Marta's Journal

talk to me

13 june 2004

Lots to catch up on, almost all of it excellent.

C's surgery took 3.5 hours, which in liver transplant terms is fast, fast, fast (I'm told that most such surgeries take 4 to 8 hours). It went so quickly because the donor liver was a very good fit indeed. 24 hours after surgery, they signed him out of the ICU and onto "the floor" (that is, into a ward in the transplant floor) and 3 days after that, they were willing to send him home. Because the house was in total remodeling chaos, we asked them to keep him one more day, until Monday, and then I brought him home.

He is doing amazingly well. His liver is functioning just fine, the incision is healing without any problems, his energy level is still a bit spotty but ... on the third day, he wanted a newspaper and bummed two bucks off his doctor, then was told that to get a Sunday paper, he should go to the cafeteria, get change, then go to the box outside the hospital's main entrance and buy himself a paper, which he did. When I brought him home on Monday, we raced the clock to get home before the pharmacy closed at 6:00 pm (we made it), then he wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant to order take-out, and while they cooked that we went next door to the market and shopped, then picked up the food and went home.  Every day now he does better and better. He's lowered the amount of pain meds.

While C was in the hospital, I worked my butt off getting the house in order: up at 6:00 am every day, working until Larry the Laborer arrived, working steadily until noon or 1:00 pm, then into the car and down to the city to spend the afternoon and evening with C, then back home to teach on-line for a couple of hours, then to bed and up at 6:00 and the same thing all over again. The house is still upside down, but at least it's no longer full of plaster dust.

The big issue now is his meds -- there are over 16 of them, to be taken on a schedule so complex that they sent him home with a chart. Prednisone is the main anti-rejection med, and we're now working our way through its less-than-lovely side effects. The dosage goes down every week, though, so that's something to look forward to.

Thank you all for your good wishes. I think there were so many people wishing him well, that he had to do splendidly just so that he didn't let everybody down. Whatever the reason, it worked.

Photo warning: his incision is two feet long and involves a little line going straight up from the middle. This is usually called a "Mercedes" incision because it mimics the shape of the Mercedes auto symbol, but C's is less like that and more like a very long upside-down "T". What follows is a photo, taken in the hospital before his release. There are 67 staples in it -- he calls it his "blingbling."

2 june 2004

The transplant surgery happened this morning and early afternoon. All went very well, and his surgeon is happy with the outcome, which means that I'm happy, too.

He'll be in the ICU for a day (depending on how well he does) then in the hospital for another 5 days (depending on how well he does) and then home.

Life is very good indeed.

2 june 2004

UCSF called yesterday afternoon -- they have a liver for us. If all goes well and there are no surprises, the transplant should happen later this morning (right now it's 1:30 a.m. -- I've been at the hospital with C and our daughter all evening, and am barely coherent).

I'll update as I can.

Please hold him to the light. 

24 may 2004

A friend tells me that she has cleaned the "horror headlines" off of her refridgerator, because there was no room for anything else. Here are the highlights:

GB Says Running Clears His Mind
GB Stands By Unproven Sex Ed Strategy
House Considers Measure to Cut Billions in Pension Obligations
AIDS Researchers Get Warning to Avoid Controversial Topics
US May Leave Forest Care to Timber Firms
GB Plan Called Amtrak Death Knell
Plan to Put Missile Defense on Fast Track
Cancer Drugs Face Funds Cut in a GB Plan
White House Rewrites EPA Report
US Seeks Expanded Use of Curbed Pesticide
EPA Misled Public on 9/11 Pollution
New GB Budget Stockpiles Arms
Tax Cuts May Lead to Fewer Benefits

The irreducible truth is that the invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy. If you don't believe it yet, just keep watching.

17 may 2004

Still no word from UCSF. The scalpel of Damocles hangs over us.

In the meantime, read this from Hal Crowther, who was a former writer for Time and Newsweek, the Buffalo News and the North Carolina Spectator before parking his column at the weekly Independent in Durham, N.C., and The Progressive Populist, among others. He won the H.L. Mencken Award for column writing in 1992.

It's long, and full of anger, and absolutely right.

With Trembling Fingers
by Hal Crowther

I used to take a drink on occasion with a network newsman famed for his impenetrable calm -- his apparent pulse rate that of a large mammal in deep hibernation -- and in an avuncular moment he advised me that I'd do all right, in the long run, if I could only avoid the kind of journalism committed to the keyboard "with trembling fingers." I recognized the wisdom of this advice and endeavored over the years to write as little as possible when my blood pressure was soaring and my face was streaked with tears. The lava flows of indignation ebb predictably with age and hardening arteries, and nearing three-score I thought I'd never have to take another tranquilizer -- or a double bourbon -- to keep my fingers steady on the keys.

