Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I want to believe

The haunting really makes me smile. I had such a good time checking in with my old friends- Fox Mulder and Dana Scully - last night! Kevin will tell you it was like a long and not exactly superior (he'd actually be less generous) episode from the TV series. Still, I was very pleased. I believe.

Oh, and a tip for those who may not yet have seen the film. Go ahead and watch the credits...all the way to the end.

Waving goodbye.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Mammo- grammo

I've already alluded to the fact that last week I finally had my semi-annual mammogram. I was only 2 and 1/2 years late. In Cleveland I had such problems with my health care provider. I was sent an urgent message to "get thyself to a surgeon" after a medical appointment to evaluate a rash I had on my belly and chest. Without even removing my shirt or bra- or any touching- the doctor had identified a lump in my breast for which I required a surgical consult.** I was pissed - and concerned that somewhere there was likely a woman that did have a lump that needed assessing. Well, the surgeon checked me out anyway - after I told him the story. He told me I was OK but that I should have bi-annual exams, including mammograms, to monitor me. WTF?? This was an HMO, so I am not sure what the motivation. I have to guess it was just habit for him. I'd hate to think his brain was engaged.

In January of 2006- before I left Cleveland - I had my mammogram. Again, I was "recalled" to the surgeon. I had calcification in my left breast and they wanted a biopsy. I was a nervous wreck. The house wasn't selling. I had a funky something on my skin that the dermatologist biopsied and now this. The biopsy was just a xray guided needle biopsy. The worst part was the local anaesthetic placement...though it was very strange to see a stereoscopic platform mounted on one's own bloody breast. I had to fight to prevent the subsequent implantation of a piece of titanium to mark the biopsy site. (I'm not sure, but I suspect it had a little flag on it with the words "Kilroy was here" emblazoned on it.) "It is completely safe," they told me. "What kind of LONG RANGE data do you have to support that statement?" I asked as in my mind I reviewed the statistic that dogs with metal bone implants are more likely to develop osteosarcoma. I won. Yay. Small victory.

It took every day as long as they predicted to get the result and that result did not include calling me with report. I had to repeatedly call both the surgeon and the dermatologist trying to learn whether I'd live longer than our house was on the market.

Still, you know the outcome. The house sold at the end of the month and both biopsies came back clear.

So, I've been reluctant to enter back into the clutches of the breast police. I've had an order for the test since Oct 2006! Somehow, I screwed up my courage and made the call. I wanted to do the test during my break in June- but it takes calling more than 6 weeks ahead of time to get to pick your preferred date. Hence- mid July.

Australian mammography equipment is no warmer or more comfortable than US equipment. In fact, in the US they let me wear half a hospital gown. Here, I had to chuck the entire piece onto the waiting chair. At least I had an early morning appointment and the a/c hadn't "warmed up" yet to fully chill the room. Like most of my previous mammograms, I had the pleasure of repeated views. This time, however, I was able to just wait around and didn't have to reschedule for another day. Oh, and then they added a breast ultrasound. At the conclusion of the morning, the technician was "pleased to tell me" that I was "OK".

This week I received the report written by the radiologist who examined my films. I have fascinating breasts with dense, nodular and complex parenchyma and scattered microcalifications. No wonder the good folks in Cleveland wanted to view them so often. I'm beginning to feel a bit like Mt. Rushmore.

**Not to interrupt the flow of this narrative, but there is a funny story to accompany this breast lump saga. Not long after my "surgical scare" one of our finest receptionists left our clinic to move with her partner to Florida. We prepared a photo album of clinic images for her as a remembrance- including a photo of all the female staff with their shirts pulled up over their heads. (Really, it made sense for her at that time.) Anyway, in honor of my super-you-can-see-them-from-across-the-room-fully-clothed, lumpy breasts, I glued gum balls all over my bra. Ah. Those were good days!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The best of both worlds

That is the phrase that Phil used when discussing our new Australian-ness - while remaining U.S. citizens.

And, it's true. I was just contemplating today what I have found to be a really great Australian invention...and, when I came home from work, there was a notice from the U.S. government letting us know that despite record debt and being at war- still we were to receive a check- within 7 weeks - for $600!

Yes! Truly! The best of both!

Oh, and the best thing I've found in Australia.

The sanitary napkins have trivia tidbits printed on the peel-off adhesive paper.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Creed for the Third Millennium

"And love -- ah, what can I say about love that you, all too human, do not already know? Love yourselves! Love those around you! Love those you do not even know! Waste not your love on God, Who does not expect it and does not need it. For if He is perfect and eternal, then He needs nothing. You are Man, and it is Man you must love. Love wards off loneliness. Love warms the spirit no matter how cold the body might be. Love is the light of Man!" (p. 336)

My- it has taken me months to slog through this book. First published in 1985 by an Australian (Colleen McCullough- of "The Thorn Birds" - fame), I found it one Sunday in May when Kevin very graciously dropped me off in Fortitude Valley for the weekly outdoor, Chinatown Tai Chi class. Except, the Tai Chi gods had decided that May was too much like "winter" and, therefore, there could be no class. Kevin - after leaving me at the Brunswick Street Mall - headed into the city to do some work at his office. His locked office. His locked office from which he would emerge 2 and 1/2 hours later to let me in. So, I flipped through the books at the the used book stall in Chinatown market and picked up this novel. I'm not sure when this copy was printed. The last "printed" date listed is 1992. It originally sold in Australia for $10.95. So, now ten or fifteen years later I bought it for $5.00. I certainly wish we could have obtained that kind of money for all the books I eliminated from our collections before moving from Cleveland.

