Saturday, January 31, 2009


Yes, Nicki has a new home!!!

I thought she was going to her new family on Saturday, so I dropped a note to Ashley asking if we would have a chance to say goodbye to her before she left. She told me to meet her at a park at 5:20. This is the park where Cayce Wallace, a dog trainer, holds classes.

When we got there, two women in a car got out as Ashley pulled up. Ashley has been having volunteers work with Nicki, helping to train her and I assumed this was one last brush-up session before she went to her new family.

NickNewMom.jpg (104779 bytes)Walt and I were busy watching Nicki run around the park and getting a chance to snuggle with her a bit and I wasn't paying much attention to what was going on with Ashley and the women.

Suddenly, I realized that money was changing hands, forms were being signed and there was talk about what they should expect when they got Nicki home.

This was no training session--this was it!. These weren't volunteers come to give Nicki a training lesson, this was Nicki's new Mom and one of her kids!

I started paying closer attention to what was being said and contributing more to the conversation. She seems absolutely perfect. They have two daschunds at home and have just been through the whole puppy business. Nothing we could hint at which might be off-putting fazed her. She just nodded and seemed to think that the best thing for Nicki was to work with her and let her find her own way. This was absolutely perfect!

NickW.jpg (106645 bytes)As for Miss Nicki, she seemed to maybe kinda sorts know who we were, but it was the old "don't bother me kid" if you tried to get too affectionate with her, yet she did come running back to sniff every so often and at the end of the 15 or so minutes we spent there, she had curled herself under my legs, like she always did when I was working here at my desk, which I kind of liked.

Ashley and the new Mom continued to talk about training tips and Ashley let her know that she could call us, or Cayce, any time if she had questions about how to handle certain behaviors. She promised to keep us informed about Nicki's progress, which I particularly liked, since I was less likely to be able to help with behavioral problems, but I sure had a vested interest in knowing how Nicki was adjusting to new new home.

NickiMe.jpg (102906 bytes)And then it was all over. They picked up their new dog and I asked if I could take their picture. They walked out of the park and put her in the car and drove off. Just like that, after months of picking up poop and mopping up pee and listening to Nicki trying to save us from aluminum monsters and garbage can monsters, after the Herculean task Ashley set for herself, housebreaking Nicki and teaching her basic manners, as well as answering countless inquiries about her which didn't pan out. After the doctor's visits and the flyers and the begging and pleading with the "right" people to take her, along comes this woman who seems to have the potential to fall in love with her, and who seems to accept all of her eccentricities with hardly a flinch.

After all these months, Nicki has finally headed off to her forever home.

I knew that we had to do something to celebrate, so I suggested to Ashley that we go out to dinner and we did. We took her to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate. When the fortune came out of my fortune cookie, I took it as a sign that I should immediately come home and tell everyone who has been following this saga for so long the good news...

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The agreement the SPCA makes with all its adoptees is that if you ever decide to give up a dog adopted from here, this SPCA will take it back again, so there is always the possibility that this adoption won't work as beautifully as it looks like it's going to. But for now, we can all be thrilled that Nicki is, as I write this, in her new home, meeting her new "siblings," and starting to get to know her forever family.

Lizzie was very interested in sniffing us all over when we got home. She knew we had been out seeing Nicki.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Virtual Refrigerator Door

It's really cool when you find yourself not only liking your kids, but admiring them. I have admired my kids on many occasions throughout their lives for all sorts of accomplishments. I used to hang their creations on the refrigerator door, but they've long outgrown that.

I admire Jeri for the bold step of moving across the country and starting a new life in Boston -- and making such an incredible success of it. It's something I could never have done. I was a real wimp and the thought of leaving the comfort of California and moving anywhere scared the bejezus out of me. I had the chance to move to France to be an au pair, and I didn't do that. I had paperwork to join the Peace Corps when it was first starting up and chickened out. Walt had the opportunity to move to Hawaii when Paul was a baby and I talked him out of it because I wanted the kids to be able to know their grandparents, which they couldn't do if we lived far away. I've never lived more than 80 miles from San Francisco, so watching our daughter pack up her truck and drive, by herself, across the country to start a new life in Boston 10 years ago was just amazing and I had such incredible admiration for her.

Tom has built a house. Really. A house! I remember when he was in high school and brought a broken-down truck into the carport, took out the motor and stood there, surrounded by what looked like a bazillion little parts and a "how to" manual and began to rebuild the engine, just like I would build a casserole from a cookbook ("take one screw from pile [a] and add a washer from pile [b]..."). When he got it all done, there were parts left over and he said recently that truck ran like shit, but he built a friggin' truck engine out of a pile of parts. And when he was finished he turned the key in the ignition -- and the damn thing STARTED. I was incredibly impressed.

Around the same time, Paul and I had to put oil in the motor of the car on our way to San Francisco and the two of us stood there with the hood of the car up and a can of oil in our hands, scratching our heads like idiots, too embarrassed to ask somebody where we were supposed to put the oil.

Tom and Laurel bought this fixer-upper of a house (which, being in Santa Barbara, was so expensive we couldn't afford the downpayment, much less the monthly payments on it!). Then they remodeled the house, rebuilt the kitchen, built an apartment to rent over the garage. It's taken them a couple of years, kid build a house! How did he learn how to do that? He's a banker and a computer guy, for Pete's sake. My admiration for his accomplishments knows no bounds.

But this week, I'm kvelling about Ned. Ned and I share a lot of the same interests and so when he does something I am more inclined to understand the complexity of it and to want to figure out "how did he do that?" so I can try it myself, because I actually have a shot at understanding his explanation. (Ned also built a room onto his house, BTW, and that has me as amazed as what Tom has built, but I know I'll never attempt that!)

Our kids have been making videos since they were old enough to pick up our movie camera and aim it at each other. When I posted the Video of the Day two days ago, it was an old video that Ned and Paul had made, originally called "Lawsuit, Lawsuit." I hope some of you watched it. I was impressed once again, not only for the cleverness of it and how well it all worked, but how they used one Lawsuit recording for the music, and stuck in all these clips, but in spots, like where Jeri had flute solos, though there are clips from two different concerts, they matched the recording perfectly. I talked with Ned about this today and he said that's because he is a drummer, so he always hears the drum beat and matches things to the drum beat. But if you ever watch it with the technicality of it in mind, I think you'll be as impressed as I was.

But what he posted today blew. me. away. He now has a new computer, so the world opens up to him and he's as much of a media nut as I am, but light years away in terms of talent and creativity. The musical group he plays with, Preoccupied Pipers (they just record and perform one 20 minute concert a year) has just released a new album, and he took one of the songs out of the album and made a music video. You really have to see it, whether you like that kind of music or not...just see it to appreciate all the work that went into it.

I make videos on my home computer and I know how much work goes into a project like this. I am in total awe of what he produced here. I can't remember how many hours he said he worked on this, but I'm sure he'll add a comment in the guestbook section to remind me.

I know everybody's kids are wonderful and mine are probably no more wonderful than yours, or yours, or yours. But I only have mine to talk about and when I look at some of the things they have accomplished, I just stand back and shake my head ... my kids did that! There isn't a refrigerator in the world big enough.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sushi Night

I'm full of sushi, beer, and memories at the moment.

We always go to have sushi on January 28th, Paul's birthday. And on February 4, David's birthday. But Walt will be in Santa Barbara on the 4th this year, so we made this sushi for both birthdays.

