Saturday, March 31, 2007

Physical Therapy Day 2

I had my second physical therapy session yesterday. The first thing I did was ask why my arm hurt so much after the first visit! The therapist assured it was probably from the tests (measuring my grip, etc.), not from the treatment. To make sure it was more comfortable this time she put the patch next to the tendon instead of right in top. She also set the machine to an even lower setting. It took more than half an hour, but my iPod and I were ready.

It didn't hurt at all yesterday and didn't wake me up last night. Woo hoo! Progress at last! Today I am finally caught up on my grading after spending 2.5 weeks grading the same batch of papers. I've never taken so long to return papers and my students have been very understanding, but it's a huge relief to not have them hanging over me! I'll post them to Blackboard tomorrow and have a few non-grading days before my 112 students turn in their research papers next Fri.

After my bad experience with the doctor at Genesys, it's simultaneously a relief and a distress to have a good sports doctor and two physical therapists say, "Wow, you've had a really rough time." It's nice to have them confirm that this is an unusually bad case of tendonitis, but I'm ready for to be over. I'm glad I'm on the right track now.

Grade-free and pain-free is wonderful feeling. :)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Death of the Canopies

I am angry beyond words after reading yesterday's Davison Index: DDA reversal orders all canopies down. Instead of a pilot project in which part of the canopies would be removed, the Downtown Development Authority is removing them all, without consent of the business owners or the public (who want to keep the canopies).

The first section of canopies was removed Mar. 18; the rest of that block's canopies were removed Mar. 24. Every time I've driven down Main Street since Mar. 18 all I could think of was how awful it looked, especially the Davison Hotel. I was glad the pilot project was a compromise because, surely, everyone in favor of removing the canopies could now see how much work (and money) would be involved in restoring the building facades.

Instead, the ^#$%^& DDA is ripping down all the canopies thanks to Mayor Fred Rappuhn and every DDA member who voted for it: Eric Reichle, Melanie Helms, Marcia Johnson, Sue Fisher, and Authority Chairperson Barbara Jean Peckins-Muszynski.

Mr. Mayor, I will never vote for you, or anyone who supports you, ever again. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for destroying the public's trust as well the canopies. As The Index's Editor points out, Anyone want to trust these people now?

Hooray for Sean O’Bryan, Dave Larson, and George Kiess who voted against the mayor and the rest of the DDA!

One of the big questions is cost. Those who wanted to remove the canopies kept saying they were structurally unsound (without providing supporting evidence). They are the ones who decided to remove the rest of the canopies "after hearing the cost to refurbish the remaining canopies in the southeast block would be more than $35,000." Notice what they don't tell us? How much would it cost to leave them alone? (Nothing!) How much will is cost to fix the facades of all the buildings on Main Street? Uknown. The old street lights were -- guess where? -- on the canopies, so now there are no street lights. How much will it cost to install new lights? Unknown. AND they want to build a new city hall/library/museum. At least the public gets to vote on that. After the blatant lies and public betrayal about the canopy "pilot project" I know exactly how I will vote -- and I'm sure I won't be alone.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Winner: Dan Brown

Today on FoxNews: 'Da Vinci Code' Author Dan Brown Wins Copyright Infringement Case.

I figured the judge would rule this was not plagiarism, especially since Brown refers to Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in the text and names a character (Leigh Teabing) after the authors. Teabing refers to The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail as "perhaps the best-known tome" on the subject.

I'm just sorry to hear that authors
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh now have now have about $6 million in legal bills. Instead of suing when there is no clear case of plagiarism, they could have made money by promoting The Da Vinci Code, which in turn promotes their book. Unfortunately, it looks any money they've made in sales due The Da Vinci Code will be needed to pay legal bills. I'm always flattered when someone cites one of my articles; too bad Baigent and Leigh didn't feel the same.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Harry Potter #7 Cover Released

Today on CNN: Cover for final 'Potter' revealed.

It's certainly brighter than the last few covers. I'm taking it as a sign there will be a bright, happy ending.

My predictions for book 7:
  • Harry will kill Voldemort
  • Harry will not die
  • Despite his attempts to face Voldemort alone, Harry will be assisted by Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and the rest of Dumbledore's Army, the Order of the Phoenix, etc.
  • Neville will turn out to be a really powerful and competent wizard, much to everyone's surprise. Likewise for Luna.
  • Everyone will be surprised when Snape turns out to be a good guy after all and helps Harry defeat Voldemort
  • Snape will die and we'll all feel bad because he will have proven he really was loyal to Dumbledore all along. (He killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore's orders, to convince Voldemort and the Deatheaters of his loyalty to Voldemort, you know!)
  • Jo Rowling has said there will be two deaths. As I've predicted above, I say Voldemort and Snape, but I wouldn't be surprised if Harry lost another parental-figure, I just hope it's not one of the Weasleys!
Only 114 days until we find out how it all ends!

