A 2000 Post That Will Come in Handy This Winter

I was looking at the Yahoo!group that I belong to, the LRY Online Reunion.  (For those of you not in the know, LRY stands for Liberal Religious Youth, the youth organization of the Unitarian Universalist Church.  I was quite active from ages 16-22 on both a local, regional, and national level.)

In 2000, Steph and I were quite ill with pneumonia.  (I had walking pneumonia, and my doctor considered hospitalizing me, but didn’t because the hospital was already overflowing out the windows with pneumonia patients, and we’d all cross-infect one another.)

I cooked up a cure 100% accidentally.  Below is what I posted on Independence Day 2000.

Those of you who have known me well know that I am hardly a wizard
in the kitchen. Chef Boyardee, ramen noodles, toast, and macaroni and
cheese pretty much total my culinary ability. You also know that I am an
unapologetic carnivore (as a bumper sticker I saw says, IF GOD DIDN’T MEAN
Many of you are aware that Steph and I have been swapping
pneumonia bugs back and forth since May. Steph is *finally* back at work,
and I am in the end stages of my battle with an upper respiratory
infection. My M.D. prescribed several antibiotics, so I have to start my
day with a handful of pills that would make Elvis Presley shudder, but I’m
back at work and feeling better daily.
While I was caring for Steph, she talked me through making soup
out of the previous night’s roast. One mug of it, and she caught her
second and third wind, and was out of bed and 90% recovered. It worked
miracles for my situation as well.
So I thought I’d share it with everyone, and send antibiotic
thoughts your way. Fortunately, I jotted the recipe down in my journal
after the meal, so I can brew up another pot if (God forbid!) sickness
comes our way again.

2 cups of beef broth
32 oz. of diced tomatoes
1 palmful of Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2 potatoes (chopped)
1 medium-sized onion (diced)
1 cup of baby carrots

Cook on LOW in Crock-Pot for 6 hours, and cook on HIGH for
the last hour, when you add 1/2 lb. of ridged macaroni elbows (Mueller’s
is my personal favorite.)

Health to all,

“I have lived some 30 years on this planet, and I have yet to hear one
piece of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors.” –THOREAU

New Year’s Eve Eve–Adieu, Saddam & Giving the Devil His Due

Quite a few newsworthy items today.  I thought about beginning a blog on MSNBC, so I could blog about specific news events, but even if I did, I doubt I would post to it as often as I do in here.

The big news today is the execution of Saddam Hussein.  I am unconditionally opposed to the death penalty (for anyone), but I will go so far as to say the world is a better place without him in it.  I wonder what the U.S. will do without a boogeyman to blame everything from 9/11 to El Nino on.  I streamed some execution pictures from MSNBC’s Website this morning, and I’m sure other people were overjoyed to see it–and disappointed that they didn’t show him dropping through the trap door.

The headlines in the newspapers and online all week went something like this: “Saddam’s execution hours away,” “Saddam to be executed by Eid,” etc.  I was half expecting them to do the “Ten!  Nine!  Eight!  Seven!” bit, like they do on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with the trap being sprung, instead of the ball dropping.

An interesting juxtaposition: One of the excerpts from upcoming news shows was an interview with David Kaczynski, younger brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who had to make the very tough decision to report his brother to the FBI (a good thing, too.  If David Kaczynski hadn’t come forward, those Keystone Kops we call the FBI would never have caught the Unabomber).  He was speaking of the injustice of executing a person so obviously mentally ill, and calling for a moratorium on the death penalty throughout the U.S.  He is truly deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize.  (The full interview with David Kaczynski airs later on this afternoon, and I’ll probably not be home, so I’m taping it.)

Here’s where the “Giving the Devil his due” heading applies.  There was an article in today’s Columbus Dispatch about legislation that soon-to-be-ex-Governor Taft signed while he is in his last days at the State House.  One was a parity bill for mental health coverage, to be kept on par with physical health insurance coverage.  Below is the article from today’s paper.  (The Dispatch says it is “Ohio’s Greatest Online Newspaper,” which is roughly the equivalent of being the best snowboarder in Honolulu.)

Taft signs mental-health parity bill
Controversial measure ‘disappointing blow’ to small businesses, critics say
Saturday, December 30, 2006

Over the objections of some small businesses, Gov. Bob Taft yesterday signed a bill requiring health plans to offer the same treatment for mental illnesses as they do for physical ailments.

The bill was among the more controversial pieces of legislation passed this month, many of which still await the outgoing governor’s signature or veto. Taft has not weighed in on bills dealing with the minimum wage, predatory lending, red-light cameras and liability for cleaning up lead paint.

