Marta's Journal

talk to me

26 october 2003

We spent the past week in Ashland, Oregon, visiting friends and looking around. It's a nice city, and the Rogue Valley is gorgeous. And they have autumn there:

They also do good creek there. This one is Ashland Creek:

The Ashland Shakespeare Festival runs through the beginning of November. On the theory that we need some laughter at this point in our lives, we saw Noel Coward's Present Laughter and enjoyed it a lot. The program quoted this gem from Coward: "Wit ought to be a glorious treat, like caviar. Never spread it about like marmalade." Advice that, for me, is far too easy to follow.

Oh, ducks. Yes. This one is, I think, a Wood Duck and was cavorting with various Mallards and other aquatic sorts in the pond in Lithia Park (home of Ashland Creek, and brightly-colored trees, and much else of interest);

There was also, briefly, a Marta in Lithia Park:

As always, it was great to be out and seeing new stuff. As always, it was even greater to get back to my own bed. It was also good to spend a week ignoring politics, and a shock to come back to the Usual Lies and Disasters. The sexual predator we have elected to be governor is now talking about once again deregulating energy. The original deregulation started California's economy on its long downward slide, so I guess his ignorance of history dooms the rest of us to repeat it. I have to keep reminding myself that politics happens even when I'm not paying attention, so running away isn't going to make it any better. Damn. This "being a grownup" business sucks.

C goes in on November 5th for the RFA. We expect this to be the proverbial Piece of Cake. And I must say, after the Sturm und Drang of the past year, it was great to take a week's vacation that he both enjoyed and had the energy to handle.
Mah honey
13 october 2003

In the brave tradition of consumerist Americans, I have solaced myself with the purchase of a digital camera. I have been faunching after one of these for far too long, and when we went to CostCo over the weekend I was tempted, and gave in.

It's fun. I have posted some of my early results here. And I used it to take that photo of C, heroic transplant candidate and rose whacker.

It's a nice camera. The software keeps screwing up my computer, but I'm working to fix that. So expect photos of the apocalypse as it happens. Oh, yeah.

7 october 20033

ashamed for California
fearful for its future

I can't leave this alone.

I was prepared for this outcome last weekend, when I went shopping at Wal-Mart (against my will, I might add). I don't know if other Wal-Marts are like the one in Rat Park, but the one in Rat Park is wall-to-wall trailer trash*, every adult at least 60 pounds overweight, wielding shopping carts like bumper cars and innocent of the phrases "excuse me" or "I'm sorry," trailed by an average of 3.5 screaming children (the .5 child usually screaming loudest) and stocking up on YellowLardyBits and SugarBars and TransFattieChips, and all of them vocal in their support of "Arnie."  He has enfranchised people who normally don't vote, not because they support him on the issues (he has no platform), but because he's a fucking Hollywood action hero.

I've heard people typify Schwartzenegger as a "parrot" but I think he's a marionette, and am in awe of the Republican party that  it can manipulate him and hundreds of thousands of voters simultaneously.

I can't even say "they'll be sorry" because they won't be sorry -- when the economy goes further down the toilet and social progress is brushed aside, when they notice because it hits their wallets, they'll be told to blame it on the Democratic legislature, and they will.

People have been trying to put a good face on this. My favorite such comment is that Arnold's win means that voters are ready to toss incumbents out on their ears, and this might be a Good Thing come the presidential election. I dunno. Salon quotes Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman as saying: "It's very tough for an ordinary politician or normal human being to compete against a demigod, a superstar, someone who has been sainted by the public, the media and Hollywood." I think we forget this at our peril: people in this state weren't voting for a politial agenda (Arnold has almost none) or for expertise or wisdom (ditto): they were voting for the Terminator. That's all it takes. The conflation of politics and entertainment has taken place, and the rest of us should duck and run.

If Bush screws up enough, the Reps will probably stuff and mount the corpse of John Wayne and run it for president. And win.

Cary Tennis, who is far more rational than I am, has a good take on it:  The Moviegoing Voter.
* There are some perfectly wonderful people who live in trailers. They were not shopping at Wal-Mart last Saturday.

2 october 2003

"Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
from  A World Transformed by George Bush, the elder, to explain why he didn't go after Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War. If only his son could read.

