Monday, March 31, 2008

Mostly bad beginnings

Well, this week isn't starting out much better than last week. However, this may be due partly to my mood. Eric's having health issues, James is having (more) health issues, my birthday's coming up, and it's That Time of Month. Of course work isn't all that calming or appealing right now.

Eric is on a couple of seizure medications, and last winter he had a scare when he thought they weren't working and we went to the ER. It turned out actually to be a potassium deficiency, but he got on extra medication anyway due to some side effects of his epilepsy he'd been noticing have increased in intensity. This stuff--Keppra--has made him a lot more tired. This past week, on his spring break, he's gotten almost nothing done because he's been tired and listless; part of this seems to be that he has no structure or stimulating influence--such as his wife nagging him--to do things, but he feels part of it is the medication, too; he's been having this problem for a while. He's going to get an appointment with his epileptologist this week, and he's going to try taking a loser dosage of the Keppra to see if that helps. I am on changed-behavior watch.

James's doctor called him Friday and said, "I got your blood test results. Um, how are you feeling?" Apparently his lipase levels are abnormally high, which is a bad sign. James is on a liquid diet (which is making him exceptionally crabby, he says) and will be getting an MRI on Tuesday, whether he can pay for it or not. Fortunately his boss is being supportive and is actually getting him on insurance early to help him out; that may take effect tomorrow or it may happen on April 15, depending on what the insurance company has to say, but at any rate he can wait two weeks. Then, another surgery and, with luck, a solution.

I talked to Mom last night and she said, "So, I'm not sure I'm supposed to tell you this, but...have you talked to James lately?" I assured her I knew what was happening, and she talked about it, mentioning that James had consulted Dad and received his advice to get it checked out and she was glad he had done it early this time. I'm pretty sure I'm the one he consulted, or at least first. I could see him not telling our parents that he talked to me, either so as not to hurt their feelings or to protect me from them being upset that I knew he was in trouble and hadn't told them. I also think it's kind of amusing, and kind of sad, how much the four of us keep things from each other, just to try to keep each other's worrying to a minimum.

I'm not too concerned about the birthday except I'd like to be able to do something for it and can't really, and I mentioned to Eric that I might want to skip the symphony (which is on that day) and he dismissed the idea instantly. So we're going out to dinner at an inexpensive Mediterranean place instead, either before or after the symphony, and I don't know what I'll do otherwise. The normal Saturday thing, I imagine.

At least it's gotten warmer. I'm going to work in the yard tonight if at all possible, and I have seeds to start and, when my order of yeast gets here, bread to bake. I tried the no-yeast pumpernickel recipe over the weekend and it turned out terribly. But I have the other pumpernickel and a multigrain sandwich and a gruyere bread recipe I want to try soon. And there are plants that need tending and dirt that needs spreading and shrubs that need trimming. Eric predicts this year we'll have no spring at all, that it won't truly warm up until it suddenly becomes hot and humid. It's happened before, he says. I suppose at least it'll be good tomato weather.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An ambiguous state of affairs.

And so ends the Week of the Crazy Clients, with a wholly appropriate visitation from a client who supplied parameters for me to calculate how much of their product we needed and then when I delivered the number said, "Please use these numbers instead."

James called. He did go to the doctor, and thanked me for recommending he do so. His pancreatitis is indeed back. The doctor was very good, he said; was going to work with him as much as possible to save him money and get his insurance to pay for what needs to be paid for, when he gets it; and is going to recommend him for a study that will offer, for free, exactly what he needs to get a diagnosis and a determination for next steps. Depending on what's causing it, he may need gall bladder removal surgery, genetic testing, and/or a lifetime's supply of pain meds. But at least they're going to figure it out.

Also apparently his cholesterol is a little high, which is probably reasonable since he tells me meat is his one unalloyed joy in life lately, and so he's trying to figure out how he can possibly avoid fat. I've volunteered to send him some recipes and meal ideas. This ought to be fun. He's told our parents about this part, so they're making a bunch of chicken and pork for him. I'll gently remind Mom that it wouldn't hurt to supply him with some of the vegetable stirfries and noodle dishes and pickles and such that he loves, either.

As I was pacing around my boss's office (he was gone, and James called in the middle of the afternoon) talking to James about pancreatic stents and idiopathic etiology and cholesterol and food preparation, it struck me how very well my experiences have prepared me for exactly this situation. Too bad it's not me instead of him...I guess. "The doctor said, 'Yeah, it's pancreatitis again. Good news: you were right!'" James said.

