Saturday, May 31, 2008

Do these vesicles make my butt look big?

It all started a week ago. Something raised. Something red. Something itchy and painful and hidden where I couldn't see. I knew immediately: flesh eating bacteria. Had to be. But, it was a Sunday. I would probably not die before Monday morning.

So, before work I took myself with my expanding redness, my increasing pain to the doctor's clinic beside our veterinary surgery. When could I get in to see the doctor? Tuesday. 3:30 PM. First available.

I went to work. I went home. I tried to sleep. It hurt to walk. It hurt to sit. It hurt to lie in bed. It hurt to wear pants.

I arrived at 3:15 on Tues. As the receptionist advised, I had cleared my schedule from then until 4 PM. About 3:35 the guy ahead of me was called in. "This is going pretty well", I thought. But, at 3:45 I was starting to worry. And, at 3:55 I went up to the desk. I was fighting back tears.

"I have to go. I have appointments. We are double booked."

"You are next."

"I have to go. What is available tomorrow?"

She found a time during our surgery break- a time I knew would work better than smack in the middle of afternoon appointments.

So, I went back to work. I went home. I tried to sleep.

I did get seen on Wednesday. The doctor let me know I could have come back later on Tues. He was there until 5:30. I guess he thought I would somehow know this or that it would help me now.

Anyway, he looked at my bottom.

"That would be very painful....You should have come in sooner....This should help if you haven't waited too long."

He told me I had herpes, not flesh eating bacteria.

And, so I bought my $130 of antiviral medication. Went back to work and hoped "I had not waited too long." I hoped while I meticulously examined my life wondering how and when I had contracted herpes.

"Have you had this before?" the doctor asked.


"Is this the first time you've been seen for this condition?"

"Um, yes."

What would this mean for me? According to the website I was reading, often people will get 4 to 6 breakouts in the first year. That's a lot of discomfort. That's a lot of $130 boxes of medication.

Yesterday I stopped by the doctor's clinic to get the results of the swab he had submitted "for the government". ?? I wasn't sure if/how/when he was going to get the results to me. It was my day off. I asked that he leave the result at home on the answering machine.

Herpes. Yes.

Herpes simplex. No.

I have shigles. Herpes zoster.

Chickenpox has returned.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An attempt to redeem myself

Kevin has pointed out to me that my "themes" might suggest a disturbed personality - or at least a very repressed one. He wonders why I have not had a year of romance? Hmmmm.

My themes have never been conscious choices. I just figure them out. The year Kevin and I got back together did have a theme of time travel and second chances. There, that's not so bleak.

I must admit, however, that while I have enjoyed some romantic movies- I have never been a reader of romantic fiction. Well, at least not popular romance. I've read Jane Austen, for example. I DO like a love story. Particularly love stories about friends. It was the love between friends in "Il Postino" and more recently "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" that most touched me.

But though I would present myself as an optimistic and happy person, I do have a very deep blue streak. Cobalt, maybe. In both those movies those loving friends part. Even more extreme, my favorite love songs are pretty damn sad. This thought emerges as I listen to my newly acquired CD of one of my favorite albums: "So Many Partings" by Silly Wizard. I heard it first from the window of the record store above Bernie's Bagels on High Street when I was a student at OSU. (I recognize that this is not the record you'd first pick as a favorite of a 19 year old in 1980- especially one for whom a good week involved the disco at Susie's Lounge both Wednesday and Friday nights.) I don't know what it is. It reached right into my heart. Here's an example- though it is from "Kiss the Tears Away". (The video. What can I say? It was all I could find.)

Golden, Golden

Slowly, slowly, walk the path,
And you might never stumble or fall.
Slowly, slowly, walk the path,
And you might never fall in love at all.


Golden, golden, is her hair,
Like the morning sun over fields of corn.
Golden, golden, is her love,
So sweet and clear and warm.

Lonely, lonely, is the heart
That ne'er another can call its own.
Lonely, lonely, lies the part
That has to live all alone.

