Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saffron Update

I haven't written about Saffron in a while so here's an update: our little purry girl is doing better! Last week we added Hills prescription food to her diet and it has made a huge difference. She clearly feels better and canned food has apparently stimulated her appetite for all food, including her Regular Iams crunchy food. She looks happy and relaxed and has a little bounce in her step. Thursday night I saw her playing with Sophie for the first time since Christmas!

She gained 2 oz. this week. That's significant since she only weighs 5 lbs. 12 oz.

I'm so relieved to see Saffron feeling well enough to play again. In Jan. the vets who did the ultrasound told us she probably had cancer and only a few months to live. I hoped but never expected her to improve this much and I feared I would never see her play again. We're both happy girls. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Night Blind by Jan Worth

Looking for something interesting and unusual to read? I recommend Night Blind by Jan Worth. It's the story of a Peace Corps murder in the Kingdom of Tonga in the 1970s (based on a real murder in Tonga when Jan was a Peace Corps volunteer). It's not a typical who-done-it murder mystery but it is an intriguing look at how this horrible crime affected other young Peace Corps volunteers. I especially like the setting. I knew nothing about Tonga before reading it and felt like I went on a little vacation in this beautiful, tropical setting.

Jan is a dear colleague of mine and I'm so proud of her success! She self-published her novel through iUniverse and is doing well. She recently attended Book Expo America in New York where she recorded a podcast (also available in iTunes) for Book Expo's Author's Studio. You can read more by and about Jan on her blog.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The End of Battlestar Galactica

If you haven't seen the new Battlestar Galactica on SCI-FI, you are missing one of the best shows on television. It's nothing like the 1978 series of the same name. It's edgy and well-written, with believable, three-dimensional characters in an impossibly stressful situation. The episodes are so well-written with ever-building tension that it's hard to go to bed right after watching it. If I do, I sometimes dream about it because I can't stop thinking about it. Now that's good writing!

If you've watched either series, skip this paragraph. If you've never seen the old or new series, here's the setup: the 12 colonies of man have been destroyed by Cylons, the cyborg/robots created to serve man but turned against him. A handful of survivors escape to space in anything that will fly, protected by the last Battlestar, Galactica. In hopes of starting over, Galactica is searching for the lost 13th colony, Earth. Like all good Sci-Fi the stories are about humans and how they react to the situation they are in. The current series deals with things barely touched on in the original series: grief, survival, racial discrimination, love, religion, etc.

(Speaking of religion, in the new series the Cylons are monotheists, and some are quite fanatical about it, while the humans are polytheists. For three seasons I've been wondering what the heck this means!)

The new series has some wonderful twists: some of the characters who were originally male are now female (Starbuck and Boomer, for instance), which makes for a better balance of male and female characters, and adds a whole new dimension to Starbuck's relationships with Apollo, Adama and Zak.

Another amazing twist is that Cylons can now appear to be human. There are 12 models of Cylons, at least 7 of which appear to be human -- and no one can tell at glance who is human and who is a Cylon. At least one major character on Galactica is a Cylon, so viewers are constantly asking themselves, "Oh my God, is that character a Cylon?". There are multiple copies of each human model, so killing a "skin job" doesn't result in death; the Cylon's consciousness and memories merely download into another identical body. Imagine the complications for the poor humans fighting them, and the discrimination against the few "skin jobs" who are sympathetic to the humans.

It's wonderfully complex and interesting, which is why I am so disappointed to hear that the producers recently announced that the next season will be the last. The writers/producers have an actual ending planned, and since the end of the series is not unexpected I'm sure it will be stunning. Since the new series has lasted 4 seasons (3 seasons longer than the original) and the writing has been outstanding since the beginning, I guess we really can't complain that they have announced the end.

How do I think it will end?

*** SPOILER ALERT *** I'm going to mention the Season 3 finale. If you haven't seen it yet, stop reading now!

Season 3 ended with Starbuck apparently returning from the dead, saying she'd been to Earth, and she would lead the fleet there. I'm sure she will. I'm also sure they will not arrive in 2007/8. It will either be in our distant past (and they will end up being our ancestors) or the far future (and they will end up re-populating Earth after the Cylons destroy us). What makes me think so? A couple of things.

First, the "history repeats itself" theme of the new series. We are told repeatedly that everything that is happening now has happened before and will happen again in the future. This is often mentioned in prophecies about Earth and Starbuck's "special destiny" (foretold by a seer in season 1 or 2 and a prominent storyline in season 3).

Second, the opening and closing monologues from the 1978 series:

[opening] There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. They may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens...

[closing] Fleeing From The Cylon Tyranny the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest for a shining blue planet known as Earth.
This afternoon I saw two episodes of the 1978 series on the Ion (Independent Television) channel. It confirmed two things: the current series is much better and my ideas about the end of the series.

One of the 1978 episodes, "The Hand of God," was about Galactica nearly finding Earth. They picked up a transmission from unknown source, possibly hundreds of years old but clearly from a NASA lunar mission. Of course it appeared to come from the Cylon basestar that suddenly appeared from behind a planet and this led to a spectacular battle in which the basestar was destroyed, thanks to Apollo and Starbuck using intelligence from Baltar. At the end of the episode Apollo and Starbuck just miss another transmission from Earth: "The Eagle has landed."

