Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year's Eve!

      I hope you're all having a good time, whether you be out or at home, and I hope you are healthy, happy and safe. I can't stay online for long right now. Mikey is spending the night so he requires my attention. Right now, he and my roomie are shooting Nerf darts.
      It's been a good day. Long but good. My roomie's kids visited us this morning and stayed until late afternoon. We had Christmas with them. I only have one more gift exchange -- this with some good friends of mine and my godchildren -- and Christmas 2005 will be over. We will do that tomorrow afternoon.
      It's been a good holiday season. As always, it was filled with joys and sorrows, laughs and tears, the hustle and bustle and the quiet times, the crass commercial and the priceless sacred. Now a new year dawns.
      I have a bunch of resolutions. I make them, break them, make new ones every year. I'm like everyone else. We set goals, we adjust, we change.
      Mikey needs me. Apparently I'm needed to help him defeat the evil badman. Catch y'all in 2006.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


      ER tagged me so here's the meme.

A. Seven things to do before I die
1. Write and publish many books.
2. Write and publish many plays.
3. Have a home with an indoor swimming pool.
4. Make a lot of money so that I can use it to fund research into cancer, strokes, Crohn's, diabetes, etc.
5. Spend time on a beach with clean white sand and people bringing me drinks with umbrellas in them.
6. Have a woman who loves me as much as I love her.
7. Travel to a lot of cool places in America.

B. Seven things I cannot do
1. Play basketball.
2. Watch golf on TV.
3. Listen to Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken without feeling like the top of my head is going to blow off.
4. Play any type of musical instrument well.
5. Suffer fools gladly.
6. Put my foot behind my ear (not that I want to).
7. Fly a jet … for very long. It would be a short flight.

C. Seven things that attract me to anyone
1. Intelligence.
2. Sense of humor.
3. Spirituality.
4. Kindness.
5. Compassion.
6. Cleanliness and neatness.
7. Good smile.

D. Seven things I say most often
1. Howdy.
2. Fascinating.
3. Cool.
4. Crap!
5. Good grief.
6. I'm writing. Go away.
7. I can't believe it.

E. Seven books (or series or genres or topics) that I love
1. The Bible.
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit.
3. The Discworld series.
4. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series.
5. Sherlock Holmes series.
6. Any book by James Rollins.
7. Carolyn Hart's mystery novels and Holly Lisle's fantasy novels.

F. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would if I had time)
1. The Roger Moore James Bonds.
2. John Wayne's later-year Westerns.
3. The Tomb Raider movies.
4. "The Lion in Winter."
5. "Contact."
6. Star Trek movies 1, 2, 4 & 6.
7. "Mindwalk."

G. Seven people I want to join in, too.
1. Crystal.
2. Michelle.
3. Randall.
4. Gloria.
5. Roen.
6. Amber.
7. Patriot.

      If you don't have a blog, feel free to answer it in the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cruising to the end of the year

      I had a good Christmas. Well, it's not over yet, but it's mostly over. I still have two more Christmas get-togethers, but then it will be done. By New Year's Day, Christmas 2005 will be finished.
      Most of my family came to see me after Christmas. We had a good visit. I cooked a huge meal. Everyone ate a lot, but I still have plenty of leftovers. I just don't know how to gauge the right amount of food. So I'm looking at having turkey, dressing, ham and veggies for most of my meals this week. :) Fortunately I like all those.
      In health news, I've got to resume Weight Watchers. I've been sort of doing it, but it works best when you keep it religiously. I'd like to lose another 50 pounds in the coming year.
      Currently I'm suffering from back problems again. But I have my cane and am getting ultraound and massage treatments. I'm hoping that it's already on the healing path, and I think it is.
      How was your Christmas? Did life treat you okay? Did you get any quiet time to yourself? Any good loot? Any good stories? How did it go? Do you have any plans for New Year's Eve? What's happening in your world? Let me know you're out there!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

And in the darkness ...