Wildly, wildly, beats the heart
With a rush of love like a mountain stream.
Wildly, wildly, play your part
As free as a wild bird's dream

Quotes from books 2008

"From what I can see, miracles are built from love, and as far as love is concerned, I am a true believer." from "Oh My Stars" by Lorna Landvik

"What we love about our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time." from "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

"Memories can be everything if we choose to make them so..." from "The Story of Lucy Gault" by William Trevor

'Just how many names does ths ox have?" I repeated. "He's got only one," the old man replied. "he's called Fugui". "But just now you called him a whole bunch of names." "Oh..." The old man smiled and gestured cryptically for me to move closer. As I neared him it seemed as if he wanted to say something but stopped. When he saw the ox raise its head, he gave him a reprimand, "No eavesdropping! Lower your head!" The ox did lower his head, and then the old man whispered to me, "I'm afraid he'll discover he's the only one working the field, so I call out some other names to fool him. If he hears that there are other oxen around working the fields, he'll work harder and won't feel so depressed." from "To Live: A Novel" by Yu Hua

"She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see." from "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neal Hurston

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Lucifer Effect

Some years I am mysteriously drawn to read and view certain kinds of stories. For example, I've had a mafia/organized crime year. I've had an American Civil War year. This year the story line is either "prisons" or "hell on earth"- of which prisons are just one example. These years don't start off with a theme- it just is something I recognize once it is begun. And, then I feed it.

So: Oz, The Wire, and now The Lucifer Effect.

The Lucifer Effect is written by Phillip Zimbardo (of the Stanford Prison Study fame)and is a great review of much of social psychology...which is then applied to the abuses which occurred at Abu Ghraib prison. Typically, I do not read non-fiction. At least not since I stopped being an academic. Reading this I found that I really miss reading psychological research.

Damn. Somedays I just miss being a psychologist.

And, they aren't only days that are marked by cat pus, dog vomit, or dying snakes.

Anyway, I have been including a pithy quotation from the books I've been reading- putting said quotes in the list at the right. But, I feel like that list is getting pretty long (mostly thanks to the quotes)and that it isn't very easy to read. So, I'm removing the quotes and instead putting them (from now on) as blog entries.

So- two from Phillip Zimbardo.

Any deed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us--under the right or wrong situational circumstances. That knowledge does not excuse evil" rather, it democratizes it, sharing its blame among ordinary actors rather than declaring it the province only of deviants and despots--or Them but not Us. (p. 211)

And this- which is what it feels like to me to live in Australia:

Endless routines and undifferentiated daily activities create a seeming circularity of time--it just flows on, undivided into meaningful linear units but creeping onward as if it were an ants' journey on a Mobius strip of life. (p. 244)

I miss seasons and people who engage fully in celebrating milestones of the passing year.

By the way, if you are intrigued see the web site:

Friday, May 23, 2008

End of Darwin


We began the day by grabbing what we thought would be a fabulous breakfast at the Duck's Nuts Restaurant up the street. So did half a million Lions. (The Lion's are in town. That is why we had a bit of a challenge finding a room.) The good folks at Duck's Nuts are not prepared to cope with people sitting at most of their tables AND ordering food! It was a long, long, long wait and Ann was getting antsy and grumpy.

After lunch we spent the day wandering through the city, again. This time-

The Botanic Garden

The Museum of the Northern Territory

Mindil Beach

Doctor's Gully

The Botanic Garden was very nice- as most of the gardens are in the capital cities of Australia. I particularly enjoyed the children's garden with its fabulous tree house. We climbed all the way to the top- but only Kevin slid down the slide at the end. He posited that adult pants are not as slippery as kids pants. I wonder.

The Museum of the NT does not allow photography of their art exhibits. But, that's OK. We were more interested in the natural history part of the museum. Once again we were confronted with the fact that "nature" in Australia- particularly the NT- is trying to kill you. First and once again- cyclone Tracy. Two rooms of photos and recorded remembrances of destruction. In one large closet you can experience (something like) the sound of a cyclone. Horrifying. Haunting.

Then, there is a taxidermied (my own verb, incidentally), 17 foot, 1700 pound crocodile, Sweetheart. He was accidentally killed while capturing him for relocation. They didn't like the way he was putting teeth holes into the boats of fishermen.