I never imagined 2004. It would be sophomoric to say that there was never a worse year to be an American. My own memory preserves the dread summer of 1968. My parents suffered the consequences of 1941 and 1929, and my grandfather Jack Allen, who lived through all those dark years, might have added 1918, with the flu epidemic and the Great War in France that each failed, very narrowly, to kill him. Drop back another generation or two and we encounter 1861.

But if this is not the worst year yet to be an American, it's the worst year by far to be one of those hag-ridden wretches who comment on the American scene. The columnist who trades in snide one-liners flounders like a stupid comic with a tired audience; TV comedians and talk-show hosts who try to treat 2004 like any zany election year have become grotesque, almost loathsome. Our most serious, responsible newspaper columnists are so stunned by the disaster in Iraq that they've begun to quote poetry by Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen. They lower their voices; they sound like Army chaplains delivering eulogies over ranks of flag-draped coffins, under a hard rain from an iron sky.

Yeats' "blood-dimmed tide is loosed." The war news has already deteriorated from bad to tragic to pre-apocalyptic, which leaves no suitable category for these excruciating reports on the sexual torture of Iraqi prisoners. Fingers, be still. In less than a year, the morale of the occupying forces has sunk so low that murder, suicide, rape and sexual harassment have become alarming statistics, and now the warriors of democracy -- the emissaries of civilization -- stand accused of every crime this side of cannibalism. Osama bin Laden has always anathematized America's culture, as well as its geopolitical influence. To him these atrocities are a sign of Allah's certain favor, a great moral victory, a vindication of his deepest anger and darkest crimes.

Where does it go from here? The nightmare misadventure in Iraq is over, beyond the reach of any reasonable argument, though many more body bags will be filled. In Washington, chicken hawks will still be squawking about "digging in" and winning, but Vietnam proved conclusively that no modern war of occupation will ever be won. (Vietnam clip) Every occupation is doomed. The only way you "win" a war of occupation is the old-fashioned way, the way Rome finally defeated the Carthaginians: kill all the fighters, enslave everyone else, raze the cities and sow the fields with salt.

Otherwise the occupied people will fight you to the last peasant, and why shouldn't they? If our presidential election fails to dislodge the crazy bastards who annexed Baghdad, many of us in this country would welcome regime change by any intervention, human or divine. But if, say, the Chinese came in to rescue us -- Operation American Freedom -- how long would any of us, left-wing or right, put up with an occupying army teaching us Chinese-style democracy? A guerrilla who opposes an invading army on his own soil is not a terrorist, he's a resistance fighter. In Iraq we're not fighting enemies but making enemies. As Richard Clarke and others have observed, every dollar, bullet and American life that we spend in Iraq is one that's not being spent in the war on terrorism. Every Iraqi, every Muslim we kill or torture or humiliate is a precious shot of adrenaline for Osama and al Qaeda.

The irreducible truth is that the invasion of Iraq was the worst blunder, the most staggering miscarriage of judgment, the most fateful, egregious, deceitful abuse of power in the history of American foreign policy. If you don't believe it yet, just keep watching. Apologists strain to dismiss parallels with Vietnam, but the similarities are stunning. In every action our soldiers kill innocent civilians, and in every other action apparent innocents kill our soldiers -- and there's never any way to sort them out. And now these acts of subhuman sadism, these little My Lais.

Since the defining moment of the Bush presidency, the preposterous flight-suit, Fox News-produced photo-op on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of the banner that read "Mission Accomplished," the shaming truth is that everything has gone wrong. Just as it was bound to go wrong, as many of us predicted it would go wrong -- if anything, more hopelessly wrong than any of us would have dared to prophesy. Iraq is an epic trainwreck, and there's not a single American citizen who's going to walk away unscathed.

The shame of this truth, of such a failure and so much deceit exposed, would have brought on mass resignations or votes of no confidence in any free country in the world. In Japan not long ago, there would have been ritual suicides, shamed officials disemboweling themselves with samurai swords. Yet up to this point -- at least to the point where we see grinning soldiers taking pictures of each other over piles of naked Iraqis -- neither the president, the vice president nor any of the individuals who urged and designed this debacle have resigned or been terminated -- or even apologized. They have betrayed no familiarity with the concept of shame.

Thousands of young Americans are dead, maimed or mutilated, XXX billions of dollars have been wasted and all we've gained is a billion new enemies and a mouthful of dust -- of sand. Chaos reigns, but in the midst of it we have this presidential election. George Bush has defined himself as a war president, and it's fitting that the war should be his undoing. But even now the damned polls don't guarantee, or even indicate, his demise.

Conventional wisdom says that an incumbent president with a $200 million war chest cannot be defeated, and that one who commands a live, bleeding, suffering army in the field is doubly invincible. By this logic, the most destructively incompetent president since Andrew Johnson will be rewarded with a second term. That would probably mean a military draft and more wars in the oil countries, and, under visionaries like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, a chance for the USA to emulate 19th-century Paraguay, which simultaneously declared war on Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and fought ferociously until 90% of the male population was dead.