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

A Christmas Prayer

We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the work, the health, the food,
and the bright skies which make our lives delightful
for our friends in all parts of the earth.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

Carol of the Bells

Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say, throw cares away.
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song,
With joyful ring, all caroling
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere, filling the air
O, how they pound, raising the sound
O’er hill and dale, telling their tale

Gaily they ring, while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home
Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say, throw cares away.
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song
With joyful ring, all caroling.
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere, filling the air
O, how they pound, raising the sound
O’er hill and dale, telling their tale

Gaily they ring, while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home.
Ding dong ding dong

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas in 37 languages

Afrikaner: Een Plesierige Kerfees
Argentinian: Felces Pasquas y felices Ano Nuevo
Armenian: Schernorhavor Dzenount.
Bohemain: Vesele Vanoce
Bulgarian: Chestita Koleda
Chinese: Kung Hsi Hsin Niene bing Chu Shen Tan
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Danish: Glaedelig Jul
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Finnish: Houska Joulua
Flemish: Vrolike Kerstmis
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christougena
Dutch: Vrolyk Kerfeest en Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Iraqian: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Italian: Buon Natale
Japanese: Meri Kurisumasu
Jugoslavian: Cestitamo Bozic
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
Norwegian: God Jul og Godt Nytt Aar
Oklahoman: Merry Christmas, y'all
Polish: Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Boas Festas y Feliz Ano Novo
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele
Russian: S Rozhdestvom Kristovym
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Vesele vianoce
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Chrystos Rozdzajetsia Slawyte Jeho
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

Friday, December 23, 2005

12 Factoids About Christmas

      1. One acre of living Christmas trees generates enough oxygen to meet the daily requirement for 18 humans. Approximately 1,000,000 acres are used to grow Christmas trees yearly.
      2. The top six Christmas tree producing states are: Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. About 30,000,000 trees are harvested in an average year. Two to three Christmas trees are planted for every one harvested.
      3. Mango and banana trees are Christmas symbols in India, where Christians use mango leaves for holiday decorations.
      4. The poinsettia is named for the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett introduced the plant that would become known as poinsettia into the United States in 1829.
      5. The word yule, from Middle English, means "to cry aloud."
      6. More than 3 billion Christmas cards are mailed each year in the United States.
      7. With some 50,000,000 copies sold so far and still climbing, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," recorded in 1942 by Bing Crosby, is still the best-selling single in history.
      8. Geographically speaking, the North Pole is the point on Earth that is the true top of the planet where all lines of longitude converge. The Geomagnetic North Pole is the point on the Earth that marks the northern focus of the geomagnetic field that surrounds the globe. It lies in Greenland, 78 degrees 30 minutes North, 69 degrees West. Compasses, however, point to the Magnetic North Pole, which is about 1,000 miles south of the geographic North Pole, near Ellef Ringness Island in northern Canada. A lesser-known North Pole, the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, represents the furtherest point in all directions from any coastline. About 700 miles from the nearest land, this pole is located north of Alaska at 84 degrees 03 minutes North, 174 degrees 51 minutes West. By the way, illustrator Thomas Nast was the first to put Santa Clause's home at the North Pole. In 1882, he drew Santa sitting on a box labeled, "Christmas Box 1882, St. Nicholas, North Pole."
      9. There are about 5,000,000 reindeer in the world. They are threatened by habitat loss and global warming and are seeing their population drop yearly.
      10. Making popcorn garlands is one of the few Christmas traditions born in the United States.
      11. The post office handles more than 70,000 letters each year addressed to Santa at the North Pole.
      12. The Twelve Days of Christmas traditionally started on Christmas. Many European counties still keep this tradition, particularly parts of Spain and France.
Sources: The Christmas Almanac, The National Arbor Day Foundation, The Association of Popcorn Producers, The United States Postal Service and MTV News.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

