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2017-09-11 11:30 pm
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Your favorite green bean concoction

 (I was thinking about this song)

Blue Lake pole beans are prodigiously productive. 

So far I have made (some of them multiple times):

Turkish green beans in olive oil with tomatoes

stir fried green beans with fermented black beans sauce

stir fried green beans with oyster sauce and rice noodles

salad of blanched green beans with mustard vinaigrette, hardboiled egg and potato

green bean stew with chicken and turmeric and other vegetables

sauteed zucchini with green beans, red pepper and basil

fried rice with green beans

pasta with green beans and asiago cheese

and one day I just flipped out and mainlined a kilo of them raw while I was distracted, reading the internet

how do you eat green beans? Of course I do know about making them with mushroom sauce and a topping of fried onions and I will probably eventually do that.
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2017-08-21 01:49 am
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I read The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips

I think someone else would like this better than me. I skimmed a lot of it because the voice of "Ralph Trilipush" didn't engage me. The core question's pretty easy to the reader, but that's not a problem, because the secondary questions are the point anyway. I think the right person would like it: even though it is not actually a thriller, I think thriller readers would be about right. I looked at his other book, called Prague though it is set in Budapest, and I was not taken with it, but again it looked like someone else might like it better.
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2017-07-26 08:08 am
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a nightmare this morning

It starts with me watching a bit of a Trump speech or presser on a tv in a public space. It's unsettling but it's also foreshadowing. I go home--in this case it's an urban apartment, half below street level, in a brick building. It has big windows, and I can see into it before I go in. Ted's got a large group of people over to play a role playing game on a big table made of a sheet of masonite placed on trestles. This doesn't make me happy because we hadn't discussed it and I feel the need to decompress with him, to talk to him and listen to him.

When I go down into the apartment the kitchen is largely gutted. The line of cabinets is there, but empty, with doors and drawers gone, and the countertop is gone too. It's weird, because we hadn't discussed this either and I'm hungry and can't do anything about it and I can't talk to him because all these people I don't know are here. I go outside and the same thing is happening to the neighborhood--pieces of it are being gutted without any announcement. The place next door has had a bunch of valuable Precolombian artwork placed around the floor and on the sidewalk, which gives an inkling of what's going to happen there. A woman in overalls and a hardhagt is working and she hints that she doesn't know much about all this deconstruction but what she knows she can't tell me. Also, when I tell her about what's happening in my house she's really embarrassed, as she seems to have witnessed the work and to have some knowledge about that I should have but she doesn't feel she can tell me about that either.

The people in my house never seem to go home and I can't see any way to proceed so I just hang around getting more and more upset. Finally the game is over and some of them have left and I'm desperate and also I've been listening to him talk--or not talk-- and there's something about it that seems deeply wrong. So I just up and ask him what's going on with the kitchen. He doesn't say anything: he just looks embarrassed. I tell him it's just so weird that he didn't tell me anything about it, never mind asking me, he didn't even tell me, no warning. He says something but it's inadequate, it's not even the beginnings of an explanation or defense, and I see his eyes are so vague and kind of stupid and it hits me that he's not normal and he won't be getting normal again, that he's got dementia (like his grandmother) and life will never be the same. I'm off worrying about this and I say the word Alzheimer's to one of his guests and she's embarrassed  but what's much worse is when I wake up and realize that no, he doesn't have Alzheimer's, he's dead, he's gone, there's no Ted left to worry about at all.
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2017-05-11 11:29 am
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Little England

 Loughborough is in many ways the Most Typical Village in Little England (that is, England-as-England, as opposed to the whole of the UK). It has 57 thousand people, making it a bit smaller than Santa Cruz, a mixed economy including a University, some manufacturing, some farming, and some commuting, and apparently all the usual institutions. It has the usual history: it went through brickmaking, slate quarrying, textiles, etc., always losing out to some other production center in the course of time, which tragedy hit me pretty hard when I read it over and over again in the historical exhibition at the Charnwood Museum in Queen's Park. And yet...it doesn't look impoverished. Not wealthy, but not impoverished. I believe the University does a lot to make up for the lost industries of yore. It actually looks like a real estate ho/tbed, with signs for student rentals everywhere. That's different from Santa Cruz, where the student rental business is sort of hush-hush.

Another consequence of the University's prominence locally is that you see the word and color "purple" kind of a lot. There's a Purple Pig deli (never open that I see), a Purple Pumpkin...something shop? I thought craft supplies but maybe tschotchkes instead? But the "Purple Bricks" signs are a coincidental national UK real estate thing. Don't ask me to explain UK real estate. It's as byzantine as US real estate, but different.

Hana complains mightily about the sameness of British residential architecture, and at first glance she's right. All the houses are made of brick, usually the exact same red brick with the exceptions being a lighter orange brick, though a few have a veneer of stucco over the second floor, or decorative rustic-sawn planks over the top of the gable, and some of the ones from a hundred years ago are made with decorative bricks inset here and there--that would be during the era when there was a local brick factory, coincidentally or not. Most of the houses have narrowly similar floor plans, with a steep staircase right inside the front door, with a narrow hall and narrow lounge to the side of that, a small dining room and smaller "U-shaped" kitchen (so called because the cabinet fittings line three walls, leaving room for one person to work) behind. Upstairs: two small bedrooms, maybe a third one almost too small for a single bed and definitely not big enough for anything in addition--none with builtin closets--and a bathroom.  Larger houses are often the result of expansion to the side (if not in the middle of a row of terraced houses) or the back. In Frank and Hana's neighborhood the houses have garages but they are proportioned for Reliants or Minis and modern cars can't get into them so they're used for storage and work rooms. In the center of town there are terraces of tinier cottages, and also some larger modern apartment buildings for students. 

In Loughborough there is no road grid. Except for a small number of big roads that connect to highways, all the roads curve, really every which way. It's not radial, like Paris, more contoured, except the roads are not curving round the lay of the land as far as I can see, as the land is mostly flattish. Their street maybe follows Black Brook for a way, but then it veers off in a completely other direction. Also the roads do change names a lot (there are some long streets in Santa Cruz that change names s few times too, but I think they do it more here). And another thing. I've been complaining for years about the occasional misuse of street identifiers--"avenue," "boulevard," "lane," etc., back home--here I see "avenue" used to designate a one-block cul-de-sac. Though most of the cul-de-sacs are helpfully called "close." 

