Saturday, March 14, 2009

Speaking of the gov….

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one speaks volumes to me.

Palin and crab That’s a Mama Grizzly on the couch. There’s a bear to the right of her.

I just could not resist! I’m sorry. No, I’m not. We got a thing from Defenders of Wildlife today (you know, that fringe group), and they enclosed a card with this picture on it. I believe my exact words were, “Oh my God! Is that a crab?!” Ken said, “You know…Alaskan king crab.” I said, “I know, and you know I love crab…but who puts a huge crab on their table?”



A couple of readers have said they think this looks photoshopped. I thought so, too, but when I searched for the picture online, the photo is attributed to Stephen Nowers and McClatchy Newpapers, and has a 2008 copyright for the Seattle Times Company. Although I’ve also seen another credit given to “Anchorage Daily News/MCT—Landov.” It states that it was taken in her Anchorage office, and the bear was shot by her father. Here’s the link to the New York Times story that included the photo.

If anyone can find anything showing that it’s a fake, I’ll be happy to print a retraction. From what I’m finding—and I did look before I posted it—it’s legit.

A great Saturday, and there’s a lot of it left!

Notre Dame logo Today is turning out to be a most excellent day. It's sunny, a little warmer (although still far from balmy), and tonight I'm going to my first-ever hockey game! Notre Dame is playing Nebraska-Omaha in a best-of-three series for the playoffs. ND is ranked #2 in the nation in hockey, so this should be a fun game for my first time out. Although I've never followed hockey (even though I lived in North Dakota for five to North Dakotans is like basketball to Hoosiers), I know enough about it so that I won't be entirely in the dark. Three periods, penalty shots, and so forth and so on...should be a good time! And I dedicate my good time at the hockey game to Donna of D's Design's who had surgery this week. Most of you know that Donna loves her Sabres! I'll be thinking of you, Donna, and sending good hockey vibes your way!

Ken and I just had a little discussion about moving. This was based on our friend Joann's comment about how Levi is going to be sorry he didn't marry Bristol, because he'll be left out when Sarah Palin becomes President in 2013. Ken said, "If that happens, I'm moving to Canada." I said, "I'll be right behind you. But how about Australia instead? It's warmer. I bet we'd have a lot of fun in Australia. Or maybe they'll have Mexico fixed by then, and we can move there." So thanks for the laugh, Joann! [grin]

Oh, before I forget, a few of you expressed concern about our neighbor. I had mentioned that it almost seems like he's watching for me when I go out to get the mail. I was just joking, because although it happened several times, I think it's just a coincidence. He's harmless, just a good ol' boy who likes to chat and sometimes even gossip a bit. He knows Ken and has talked to him quite a bit, and usually asks after him and his job. He knows quite a bit about the area and about our house--he knew the people who built it--and he's the one who told us about the iron bed frame out it the woods where a log cabin used to stand. (I thought I had a picture of it on this computer, but I don't. It's neat--it has a 12-inch diameter tree growing up through it.) So no worries about Dave the Neighbor, mates. He's not a bad guy!

And...I had an email this morning that made my day. Check this out:

Hi Beth,

Yeah - I'm real sorry too that we did not get the chance to meet up in person in Chicago, I was in the Smart Bar of The Metro for about an hour after the gig yakking away to whoever wanted to chat & I did look out for you!! Never mind, at least you enjoyed our 1st American Massacre by the sound of your email & MySpace comments. If you send me your mail address & t-shirt size I'll mail you a Godfathers t-shirt & a signed 'Hit By Hit' to make up for it - how's that for service?

Thanks always for your support - without people like you to play to we're nothing!!!

Best wishes to you & yours,

Peter Coyne.

I'm telling you, these guys are just the best. They don't just give lip service about how much they appreciate their fans. They really do. I thought that was so cool and so sweet of him. I'll have Ken take a picture of me in my T-shirt when I get it! A signed copy of the re-released "Hit By Hit." Oh boy oh boy oh boy! I'm as happy as a little rock 'n roll girl!

Godfathers Polaroid

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hope I can return the wedding gift

Breaking up You've probably all heard by now that Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston have not just called off their wedding, they've broken up, just two and a half months after she had their baby.

Some of you might be expecting jokes, or think that I might even...I don't know...gloat about it. No gloating here. I find the whole thing just plain sad.

They didn't take the step of committing to a marriage they weren't ready for, but then, of course, there's still the small matter of having a child to raise. Apparently Bristol is taking courses mostly from home to get her high school diploma, but as far as I know, Levi is still a dropout, and working in the oil fields. The whole thing just makes me kind of ill. As much as I dislike Bristol's mother, I don't feel even a little bit of schadenfreude.