12 Wonderful Things About Christmas

      1. Presents. I like getting them. I like giving them. Here are some inexpensive gift ideas: Candles, candy bars, six-packs of favorite soft drinks, chocolate-chip cookies, small picture frames, bookmarks, Christmas ornaments, decorative computer printer paper, hand lotion, etc. We have a tendency to think that good presents have to cost a lot of money. They don't. Something to show that you're thinking of them this holiday season is all that is needed for your co-workers, friends, etc. It's not about the money.
      2. Lights. I love Christmas lights. I like to drive around my town and see all the displays. I appreciate the hard work that went into them. I like the way the way the lights gleam in the night. It's a metaphor for what Christmas really is about.
      3. Shopping. It's where I catch the bustle and hustle of the season. Yeah, it's hurried, and it makes my feet hurt. But I like thinking of people and what they might like.
      4. Christmas bags. Oh, I still wrap a few gifts, but otherwise, brightly colored bags have freed me of hours of wrapping.
      5. Carols. I like singing them. I like hearing them.
      6. Church and school Christmas children's programs. Nothing is as sweet or as funny. Makes my heart melt. No apologies for that.
      7. The way people will give more during this time to the needy. It's like we're reminded of how blessed we are and how much we really have. So we share. Some people say that it's guilt. I don't believe that's true for most of us. I believe it's compassion. It's where we show that we have incredible potential as a species. It's where we justify our existence.
      8. Food. I love turkey and dressing, pineapple adorned ham, fluffy garlic and chive mashed potatoes, fresh green salad, golden pumpkin pies … Hmmmmm ….
      9. Get-togethers with friends. We're all busy, we're all tired, we're all broke, but we all enjoy sharing time and raising a cup of cider together.
      10. Family time. They make me crazy at times, but I wouldn't give up any one of them. We're connected by blood and history. We're loud, opinionated, funny and brash. We love as hard as we fight. We're family. And that's that.
      11. Quiet, worshipful Midnight Masses and other church Christmas services. It's a time of quiet in this incredibly busy season. I remember sitting in the local Catholic Church at Midnight Night Mass a couple of Christmases ago as the day became new and listening to the silence between the prayers and songs. I felt renewed in spirit and grateful for the many undeserved blessings in my life.
      12. Nativity scenes. The heart of the mystery. The God coming to earth in the form of a babe. Remembrances that we were loved enough for someone to give up glory for us. The beginning of a journey that would change a world. A light in the darkness. A star in the ebony sky. A gift to humanity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

12 Annoying Things During Christmas

      1. People who talk about the commercialism of Christmas like they're being sophisticated. Look, back in the 1920s, they were bemoaning the commercial aspects of Christmas. It's nothing new. We live in a crass, profit-oriented society. Less than 48 hours after 9/11, companies were selling "commemorative" items. That's just the way some people are. Get over it. Don't give them any airtime. And don't use the commercialism of Christmas as an excuse for your lack of generosity. There are a lot of soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other charities that always need your help. Rather than just talk about how everyone has lost the true meaning of Christmas, why don't you go out there and show it to everyone.
      2. The whole Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas mess that has been reported exhaustedly by TV, newspaper and bloggers. Seriously, do you think saying Happy Holidays makes anyone forget it's Christmas? Do you think calling names and generally behaving like a jerk makes anyone feel like it's Christmas? Do I think it's right for retailers to remove mention of Christmas? No, but I don't expect retailers to spread the Gospel. Guess what? They're trying to make a living. If I don't like their policies, I don't have to shop with them. And I won't.
      3. People who get upset by Nativity scenes on public property. Don't they have any real problems? We've got starving, poor, homeless people who are sick and need help. We have children going to bed hungry in the United States. We have rampant drug use that is decimating our young people and draining society. And you want me to be upset because your poor little eyes were offended by a Nativity scene? What complete, utter nonsense. Our courts should be ashamed to even hear such cases.
      4. Anyone who doesn't give to a charity because they've decided that charities are corrupt. Here's a lesson in the real world, bucko: Charities are ran by people. Some people are corrupt. There will be corruption in any human endeavor. That's the way of the world. But you can do a bit of research and discover what charities give more of their donations to their causes. You can make sensible decisions about your charitable giving. But if you still want to hang onto your money, then once again, haul yourself to your nearest homeless shelter. Make the world a better place that way. Side note: I particularly detest people who decide that the homeless are lazy and deserve to starve. A lot of the homeless, a third at last count, are children below the age of eight. Exactly what did they do to deserve to starve? Another side note: Anyone who justifies not helping the poor because the Bible says the poor will always be with us should be beaten. I don't have words to express my contempt for that lazy, selfish, smug attitude. One last side note: If you're broke, you're broke. Give what you can when you can. We can only do what we can do. But we should do that.
      5. Rock, rap and pop stars who insist on singing carols but have to add their own special touch. While driving to work today, I heard a pop star sing Silent Night on the radio with many moans, ahhh's, soft sighs and general all-around grandstanding. I wasn't sure if she was singing a carol or giving a mating call. Then I heard a hard guitar version of Come All Ye, Faithful. I turned off the radio. I won't turn it back on until it's safe.
      6. People who sing the praises of snow. It's cold, wet, makes roads dangerous, kills animals and people. I rate it up there with the flu.
      7. Speaking of wet, cold and dangerous, why don't people slow down when it's icy? WHY? Four-wheel drive doesn't make you invulnerable, folks. SLOW DOWN.
      8. Any more animated specials about Santa's early life. We now have The Adventures of Santa, Young Santa Claus, The True Story of Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Santa and His Reindeer, Santa and the Magic Flute, The Year Without Santa Claus, etc. Next up: Santa VS. Alien and Santa and The Wise Guys. Enough already.
      9. Christmas cards without return addresses. Don't make me look it up. Put the return address on the envelope. That's all I'm asking.
      10. Surly clerks. I know your job isn't fun at the holidays. I'm sorry about that. But don’t take it out on me. It's not my fault. Just let me make my purchases and leave and no one gets hurt.
      11. Anyone who has to share the pagan origins of Christmas like they're imparting some new earthshaking wisdom. That's old news, folks. Not very interesting news at that. Recently a pastor I know spent his Sunday morning giving us the pagan putdown. I debated several times about walking out, but annoying good manners kept me in the pew listen to him babble on about what things meant centuries ago. It doesn't really matter what they thought in the 9th century. It matters what we think now.
      12. Bloggers that produce lists of things that annoy them about Christmas. That's the most annoying thing of all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One down, a couple hundred to go ...

