'Day LA" campaign.

"The minister knew him, was fond of him and was very, very appreciative of all the work he'd done to promote Australia overseas," a spokesman said.

A Tourism Queensland spokeswoman said the death was shocking and paid tribute to Irwin's "enormous contribution" to his adopted state.

Louise Yates said it was impossible to quantify how much Mr Irwin had meant to the Queensland tourism industry.

"I don't think we could even estimate how much he brought us through his personality and his profile and his enthusiasm about Queensland," she said.
"It would be difficult to estimate how much he was worth. And it would be difficult to underestimate."

She said Irwin had been a larger-than-life ambassador.

"It's not just what he brought but what he took with him when he travelled, his passion."

Australia Zoo, on southeast Queensland's Sunshine Coast, employs more than 500 people and attracts thousands of visitors every day.

But Ms Yates said it would be "unfair and unjust" to put a dollar value on Irwin's worth to the state, because of how much he had given.

With The Courier Mail and AAP,23599,20349888-2,00.html