Sunday, August 30, 2009

Give Up Yer Aul Sins

As usual, I discover this long after everyone else has:

There's a series of these little shorts, which were nominated for an Oscar. Audio recordings were made back in the 1960s of a classroom of Irish schoolchildren recounting favourite Bible stories. Then recently, animated drawings were created to illustrate the stories, and the resulting film was produced by Brown Bag Films.

They make up a series of children's-eye view of Bible and saints' stories, including

The birth of Jesus
The death of Jesus
The birth of John the Baptist
The raising of Lazarus
Jesus healing a blind man
The story of Saint Patrick

They are so naive and charming, with such real belief in the stories. And you can tell they're not just repeating the formula they were told by their teachers - each child puts special emphasis on the details that struck her strongly. The little girl telling the story about John the Baptist gets distracted describing all the possible rewards Salome could have asked for, all the lovely jewellery (because kings are rich and have loads of gold)! And when it comes to the birth of Jesus, the little girl is all caught up in the pathos of the killing of the Holy Innocents, even imagining how shocked the soldiers must have been to get an order like that from Herod: "Even though they were bad, they always wanted to hit their match; they didn't want to hit little babies that wasn't their match." Of course, this cuts no ice with Herod: "And he said yer not to be makin' faces, youse are gettin' well paid."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Post-hospital notes

When I got home from the hospital on Monday afternoon, Dean said to me, "By the way, guess what I've been watching on TV since you left?  Baseball!"  "Oh," I replied, "so there wasn't very much else interesting on?"  "No.  I couldn't figure out how to change the channel!"  The last thing we'd watched on Saturday night was a Jays baseball game on one of the sports channels, and faced with the neverending conundrum of the many remotes, he'd just resigned himself to watching whatever turned up on that channel until I returned.

The other lady in the hospital room with me was much sicker than I was, and she had to have continuous care from the nurses, for bandage changing, cleaning, feeding, you name it.  She was francophone, but her English was excellent - she switched back and forth between the two languages continuously, so she had no trouble understanding English, but I noticed she was sensitive to a particular word:  "complain".  She'd continually preface what she had to say with "I'm not complaining, but..." and then go on to say what the problem was: this hurts, I can't eat that, this position is uncomfortable, whatever.

When a shift changed, a day nurse came on who had obviously just read the notes from the night nurse, and she said to the patient, "I see during the night you complained that..." and the lady cut her off immediately:  "NO.  I didn't!" she said very emphatically.

I finally realized that she didn't understand the word "complain" the way doctors use it.  To her, "complain" only existed in the sense of "I'm going to complain to your boss!"  It indicated a grievance, combined with anger, and a strong hint of blame.  But doctors use the word without any emotional content at all:  "The patient came in complaining of shortness of breath..."  "The patient complained of chest pains during the night..."  Case histories regularly start like this, and if you've heard medical programs, you've heard doctors speak this way.  I guess unless you're dealing with an unconscious patient who can't tell you anything, most medical treatments start out this way: the patient approaches the doctor and tells him what's wrong.  How else will he know that there's a problem?  So to a doctor, the word is completely neutral, meaning just "a report of some negative development".  I wonder how many doctors would be aware of this possible misunderstanding over such a simple word?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Medical update

It turns out I was wrong about my Friday night adventure; it wasn't food poisoning after all. It was the acute onset of appendicitis!

All day Saturday, I was hoping the pain in my lower right abdomen would go away, and it did diminish, mostly when I remained upright. But that night, I woke up just after midnight with the same severe pain I'd experienced the night before. I hovered about for a while, worrying about what to do, and then at 1:30 AM I told Dean I was going to Emergency.

I was suspecting appendicitis, although I didn't have all the symptoms; it was just that the websites all said that if the pain persisted over many hours, you should seek medical treatment. The fact that I couldn't explain what was causing the pain worried me, so I finally felt I had no choice.

Going to Emergency is something I am VERY reluctant to do, because all the horror stories you've heard are true. I've waited over 4 hours in Emergency with pneumonia, so this time I filled a tote bag with books and headed off, expecting the worst, as it was a Saturday night and the first really hot weekend we've had all summer. As I'd feared, the place was crowded. It was also being renovated, so we were all stuffed into a windowless waiting place with bare white drywall walls, chairs and little else. I'm glad I took a taxi, because if I'd driven, I might not have been able to find the entrance, it looked so different.

To my great surprise, I was taken in as a patient after only 1 1/2 hours in the waiting room, before many other people who'd arrived before me. I guess suspicion of appendicitis rates higher on the triage list than many other ailments. I noted with amusement that the very full waiting room was almost entirely composed of locally-grown inhabitants; in other words, very few foreigners. I suspect the weekend and the heat resulted in a LOT of excessive drinking, with the accompanying fights and falling off of porches.

The first doctor who saw me was a little unsure about what was ailing me, because I had no fever, and my blood work showed a normal white-cell count, so she called in the senior doctor, and they speculated that it could be some problem with the liver or pancreas. The end result was that they decided I should have a CT scan. This finally happened about about 9:00 am, and then about half an hour later they told me the result: I had appendicitis. (Ha! I knew I was right!)