      The Gazette is done and mailed. One task down, a couple hundred to go. Well, not that many. Just a hundred or so. Have a good night y'all. More tomorrow. I promise.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Busier than an elf

      I spent the entire evening once again on the Gazette. I have five pages of it done. Just one page left. Unfortunately that page is the one that I'm supposed to fill with a humor column. Sigh. Maybe something funny will happen tonight. Or tomorrow. But this baby is going to be done tomorrow night, funny or not. Once it's done, all I have to do is finish my Christmas shopping, wrap the presents, grocery shop and then have a nervous breakdown. I'm quite looking forward to the breakdown. It should be fun.
      Good night and cheerio!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Busy as an elf

      I've spent all today working on my family newsletter. It's about half done. I'm hoping to finish tomorrow night, but it probably won't be until Tuesday night. Anyway, I'm beat and going to call it a night. I hope you have a great week.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Nativity scene

      Have I mentioned that I have a collection of Nativity sets? This is one of them.

Nativity scene.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Christmas ornaments on my tree

      I thought I'd include a few photos of the various Christmas ornaments on my tree. This officially starts the 51313 Harbor Street Christmas Celebration. Finally.

Christmas ornaments.
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe ...

      I'm back. Cue ominous music ...
      I've been fighting this cold, which turned into something rather larger than a cold as another example of my inability to do anything simple, but finally I think I'm on top of it. At this point as I deal with all the side effects of all the medication I'm on, I'm not really sure if the original germ even exists anymore. It's probably mutated into something stronger, an evil genius germ that even now rubs it mucus hands together and contemplates conquering the world. I shared this fancy with one of my doctors who acted very peculiar about it, whispering to his nurse who regarded me with huge, frightened eyes. Possibly they thought I was delirious, I reasoned. To reassure them of my firm control of my faculties, I launched into a retelling of Robin Hood and Maid Marion, but the part of Robin Hood was played by Daffy Duck and Elmer was Maid Marion. It was hilarious, I think, but things got a bit confused around then with all the shouting, injections and general chaos, so I'm not sure.
      Anyway, I'm back. I haven't had a chance to visit all the blogs I haunt yet, but I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone. My Christmas plans are sort of shot. I'm hoping to feel well enough this weekend to finish my Christmas shopping. Pray for me. Seriously.
      I'm hoping to finish my Christmas cards tonight. Actually, I don't see why I wouldn't unless the evil germ throws me another curve. With the cards, I've included a short story from my Bethlehem Tales. I hope people like it.
      That's my news so far. Talk with you later. I hope you're having a healthy and happy day.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The cold has kicked my butt

      I think the headline says it all. I've done nothing this weekend except sleep, be sick, take medicine, etc. I'm about to go to bed now. I hope that I improve quickly. My Christmas plans are falling apart. Truly I need warm weather. I'm ready for spring, ready summer. A friend of mine asked me, "What are we doing here in this cold weather?" I don't know.
      I did watch the Fantastic Four movie on DVD. I'm glad I didn't pay for it in the theater. It isn't a great movie. Nor even good. It's just okay. It had no depth and no story. I think the Spiderman movies have set my expectations high.
      I'm going back to my cocoon now. Hope y'all are doing well.