Demographics--I have no numbers, but considering it's a little village in the country, it looks pretty diverse to me. I've heard a number of different languages spoken--Turkish, Polish, Chinese (I don't know which kind) and more than one Indian language (I'm not familiar with any of them enough to identify them). Also, English accents! It seems like there are at least ten different ones in Loughborough. Of course this is reflected in the restaurants-I haven't seen a Polish one, but I've eaten at a Chinese one (it seemed Cantonese but had Szechuan things on the menu) and a Turkish one. It had a guy with a keyboard and recorded riffs, and a dancer whose name was Natasha and she was very English.

Queen's Park maybe deserves its own entry. It has the Charnwood Museum, requisite playgrounds, a little labyrinth mabe od bricks in the ground with a swan statue in the middle, a stream (is it a bit of Black Brook or another one?) with a prominent moorhen nest (Hana calls it the stupid chicken, which describes its looks, but I like it), an aviary full of psittacines, and the Carillon. The Carillon was built after World War One over the objections of the soldiers it memorializes, who wanted a health center instead (and why could they not have had both, I ask!). It is a tower with a patina-copper fancy roof, lens-shaped windows, and a full set of bells which are played from a keyboard. For a pound you can climb the endless steep windy stairs to almost the top, stopping along the way to small rooms that have exhibitions about the soldiers lost in various wars over time. I don't know why, but World War One seems to get much more monumental action in the UK than WOrld War Two.

About those bells--one of the historical industries in Loughborough is the Taylor Bell Foundry which has a museum which is no longer open except by special arrangement so I didn't see that. I'm unclear about whether the bell foundry still operates. I think it does, a little bit.

Loughborough has been a market town since the 13th century. What that means nowadays is that every Thursday and Saturday the town center fills up with stalls selling mostly small goods--fabric,notions, yarn: small tools: housewares:  dishware: clothing and more clothing: toys: accessories; and also food, including meat and fish, baked goods, and produce. Some of these are small operations, but for example, I bought some plaid ribbon (of course!) at a huge stall maintained by a big fabric store from Leicester. I wondered if the butcher shop resents having a big butcher stall set up in front of its doors two days a week, but I don't know, maybe they are related in some way. 

One thing that makes Loughborough very very different from Santa Cruz is that the shopping is mostly all in the town center.  I mean there are no huge outlying malls and little in the way of big box stores (we went to one attempting to get ericaceous fertilizer for Hana's rhododendrons). There is a small indoor-outdoor mall called, of course, "Carillon Mall," but it's right in the middle of everything else, so there's no need to drive ten or fifteen miles to get things. The buses run pretty well, though it's bewildering how many different private bus companies there are running public buses everywhere. And the town is small enough that walking from one end to another is quite conceivable. 

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2017-05-10 01:08 pm
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Rapeseed and hawthorn.

 It's about five hours from Gatwick to Leicester on the bus. Most of this is through the countryside. It was late April, and lots of stuff was blooming I have taken lots of photos since then, but none through the bus window, for which you are very welcome. However, I did get to see lots of hedged fields--the hedges were much lower than I thought they would be. I didn't reach sheep country really, though I saw a few, and some cattle, and a lot of grain fields and some gorgeous yellow canola(rapeseed) fields.  It was immediately obvious that they weren't exactly mustard fields. They were a different yellow, and even farther away the texture was different and I could tell the flowers were bigger and carried a bit farther from the main stem.

The verges were planted to forest trees and a large shrub with abundant small flowers. If you're from the UK, you know what it is. I had my suspicion because I know some songs that talk about how well the may blooms, etc., but I didn't know for a couple of days when I asked Hana and she said her mother called them "hloch" in Czech, which was enough of a clue that I could look it up on slovnik.com, which is a priceless asset if you ask me. It turns out the standard Czech is "hloh," and it means hawthorn or may. So there you have it. 

Hawthorn isn't quite the life-changing revelation that linden was to me, but it's a pretty amazing thing. It apparently will naturally grow in ragged hedges,putting out these great elegantly curving branches covered in earnest lobed (almost palmate) leaves, and for a long time in the spring, these tiny flowers like plum flowers both in shape and scent. And here in Thorpe Acre (a neighborhood of Louhgborough, where Frank and Hana live), you can walk all over town and pass under arches of the stuff several times in the process.

Who else loves hawthorn are the many many loud melodious songbirds. Of thrushes alone (that is, like blackbirds and American robins) there are may species: also finches and corvids. I am lousy at photographing birds, so no dice there either.
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2017-05-10 12:35 pm
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Flying away to the UK (my trip part one)

 Most of this is going to be a simple travelogue, with a few trenchant observations, so please skip everything with the tag "UK 2017" if this is boring to you. Sorry, dreamwidth informs me I must delete 846 tags before I can make any new ones, and that is just too damned much work, so the tags for these are going to be vague.

The only things to say about the flight are, one, I was extremely smart when I packed myself piroshkis and carrot sticks. I had made the piroshkis of my own pickled cabbage, leftover bread dough, some ground meat, manymany onions, and dried mushrooms. They were good, they didn't cost me extra, they helped with the goal of leaving my fridge empty of perishables, and frankly the weird little dinners they gave the other passengers did not look filling or tasty. But not terrible. Just not forty-seven dollars worth of comfort.

Two: I had terrible, terrible seatmates. They were not mean to me, or especially rude (with exceptions I'll mention in a bit), but they were terrible, terrible people. I didn't have to interact with them much because I had an aisle seat, but they were about to commence on an affair so they spent all but a couple of the ten hours in breathless conversation in which they revealed their most terrible aspects as if they were precious diamonds: fortunately for them, they each found the other's tedious and horrible personalities enchanting.

Look, you know me. I complain a lot but I rarely say a person is just plain terrible. So it means something, right?

The fellow was one of those English guys who Americans always find attractive at first glance: a bit tweedy, maybe sixty, with a softly rumpled beard&silver hair, impeccable manners but not stuffy. You know what I mean: you expect an archaeologist or a botanist or perhaps a player of an obsolete musical instrument. This fellow was coming back from a conference in San Francisco: was it a Zen one or just a general spiritual one? Anyway, he was there flogging a book called Zig Zag Zen. I don't know which of the editors or authors he was. He asked was it all right if his friend joined us as we had an empty seat between us and of course that was all right. Even if I had known how the night was going to go I would have said yes because if you can't accommodate the worst, being kind to the best is kind of hollow.