Update Mar. 31, 2007

Ideas I've Heard From Others:
  • RAB = Sirius Black's brother, Regulus and the locket is in #12 Grimauld Place (Harry and the Weasleys found it when cleaning but didn't realize it was a horcrux).
  • Is Harry a horcrux?
Having trouble keeping everything and everyone one in the HP series straight? Check out the Harry Potter Wiki. For discussion and news try The Leaky Cauldron, MuggleNet, and, of course Jo Rowling's web site. For movie news go to The Official Harry Potter Web Site.

Physical Therapy Day 1

I started physical therapy today and it was not what I expected! The therapist reviewed my history, examined my arm, and measured everything (muscles, grip, etc.). For treatment she put medicine on a patch, put it on the sore spot, and hooked it up to an ionizer. Basically, electric pulses ionize the medicine into the tissue. For now our goal is rest, healing, and pain reduction. When those improve we move on to a different kind of massage and, eventually, exercise. It hurt a little at first but then she adjusted the level of stimulation. It took about half an hour so I was glad I had my iPod with me! I had to leave the patch on for two additional hours after the treatment. For now I’ll be getting PT three days a week and the therapist said I should notice improvement after a couple of sessions.

It hurt again when I got home so I ended up resting and sleeping instead of grading (as I had hoped). I’m simultaneously relieved (that I’ve started therapy and it should help soon) and frustrated (because I’m still so far behind on my grading). Thank goodness my students are so patient!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sophie the Drama Queen

Not to be outdone by all the attention her sister has been getting lately, Sophie decided to scare the crap out of us today. She let out a low-pitched warbling yowl like she was dying; the sound alone was so unexpected and scary that she nearly gave me a heart attack! We both ran to find her hunched in the hallway looking miserable. Then she started throwing up.

The yowling scared me so much that I called the vet. By the time Dr. Joe called back Sophie had calmed down, stopped barfing, and had a drink of water and a little food. Whew! Dr. Joe says she's probably fine, especially since she's eating and drinking again, but to keep an eye on her just in case. Apparently some cats with intestinal obstruction do the same thing. I did ask if this could be a Siamese thing, but said it's more of an individual personality thing. Apparently our Sophie is just a highly vocal girl who wants to tell us when she doesn't feel good. Given that, and the panic attack during her last visit to our old vet, I just pray she lives a long, healthy life!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Was Houdini Murdered?

Today in the news: Was Houdini murdered? Exhumation may bring answer.

To quote the CNN article:
The likeliest murder suspects were a group known as the Spiritualists, which became Houdini's nemesis in his final years. The magician devoted large portions of his stage show to exposing what he said were fraudulent seances by the group. The movement's devotees included Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle.
An unlikely conspiracy theory!

Houdini's nephew and Anna Thurlow (a descendant of one of the Spiritualists) are all for it. I'm just waiting for Doyle's heirs to weigh in...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Sports Doc and New Hope

Today I went to Lansing to see Dr. Herb Ross about my tendonitis. He is the sports doctor who fixed my knee 15 years ago when we lived in Lansing. After seeing the jerk at Genesys in Flint, I wanted a second opinion and I knew I exactly who I wanted to see. I'm so glad I did!

Dr. Ross was appalled that the jerk in Flint was so rude and unhelpful. In a very polite and professional way he told the exact opposite: it's not age related, it's not blood-supply related, there are non-surgical things we can try, surgery does not involve cutting the tendon and permanently weakening it, and there are pain medications other than morphine that will help! Oh, and I'm not imagining it: sudden barometric changes do make it hurt. Finally, if I do eventually need surgery, it just means removing scar tissue, not cutting the tendon. Wow, just hearing all that made me feel better!

When he examined my arm he could see the damage and atrophy. I'm not sure how much is from the original injury. He did say I only really need the forearm brace for physical therapy and to stop the muscle-building exercises. Some of them are doing more damage than good.

I started my treatment today, too. Instead of another shot in the tendon, which I was glad to avoid, he gave me prescriptions for two anti-inflammatories (for about 10 days). They are the same meds that I have injected in the past, but he says the pills actually work better. I also have a prescription for physical therapy and I see Dr. Ross again in about 6 weeks.

Between the drive to Lansing and back, two hours at Dr. Ross’s office, and a long wait at the pharmacy, I needed a nap when I got home! I'm tired and my arm still hurts, but now I have hope that it will improve soon, that it can heal, and I can't begin to tell you what a huge difference that makes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Saffron Update

Saffron spent the day with the vet today. She was fine when we were there yesterday for her weekly B12 shot but this morning she had so much sudden vomiting and diarrhea that I was afraid to leave her. We both needed to go to work, so I called the vet in a panic.

