Dear 16 year old self;

I realize you know everything about everything, so I’ll make this brief.

  1. Be true to yourself. You may not believe it now, but you are one hell of a kid. You’re definitely smarter than what most people give you credit for. You should be proud of that.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of what you’re going through right now is small stuff. Enjoy yourself. That’s what being a teenager is all about.
  3. Try not to take any undue risks. Remember how I said you’re smarter than what most people give you credit for? Well, if you pay attention to that little voice in the back of your mind, you’ll be just fine.

Oh. One last thing. When you get older, there’s gonna be this thing called the internet. It’s gonna be huge! It’ll be a great outlet for creativity. But please, please, please, please, PLEASE try to come up with a user I.D. that’s easier to understand than ADignorantium! I mean, seriously… What the hell were you thinking? :P

My Inner Nerd Is Screaming With Delight!

I am in awe of brilliance and PBS Idea Channel host Michael Rugnetta is nothing if not brilliant.

The most recent installment of this delightfully mind blowing mind candy centers around the concepts of reality, fact, and fiction.

In part one, he uses War of the Worlds as a means to illustrate how fiction exists within our collective consciousness.

In part two, he continues the exercise using Harry Potter.

Is anyone else as turned on as I am right now? :P

 

The Cardinal Came To Visit Us This Weekend…

Nope, not THAT Cardinal!

We have a family of cardinals that live in a nearby tree. They like to drop by every day for the sunflower seeds we put out during the winter.

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After missing a few opportunities, we started leaving the camera by the window. When I heard the cardinal Saturday (pictured left) I grabbed the camera for a rare photo shoot. ;)

He was looking for left over seeds from the Ferris Wheel Feeder that was tipped over and left draining after the previous day’s rain.

You might have seen the Ferris Wheel Feeder video that I posted after the last snow storm.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow me on twitter, you might recognize the image on the right. It’s the very first picture I took of the cardinals in my neighborhood. It was a huge surprise for me to discover we had cardinals in South Philly. Seriously, I’ve lived in (or around) Philadelphia all my life. I have never seen a cardinal in the city.

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This last picture is my favorite from Saturday. The border around the image was not added. I was shooting the cardinal through some house plants. I also had the blinds down because I was trying not to scare the cardinal away. The final result is pretty cool.

There are some superstitions surrounding birds that appear after the death of a loved one. Some believe that birds “sometimes appear as envoys from the spirit world — fleeting emissaries of loved ones who have passed on to the other side.” I like that idea. It would be nice to think that my friend Fran was just dropping by to say hello. Most likely, it was just a member of a family of cardinals picking through the debris, looking for sunflower seeds to feed his family. Either way, it was nice to see him.

As the adage goes, it’s the little things in life that sometimes make you the happiest. For me it’s true. I may not win the Powerball anytime soon, but as long as the cardinal comes to visit once in a while, I’ll be happy.

Oh, and I took a short video too! :)

Recovering very nicely, thank you.

Dear readers, the following post was intended for publishing on Friday, the seventh of February  Unfortunately, as I was recovering from surgery, my close friend Fran passed away. I’m posting it anyway, along with an addendum, because it illustrates the kind of winter I’m having. :)

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So… I had Lithotripsy a few weeks ago. Was it painful? Not really, but I do feel as if someone kicked me in the back. The forecast for the day of surgery was heavy rain turning into wet snow by noon. Great!  My other half was thoughtful enough to reserve a room at the small hotel where he works. So, instead of having to wait in the rain for a bus at 4:30am, we could walk just a few blocks to the hospital.

I’m fortunate to live in Philadelphia, a city that has one of the largest and best healthcare networks in the country. We have Hahnemann, Jefferson, Temple, and the University of Pennsylvania health systems all within the city limits.

I was the first patient Monday morning. Lucky me! The staff was thorough. At every step of the way I was asked to recite my name, date of birth, allergies, and the Magna Carta, then recite it all once more as I lay on the OR table. This was my fifth kidney procedure, so I’ve gotten to know most of the Pennsylvania hospital staff pretty well. One of the pre-administration lab technicians has a wicked sense of humor. I guess you’d have to if you spent your day stabbing patients in the arm in search of a good vein.

So I was laying on this strange operating table with a cutout underneath in which a water filled gel pad that emits sound waves protrudes. The doctor maneuvered me over the gel pad. The technician strapped me in. The anesthesiologist joked with me that I keep coming back for surgery because of their excellent selection of anesthetics. I don’t remember anything after the oxygen mask was placed over my face. I suspect the anesthesiologist slipped me a Mickey.