Finally, and what I really wanted to see, there were mounted box jelly fish and blue ringed octopus (which wikipedia tells me is one of the most venomous animals on the planet!) My camera kept insisting that the photos of the jelly fish- which can kill a child, put a woman in the hospital for 2 weeks and a man in for 3 days...and you can't stop the screaming!!!!!! - was inadequate ("Hey man, your photo sucks. Where'd you learn to focus? Hold the damn camera still, will ya?" Don't buy a camera from NYC. Attitude.) So, I didn't try to photograph the octopus which is only the size of a golf ball! but, is still capable of killing 26 people within minutes!!!!!

Kevin wants to point out that I am the sick one.

We took the shore walk to Mindil Beach where they were setting up for the Sunday Market. It was still about 90 minutes away- so we just ducked into the Casino to remind ourselves that we aren't interested in gambling- and walked on to Doctor's Gully for "Aquascene"!

I would be remiss here if I failed to mention that all through this afternoon's walk I am constantly asking Kevin to look at my skin. I am convinced I am burning...but I arrive back in Brisbane unscathed.

Aquascene! for the last 50 years people have been coming down to the dock at Doctor's Gully at high tide to feed bread to fish. That's right. They are rather big fish- as you might imagine. The crowd on Sunday was primarily composed of milk fish, cat fish, and mullet. I hope the photos convey some of the ravenous enthusiasm of the fish.

Finally, we ended the evening at Darwin's Deck Chair Cinema watching "Sweeney Todd" under the stars. It was fun- even though I had to watch it one eyed as I'd lost the screw from my left lens while waiting to be served at the snack bar before the film. Ugh. Interestingly, the feeling of immersion you get watching a big screen doesn't happen when you close one eye. The experience feels more like watching a picture of the movie screen. I was always aware of the borders of the screen and the trees and sky surrounding it. Oh, and the possum who was bopping through the rows inspecting every one's packages for food with which it could abscond.

Darwin C


7 AM we boarded the van along with our traveling companions from Ontario. (We had met them at the Indo-Pacific Marine. We don't know their names- but we keep turning up at the same places.) Kevin and I are pleased to find that we are not the oldest people on this tour. We come very close to being the youngest! Woo Hoo! Go Youth Shack!

Our first stop is the Fogg Damn wetlands. At the end of the dry season there are hundreds of thousands of birds here. That would be cool! That would be October. Still, it is glorious seeing all those egrets and geese and water lilies and cat tails...even a wallaby and a croc! (By the way, the croc is in the photo....Just on the shore at about 1:30.)

Next- the jumping crocodile cruise down the Adelaide River. Yes! As our boat glides down the river the local croc's come swimming over for their every-third-hourly hunk of pork. The croc feeder hangs the meat on a piece of string suspended from a fishing pole like structure. First, she slaps it on the surface of the water to attract
. attention.* Once the croc is focused and zeroing in on the tidbit, she raises it out of the water. The croc gets into position then raises out of the water to snap at the meat- which our guide has pulled up even higher and out of reach. Each croc must jump at least twice. I think that is in their contract. On the way back the croc feeder becomes a kite feeder and tosses bits of meat into the air for the kites to catch mid-air. She is a bit nervous about this- afraid of being sliced open by their talons.

Don't be afraid to tell us "you don't believe your eyes". We were told that would happen to the people back home.

Lunch. Kevin and I make the same salad- without any communication. Lettuce-less.

Finally- Litchfield Park. Termite mounds. Water falls. Swimming in beautiful clear water pools that have been deemed free of "salties".

*This was Zelda's addition. She has a new trick- jumping onto the desk and typing.

Darwin II

It is, no doubt, obvious what happens when I spend a week between doing something and writing about it. The details drop out and the writing becomes terse. I resort to lists.

So, here goes.

Friday in Darwin:

1. Walking tour of Darwin hitting most of the high points downtown as indicated by the local guide book. The history of Darwin seems primarily defined by destruction. First, Darwin was attacked by the Japanese during WWII ala Pearl Harbour. Then, on Christmas Day 1974 Cyclone Tracy flattened the city. So, there aren't much in the way of "old" buildings remaining. There is still at least one WWII oil storage tunnel remaining- but we arrived too late to walk through it.

2. Lunch (Fish and Chips) at Stokes Hill Wharf. More history of the bombings during WWII. I found it interesting that in the 60's or 70's it was a Japanese company that did the salvage work on ships sunk in the harbor. Very clever business people, those Japanese. No doubt, part of the motivation to sink those ships was to later get paid to retrieve them.