Dr. Amy saw Saffron immediately. She looked good and was no longer having digestive problems when we got there. Dr. Amy assured me it was probably just a bug (bacterial), maybe from something she ate, and not her disease. We don't use any of the tainted pet foods that were just in the news, so thank goodness we didn't have to worry about that!

Saffron stayed with Dr. Amy while I went to work. She got some fluid under the skin to prevent dehydration and an antibiotic shot. Instead of putting her in the boarding kennel, they kept her in the work room where they could keep a close eye on her. She got good care and expanded the size of her Briarwood fan club at the same time!

When I called between my classes to check on her, she was doing fine but wouldn't eat for them. She was very glad to see me when I picked her up after work, rubbing her little face all over my hands. She was very glad to get home where she ran right to her food and water for a snack!

She looks great, has no more digestive problems, and acts like she feels good. She seems to have more energy than usual. I don't know if it's the fluid, the antibiotics, or if she's just happy to be home; I'm just relieved to see her acting so well!

Thank you to everyone who has been asking about her and who warned us about the tainted pet foods!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

More on Cozies

I've been thinking about my previous post on cozies and I realized I didn't mention the main reason I like cozies! Cozies are comforting.

This weekend when I was looking for something to read, I realized how important the comfort element is to me. My tendonitis has been hurting a lot, I feel overwhelmed with grading (I'm behind because of the tendonitis), and I'm worried about Saffron. I wasn't in the mood for a medical thriller (too graphic), a psychological thriller (too scary and/or unrealistic), or a police procedural (too graphic). I realized I needed a cozy! In cozies the violence usually take place off stage and the focus is on how the crime effects the characters' lives. There are lots of descriptions of food, settings, and wonderful characters. When you need a comforting visit with old friends, a cozy series is even better. The fact that the murderer is always brought to justice at the end of the book is also comforting.

Thinking about this made me remember that reading a cozy (a book in Dorothy Cannell's series) help me cope with 9/11. When I couldn't take any more unthinkable tragedy, I curled with one of her books and I was transported to a little village in England where I didn't have to think about anything else. When I saw Dorothy at Magna cum Murder that October, I told her why I now considered her books comfort reading and we both cried. She has new book this year and I can hardly wait to read it!

Need comfort? Read a cozy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nigerian Scam Revenge

I just heard this on the latest NPR Technology podcast: "Scam-Baiters" Turn Tables on Would-Be Cons. The best part is "One scam-baiter convinced his correspondent to film a reenactment of the "Dead Parrot" sketch from Monty Python" and humiliated him by posting it on YouTube. As you can guess, it's wildly popular.

Follow the link to read all about it on Xeni Jardin's blog, including links to the Nigerian Dead Parrot sketch on YouTube and the e-mail behind the video.

I'm so glad to see someone fighting back against the Nigerian scammers. I wish I'd thought of it but I lack the technical saavy for dealing with scammers.

Lake Wobegon Podcast

At long last I can listen to Garrison Keillor's weekly News from Lake Wobegon (NLW) on my iPod, free! To subscribe go to the Prairie Home Companion's about the podcast page or subscribe through iTunes.

While you are at it, you might also want to subscribe to GK's Writer's Almanac. It's a daily 5- minute podcast with almanac info and a poem. (I like pithy podcasts, in case you hadn't noticed.)

I got hooked on NLW when we lived in Lansing. One of my co-workers, Helen, had been recording it for years. She kindly loaned me a box of cassettes filled with nothing but NLW and I was hooked. Sometimes it made me sad. I was living away from my hometown and my mom and the dog I grew up with had recently died, so sometimes NLW made me so homesick I could hardly stand it. Most of the time, though, it made me laugh because I knew just what it was like to grow up in a small town, albeit not quite as quaint as Lake Wobegon.

Helen, in case I never told you, thanks. I think of you every time I listen to A Prairie Home Companion or NLW. I wish I knew where you are now so I could thank you in person.

I"m off to listen to the latest News from Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Star Trek XI & New Voyages

Today confirmed rumors that the next film (ST XI) will be about young Kirk and Spock. No news on who the actors are yet, but the film will be directed by J. J. Abrams (who created Alias and Lost, two of my favorite modern TV shows), and will be released on Christmas day 2008.

Can't wait until 2008 for more the original Star Trek? Check out Star Trek: New Voyages (ST: NV). These are Internet-only free new episodes created by folks who loved the original series and are producing a 4th season as if the original series was never cancelled. You won't recognize the actors playing Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc. but you might be surprised by some of the guest stars: William Windon (Commodore Matt Decker), Walter Koenig, and (coming in Spring 2007) George Takai.

