Saturday, May 31, 2008

Terrorist training camp discovered!

When Goblin moved the broken dryer out from the wall to see if he could assess the problem, he revealed the secret training camp for The Boose Army.

Caboose is our highly entertaining three year old cat. Nearly every Saturday for the last two years, Goblin has gifted Boose with a toy Hartz catnip mouse. Typically, within a couple of hours, the fresh mouse is nowhere to be found. After about a year of this, we started joking around about Boose's mouse army training camp, aka 'Boose Camp'.

Then, last summer, a few of the older mice started showing up in piles of dirty laundry or on the steps. Whenever one would show up, we would capture it and put it on one of two shelves in our house (for future potential recycled playtime). These lone mice were either commando terrrorists or deserters from The Boose Army. The shelves were much like our own domestic version of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

But finally, the war on terror can claim a huge victory today upon the discovery of their training base and the capture of the terrorists.

When questioned about the discovery, General Boose denied any knowledge of the terrorist base or their activities.

Needles and pins

For the last couple of weeks, I have been trying acupuncture as a means of dealing with my chronic back pain. I think it may finally be helping somewhat. It's not a miracle cure, that's for sure. But, there does seem to be some small improvement today after the fourth treatment. I don't know if it will be worthwhile to continue unless the rate of improvement increases.

I did have my pain-status check-up on Thursday. As I expected, my doctor did not have any new tricks up his sleeve. He just wanted to lay eyes on me, since he's still giving me drugs (even though the drugs only take the edge off of the really bad days). I did get him to talk a bit about the possibility that I could have a systemic issue going on (Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Lyme Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, blah blah blah). He said that Fibromyalgia is a catch-all diagnosis when you have a group of symptoms, and they can't find anything concrete wrong with you. (Gee ... um, that sounds about right.) We also talked about how most of these systemic diseases do not have good records for effective treatments. (I am shocked.)

All the same, he agreed that it might be worthwhile for me to have an A NA blood test which can be useful in diagnosing several autoimmune diseases. So, I happily put out my arm at the lab for the blood test. (This is saying something, since I absolutely despise having blood drawn.)

And the struggle continues!

Beyond negative stimulation

Our unexpected economic stimulus check was followed by two automobile expenses that ate up over half of the windfall. Our central AC had a major hiccup this week, to the tune of about $250. Today, our less-than-two-year old dryer decided to crap out. And, it appears to be the one appliance that we purchased in the last two years that we can't find the paperwork for. When it's all added up, all these unexpected expenses will cost more than the stupid check.

I guess its a good thing that we got the check. However, I was really looking forward to having a little money for vacation (which we really didn't have set aside at this point). The Fates are being particularly mean. This has happened before. Unexpected money always ends up vaporizing in my house.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mother's Little Helper - time for a reassessment

For chronic pain sufferers, medical 'science' is an utter crap shoot. The efficacy of many treatments are short lived, if effective at all.

Over the years, I have built up quite the tolerance to most muscle relaxants and OTC pain medications. My internist specializes in chronic pain. However, he is not big into pharmaceuticals (to most, this may seem like an oxymoron, of sorts). When I first started seeing him, he gave me mail-refillable (3 months at a time) prescriptions on most of my drugs, but month-by-month on one of them (Soma). Over the last six months, he has changed over all my prescriptions to month-by-month. Last week, his office called and told me that they had filled my request for Soma, but that the doctor would like me to come in for an office visit.

If I were purely drug-seeking, this turn of events would bother me. However, I have known for quite some time that the drugs really aren't helping me that much. For the most part, they take the edge off an intolerable situation, but are nearly ineffectual in relieving my pain. I really would LOVE a new answer. Perhaps some treatment has evolved over the last two years that we haven't tried yet?

I really want the doctor to give me a new treatment. If he tells me to go to physical therapy again, I'm going to introduce him to some of my ruder vocabulary. I have done P.T., off and on, for the last five years. I exercise to some degree nearly every day. I doubt that surgery is really the answer for me, at this point. I do not have a disc problem, and my spinal stenosis is minor in comparison to most people who end up under the knife. I do have some stability issues, but surgery probably would not address the bulk of my issues. Also, NSAIDs really do not provide much relief for me at this point (and bring their own complications that my lower digestive system does not deal well with ... there just isn't enough fiber in the universe to compensate.)