Friday, December 09, 2005


      That's me moaning. This is a mean cold. Very mean. Almost Republican in its meanness and definitely Democratic in what it's costing me in doctors bills. Bad cold. Bad.
      I have lots of stuff planned for this weekend, but I suspect I'm just going to be resting. Rest good. Cold bad.
      The Net is a lifesaver since I can order lots of stuff for Christmas on it. Then I just wait until the items arrive at my office. Some businesses even wrap the presents for you. Wrapping good. Cold bad.
      Anyway, I still fighting the cold. That's all my news. Completely. Well, I did get my tree decorated last night and put up a few other decorations around the living room and kitchen, but that's it. Otherwise I slept. Sleep good. Cold bad.
      I have been reading Robin Hobb's Tawny Man series. Very good. It's a sequel to her Assassin series. I'm glad that she didn't leave Fitz alone and tired. I'm hoping these books end with him having some happiness and peace. Books good. Cold bad.
      I've just about got my Christmas cards finished. I try to include a little something extra in all the cards I send. I hope I'm able to do that this year. I know the real life addresses to several of my blogging buddies and commenters so I'm going to send them cards, but if you're one of them whose address I don't know, please email me with address if you'd like a card from me. I'd like to send one to you. Christmas cards good. Cold bad.
      More later if I can.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


      The cold finally landed after a few days of hovering around. I feel absolutely miserable. I'm fighting the cold with gallons of orange juice, Airborne, Advil, two different nasal spray, vitamin C chews, Theraflu, chicken and rice soup, hot Earl Grey tea, and so on. I still feel like someone attacked me and didn't have the decency to finish me off.
      My IBD and my general health move around each other in a sort of dance. In its simplest terms, my IBD is an immune system disorder. Inflammatory Bowel Disease causes my immune system to attack me, mostly the lining of my intestinal tract. I have a powerful immune system, and it reacts frantically to any and all invaders. Unfortunately it's not very bright and ever so often, it mistakes my gut cells as invaders. We control the IBD by giving me steroids. Steroids suppress my immune system. They also have some unfortunate side effects, like enlarging a person's heart and also giving me that lovely Charlie Brown face and body. The dance or interplay comes in that if the steroids suppress my immune system too much, then I'm prey to any and all germs that wander by. Not enough and my IBD rages.
      When I get sick, the doctors take me off the steroids, but they have to taper me off. It can cause real problems if you suddenly just stop the steroids. So slowly the doctors drop the dosage, but they also prescribe antibiotics to help battle whatever infection I'm fighting.
      They used to give me a lot of antibiotics, but over the past few years, I've been balking at that. There's some evidence that shows IBD might have an antibiotic connection. (The thought is that the antibiotics kill off certain organisms in our guts, some of which are supposed to be there. Eventually marker cells that tell your immune system what is and isn't an invader get killed off or reduced so that your body gets confused and starts attacking the intestine.) When I was younger, doctors prescribed bottles and bottle of antibiotics for me. It's interesting to note that my IBD wasn't as severe then. To achieve some sort of balance in my body, the doctors also prescribe probiotics to help restore the missing gut organisms. The medicine bottles line up like a pharmacy shelf on my bedroom dresser.
      I confess that I don't always take everything I'm supposed to; sometimes the side effects are worse than what the medicine is treating. And I've noticed that sometimes my doctors just prescribe stuff without really examining me. I don't like being dependent on medication, anyway, a trait that I got from my dad.
      Anyway, that's where I'm at now. Tapering off the steroids, fighting the infection with over the counter meds, and hoping that I won't have to have antibiotics. And now, God help me, I have to go to work. The only bright spot is that I fully intend to cough on any rude customers today.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In the swamp