Taft, who leaves office Jan. 8, must sign or veto a glut of legislation that moved through the General Assembly before it adjourned Dec. 20.

In addition to the mentalhealth measure, Taft yesterday also signed 17 noncontroversial bills dealing with civil-service regulations, preventing bullying and harassment in schools and prohibiting parole officers from using private cars on the job, among other topics.

The mental-health parity bill was the most controversial of the measures Taft signed into law. Taft had resisted similar legislation two years ago, bowing to concerns from businesses that complained it would saddle them with additional costs.

Taft said yesterday that he expects such costs to be “minimal” and outweighed by the benefits of providing mentalhealth treatment to people who might otherwise end up homeless, hungry or imprisoned.

Some businesses “shifted their position to realizing that this could be an overall cost savings to society,” Taft said.

Still, the National Federation of Independent Business/Ohio yesterday expressed disappointment that Taft would sign an “unfair mandate.”

“He has dealt a disappointing blow to small-business owners who are already struggling to provide any level of coverage and who will now face yet another hurdle in their efforts to provide basic health-care benefits to their employees,” the federation’s Ohio leader, Ty Pine, said in a statement after the signing.

Mental-health advocates noted that thousands of Ohioans are missing out on needed treatment because it was not covered by their insurance plans.

“That’s what this bill is about: It gives people who may be depressed the ability to laugh,” said Rep. Robert F. Spada, R-North Royalton, its sponsor. “It gives the ability to have good days with proper care and treatment.” 

I guess late is better than never.  I’m sure this is a relief to many–mental illness is an expensive hobby, even with coverage.

I’m taking Susie swimming at the (indoor) pool at the Thompson Recreation Center.  It’s not a bad deal for $ .50.

Stay Healthy, You State Employees (You Can’t Afford Not To!)

If you look at the time of day that I’m typing this, you can deduce that I’m not on the job.  I am home taking FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) time.  I had a bad spell of depression late in the day yesterday, but I figured I could hold my mud together until the end of the day, which I could.  (Depression is my allowed condition under the FMLA.)  The condition alleviated when I got home, when Susie and I walked to United Dairy Farmers to get a pint of ice cream–she and Steph are the ice cream lovers.  I have to be in the mood for it, which does not occur often.  That was more therapeutic than any medication.

But it was short-lived.  I woke up this morning with a dreadful headache.  The headache was actually was woke me up, a good hour and a half before my alarm would have gone off.  To simulate what it felt like, take a huge bite of ice cream and swallow it, and imagine that not going away in 15-30 seconds.  I did occasionally have migraine headaches when I was a teenager, but they haven’t bothered me in years.  It made me so dizzy that I was worried for a few minutes that I was having a stroke or some kind of seizure.

Anyway, Steph got my supervisor on the phone, and asked for FMLA time for me.  (The headache may have been–probably was–related to the depression.)  Long and short, I’ve forfeited holiday pay, since it’s the Friday before a holiday (New Year’s Day).  I will dispute this when I get back to work.  I am a union steward, but I’ll ask some of my fellow stewards and union officers to go to bat for me.  (He who represents himself has a fool for a client is an aphorism that should be chiseled above every U.S. courtroom.)

I took some Aleve, slept a little more, and then had some breakfast.  That and a hot shower made me feel quite a lot better.  Susie and I went to the Franklinton library, where she read off some of her fines.  (She has about $8.60 left, which will take a little over an hour at $8 per hour.)

Maybe we are raising Susie well.  She saw that I had checked out the DVD of the first and second seasons of Family Guy, and she was quite indignant, and said never to watch it when she was around.  (I’ve become quite a fan after channel-surfing one night and passing Fox’ station one Sunday night.)  It’s a good show, but if I had a son like Stewie, I’d have a padlock on my bedroom door.  It’s too soon to have a DVD of American Dad, which is another Fox cartoon I love.  (Anything that ridicules patriotism and makes the CIA and Homeland Security look stupid is A+ as far as I’m concerned.)

Blood Pressure – Should I Worry?

A routine trip to the nurse’s office on the third floor of the William Green Building led to a blood pressure check.  (All I came there for was some ibuprofen and/or aspirin.  The nurse asked me if I wanted my blood pressure checked.  Since I was there…)

The nurse wrapped the cuff around one bicep, and then the other.  I didn’t have to roll up my sleeve, so I sat there on my side of the desk.  Nursie watched the mercury rise in the tube and scowled a little.  The right arm result was 124/94.  The left was 130/98.  If the bottom number is over 90, that’s cause for concern.  She jotted it down on a card for me, which I am carrying in my wallet, and wants me to come back in a week.