Do I do things that I shouldn't do? YES! (Example: Over the last year and a half, I have resorted to drinking alcohol to get to sleep six nights out of seven.... which has put about twenty pounds back on my ever-widening butt. Plus, I KNOW that it's not good for my overall health.)

This weekend has been particularly painful because my left knee has decided to flare up in a big way. I have sciatica down my right leg right now. My left knee is so painful that I am walking with a slow painful limp. My lower back is inflamed nearly to its full-on peak. My upper right shoulder blade is starting to spasm. My hips (the frontal protrusions of my pelvic bones) are a bit tender as well. So, basically, if it can go wrong ... it's going wrong.

I've looked into a number of diagnoses myself. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid Arthritis. Lyme disease. Nothing is spot on. Besides, my chronic back problems are directly traceable to an injury sustained just over fifteen years ago. Most of these diseases have no injury-based relationship.

So, I'm guessing that my wide-spread system chronic pain is psychosomatic. Right? [ Though part of me sees a strong potential with Fibromyalgia since I have IBS and insomnia, big time, in addition to having over half the tender points that usually categorize the disease. Sadly, the medical profession says you need to have eleven tender points to be diagnosed, and I miss that by one. OTOH, being diagnoses with Fibromyalgia doesn't REALLY get one anywhere since there is no cure and the treatments are usually marignally effective for most sufferers.]

I have an appointment with my M.D. on Thursday afternoon. I fully expect to walk out of the appointment with either fewer prescriptions or new, useless, prescriptions. (Or, in handcuffs after punching the man out for suggesting some of the same pointless crap that I have been through already.)

Sorry gang, I truly hate to bitch and moan. I'll share with you the lyrics to my current favorite retro tune by the Rolling Stones

"Lifes just much too hard today,
I hear evry mother say
The pusuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Way of the Warrior

We're having a lovely weekend. The weather has been particularly nice. In addition, Grendel took a trip this weekend with his friends from our church, so we had the house to ourselves.

Speaking of church, Hubby participated in today's service at church: "The Way of the Warrior". Each spring, the committee on ministry arranges a thematic service run completely by members of the congregation. This year, the theme was the martial arts. And, since Hubby is one of the more noted martial artists in the congregation, he was invited to participate.

He only had about fifteen minutes to speak. While public speaking is not something he enjoys, he loves to talk about Japanese martial arts. So, it was difficult for him to come up with an appropriate talk in the time allotted. Overall, he did a fine job. He also got to show off some of his precious swords after the service was over. While I was forbidden to take pictures of him during the service, I did get a shot of him studying his note cards before and then showing off his swords after the service.

Hubby is the entire building committee. (No that is not a typo.) As you can see from the above picture of our church, it is a lovely old stone building. He fell in love with the building long before he got comfortable with the idea of attending church (much less actually joining the congregation). I was quite proud of his willingness to participate in the service today. Then again, it was his chance to share a bit of his true religion with our very open-minded Unitarian Universalist friends.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ever get tired of same s**t different day?

The title of this post can be applied to so many aspects of my life. The most irritating quarters of my existence that apply here are my chronic pain issues, my job, and parenting a teenager.

I remember watching a movie years ago where a couple was having the same argument that they'd had dozens of times. The guy looked at the woman and basically said, "Do I really need to be here for this?" I SO get that! Couldn't I just hire an android to do my walk-ons?

School would be different if I cared about it at all this week. Sadly, I've been too utterly exhausted in the evenings this week to give a rat's butt. I'm doing the required reading, but I'm barely showing up to the group discussions (which I've been a major contributor to in the past few weeks). I guess it's just my turn to check out.

I have a pretty busy weekend coming up. Saturday includes a car inspection and an acupuncture appointment. Sunday involves several back-to-back church activities. And, though Monday is a holiday, I think I will dedicate most of the day to school work or gardening. If it rains, maybe I'll play at my crafts' table. It might be the only thing to pull me out of the miserable funk that I'm in. (That, or the Lottery.)

