Thursday, August 25, 2005

Be afraid...be very afraid

About a month ago, I discovered that a mouse had been invading my cupboard at work where I store my coffee supplies (filters, coffee in a can) and lunch supplies (plastic cutlery, paper plates, bowls). There were droppings all over the place so I just tossed everything out and called Building Services.

They brought up a Victor® No See Mouse Trap, put some peanuts in it, and set it on the countertop for the little furry critter. The guy who brought it up chuckled and said that about the only thing the traps ever caught was fur but it was all they had to deal with the problem.

I checked the trap when I returned from vacation in mid-July, and once again around the beginning of this month, but haven't really paid a whole lot of attention to it since it looked like the little varmint had quit coming around.

Today as I was putting my lunch into the microwave to heat up, for some reason I glanced over at that mouse trap. Now, I'd had a roll of toilet tissue on the countertop, very near where the trap was. I guess the white of the tissue was what caught my eye because, as I looked closer, I could see that the tissue had been pulled away from the roll a bit, shredded a bit, and was stuffed into one end of the trap. I laughed out loud when I realized what the implications were.

That little varmint was nesting in there, using the trap for shelter, and the tissue for batting! I began to giggle uncontrollably, imagining the little varmint thumbing his nose at us from inside that box. I called the Building Services guy and he came up almost immediately. While he was here, a professor stopped by to see what all the laughter was about -- the professor suggested that there was probably grant money to study this phenomenon. The building services guy picked up the trap, looked inside and said that it looked like the tissue had been pulled in, not to nest, but to aid in escape...perhaps to coat the sticky floor so that the little creep could walk in, take the peanuts, and leave without a problem. This suggestion sent me into more intense peals of laughter, as I imagined that little mouse standing, looking at the trap, and tapping his chin with his fingers, trying to find a solution to the problem. In between laughter and gulping for air, I pointed out that this seemed to be a very intelligent mouse -- most likely because this is, in fact, an institution of higher learning. More shrieks of laughter.

Now that I've been able to stop laughing, I got to thinking and, while I still chuckle a bit here and there, it occurred to me that this could be a sign that the rodent world is becoming more intelligent. Hey, I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -- their sensei, Splinter, was a rat. And here I thought it was just cutesie crap for the kids.

Intelligent mice. Mice that seem to be able to problem solve. What is this world coming to? What next? Homosexuals wanting to get married?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Another summer gone

Well, today is officially my last Friday off for the summer. Those twelve weeks sure whiz by each year. It's been the summer from hell (literally?) with hot, hazy, humid days more often than not. I heard the other day that we only had 13 days over 90, but almost triple that with high temps and high humidity. We got a break for the past few days, and the temps have been in the high 70s to low 80s. Right now, at almost noon, it's only 72 degrees but with 82% humidity.

Most of my Fridays off I've spent just laying low, trying to stay cool, and working furiously to get two knitting projects done. One is a matching throw and rug set for my oldest daughter. It's done block style, by knitting blocks into strips, that's the first picture. It'll be black and white. The second is a bit more ambitious and will be a 90"x80" blanket for our California King waterbed. Lisa knows I'm making it, but seeing it in progress or in strips isn't the same as seeing it completed. It's done in the same way as the first one, strips of blocks, but these blocks are alternating solid and multicolor. The solid ones have images -- I've done the letter "L" and "P", the lesbian symbol (two female symbols side-by-side), a watering can, a house, two hearts, a cat, the word "Love" with the O in a heart shape, stuff like that. The multicolored blocks just have different textures. The outer blocks (edge) are "colonial blue" while the inner solids are a grayish light blue. The multicolor has both of those solid colors with some white, tan, and light brown and gray mixed in. Yes, we both have a thing for blue, and the side rails on the waterbed are a royal blue velour type of thing. The summer spread we have on it now was bought back in 1980 when we (my ex and I) bought our house in Massachusetts. I think it's served me well, and I certainly got my money's worth out of it, but I'm also slowly trying to remove all of the "us" stuff from my former life and replace it with "us" stuff from my present life.

I've become my grandmother.

When my grandmother wasn't spending hours in her gardens, she was knitting furiously, and this is where I've ended up. Not such a bad person to become -- my grandmother was pretty cool and I loved her dearly. Since I've started knitting again, I've thought about her a lot. In October she'll have been gone for 26 years, but I believe that she lives on in me. Lisa pointed out the other night that I was sitting with my legs crossed, straight out in the air in front of me. I nearly dropped my teeth -- my grandmother used to sit that same way.

Since I've been thinking about my grandmother, I've been thinking about family in general. My father and my Aunt Wanda (his sister) both came to my birthday party, as did my oldest daughter. I had my father and step-mother and step-sister up for Thanksgiving dinner last year, along with Michelle and Doug and the kids. It's nice having family around, and now that my Aunt has moved back up here from Florida, it's that much better.