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Walt didn't have sushi, but I did. My usual -- Maguro (tuna), spicy tuna, inari (a tofu pouch) and a bowl of edamame beans which we shared. I even had a beer this time, which I never, ever do. But it was Paul's 40th birthday, after all.

As we were sitting there reading the menu, we looked up and there was our friend Jessica, who was at Osaka for the same reason -- because you always eat sushi on January 28. She had been out to the cemetery earlier in the day for her yearly ritual -- leaving a small jar of mayonnaise on Paul's grave marker. He hated mayonnaise, so naturally mayonnaise is the perfect thing to leave. I left a photo of Brianna last year.

Jessica and her companions (her brothers?) sat at the sushi bar so Walt and I went back to ordering our food, My thoughts were a little of Paul and of David, but mostly I found myself thinking about our friend, Alan Harvey.

AlanSm.jpg (36243 bytes)We had received a sad e-mail from several people thatAlan had been found dead in his car two days ago. Apparently he wasn't feeling well, decided to go to the ER and never got there. There was a cell phone in his hand, but whatever happened, he didn't have time to call 911 for help.

Alan was such a sweetheart. I met him at the Lamplighters. He performed in the chorus and may have directed a show or two at the time that Gilbert died. He was also a teacher at Piedmont High School.

I believe that at the time of the Lamplighters' 30th anniversary, he was a member of the Board of Directors. We worked together planning the big gala celebration and that's when I first started to get to know him. His big deal for the anniversary was that he insisted we had to rent a wine fountain. I don't really remember all the controversy that caused (mostly because of cost, I believe), but in the end he won. We had a wine fountain and it was a great success. When we were choosing photos for the second Lamplighters book, of course I had to include this picture of Alan with his wine fountain.

When Gilbert died, unexpectedly, it was Alan who stepped in to conduct the orchestra for his memorial service and to finish the run of Yeomen of the Guard, which was the show running at the time of Gilbert's death.

Alan had a lovely home in the Berkeley hills, which was destroyed by the big fire in 1991. He stood on one side of the freeway and watched his home be consumed by flames. He rebuilt it later and it was a wonderful showplace.

I don't remember what year Alan took over as Managing Director for The Lamplighters. He was in the unfortunate position of taking over for someone who had been in power for some 30 years and who had to be eased out because he was starting to lose it. Alan was a wonderful managing director, but butted heads with the Board and with the man he was replacing (who was determined to get him out of the position) and in the end he left the job after only three years, with a lot of bad memories.

AlanConductor.jpg (8956 bytes)He went on to head up the Music Department at Foothill College for many years and after he retired, he moved to Carson City, where he played with the Carson City Symphony Orchestra and this past September joined the faculty of Incline High School, as its music director.

We heard from him at Christmas and he was thrilled with his new job, saying he found himself bord in retirement. He also invited us up to Carson City to see his new place. We planned to do that after the snow cleared.

He was a very sweet man who touched so many lives. Someone set up a Facebook Tribute Page for him and in just a day it had 125 members registered. I didn't know him well, but worked with him for long enough that I developed a great respect for him and liked him very much. He will be sorely missed by many people.

So our evening, while pleasant, was tinged with memories of departed loved ones -- Paul, David and Alan. But memories of people we love who are no longer here is an old familiar, and oddly enough comforting, sensation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Forty Years Ago

(An excerpt from my diary dated January 28, 1969. I think it shows the progress that has been made in childbirth over the past 40 years.)

Contractions started around 3:30 a.m. and were just like when Ned was born--very irregular, mild to moderate, and disappointing. We decided to go see Dr. Roth, who sent me over to Delivery to have them break my water and get things started. He told me the baby would probably be born in about 3 hours.

I guess they were busier than they thought there because they didn't do anything to speed things up and just let me go at my own pace, which took a long time. The doctor, an intern, didn't check me for about 3 hours and I was fairly discouraged about everything because I had no idea how far into labor I was. When he finally did check me around 6, he wasn't terribly encouraging. By that time I was awfully tired and the hardest part was wondering how much longer I had to stay on top of contractions--if it was a question of hours, I didn't think I could do it.

My water finally broke and almost immediately my contractions became extremely hard and close together. The nurse examined me and asked if I wanted anything for pain, which I declined. Two contractions later, I changed my mind and rang for her. She took one look at me and all hell broke loose because Paul had decided to come now. It was really kind of funny. They were wheeling me thru the halls at top speed saying "don't push" and I was trying with all my might not to, and being very unsuccessful about it. Dr. Smith was racing around saying "wait for me!" and the nurse was saying "I told you she'd go quickly." Dr. Mayo, the staff doctor, asked if I wanted gas, which I vehemently rejected. I was in the middle of another contraction that I wasn't supposed to push for and began to blow very hard and I heard Dr. Mayo saying "she's a breather; she's a French breather." Anyway, in a very short time, I saw a little blue foot sticking up in the air and Dr. Smith said that Paul was a boy, but didn't show him to me and whisked him away to the basket to be cared for...I hadn't even seen his face yet.

Before being admitted, I had called Dr. Rousseau for permission to nurse on the delivery table. Dr. Smith wasn't too hot on that idea and said he had to ask the staff doctor. After Paul was born, I reminded him about it and he said he'd forgotten and it didn't look like he was going to say anything, so I yelled at Dr. Mayo to ask for permission, which he readily granted. Paul was crying very vigorously but wasn't too interested in nursing, though every time I put my nipple in his mouth, he did stop crying. It wasn't an ideal nursing set-up anyway, as Dr. Smith was still working on the episiotomy and the only position I could get into put Paul under my armpit. But it did serve its purpose--I got to hold Paul for a few minutes. The nurse finally whisked him away to the nursery--another thing I didn't go for; I would rather have carried him myself--while they finished cleaning me up.

Walt and I went down to the maternity floor, where all the beds were occupied, so I was installed in a bed in the hall for the night. Then when I asked about something to eat, I was told it was too late. Having had nothing since 7 a.m., I was starving, so Walt went out and brought me a roast beef sandwich and a couple of candy bars. By the time he came back, I wasn't feeling quite as chipper as I had earlier. I had started having afterpains that were really beauts. I knew that the pains got worse with each progressive birth, but didn't expect anything so strong. Walt finally left around 10 and I lay back on my bed of pain. I knew I was bleeding heavily because each time I had a pain, I could feel it trickle out between my legs and I knew I was pretty soggy. Shortly after Walt left, the pains got just horrible--nearly as bad as giving birth--and suddenly I gave a big push and passed a huge blood clot. It took awhile to get the nurse (having no call button to push) and when she came I told her about it and she rushed off in search of help. I felt much better after passing the clot and was relatively comfortable. Then the pains started again and a nurse massaged my abdomen to pass a couple more clots. Dr. Smith came down to start an IV solution of dextrose which stayed in my vein all night.

In the morning, the nurse got me up to take me to the bathroom and left me for a minute. I felt kind of weak and the next thing I knew, I was picking myself up off the bathroom floor. When the nurse came back, I told her what happened. She started to wash me off and again the next thing I knew she had my head in a vice-like grip and was holding some ammonia under my nose and repeating "are you all right?" Never fainted before in my life and all of a sudden I had passed out twice in a period of a couple of minutes. I knew I felt bad when it took me two hours to get up enough strength to walk down the hall to the pay phone to call Walt--and even then I didn't think I'd make it, nor did I talk for long or call anyone else, except Dr. Rousseau (the pediatrician). For me that's weak.