Well, then it was a matter of waiting for a room upstairs, which finally came available at around 2:00 in the afternoon (until then I dozed in my Emergency bed), then into surgery at 6:30. It turned out to be more inflamed than they had been able to tell from the CT scan, so the surgery took about 2.5 hours, instead of the typical 1 hour. But it all went well, and I recovered pretty quickly.

The only problem was that I hadn't eaten since 6:00 PM Saturday night, so by Monday morning, what with the anaesthetic and the surgery, I was a bit shaky. And abdominal surgery often has an unfortunate side-effect: bloating and gas. The only way to dispel this is to walk around, but I didn't feel I could safely walk around until I had something to eat. However, I wouldn't be given anything solid to eat until my bloating stopped! So to get out of this Catch-22, I decided to go out and weakly shuffle up and down the hall, holding onto the railing along the wall, until a little relief ensued, and then I was able to eat a VERY light breakfast of Jello and tea. That lemon Jello was the tastiest thing I'd ever had, and the bit of sugar it provided gave me energy to move around a bit more, so eventually I was able to eat a muffin and then felt much better.

They would have released me this morning, but I'd eaten so little, they figured it was better to wait until after lunch, so I got home just a few hours ago.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


We finally have hot weather, and it brought with it a typically unwelcome friend: last night I had a bout of food poisoning.  Dean barbecued a small piece of salmon for me, since I didn't feel like anything very heavy in this heat, and sure enough,  3 hours later I was sick.  Fish is just risky in summertime - I should have remembered that from India.  It probably got warm when he brought it home on the bus, or maybe a fly landed on it when he was getting ready to cook - anyway, I was up half the night with horrible stabbing pain to my lower right abdomen.

By 3:00 AM, I was thinking that maybe if I threw up, it would put an end to the pain, so I willed myself to vomit (you can do it, if you're determined enough), but by then, there was almost nothing left in my stomach.  I guess the salmon was easily digested, whatever its other demerits.

Today the pain is diminishing, but I'm very exhausted, so I'll probably sleep a few hours to try to recover.  I was scared by the stomach pain, because I remember that this is exactly how my mother's stomach cancer came to light: she got food poisoning, but the pain was so severe and lasted so long, she went to hospital, and that's when they discovered the existing condition.  I'm always afraid the same thing will happen to me.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Frankly, my dear Rowan, I don't give a damn

God intended him to sit in a great house, talking with pleasant people, playing the piano and writing things which sounded beautiful and made no sense whatsoever.

I can barely summon the energy to briefly address Rowan Williams' Reflections on the Episcopal Church's July dynamite party, but I have noticed one thing. I wrote about it a full two years ago, and not a single thing has changed. As I put it in that long-ago post,
There is only one thing more predictable than Dr. Williams trying to ride three horses at once, and that is the compulsion of conservative Anglicans to cast the runes every single time to try to divine what portents are hidden in his mystifying utterances....

Every communication is followed by a flurry of "analyses", which usually consist of "Well, he's not saying that..." "Yes, but that doesn't mean that..." "Reading between the lines we see that..." and of course, the ever-popular "Oh, but this is written in Brit-speak; what he REALLY means is..."
As they always have, the "interpretations" have taken on a life of their own, and are now growing like Topsy. They mostly focus on the paragraphs 22 and 23 - the "two tier" Communion idea.
22. It is possible that some will not choose this way of intensifying relationships, though I pray that it will be persuasive. It would be a mistake to act or speak now as if those decisions had already been made – and of course approval of the final Covenant text is still awaited. For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily. But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a 'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with 'covenanted' provinces.
23. This has been called a 'two-tier' model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a 'two-track' model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage, one of which had decided that local autonomy had to be the prevailing value and so had in good faith declined a covenantal structure. If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the 'covenanted' body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.
This has been referred to as Williams' resigned acceptance of, arguing for, proposing, suggesting, recommending, and any number of other expressions in the same vein.

They're all wrong.

The word "possible" or "possibility", occurring 3 times in these 2 crucial paragraphs, tell us all we need to know. He is musing about what may, maybe, if the stars somehow align themselves in a certain configuration, develop in the AC. It's "possible". And who are we to say otherwise? Who can authoritatively state that it's impossible? How can we know? Nobody can predict the future, and surely someone will come along very soon chirping that "Anything's possible with God!" Williams is very careful not to add any qualifiers to tip us off to his own opinion: he doesn't describe this development as "remotely possible" or "highly possible" - no, it's just "possible".

Is anything going to happen as a result of this "Reflection"? No, nothing's going to happen. Everyone will go chasing off in discussions of how this could be implemented, and all the pitfalls and hazards that will attend the enterprise, when in reality, there's no one in charge to give the order to start working on it. Rowan's shot his bolt by giving us a word-portrait of what the future might look like, and he'll never do anything more. But people will spend a good 6 months to a year in emotional turmoil before they notice that Rowan's deep thoughts have once again come to nothing.