The first episode I watched was "In Harm's Way" (season 4 episode 2). It's time travel story involving The Guardian of Forever, The Doomsday Machine, and Christopher Pike. The writing and production values are amazingly good. They've captured Trek right down to the music and the NBC peacock. It's a hoot seeing how close they come to the original (and best) series. In case you are wondering why it's not a copyright problem, Eugene Roddenberry, Jr. is one of the producers.

The cast and crew are devoted to the original series and want to continue it without parodying it, so the actors are good but are not imitating the original stars. They are excellent, especially when you consider no one is getting paid for this. They have a sense of humor, too. It you watch "In Harm's Way," be sure to watch through the credits for a clip of Jeff Quinn (Spock) singing a line from "Bilbo Baggins" (but he's a much better singer than Leonard Nimoy).

Watch a review on

The only problem I'm having with ST: NV is downloading episodes! Most episodes are posted on mirror sites, with 4 or 5 parts per episode. Windows Media Player seems to be the standard format (and that works fine on my Mac PowerBook G4) but not all mirror sites use the same format. If you dowload WMP format, be patient; it will take a while. If you download .avi files they may not work with QuickTime 7; you may need to download VCL Media Player or something like it. Some files are zipped, so Mac users will need something other than StuffIt to open the files.

Despite my download problems, I've now watched everything available (three episodes and one vignette) and I can hardly wait for the next new episode! That should tell you how impressed I am. Actually, I'm more than impressed, I wish I were involved.

May ST: NV live long and prosper.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What is a Cozy?

I love mysteries and want to start blogging about the books I'm reading. Before I do I think I need to define the term "cozy" for those who are not familiar with mystery fiction. Here's a quick definition from the Cluelass web site:
A "traditional" mystery whose best-known practitioner is Agatha Christie. Common elements include: a domestic setting such as a country house or quiet neighborhood; a limited roster of suspects, all part of the victim's social circle; little or no description of violence or sex; a mildly romantic subplot; and an amateur sleuth or eccentric professional.
There is also often a cat. Contrary to popular opinion, a cozy does not mean the kind of story where the cat solves the crime. That is one kind of cozy and, yes, I have been known to buy mysteries because they have a cat on the cover! I read many different kinds of mysteries but am especially fond of cozies.

The wonderful things about cozies is that there are so many to choose from. Whatever you are interested in, there's a mysteries series for you. There are too many sub-genres to list here but some popular ones are culinary (with recipes), cats, dogs, horses, historical, supernatural, coffee shops, inns, etc. I'm sure you get the idea. The tone of cozies varies as well, so you can always find something to suit your mood (light and funny, serious, scary, etc.).

Where can you find out if you like cozies? I recommend Detecting Women 2: Reader's Guide and Checklist for Mystery Series Written by Women by Willetta Heising. The checklist (by author) are helpful but so is the huge cross-reference section where you can look up series/authors by the sub-genre (culinary, supernatural, historical, etc.). This books is limited to female authors but Heising also has a Detecting Men checklist for male authors (all genres, not just cozies). Unfortunately, Detecting Men does not include a cross-reference section and is limited to authors who write series (so don't look here for authors like Dick Francis).

My favorite bookstore, Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor, is a great place to find any kind of mystery. They even have cross reference notes on the shelves ("If you like Anne Perry you might also like Elizabeth Peters, Robin Paige, etc.").

I did a quick Internet search and found Cozy Mystery List with lots of info on cozies and two humorous definitions of cozies: Cozies I Have Known by Polly Whitney and What Makes a Cozy Just That?

What I like about cozies: interesting characters, settings (including places and historical settings like Anne Perry's Victorian England), and plots. I also love the variety of sub-genres. I will read a series just for characters I like, even if it's not "perfect." For example, one of my friends says that Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael series is nothing like a real 12th century Bendictine monestary, but I don't care. I love the characters so much I can suspend my disblief.

The suspension of disbelief is required to some degree to read any mystery novel with an amateur sleuth but when a story becomes so implausible it destroys that suspension, I won't read or watch it. Some examples: most Agatha Christie but especially And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians) and Jessic Fletcher. Call me a heretic, but I don't like Agatha Christie. I can tolerate Miss Marple on TV but Hercule Poirot needs his fussy little face slapped. I just don't understand why so many people like these characters. And don't get me started on Jessica Fletcher! Most serious mystery fans are sure Jessica is really a serial killer. What else could explain the fact that she stumbles over dead bodies everywhere she goes?

Sure, it's easy to make fun of a badly written traditional mystery (like Jessica Fletcher) but nothing beats a well-written cozy. Be sure to read it on a rainy night while you are snuggling with favorite cat or dog and sipping your favorite beverage. It's a mini-vacation of literary bliss!