They paraded these kids--and yes, they are kids--out during the convention as an example of family values...saying that yes, they made a mistake but they were committed to making a good life for their baby. In her interview with Greta van Susteren, Bristol said, "Eventually, we'd like to get married. We're focusing on, like, getting through school and just getting an education and stuff, getting a career going." In October, Levi told AP, "We both love each other. We both want to marry each other. And that's what we are going to do."

Fast forward a few months, and what have we got? A young girl trying to get her high school diploma while she takes care of a baby, and the dad a high school dropout, working to pay child support. (I'm assuming that he's paying child support.) Bristol is actually a lot luckier than most young girls who have babies--she's got a family support system that is probably pretty good. Many don't have that.

And yes, I believe this is partly a result of that stupid "abstinence-only" teaching. You know, the stuff that doesn't freakin' work. I'll reiterate: I am not anti-abstinence. Encourage it in kids--after all, it's the safest sex you can have--and encourage them to wait. But be realistic, too, and understand that knowledge is power. If they know all the consequences of unsafe sex, whether it's pregnancy or STD's, perhaps they'll think twice about whether to say yes or no, and if the answer is yes, maybe--just maybe--they'll understand that they need to be safe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An ounce of prevention

Mammogram I celebrated DB's birthday today by going for my yearly mammogram. [pointing to herself with her thumbs] This gal knows how to party!

I'm glad I got it done, though. I was a few months late, because someone who doesn't reside at Nutwood plowed through the health insurance last year, and I wasn't sure if it would be covered. In speaking with the lady who checked me in today, she was fairly sure that it would have been covered because it is preventive care, so I'll have to check with the company that administers the insurance, in case it happens again.

The bad part, of course, was getting the actual films taken. I've read some interesting descriptions of what it feels like to have a mammogram done. One was to stick your breast into the frame of the refrigerator and have someone slam the door as hard as they can. Another was to lay on the floor by your car, place your breast under the back wheel, and have someone back over it.

That's about right.

In an attempt to cut the pain off at the pass, I took three preemptive Advil before I left, and drank two beers. Not enough to impair me, but hopefully enough to take the edge off. I wish now I'd done a couple of double shots of tequila instead of a couple of beers. (Kidding, of course.) OUCH, I hurt. But it's important to have it done yearly, and I can endure a little pain in order to prevent the potential for a whole lot more. I was in and out of there in half an hour, and the actual painful part was only about 12 hours. Nah, it just seemed that way. Maybe two minutes of pain total? I can deal.

One the upside, the place I go to now uses all digital films. I asked. It's more accurate than traditional films, especially for someone like me. Not to go into too much detail, but the key word is dense, and I'm not saying I'm stupid. It's good to know that they use the more accurate and up-to-date technology. The other cool thing was that they had a display of art in the waiting room done by those with cancer or their families. There were acrylics, water colors, mixed media, photographs, etc., and all had a description of what the person was trying to convey, whether it was pain, hope, family, or achieving goals. I didn't have time to look at them all, but there were some remarkable works, and I enjoyed a chance to see them and read the stories behind them

So even though I ended up with my tits in a wringer, I managed to get a little culture along the way. [grin]

Here's my public service announcement. To all my female readers over the age of 40, or younger if you have a family history of breast cancer, please have a yearly screening. It could save your life, and we all want to keep you around for a while. Okay? Okay!

I had a nice surprise in the mail when I went out to get it. A package from Cousin Shane! Oh boy! I had no idea what it was, because he hadn't mentioned anything. When he was in New York, he went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and apparently they had a nice Egyptian exhibit. He got me some really cool notecards with pictures of Egyptian artifacts on them! How sweet of him, and he knows my tastes, doesn't he? Sort of odd, too (we have what we call our Cosmic Cousin Connection), because I watched an Egyptologist on Craig Ferguson's show last night, and she was so cool. I was already planning to post an old interview with her on Facebook. The C³ is still going strong!

Breaking news!

Happy B-day DBI want to wish our good friend DB of Vagabond Journeys a very happy day. D. is a remarkable person, a brilliant writer, and someone who has enriched our lives in several ways. Pop on over and give him some birthday love if you get a chance. Be forewarned: he will make you think, and if you’re not into that kind of thing, he might make your brain hurt.

Love ya, D.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Good stuff

Crocus32607D Since I've been kind of a Debbie Downer lately, this entry is going to be upbeat, happy, and full of sunshine and cute little fuzzy things.

Okay, I'll just stick with upbeat.