It’s not quite “If it wasn’t for your skin, you’d be Old Faithful,” but Nursie did a double-take when she read the results.

Larry, Moe, and Curly are Alive and Well at Time Warner & Gerald Ford -30-

We recently joined the 21st century and got cable from Time Warner.  We got the cable modem and the TV service all set up, but they could not come to turn our land phone on until yesterday.  I told the woman in customer service that we wanted the technician to come by between 5 and 7 p.m. yesterday.

He never came, and to make it worse, he had the gall to say that he came by and nobody was home.  First of all, all three of us were home–for that very reason.  Second, if he had come and found nobody home, he should have left a “Sorry I missed you” card hanging on our doorknob.

So I finally managed to reschedule so the technician came by between 8-10 a.m. today.  Via E-mail and text messaging, Steph filled me in on this.  They didn’t come until 9:50, and it took three technicians in three Time Warner trucks a total of three hours to hook up two telephones (in the office and master bedroom) and a cable receiver in the bedroom.  So, essentially these three clowns held Steph and Susie hostage.  Steph had a very stuffed nose, and wanted to go out and buy antihistamines, but couldn’t go until these guys were finished doing their “work.”

Maybe it’ll be worth it if I can watch Homicide in bed.

Gerald Ford died yesterday.  Steph informed me this morning, before I left for work, because she read it on Yahoo!’s home page.  And when I got downtown, the flags in front of the post office and the William Green Building (my place of work) were all at half-mast.

In an earlier entry, I mentioned that we Staties get all Federal holidays off.  Here’s the exception: Federal workers will get the day of President Ford’s funeral off, but state workers won’t.  They went through the same thing when Reagan died in 2004.  Burial for Bonzo Day was a holiday for the post office and all Federal agencies, but state workers had to come to work.

I don’t know if the state workers got the day off when Governor Jim Rhodes died.  Probably too many workers were too hungover from celebrating to come in.

Richard Belzer made an astute observation about Gerald Ford: The only living member of the Warren Commission was also the dumbest.  If that doesn’t prove a conspiracy, what does?

I Excel at Multitasking

There were still some doctors’ tapes in the queue, but I have an understanding supervisor.  She knows that too much transcribing is wearing on the ears and the nerves.  So, to break the monotony this afternoon, I decided to type one or two Statements of Accepted Facts about injured workers.

The one at the top of the pile was very long and very detailed.  I didn’t know whether the claims examiner was going to submit or try to sell it as a movie.  But in order to have some auditory stimulation, I put in a disk of Bob Dylan’s Desire and put the headphones on.

I typed without interruption all through “Hurricane” and “Isis,” two long, almost epical songs.  By the time the disk got to “Mozambique,” I was nowhere near the home stretch.

So here’s where the multitasking comes in.  While I was typing, my cell phone vibrates.  (Cell phones are verboten at work, so the solution is to carry them in your pocket set to “vibrate.”)  I looked, and it was a text message from my friend Pat C.  He informed me that he worked on the PDA he got me… it’s toast.

So, I typed a Statement of Accepted Facts, texted back and forth with Pat for awhile (I asked him if his wife and kidneys were coming to our New Year’s Day party; they are), and listened to Mr. Zimmerman in my headphones.  All of this without the aid of a net.

Back to Work

I’m at the library with Susie, typing in great haste because the place closes in less than half an hour, and I want to have this posted and in the blog before then.  (I have to make a trip to buy milk and Diet Coke once Susie is in bed, so I probably won’t get any more computer time tonight.)

I went back to work today, and the place was quite short on people.  I transcribed a doctor’s tape, put together my dockets, and charged Thursday’s docket.  I had a sudden onset of depression, enough that I didn’t know if I could hold it together the rest of the day, so I took 2.5 hours of FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) time and went home.  My mood improved after just getting some time to myself, although I was too wiped out emotionally to read or concentrate on TV.  (Steph and Susie went to the movies at Westland Mall.  They’re $ .50 on Tuesday, so they went to see Flicka.)  Steph and Susie got home around 4-4:30, and it felt so much better to have them around.

I am making (too) slow progress in Against the Day.  I was looking for Pynchon’s name on The Onion‘s Website, and there was this news item.  I confess I’ve been guilty of this myself!