She arrived, and she was another English type Americans recognize. Tall, blond, willowy, maybe forty, with an accent I think is a normal middle class one but it sounds a little affected and self-conscious to American ears? You expect an academic, or maybe someone who works in publishing or possibly fashion. But she was at the conference as a delegate from a group of Zen? or maybe something else? practitioners? 

Look, even though I'm uninterested in spirituality, this could have gone another way. They could have spent the time breathlessly exploring the history and practice of Zen, and they did a bit, but only in self-serving and self-aggrandizing ways. He was arrogant, self-regarding, and always sounded like he was lying about his accomplishments (he probably wasn't always). She was gullible, self-regarding, and always putting down some other party to magnify her own wisdom. Plus, she was convinced she had second sight or some damn thing because she predicted trouble with the pound sterling and Donald Trump's election.

They went on and on and on. He slept and she read for maybe two hours out of the ten-hour flight. By the end, they were talking about their respective love lives. Obviously this was their own business, and of course they had to have that conversation because they were going to part at the airport (she lives in London somewhere, he in Ramsgate)  and they had to send the signals that they were mutually up for working something out at a later date--and it was clear neither of them had a monogamous partner to consider, so this was certainly okay and not my business. It's just--they were so loud, and they had been being so awful all night long, and I couldn't escape them even by sleeping--that what could have been nothing at all or even kind of cute was terribly annoying.

I did pass a couple words with them, once when she had gone to the toilet and I was struggling with my chromebook (it likes to hide files sometimes and I was trying to work, silly me) and he asked me what work I was doing and I told him and he said he used to write for Marvel-My Little Pony and Dr. Who-- but "don't tell anybody." Given what I had heard all night I was not inclined to believe him, but then again, maybe he did. (I hadn't said a word about comics, by the way. Just I was working on a fantasy story)

The other time was when we were about to disembark-have you noticed that most stranger-seatmate conversations happen at that time? They asked where I was going and I told them and they drew a blank. They had nothing nice to say about Leicestershire. She said, twice, "It's not a cultured sort of place, is it? I mean, not like Manchester."

(I'm going to be a lot more careful about how I talk about hinterland cities to visitors, from now on)

And to think I sat in the terminal next to a large rowdy family from Modesto who had a great salty sense of humor and a lot to say to each other about everything. I was hoping I'd get to sit by them in the plane, because they would have been fun, but no. (My favorite moment from the terminal was during the long facetime call the younger matriarch was having with a motley group of children, some hers, some nieces and nephews and other assorted kin, when she said, "Now don't fall over, watch it--" she looked up and said, "she just fell right over and dropped the phone." My second favorite is when she said "Tell him put that puppy right back where he found it. It;s not his. We already have five dogs in the house. I'm outnumbered by dogs and children."  You can see why I wanted to sit next to these people and I was so disappointed when I got the terrible people instead).
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2017-04-20 09:04 am


 I got a wee Chromebook some months ago for traveling & I've be'en using it for an auxiliary downstairs. It's kind of clunky in the track pad & a bit clunky in the keyboard. The worst part is that the tracking & button features of the mouse are all in the one awkward rectangle so it's confused and not so responsive.

This moment  I'm experimenting with using it as a tablet. It seems to be better at tableting than at laptopping. I'm fonder of laptops than tablets for writing but  I will use this however it uses best.

On another front I think I am done shopping for the trip &  I am almost done sewing. What's left is a few seams on my carry-on bag for my Bipap machine & medicines, and a shopping bag (very quick) for a present for Andrea. If there is time I'll run up the livingroom curtains before I go. Otherwise they can wait.

What I will have made for the trip: 3 presents, all shopping bags: 3 shirts & a nightshirt:: a messenger bag big enough for this wee computer: the carry-on bag: & I don't know if it counts, but 2 skirts I made last summer, my wallet & pussy hat both crocheted for general use. so while I have been so out of it I haven't been completely useless. Everything is from odds & ends, old stash that was free or cheap to begin with, & they fit me. Even the findings, buttons & zippers are found or stored (for example the rings & clasp on the purse are from leashes & harnesses Zluta chewed up in her puppy months). Oh & not EVERY piece is plaid....

On a larger world front, Sarah Kendzior is pissing me off. She's taking every possible opportunity to push a divisive, anti-left, anti-communist agenda. Now that she is a Queen of the Resistance this behavior is dangerous & counter to effective action. But then she's never been as interested in fighting fascism as she is in glorying in its horrors. She remains only interested in foreign interference and not in homegrown oppression.

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2017-04-17 10:55 am

The Whey Chain (& some other irreproducible recipes)

It's been a while since I wrote about food. It seems a little wrong to natter about my dinner while we have sociopaths and psychopaths taking advantage of the surge in the class war (that is, the ruling class's war against the other clases), but okay, I'm doing it anyway.

From time to time I write a post about "how I'm eating now." Sometimes the motivation is managing my "multiple issue" health, sometimes it's something else. Right now my motivation is largely frugality again. I refuse to be deprived of deliciousness by mere poverty. I live in the middle of such abundance, and I have all the time in the world since I can't work & lack the strength to do anything else in a sustained way, so making food that meets my nutritional needs, is tasty, and is cheap--though it may be time-consuming--is a reasonable path for me.

A few years ago I discovered that it is quite easy to make a kind of soft cheese from whole milk and an acid (that first time it was inadvertent, my coagulant was yogurt because that was what I was trying to make). At the time I didn't pursue it much because I had no idea what to do with the whey that was left over--depending on details it can be three or four times as much whey as cheese.

Last year I experimented with using whey as the liquid when making bread (using the sponge method outlined by Gail Sher in From A Baker's Kitchen). The results were so good that I started making the cheese (and sometimes yogurt) on purpose to get the whey. I've ended up with enough cheese that I've had to experiment with uses of it. Though sometimes I have more whey than I need for bread, too, so I've gotten in the habit of using whey for any baking and much grain cooking. Since my usual coagulant in Meyer lemons (that being what I have in my yard), all of this food has a little of that fragrance in it.