I think about my mother often. Wondering how she is, what she's doing with her life these days. Same with my younger half-sibs whom I've not seen nor heard of/from in longer than I can remember. My older brother's wife passed away two summers ago and I saw him then for the funeral, but since then he's let his house get foreclosed on, has been diagnosed diabetic and with emphysema, and is living at his marrie girlfriend's house, with the girlfriend and her husband.

Ever since the time I allowed myself to loathe my mother and my half-sibs, I've gotten along with myself so much better. Oh yeah, Prozac helps tremendously, no doubt about it, but I AM at peace with myself regarding my family. But, it doesn't make me not think about them from time to time. I'm toying with the idea of orchestrating some type of family reunion next summer, to see if they'll come or not.

There's also my younger daughter. She's not spoken to me since last May. I still send Christmas gifts to her, her husband, and my grandson, just to let them know that the door is open anytime they want to step through it.

We sure put the "fun" in dysfunctional, don't we? And there's that whole Jerry Springer thing going, too.

And people wonder why I take Prozac....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blast from the Past

How cool is it that the internet allows us to reclaim old friendships, long since lost?

In my previous life, when I was married and in the Army, my husband and I had two very dear friends, Rodger and Sharon, who seemed to end up everyplace we went. We first met them in Okinawa when we were first married. They had a little girl, Jennifer, and we were all very, very young -- in our early 20s. When we left Okinawa, we went to San Antonio and, a year later, Rodger and Sharon arrived there, too. After San Antonio, we were sent back to Okinawa and, a year later, Rodger and Sharon followed. From there we went to Ft. Devens, MA and, you guessed it, a year later, Rodger and Sharon followed. We re-enlisted on a "station-of-choice" option and went to Hawaii, but that was the last we saw of them. Rodger went to Korea, and we just sort of lost each other by then.

We knew Barb and Les from our first tour in Okinawa and they followed us to San Antonio where they had their first child, Kimberly, and they got out of the Army and moved back to Indianapolis. We stopped by to see them a few years later on our way through Indiana while heading toward the west coast to go back to Okinawa. Lost track of them after that.

Dave G. was someone else who always seemed to be where we were and, to add to it, Dave is originally from a town about 20 miles from where I grew up. Dave and Kathy were at each and every tour we had, without exception. We lost touch after Hawaii when we returned to the mainland and Dave and Kathy stayed behind for whatever reason -- length of tour, extended tour, who knows? The same year we returned from Hawaii, we divorced, and the next year I left the active Army.

"Del" was our "trick chief" in Okinawa our first tour over there. It seems to me that when we were in San Antonio he wasn't there but, when we went back to Okinawa, there he was again. My ex (LeRoy) had enormous respect for "Del" and I just adored the man. He was professional, yet still human, and had a delightful sense of humor. After we left Okinawa the second time and headed for Ft. Devens, "Del's" wife, Gracie, cared for our kids until we found suitable housing and day care.

The one common factor in this small military intelligence community is that people give freely of themselves to their fellow community members. Perhaps this is why it is such a close-knit group and, perhaps, why it happened that we all re-found each other in much the same manner.

Some time back, I was reminiscing about the old days in Okinawa. It was a pretty cool place, although at the time it was more fashionable to hate being "on the rock." We were assigned to Torii Station, which was so small you could run the area around it and not break 5 miles. But for as small as it was, it had everything we needed. A shopette, a snack bar, library, a bowling alley with FOUR lanes, a movie theater, an enlisted club, mail room, dispensary, mess hall, barracks, day care center, auto shop -- what more could a person really need? But, beyond that, there was comraderie and that whole competitive pride thing that went with being on different tricks. We worked together, and we often played together. We'd rent fishing trawlers and go deep sea fishing. Roll calls at the club. Beach parties. Trips to Charlies Tacos or China Pete's. It WAS a small community but, by it's very small nature, it promoted this wonderful comraderie.

So, I was reminiscing and decided to do a google search on Torii Station. I found a yahoo group that I'd signed up for but got tired of one guy always hawking stuff for sale on it, so I quit the group. Found a web site dedicated to Torii Station and, for giggles, signed the guest book.

This is where Barb found me -- she sent me an email, and now we IM each other a few times a month. It's great to see that she and Les have done so well for themselves and are enjoying their empty nest as well as each other. I think this is where Rodger and Sharon found me, as well. Rodger and I IM frequently, keeping up with each other, and I've talked with Sharon on the phone a couple of times.

Another Barb found me on that guest book, too, and emailed me. She provided the link to the web site (that I'd long since lost) and I went back there. I went through the guest book, and that's where I found Dave and Kathy. I emailed them, and am now in touch with them as well. Just yesterday, Dave sent me "Del's" email address and I fired an email off to him, as well, and heard back from him this morning.