What hope then? Impeachment is impossible when the president's party controls both houses of Congress, though Watergate conspirator John Dean, who ought to know, claims in his new book that there are compelling legal arguments for a half dozen bills of impeachment against George W. Bush. Peer pressure? At the White House, world opinion gets no more respect than FBI memos or uncomfortable facts. Many Americans seem unaware that scarcely anyone on the planet Earth supported the Iraq adventure, no one anywhere except the 40-50 million Republican loyalists who voted for George Bush in 2000.

Among significant world leaders he recruited only Great Britain's Tony Blair -- whose career may be ruined because most Britons disagree with him -- and the abominable Ariel Sharon, that vile tub of blood and corruption who recently used air-to-ground missiles to assassinate a paraplegic in a wheelchair at the door of his mosque. (Palestinians quickly squandered any sympathy or moral advantage they gained from this atrocity by strapping a retarded 16-year-old into a suicide bomber's kit. Such is the condition of the human race in the Middle East, variously known as the Holy Land or the Cradle of Civilization.) Says Sharon, oleaginously, of Bush: "Something in his soul committed him to act with great courage against world terror."

The rest of the known world, along with the United Nations, has been dead set against us from the start. But they carry no weight. Thanks to our tax dollars and the well-fed, strong but not bulletproof bodies of our children -- though mostly children from lower-income families -- George Bush and his lethal team of oil pirates, Cold Warriors and Likudists commands the most formidable military machine on earth. No nation, with the possible exception of China, would ever dare to oppose them directly.

But the Chinese aren't coming to save us. Nothing and no one can stop these people except you and me, and the other 100 million or so American citizens who may vote in the November election. This isn't your conventional election, the usual dim-witted, media-managed Mister America contest where candidates vie for charm and style points and hire image coaches to help them act more confident and presidential. This is a referendum on what is arguably the most dismal performance by any incumbent president -- and inarguably the biggest mistake. This is a referendum on George W. Bush, arguably the worst thing that has happened to the United States of America since the invention of the cathode ray tube.

One problem with this referendum is that the case against George Bush is much too strong. Just to spell it out is to sound like a bitter partisan. I sit here on the 67th birthday of Saddam Hussein facing a haystack of incriminating evidence that comes almost to my armpit. What matters most, what signifies? Journalists used to look for the smoking gun, but this time we have the cannons of Waterloo, we have Gettysburg and Sevastopol, we have enough gunsmoke to cause asthma in heaven. I'm overwhelmed. Maybe I should light a match to this mountain of paper and immolate myself. On the near side of my haystack, among hundreds of quotes circled and statistics underlined, just one thing leaped out at me. A quote I had underlined was from the testimony of Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, not long before Hitler's vice-fuhrer poisoned himself in his jail cell:

"... It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

Goering's dark wisdom gained weight when a friend called me and reported that Vice President Cheney was so violently partisan in his commencement speech at Westminster College in Missouri -- so rabid in his attacks on John Kerry as a anti-American peace-marching crypto-communist -- that the college president felt obliged to send the student body an email apologizing for Cheney's coarseness.

If you think it's exceptionally shameless for a man who dodged Vietnam to play the patriot card against a decorated veteran, remember that Georgia Republicans played the same card, successfully, against Sen. Max Cleland, who suffered multiple amputations in Vietnam. In 2001 and 2002, George Bush and his Machiavelli, Karl Rove, approved political attack ads that showed the faces of Tom Daschle and other Democratic senators alongside the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. And somewhere in hell, Goering and Goebbels toasted each other with a schnapps.

Am I polarized? I've never been a registered Democrat, I'm sick of this two-party straitacket, I wish to God it didn't take Yale and a major American fortune to create a presidential candidate. The only current Democratic leaders who show me any courage are Nancy Pelosi and old Bob Byrd -- Hillary Clinton has been especially cagy and gutless on this war -- and John Kerry himself may leave a lot to be desired. He deserves your vote not because of anything he ever did or promises to do, but simply because he did not make this sick mess in Iraq and owes no allegiance to the sinister characters who designed it. And because his own "place in history," so important to the kind of men who run for president, would now rest entirely on his success in getting us out of it.

Kerry made a courageous choice at least once in his life, when he came home with his ribbons and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam. But Sen. Kerry could turn out to be a stiff, a punk, an alcoholic, and he'd still be a colossal improvement over the man who turned Paul Wolfowitz loose in the Middle East. The myth that there was no real difference between Democrats and Republicans, which I once considered seriously and which Ralph Nader rode to national disaster four years ago, was shattered forever the day George Bush announced his cabinet and his appointments for the Department of Defense.