3. Indo-pacific Marine- the self described most interesting attraction in Darwin. Forty years ago the founder of this organization (and our guide's wife) created a closed ecosystem that mirrors the reef off the shore of Darwin. It is a large (room sized) pool about 3 feet deep in which live various coral, fish, crabs, (etc) and importantly plankton. It is all fed or supported by sunlight. Only. The water volume is maintained by additions of rain water. There is no filtration. Everything that is born in the pool lives in the pool. Everything that dies in the pool is consumed by the pool. It was very cool. Unfortunately, they do not allow cameras. ???

4. The best part, in my opinion however, was the wall across from McDonald's (where we had breakfast). The building is on a corner and both road exposures are covered with street art. You know I am a sucker for that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Darwin 1- or Why United is better than Jet Star

It is sort of amazing. The flight from Brisbane to Darwin is about 5 hours long! I could get to LA from Ohio in that amount of time...and that feels like a much bigger change. But, even if we disregard the duration of the flight, Darwin is a serious challenge for travel. Point 2: 9:05 PM departure. Even if it hadn't been delayed- which is was, until 10:15, we would not have arrived until 1:05 AM. (OK. You math(s) gurus- that IS 4 hours and I said five. However, there is a time difference and, granted, it is only 30 min, but, come on, you don't come here for "just the facts".) Point 3: the flight "home" departs at midnight-ish...and arrives at 5:30 AM (late, though- like 6 AM)...then you go to work. Sure, you can try to cram in a nap- but a certain dog will spend 60 minutes either licking, scooting, or just changing position from one side of you to the other. This happens even if you are careful to give her breakfast!

The Jet Star Airbus is very attractive with faux leather seats- but it isn't sleep worthy. No head rest. Minimal recline. And, nothing is free. If you want water, you'll pay. As you will for coffee or food. Unfortunately, you can't buy a pillow or blanket.

And, they fly to Hawaii. Eegads! What sins must you possess to board the purgatory plane?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Important update

Kevin and I both succeeded in keeping Friday May 16 fatality free.

I haven't been able to find out how the rest of Australia did, however. Not for want of looking, I might add.

In the meantime, much to say about Darwin. Just need the time to say it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh Superman- For Mother's Day

We went to the Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens for Mother's Day- along with 50 thousand Brisbanites all sporting picnic baskets. Ugh. Picnics. Combine cooking with packing. Then eat on the ground while ants crawl into your shorts.

Anyway, new at the gardens were some interesting sculptures. Here's the first. And, it can only be paired with Laurie Anderson's song "Oh, Superman"- which is also fitting (note- not seizuring) for Mother's Day.

Not that I am cynical about mother's- particularly my mother- I love her. And, I am an American who likes living in America. With my mother. I also love Laurie Anderson- and this piece is particularly wonderful.

What else could one think about this sculpture but "in your long arms?"

O Superman
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I'm not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you coming home?
Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don't know me,
but I know you.
And I've got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready. Ready to go.
You can come as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.
And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They're American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice.
And when justice is gone, there's always force.
And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms. So hold me,
Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

This weekend

We are off to Darwin! Stay tuned...but remember - no fatalities on Friday the 16th!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fatality Free Friday

May 16.

Get ready. It's a big ambition. 2008 is year 2 of this national Australian program. Last year Queensland was successful- but NSW and Victoria- gee - not exactly team players. Now, I'm not sure if my goal is primarily not to be killed or not to kill someone, though I am sure that it is only applicable when in a car. Probably the car must be moving.

As I said, this is year two. Last year- across the nation there were 6 fatalities. The national average for a Friday is


Now, I'm not saying the idea of a fatality free Friday is stupid. But, I am suggesting that, in general, most drivers (Australian and otherwise) do not enter a car and commence driving with a devil-may-care, nonchalant attitude about either dying or killing someone. In fact, I'd put money on my belief that most drivers are always entering the highway with the goal of arriving back home unhurt- let alone undead.

There I go: zombies again.

More on Victimless Leather

Kevin found this update: the victimless leather that was growing at the MoMA has been euthanized! After only 5 weeks it was threatening to over-run the museum!!! Can anyone say "Audrey 2"?