Oh, and 'good news, bad news', my brother leaves for Paris for three years on Saturday. I'm both happy and sad for the occasion. [ and a little jealous ]

Vacation is over a month away. Lots of land mines between here and there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Feeling unstimulated

It never fails. The Fates note when we have extra cash in our lives. A week after getting our unexpected 'economic stimulus' check, over half of it has gone into our cars. My car needed a couple of new tires, and my husband's needed new breaks. My annual inspection is Saturday. I'm not feeling all warm-and-fuzzy about the potential outcome.

Ladies, give us a break and let us enjoy the little bit of the money that's left!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another Bush fluke!

Bush has said that he will NOT support any legislation that bails out lenders. Can I just say that I am shocked. I am again agreeing with the man.

If I agree with him on anything else in the next week, I may need to have myself committed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

End of tennis season

Grendel's tennis team had an end-of-season party yesterday at one of the team's house. Hubby and I are usually not very social, plus we kind of got into a tiff right before we were supposed to leave for the party. However, the other parents were a lot of fun. We were having such a good time that most of the parents (including us) ended up staying for over seven hours. The parents sat around the dining room eating and chatting, while the guys (mostly) played video games in the basement.

Grendel ended up slashing his hand open during one of their brief forays into the great outdoors. I was a bad mom. I let one of the other exuberant moms clean the wound while he whined like a big baby (we ALL were laughing at his whining - which made him ham it up all the more, I think). I did go out to the car for some supplies from our first aid kit, since we had butterfly bandages and our hosts did not.

The guys had a lot of fun together this season, even if they had a VERY disappointing record this year. Grendel is ever social, so of course he has a bevy of new friends. Here is a picture of Grendel and his two doppelgangers. The three of them together are the top players on the team. But, considering their losing record for the season, the three of them joke that being the best players on the team is kind of like being "the tallest midget".

Whenever I try to take a picture of Grendel, he usually shies away or makes a very goofy face. Apparently, he hammed it up for the camera for other parents at the matches on a regular basis.

And finally, our intrepid team:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I actually agree with Bush?

The SPR was created in the 1970's as a direct result of the 1973 energy crisis. The SPR's role is to keep short term interruptions of oil imports from crippling our economy. The idea being, should OPEC decide to stop shipping oil to us, or to drastically curtail oil shipments to us, we would have some oil stockpiled while we tried to come to terms with our foreign oil suppliers.

The Senate passed a bill this week halting shipments of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to ease record oil and gas prices. President Bush argued that halting shipments to the SPR is a threat to our national security and would have little effect on cutting oil prices. The Energy Information Administration estimates the fill rate adds about $2 to each barrel of oil and 4 cents to 5 cents per gallon to the price of gasoline.

Sadly, since the vote was virtually veto-proof, Bush will probably sign the bill, even though he opposes it.

I support the stock piling of oil as a hedge against political threats and natural disasters. Has Congress already forgotten that we needed to tap into the SPR after the hurricanes of 2005, due to an interruption in the flow of oil? I realize that 1973 was a very long time ago for most people, but the Middle East is still a volatile region and we are even more dependent on foreign imports than we were then.

Morons! So, for a measly 5 cents a gallon at the pump, they are willing to take a huge risk. Let's just hope that no major hurricanes or other disasters take out any of the major oil importing facilities between now and election day folks. Or, let's hope that OPEC doesn't decide to cut us off or severely cut what they send us because they're getting tired of our occupation of Iraq (and Afghanistan, or again want to chide us for our support of Israel).

Cross your fingers you short-sighted boneheads.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's not a sin to believe in aliens

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in an interview published Tuesday.

Vatican says it's ok to believe in aliens

Good to know.

Then again, if I believed in most of the things that the Vatican says I should believe in, are aliens really that big of a stretch?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Unexpected stimulation

No, this is not an adult posting.

When the Feds announced the 'economic stimulus' package I was appalled. Here we are, BILLIONS of dollars in debt with a devalued dollar and an economy in the hospice. So, what could the government do to turn things around? Tax oil companies that are making record profits? Raise cigarette taxes? ... um, start bringing troops home from the Middle East?

No, no, no. Let's think like the typical American consumer; lets call her Georgina. Georgina has an expensive hobby. She doesn't treat it like a hobby, though. See Georgina has OCD, so she thinks her hobby is more important than feeding her kids and paying the light bill. However, Georgina isn't making a lot of money right now. She's just an lowly employee at a financial institution (UTU - nited Treason Unlimited, Knoxville, Kansas).