My day started off well when I saw an email from my friend Jim. He has posted another song on his Myspace page, so I hope you'll go give it a listen. It's called "Sunday," and his friend Rob plays bass and his friend Brad does the vocals in this one. I think it's quite good. Jimi, you rock!

Although it's very chilly and windy today, it was also nice and sunny, and I feel like we're well on our way to spring. I saw a robin yesterday, and again today. Sometimes they stick around in the winter, but they didn't this year. I also noticed that I have some mini-crocuses popping up through the leaves, and it was so nice to see some green! (The pictures here are from previous years.) The peeper frogs have started up again, and I love hearing them. I look forward to when we can have the windows open at night, because although the aforementioned Jim and I used to joke about the "screaming frogs" (a weird little thing we always laughed about), I find their sound very soothing and comforting.

Crocus Yellow I think our neighbor across the road has started watching for me when I go out to get the mail. More often than not, he comes walking out when I do. I don't mind--it's good to chat with a neighbor, and he knows a lot about the area. He asked me if I'd seen the sandhill cranes flying overhead. I said (in a shocked voice), "NO!" He said they make a really distinctive sound, a sort of grating screech. I've heard those calls lately, but thought it was just plain ol' Canada geese. I found the sandhill crane's call online, and yes, I have heard that recently! I knew this general area was a migratory route for the crane, but it's usually a little bit to the west. I'll have to keep my eyes and ears peeled and see if I can catch them passing over again.

With all the rain we've had lately, our two little back ponds are now one big back pond, and then some. It's overflowing into the marshy area, and I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing some herons and ducks back there! Actually, it's kind of bad in nearby cities, with some flooding going on. I hope everyone will be okay and not incur too much damage.

Another nice thing today was a chat with Mom and Dad. I didn't talk with Mom real long, because she's recovering from a cold and her voice has taken a beating, but Dad and I had a good talk. One of the things I wanted to ask Dad about was finding a friend of a friend on Facebook, and the friend of a friend had the same maiden name as mine. Now, whenever I've seen that name, chances are very good that they're some kind of relative, even if only a distant cousin. I have a very large family. I sent a message to this person and she told me the name of her great grandparents. When I talked to Dad, he knew immediately who her great grandparents were. "Oh yeah, Jim was my first cousin." Jim's father was the brother of my Dad's father. So it turns out that this friend of a friend is a cousin, and the ancestor we share is Billy F****, who is my great grandfather and her great great grandfather. Pretty cool, huh?

Also, the last I knew, one of my uncles, before he died, had traced our family back to Germany in the 1500's. Dad said, "Oh no...Bill was able to go back a lot further than that. He was in touch with a relative in Germany who had also done research. One of our ancestors was a pikesman in Charlemagne's army." AWESOME! (Note that I didn't say that my ancestor IS Charlemagne. Isn't it odd how people that do past-life regression always end up being an aristocrat, rather than a member of the working class?)

I don't know how much all this means. I just think it's kind of neat to be able to know our family's ancestry back to the 8th century. We come from the Prussian area of Germany, so we are a war-like people. Ha! Maybe my road rage last week was an atavistic response due to my ancestry.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A brief followup

I've been seeing a quote making the rounds in Blogtropolis, and it has showed up here at Nutwood in comments. It is a quote by Adrian Rogers.

I had never heard of this person, so I did a little looking. Interesting fellow. I especially enjoyed reading his thoughts on slavery.


Just a word of warning before I start. This is not an upbeat entry.

I watched this last night with a mixture of horror, sadness, and impotent rage.

One of my favorite books and movies is The Grapes of Wrath, but it is a bleak story. It stuns me that arguably the most prosperous nation in the world has come, once again, to this point. Shanty towns and Hoovervilles are back.

After this news story aired, I told Ken that I'm afraid this will be what President Bush is remembered for. He said that we can't lay all of this at the feet of Bush, and that this began a while back. I know that's true, but 6 years of waging war without a tax increase exacerbated the problem to where we've now reached this horrible state of tent cities springing up across our country.

I'm so angry that this is happening. I'm angry at the people who gave their greed free rein, and took advantage of the housing market. I'm angry at President Bush for not forcing the rest of us to make sacrifices, and putting the burden solely on our military and their families. I'm angry at those Wall Street and banking bastards who milked the system for all they could, milked it till it was dry. I'm angry at credit card companies who hand out credit cards like they're freakin' Halloween candy to college students . I'm angry at the mortgage companies who made loans to people who should never have gotten them. And I'm angry at all of us for making such incredibly stupid decisions about finances and credit.