I'm aware that there are voters -- 40 million? -- who don't see it this way. I come from a family of veterans and commissioned officers; I understand patriots in wartime. If a spotted hyena stepped out of Air Force One wearing a baby-blue necktie, most Americans would salute and sing "Hail to the Chief." President Bush cultivated his patriots by spending $46 million on media in the month of March alone. Somehow I'm on his mailing list. (Is that because my late father, with the same name, was a registered Republican, or can Bush afford to mail his picture to every American with an established address?) Twice a week I open an appeal for cash to crush John Kerry and the quisling liberal conspiracy, and now I own six gorgeous color photographs of the president and his wife. I'm sure some of my neighbors frame the president's color photographs and fill those little blue envelopes he sends us with their hard-earned dollars.

I struggle against the suspicion that so many of my fellow Americans are conceptually challenged. I want to reason with my neighbors; I want to engage these lost Americans. What makes you angry, neighbor? What arouses your suspicions? Does it bother you that this administration made terrorism a low priority, dismissed key intelligence that might have prevented the 9/11 catastrophe, then exploited it to justify the pre-planned destruction of Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with al Qaeda? All this is no longer conjecture, but direct reportage from cabinet-level meetings by the turncoat insiders Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill.

If the Pentagon ever thought Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction," it was only because the Pentagon gave them to him. As Kevin Phillips recounts in American Dynasty, officials of the Reagan and first Bush administrations eagerly supplied Saddam with arms while he was using chemical weapons on the Kurds. They twice sent Donald Rumsfeld to court Saddam, in 1983 and 1984, when the dictator was in the glorious prime of his monsterhood.

This scandal, concurrent with Iran-Contra, was briefly called "Iraqgate," and, yes, among the names of those officials implicated you'll find most of the engineers of our current foreign policy. (They also signaled their fractious client, Saddam, that it might be all right to overrun part of Kuwait; you remember what happened when he tried to swallow it all.) Does any of this trouble you? Does it worry you that Dick Cheney, as president of the nefarious Halliburton Corporation, sold Iraq $73 million in oilfield services between 1997 and 2000, even as he plotted with the Wolfowitz faction to whack Saddam? Or that Halliburton, with its CEO's seat still warm from Cheney's butt, was awarded unbid contracts worth up to $15 billion for the Iraq invasion, and currently earns a billion dollars a month from this bloody disaster? Not to mention its $27.4 billion overcharge for our soldiers' food.

These are facts, not partisan rhetoric. Do any of them even make you restless? The cynical game these shape-shifters have been playing in the Middle East is too Byzantine to unravel in 1,000 pages of text. But the hypocrisy of the White House is palpable, and beggars belief. If there's one American who actually believes that Operation Iraqi Freedom was about democracy for the poor Iraqis, then you, my friend, are too dangerously stupid to be allowed near a voting booth.

Does it bother you even a little that the personal fortunes of all four Bush brothers, including the president and the governor, were acquired about a half step ahead of the district attorney, and that the royal family of Saudi Arabia invested $1.476 billion in those and other Bush family enterprises? Or, as Paul Krugman points out, that it's much easier to establish links between the Bush and bin Laden families than any between the bin Ladens and Saddam Hussein. Do you know about Ahmad Chalabi, the administration's favorite Iraqi and current agent in Baghdad, whose personal fortune was established when he embezzled several hundred million from his own bank in Jordan and fled to London to avoid 22 years at hard labor?

That's just a sampling from my haystack. Maybe I can reach you as an environmentalist, one who resents the gutting of key provisions in the Clean Air Act? My own Orange County, N.C., chiefly a rural area, was recently added to a national register of counties with dangerously polluted air. You say you vote for the president because you're a conservative. Are you sure? I thought conservatives believed in civil liberties, a weak federal executive, an inviolable Constitution, a balanced budget and an isolationist foreign policy. George Bush has an attorney general who drives the ACLU apoplectic and a vice president who demands more executive privilege (for his energy seances) than any elected official has ever received. The president wants a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage from homosexuals, of all things. Between tax cuts for his high-end supporters and three years playing God and Caesar in the Middle East, George Bush has simply emptied America's wallet with a $480 billion federal deficit projected for 2004 and the tab on Iraq well over $100 million and running.

"A lot of so-called conservatives today don't know what the word means," Barry Goldwater said in 1994, when the current cult of right-wing radicals and "neocons" had begun to define and assert themselves. Goldwater was my first political hero, before I was old enough to read his flaws. But his was the conservatism of the wolf -- the lone wolf -- and this is the conservatism of sheep.

All it takes to make a Bush conservative is a few slogans from talk radio and pickup truck bumpers, a sneer at "liberals" and maybe a name-dropping nod to Edmund Burke or John Locke, whom most of them have never read. Sheep and sheep only could be herded by a ludicrous but not harmless cretin like Rush Limbaugh, who has just compared the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners to "a college fraternity prank" (and who once called Chelsea Clinton "the family dog" -- you don't have to worry about shame when you have no brain).