That was 40 years ago. It's difficult to realize that Paul would be 40 years old today. He's permanently frozen at 30.

Happy Birthday, Paul -- Wherever you are

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Go See a Play

We once went to a concert that some friends were giving in Rocklin, which is about an hour's drive from here. It was a dark and stormy night and as I recall, it poured rain all the way from here to the college where the concert was being held. But we hadn't seen Jim and Kari in many years and the opportunity to hear them in concert again was too good to pass up. (Plus they took us to dinner afterwards, which was an unexpected bonus!)

Jim had directed the Newman Hall choir, in which I sang for a number of years. Kari was our #1 soloist. In fact, when Walt and I got married, the choir's gift to us was to perform a Mozart Mass (complete with chamber orchestra) free of charge. It was a very generous gift.

Jim and Kari later married and moved to Los Angeles. Jim continued to sing, but was also a math professor at, I believe, UCLA.

Anyway, I digress. The concert was sparsely attended. Only a handful of souls had braved the elements to come to the concert. Before Jim and Kari were introduced, a guy got up on stage and began to rant and rave about how empty the house was. We felt insulted. We had come to the show, yet he couldn't reach the people who had not come out to hear them, and so all he could do was scold those of us who were there.

It's frustrating to be a part of the arts--any area of the arts--because it totally consumes you -- but, sadly, it doesn't consume the world at large and so when tough economic times (or bad weather) hits, people begin staying away from theatre, concerts, opera, ballet. Without that income, some companies begin to cut back significantly on their productions, which further reduces the appeal to potential audience.

It's like my cataracts. You don't notice that you're losing your sight, but all of a sudden one day you realize that a good part of it is gone, that the world that you once knew isn't there any more.

The Sacramento ballet has announced it is canceling its 2009 season. Instead of doing full productions with sets and elaborate costumes on a big stage in the big community center, they will do smaller shows in smaller venues, without sets and costumes.

The Sacramento Community Theatre has scaled back productions in its black box theatre.

I've spoken with several people who run theatres in the area and the view is glum. Revenues are down so far that everybody is worried. And audience attendance is starting to fall off, as people look at the price of milk and the price of theatre tickets and decide, unreasonably, that they would rather feed their children than splurge on a night at the theatre.

One theatre company is starting a campaign to get everyone in their audience(s) to donate $25 to their operating costs. They figure that the amount is small enough to be affordable and if enough people contributed $25, it might help get them over this tough financial hump.

I spoke with another reviewer this weekend, who was complaining about people who "only" donate $25, realizing that this isn't going to do all that much. He seemed angry that people aren't giving big bucks to help keep theatre alive in Sacramento.

I sort of felt like the audience at Jim and Kari's concert, all those many years ago. He was being angry with the people who are donating and going to the shows, when the real problem is the people who are staying home and not opening up their purses to help the arts (for whatever reason).

When times are tough, all arts suffer - school arts programs are chopped long before anybody will consider shutting down the football program.

When you are in the fortunate position that I am in, and get paid to see a wide variety of theatre, whether community theatre or professional theatre, you realize what a wide range of offerings there are, at all quality levels. There's something out there for everyone's taste.

If you value theatre in your life, even if you only go to a show "now and then," if you want theatre to be available when your children and grandchildren are old enough to go, consider checking out what is available in your area and go to a show. It doesn't matter if it's The Music Man, King Lear, The Big Voice: God or Merman, or some avant garde production that some up and coming playwright has just written. Pick the kind of theatre you like and support it in some way, however small. Send a contribution to your local high school drama program, or perhaps to a theatre company that has brought a smile to your face in times past. Something is better than nothing, and a lot of somethings can add up eventually to a significant something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Lookin' at Stuff

We went to see Theresa Rebeck's play, "The Scene" on Friday night. It's a fast-paced, hard-biting comedy that will sometimes leave you breathless with the pace of it. Tony Shaloub was in the original production and after all these years of watching Monk, it's sure hard to picture Shaloub as this drunken, sex-crazed, disillusioned actor.

The show was held at the Capital Stage, which is a theatre on the riverboat, The Delta King, which floats on the river along Old Sacramento. A fun place to visit.

It had been raining and the streets were wet. Walt pulled into the parking lot and let me out to start walking to the theatre. I started down the gangplank to the boat and looked off to my left, where the J Street Bridge was all lit up.

TowerBridge.jpg (47236 bytes)

I felt like I was seeing it...really seeing it...for the first time.

Today we went back to Sacramento for a matinee of a play called "Gem of the Ocean" by August Wilson (intense, but excellent play) and coming home there was the most beautiful sunset. I felt like I was seeing a sunset for the first time.

"Toto, I've a feeling we aren't in Kansas any more" !!

I'm sure I'm sounding like a broken record about all this eye stuff, but it's like seeing the world for the first time in a very long time. We sat down at the dinner table the other night and I commented to Walt that I had been about to point out that even the table area was much brighter, but that I'd laughed to myself as I realized that he'd replaced one of the bulbs in the chandalier that had burned out. He looked confused and then said "Yes, but I did that three weeks ago."

So it wasn't my imagination. The room is brighter. I'm enjoying this so much that I've already started to fear losing it. If I ever need a reminder of what things were like a week ago, all I need to do is to close my now-good eye and look out of the other one to see how dull the colors are, how it looks to have part of my vision blocked by a cataract.

I see the doctor tomorrow for my final post-op and one of the questions I will be asking him is what are the chances of a cataract developing again. I don't know how many years I'd been incubating this thing, but I know it was diagnosed at least 10 years ago. It was only within the past year that it started making it difficult for me to function normally.

But for how many years had it put me in this muted world where I could see, but not truly appreciate the colors around me? I look at the photos that I post now and realize that I never really saw them before. I may still not have much depth perception but I sure can tell the difference between disappointing photos and the same photo as I look at it now.

So I am going through my days now, just "lookin' at stuff" literally with new eyes...or eye...and appreciating the beauty that I always appreciated before but now have an entirely new perspective on.

Life is good.

Tonight's Vignette: I cooked a turkey breast last night, so we had leftovers for dinner tonight. My stomach was feeling a little unsettled, so I opted not to have dinner, but I dished Walt a big plate of turkey, stuffing and vegetables. He sat down and then remembered that we had some leftover cranberry sauce in the fridge, so he got up to look for it (actually, I had eaten it last night). When he got back to the table, all of his turkey was gone. Lizzie had stolen it. Damn dog.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not for the Squeamish

A warning to those who are squeamish about such things: the following journal entry will contain lots of references to female parts that some people might prefer not be discussed, and refer to parts by names that I have recently discovered some people have never heard before. This will be graphic. Well, as graphic as I am able to write (which does not border on the pornographic, for those who are fearful of that)

One of the new "in" things in female cosmetic surgery is labiaplasty. This is the procedure by which a woman's labia (since I recently found someone who had never heard the term, I will define it as the "lips" of the vagina) are reduced in size so that the whole vaginal area can be much smaller, and, in many cases, have the look of a young girl. Some people call it having a "designer vagina." (There is a section of The Vagina Monologues, where the women in the cast call out all the euphemisms that have been used for the word "vagina." My favorite was "Coochi-snorcher," and I'm wondering if you have a "designer vagina" would it then be a Gucci-Snorcher?)

I am intimately familiar with this procedure because it's the new specialty of my former boss and I an his web page designer, so with all the photos I have posted to the page, I may have come close to seeing more female genital parts than Hugh Hefner.