In California news, Ahh-nuts has, today, five days before the election, announced his victory. So along with a lack of morals, absence of any solid positions on the issues, plan for the state's economic recovery, and proclivity for grabbing women's tits it also appears that he can't count.

I have figured out how to turn a buck off all this, though. I intend to scrape together every penny I can beg, borrow, or squeeze out of our pathetic bank accounts, and invest in real estate in Oregon. If Ahh-nuts is elected on the 7th, real estate prices in neighboring states should sky-rocket, and we can make a killing. It will help pay for all those expensive transplant medications C is going to need.

1 october 2003

I've been avoiding the entire issue of politics because it makes me crazy, but need to provide a link to this, which is wonderful: The White House, a lively site that includes such thoughtful articles as
Not to be outdone, our British cousins have gifted us with  The Brain Trust, and such sterling examples of fearless reporting as
or my favorite,
The entire recall election is ludicrous, and I heartily endorse Doonesbury's take on the possible election of that "inexperienced, uninformed ego-monkey" to the governorship: let's do a pre-emptive recall. Sign now.

My own major concern is with My Son the Ranger. He's stationed at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, parts of which have been burning down. Here's a photo he sent me:

Canoe Creek Fire

There are more photos and some great videos of fire-fighting helicopters sucking up water from the Eel River, available at the Humboldt Redwoods website.

24 september 2003

We got the results of the post-treatment viral count today: still zero. We weren't expecting anything different, but are still pleased to know that the cessation of the drugs hasn't reawakened anything.

C is scheduled for an ultrasound next Tuesday, to make sure that his tumors are detectable that way. If they are, then the way is clear for the RFA.  For those who are interested, here's a pretty clear explanation of this procedure from the Duke University Medical Center.

We're still hoping to get up to Ashland, but it looks like it will be in late October. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

21 september 2003

True story from Health Insurance Hell:

I know people who live in Lafayette, California, a fairly upscale community on the eastern side of the Oakland-Berkeley Hills. He's an attorney, she's a graphic designer. They are (for what it's worth) white, comfortably-off, middle-class Americans rather on the high side of the Standard of Living scale.

Couple of weekends back, he was out of town on business, she took a walk with a friend, and their oldest boy (in his early teens) went to a friend's house, where he had an accident and ended up with a tree branch through his leg. His mother returned home some time later, to discover police units, lights flashing, parked outside her house and the neighbors gathered on the street. The cops were looking for her because neither they nor the fire department would transport the boy to an emergency room until they knew his health insurance status and were given a list of hospitals that would accept his insurance.

I thought this was illegal. I thought a law was passed in California ... and it turns out I was right, a law was indeed passed in California saying that if someone is presented to an emergency room, she or he has to be treated. But it didn't say fuck-all about transporting someone to that emergency room.

It took twenty-seven stitches to sew up the kid's leg.

So what are we supposed to do? Get our health insurance information tattooed onto our bodies, and our kids' bodies, so that if we're in need of emergency care we won't be left to die because somebody doesn't know the fucking health insurance information? Register with a national database so that emergency services can look us up? Hell, most health insurance providers insist on using the primary member's social security number as their member number, so why not just tie it all in with the Big Brother Knows All National Patriot Act Database and kiss the tattered remains of our "right to privacy" goodbye?

Bastards. Pig-fucking bastards.

It should be against the law for any for-profit group to have anything, anything, anything to do with health care. Period. Right now, most of the "non-profit" hospitals & insurance providers are fronts for profit-making organizations. At a minimum, this has got to stop. Then we can tackle the pharmaceutical companies that wrench their profits out of our ill-health, jacking us up for money to the very last moment that their patent protection runs. They claim that these outrageous prices are needed to fund research, but you gotta wonder how much their senior management and shareholders make off your  medical needs. Shit, look at the money they spend on television advertisements for prescription medications. That alone ought to fund an entire state's worth of retiree's drug needs.

I need to go find something to kick.

18 september 2003

My kids, taken last December:

15 september 2003

Last Wednesday we had our last "regular" study visit (there are still six follow-up visits, scattered over the next twelve months). Part of the study tracked the effect of frequency and regularity of  taking the meds, and as part of the tracking effort, the bottles of both medications came with "mem caps." These are computerized bottle tops, that note each time the bottle is opened. For the past eleven months, each time we went in for a study visit, we brought along the bottles with their mem caps, so that they could be downloaded into a database. Last Wednesday, handing in the mem caps seemed like a form of graduation.