He reminds me more and more of Ashley Wilkes in 'Gone With The Wind'. Many people have said the same thing - that he'd have made a fine ABC 150 years ago, when his job would have happily revolved around looking gracious and thoughtful, musing and meditating and the church would have pretty much run along on its own momentum. Unfortunately, everyone else in the AC seems to think they've been cast as Scarlett O'Hara, and so the cries go up from all sides, "Oh, Rowan, you really love ME! You can't possibly love that dull, dumpy Melanie! It's really me you love, isn't it?" And Rowan forever leads them all on with his regretful sighs and pious wishes that everything would just stop being so beastly and go back to the way it used to be. The one thing he'll never do is put an end to the suspense by telling any of the rivals for his affections that it's all over.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

State slogans

I went to bed giggling last night, after reading Mark Steyn's series of posts in The Corner regarding state slogans. He started with a story from his home state of New Hampshire:
As to New Hampshire, a couple of years back some executive dingbat paid a gazillion dollars to some marketing agency to come up with a tourist slogan. What do you get for that kind of expenditure? Six words: "You're going to love it here!"

They put it on a sign on I-93 as you cross over from Massachusetts. There was a huge objection to this seven-figure insipid generic pap, and within weeks it had been replaced with "Live free or die!"
This produced a further post, with a letter from a correspondent about the silly tourism slogan legislators paid good money for in Kansas:
Out here in Kansas we were fortunate enough to be rebranded for a mere $1.7 million down payment. We’re no longer the land of Oz, wheat, and Dodge City, now we are “Kansas: As Big as You Think”. Which is a pretty horrible slogan as it seems to imply that our geographic boundaries are relative to the cognitive abilities of a person pondering the size of Kansas.
But it was the third post that really got me laughing:
A reader writes:
Here in Washington state, a couple of years ago Olympia paid big money to come up with a new state motto. Their contribution: "Say Wa!"
I kinda like that one. Maybe the template will catch on: "Like, DE!" "What The FL?" "PA Humbug!" "The Ego Of ID!" "It's All About ME!" "Here's MD In Your Eye!" "Best VT Forward!" "OK Aye The Noo!" "The End Is NY!" "WY Bother?"
In fact, I even made up a few of my own:
Made it, MA! Top of the world!
Oh, what a tangled web we WV!
Oy, VA!
SCs to be you!
NJ, NJ, wink wink
I'm going to try to come up with one for every state in the Union.

UPDATE: A few more:

NM from the neck up!
AZ you were!
Catch her in the RI!
KS, my ass!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Political spectrum quiz

According to this quiz:
My Political Views
I am a right social moderate
Right: 4.95, Authoritarian: 0.66

Political Spectrum Quiz

Actually, I've mellowed over the years. I'm now right on the border between Libertarian and Authoritarian - when I was younger, I would have been very comfortably in the middle of the Authoritarian quadrant. But I think the freedom of speech issues have pushed me further to the Libertarian side, while moral questions still pull me the other way.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Best photo caption ever

"Just a cop, Skip, and a chump from the White House."

(from Ace of Spades)

Mystery solved

No, I didn't meet a sticky end following my last post - I've been a little sleepy this summer, probably due to the record-breaking rainfall we've endured this July. There's been little to do in the garden as a result.

But I did accomplish one thing - I solved the mystery of the disappearing kitchen knives.

It was almost entirely a matter of deduction. As Sherlock Holmes said, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." I then zeroed in on the one remaining possibility.

In our front closet, there was once long ago an ancient burglar alarm. I removed it, and that left behind a small square hole in the drywall.

I intended to patch it, but it was in an out-of-the-way spot, and no one could see it that easily, so I just kept putting off the job. I wondered...could James have dropped things into that hole, and so between the walls?  I tried to find out by lowering magnets into the hole, but they would always be pulled aside by nails in the studs, and could never get to the bottom.

Finally, I decided to take a chance and open the wall down at the floor level. If there was nothing there, all I'd done was put another little hole in the wall, and I could fix that pretty easily. I picked my spot, avoiding the stud, and started to cut with my drywall knife. I quickly encountered resistance - so much so, that I couldn't actually saw through the drywall. I had to proceed by just poking the knife through one half inch at a time.

Eventually I'd opened a 2" space, and could pull out a square plug of drywall. Sure enough, I could see metal blades in the hole - they were packed in so tight, they were blocking the progress of my saw. With great care, I began pulling them out. This is what I eventually retrieved from the space between the walls:
Dean and I did a count, and we discovered 53 blue plastic clothespins, and 64 assorted knives. There were butcher knives, paring knives, several different kinds of steak knives, rounded knives, you name it. Including a brand-new drywall saw, a pair of scissors, nail clippers and a few small toys. I saw rounded knives from sets of cutlery I'd given away to charity or sold at garage sales years ago - obviously, James had been dropping things into this little hideaway for years. It's interesting that, with a few minor exceptions, he restricted himself to knives and blue plastic clothespins. No spoons, no forks, just these items. I had a strange feeling as I was pulling out this pile of ironmongery - I felt like an Irish Republican family, with a hidden arsenal behind the walls for the moment we rise against the British!

I patched the hole the same day, so I hope he abandons this pastime, rather than finding some OTHER place to hide stuff.