I have found two pumpernickel recipes I really want to try. One takes no yeast, which I'm slightly suspicious of. I might give it a pinch of sourdough starter at the least. (It sits for 24 hours, so presumably there's some fermentation going on anyway.) I ordered yeast from King Arthur ($12 for a pound, including shipping; the 4 oz. bottles in Kroger are $7) and some pumpernickel flour. It is not my last indulgence of the weekend; there's a fiber fair in Findlay tomorrow and I’m going. Our tax refund came today, so I feel okay about that. Maybe I'll send James some bread.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Grr arrgh

omg why are clients so intractable it is so good i dont have to deal with them face to face

Monday, March 24, 2008

We could probably find a renter for the house.

On the way to work today I heard a radio DJ discuss how he went with a friend to an appliance warehouse and was embarrassed when his friend tried bargaining with a salesperson for a TV. "He said, 'I don't like this price, how about X instead.' I was mortified. I put my head down and walked away. I mean, who DOES that??" I turned it off because I was yelling, "People from other cultures, you narrow-minded twit!"

We had Easter dinner with Eric's family. I assisted by braiding the dinner roll dough and setting the table. Over dinner, we discussed making biofuels, moving to the country, white asparagus, conversations you never want to have with your mother (Brenda was having one and her daughter was trying hard not to), and our house. Angie says we overpaid, at least for the amount of time we're staying here. Eric (and Angie's husband) disagreed, saying that part of that judgment was hindsight; if the economy hadn't turned south, we'd have been fine. "As it is, we might have to move a year later than we planned," he said. Brenda said, "You won't move." I said nothing.

Previous to dinner, we were sent out to Kroger to get an Easter basket for Addie. She is one year and eleven days old. We got a felt basket, a little stuffed animal, and a box of banana toddler cookies, and the mothers added shoes before they presented it. On the way back to the car, we discussed whether we would want to give our kids Easter baskets and how we would celebrate Easter, if at all, since we're not religious. (Our solution was to get invited to the nearest grandparents' house for dinner ever year. And I'd be happy to celebrate it as a "welcome to spring" sort of thing.) "I mean, Christmas is more of a secularized holiday," Eric said.

"So is Easter," I said. "At least, where I grew up it is. I had no awareness growing up of this fish-on-Fridays thing, and I still don't think that our spring breaks always included Easter like yours did. And we certainly never got Good Friday off." I looked up my old school district (Lake Washington), and I remembered correctly. Their spring break is next week. We are moving. In one year, I start job-hunting.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Obama's race speech was really good.

I was working on Eric's rye bread the day before yesterday and ended up solving four equations for four variables in order to get the mass and the hydration just right. It wasn't long ago that I didn't grasp the whole hydration thing; now I know some theory behind bread, and I find that pretty cool.

It's Thursday already. Thank goodness. And this is Eric's last day of work for a week and a half (he gets Good Friday and Spring Break off. Did my spring breaks always coincide with Easter? I don't remember them doing so. Certainly we never got Good Friday off) so I can sleep later in the mornings, which will be marvelous.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I sent off an article last night, after much dithering. Eric finished his grading. We lamented our mutual lack of productivity. We squabbled. "Why are we so irritable lately?" I asked him after showering. "They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but it's been, what...nine months? Ten?"

"Well, partly it's the situation," he said. "Student teaching is probably annoying me subconsciously--"

"We're not getting as much sleep as we should," I said.

"Yup, and then the winter is dragging on, that's bothering us both."

"And there's the lack of money."

"No wonder we're irritable."

"I guess so." He went away and I toweled my head. A moment later I opened the bathroom door and called to him, "Do you think a lot of couples analyze themselves like this?"

"No," he said. "Maybe that's why we'll make it?"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's terminal.

My computer has cancer. It will frequently come up with the Active Desktop turned off, for no good reason. Occasionally I will get a ".../systemced file is corrupt" error, which means I have to boot with the Windows CD and go in and change a couple of things before I can boot up. Twice now, I get a BSOD that we've only been able to fix by hooking my hard drive up with Eric's and letting his system fix it. But then the problem comes back again. Eric says he will reformat my computer during spring break (in a week). I hope that will fix it. If not, at least it'll keep Eric busy for a time.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Angry addendum

And Eric's unemployment claim was denied because his employers lied to the unemployment agency. They lied. They said, "He was in no danger of being fired." (He was given the choice to give them a resignation letter rather than being fired outright and took it, on the advice of his student teaching advisor.) I just don't believe it. To start with, they're a Catholic Diocese, and doesn't one of their commandments specifically prohibit this sort of thing? And to end with, there's no reason for them to lie except to mess him up, and supposedly that's not what they were trying to do, and even if they were this is going a little far. He can appeal, and since it's their word against his--and he can probably get some of his ex-coworkers to give evidence that he had, indeed, been threatened with dismissal--he may or may not get the benefits. At this point I don't even care about the benefits, I just don't want them to get away with lying about this.