I don't doubt that even the people living in these 21st century Hoovervilles bear some culpability in this. Perhaps they made bad financial decisions along the way. But I'm also reasonably certain that there are plenty of people who, through no fault of their own, are forced into this position. It's a domino effect, starting at the top, and finding its way down to the construction worker, the person working for an automaker, sales people, restaurateurs, and on and on and on.

You all know that I try to remain an optimist, and I still believe that we will get out of this. When is another question. In the meantime, this is what is happening to some of our citizens. And we haven't even begun to claw our way out of this mess yet. I think we'll hear more about tent cities and see more images of those who have become homeless. I expect that I'll feel this sense of outrage every time I do.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Infection Connection: Is there malaria in here, or is it just me?

Malaria map Although it's not an infection that many of us take notice of, malaria is still a huge problem worldwide. In 2006, there were 247 million cases worldwide, and 881,000 died from the infection. In Africa, 2,000 children die from malaria every day. It may be eradicated from North America, Europe, Russian, and Australia, but this is a disease endemic to Africa, South America, and Asia, and it continues to cause pervasive problems in those countries.

The name malaria comes from the Latin, mal meaning bad, and aria meaning airs. It was believed to be contracted by breathing the miasma that arose from swampy areas. While the ancients didn't know the real cause, a protozoan parasite, they had the location correct, because of course mosquitoes breed in swampy areas or stagnant water.

Plasmodium vivax Since the beginning of history, malaria has killed half of the people that have died on the planet, more than all wars, famines, and other epidemics combined. It is believed to have contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire as much as any other disease. A malaria epidemic in the year 79 laid waste to the Campagna area, where crops were grown. Its fields were untended and its villages were deserted; the area retained a low population for most of the next several centuries, and malaria wasn't eradicated from the region until the late 1930's.

Because of the prevalence of the parasite in Africa and the surrounding areas, genetic mutations developed that conferred immunity to some or all of the different strains. Sickle cell in those of African descent and thalassemia in those of Mediterranean descent cause a malformation in red blood cells that leave the cells impervious to infection. Other genetic mutations arose that confer resistance, and while these abnormalities may have protected against the infection, they certainly have their own serious consequences.

Malaria was a major problem in U.S. until the early 20th century. Presidents Washington and Lincoln had it; hundreds of thousands of Civil War soldiers contracted it; the infection traveled to California with the Gold Rush of 1849; and it killed many American Indians. The pesticide DDT proved effective in killing the mosquito that transmits the parasite, but the insects quickly developed resistance. It was also eventually found that DDT interrupted the ecological balance, resulting in other diseases like plague and typhus, and it was finally found to poison birds, fish, and mothers' milk. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, but is still used in some tropical regions.

Mosquito The protozoan is transmitted by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms include fever and chills occurring in regular cycles, flu-like symptoms, sweating, and an enlarged spleen. Treatment of choice is chloroquine, although one strain is usually resistant and treated with quinine. When traveling to areas where malaria is endemic, prophylactic treatment with mefloquine is recommended. While generally only one strain can result in rapid death, part of malaria's covert danger is chronic anemia, which weakens the patient and makes them more susceptible to other diseases.

Most cases in the U.S. are in those who have traveled to endemic areas. While it's usually a rarity in U.S. laboratories, I was fortunate to work for the past ten years in a lab located in a city with several colleges that send students and/or missionaries abroad. We had a much higher rate of seeing malarial infections than in other places I worked, and it was a wonderful chance to learn. There are four species of Plasmodium that cause human malaria: falciparum, malariae, vivax, and ovale. It's important to speciate, because P. falciparum is by far the most deadly of the species, and causes the most deaths, and is also the one that is most resistant to treatment. We look at blood smears to see the parasites infecting the red blood cells, and many things have to be taken into account to identify the species: whether the red blood cells are enlarged or not; the presence of stippling, or dots within the cells; fimbriation, or feathered edges on the cells; whether there are multiple parasites in one cell; the various stages of parasite development; and the percentage of cells affected. Obtaining a patient's travel history is vital, because certain species are more common in certain areas--southeast Asia versus the west coast of Africa, for example.

Plasmodium falciparum

As soon as I saw this picture, I said, “That’s falciparum.” Why? See those crescent-shaped purple structures in the middle? Those are the banana-shaped gametocytes of P. falciparum, and no other species has them. There are also cells that have more than one parasite in them, and that’s typical of falciparum.