I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you.
Equipoised, by Cathy Robertson
27 april 2004
Yesterday it was my birthday,
I hung one more year on the line
And a fine birthday it was. A month or more ago, C bought me a wonderful garden sculpture, which you see in all its glory over on the left. It's called Equipoised, by local artist Cathy Richardson. It turns and nods in the breeze, always Equipoised. I love it.

And last night, K gave me a copy of ...

The Art of Maurice Sendak

because I love his work, and have since I first discovered it during my son's childhood.

I am a very happy camper.

20 april 2004

C's MELD score bumped up to 32 today, and he's still third on the list: we believe that the two people ahead of him are in the ICU, so we don't feel bad about the placement, although we're starting to get antsy. Sword of Damocles and all that. It should just happen, already!

Good news: the results of his most recent CT Scan (taken on the 13th) show no recurrance of the cancers on his liver. And tax season is finally behind him. And my laundry porch is being built.

I gotta tell you about this. What I wanted was an enclosed utility porch, off the back of the house, where I could have the washer & dryer, and maybe a counter to fold clothes, and an electric outlet for the iron. Right now, the washer & dryer occupy the narrow room between the kitchen and the back door, which means that people are always tripping over piles of dirty laundry which are left there because some people, some people (and I am not naming names, you understand) some people drag every dirty piece of cloth in the house into the laundry room and dump them on the floor and wash some of them and leave the rest of them on the floor where people and dogs and cats march back and forth across them and it is, I am here to tell you, truly disgusting and also you could trip and break your butt.


So: an enclosed porch where all of this can happen out of sight and certainly out of foot. I design it on paper. Our friend & neighbor the architect draws it up. We take it up to county to get a permit because we get permits on everything. And by the time county gets through with it, we have this room, with insulated walls and floors and pipes and skylight and window and steel door and linoleum -- it's gonna be the Lexus of laundryrooms. I am thinking of offering tours.

In the meantime, great is the chaos therefrom, as there always is with anything of this sort: it takes twice as long (minimum) and costs three times as much (minimum), although I gotta say that our friend & contractor/carpenter, Larry Brown, does one crackerjack job. I am looking forward to putting on high heels and pearls, and doing my laundry in style.

14 april 2004

My lovely daughter has opened a CafePress store, ecdysiast, selling clothes featuring her own artwork.

You should go there and buy stuff.

She is very talented.

Strange, but very talented.

13 april 2004

So I get in the car to drive home and I'm listening to good ol' NPR and they have the beginning of Ashcroft's appearance before the 9/11 commission, courtesy of digital delay, and I listen to this idiot froth at the mouth and blame it all on the Clinton administration, and then we get the first set of questions and I miss who asked them but my god! if they were any softer they could pass for my mother's version of meat balls and just as I'm really getting a head of steam up, we switch to the Bush press conference and I listen to this coached-to-be-earnest voice spouting nonsense, and then we have the questions and he's not so much dodging bullets as smothering them and he can't say he's sorry (he feels grief for the loved ones of the loved ones who died) and he can't say that he's responsible (but he feels grief for the loved ones of the loved ones who have died) and he can't say that the information that brought us into this stupid war was rotten at the core and at the edges (but not only is he feeling grief for the etc. etc., also the Brave Iraqi People want us in their country blowing up their houses and children) and then I got home and saw some of it on television and couldn't take any more and then I watched Jeopardy! and then I saw the ABC news and they were fawning, positively fawning, over what a wonderful speech our wonderful president made and how much he grieves with the loved ones of the loved ones because the Brave Iraqi People who want democracy etc etc and then I realize once again why 50% of the people in this country think he's doing a good job and I get livid and incoherent and my family pats my head and tells me to turn off the television.

I need another Prilosec.

11 april 2004

A couple of weeks ago, our good neighbor across the street came over in his front-loader (a device roughly the size of Pennsylvania, with a big scoop thing on the front end) and knocked out two stumps in the front. This left two stumps above ground rather than mostly below ground, and humongous holes where the stumps used to be. Then nothing happened and nothing happened and nothing happened until yesterday when I grabbed a shovel and started hauling roots out of the dirt and shoveling dirt into the holes, and then the stumps magically went away (he is a very, very good neighbor) and I got one hole mostly filled in but at least the dirt wasn't piled up against the fence anymore. Then I crawled into the shower, whimpering, and crawled out, and tried to make some sense of the chaos out back (we're having a laundry room added to the back of the house, and the amount of mess out there is tremendous), and today I mowed the Endless Lawn, and I have determined that there is one part of my body that doesn't hurt. It's a small patch, maybe the size of a dime, on my upper lip. Left hand side. Yeah, right about there. Don't touch it, or it may decide to complain, too.