It took me almost 200 pages of fine print to become engaged with this book. (I do have a problem with letting go of relationships that aren't satisfying!) Beyond being - what is the word? - SLOW, I kept finding myself mildly irritated by the scattered bits of misogynism from a book written in what I felt should have been a reasonably feminist time and taking place in what I believed would be a more enlightened future. Additionally, this Australian has set her novel in "the United States in the not-too-distant future" - yet, for reasons never revealed or maybe even considered, the last president (Augustus Rome) had been in office for four terms and a similar longevity seems likely for the current president. It is probably just me feeling hypercritical- but that's a pretty big departure from American government sensibilities... you know, the 22nd Amendment. Still, I suppose it is no greater change than having a King of Australia and New Zealand. (I learned of that much later.)

Anyway, by the time I found myself yesterday spending all morning at the "Women's Imaging Center"- paying almost $400 for my much postponed mammogram with bonus breast ultrasound - I was hooked. And, as a consequence of that 2 hour wait and 35 minute train ride home and doing nothing yesterday afternoon or this morning, I have finished the book. I enjoyed it- but I'd recommend to anyone interested to start reading midway through. I'll tell you the beginning. In about 6 sentences.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My "infringement"

We got the notice a couple of weeks ago- but I've been negligent in keeping this blog up to date. The speeding ticket.

Of course, it was sent to Kevin. He had to sign a statement- a notarized statement- that he was not the demon behind the wheel on the night in question. We are still waiting for the ticket to come back to me. (ooo! its here!)

But, here are the pieces of the story that interest me.


It isn't a speeding ticket. It is an "infringement notice". It is like talking about toll evasion being an offence- a funny word with more of a social character than I would expect.


I was going 71 KPH in a 60 KPH zone. Heart pounding- racing home as I feared I was watching my car disintegrate- I was going 6.6 MPH greater than the sanctioned speed. If you are bleeding and need immediate medical care, obviously I am not the person you want to rush you to the emergency room.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dream a little dream

After a difficult night of trying to sleep while the sliding door beside our bedroom kept grinding open and slamming shut (gamers), I woke this morning to an exciting dream. (Just wait.)

I dreamed I was back at COW and, although I was still teaching there, I was also a student and I needed to do my Independent Study. It was the last weekend of the Fall Semester and, while I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do, I had barely done any library research and I had not yet started writing my literature review. Gary was my advisor and I was at his house trying to talk with him a bit about my project (for the first time). As I'd describe the experiment he would snore comments back to me. (Maybe that was Kevin.) Still, Gary, they were pretty insightful.

My question was whether my subjects, rats I presume, could use taste as a discriminative stimulus in maze learning. (I started out by imagining a complex maze but Gary set me straight. All I need is a Y or T maze. Though in truth, he suggested an X maze.) Anyway, a lick of maple flavor means the reinforcer is in the right arm. A lick of apple means the left arm. I was trying to explain to Gary why this might be interesting- that Garcia's original paper (which is the only one I know since I haven't been to the library- and I've taught that one!) suggested that animals could not necessarily link just any stimulus with any behavior. They could learn to avoid a taste that made them sick but not a solution that was "identified" by noise or light.

This is where Gary got excited and asked (snored) if I was familiar his paper about the power of words (he's a cognitive psychologist) and in my dream now, I did. Words allow us to link disparate sensory information because it is all transformed into a common symbolic language. Animals, lacking words, have greater difficulty making these connections.

So, now I'm thinking if the rats fail to learn the discrimination of which way to turn based on taste - which I thought they still might be able to learn since taste could be associated with foraging and food- but, anyway, if they fail, then perhaps they could learn to turn when the taste was not only associated with a specific turn but with a specific tasting reinforcer. Maple taste - turn left- get maple candy. Apple taste - turn right- get piece of apple. That is even cooler!

Are you excited? I am! I'm ready to jump back into animal learning and cognition with both feet! Let me at it!

I wish I had written this

As I was browsing yesterday's "Blog of Note" ("Beyond Salmon" by Helen Rennie), I found this beautiful descriptive quote about sushi.

It felt like velvet that dissolved in the mouth, like getting a tuna French kiss.

Wow. I want that. But, maybe not for breakfast. (Would I need to brush my teeth first to ban morning breath?)

6:34 AM

Weather report

Winter finally arrived in Brisbane. Overnight lows this week have been around 6 centigrade. As any Queenslander would tell you- that is frrrreeeezing.