Man Reading Pynchon On Bus Takes Pains To Make Cover Visible

December 20, 2000 | Issue 36•46


PHILADELPHIA–According to riders on the eastbound C bus, John Bolen, 23, made a conscious effort Monday to make the cover of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying Of Lot 49 visible to all on board. “Instead of resting the book on his lap or on the seat in front of him, he was holding it up in this really awkward, uncomfortable-looking way,” rider Caryn Little said. “Then, every so often, he’d glance around to see if anyone was noticing what he was reading.” Bolen vehemently denied the Pynchon-flaunting charges, insisting that “the light was bad” on the bus.

If the shoe fits, I suppose.

Good Christmas, Decompressing From It

Susie learned about the custom of marking the holiday by ringing a Christmas bell.  Both Steph and I–separately and together–told her not to even consider it until 7 a.m.

At the stroke of 7, she did just that.  Steph was already awake–she had been checking her E-mail and playing Literati online, so Susie came in clanging the bell, but not in my ear, fortunately for her.

I can empathize with her.  On my eighth Christmas, I woke my parents up to do Christmas at 4:30 a.m.  After that, for the two Christmases our family was intact, we opened them on Christmas Eve about 9 p.m.

Steph loved her presents from both of us.  I got her a new Lorus wrist watch, fuzzy slippers, a DVD of Sunset Boulevard (one of her favorite movies), a robe, and two 5-lb. barbells (she has been working out a lot lately, both at home and at Victory Fitness–a women-only gym–in Whitehall).

Susie loved her horse books, clothes for her American Girl dolls, and especially her new guitar.  There was no way we were going to be able to wrap it, so we hid it in the dining room closet and left her little clues around the tree.  (Her stocking stuffer included a little envelope with picks in it.  Under the tree itself was an envelope with her name on it, signed by Santa, saying that her gift was hidden somewhere in the house.)  She was plinking away at it this afternoon, although I think she was a little intimidated by the lesson book and the CD that came with it.

And me?  I have the new Thomas Pynchon novel, Against the Day, of which I have read up to about 20 pages.  (This is not to be taken lightly.  One page of Pynchon requires as much effort and concentration as five pages of most other writers.)  Susie gave me a pack of blue Paper-Mate ballpoint pens, and a keyring with my name and a pen on it.  Steph got me socks, a hat, and gloves.  Not that I have had much need to use them in the last 1-2 weeks!  (Today was cold and rainy, so I wore the hat during one of my brief forays out of the house.)

Susie was a little bored by mid-afternoon.  I’ve heard about the “post-Christmas letdown,” but I think it’s harder on only children.  Once Susie was done dressing her dolls and experimenting with her guitar, there wasn’t much more to do except watch and re-watch the Disney Channel’s holiday offerings.  Both Steph and I are only children, so we could understand.  All of her friends would be with their families, so trying to find a playmate would be next to impossible.

It’s nearly 8 o’clock, and I have to be at work in 12 hours.  Also, I want to write the first entry in the new composition book which will continue my diary.  (I don’t know if I’ll have one as famous as Samuel Pepys’ or as long as Arthur Inman’s.  But diary-writing is something that is truly “one day at a time,” the mantra of 12-Step groups worldwide.

Hope all my readers had a blessed holiday, and warmest wishes for MMVII!

Christmas Eve

I don’t know if Wal-Mart has anything resembling a suggestion box (maybe they do online; I’m not famous for checking their Website), but one thing they need to have during the Christmas season is traffic lights in the store.  A crossing guard here or there (especially in the children’s section) would a great idea as well.

Shopping consumed most of our day yesterday.  Susie and I rode the Grove City bus all the way to the end of its line, and spent much of the next 2.5 hours shopping for Steph.  I’m thankful that we fortified ourselves at the Subway in Wal-Mart before we dived into the shopping part of the mission.  I think I would have felt less threatened at the bottom of a mosh pit.

But I lived to tell the tale.  I’m not tipping my hand to reveal what I got Steph; with my luck, today would be the day she’d decide to start reading my blog.  But naturally, the things I wanted to buy Steph were on opposite ends of the store.

Steph had left the house around 8:30 a.m., to go to her water aerobics class at her gym (I had enough phys. ed. for free in high school, so I never would pay to go to a gym!), and was going out for lunch with a friend afterwards, so Susie and I had more than enough time to get the job done.

I’m just back from the Christmas Eve service (which went from 3-3:45 p.m.) at West Park United Methodist, 1.5 blocks from our house.  We all went a little early, because Steph directed the youth choir, of which Susie is a part.  I came along to be the DJ.  Steph had a disk of accompaniment music, and so I was there to start and stop the CD player at the appropriate moments.  (The youth choir has about six or seven members, and their ages vary from kindergarten to junior high.)  They sang two songs, each about a minute long.