Georgina is addicted to a virtual reality game called "Let's Spread Democracy". She somehow managed to spend more than she made last year on her hobby, mostly by maxing out her credit cards and convincing her relatives that, once she wins the game, she'll get a slew of Frequent Gaming Points which can be exchanged for discounted gasoline and a Nobel Peace Prize.

Georgina's children are complaining that their allowances just aren't going as far as they used to. Since Georgina has maxed our her credit cards, she decides to use her position at UTU to get herself a platinum card. She then takes a cash advance on the new platinum card to give all her children a special bonus allowance. Unfortunately, now Georgina has even more debt, and no one (and I mean NO ONE) will lend Georgina a plug nickel.

OK. I realize that it may be a hokey analogy. However, I do not think that the best way to 'stimulate' our economy is to allow our government to go deeper in debt so that some people will buy more useless crap that they don't really need. The rest of us will either pay down some of our own obnoxious credit card debt, or will sock the money away for a rainy day.

As for the 'unexpected' aspect of this post's title: We just got our letter in the mail telling us that we were getting a four digit check back. By my calculations, we made too much last year to qualify. However, I'm not fool. I will not be sending it back. With gas prices rising the way that they are, I plan on ignoring that electronic deposit for now. (Though we may buy some small bit of useless crap that we really don't need ... all in the spirit of economic stimulus ... using no more than 25% of this ill-gotten windfall.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day

One would think that Mothers Day would be the day for children to show their appreciation for their mothers. I really don't think it works out that way for most of the lives of the children. When children are little, fathers are the ones who make the effort on their behalf. When children are teens, fathers again pick up the slack, since teenagers aren't sure what to appreciate, how to show it, or where to come up with the resources to execute an appreciative plan (should one actually occur to them).

There may be a spell when children are in their early twenties when they might actually consider showing their mothers that they appreciate them. This phase continues until said children procreate and have children of their own. Then, appreciating their mothers becomes kind of an after thought. In the meanwhile, fathers try to make mothers feel appreciated.

So, let's not delude ourselves here ladies. Mothers Day is the day that our mates shows us that someone in our lives appreciates what we do for those children we raised.

(Can't you just tell that I'm have another one of those days where I'm sorely reminded that I'm the parent of a teenager?)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Burial at sea

According to USAID "Multiple human activities—including poorly planned or sited coastal development, destructive fishing, overharvesting, and the runoff of sediments and nutrients—have caused the loss of over 25 percent of the world’s coral reefs, and severely threaten close to 60 percent of the remaining reefs." Some of the benefits of reefs include:

  • home and nursery for almost a million fish and other species, many that we rely on for food;

  • some of the earth's most diverse living ecosystems;

  • important protection for coastal communities from storms, wave damage and erosion;

  • full of new and undiscovered biomedical resources that we've only just begun to explore.

(The above was borrowed from

If you are an ocean lover, and weren't wedded to burial in a traditional cemetery, you may be interested in The Neptune Memorial Reef. Located in open waters 3 1/4 miles off the coast of Key Biscayne and 45 feet beneath the ocean surface, this man made reef could eventually span sixteen acres and be home to 125,000 remains.

According to the AP article I read on Yahoo, "The ashes [of the deceased] are mixed with cement designed for underwater use and fitted into a mold, which a diver then places and secures into the reef. A copper and bronze plaque is installed with the person's name, date of birth and death. There is also a line for a message." The materials used are environmentally neutral and could actually improve the surrounding ocean by providing a home to plants and animals.

The reef is laid out like an underwater park of sorts, with gates, pathways, plaques, benches and statuary. It is ironic that the project was initially named Atlantis. From the pictures of the site, one could well imagine future underwater enthusiasts stumbling on the site and wondering if it were the remains of a lost civilization.

I doubt that I will sign up, but I still think its a pretty interesting concept.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Day by Day

By most people's definitions, I am an Atheist. On a charitable day, some may classify me as an Agnostic. However, I really like the song "Day by Day" from Godspell. I also REALLY love church architecture. Go figure.