Isn't it strange how life leads us down a certain path and, from that path, it branches out to others, and our friends from our past revisit us again? I really want to get together with these folks again, but we're all so spread out, it would be difficult. But, I'm starting to hatch a hairbrained scheme to put together a reunion of sorts next summer....

Let's see who's up for it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I know they're called the "Terrible Two's" but...

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Infants have been stopped from boarding planes at airports throughout the United States because their names are the same as or similar to those of possible terrorists on the government's "no-fly list."

It sounds like a joke, but it's not funny to parents who miss flights while scrambling to have babies' passports and other documents faxed.

Ingrid Sanden's 1-year-old daughter was stopped in Phoenix, Arizona, before boarding a flight home to Washington at Thanksgiving.

"I completely understand the war on terrorism, and I completely understand people wanting to be safe when they fly," Sanden said. "But focusing the target a little bit is probably a better use of resources."

The government's lists of people who are either barred from flying or require extra scrutiny before being allowed to board airplanes grew markedly since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union say the government doesn't provide enough information about the people on the lists, so innocent passengers can be caught up in the security sweep if they happen to have the same name as someone on the lists.

That can happen even if the person happens to be an infant like Sanden's daughter. (Children under 2 don't need tickets but Sanden purchased one for her daughter to ensure she had a seat.)

"It was bizarre," Sanden said. "I was hugely pregnant, and I was like, 'We look really threatening.'"

Sarah Zapolsky and her husband had a similar experience last month while departing from Dulles International Airport outside Washington. An airline ticket agent told them their 11-month-old son was on the government list.

They were able to board their flight after ticket agents took a half-hour to fax her son's passport and fill out paperwork.

"I understand that security is important," Zapolsky said. "But if they're just guessing, and we have to give up our passport to prove that our 11-month-old is not a terrorist, it's a waste of their time."

Sanden and Zapolsky would not allow their children's names to be used in this story because they fear people who prey on children.

Well-known people like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, and David Nelson, who starred in the sitcom "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," also have been stopped at airports because their names match those on the lists.

The government has sought to improve its process for checking passengers since the September 11 attacks. The first attempt was scuttled because of fears the government would have access to too much personal information. A new version, called Secure Flight, is being crafted.

But for now, airlines still have the duty to check passengers' names against those supplied by the government.

That job has become more difficult -- since the 2001 attacks the lists have swelled from a dozen or so names to more than 100,000 names, according to people in the aviation industry who are familiar with the issue. They asked not to be identified by name because the exact number is restricted information.

Not all those names are accompanied by biographical information that can more closely identify the suspected terrorists. That can create problems for people who reserve flights under such names as "T Kennedy" or "David Nelson."

ACLU lawyer Tim Sparapani said the problem of babies stopped by the no-fly list illustrates some of the reasons the lists don't work.

"There's no oversight over the names," Sparapani said. "We know names are added hastily, and when you have a name-based system you don't focus on solid intelligence leads. You focus on names that are similar to those that might be suspicious."

The Transportation Security Administration, which administers the lists, instructs airlines not to deny boarding to children under 12 -- or select them for extra security checks -- even if their names match those on a list.

But it happens anyway. Debby McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association, said: "Our information indicates it happens at every major airport."

The TSA has a "passenger ombudsman" who will investigate individual claims from passengers who say they are mistakenly on the lists. TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said 89 children have submitted their names to the ombudsman. Of those, 14 are under the age of 2.

If the ombudsman determines an individual should not be stopped, additional information on that person is included on the list so he or she is not stopped the next time they fly.

Clark said even with the problems the lists are essential to keeping airline passengers safe.

Amazing...

Here's an encapsulated news blurb I read today:

Former Negro Leagues star Ted ``Double Duty'' Radcliffe, believed to be the oldest living professional baseball player, died Thursday 08/11/05. He was 103. Radcliffe, given his singular nickname by sports writer Damon Runyon after catching Satchel Paige in the first game of a doubleheader in the 1932 Negro League World Series and pitching a shutout in the second game, died from complications after a long bout with cancer.


Here's what gets me. This guy died at the age of 103...NOT from "natural causes" but from cancer. Makes a person wonder how long he would have lived had the cancer not claimed him, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gains Through Losses

I've been feeling a bit sad the past few days. Hunter Kelly, the 8 year old son of Jim Kelly (former Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame QB) lost his battle with Krabbe's Disease this past weekend. Oh, sure, the little tyke wasn't expected to make it to his second birthday and he had six years longer than anyone could have hoped for, but that doesn't make it any less sad that he lost his battle.

Add to that today's news that Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve, has announced that she's battling lung cancer. I immediately thought of their young son, Will, who is thirteen years old. That boy was 3 years old when his father was paralyzed in a horse riding accident and, for the next nine years, only knew a father who was paralyzed and fighting with everything he had to make people aware of spinal cord injuries, even subjecting himself to "experimental" treatments. And now that young man has another challenge to face.