Early diagnosis is crucial and can mean the difference between whether a patient lives or dies. Doctors in non-endemic areas don't necessarily think of malaria when a patient presents with flu-like symptoms. That's why a travel history is so important. We witnessed it a few years ago when a local family traveled to their African homeland. Although they took prophylactic drugs, they all contracted a resistant form of the infection. Not all of them survived, I'm sad to say.

While still a devastating and prevalent infection and still a terrible problem in Africa and other developing areas (where people cannot afford the expensive treatments), there is progress and hope. Groups like Nothing But Nets distribute mosquito nets treated with insecticides to African families to prevent the infection; The Gates Foundation provides grants for researchers attempting to find treatments and cures and is committed to eventually eradicating the disease; the drug company Novartis is providing Coartem, a very effective antimalarial drug, at a loss in order to treat patients in the developing world. Despite the monetary loss, the CEO of Novartis, Dr. Daniel Vasella, says, "We had the drug and the knowledge to help. It was our responsibility to be engaged."

I think most of us, with our multiple vaccinations, easy access to antibiotics, and increasing emphasis on preventive care, can't comprehend the effect that an endemic infection like malaria can have on a population and country. A populace weakened by hunger and disease has a much greater struggle in trying to make lives for themselves and improve their country. I applaud all of these companies and organizations, and those who contribute to them, for trying to make a difference in the lives of those who many find all too easy to ignore.


Cartwright, Frederick F. Disease and History. New York: Dorset Press; 1972

Karlen, Arno. Man and Microbes. New York: Touchstone; 1996

Nikiforuk, Andrew. The Fourth Horseman. London: Phoenix; 1993

Kingsbury, Kathleen. "A Better Deal on Malaria." Time, March 9, 2009

Malaria. (2009, March 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:21, March 9, 2009, from

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A symbol of discord

I know quite a few of you are on Facebook, but for those of you who aren't, there are these applications that allow you to trade and collect things with your friends. Some are harmless, some are silly, and some actually do some good as you use them, like my favorite, Lil Green Patch (which helps to save rain forest acreage). To be honest, I've gotten so I don't do very many of them anymore, because I just don't want to spend the time, and you also need to be careful because many of these are third party applications, unverified and unchecked. Be wary!

Confederate flagI was downright shocked the other day when I saw some southern gift app--I don't know what all gifts were included, but the one I saw was a Confederate flag. I love the south, and lived there with my parents for a while. This is not a slam against the south, but I think the flag issue continues to crop up over and over, and we really need to put this to bed.

Some see it as nothing more than a symbol. Maybe it's regional pride, maybe it's a matter of being a Skynyrd fan, maybe it's just the red, white, and blue, albeit a different configuration from the American flag. It IS a symbol, but it is one of hatred and intolerance. I find it offensive, a lingering emblem of an epic fail of an experiment in which part of our country chose to form their own country rather than give up a barbaric and and inhumane institution. You can lecture me, if you like, about how it was about states' rights versus federal, or how they just wanted to preserve their agricultural way of life. I don't buy it. Part of that way of life depended upon slave labor, and that was indefensible and obviously unsustainable.

And believe me, I know the south doesn't have exclusivity on racism. We've got plenty of our own up here, sad to say. This goes beyond racism, although that is part of our struggles in the past to become a unified country. I used to work with a woman from Ghana when I lived in Indianapolis. She was studying to get her American citizenship, and asked to borrow some of my books about the Civil War. After she read them, Victoria told me, "You know, it was fascinating to read about this. I remember learning that most countries have to go through a civil war before they become unified. It's almost always that way in Africa, and it was that way here, too."

Confederate flag TP We’ve been through our civil war, and many other struggles over the years, and we have formed a "more perfect union." The man who is arguably our greatest President (Lincoln is tied with Thomas Jefferson in my book) was murdered because of the partisan feelings of the Civil War. We're not the North United States and the South United States. We are one. Why cling to a symbol of divisiveness that many find offensive on several different levels? Charlie Daniels used to sing "Be proud to be a rebel, 'cause the south's gonna do it again." I love Charlie ("I done told you once, you son of a bitch, I'm the best that's ever been!"), but that song always irritated me. What exactly is the south gonna do again? Secede? Attack the north? I just don't get it.

I was disgusted when I read this. This is not a symbol of heritage, it is a symbol of hate, and has no place in our schools or government--only in museums, as part of our past. I honestly find it as offensive as a Nazi swastika flag.

If you want to take pride in something, take it from being part of the United States. Take it from the Stars and Stripes, not the Stars and Bars. The Confederate flag is an outdated, offensive symbol of oppression, division, and yes, war. We need to make it part of our past, not our present.

And if you want to send me southern stuff on Facebook, send me grits. I love grits. But don't send me that flag.