So all last fall and winter my routine has been, about twice a month or once in three weeks, to make about a pound of this cheese and enough dough for three or four loaves of this bread. I started out with half-white & half-whole wheat all purpose flour, but now I use bread flour for the sponge and a variety of other flours in the later stages. The amount of dough I make has increased, since I now make pizza and dumplings loosely based on pirozhki, or fried bread, or whatever. I bake two or three loaves and put one or two lumps of dough in the freezer for later.

Obviously I haven't done it this month since I am trying not to leave a lot of stuff around when I fly out on the 24th, but I still have two lumps of dough in the freezer which I will bake up this weekend: one will be a pirog (like pirozhki, only large), to form my dinner, breakfast, and lunch while I am traveling. I have half a roast chicken in the freezer, some of which I will eat on the weekend and some of which will go into the pirog along with what else I have (a lot of dried store mushrooms because the Grey Bears bag had way too many mushrooms several weeks in a row, many onions,  some carrots, some pickled cabbage and kosher dills, and a yard with a lot of small overwintered greens of various types, some herbs, and green garlic in it. I say pickled cabbage instead of sauerkraut because I only let it try to ferment naturally for a few days and then I packed it with vinegar and stuck it in the fridge. It wasn't very nice at first and I was going to throw it away but after sitting in the fridge for a bit it has developed, not the best sauerkraut flavor, but something nice enough for sandwiches and so on).

Gosh, the parenthetical was longer than the rest of the paragraph.

I can say it's really a relief that some of these greens have naturalized in my yard. Most of the year I can honestly take or leave arugula, but right now I can throw it into any melange of food, cooked or raw, and it lends a nice nutty and pungent note to the whole, not to mention being the greenest thing you ever did see and it also grows in pretty little clumps all over the yard which will become immense patches later. I also have some determined feral kohlrabi and celery root that never made roots but which have really nice leaves and stems. The kohlrabi leaves are mild and tender, rather like kohlrabi the root, while the celery root leaves are strong tasting. Zack never saw much point to celery till I made him taste these leaves. I also have parsley, though not much yet, and this year's turnip greens in baby form, and dill seedlings. Since dill never lasts long for me before going to seed (cilantro neither), I decided this year to plant it densely and eat it young.  There are still a few kale plants I missed when I cleaned up the old (three and four year old) ones, and I just grab them whenever I see a nice leaf. 

I also have the usual perennial herbs for my region: oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender, thyme, spearmint and also persian mint and lovage and horehound (which I mean to make throat drops of but I haven't acted at the right moment yet). Basil doesn't do spectacularly well for me, but I find mint takes its place quite well especially when mixed with parsley. Parsley is the Great Underrated Herb. I think we're accustomed to seeing the tightly curled kind used as a garnish, where it hasn't been treated kindly before serving because nobody's expected to eat it, and occasionally dried flakes. Its flavor does not keep all that well even when you buy it flatleaved and fresh, but when it is new and lush it has a flavor like heaven. I really like it more than most herbs and vegetables. I keep trying to increase my stock of it but some years it all goes to seed in its infancy and I can't figure out why. 

So these 2 or 3 weeks I didn't buy groceries and I didn't go to pick up a Grey Bears bag. This means I'm being inventive with what I have. I ran out of milk, cream, and even cheese, and then discovered how dependent I normally am on dairy products in general. I still had a pound of chicken livers, so that and onions, green garlic, quantities of greens and herbs from the garden, and three asparagus spears (my asparagus is delicious but not prolific), made three meals. Lentils and mostly turnip greens and arugula but also those same herbs made a nice stew. I'm attempting to cook these recalcitrant pinto beans to make an almost vegan tamale pie. I don't know what I'll do if they refuse to soften (I think it's because I put the dried tomatoes in with them when they were still raw). Maybe drain off the delicious juice and toss the beans and start over with-- what do I still have, garbanzos? I made a salad of tuna, potato, carrot, peas, and all the pickled things I had at the time (the last of the artichokes, some beets, some kosher dills, I didn't think of the cabbage though now I can't stop thinking of it)-- sort of like if you started out thinking maybe you'd make a Salat Olivier and couldn't find all the exact things and then couldn't stop putting other things into it. I made a Waldorf salad (which if you make it right-just apples, nuts, raisins, celery and mayonnaise-or-whatever-dressing-you-prefer, is much nicer than most people think). I made apple fritters. I used up the pizza things I had stashed to make pizza. I used the rest of the tomato sauce I made for that to cook carrots in. 

So most of those things came out well and I've had a good time eating them. The pizza was a little eccentric but I get to have eccentric pizza, right? I made a weird coffee tapioca, having sieved the tapioca to try to prevent the frog-eggs texture which I thought would be weird with coffee, and it tastes good enough but it does have a bit of frog egg to it and it kept me up ALL NIGHT LONG so maybe I won't do that again?

The beans I'm cooking are really really yummy and I think they are cooked but they will never be really soft. I wonder if they will cause stomach distress if I use them anyway?
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2017-04-15 08:11 am

Whining and traveling

I've been reluctant to actually write all the posts that crowd my head, I don't know why though I could invent reasons for it. Maybe because I hate that mostly what I have to say is about being kind of an invalid.

The thing is, I'm not an invalid because of cancer! It's all the treatment and my own lack of sturdy willpower to fight the fatigue and lack of ambition. The consensus is that it is due to the study drug, palbociclib, which I could theoretically ditch but every time I get close to that I somehow get maneuvered into continuing "just for now." But I'm not sure how it is due to the drug. Currently, my blood values are at the edge of normal in several ways but the nurse says none of them are low enough to account for fatigue, which is annoying because if she'd agree that there was a relationship there I might be able to argue, for example, for iron supplementation on the one hand, or that thing they gave me during chemo proper to boost marrow production of white blood cells. As it is, the only thing we were able to identify that I can do is to boost my water intake to 4 liters a day.

This is also problematic because in just over a week I am traveling to the UK and also to Paris. I have to have some strength! Actually, I'm not too worried. For getting there, I just have to put one foot in front of the other, and once I'm there I don't even have to do that. I could theoretically spend my whole time in Loughborough in Hana's garden when it's not raining and in her spare bedroom when it is. Of course what I want to do is to walk all over Loughborough and Leicester, get in a rowboat on the River Soar, eat food from different ethnicities than we have at home, maybe find a folk music or folk dance club to visit, find all the odd little museums...

It appears that once again I will be stymied in my desire to rent a bicycle for the duration. There does seem to be a possibility at Loughborough University, where Hana works, but I don't know if it will be available to me as a non-student. Otherwise it's 30 pounds a day in Leicester! Not happening.