Often I wonder if these sorts of tragedies are all part of some larger plan. We often look to the heavens and ask "Why?" "Why do you allow so much suffering, and more to some than to others?" My Aunt Wanda always says "A cross to fit the back." Maybe...

Hunter Kelly was born to a wealthy athlete. He was diagnosed with Krabbe's Disease when he was four months old, and the Kellys were told that he probably wouldn't live to see his second birthday. I can't even begin to imagine the devastation Jim and Jill Kelly must have felt when they got this report. But, they used their celebrity and their resources to establish Hunter's Hope, a foundation dedicated to promoting awareness of this disease, as well as research to help ease the symptoms, as well as into finding a cure. But, it didn't stop there. As a result of the Kelly's efforts, New York State has adopted a more comprehensive form of newborn infant screening. You see, the thing is, if Krabbe's is detected at birth, it can be successfully treated with a cord blood transplant, which halts the disease's progression. But, without that early detection, the disease is fatal. Kelly testified before the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders and Genetic Disease in Newborns and Children regarding this early detection. The Kellys have worked tirelessly on this matter. With all their financial resources, they were able to experiment with equipment and therapies for Hunter. I believe strongly that their love and dedication is what allowed this child to live for 8 years - of course, their financial resources played a big role in the extension of their son's life, but I guess the point is that, without those financial resources, nobody would have heard of Krabbe's, and the significant successes that Hunter experienced with his therapies can now be passed along to other children afflicted with this disease.

Take a look at some of the other professional athletes who have children with diseases. Mark Ripien lost his son to brain cancer, and worked tirelessly to heighten awareness of this insidious disease. Dan Marino and Doug Flutie both have autistic sons, and have dedicated enormous resources to foundations that heighten awareness of autism and it's many treatment modalities. Boomer Esiason's son has Cystic Fibrosis, and the Boomer Esiason Foundation works toward finding a cure and different treatments.

Anyone alive in the 1980s remembers the shocking revelation that Rock Hudson was suffering from AIDS. With tireless efforts of stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Day, AIDS finally had a face in American households. AIDS was real, and it wasn't going away. It would be two years AFTER Rock Hudson's death before President Ronald Reagan would speak publicly about AIDS.

Christopher Reeve's tireless efforts to inform, educate, and heighten awareness of spinal cord injuries have, in my humble opinion, done more toward treatment of these injuries than any other single person could have ever accomplished. Perhaps it was cosmic irony that "Superman" would be struck down in such a way, but in my mind, it added strength to Reeve's efforts after his injury.

In late July, 1981, 6 year old Adam Walsh disappeared from the toy department of a store in Florida. It was later learned that a store clerk or guard had chased four boys out of the store, as he felt they were being too disorderly. Adam was never seen alive again and two weeks later, Adam's headless body was discovered. At that point in time, Adam was legally over "the age of reasoning" and no immediate alarms were raised (or offered) by the local police department. Adam had to be missing for more than 24 hours before they would even take a report. It's impossible to say whether today's missing child laws and procedures would have helped Adam back then but the point is, the Walsh's turned their personal tragedy, through tireless efforts lobbying and speaking, into what we now know today as the Natinal Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman from her home in Texas led to a national program called Amber Alert, named in her memory. The acronym stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. Today, when a child goes missing, an Amber Alert is issued nationwide, much in the same way as the Emergency Broadcast System works.

In all, these tragedies really did have to happen in order to prevent future ones. Hunter Kelly could have lived a normal life had his disease been caught at birth. Today, New York babies will be screened for this disease, giving them far better chances at life than Hunter had. That's Hunter's legacy to this world.

Adam Walsh's death brought forth new laws regarding the disappearance of children, as well as a national information network to keep more people looking for those missing children. Amber Hagerman's death brought forth the national alert system that is implemented rapidly after the disappearance of a child.

It took the death of a Hollywood leading man to bring AIDS to the forefront of a nation that was resisting acknowledgement of this deadly disease. Had medical organizations and the government acted more responsibly than they did, this disease would not have spread as badly as it did, contaminating the blood supply, and spreading through intravenous drug use, as well as sex. If you're ever of a mind to watch an excellent movie depicting how badly this problem was ignored, I would strongly recommend And the Band Played On.

Christopher Reeve's life and death had tremendous meaning to people throughout the world with spinal cord injuries. His strength was an inspiration, but his dedication to the research into treatments also contributed significantly to the treatment of spinal cord injuries. As an aside, how many people knew that Robin Williams paid the vast majority of Christopher Reeve's medical bills toward the end of his life?

My heart goes out to the Kelly and Reeve families today. May they realize the gifts that their losses have bestowed on humanity, and may they find happiness in having been blessed with their lost loved ones.