Well, maybe not Hugh Hefner. But let's just say that if you add the number of months I helped with pelvic exams and the number of larger-than-life pictures which regularly appear in my e-mail (it's a better waker-upper than a cup of coffee!), I've seen my share.

It's a procedure which has come under much discussion of late. Time magazine just did a big article in which my former boss is quoted, and so he was very eager to update his web site yet again.

sizesample.jpg (28264 bytes)I was the one who decided how the photos should be displayed and I did what I could to make them as small and "medical" as possible, adding a copyright note and cropping them (an oddly appropriate word to use!) from their huge size down to a size that is just large enough to be definable. And for the record, the photo at the left is of stones, and has nothing to do with any female body parts...but it's the size that all of those full-screen size crotch shots end up by the time I get them to the web site.

Since this procedure is increasing in popularity, I was discussing it at a couple of gatherings I attended recently and was really quite surprised at the reaction I got, especially among one group of women who were repulsed at the thought of their vaginal areas. "Who wants to look at that?" they asked.

It could be because I worked in ob/gyn for so many years, but I asked if they had ever looked at themselves. "!" was the not-surprising response, given the initial reaction.

That was me, before I went to work for ob/gyn. It had never occurred to me to look at my own body. All those body parts are attached to me, but I had no idea what they looked like. It is surprising how many women have never looked at themselves. I remember one couple who came to our office years ago. They were newlywed and were having a terrible time consummating their marriage because it was excruciatingly painful for the woman. There are conditions which make it painful to engage in sexual intercourse, but in this case, with the help of the doctor and a mirror, they solved the problem by pointing out the difference between the urethra and the vagina...the man had been attepting to put tab A into the wrong slot.

I guess I'm less surprised at women who have never looked at their bodies than I am at women who are disgusted (and in some cases nauseated) by the thought of looking at their own bodies. Does it disgust us to look at our fingers? Our toes? Our ears? Why should our vaginas be any more "disgusting"? I've seen some pretty ugly toes, believe me!

But even more amazing is that women would undergo the (reportedly) excruciatingly painful bikini wax procedure or have someone take a knife to their labia just to create a smooth youthful looking vagina. (especially if you are disgusted to look at it in the first place.

But my former boss reassures me that women are so incredibly grateful afterwards. I'm not one to criticise what people do with their money--or their bodies. But this is one that is more difficult for me to understand than a lot of procedures. (That said, however, there are some women whose labia are so large that they interfere with their lives. Those are in a different category from the "designer vaginas.")

The other "in" surgery for women, especially Muslim women, is hymen restoration. For those unfamiliar with the term "hymen," it is the membrane which covers the vaginal opening, which is usually broken with the first sexual intercourse (though it has sometimes been known to be accidentally broken during other vigorous activity, such as playing sports). This procedure gives them what they feel is a "renewed virginity" (and fools the potential husbands of women who have been sexually active before marriage).

There is also apparently a "G-spot enhancement" procedure, which must be renewed every few months (big bucks each time).

Ain't modern medicine grand?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Photo Safari

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I spent a delightful day today. Peggy recently sent me (after a year of my begging, cajoling and teasing her about it), a collection of DVDs which contained most of the photos that she took on her trip to Africa and to Scotland last year (she visited a friend in So. Africa, then flew to Scotland to meet her family and attend the Tattoo in Edinburgh, and then back to Africa for more photo taking). I told her before she left that I would have to take the trip vicariously through her photos and today I finally made my trip to Africa.

In truth, though I've had these DVDs for awhile, I had only watched some of them. And I'm glad that I hadn't watched more. The difference in how the photos look now, post-surgery, and how they looked when I first got them is the difference of night and day. Where they were nice photos before, now many of them just pop with color, even in the fairly homogenous African landscape.

Peggy and I share a love for animals and those who have been reading this journal for awhile may remember that we first became friends through our mutual love of watching the animals through Africam. Peggy's favorites were always the zebras.

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(She actually won an award in a photo contest for this one)

But I loved the elephants. When I first asked her to send me all of her photos rather than waiting to make a slide show (I'm still "going to make a slide show someday" of my pictures from Australia!), she asked "how many pictures of elephants can you see?" Well, as it turns out--I couldn't get enough of 'em. She had lots and lots of elephant encounters and I loved looking at all the photos of every single one of them.

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I remembered when the two of us had gone riding camels in Australia and I wished I had been with her in Africa so we could have laughed about riding elephants.

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I even posted one of her elephant videos for today's video of the day.

But there were hippos and rhinos and cheetas and giraffes and hyenas and warthogs. Heck, even the water buffalo were great. And the birds! What wonderful bird photos she managed to get!

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(I can't see this photo without wanting to burst
into a chorus of "3 Little Birds...")

So I feel like I've had my own little mini photo safari to Africa today. Without the expense, the bumpy ride, the heat and the dust. And without the excitement. But taking the trip vicariously was better than not taking the trip at all.

Friday, January 23, 2009

taking it for a test drive

We'll it's had a couple of days to rest and relax and it was time to take the eye out for a test drive.

The Academy Awards nominations were announced at 5:30 this morning. Since I'd been awake since 3, I was there to see it all live. It wasn't that I had insomnia. I had actually fallen asleep some time between 9 and 9:30, so by 3, I had been sleeping six hours, which is like a full night for me. So I piddled around the house doing stuff and then at 5:30 I was there for the reading of the nominations (then I fell back asleep and slept until nearly 9--unheard of for me!). The Oscar nominations echoed the Golden Globes -- Slum Dog Millionaire took 10 nominations, including best picture (it won best picture at the Golden Globes).

So when Walt asked if I wanted to go see Slum Dog Millionaire this afternoon, I jumped at the chance. It was my first chance to be out and about. On the drive home from the hospital, I was still adjusting to things, but I'm getting used to bright colors, I've found a pair of old glasses that kinda sorta work for me and the eye doesn't get as tired of seeing as it did the first day. I also wanted to stop at a store on the way home and see if I could find some of those over the counter glasses that allow you to read better. If I could find the right pair, maybe they would tide me over until I get my new lenses a month from now.

My vision is so "normal" is that I never even thought about it during the movie. Either it was because the movie was so good or I'm really getting used to the "new normal."

Go. Go and see Slum Dog Millionaire. I was prepared to like it, but in the first few minutes I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. But the little boys in the movie are so wonderful and engaging despite horrible situations that you can't help but be drawn in, and by the time they grow up, you're hooked on the story itself. And when it's all over, you know why it won the Golden Globe for best picture of the year. Do yourself a big favor and see it.

Of course, when we came out, I had a craving for Indian food. We did the next best thing and went to Katmandu, which is Nepalese, but curry is curry. Walt had lamb curry, I had lamb coconut and both were delicious. I even ordered a glass of wine to celebrate my return to almost-visual acuity.

I have joined the ranks of the people raving about how great cataract surgery is, and frustrated that there is no way you can demonstrate "before" and "after." I did note with great pleasure that I could look into an oncoming headlight without it giving me a headache, or without the halos completely filling my field of vision.

We went to Longs after dinner and I tried their magnifying glasses, but unfortunately even with my "improved" vision, they still don't have a strong enough pair for me. The magnification only goes up to +3.0 and I suspect I need at least +4.0. But that's OK. I can continue to use what I'm using now.

So I'm very happy!