Watching the side effects of the ribavirin and interferon abate has been nothing short of miraculous. For almost a year, C has been too anxious to want to be in public: on Saturday night, he went to a party to celebrate Mexican Independence Day, and closed the place down. He bounces up in the morning and does stuff, and the stuff he does gets finished. His sense of humor is back, as is his energy. Mind you, he's still taking the drugs prescribed to counter-act the side-effects of the drugs prescribed, but we're both confidant that as he is weaned from these, his sunny personality will not be lost. After all, this is what he was like before all this started, and it's such a relief to welcome him back.

In the meantime, UCSF has finally scheduled an ultrasound, to see if they can detect the tumors that way. If so, the way is clear for an ultrasound-guided RFA; if not, then they will go with endoscopy.  The medical adventures continue.

9 september 2003

I have been visited by the Exasperation Fairy, but since I am always eager to bring my insights to others in the hopes of elevating the moral and literary tone of the world, I have turned her visit into something for which future generations will thank me, that is and to wit:

Template for garden writing dreck
Noun, stretched simile. Further descriptor, further descriptor, tortured metaphor. Plant name, metaphor, adjective, adjective, noun, strained simile.

New paragraph. Personal pronoun, adverb, verb, adjective, noun. Adverb, adverb, verb. Adjective, noun, personal pronoun,  adverb, adverb, noun [sic]. Adverb verb.  Anthropomorphic referent: animal. Adverb, verb, adverb, adverb. Emotional punctuation.

New paragraph. History, repeated information, personal pronoun, trite natural-history observation, anthropomorphic referent: astronomical, plant name, adverb, adverb, verb, adjective, noun, adjective. statement of obvious result.

New paragraph. Personal pronoun, verb, emotional descriptor with adverb. Recap previous paragraphs (different adverbs & verbs), overblown emotional descriptor, plant name, plant name with overwrought punctuation. Adverb, adverb, misapplied verb. Adjective, noun, adjective, adjective, noun, description of personal heartfelt appreciation, overwrought emotional descriptor. Description of unsurprising activity, plant name, plant name, plant name (with Latin equivalent), plant name, plant name, plant name, anthropomorphic referent: vegetation, plant name, plant name. Cute confession, stretched simile, tortured adjective, noun.

New paragraph. Adverb, adverb, verb, rhetorical question.

Repeat as needed.
There. No, no need to lionize me, just send cash.

8 september 2003

Sad about the death of Warren Zevon, who died yesterday of lung cancer. K met him, years ago, backstage at the Hog Farm Pig-Nic. He autographed a poster for her -- he may even have howled for her, after she told him that her favorite Zevon song was Werewolves of London.

This seems as good an epitaph as any:

I started as an altar boy working at the church
Learning all my holy moves doing some research
Which led me to a cash box labelled "Children's Fund"
I'd leave the change and tuck the bills inside my cumberbund

I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store
Laying tackless stripping and housewives by the score
I loaded up their furniture and took it to Spokane
Auctioned off every last naugahyde divan

I'm very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins
I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I'm proud to be a glutton and I don't have time for sloth
I'm greedy and I'm angry and I don't care who I cross.
I'm, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred and go down in history
Of course I went to law school and got a law degree
And counselled all my clients to plead insanity
Then worked in hair replacement swindling the bald
Where very few are chosen, fewer still are called

Then on to Monte Carlo play chemin de fer
I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute

Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig
And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
Fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the want ads sipping Foster's in the shade

I opened up an agency somewhere down the line
To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot
I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air
Landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
See you in the next life, wake me up for meals

'bye, Warren. And thanks.
  • 0 days Interferon
  • 0 days Ribavirin
  • MELD score: 23/24

4 september 2003

Yes, that's right, zip, zero, zilch, nada, the big nothing, 0.

As it turned out, on Sunday C had only three and a half days' worth of Ribavirin left, rather than eight, and the good folk at UCSF said that was cool by them, so

it's over!

All done.  Pau. Finito.
Ceased. Completed. Concluded. Disposed of. Done. Ended. Finalized. Resolved. Settled. Terminated. Through. All wrapped up.

Of course, we still need for the side-effects to work themselves out, and we still have RFA and liver transplant and all of that to go through, but right now the sense of relief is palpable.