I do love living in an age where it is possible to look online and find out when the buses run between cities in another country, a week and a half in advance. I can even buy my senior card and my ticket as soon as my check comes in. I have been watching my bank account deplete at an alarming rate, anxious about whether the bills will come in before my social security does, and they have been! I'm right now looking at effective zeroes, hours before the check should land (it is the fifteenth, right? I hope it isn't late because of the holiday weekend!) I'm really sitting on no folding money also, and I failed to sell my car...

which is another long story, but it boils down to: I was selling it as a running car, and it turned into a NON-running one right after money had changed hands, so now I have a spoiled transfer and release form, a non-running car, and no money.
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2017-04-06 01:32 pm


I'm moving over here. I liked having continuity at livejournal, & unlike many I thought they might be able to stay the course. I was rather cheered, not discouraged, by the DOS attacks in the past--figuring that if someone was after the livejournal people, it was probably because they were on the side of democracy in the weird political scene in Russia.

But clearly, this new user agreement shows that, whatever they were doing in the past, they have either knuckled under or allied with the oligarch-run, reactionary Russian government. There's too many pieces of it that imply danger to vulnerable people. Not the least of which is having toi sign that I will obey laws whose text is not available to me to read (I searched on several of the specific laws cited in the new user agreement-- I could find lists that included them, but no text, particularly no translated text--and of course what I would need is a certified translated text, anyway, so I knew what the law was.

My feeling is, if you won't show me the law you want me to follow, it's probably terrible.

Anyway, here I am.
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2017-01-12 01:06 pm

The fifth column, whether it knows it or not

There's some really strange posts that get retweeted over and over on Twitter. It's kind of nauseating to watch. I'm going to try to address them all here in a cogent way, which may be feckless but it's what I can think of to do right now.

The origin of these posts is generally obscure people who present as the sort of person whose opinion one might respect--young people of color, maybe. Not always. But some of the posts are by prominent people whose opinion one might respect(1). The content of the posts is always an attack on the left in the name of ... leftism? See, "leftists" lost the election. "Leftists" are the real racists. "Leftists" are in the pocket of Moscow. "Leftists" are crazy Russophobes. Sometimes the word "leftists" is replaced with "progressives," "Sandernistas," "Berniebros," "Clintonistas," "Democrats," or rarely, prominent leftish Democrats.

Folks, don't spread this. It is fifth-column activity even if it thinks it isn't (and I don't think there's not a lot of deliberate action here). It's not principled struggle over the content and means of resistance or forward movement. It is herbicide spread to prevent the flowering of coalition.

Let me just say one thing about the election. Hillary Clinton did not lose the election. Bernie Sanders did not lose the election for her, and no he wouldn't be President now if the Democratic Party hadn't done what it did last year. "Progressives" did not lose the election. "Leftists" did not lose the election (last year).

This election was lost for us seventy-five years ago, when the labor movement and the Communist Party (at the time the biggest progressive organization in the US, and the leader in any broad coalition activities here) decided to essentially disband themselves "for the duration" in World War Two, pledging no oppositional activity "in order to defeat fascism." The result was that while the European countries, for example, came out of the devastation of World War Two with intact labor movements and left movements capable of standing up to their governments, the US has largely been dependent on the good will of its ruling class, which has just run out, as it will, as the ruling class is composed of people who think it is their right to live in privilege paid for by the privations of other people.

And also, Sanders is not "the real racist." No, he's not been perfect. "Progressives" are not the "real racists." Leftists are not "the real racists." Yes, they're all brushed with the the systemic racism of our society & they fuck up sometimes because of it, or they say or do unexamined things worth calling out specifically. But that doesn't make them the "real racists." Not when the White House is about to be overrun with actual Nazis and Klansmen and "alt-right" superstars. You're seriously going to take down & isolate somebody who used a problematic phrase that one time, or didn't show up to as many rallies as you'd like, rather than demand that they join you to fight against men who openly compare folks to animals, advocate hurting & killing them, decorate themselves with swastikas & the Stars&Bars, and express nostalgia for slavery days and the Third Reich?

We have been able to mount effective coalitions here and there over time, and that is our hope now. Lacking a deep progressive structure, we need to build the ad hoc coalitions that we've seen before (in the civil rights movement, yes the labor movement, the anti-war movement, the environmental movement). I don't mean we don't have any organizations with history and reach. I mean that we need to pull more and more people in, to coordinate activities, to stand firm and support one another.

We very much need to not play along with this smear campaign. And it is a campaign. Just look at it. Every day, there's countless tweets showing up in my tiny timeline from people who mindlessly retweet this garbage because it looks cutting-edge to them or something.

Coalition doesn't mean we make namby-pamby compromises and overlook all differences. But it does mean not letting the fifth column determine the nature of the everloving discourse.
ritaxis: (hat)
2017-01-05 12:32 pm

Found Poetry on a Suburban Street: Crazy Man in the Morning

To set the scene, California Street is a quiet suburban-style street with cozy little houses, the oldest about a hundred years old and most of them from the 40's. It's lined with typical mature trees: a handful of redwoods, some palms, some oaks, some eucalyptus, and a fair number of those nameless landscaper's trees that are neither native nor especially useful or beautiful but there they are, they're trees so you have to give them their due. This stretch I'm walking starts after the WPA-era high school and runs to the playground at the entrance to the sewage plant, before it doglegs and runs on to the Circles, where it dead-ends into the church that lives where the cable car barn used to back in the days before the automobile took over everything.

It's about a quarter to nine on a weekday and really very.very quiet on this street. Once in a while someone goes by on a bicycle. Almost no cars. The dog and I are almost the only people here.

Suddenly the air is riven by a shout.


behind me is a very tall bearded man with amazingly upright posture. Probably under 35 years.


He's walking faster than me. Zluta is curious, keeps turning back to look at him. I urge her onwards.


There is nobody else on this street. Nobody.


I'm starting to plan how to protect myself. What if the guy looks at me, a round lady leading a golden dog, and thinks "Fucking Freya! Thinks she can hide by swapping her cats for a fucking little dog!"


He's getting much closer. When he yells he stops and turns and faces the sky. Of course. But then he walks fast and in a straight line and he is closing in on me. And nobody to run to.