      It always starts some small thing. An idea or a simple project. You think, "This won't be hard. I can do this." You should remember that moment. Fix it in your mind before you set off on your happy journey. It will be ironic later when you're in the swamp surrounded by hungry gators in a sinking rowboat while battling frantically to reach some part of solid ground that won't bite or drown you. Before you sink in the dank water, you will remember what you thought earlier and you will realize with a complete understanding usually only granted to prophets that you were a dolt.
      This seems to be story of my life. I always start out with such good intentions, but eventually I find myself in a basket hurling toward a warmer clime. I'm always perplexed, of course, since it doesn't seem any of my actions would lead to this sudden drop, but they do. I know this says something about my lack of foresight, but I think I'm going to refuse to figure out what it is.
      I had a busy day. I cleaned house, put up Christmas lights, worked on my family newsletter, did laundry, went Christmas shopping, ate at Chinese buffet, watched part of the original War of the Worlds and worked on reading/editing Darkness, Oklahoma.
      I'm pleased to report that Darkness, Oklahoma is not crap. I had worried about it during NaNo. I had to write so fast that I couldn't really get a picture of how the book was shaping up. So reading it was interesting. A lot of it is rough. Very rough, but there are the bones of a story there. And some of the scenes are written exactly as I saw them in my head. That is cool. After I finish this reading/editing, I will go back and add more words, fixing errors, changing characters, and in one instance, removing a character completely. (She didn't pass the interesting test. If I'm bored by her, you can bet my readers will be.)
      Blogger isn't letting me post so I'll just save this as a draft.

      I woke up today feeling a cold coming on. I immediately took Advil, drank a half gallon of orange juice, chewed on some vitamins, and went back to bed. I'm feeling better now, but not healthy. I am going to take it easy today.
      I'm writing this on Word because my cable internet is down. I tried calling my provider's 24-hour service, but I waited for 30 minutes on hold -- never speaking to a real person -- and finally gave up.
      I intended to keep working on my Christmas cards and the family newsletter, but I'm going back to bed now. I'll try again later.

Sunday evening
      Internet is still down. Arrggggghhhhhh. I hate that. Who knows what interesting things are happening? I don't. I tried the support line again. This time the recorded message said there was an outage in my area. At least a lot of people are suffering with me. Somehow that's not comforting.
      So far, I'm holding off the cold. Go immune system go! I don't know if cheering helps, but it couldn't hurt.

Sunday evening later still
      Still no service. I'm calling it a night.

      Work was particularly grueling today, but some good things got accomplished. It was a successful day.
      I had to rush home after work to start putting together the program for the theater group's play this weekend. I should have done it Sunday. I had to be at the theater at 7:30 p.m. to take a cast photo for the program, and I wanted to take a rough draft of the program with me. I barely made it but I did.
      The program looks good. Nice, clean design. I'm pleased.
      Internet connection is dicey. It goes on for about five minutes and then cuts off. Once again, I can't get through to the support line. I'm not happy at all. And Blogger is apparently having problems, too.
      I got to watch a little of The Triangle on SciFi Channel. So far, they've got me interested. I want to see where it goes.
      My Christmas tree is up with lights on, but it's not decorated yet. I'm going to do that tomorrow night, I hope. And finish the family newsletter. And my Christmas cards.
      Well, it's late, and I can't post this anyway so I'm going to bed. Maybe tomorrow I can go early to work and post it from there. Or post it during my lunch hour. We'll see you soon. I hope.