While it is easy (very, very easy) for those with Northern North American leanings to say, "Low forties? Freezing? Hah!"- it is pretty uncomfortable when you are living in a building with no insulation and no heat.

(Funny- my spell check / corrector has suggested I mean Queen slander!)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thanks to John

Thank you for the use of the scanner.

My "not-at-Gen-con" masterpieces.

A face.

A fantastic animal.

A flower.

Building up layers.

(And, maybe later, I'll add the fish.)


This weekend the gaming event of the year is being held in our home.


That's Birthday Con.

We're celebrating Brendan's, John's, and Kevin's birthdays.

And, there is only one way to do that. Game from 7 PM Friday until the wee hours of Monday morning.

By the way- I love the way Kevin's "Bootleggers" men wait their turn - like perfect little mobsters- there's only one man standing!

Cursing Ikea


Still, last night as I put the futon frame together wrong in yet a 4th way (!), I must admit, I was taking the great four letter name in vain. This frame, the Grankulla, is by no means a sensible creation. Why? Why? Why? would it be necessary to have two different mechanisms for attaching the slats to the lift-me-off-the floor supports???? Yes. On two of the sections the slats screw on (not easily) and on the third they are attached by plastic, yes plastic, nails. Bam! Bam! Bam!

I'm pretty good at reading directions- at least when I start before 8:30 pm. Obviously, this is not true after 8:30. I started out well, sorting the slats into three piles for the 3 futon sections. I carefully studied the pre-drilled holes so that I knew which were the "wide" ones that went in the middle vs the "narrow" ones that went on the other two sections.

Following the wordless directions, I started with the top section. Using our lamo screw driver I "started" the attachment of all the slats associated with this section. I screwed them in as far as I could. Kevin was going to have to finish screwing them in the remaining 3 cm. (Check out the use of that base ten measurement...more of that to come.)

Then, I moved onto the next section: the plastic nail section. Bam! Bam! Bam! I attached the first slat. Then, I was inspired and decided it would be much easier to drive the nails through the slats first so that a bit was poking out that could then be lined up more easily with the holes in the support! I hammered and hammered and hammered until Zelda had a headache. Then, I picked up the first and tried to line it up on the support. It didn't fit!!! Somehow, I had attached the first slat- a wide one- then prenailed the remaining four, NARROW slats! Ugh!

And, wouldn't you know it- the wide slats that I needed were not the slats remaining for the bottom section. Noooooo. Of course not. They were already attached by my painful screw driving maneuvers to the first section.

Let me tell you, as difficult as it is to drive a plastic nail into a too small hole (which I had just done) - that is NOTHING compared to trying to pull out a plastic nail. The nail head is really not meant for that. They would fold and slip out of the teeth of the hammer. Or, just fall apart.

Eventually, with Kevin's help I got them all out- and the screws out and got everything rescrewed (Kevin did this and has the blisters to prove it) and re-hammered. Mostly. The nails fit much better in the slats they were meant for- but still there were two that would neither nail in nor pull out. (See above.)

Next- attach the top two sections together.

Using the wrong screws.

It was as I was replacing these screws and discovering that I had attached the top section to the bottom of the second section (wrong) that I got a mammoth splinter and collapsed. It was after 10:30!

This morning Kevin lovingly asked me if I had recovered. "Yup".

Then, I took a shower. I washed my hair. Applied and rinsed out the conditioner. Then grabbed my Oil of Olay facial cleaner- and washed my hair.

Maybe I answered too soon.

And, so tonight Julian is sleeping in a bed for which the sections are merely pushed together. Hope he sleeps quietly.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Our Big News

After only a week we received notice from the solicitor (that's Australian for lawyer) that our application for permanent residency was approved. Great news- just in time for Kevin's birthday!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Now I need a scanner

I had the best time this weekend cutting and pasting in my collage course! I believe my teacher liked a couple of my "creations"- at least that was what I figured when he kept coming over to "neaten" them up. (And, this wasn't something he did on every piece- and I'm quite certain I was no more tidy on them!) It was really, really fun- though I don't think I have the personality to one day be a great collage master. I am not (in any part of my life) meticulous and extremely precise. I do enjoy messing around, however. I'd love to share with you... but I'd have to buy a scanner. That is unlikely to happen.

Besides, I'm about to mail them off to my mother for her frig.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!!

Like any good Australian, I celebrated July 4 by getting my teeth cleaned and a cavity filled. Then, I signed up for a 2 day course at the Brisbane Institute of Art in collage. Finally, I ate Indian food.

Hot dogs. Apple Pie. Fireworks. It ain't.

Still, I want to pause here to celebrate past Independence Days. Would someone light a sparkler for me, please?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ann's Mini-vacation day Friday

I've been looking forward to this for weeks. The dentist!

I had an 8:30 AM appointment. I was out by 8:45. Yes. And with a new side to my broken tooth. I also left with an appointment for July 4 to get my teeth cleaned and a new filling. Wow.