When we got home I went to sit down at my computer and discovered that the webcam which sits on the monitor was gone. Walt had done a lot of crawling around under my desk (since I can't get down there myself) trying to organize some cords and apparently in the process had knocked the camera off.

The problem was that we couldn't find it. He didn't know what it looked like and I couldn't bend down to see if I could find it. I finally had the solution.

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I turned the camera on from the keyboard and shined the flashlight around and voila! We found it right away.

There is great news about Nicki. She's gone two whole days without an accident at Ashley's house. She's spent a lot of time in her cage, but it's working. She also finally learned about cheese and will take it out of Ashley's hands as a reward. At the same time not one, but two families, one in So. California and one in Oregon, are interested in her. Maybe it's finally Nicki's turn for a forever home--and maybe she's learned enough that a placement will be a success. Hold the good thought!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Modified Rapture

One thing you discover when you announce that you're having cataract surgery, when you're my age, is that it seems that everyone has either had it, or knows someone (or lots of someones) who have had it. The reports are unanimous. Glowing. Ecstatic. My mother, for example, has been so excited for me and has told me again and again how my world will change, how I will be amazed at how much brighter things are.

Because I can be a bit of a hypochondriac, in my worst moments prior to surgery, I was convinced I was going to be blind. In my most optimistic, I hoped that it would be as good as people said, but I wasn't going to let myself get over-enthusiastic until I saw it for myself.

We got to Kaiser early,because of encountering no traffic whatsoever, and they took me into the darkened office almost immediately. The med tech removed the bandages and yes, I could see. Blurry, but I could see. There was also a kind of dark line along the left edge of my eye whenever I moved my eye from side to side. I mentioned this to the tech, who just asked if it was a flash or ...something else. I don't remember what and mumbled "mm-hmm" when I told him it was like a flash.

He put up the eye chart for me to read. I asked if I should put on my glasses and he said that my glasses wouldn't work any more. Problem was I still couldn't read the chart. I explained that the doctor wasn't going to correct my vision to perfect and that I would still need glasses. He didn't respond.

I stumbled through reading the letters I could, disappointed because previously I could zip through that chart in nothing flat. He gave me something with holes, like a sieve, to look through, and that made it a bit better, but not much.

"Not bad for the first day," he said.

Harumph. This was not the brilliant "a-ha!" moment I had hoped for.

The doctor came in and did his bit, said things were fine and that when I came back for my next appointment, next week, he'd set me up with an appointment for new glasses. I asked him about the dark line at the side of my eye and he said that sometimes the gel in the eye leaked out a bit and that it would probably go away in time (my mother confirmed, later, that this was the case with her too).

During the course of the exam, the doctor turned on the overhead lights and I closed the operated-on eye to look out of the "bad" eye again and noticed the difference in how muted the colors were vs. the brilliant colors I was seeing with the newly operated eye. The doctor's shirt wasn't this muted blue-grey color, but a nice bright blue color. The folder on the wall wasn't tan, it was bright orange!

Walking back to the car was kind of a voyage of discovery. I put on my glasses and everything was more blurry, but better than without my glasses. I could read signs if the print was big enough, but couldn't read them at all without my glasses.

The drive back home was kind of trying out new things. Thrilled to note that the things about driving that made me give it up were gone. No more the shadows in my vision, cars coming at us with headlights on didn't blind me. And yes, the world around me was so much brighter. But I also couldn't focus. And it would apparently be at least a week before we could do anything about that.

When we got home, I remembered that I had some old glasses still around here, so I tried a pair of those, with a slightly weaker prescription and those were actually better. Not good, but definitely better.

The main difference I noticed was with the computer screen. The difference in color and brightness is literally the difference between night and day. Photos I've taken and posted look completely different to me now and was that blue line at the bottom of my screen always an electric blue? Best of all, the letters I am reading are black, no longer grey.

I worried about using the wrong glasses and spending too much time on the computer, so I sent a note to the doctor (love that you can now e-mail your doctor!) He wrote back that I can use whatever glasses work and repeated that he'll set me up for an appointment when I come back next time, but said something he hadn't said before--I will get my new lenses in about a month. Obviously this is to give the eye time to completely heal, but I will be coping with the wrong lenses until then, but that won't hurt my eye.

About computer usage, I am cleared to do whatever I want. I suspect the limiting factor is going to be eye strain, but apparently I'm not in danger of damaging the eye by over-use.

As the day has passed, either I'm getting used to it, or it's already beginning to settle into what it's going to be. I am thrilled to walk outside into the bright sunlight and realize that I can see and not that I have to shield my eyes. I can watch TV with the windows uncovered. I can look across the room at the clock and not have to squint. I am going to be better, and I am going to be back to normal very soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

I thought about Disneyland rides many times during my time in eye surgery yesterday.

Cataract surgery is so routine that they have it down to a well oiled machine. They take you into the big prep area. There are lots of cubicles with lots of patients. They ask your name, check your arm band (the band is put on the side of the eye that's to be operated on), give you a gown and hat and send you off to disrobe from the waist up.

Then they settle you in a chair not unlike a dentist's chair and the questions start: What is your name? What is your birthdate? Why are you here? Who is your Doctor? Which eye is being operated on? I will be asked this set of questions at least six more times before the surgery begins.

They take vitals, take blood, get my glucose level, start a Versed drip (when I can read again, I must remind myself what Versed is--I am writing this part of this report before the bandages come off, and can't really read any thing!)

"Do you have anyone at home to take care of?"I am asked. "Do puppies count?" I answered. We start talking about the puppies and they tell me what a good person I am.

Then they start the eye drops. The nurse tells me that other patients say that the worst part of the whole procedure is either the eye drops or the waiting. I didn't mind either. They administer eye drops about four times, asking me to keep my eyes closed in between drops. Before the first drops, they ask me to look up at the ceiling and there are two pictures up there--one of a couple of Weimeraners and one of a maltese puppies, I feel good about this.

After the drops have taken their effect, my doctor comes in, almost unrecognizable because of being gowned and masked. He puts in more drops and tells them I'm good to go. I am to keep my eyes closed.

That's when Mr. Toad's Wild Ride starts. A door somewhere behind me opens and my chair begins moving backwards, snaking from side to side across a room. I can't see where I am going. When I get to wherever I am going, a cloth is put over my face and it all begins.

I've often wondered why it is that you see colors and patterns when you close your eyes. I don't remember what music was playing when I got into the room (and I vowed I would remember becuase it seemed to me it was significant), but it caused red patterns to play behind my closed eyes. Then the music changed and I saw brown diagonal lines.

I wondered how it would feel, and I felt nothing. No pain, no pressure, no nothing. But I could through my eye, a psychedelic experience. It was a large point of light that changed as he worked. I thought I would be able to see the cataract being removed, but I couldn't tell when that happened. I did, however, see the newe lens (I think) being put in.

The nurses told me that my doctor was one of the fastest and it ceretainly didn't seem to take long before it was all finished and I had been bandaged. I didn't even see him when it was over, but the nurse did all the post-op stuff that you do, brought me my clothes (I wore my Obama inauguration shirt) and read me the post-op instructions, since I knew I couldn't read them myself. Then she guided me out to the waiting room, since not only can I not see with glassese on with this bad eye, but without glasses on it was impossible.

When it was over, Walt guided me down to the cafeteria where I got something to eat, since I hadn't eaten anything since dinner. Then we drove home. I took a picture of myself with the eye dressing and managed to e-mail it off to Jeri and Ned. Jeri called me and asked if I wanted her to post it on Facebook, and I said that yes, she could do that.