But! The yellow and white iris are up, and the fuchsia aurea has taken over the bed it's in, and the callas are in bloom again, and life ain't bad, all in all. Especially that dime-sized bit on my upper lip.

3 april 2004

Some links:

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today. Nobody said it was easy.

The Amazing Dubya Doll. With Pretzel-Retching Action!

From The Daily Show. Click on "Richard Clark: 30 year political veteran or jealous, bitter piece of pond scum?"
Elena on her Kawasaki
2 april 2004

This is the single most powerful piece I have seen recently: Ghost Town: my rides through chernobyl area.

It's horrifying and heartbreaking, and you must go there.

4/30/04 note: the link is to a mirror site. Apparently such interest and controversy was generated by Elena's site, that she had to take it down.

27 march 2004

Hold off on those bets for a minute, okay? We got the call last night. Don't get all excited, though; it's not going to happen for a while yet.

A liver did come available (gentleman of 60 years, 6' tall, 179 lbs, in good health, no meds, brain aneurism, raising memories of Kyle for both of us). The man ahead of C on the list has lost a fair amount of weight, and the surgeon decided that the donor liver (which is being harvested this morning) is now too big for him. After C talked with the surgeon, he and I talked about the offer in detail.

We considered a number of factors. The surgeon said that passing on this liver would not affect C's standing on the list and that nobody would get peeved at him (we had heard otherwise, and were pleased to be assured that this wasn't the case). C is still in very good health, although Dr. Terrault has referred to his liver as a "breeding ground for disaster," and he has a CAT scan scheduled for April 12 to check for any recurrence of the tumors. If he accepted this offer, the doctors would perform at least a sonogram to assure themselves that there were no tumors present (tumors = no transplant), and it seemed to us that a couple of weeks' wait probably wouldn't make that much difference. The surgeon concurred, although we all know that it's a crap shoot. The odds are in our favor, but it's still a crap shoot. Passing on this offer would give C a chance to finish off the tax season, which is important not only to him, but to his clients (imagine being the client with your file on his desk when he's called away!)

We considered another factor, too. A few months ago, C attended an informational meeting at UCSF for prospective liver transplant recipients.  He reported that the other attendees were, for the most part, in much worse shape than him -- C's liver isn't failing although the possibility of cancer is close, but other  people at the meeting were deep yellow with jaundice, in wheelchairs, their abdomens hugely swollen... Last night, the surgeon told us that if we passed on this liver, there were a number of people eager to accept it. It seemed to both of us that when we considered all of these factors, and the condition of some people whose MELD scores are lower than C's, that passing on this offer was probably the right thing to do.

Probably.  A saying attributed to the Chinese goes, "Prophecy is extremely risky, especially as regards the future." But we're both comfortable with the decision we made: we listened to expert advice, we talked it over in detail, we considered the odds, we thought about the benefit to others, and we danced. I think we're good with this.

26 march 2004

Now, here's an interesting betting opportunity, if you can get anyone to take the odds.

C is now #3 on the Type O transplant list. A month ago he was #5. There's no set rate of livers available, of course, but if we kinda squint at the information, we get about 2 transplants a month. Of the two people ahead of him on the list, one is a tiny woman who needs a tiny liver, and such things are more difficult to come by than are average-sized livers. So, you might say that C is really #1 1/2 on the list.

It's 20 days until April 15th.

Just to complicate things further, someone in greater need could be put on the list tomorrow, bumping C down to #4. Or, the guy holding the #1 ticket could get transplanted this afternoon, putting C at the top of the list for average-size livers.

So: is C going to make it to the tax filing deadline? Anybody know how to figure these odds?

* * *
In other news, I saw a wonderful thing during a morning commute this week. On I80 heading through Berkeley and into Emeryville, I noticed, first, a shirt on the freeway, lying between the lanes. A bit further on, I saw a shoe. A little space beyond that, I saw another shoe (and no, I wasn't able to tell if they were a pair). Finally, in Emeryville, I saw a pair of pants.

I'm glad I don't know why these things were scattered on the roadway, because I'm having much more fun speculating.

17 march 2004

sustained adj 1: maintained at length without interruption or weakening; "sustained flight"

virological adj : of or relating to the science of virology

response n : a result;  2: a bodily process occurring due to the effect of some foregoing stimulus or agent

sustained virological response exclamation: he's cured!

The results of C's last set of blood tests, taken six months after the end of treatment, show no Hepatitis C. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. No recurrence of the virus. Nada. Rien. Melissa at UCSF said, "You can consider yourself cured."