There's a little City Parks truck parked in front of the entrance to the sewage plant. A gardener! The dog and I turn in to the path and stand by the man blowing leaves though we both hate the sound of leaf blowers.


The tall straight man does not follow: he keeps walking, down Bay Street.


ritaxis: (hat)
2016-12-30 03:02 pm

2016 as a long lost weekend (medical, skip this)

I am low-energy, distractable, lazy, diffident, tentative, and easily discouraged to begin with. I began 2016 thinking I would ride the energy and optimism from my lovely new knees to Get Things Done, Get In Shape, and Get A Job.

I was doing pretty good until February, when I got the cancer diagnosis.

seriously this is just a long organ recital and for my own records, so don't read it )
So anyway, 2016 was for me like many others mostly a loss. I haven't mentioned much about the big world because others have more, and more eloquent, things to say about tt. I'm still alive, of course, and I still have a house. Also I have a pile of writing I'm sort of working on for several days at a time before I collapse in on myself for a few days again.
ritaxis: (hat)
2016-11-20 10:10 am

This Is Not Normal, and what I'm doing about it

Just the last couple of days I'm making phone calls and signing feckless petitions in advance of discovering more effective things to do. I'm also being a broken record in the public spaces where I am--twitter and facebook (I hate facebook but it's a public space).

Phone calls I've made: Two to Paul Ryan's office--once to leave a message about the ACA, once to take part in his stupid poll (there's a long recording you have to listen to about how terrible the ACA is and how the brave Congress is determined to gut it, and now what do you think?); one to the House Oversight Committee about the election. Feckless petitions: one to the electors not to confirm Trump, one to UCSC to be a sanctuary for immigrants.

More calls: to Lindsay Graham to investigate Trump: to my reps to be strong (they've all registered some opposition so far & only need to know we support them). And? I forget, I need to make a big list in addition to searching the internet every day.

Personhead Nick Mamatas([livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid) suggested getting #Scatocracy to trend. It's silly but it's cool, so I'm taking him up on it, more than he seems to be doing. Also being a broken record about the crimes of Trump and the whole damned GOP. That's what they did about the non-crimes of Democrats for the last generation, and they got it to stick. Of course they had the collusion of the media, which I do not. But there's no noise without noise. Remember how Jonathan Edwards, a progressive Southerner, was ruined over having a friends-with-benefits affair while his wife was in the hospital? Never mind that he kept visiting her and taking care of her, being loyal in the ways that matter. Meanwhile! Trump gets away with serial rape and people just stop talking about it. Also: theft! fraud! Stiffing employees and contractors! Death threats! Treason!

"When they go low, we go high," isn't even wrong, it's irrelevant. Hammering them on real crimes is not going low, it's insisting on truth. It's also a wedge towards talking about the real crimes of capitalism. Trump steals from his employees and it gets glossed over? That's because that's what bosses do. And so on.

I know, everything I'm doing is spontaneous, unfocused, feckless. But it's what I can think of to do at the moment. I remember Nelson Peery saying "If all you can think of to do is to make mistakes, make mistakes," and I don't think these are mistakes.

I have to do other things. But later in the day I'll make a big list of the numbers and share them. Meanwhile, other people are sharing them.
ritaxis: (hat)
2016-11-10 08:35 pm

I applied for a job

I'm not crazy. I applied for a part-time, temporary field research job that begins in January. I should be able to handle it: I won't be undergoing heavy medical treatments anymore. It sounds interesting. It's interviewing people for a tobacco use study sponsored by the FDA. I'm qualified. We'll see what happens.

As for the biggest & most terrible thing that's on everybody's minds and tongues: I don't have much to add right now. You could do worse than to read Nick Mamatas's analysis. Probably I could argue with him about certain historical details, but on the whole, he has it.

Somewhere along the line we allowed people to say that civil rights, labor justice, human respect, and demands for equality were elitist values. And all too often a lot of us acted like they were. Obviously a lot of other things went down, but on our side, we did that, and it meant that the broad coalition that is necessary to defeat fascism simply wasn't there. Also, something happened to coalition building. That's hard work, yes, but I don't think it's laziness that keeps people from doing it: I think it's other things, one of which is people approaching politics as self-expression.

But coalition building doesn't, as some people seem to think, require embracing the most center-right position available. It requires picking the one or two or three most righteous things you can get these groups to temporarily agree on, and driving hard on those things, building from small victories to large ones. If you can't get that coalition to agree on some things, you build another coalition that works on those. And then come election time you build a coalition that gets the election won.

But the election is not the goal anyways. If we'd gotten Hillary, we'd have been much better off, but we'd still be facing off with a hawkish, center-right government, just like we'd had for the last eight years. Most likely, a lot of people would have been complacent about it, but now, a lot of people are in danger of their lives, and that's worse.

Sarah Kendzior
, a very wise Missourian journalist and anthropologist (whose earlier writings tended to cover Central Asian dictatorships, which she finds much more relevant these days than she'd like), is suggesting that, rather than undertake vast protests at this time, people should be getting together quietly and planning focused political action, including a longer timeline. Not least of the reasons she's suggesting this is safety. But though safety is a real issue with the most hateful and violent of our country feeling both vindicated and still aggrieved, and also being armed to the teeth and beyond, it's also true that protest can be the easiest and least effective political tool we have. I say "can be," because often protest is effective and it's often not easy. Donald Trump has already made statements about protestors that suggest he'll be ready to "crack down". Sometimes it's the only thing available--and that might become the case here too, if the Republicans continue to move in the directions they've been moving in, consolidating power and abrogating the Constitution so that legal recourses are less and less available. But for now we have the full toolbox to the degree that we are organized to use it, and it makes sense to use all of the tools, each in their most appropriate ways.

I am thinking about my own personal role. I'm not yet well, and I don't have financial resources to throw at the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. But I know a little about organizing. Not a lot. I hate to be the one saying "let's you and him fight," so I have to figure out some way I can actually contribute to this. And I don't kid myself that some tweets or this journal are that way.