I titled my last entry in here with a line from Ezra Pound.  According to the calendar, the winter solstice is here, but except for the sunset around 5:30, you’d never believe it was wintertime.  The air and temperature have been fall-like the whole time.

Last Sunday, I went to the “living Christmas tree” at Grace Brethren Church.  My friend Pat got two tickets from a friend, and he invited me to come along.  This was a Christmas play with more bells and whistles than some plays I’ve seen at the Ohio Theatre.  Whoever created this performance was heavily influenced by Cecil B. deMille, since nothing was omitted.  The life of Jesus was acted in pantomime, and this was another way the show was like a deMille production.  In the ’20s, de Mille did a silent version of King of Kings (which I’ve not seen).  There was too much Mel Gibson in the crucifixion scenes.

They used a translation of the Bible I had never heard of before.  When they read the account of the Resurrection, I thought that they would say, “…and Jesus appeared among them and said, ‘Ta daaaa.'”

I was glad I went, but there was too much sensory overload during the show.  Live camels and donkeys were led down the aisles.  This was feasible, because Grace Brethren is a megachurch, along the lines of the Crystal Cathedral or something cooked up by Ohio’s own Rex Humbard.  I could never be happy in a church like that.  Sure, they pull out all of the stops during performances like this (and, I suspect, the services), but there are two JumboTrons on either side, and there are balconies and there was a stage, not an altar.  You’d get as much individual attention and love as you’d get in an ant farm.

I finished the last page of my journal this afternoon, while Susie was playing with her GameBoy and after we had dinner.  (On Sunday, we have the big meal at noon, instead of evening.)  I’ll be starting the next volume tomorrow.

Winter is icummen in, Lhude sing Goddamm

I’ve taken the title of today’s entry from a poem by Ezra Pound, American poet born in Hailey, Idaho.  Since today is the day of the winter solstice, I thought it would be an appropriate way to kick off the season.  You’d never believe it was winter.  The temperature is in the mid-40s and it’s raining outside.  Steph left for choir practice just before 7, and Susie and I slogged all the way to Family Dollar and back to buy some cat food.  My feet are still cold.

Speaking of Ezra Pound, he was confined for about 12 years in St. Elizabeths Hospital, the mental hospital in Washington, D.C. that John Hinckley has called home since 1982.  While living as an expatriate in Italy, Pound made several pro-Mussolini shortwave broadcasts.  He was arrested just after V-E Day, and to spare being tried for treason, his lawyers and family convinced the judge that he was insane, so he was put in St. Elizabeths for about 12 years.  (He did have a short-lived mental breakdown while confined in an iron cage at the Army Disciplinary Center in Pisa–of Leaning Tower fame–but the hospital was a more palatable future than hanging.)

Susie is back to health, except for a cough and an occasional sniffle.  I think she and Steph were starting to drive each other crazy, both of them pretty much confined to quarters and all.  Steph’s pain is pretty much gone; she’s barely mentioned it in the last 1-2 days.  Susie was upset that she had to miss the Christmas party at school on Tuesday.  That’s where she and I are different.  I would have been rejoicing because I could start my Christmas break early; she was in tears because she missed the last two days.  I am just hoping she doesn’t relapse on Christmas Eve or Day.

I get paid tomorrow, so on Saturday morning I’m drafting Susie to come to Wal-Mart in Grovetucky City (I’m not wild about going there, but sometimes scruples are too expensive) and help me buy Steph’s presents.  She’s limited me to $50, so I won’t be going too crazy.  I equate shopping (even if it’s for me) with tasks such as prostate exams and quarterly work evaluations, so I don’t want to linger there.

I am so happy that 2006 is coming to a close.  It’s been a sad last few months, between the murder of my co-worker, the fire that killed the teenage mother we knew and her three children, the death of my friend Craig, the news about the choir director where we were attending church.  And you don’t dare ask, “What’s next?” because you might just find out!

Last Saturday, I took Susie to an indoor pool near the OSU campus.  It’s part of the Department of Parks and Recreation, and if you have a leisure card ($5 for five years), you can swim for $ .50.  Susie did all the swimming.  Since she’s now nine, a parent doesn’t have to be at poolside (or in the pool), so I sat up in the bleachers high above the pools and watched her, wrote in my journal, and read.  Her former swimming teacher, a man they call Turtle (the ultimate compliment for a swimmer, I suppose) was there and he remembered her.  She remembered how he always talked about putting alligators in the pool during their lessons.