This doesn't mean, by the bye, that he doesn't need the liver transplant: he does (Dr. Turrault referred to his liver as a "breeding ground for cancer"). What it does mean is that, as a result of transplant, it is unlikely that the Hep C will recurr ... and that means that he won't have to go through the Hep C treatment once again. And that's a good thing.

26 february 2004

C and I attended his bi-monthly medical visit at the UCSF transplant clinic on Tuesday. It went well; all his tests are good and his health is still fine. We sat around for 2 1/2 hours waiting to see the Physician's Assistant for 25 minutes and Dr. Turrault for another five. We're getting used to it.

We visited with a peculiar form of wildlife found in clinic waiting rooms, the Horrific Story Guy ("guy" used here in its ungendered definition) who, no matter what, has had the Most Awful Time and wants to tell you all the details, whether you want to hear about it or not. C is vulnerable to such conversations, since we are still in learning mode, so he listened with an increasingly stiff face as the Horrific Story Guy talked about how he'd had his transplant two years ago, and was in bed for almost three months, and didn't even get back to work for over six months, and they took his pancreas out and shunted his bile into a little bag (like a colostomy bag, I guess) , and then he got diabetes or maybe that was before, and when he got called for transplant there was horrible fog at the airport and a plane with 161 kidneys and his liver was grounded for hours and hours and, and, and, and...

Poor C was turning green when he met another transplantee, two months out, who was moving with ease and vigor, as though he'd never seen a scalpel in his life. A good reminder that everyone is different.

So: CT scans in April (if he isn't called before then) and another clinic visit in May (if he isn't called before then) and things are going well. Tax season continues to rocket right along, the weather's warming up (despite the sudden hailstorm we had in downtown Oakland this afternoon) and life, as usual, progresses at the steady rate of one second per second.

20 february 2004

This week's swing of the see-saw: C is now #5 on the transplant list. He's delighted: more time to do taxes. I'm glad I didn't go nuts packing his hospital bag ... but who knows? A busful of Blood Type Os could go over a cliff tonight...

Pacific Coast Orchid Exposition this weekend. I am preparing to be delighted.

16 february 2004

Absolutely nothing to report. Chris holds the No. 4 position on the local Blood Type O transplant list, as he has for a few weeks now. A man higher on the list has been transplanted, but someone else, in more desperate need, has been added to the list ahead of Chris. This is not unexpected and is, in fact, okay by us. He's still feeling good, and getting impressive amounts of tax work done. I am very proud of the way he is handling all of this. If you're one of his clients, remember to get your stuff to him ASAP, because if he gets called before your return gets done, you're going on extension.

K finished up her first semester at the junior college (straight A's) and has started the second semester, including her first aeronautics class. She's getting A's there, too.  She and B, her gentleman friend, are working for C, keeping it all in the family.

Many of the hundreds of iris and crocus bulbs I planted last month have sprouted, and some of the crocus have produced wimpy little blue or yellow blossoms. I am hoping for a better showing next spring.

Politics have been making me crazy again, and I am trying to resist writing about them. Instead, for those who are interested, let me direct you to the two blogs I follow most consistently: David Neiwert's Orcinus and Joe Conason's Journal from Salon.

My absolute favorite news story of the year, so far, is the mayor of San Francisco's decision to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and perform ceremonies. I've heard people accuse Newsom of grandstanding, but frankly I don't see it: this move is bound to be unpopular with inland Californians and may put the kibosh on any plans Newsom has for state-wide office. Of course the forces of bigotry will file suit, and of course the case(s) will head for the Supreme Court, and if the Supremes haven't entirely lost their minds, they will have to see that "equal protection under the law" applies to gays and lesbians along with everyone else in the U.S.

Of course, by then Cheney may have taken all the justices duck hunting. In which case, god help us all.

27 january 2004

I learned, over the weekend, that one of my friends and students has died, suddenly, of an aneurism. He was a month shy of 53, vital and alive and energetic, and his death really hasn't sunk in yet. This is what I posted at our private workshop website:

In Memoriam: Kyle Robin Zaidain

Kyle  walked into my UC Berkeley Extension class almost twenty years ago . In those years I got married,  he got married, we both had kids. He wrote far too little but his critical eye was always sharp. He showed off pictures of his kids as though they were gems that he and Kim had discovered, and he passed them around with an amazed pride, as if to say “I know it’s kinda cliched to do this but, but, but ... just look at them!” When he first told me he was getting married, he showed me photos of Kim with that same astonishment.

His critiques were always measured and well constructed; where he lost his steady pace was in discussions of politics and there the pace became passion, and his arms took flight, and he rushed his hands through his hair in exasperation, and he shaped the air between his palms as though he could embody belief and set it walking with conviction through the world.

When something clever came to him, a thought or insight or turn of phrase, his whole face lit up as though he had reached within and kindled a match.

He made a kibbe that my Lebanese grandmother would have been proud to call her own.

He had the most tremendous, full-bore, grin.