2008 is shaping up like 2002. I don't like it.

James called me last night, saying, "I want to bounce something off you." Here's the something: he's having regular stomach pains that feel similar (though not as bad) as the ones he had when he had pancreatitis recently. His surgery was a couple of months ago. Here's the background: he has no insurance, $1500 in hospital bills, $17,000 in credit card debt, and a lousy credit rating. He's working 60 hours a week at an auto shop which has promised him all the work he can handle and a manager's position in a year, but it's not much money right now. He doesn't want to ask our parents for money to go to the doctor because they've already given him a lot of money and he feels guilty. Here's the bouncing: should he go to the doctor or not?

I don't see him really expecting me to say "No, don't go, maybe it'll go away." I didn't, anyway. I inquired into his symptoms, mentioned surgical complications, told him that his health was worth a little more debt, and suggested calling the doctor's office to see if they have any suggestions on how to afford the bill, seeing if he could get help somewhere else--essentially, that he should do whatever he can. He didn't ask for money, which surprised me a bit--but then, he hasn't asked for money since, oh, 2003, when he was behind on rent, and I've given it to him anyway for Christmases and such. Maybe he was hoping I'd offer. On the other hand, he also knows that we're short an income ourselves.

I offered to look at his budget, and he says he's spending as little as possible, but then he was calling me while driving to visit his ex-girlfriend at $3.50 a gallon in his truck. (At least, I hope she's his ex. He's said that twice, though, and the first time it didn't take.) He says he sold a bunch of our old books for $30. (I got the chance to look through them last year, so as long as they didn't include the Mark Twain book I've been missing for four years, I don't care.) Also he says he's spending all his spare money on visits to his daughter, and while I can understand the desire to do that, I wonder if he shouldn't be using that money for his existing bills instead. And even if he gets insurance through his work (I think they offer it after six months, and he's had this job for three), this will probably qualify as a pre-existing condition and won't be covered anyway.

I would send money if we weren't already tight. As it is, I'm going to see whether we have any leeway or not--it depends on when our tax refund comes and whether Eric will be taking one class or two this summer and whether he can get unemployment--and if we do, send him something for an initial appointment at least. I don't like the idea of bailing him out, but he's been in financial trouble long enough to know that gifts from family aren't enough to support him and he's going to need to straighten out his affairs for any sort of long-term viability. He's already aware that Dad's work a second part-time job for him, and it sounds like he's much more aware of how much money our parents have given him than our parents think he is.

Now may not be the time to have scruples about asking them for money, though. Or me. I've been thinking about ways I could make a little extra money, to give us a little more cushion; now I'm thinking about ways I could make a little extra money to send to my brother's doctor.

Monday, March 10, 2008


So since Shoelace is rolling nicely (for now), I decided I would appoint Mondays and Thursdays as Work on Nonfiction days. I decided this last Thursday but didn't put it into action--I had what I thought was a genuine reason but I don't remember what it was. Today, then, was to be my first nonfiction day. As the hour of nine o'clock--writing time--approached, I felt myself get actually nervous. At about ten to nine Eric pulled me into some random Internet silliness, and I let myself be pulled in, even though I knew it would take a while (end time, ten fifteen), because I didn't want to work on writing today. And not because I don't want to write; because I'm nervous about working on nonfiction. Why is this? I don't know exactly, except maybe that I'm starting from scratch in this--that and timidly venturing on a path that I dream about but have never actually done anything about. I don't know why I'm afraid to start, rather than eager. I'm also not sure whether to try again tomorrow and make myself buckle down, or wait until Thursday to see if I can figure this out.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hot drink, cold weather, cold cash

I have ascertained that rice milk is better than soy milk, at least for my purpose. My purpose is mixing half and half with Oregon chai concentrate. I tried it with soy milk and the result was unbearably sweet. This time it's just right except for a mildly sour aftertaste--but that's probably the tea itself, or perhaps a remnant of the lentil soup from dinner, and it's preferable to the supersweetness. I have yet to try it with hot cocoa, but I will sometime soon.

The snow was less bad than they predicted. We got about six inches all told, which was the lowest limit, but it stopped midafternoon, rather than the midnight we'd heard. We shoveled the driveways and the sidewalks and I was pleased to get some exercise.