So. Right now, the UK has Theresa May: Russia has Putin: Turkey has Erdogan: (imagine much longer list): the US has Trump. It's a worldwide thing. It's terrifying. But despair is not what we need: anger, maybe, if it fuels determination.
ritaxis: (hat)
2016-11-04 02:01 pm

What I'm doing instead of Nano

I am writing this month, but I can't do Nanowrimo for reasons. One: I don't seem able to focus on very large projects at this time. I'm just grateful I can write at all! Anything longer than a short tends to get lost in the underbrush of a no-longer-chemo-brain. So I'm writing shorts, cleaning up old stuff, submitting a bit. I decided that since it's really unlikely for me to make enough money to be thrown off of Medi-Cal in the near future, it's dumb not to submit. Actually--did I explain this?--being thrown off Medi-Cal is not the thing I fear. What I'm afraid of is getting put into the grey category where they don't throw you off Medi-Cal but they require you to pay several hundred dollars (for some people, thousands!) before they will pay for anything. It would be better to get thrown all the way off and pay the (newly) normal subsidized premiums and copays, but that doesn't happen immediately. Worse, I have no idea what would trigger which alternative. So, just as in the case of facing up to cancer, etc., I just have to live my life.

I already submitted two things--one at the end of last month, but I'm counting it in this month. That was a near-future sort-of fantasy about a woman who is being moved out of her inundated neighborhood to find that her new neighborhood is pretty watery itself. And also pretty strange. The other is "John Brown's Body," which is ten years old and looks it, but it's going to a reprint market and its datedness might be interesting in the light of how things are working out, politically, these days. I mean it's sort of the opposite to everything!

I wrote a flash piece but my first reader (you know who you are) said what I was feeling--that the story felt like the unshot gun on the mantle. So now it's turning into a novella. I think it's kind of a time paradox story, but maybe not: some mysteries are not to be understood by the author. An old lady returns to the mysterious coastal village she spent a summer in during her childhood, and finds things to be somewhat different from how she remembered them, but some things are entirely too similar. The best part is the setting, of course. I think, despite what I said about my brain not being able to handle longer projects, that this is not too much for me to handle. Again, there are parts of the story that can't decide whether they are near-future sf or fantasy.

During the summer I was working on two short novels, but due to chemotherapy I could only move them forward a bit. One was about girls who save the world by means of their special relationship with crows and pigeons respectively. Honestly, the hardest part of that one is working out a believable mechanism for them to save even a shred of the world. And yet, parts of the world do get saved on a regular basis.

The other is low-fantasy in that it is set in the same fantasy world--but a different corner of it--and it is unlikely that much of the fantasy elements will come to bear on the story. It's an enemies-to-lovers story happening in the interstices of a larger drama of bandit freedom fighters and also referencing the earliest days of the motion picture industry as experienced by eager innovators in other corners of the world. But not our world. Informed by the last years of the Ottoman empire but in no way an analog for it.

On other fronts: I am a third of the way through radiation therapy. The only bothersome effect is my own body's ridiculous response to any postural demand, which is to spasm painfully somewhere. I have to lie in a comfortable position on a well-constructed individualized support for less than half an hour a day, and my body's response to this is to develop stiff painful areas in my neck, back, and arm. Not the side being radiated. The other side. My radiated breast is a little red, and maybe a bit sensitive, but not so as I'd care, especially with this other crap going on.

Continuing with the health care theme, I've restarted physical therapy. I'd gotten de-conditioned and I'd gained weight during chemo, because I spent a lot of the day sleeping or lying in bed reading. Now my energy level is back to its normal (kind of low) levels, and I'm getting more exercise, but there's some damage to undo. Also, I've been using the BiPAP machine for two months and it is not creating as dramatic a difference as one might expect. However, the doctor has some suspicions about my oxygen uptake which we're going to measure next week & discuss next month.

AND last but not least in this theme, today I got cortisone shots in both thumbs to fight severe trigger finger. It's the second round. The first wore off two months ago but the PA's not willing to give me shots more often than every six months. So if this happens again we're looking at surgery. I'm not afraid of surgery. I'm afraid of being the little old lady who collects all the surgeries, and also the fact that I've been enjoying my surgical experiences feels a little perverse to me, so I drag my feet for that reason too.

It's time to go to radiation or I'd expound about Zluta and the state of my house, but that will have to wait for another day, because after radiation Zluta and I will take a walk and after that I will want to clean house a bit before time for dancing.
ritaxis: (hat)
2016-10-19 09:48 am

Libre Open Office Users

I have this persistent problem that I can't get Libre OpenOffice to convert two hyphens to an em dash in text that I have imported from Google Docs. I have Auto-Correct set to do this (it's the only thing in that category I have checked-boxed).

Fake edit: I can retype the bit that needs it, add in an extra letter and space, and it will convert, and then I go back and delete the extra letter and space. But this is cumbersome and I ionly discovered it after the last submission went out with double hyphens because I got desperate & hadn't thought of this yet.

Real edit: there are two instances that won't convert this way either. They are before and after the word "end" at the end of the file.
ritaxis: (hat)
2016-09-20 10:37 am

Two weeks later

Two weeks ago was my last chemotherapy infusion. I went one more than I thought I might because the week before was tolerable. But the next week was all "WARNING WARNING you're walking wobbly! your neuropathy is creeping up your legs! your hands and feet feel weird ALL THE TIME!" So we agreed it was time to stop. Supposedly I'm starting radiation real soon now.

So--neuropathy has subsided a little but if I walk for half an hour it gets worse in my feet and legs, so exercise takes some determination. I learned yesterday how to sidestep the need for determination. This is what you do:

1. Go to a network of trails that all loop back to the same place so you can't get truly lost.
2. Conveniently forget the "STEEP HILL" designation on the map posted at the other trailhead (it helps to choose the trailhead without the sign).
3. Blithely decide to walk a loop instead of going out a ways and turning back.
4. Blithely forget/downplay the length of the trail so you think you've gone more than halfway before you get to the "STEEP HILL." (which is actually in the moderately steep category, not the needs-walking-stick category) So when you get to the "STEEP HILL" there's no point in turning back.
5. Now you are stuck walking the rest of the trail, no matter how much you'd like to quit.

Actually this was the Red Trail behind Chaminade, which is only a mile and a quarter long, but it took forever (that means a bit over an hour, honestly) to walk it because Zluta had to sniff everything and hello, apparently I have breathing issues again after years without (damnit), so I had to take the upward part a little slower. It wasn't bad but it was dumb. I guess I should get an inhaler again, though I didn't need it yesterday, I just wasn't at peak performance. The good news! is that my knees continue to be excellent and I only even thought about them later and it was "huh, downhill, no problem!"