One of the first tasks I set myself today at work was to review the job postings. I saw a couple that I could probably qualify for. However, I am not so desperate to escape The Project from Hell to jump at anything, just yet. I actually have another group in mind, and I'm just waiting for the right position to open up over there.

My current unit team lead is a great woman. Personally, I really like her. Sadly, she has no spine, lacks skill in succinct communication, is habitually late, and is very disorganized. In my line of work, a lot of that is HIGHLY undesirable. Since she seems willing to live with me being imprisoned in this Project for however long it takes, I've decided that she is not the best manager for me. I need someone who is going to look out for the interests of her organizational unit and the overall benefit of her people as individuals. Having me continuing to lead The Project From Hell serves neither of those defined goods. Therefore, I think I need to find another manager to work for sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, I think I need to take my work life: "Day by Day"

Today didn't suck. On a scale of 1 to 10 it was, at best, a 6; at worse, it was a 5. I guess most days have to fall in the 4 to 7 range.

Here's looking towards tomorrow!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Go see Iron Man

Great flick! And ... hang out for the extra time past the impressively long list of credits. It's worth it if your are a Marvel fan in any way, shape, or form. (Oh, and of COURSE Stan Lee is in the movie. Keep your eyes open.)

I think this is the best role I've seen Robert Downey Junior in, in a very long time. I think he had a lot of fun with it. (Though I really liked him in Charlie Bartlett.) And, boy was he buff!

Jeff Bridges did really well with his role, particularly towards the end of the movie. If I told you any more, I'd have to issue a spoiler alert.

Friday, May 02, 2008

No first day .... just yet

Apparently, yesterday's post was premature.

I had my meeting with the CIO today. Everything went pretty well. We will probably restart the project with a formal requirements period, followed by a market study of available technologies (with the help of an experienced consulting group).

However, there are a few things that the CIO wants me to do in relation to the project in the interim. Also, when I requested that the renewed project be led by someone else, he listened to and agreed with my reasoning. But then, he said that he might not have anyone else appropriate to lead the project so that I may still be his best choice.

Fabulous. (grrrrr.....) I spent nine months leading a project that was completely screwed from the beginning by poor requirements and a 'team' that did not feel accountable for the success of the project. Virtually everything that 'we' accomplished was done by me or by much cajoling by me. The people who were slated to support the product after deployment couldn't be bothered to get involved with resolving any issues before deployment. They expected to be handed a perfectly configured and functioning product, that they had no hand in configuring. So, um, how did they think they would know how to troubleshoot any issues? ... Right.

My CIO assured me that everyone would be held accountable this time around and that I wouldn't be left holding the bag on my own.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. I've worked pretty closely with this cast of characters over the last year. I don't see how he expects tigers to change their stripes.

My unit team lead was in the meeting with the CIO this morning. She tried to give me her Pollyanna viewpoint afterwards. She thinks that after I take care of these final little tasks, that I'll at least have a few months to regroup and take care of some other things before the project renews. Also, she was very optimistic about the CIO's perception that he would make it clear to everyone that they would be held accountable for the success of the project. Sadly, she's very Pollyanna-like over a lot of crap that just ain't so.

Hopefully, the several month respite will eventually occur. During that period of time, I plan to keep my eyes on the internal job board. I work in a HUGE organization. There are a lot of IT-related jobs that are not actually in IT. Maybe I'll get lucky and find a way out before I get the albatross hung back around my neck.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The first day of the rest of my career

So, I have a big meeting with our CIO tomorrow to give him a status and recommendations on 'the project that flushed itself'. He kind of knows it's coming, so it won't be a complete shocker. I'm sure he'll say all the right things and give us our marching orders for reinitiating the project under better conditions once FY09 rolls in.

Everyone has done a great job of convincing me that this fiasco was not my fault. I'm also starting to realize that I'll be getting about 50% of my time back from this project to do all sorts of tasks that I had previously relegated to the back burner, things that really are important but I've had to ignore.

We'll probably have to do a post mortem on the project. We'll talk about 'lessons learned' and recommendations going forward.

I took today off to do some stuff with my son and to start regrouping my brain. I'm also taking off tomorrow afternoon. Come Monday, maybe I'll remember what my job was supposed to be before I spent nine months drowning in the project from Hell.