I don’t believe he’s gone.

I miss him.

21 january 2004

I think CNN inadvertently best expressed my reaction to the State of the Union address last night. Read the scrolling headline:

20 january 2004

My beautiful daughter as a luna moth.

My beautiful daughter as a sunrise.

18 january 2004

Okay, so I'm bored. Yesterday I went out with K to buy school supplies (I can still hear my poor checkbook screaming and sobbing), then spent the afternoon, and part of today, out in the garden clipping away dead stuff and mowing lawns and pruning the roses and planting 100 Dutch iris bulbs and 100 crocus bulbs and my body has convinced my brain to go on strike.

So here:

Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabble© Score is: 15.
What is your score? Get it here.

I'm a Dolce & Gabanna Girl!

Dolce & Gabanna: Classy with an edge. You take traditional ideas and give them a kick in the ass! Always stylish and appropriate for everywhere!

What fashion designer fits you brought to you by Quizilla

And an image from the Hubble -- Monkey Boy's plans to let Halliburton drill on Mars has already led to the defunding of the telescope, which (as far as I know) worked well and did good science.

The bastards.

15 january 2004

Over the past months we've received all sorts of conflicting opinions from UCSF about the possible timing for C's transplant. After being told, in early December, that C would be eligible for a transplant as early as this month, he spoke to Dr. Kang, the surgeon who performed his RFA and who is on the surgical transplant team. Dr. Kang thought the transplant might happen in May or June. Other staff people have talked about April, or March.

We've been hoping that the transplant won't happen until after tax season, but just to be on the safe side, C arranged with a some local tax practitioners to be available to field emergencies and has asked his clients either to being in their work early, or to tell him that they want to go on extension. Everyone has been wonderfully supportive so far, for which we are very grateful.

Today he spoke to the transplant coordinator at UCSF, curious about the date on which his MELD score increases. It happens on the 20th, opening the transplant window ... but she told him that she expects he'll be called for transplant next month.

Next month. That's two weeks away.

There are three people ahead of him on the O-blood type list: a man whose score is 38(!), another man at 34, and a woman whose MELD score is the same as C's. She's been on the list a bit longer, but is physically tiny so if a large liver comes in, he'll get transplanted before she does.

My heavens. February. This focuses the mind wonderfully, doesn't it? We need to write out a phone tree, and pack his bags, and I need to tell my boss and start running my calendar with a two or three week lead-time.

In early December, I wrote:
It's like going to see the elephant, getting closer and closer to the door in the tent. One of these days, probably without much warning, that tent door is going to open and we'll meet the elephant face to face.
We're in a bit of shock at how close the elephant may be. On the other hand,  every time we talk to somebody at UCSF, we get a different opinion about the timing. *sigh*

Is that a tail sticking out there?

M. Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre,
not cooking
3 january 2004

You need to read this: The Wal-Mart You Don't Know.

Wal-Mart is not just the world's largest retailer. It's the world's largest company--bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart sold $244.5 billion worth of goods last year. It sells in three months what number-two retailer Home Depot sells in a year. And in its own category of general merchandise and groceries, Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined. "Clearly," says Edward Fox, head of Southern Methodist University's J.C. Penney Center for Retailing Excellence, "Wal-Mart is more powerful than any retailer has ever been." It is, in fact, so big and so furtively powerful as to have become an entirely different order of corporate being.

For those of you who may have missed it, one of my favorite humor pieces of recent years. Reportedly written by Alastair Sutherland.

Jean-Paul Sartre's Cooking Diary

October 3 - Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet. 

October 4 - Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika. 

October 6 - I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long. 

October 10 - I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional dishes, in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely. Today I tried this recipe:

Tuna Casserole

Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish

Instructions: Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light. 

While a void is expressed in this recipe, I am struck by its inapplicability to the bourgeois lifestyle. How can the eater recognize that the food denied him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustrated. 

October 25 - I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups. To this end, I purchased six hundred pounds of foodstuffs from the corner grocery and locked myself in the kitchen, refusing to admit anyone. After several weeks of work, I produced a recipe calling for two eggs, half a cup of flour, four tons of beef, and a leek. While this is a start, I am afraid I still have much work ahead.

November 15 - Today I made a Black Forest gateau out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word gateau. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but would not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

November 30 - Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging, the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker's wrist. The beaver's powerful jaws are capable of felling blue spruce in less than ten minutes and proved, needless to say, more than a match for the tender limbs of America's favorite homemaker. I only got third place. Moreover, I am now the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit. 

December 1 - I have been gaining twenty-five pounds a week for two months, and I am now experiencing light tides. It is stupid to be so fat. My pain and ultimate solitude are still as authentic as they were when I was thin, but seem to impress girls far less. From now on, I will live on cigarettes and black coffee. 

copyright 2004 by Marta Randall