It was lovely though. Saw a huge cottontail and several brilliant scrub jays, and heard a woodpecker and some other bird which I guess I should call familiar-unknown, in that I've heard that bird a lot around here but I don't know which one it is. The trail goes through a pine flat, a meadow, and a redwood ravine, so most of it was shady. That's why we went there. It was only ten but it was already hot and I had enough self-preservation to avoid sunny exercise.

I already know I don't feel the heat reliably, so I have to hydrate & protect myself based on other information.

Other post-chemotherapy observations:

At some point where I didn't notice it, the rest of my eyelashes and most of the rest of my eyebrows fell out. This is still due to the adriamycin/cytoxan treatments which ended about three months ago, the taxol doesn't do that. Also my nails are still playing out their destiny. My thumbnails are loosening from the top down so they have these giant unreachable pockets that fill up with debris and I can only get them partly clean which is sufficiently gross. I keep experimenting with new methods, but they continue to look like they are bruised (honestly I did think it was bruising at first so my intense efforts to clean them started late). My toenails are working their way off altogether, but it's really slow and the new toenails are already completely formed before the old ones fall off. I've lost three so far, and there's another four or five looking like they'll come off in the foreseeable future, and a couple that look like maybe they'll just be weird forever.

My tastebuds are returning to normal but not as fast as my taste. That is, I want to eat some things that don't yet taste good, so I have some disappointments. My perception of salt which some people already thought was pretty odd is utterly hopeless now. I mean, most things taste to me like the salt got up and walked off the job in protest, but if there's enough salt for me to notice it's there it tastes poisonously oversalted. Normally I mostly don't salt food but enjoy the occasional pickle or pretzel. Now I want to eat some salty food but I'm disappointed every time. Otherwise, most food just tastes a little bland now, and the pervasive plastic taste that ruined everything is mostly gone. For a while water tasted really foul because of it, and I had to force it down to keep from being dehydrated.

You know how there's been a backlash against the hydration obsession fad? Articles everywhere telling you that you don't need eight glasses of water a day? Now I get people trying to tell me I in particular don't need to drink as much as I do (I drink between two and three liters, usually two and a half). They are wrong when they speak of me in particular, though. I know from years of natural experimentation (that is, days of not being able to drink as much as I need), that if I drop much below that level, especially if I do it more than one or two days, I will be terribly thirsty, get headaches, muscle cramps, and cognitive impairment. By the last I mean: if I haven't had enough water to drink, don't let me drive.

I had a kind of depressive episode the first week or so off chemotherapy. For months the infusion center has been the center of my life. Three times every two weeks, and then twice a week, I went there and chatted with the staff, got myself monitored, got myself cared for. I had no idea how attached I was until it ended. I'll be going back there from time to time for monitoring, but it's still an abrupt change. It got better as soon as I realized why I was wanting to sleep all day.

The other medical thing I'm doing is getting used to the BiPAP machine. I love the delicious air coming through the mask but I'm having trouble adjusting in some other ways. I have two masks. I thought I wanted the nose pillow because it was more comfortable than the nose mask the sleep tech offered me at the time of the study (at which it was revealed I was having 90 events an hour and desaturating to 83%). But my nose is a bit stuffy currently and so it is hard to breathe with my mouth closed, which with the nose pillow mask leads to a drowning sensation as the air goes the wrong way. And also the nose pillows kind of hurt my nose. I suspect the pressure on the machine is set too high too. When I use the full face mask the incoming air forces my lips open even if I'm trying quite hard to keep them closed. Even with the attached humidifier going I get pretty dried out too. And I'm having trouble with leaks. All of this will get worked out in time, but it's a lot of adjustment. Currently the longest I've kept the mask on is five hours, but I've also only had it for four days.

Of course I found an apnea forum. There's some true-believerism going on there, but the best thing is that somebody there wrote a nice piece of software to read the SD card from the machine so I can see the full record. Right now I'm finding that endlessly fascinating. I've learned that I do in fact have some possible central apnea going on as well as the obstructive kind, which was my belief from the beginning. It makes little difference in treatment, and the difference is already what the doctor prescribed. That is, he put me on the automatic bi-level machine, which adjusts the pressure so that the body is stimulated to exhale better. There are shenanigans to be done with carbon dioxide, but those aren't warranted unless the BiPAP machine doesn't work well enough. It looks like it will. But I think it will be a while before I am better rested and make more sense.
ritaxis: (hat)
2016-09-02 08:00 am
Entry tags:

This far, maybe not so much farther, on this particular road

I think I better start this by saying no, there's no reason to think the cancer treatment isn't doing its job. This is all about side effects and strategies.

I didn't start out thinking "I want to be the perfect cancer patient"--I didn't think much at all about it, just put one foot before the other. Then it was going so well--my side effects were minimal, and the kind of thing I could tolerate well. Surgery went swimmingly. I got through the usually more-toxic Adriamycin/Cytoxan cocktail with a wee bit of nausea and minimal anemia, with a slow-motion painless sloughing of the skin on the bottom of my feet (& now I'm shedding my toenails, two and three months later, but the new toenails are in before the old ones fall off, so it's not a problem).

The taxol infusions were presented to me as less toxic to the body than the Adriamycin/Cytoxan. Neuropathy was a potential issue, I was told, and therefore I made the choice to take the "less dense" route--more infusions with less drug in each--because after going through several surgeries and years of physical therapy to have normal function in my hands and legs I didn't want to sacrifice it easily. Once we were about to start taxol, my doctor explained that most of her patients made it to nine or ten of the twelve treatments before stopping due to neuropathy.

This is when I started feeling like I wanted to be the perfect cancer patient--not something I wanted to think, just something that happened. Anyway, you can guess how that's working out.

I just had my seventh treatment this week, after skipping a week to see if the mild neuropathy I've been having would recede. It did recede on the skipped week. But it's spreading. It's still very mild, and only sensation--no function is disturbed at this point--but there's more of it. We dropped the dose twice, so it can't be dropped again. Dr. Wang will probably feel that I've had enough taxol, and at this point I do too, but I'm disappointed not to go farther.

Apparently the taxol is almost extra anyway: it enhances the survival rate but it's not a bright line. But still.

Today's the check-in day. The next thing is probably a break of a couple of weeks, and then I start daily radiation for seven and a half weeks.

And this has pushed the other medical thing out of the headlines: I'm joining the hordes of CPAP users in a week or so.