Slight exaggeration.

Anyway, I am very pleased that I got to see this "living coat"... and I am now wondering if it is still "victimless"?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Another superhero discussion

Kevin and I went to see "Iron Man" last night after work. He told me to be prepared for 2 hours of "awesomeness"-- at least as rated by 94% of reviewers. I was dubious. I have a hard time imagining that awesomeness can be extended over 90 minutes.

What can I say? We enjoyed Robert Downey Jr. and the suit and the technology (computers, robots) in Dr. Stark's lab- But, awesome? And, the tease that the scene at the end of the credits was "the best ever"- no one or no thing can live up to that kind of hype.

What was more interesting to me was Kevin's answer to which superhero he wanted to be. Wonder Woman. He likes the bracelets.

Then he fessed up. He really wants to be Superman. He told me that everyone wants to be Superman.

Me? I'm not the superhero type- I prefer Fox Mulder or Vic Mackey or Jack Bauer or Kay Scarpetta... but I am willing to take a ride in Kevin's invisible car- if he can find it.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Buddha's Birthday

This is the second holiday weekend in a row. Not bad, I'd say. Last week (Friday) was ANZAC Day. This week (Monday) is Labour Day.

Conveniently, this weekend is also the celebration of Buddha's Birthday. I've introduced that earlier. You remember, I wasn't tai chi-ing.

I did get the chance to venture down to South Bank Friday and Saturday evening to witness the festivities. Lots of lanterns. Lots of vegetarian food. Even the material called "chicken curry", I am told, was actually vegetarian. I didn't try it, however, so I cannot testify to that fact.

The features that stood out for me:

1. Although Buddha was from India, everything - except for the Hare Krishna food stand was Chinese.

2. The Buddhists seem to celebrate by providing opportunities to purchase blessings for a donation.

3. The shrine set up in the Sun Corp Stadium captured virtually every holiday motif I could imagine. Golden idols. Fresh foods. Fresh flowers. Baby Buddhas. Christmas trees. Easter eggs. Birthday cake-like mountains of pink egg-ish things. Go ahead. Look. I'll wait.

4. If you get the chance, learn from my mistake. You bathe the Baby Buddha by pouring water on his shoulders. Not over his head. I'm afraid I'm looking at seven years of bad luck.

I did quite enjoy the performances I stumbled upon just when I was getting ready to leave. I watched a band perform with a variety of interesting of Chinese stringed instruments. This was followed by a lion dance. Then, a couple of dances performed by a troop from the Royal Brisbane International College. I enjoyed their costumes which featured white flowing from their arms. The choreography made much of this- especially the second piece which was set to a selection from the film "Hero" (Ying Xiong- I love "Hero" and the soundtrack. If you haven't figured it out, this is a selection from "Hero" that is playing above) and used "flowing fans" to create moving water. The best, however, were the "martial artists" doing amazing acrobatics- I mean kung fu- all set to a cross between traditional Chinese and gay disco music.

Happy Birthday, Buddha.

Peace on Earth.

An account of the body

Yes. Still. Really.

Also, let it be known that I am officially, as far as ultrasound technicians are concerned at least, a very small person. That was the verdict based on my "outflow track" at Friday's echocardiogram. In addition, I have a small amount of tricuspid regurgitation. We'll see what the health system of Australia makes of this.

I am a bit concerned that even though they "should" say, "Hey, no big deal", that they will find multiple ways to make it outrageously difficult for me. I kept offering the kind folks at the Mater Hospital the letter written by the health department and they kept turning it down. No. They didn't need that. No.

"Do you need to see my identification?" I asked the technician as I was getting ready to leave following the procedure- and hoping that my driver's license would suffice since I had run off without my passport.


"Don't you need to know that I am really the person you were supposed to be echoing?"

"When I called your name you immediately got up and came with me."


Somehow, I suspect they'll eat up my day off next week. My money is on the option that they will want to filter the ultrasound report through another $100 doctor's visit.

Kevin thinks I am just being cynical.

And, I must admit that overall I am feeling cynical and anxious and depressed lately. I'm calling it "spring withdrawal". Or, maybe, "going on week two of this stupid cold".