It was good to have the inauguration to watch when we got home. I had recorded the whole thing and so it was like watching it "live." I dozed here and there, which was probably good. It was weird that I was having a sensation of sparkles in my eye as I sat there. It was like the colored sparks you see at the very end of a fireworks display. Those disappeared eventually.

By dinner time (Walt went and got Chinese food), I was going into internet withdrawal, so managed to send myself the sae picture I'd sent to Jeri and Ned, managed to get on line and to pick it up and post it to facebook. It's really weird--this right eye is NOT used to seeing and my body is not used to being blind on the left side instead of the right side. It's a struggle, but I'm finding ways to compensate. A magnifying glass is a godsend.

I've decided to post this this morning before I go to the doctor. I can't spend much time at the computer. I've been here about 30 minutes and my "bad" eye is starting to really be affected by the glare. But at least I wanted to get this chapter of the story done.

And I'm very proud of myself for posting this while still half blind!

Anyway, bottom line is that all the medical people said that the procedure went well and we'll find out in a couple of hours if they're right or not!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Peggy Fixed it!!!

I knew there was a reason I kept that girl around.

Peggy called this afternoon, to wish me well on tomorrow's surgery and to offer suggestions for how to fix my computer. The last time this happened, I was very proud of myself for running a diagnostic which apparently fixed the problem because it started right away afterwards.

This time, I ran the diagnostic and thought I'd fixed the problem when the computer started up again, but it started up only to the wallpaper on my desktop. It didn't start Windows and thus I could not get to any programs (or even turn the thing off without hitting the off button.

Well, Peggy asked if I'd started in "safe mode," which I had not thought of. She told me how to do it, I did, then, following her suggestion, reset things back to a December date when it had worked right. It reset things, then started back up again and voila! I was back in business.

So. Each time I crash, I learn something new. Each time I crash I remember the one vital thing that I need that I forgot to store on my external hard drive. So I've now moved THOSE things over. Enough crashes and I won't panic whenever things go sour.

I worked all day on the laptop and it was brutal. Well, I actually didn't work all day on the laptop. I was trying to write a review and the screen was so bright I could hardly see it, so I kept taking half hour breaks. But it did finally get written, so I'm good to go have my eye cut open now.

Thank you, Peggy. You are a gem.

davesm.jpg (159111 bytes)I love this photo. It's so "Dave."

The thing about social networking is it's so darn fun. I've all but given up on Twitter. Twitter is peopled more by tech geeks and is designed more for people on the go to arrange to meet other people, to report on meet-ups with other people, to talk about tech stuff. I follow lots of people there and lots of people follow me, but I don't feel that I really know anybody there (other than people I know in real life)

Facebook is more social. With more and more of my real-life friends joining Facebook (18 of our Pinata group are on it, for example, along with some of the spouses of the kids; 28 of the one of the groups I used to belong to on CompuServe, 7 from another group I was very active in, etc., etc.)

One of the nicest thing about Facebook is the people who find each other. I had a note from a girl --well, woman now, I guess-- who was a foreign exchange student in Davis when Dave was in his Senior year in high school. She just posted a bunch of photos from her time here, including a few of David. She managed to find me and sent me a link to her photos--that's how I found this photo.

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Laurel also posts picturers of Brianna on Facebook, like this new one of Bri and Daddy enjoying the beach on Martin Luther King day.

I love Facebook.

We are presently puppy-less. Ashley came and picked all three puppies up. Tater and Tot went off to a home in Elk Grove, south of Sacramento; Nicki went to Ashley's. We'll evaluate in a week and see when/if they are going to come back. Two people have contacted Ashley about Nicki and one of them sounds really good, so I'm hopeful again. I have to admit that being able to shut the back door to keep out cold and mosquitos, having no puddles or poop to pick up, and not having Nicki's shrill bark alerting me to her every demand has made for a lovely, relaxing evening.

So. This is the last entry before The Day. There will be no entry for tomorrow, but Walt will put an entry into the guestbook for this entry after we get home from surgery to let you know how it all went. I'm going to spend the afternoon, after we get home, watching the DVR of the inauguration. All you guys cheer for me at the moment when power changes from Bush's hands to Obama's. I'll be with you in spirit.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Are (almost) One

Since I'm not going to be able to watch the inauguration live, I made a point of catching the inaugural concert this afternoon, and what a thrilling experience it was.

There were three pictures that will be seared into my brain when I think of the day. The first is the photo at the left. It's an obvious image that I know the organizers had in mind. But the sight of our first African American president standing in front of the Great Emancipator was just thrilling.

I also thought about Lincoln, the man, and wondering what he would think if he could hear himself talked about by many as the greatest president; if he could see the esteem and reverence with which he is held today. I suspect he'd be flabbergasted.

The other two mental memories are less obvious. One was the sight of--I think it was Sasha--who had a camera and was taking pictures of some of the stars performing. My first thought when the Obamas came out onto the stage and sat down in the family section was that nobody had a camera. The first thing I would have grabbed was a camera. Then I laughed as I realized that they aren't going to need cameras ever, ever again--their every move is going to be recorded for history. But it was cute to watch Sasha taking pictures.

The third mental image is the sight of that little girl in pink, sitting behind the Obamas and Bidens. She slept through the whole program and was just so cute. I'm wondering how she's going to feel when she grows up and looks back on all these historical photos and sees herself zonked out behind the president!

But other than those images there was the sight of the mall, filled to overflowing with people, and the cream of the crop of entertainers on the stage. Some strange choices for people to participate, but each did a great job and the choruses were wonderful.

I did feel sorry for the poor guy who sang the National Anthem, who either didn't come in on time so didn't sing the first line, or whose mic didn't pick him up until the second line. And then there was the odd pause at the end when he wasn't quite sure when to come in...but finally hit it just right. But I'll bet he had some sweats over that song.

I was also very disappointed that HBO, for some reason, didn't broadcast the invocation by Bishop Robinson. Apparently their broadcast started after he gave that. Since that was one of the reasons I wanted to watch the concert, it was a big disappointment--and no news seems to have picked it up. You can read the text of the invocation here but in searching for it, I read a report that not only did HBO not pick it up, no news service has photos of him and the people close to the stage who were there to hear him couldn't because his mic was not turned on. He also gave the invocation before the Obamas and Bidens made their entrance, so he wasn't really a part of it all. (You can bet that Rick Warren will get much better treatment on Tuesday). I guess we are all one, except for the gay bishop.

I also suspect there was something that went wrong with the eagles. If there was nothing that went wrong, their presence seemed a bit dumb. I thought the first guy looked nervous, like his bird wasn't behaving properly, and then they introduced that bird's "friend" who also flapped his wings ineffectually. I thought they were going to send the thing soaring out over the crowd, which would have been cool. Otherwise, I'm not sure why the birds were there.

But it was a wonderful celebration anyway, offering promise of the inauguration festivities to come.

The only downer is that as I started to write this, my computer died. Or rather, I killed it trying to do something that has not been working for me lately. Now I can get the computer to start, with much cajoling, but it never starts Windows. It just shows me my desktop wallpaper and nothing else.

So I've spent a long time setting up the laptop to be used until I can get around to contacting my guru to see what he can do. I can't even have him here until after my surgery when I can actually see what he's trying to show me.