The next thing I knew, a nurse was hovering over me with a big smile. “How do you feel?” Like I want to go back to sleep. “Fine”, I said. I really did want to go back to sleep, though. I also wanted some more of whatever it was they gave me for pain. The chorus of The Floaters’ classic “Float On” comes to mind. 

“Float. Float on…”

 

After an hour or so of “recovery time”, I was wheeled out to the lobby where the reality of the day’s snow accumulation stared back at me. While waiting for a cab, we saw a bus and took it.

It was good to get home.

I made myself comfortable on the sofa to wait for love to return home from the pharmacy, bearing gifts of antibiotics and pain killers. You know when you think everything is okay, but you feel just a little off? Not anything major, just ever so slightly off center. That’s how I felt. The more I moved around, the less like myself I felt. Maybe I’d be better off laying down in bed.

Oh right… freshly cleaned sheets. YAY!

I turned on the TV, changed into some comfy clothes, and climbed into bed. That was all she wrote. I was out! Gone! I awoke the next morning stiff and achy and determined not to spend the day in bed.

I still feel a bit sore, but I’m doing well and trying not to use the pain killers too often.

Addendum…

A week later, we took advantage of the break in the snow by climbing up and inspecting the roof and gutters. Because I have a longer reach than Love, I laid down on the roof and reached over the edge to attach the Roof & Gutter Deicing Cable. As I reached and stretched, I heard what sounded like a snap, followed by a sharp pain in my rib, which was pressed against the edge of the roof. I’m not gonna lie. I panicked. After a few moments, I took a couple of deep breaths to inflate my lungs. There was pain, but nothing that indicated a broken rib.

So, if you need you walk shoveled or someone to carry your groceries in from the car, please be kind enough to ask someone else. I think I’m gonna lay low for a while. :o

What Kind of Ass**** Shoots a Gun Into a Car Full of Teenagers?

There is an ongoing battle in my neighborhood between residents and teenagers in parked cars blaring loud music. Not once, in the years that I’ve been living here, has any of us pulled a gun on one. single. teenager.

Not once!

To be sure, blaring your music at top volume, with the bass up so high it shakes my house, is inconsiderate at best. It shows a lack of respect for your neighborhood. It shows the world that you’re the worst kind of ass who’s probably trying to overcompensate for some major insecurities. But it’s not reason enough for me, or anyone for that matter, to take a life.

Most of the time, as with Mr Davis and his pals, it’s just teenagers being teenagers. They haven’t had enough life experience to understand that the people who live in these houses have to get up in the morning to go to jobs they hate, jobs that don’t pay very much, so that they can pay an outrageous amount of rent. They don’t need to listen to some punk kid showing off his bad taste in music. Oh… Don’t think you have bad taste in music? Just wait until you’re an old head like me and some snot nosed kid blasts your house with whatever passes for music at that point.

But I’m in a residential neighborhood where there’s a certain expectation of a reasonable noise level. Something just above a whisper would be nice, but probably unrealistic. Mr Dunn was at a gas station where there is no such expectation.

He was at a friggin gas station convenience store, for crying out loud! It is reasonable to expect that there will be lots of noise! Hell, it’s almost guaranteed!

I wasn’t on that jury so there’s no way of knowing what the hell was going on during deliberations. But there’s one fact that I just can’t get past. After shooting ten rounds into an SUV full of teenagers, Dunn left the gas station and drove 40 miles away to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, where he “walked his dog, ordered a pizza, and drank rum and cola.

A normal human being would have called for an ambulance.

But then, a normal human being wouldn’t have fired a gun into an SUV full of teenagers over loud music.

What an ass****!

Saying Goodbye To A Dear Friend.

I had intended a Friday post about my recovery from lithotripsy, which is progressing smoothly and without complications. Unfortunately, Thursday morning I received incredibly sad news. A very close friend lost her battle with uterine cancer. I am heart broken by the loss and angry at the circumstances around which she died. The rest of my day was spent in a fog. After not being able to sleep, I found it helpful to just start writing. The following unorganized mess is more therapy for me than anything else.

In the years that my other half and I have been living on this little South Philly block, we’ve established close friendships with our neighbors. With a few exceptions, we look out for one another.

I met Fran through a friend and neighbor who lived two doors down. She was moving onto our block. With her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor, Fran fit right in. She was the kindest and most generous soul I have ever had the privilege to know. That’s not hyperbole. There was nothing Fran would not do to lend a hand to anyone in need. If it was within her power, it was done.