I am contemplating various ways to make money in the next three months. This is because Eric's summer tuition is going to come due, and we can't get financial aid because they're not graduate classes (even though they're required for his graduate program). So we could take out a loan, or maybe get a 0% APR balance transfer on a credit card...or earn the money beforehand, which I'd prefer to do. We'll see whether any of the things I thought of are practicable, though.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Excuse, me, Firefox, but


Reading this post will increase your risk of expatiation by 43%.

This study says that in older women, those who ate more of current dietary guidelines (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat animal products) had a 30% less death rate from all causes, but especially cancer and cardiovascular disease.

This article describes two studies looking at the relationship between eating habits and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of white blood cells). One showed that people who ate most vegetables had a 42% lower risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; the other showed a 51% lower risk. [I'm not sure exactly what they were looking at here--the study design sounds dubious the way the article describes it--but that's not relevant to my point.]

This article describes a study finding that people who increased consumption of fruits and vegetables by approximately two servings per day reduced their risk of head and neck cancer by 6%.

(Incidentally, the Book of Daniel apparently agrees with these studies, according to Wikipedia. I'll have to pull out my Bible and see if I can find this.)

I think the way they provide this information is interesting, and not very effective. "Vegetables/fruits/whole grains lower your risk of X, Y, and Z." It's a perfectly legitimate and honest way to present their findings. But it has no real impact to me, viscerally or psychologically. Why? I think it's because (a) I don't know what my base risks of X, Y, and Z are, and (b) my assumption is that my risk is pretty low ("it can't happen to me" fallacy). So why do I need to worry about lowering my risk any further? Can't be that important. Result: I don't really care about this information.

But what if the scientists and journalists wrote it this way? "Eating two or more servings of junk food daily increased older women's risk of death by 43%." "Replacing vegetables with junk food increases your risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by 70%." That means more to me. They're telling me that this is something I'm (probably) doing that's endangering my health by a lot.

Admittedly, they'd have to redesign new studies to be able to say these things. But it's interesting that scientists are looking hard at what's healthy--on the assumption that we don't know--and ignoring what's unhealthy. The basic assumption that they, and we, seem to have, is that an unhealthy diet is the standard to judge all things by.

I wonder when this happened, and how it coincided with the growth of nutritional research. And I wonder what it would take to change it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Well, I decided how to vote but it didn't matter. I mean, voting never matters, except that it always matters. You know what I mean.

2,325 words on Shoelace today, all at work. It was, as you might deduct, a slow day. I didn't mind. Maybe it'll happen again tomorrow.

My newest frustration: the hunter quest in World of Warcraft. Suddenly at the top level quests start to get hard. This seems kind of unfair, considering that the difficulty level had been approximately the same for sixty levels except for remembering what all the increasingly numerous buttons do.

Also, it snowed again. Ice/snow/sleet, specifically. More snow expected Friday. I hate this winter.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Indecision 2008

I have to vote today. And I don't know who to vote for. At least I always know my answer to school levies.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hearth and home

I'm currently craving tofu-bean paste soup with chopped-up greens and sticky rice with black onion and a tiny bit of cinnamon. Apparently I'm having a childhood gustatory moment.

This weekend I made more rye bread (with oil this time; we'll see how it turned out when Eric finishes the current loaf), garlic-rosemary bread, and oatmeal bread. The oatmeal bread was 100% whole wheat and turned out flat and dense, but Eric liked the taste, so I'll give it another try with some AP flour substituted. I'm starting to feel baked out. At least this week.

This weekend we also went up to Ann Arbor to be maudlin about our ninth anniversary of meeting. I'm glad we'll be able to go up again for number ten, but after that we'll have to find another coffee shop to be sentimental in because we'll be on the West Coast if all goes well. Well, if all goes 67% well--we're figuring that in order to move, ideally three things would happen: he gets a good job, I get a good job, and the house sells. But we can still do it--potentially--with two out of three.

Incidentally, Eric's mom is considering buying the house next door to hers. It's $70K and could probably be negotiated down further so I can kind of understand her thinking--how can you pass up a bargain like that??--only that sort of thinking applies better to, say, shoes, or books, or maybe a nice set of pots, than a house. I asked her what she would do with it, and she said, "Whatever! Use the land, build a garage..." I'd say maybe she could buy our house, but it's less convenient and would cost nearly twice as much--well, depending on how the market goes over the next year.

I'm reading up on candidates to figure out who to vote for tomorrow. My phone keeps ringing with an 800 number. I don't pick up and they never leave a message.