If it's not one thing, it's another! (I hope this is not an inauspicious sign for my surgery! I tend to think about stuff like that.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back to Normal

Rejoice with me for I have found the cell phone that I had lost.

Well...lost isn't exactly accurate, but "the cell phone that I left at my mother's" doesn't exactly jibe with the Bible verse.

Yes, the cell phone is back. Feel free to call again, all you hoards of person that call me regularly. ("hoards of person" is not a typo, it's a joke).

We spent a quiet morning here, cleaning recorded stuff off the DVR in preparation for recording all of the inauguration while I'm at Kaiser so I can squint at it with my bad eye when I get home after surgery on Tuesday. Around about noon, we packed the pups into the carrying cage and headed off to my mother's.

There it was--my cell phone--right where I'd left it. I was back in business. I sent notes to Jeri, Ned and Tom, letting them know I had my phone again. Jeri immediately sent me the photo she'd been wanting to send for the past couple of days.

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Brrrr!!! -- and she LIKES living there!

Ned sent me this picture of his friend Michael

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Later, on the ride home, I was able to send them a picture when we stopped for dinner.

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And just think. Sharing information like this was impossible for four whole days! How did we ever survive?

We had a nice visit with my mother and I finally remembered to take her the Christmas presents from Brianna that Tom gave me in December. Great pictures of Bri, Tom and Laurel.

The puppies were well behaved. Tater, my little shadow, followed me all over the place. Tot, who seems more needy, but who is really more independent, found herself a nice quiet spot to go back to sleep after the nap she was having in the dog carrier was so rudely interrupted.

We stopped at Staples on the way home so I could buy jewel cases. I had reached a point where I was in danger of filling up my 125 gig hard drive. I was down to only 378 MB, so I've been deleting files and burning disks like crazy. I quickly ran out of jewel cases to put all the CDs in (and will soon run out of CDs). But at least I'm back up to 8 gigabytes again. Naturally, we couldn't just run in and out of Staples, so we both wandered around a bit. Walt just (finally!) bought himself a new computer this week and is looking at Vista-compatable software. I was drooling over a 1 terabyte external hard drive. But we managed to leave with only the jewel cases I came in for (and another box of CD jewel case inserts).

We ended the night with dinner at In'n'Out Burger. Are we the last of the big time spenders or what? I remember when I first heard of In'n'Out Burger. Someone waxed poetic about how it was the very best fast food joint in the world and that they had the most fantastic fries ever. Well, I have to admit that it has never grown on me. I like my burgers unadulterated and when I suggested we eat there, I forgot that In'n'Out burgers come with sauce and tomato and lettuce. As for the fries--well, I guess I just like more grease. Like the burgers, they were OK, but for junk food, I prefer Jack in the Box.

But you can't beat the price!

So the day ends quietly. The children are nestled all snug in their beds with visions of doggie treats dancing in their heads. May they sleep all night again (but that may be too much to hope for).

By the way, for those in D.C. on Monday, be sure to stop by Dupont Circle, where there is going to be a big "saging" ceremony to rid the city of the bad Bush vibes. I wish I were going to be there myself!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Guestbook

guestbook.jpg (23909 bytes)It's hard to believe that it was nearly 30 years ago when Curtiss Reed, my "boss" at The Experiment in International Living, visited our house and left behind a guestbook, in which he inscribed "May all your guests find you in good health and high spirits. It was a pleasure to be here."

We had guests in those days and had no way of realizing how many of them would end up filling the guestbook--or how many corners of the world they would come from. Peggy was the last person to sign (in 2000...the previous people who signed were people who had come for Paul's funeral in 1999), With Peggy's signature, we now had visitors from 6 of the 7 continents (I doubt we will ever have a guest from Antarctica!)

On the first page alone, which runs from November to December of 1980, there are people from Brasil, Israel, Chile, and Japan (not bad for only 12 signatures!)

The next page adds Zaire (now Congo) to the list. It's also the page with family signatures, my father's distinctive signature, and Walt's mother's, when her hand was still steady. It was a Christmas after my parents separated because my father was here on the 25th of December and my mother and her soon-to-be husband were here on the 27th.

A new group of Brasilians came here and all signed the next couple of pages. It was when I met my Brasilian Brother, Nelson. The page has signatures of some of the host families who met here to pick up their assigned exchange student, including Walt's old secretary, whose student ended up in the hospital and made things tense between the secretary and me for many years--it was not a good situation at the time. But Charlie was here also. He had met our Brasilian daughter, Sonia in a local bar. After a stormy relationship that lasted many years and spanned the distance between here and Davis, they finally married, and now live here. Their two kids are grown now and are Facebook friends of mine!

Ari is on the next page. Ari was from Brasil and in retrospect I understand that he was weird because he was on drugs all the time. When he left here, he left us with a bank account with $300 in it, which we were to send to him when he sent us an address. After a year, we just took it and figured it was our reward for putting up with him. That was 1981 and we still have never heard from him. He was going from here to Colombia and I always assumed he ended up in prison there.

Damar and Gaby were from Zaire and had been introduced to us as cousins of Ndangi, the student who came to us through The Experiment, but we learned later that they were not. They were terrible people who abused our hospitality and later, when they moved in with Ndangi, who was by now living in San Francisco, they abused his as well. Ndangi did ultimately apologize to me for putting us through Damar and Gaby.

On the next page we have a couple of people from France and another person from Japan. Hitomi still writes to me from time to time, usually at Christmas. She has e-mail but rarely uses it. But she was a lovely woman from Osaka and we enjoyed getting to know her.

The next page adds Italy to the list. I don't think this guy stayed with us, but I think he was someone else's exchange student.

Suzanne was from Switzerland. Jeri stayed with her when she traveled around Europe. What I remember most about Suzanne is that she rode a bike from Davis to the north end of Sacramento to check out a car she was thinking of buying--that's a distance of 20-30 miles. (And then she rode back again!)

Faouzi and Kamal were brothers from Morocco. I haven't heard from Kamal since he left Davis, but Faouzi still writes to us at Christmas time and we visited him and his family once--I don't remember where, but somewhere in the midwest. Ohio, maybe, when we went to visit Jeri, doing summerstock there.

Matt was a guy the local priest asked us to host. We were told he was a Korean student who needed a place to stay. Well...yes. Sort of. He was Korean by nationality, but was born and raised in Los Angeles. But that was OK. He moved in with us for several months and was here to tutor Pujol, our year-long exchange student from Brasil, with his math classes. Matt still lives in Davis and walks everywhere.

Fouad was also from Morocco and I'm the only person who ever met him. He was a friend of Faouzi who was traveling around the United States and needed a place to spend the night. Everyone had gone to bed when he arrived. We visited for maybe 10 minutes, he unfolded his prayer rug and prayed, slept, and I fixed him breakfast at 6 a.m. He was gone before anybody else in the house was awake!

Henriet was an AFS exchange student who was living with another family, but became best friend of our exchange student Pujol. They went to the prom together. The two of them both just joined Facebook, so are in contact again, as are they with the host of Chilean students who were also part of their group. Those pages also include Raul from Argentina and Miguel from Uruguay, whom I don't remember at all.

So many names, so many memories. Fiona from England who played a lovely piano duet with Jeri; Pepe from Venezuela who (probably) stole a telephoto lens from me. (We have no proof, but never saw it again after he left.) Rodrigo who had such a unique stance when you took his photo that Walt still assumes it today, when he thinks of it. (And who thought Walt's "Pie are round, cornbread are square" a very funny joke.) Henrique from Brasil who came to Davis unannounced, invited himself into our house and stayed five months. Kaoru from Kanagawa, Japan, who was very nice and totally unable to communicate. I was always sorry that the language barrier was such a problem for us.