First Friday Sushi Lunch

A perfect example of our First Friday Sushi events. :)

My friendship with Fran developed slowly. We bonded over our Italian heritage, and gastronomic pleasure, which included first Friday lunches with our friend Scott. I’ve often bored you with pictures of sushi and sashimi. Fran was a vegetarian, but that didn’t prevent her from enjoying her sushi. :)  She and I had an ongoing dialogue about ways to recreate meat-free versions of childhood dishes. It wasn’t uncommon to see either of us carrying plates of food from one house to another. Fran was the inspiration for some of my favorite epicurean experiments.

About eighteen months ago, Fran began to experience pain and bleeding. She was in her sixties so menstruation was out of the question. After a few months of doctors and tests and more doctors and even more tests, it was determined that Fran had stage 3 uterine cancer. It was emotionally crushing.

Our monthly lunch dates continued even as Fran started chemotherapy, but tapered off as some of her experimental treatments took their toll. She was listening to advice from conflicting sources, and people with no medical training who claimed a certain food, vitamin, or magic root was a cancer cure. She went gluten free, tried a macrobiotic diet, and went to extremes to find and eat only organic fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, she was asking Scott to pick up bagels from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Now, let me stop here for a minute and assure you that I am in no way blaming Fran for her illness or worse, her death. That would be absurd and cruel. I am Pro-Choice. Being pro-choice means allowing a person autonomy. I’m angry because there is so much misinformation being disseminated out there. She was scared. She was reaching for anything that might give her hope. I feel, however incorrectly, that Fran was taken advantage of. I  mentioned the Dunkin’ Donuts because Fran needed to get food into her body. When you’re perpetually nauseous, any food is better than nothing. We encouraged her to eat whatever she could keep down. You’d be surprised at some of the odd things she craved. Fran had an affinity for pickled cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone. We asked if she might not be pregnant. {:-)

Last summer, Fran found out about a Vitamin C therapy. It’s an alternative cancer treatment that involves massive doses of vitamin c administered intravenously. Since it could be administered while a patient was also undergoing chemo, Fran signed up. The treatments were hell. Chemo was bad enough, but on the days she received the vitamin C, she was in bad shape. It often took two days for her to recover from the therapy. By January, the oncologist was refusing to give her chemo because she was too weak. The best they could do was rehydrate her with saline and send her home. The vitamin C had done more harm than good. It was clear that Fran’s time on Earth was limited.

During the worst of her illness, it was Scott who did most of the heavy lifting. When Fran needed something, it was Scott she called. Scott taxied her to doctors, treatments, and trips to the grocery store.  Fran’s illness took it’s toll on him. Her death hit him hard. He’d been through this once before when longtime friend and neighbor Mary Ann died just a few years ago. This time was worse because he and Fran were real close.

Fran was rushed to the ER Tuesday night. She was in pain and having trouble breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, where they treated her pain. There was nothing more they could do. Her siblings took shifts sitting with her in the hospital room. Fran passed away 1:00 am Thursday morning. Her brother and one of her sisters was in the room with her.

There’s going to be a viewing next week, followed by a Wiccan ceremony. Fran was a Wiccan high priestess. I’m so proud of her sister, who is Roman Catholic, for adhering to Fran’s wishes.

I’m not sure how to wrap this meandering mess up, but I suspect you will all understand. This past year has been a rough one. There’s been enough sickness in our little burg. So you’ll forgive me if I tend toward the ridiculous sometimes. It’s a hell of a lot better than dwelling on the sadness. Besides, I’d much rather remember the happy, joyful soul that was Franny T.

Human Rights Watch Releases Disturbing Video Of LGBT Russians Beaten By Anti-Gay Vigilantes

adignorantium:

Just horrifying

Originally posted on MasterAdrian's Weblog:

Human Rights Watch Releases Disturbing Video Of LGBT Russians Beaten By Anti-Gay Vigilantes

by Will Kohler

WARNING

Human Rights Watch has released a disturbing video detailing many of the violent criminal exploits of Russian citizens and anti-gay vigilante groups who’s hate has become empowered by Russia’s recent passage of anti-gay laws.

As the host to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which begin on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia should act in accordance with the principle of nondiscrimination, a core provision of the Olympic Charter. As a member of the Council of Europe, and party to multiple human rights treaties, it should meet its obligations to provide equal respect and protection for LGBT people.

“The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so,” said Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By turning a blind eye to…

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