Friday, December 02, 2005

More than you wanted to know about tea

      The little green tea people are after me because I made some unkind remarks about their elixir of life, their beverage of the gods, their cure-all for any and all ills including baldness and the dreaded creeping earlobe fungus. So I thought I'd send them into a stupor with a long discussion about the various teas.
      Tea is basically the dried and processed leaves of one plant species called camellia sinensis. (Herbal teas are not really teas, but simply dried flowers and/or herbs. They are more correctly called herbal infusions. Remember that. It will be on the test.) Even though all teas come from only one species, there are three major varieties: the China, the India (or Assam) and the Hybrid. All have a slightly different taste. Americans are most used to the India or Hybrid teas, both of which are easier to grow than the China variety. (Which is why China teas are more expensive. Please note, though, you can grow the China variety in other places than China, but that seems sort of silly.)
      You will find four main types of tea on the shelves: white, black, green and oolong. The difference in them is mainly in processing and, of course, how they're spelled. Basically, processing is taking the raw green leaves and deciding how much oxidation (or fermentation) if any should take place before drying them out. (This is not unlike what AA does for its members, but they stress the drying out portion and discourage the fermentation.)
      Tea leaves have enzymes in their veins. Don't be shocked. They're supposed to be there. When the leaf is bruised or crushed, the enzymes are exposed to oxygen resulting in oxidation. The amount of oxidation depends upon how much of the enzymes are exposed and for how long. Just trust me on this, and let's move on.
      White teas are the least processed of any tea and therefore taste the most like fresh leaves or grass. Yummy. They also have the lowest amount of caffeine and most likely have the highest antioxidant properties. Tea leaves meant for white teas are immediately fried or steamed after letting them air dry for a short period of time. (The steaming and frying neutralizes the enzymes, thus preventing oxidation.) There is no rolling, breaking or bruising of the leaves. The tea police see to this, and violators are forced to drink coffee. Black. No sugar. While standing on their head and balancing a box of knives on their feet. The tea police don't fool around.
      Black teas are the most processed of the four types of teas. They are the highest in caffeine, but still have antioxidant properties, just not quite as much as others. They are rolled, crushed, bruised and generally folded, torn and mutilated and then allowed to completely oxidize, thus giving the leaves their blackened color. You can find places that boast that their teas "age three months," but that really doesn't mean anything, as the oxidation is pretty much complete as soon as the leaves turn black. We'll let them keep bragging about that because frankly if that's all they have to brag about, who are we to rain on their parade?
      Green teas processing is similar to that of white teas in that they aren't allowed to oxidize. They might want to so that they can get that rich, strong, delicious taste of black tea, but once again the tea police step in (and then step out and put their right foot in and shake it all around. The tea police are good dancers, but let's be honest, our brave members of the FBI are much better.) After the leaves are plucked, they are laid out to air dry (or wither or Bushized) for about 8 to 24 hours. This lets most of the water evaporate. Then the leaves are steamed or pan-fried (or Clintonized).
      Oolong teas are the hardest to categorize, despite having the most fun name to say. I often go into stores and ask the clerks if they know where the oolong tea is at. Oh, the look on their faces is simply priceless, I tell you, priceless. Man, I need a life. Anyway, oolong tea requires only a partial oxidation of the leaves. After the leaves are plucked, they are air-dried for about 8 to 24 hours. Then the leaves are tossed in baskets in order to bruise the edges of the leaves. Much rejoicing is heard from the happy leaves who never get to play in the fields. But it does leave them bruised. This bruising causes the leaves to partially oxidize because only a portion of the enzymes is exposed to air. Next, the leaves steamed in order to neutralize the enzymes and stop any more oxidation for happening. Oolong tea can have varying degrees of oxidation. Some are closer to black teas, and some are closer to green. Some would like to be orange or even purple, but they are whisked away by the tea police and never seen again, although I'm sure you've heard the rumors.
      Now hopefully the little green tea people are safely asleep and won't take me away in their spaceship. But if they do, and you never hear from me again (although if the evening news starts featuring reports about someone running wild, naked and free through the suburbs and shouting, "The success of any serious relationship depends on complete honesty, true compassion and lots of duct tape," you'll know I'm still out there, watching and waiting and scratching) let me say right now that I love all green teas equally. I'll let you work that one out for yourselves.


1. Isn't oolong a great word? Use it in a sentence in which you make it into a verb. For instance, I want to oolong with you.

2. Do you believe in alien abduction? Have you ever been probed for your genetic secrets? What are your genetic secrets? Come on, tell us. We know you have them after seeing your six toes.

3. Have you ever been herbally infused? Really? Did you feel used afterward?

4. Did you read the question number 2?

5. What about question 3?

6. How about this one?

7. Discuss the Boston Tea Party and why they didn't have any of those delicious almond cookies.

8. Are you dating anyone? I mean, in real life, not another of those creepy Internet things where you send fake photos back and forth and talk naughty and then meet and discover your netpal was Jabba the Hut's older, less mannered sister and get all upset even though your photo was of Brad Pitt that you PhotoShopped your head on, but enough about my life.

9. Would you like to date anyone? Say, someone that collects explosives and comic books? Why not?

10. I'm lonely. And I have lots of duct tape. Why does that seem to upset people, particularly the police? Answer true or false.

Time's up. Pass your papers to the front. Now, let's all take a break and have a nice cup of orange juice.