Eduardo, our very first student, didn't sign until 1987 because I didn't have a guestbook when he was here. But he came back in 1987 for a visit along with his friend Celso, who was also here with Eduardo in 1981.

There is Marie, from Mexico, who now runs her own restaurant outside Sacramento, Nora from Ireland (Walt's mother's cousin), Felix from then-Yugoslavia (now Croatia)

There are signatures of people who aren't here any more: David, Paul, Michele, my father, my mother's husband, our goodfriend Stan Morrow and probably others.

There start to be more friends and fewer foreign students, including a guy named Phil, who signed in 1993. I think he married Jeri last year. Heck, even Walt signed in 1993.

Probaby a good thing I never had a guestbook designed for dog paw prints....

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's a Plane. It's a Bird!

I've been watching the reports of that plane that went down in the Hudson River today, after impact with a flock of geese. From all reports, it was a masterful piece of flying by the pilot and, at least as of this writing, there don't appear to be any fatalities, or even serious injury. It's nice to have a tragedy like this turn out good.

But I was surprised by one comment that I heard on one of the interviews. Someone asked how often this sort of thing happened and the interviewee said it was extremely rare.

I guess it surprised me because I once typed the transcript of a conference about the danger of birds to airplanes. It was a very long transcript and I learned a lot about it (most of which I have forgotten, since this was a job I did more than 20 years ago). But I remember being amazed that it never occurred to me that birds could be a danger to aviation. I especially remember being amazed at the size of the bibliography, which was the size of a small book all by itself.

I remember was that there are whole areas of study devoted to the kinds of bird repelling things you can do around airports, things like the vegetation to plant, noise makers, "bird spikes," and lots of other things I have forgotten.

I did a simple Google search, trying to remember the kinds of things I typed at that time. (I was amazed at how many web pages had gone up on this subject just since the accident today.) One report says that they cause an estimated $600 million in damage yearly. Another report about the experience of the Air Force says, "bird strikes are blamed for killing about two aircrew members every three to five years, downing a couple of USAF aircraft annually, and costing the service between $50 million to $80 million each year."

Lorenz.jpg (16379 bytes)Have you ever heard of Konrad Lorenz? (It's only serendipity that this happens to be a picture of Lorenz with a flock of Canada geese!)

I read Lorenz's book on imprinting when I was working for the Physics Department back in the 1960s and pictures like this have stayed with me all these years. His experiments showed that baby animals imprint on the first figure that they see. The geese adopted Lorenz as their mother and they followed him everywhere.

Lorenz's experiment was sort of recreated in the movie Fly Away Home, where a little girl becomes the "mother" to a flock of geese and she has to teach them how to migrate, as their mother would have done (I'm sure you've seen the's a wonderful tear-jerker.)

I'm feeling a lot like Lorenz these days. I don't think we've ever had a group of puppies who have imprinted on me so strongly as Tater and Tot have done. These little guys stay where I put them, huddling together in sleep, but if I walk by, they are up in an instant, begging to be let out. When out and in the house, they stick pretty close to me most of the time. If they go off on their own to investigate all I have to do is call them once and they come racing (again--can they please give lessons to Nicki?)

But the most fun thing, I have to admit, is how much they like sleeping on me. Yesterday they were just fussy. Not hungry, not really ready to go into the playpen, so I put them both in my lap. They start treating me like they would do a mother, sniffing at my mouth and licking me (which is nice now, since they still have "puppy breath"). Tater is determined she is going to give me additional piercings, since she likes to crawl up on my neck and nibble at my ear. Tot would occasionally whimper and I would whimper right back at her. She'd stop crying and pull her head back to search my face for a long time, as if she was trying to figure me out--why I looked like such a strange dog.

The two puppies slept in my lap for a couple of hours yesterday (which was nice, because I napped too). And today they did it again. When they wake up, they wrestle a bit in my lap, but there is no eagerness to get down. It's all very sweet, very much like Konrad Lorenz. I feel the need to "teach" these puppies how to be dogs. (Tot and I had "climbing out of the cage" lessons. Tater figured out how to lift her legs over the lip at the bottom, but it was too complicated for Tot, so I had to show her how to lift her legs one at a time over the lip.)

I'm sorry that they'll have to go away for a week (or permanently). They grow so fast that they will be all grown up (relatively speaking) by the time I'm able to bend over at the waist again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We're No Fakes

After my pre-op appointment today, the doctor told me to go to the pharmacy and pick up the eye drops he had ordered for me. I will be putting them in my eye starting on Sunday and continuing until the bottle is empty, about a week after the surgery.

We went downstairs and found the pharmacy and dutifully checked the board where they post the names of the patients whose prescriptions are ready to be picked up. My name wasn't there yet, but there was a B.Fakes. Well, people do weird things to our name and I wondered if the med tech had somehow typed in the wrong name or if someone in the pharmacy had typed in the wrong name.

They say that if your name hasn't appeared for 20 minutes, to go to the counter and ask. So we sat and waited. After 20 minutes there was still no "sykes" on the board, but B. Fakes was still there. I stood in line for another 5 minutes or so and finally got to a window where I said that my name wasn't there and I wondered if it had been mis-typed.

Well, no, it hadn't. But the doctor's office had phoned in the prescription yesterday, so it was there all along and my name would never have appeared on the board. Sigh.

Yes, the next time I see the doctor will be at surgery. I guess I'm more axious than I realize because my blood pressure when they first took it was 175/115, which is higher than it's ever been. It came down to closer to normal after about five minutes, but still higher than it should have been.

I will be so glad to get this over with. I asked the med tech what was the "worst possible scenario" and he said (which didn't surprise me) "blindness." Yes, I know that this is a simple surgery...but Gilbert died from a "simple surgery," so I wanted to know all the possibilities.

The first thing I asked was about bending over. I thought I had heard or read somewhere that I shouldn't be bending over. And yes, I was correct. I should not bend over from the waist for the first week, because of the rush of blood to the head after you stand up again being a potential for causing the stitches to tear. So I've had to ask Ashley to move Nicki and the puppies. I am thinking that it will probably be a permanent move for the puppies, but I'd be willing to take them back, if nobody wants to keep them. But I'm suspecting nobody is going to want to keep Nicki, and we'll take her back if that's the case.

The other thing is that when I saw him to schedule the surgery, he had told me I'd have an eye patch to wear at night after the surgery to prevent me from rubbing my eye, but it turns out he will have me wear the patch from after the surgery until my post-op the next day (and nighttime after that until stitches heal).

Now, for normal people this would be a minor inconvenience, but for me it's going to render me all but blind. The non-surgical eye is the one I don't use for vision. I can see out of it but 1/2 to 2/3 of the eye is covered by a cataract I can't see through at all. The portion of he eye that I CAN see with has vision that I can use to maneuver around the house, but I can't read with it, for example, so -- pay attention, Ron --


With luck, I will be back on line on the 22nd and I will have Walt put a note in the guestbook for January 20 to let people know how it all went. But unless things are different than I think they are going to be, use of the computer is going to be just about impossible for me while one eye is covered.

Besides, when I tell the story of How It Went, I want to be able to write it, not spend half my time squinting through a high powered magnifying lass to see a couple of letters out of one corner of my "bad" eye!