See how it supports my theory? The message from Earth may be hundreds of years old, the Cylons got there first, etc. I'm sure the current writers will make it edge-of-your-seat tense and unforgettable, with unexpected twists, but I still don't want it to end. Thank God for DVDs!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

6 Reasons to Buy a Mac

In case this ad is too small to read, the reasons in the ad are:

  • Run Office and Windows
  • Equipped with iLife
  • Four-way video chatting
  • Supports iTunes U
  • Unbelievably secure
  • Built-in wireless

PCs don't have built-in wireless?! Now I understand why everyone I know who is switching from a PC to a Mac has asked me "You have wireless? Really? You can use your laptop anywhere?"

Hard to believe, isn't it?

For more reasons, read Why You'll Love a Mac (Apple even offers educational discounts) and watch the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

All Aboard the Hogwarts Express!

June 1 on CNN: Potter buffs may soon be able to visit Hogwarts. I only have one question: do I get to take the Hogwarts Express?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I am OK

Thank you to everyone who e-mailed to see if I'm OK! I am fine, just too busy teaching spring semester to blog. Spring and summer semesters here are accelerated, so we do 14 weeks' work in just 7 weeks. Talk about hectic!

For those who've asked, this entry is an update on me and my cats.

Me and My Tendinitis

My arm still hurts but I have hope for improvement. I had a busy day with it yesterday: I had physical therapy in the morning and saw the sports doctors in the afternoon.

Right now I do physical therapy twice a week and see the sports doc every 4-6 weeks. Apparently I have an usually bad case of chronic tendinitis. It’s nice to have my perception confirmed by professionals, but I’m also getting tired of hearing things like “Wow, I’ve never seen a case this bad!”.

My sports doc (Dr. Ross) and his colleagues at MSU Sports Medicine (whom I am seeing while Dr. Ross is on medical leave) are very encouraging. They tell me this is a problem with young, active people (i.e., it’s not age-related) and that it can get better with therapy. They say I am doing all the right things and so is my physical therapist and they think I can probably avoid surgery.

If it does come to surgery, the most recent studies indicate that cutting and splicing the tendon really doesn’t help, but removing the inflammation and scar tissue does. That means a less invasive surgery and quicker recovery. I hope to avoid it but if that’s the only way to fix it for good, I’ll do it. We’re switching to Blue Cross in Oct. so I can have Dr. Ross do the surgery, if it comes to that.

My insurance coverage for PT runs out at the end of July and my new coverage (Blue Cross) doesn’t start until Jan. 08. I was concerned about what to do if the pain gets worse between July and January, but the docs assured me that they won’t let it get severe again. The physical therapist will give me a home exercise plan (but I’m not that far along yet) and they can always give me anti-inflammatories again if necessary. Whew! Knowing I have a plan makes me feel better!

When he was examining my arm yesterday, the MSU doc said the radial something or other was out of alignment. (I will have to ask the physical therapist what this is called. *) He held my hand like we were shaking hands, we both pushed gently as he twisted my arm, and I felt something pop back into place! He said this was part of what was causing pain to shoot up my arm and showed me how to check for it and explained how I can pop it back by myself. Wow, if only the tendon damage and inflammation could be fixed so easily!

I iced it good last night and today it’s hardly swollen at all! That plus the encouraging visit to the sports doc yesterday gives me hope.

My Cats

Saffron is doing well. She hasn't had any digestive problems for over a week now. She's eating well and looks like she feels good most of the time. She's occasionally unsteady on her feet but even then she's bright-eyed. She looks very relaxed and happy (stretched out more than ever when she sleeps on the bed) and purry. The vets x-rayed her in early May after a bad bought of vomiting and diarrhea and they found no sign of cancer: no tumors or swollen organs. Everything looked for an 11-year-old kitty. This is unexpectedly good news and it gives me hope. I'm still hoping it's liver disease, not cancer, and that she'll be one of the lucky kitties who recover.

Sophie, who is now 10, is still very playful. They changed her arthritis medicine (Cosequin is now called Daysoquin and the ingredients are slightly different) and the first day I put it on her canned food she hesitated. Maybe it tastes different! She did eat it and I hope it works just as well so that she stays happy and playful for a long time! She's frustrated because Saffron doesn't feel like playing with her, so we try to play with her a lot. Her favorites are headwrestling ("I'm gonna get the kitty!") and chasing the laserpointer.

So things are hectic here but improving. I'm looking forward to taking summer semester off so I can work on my needlework, research, and writing. I'm also looking forward to staying home as much as I want to!

Thanks again to everyone who expressed concern at my lack of blogging since April!

* The physical therapist says my radius (bone on the thumb side of the forearm) was probably out of alignment due to the tendon inflammation and related muscle weakness. It's called radial head subluxation (aka, Nursemaid's elbow) and, according to WebMD, is unusual in adults but very common in kids who have been picked up and swung around by their hands. The description on WebMD of how it's fixed is exactly what the sports doc did to me!

UPDATE July 9: One of the docs at MSU said this is called radial head somatic dysfunction. It's not quite the same as Nursemaid's elbow but is treated the same way (i.e., popping the radius back into place). It's caused by muscle weakness, which is of course caused by the inflamed tendon and favoring that arm for two years. The exercises to re-strengthen those muscles will help prevent it from happening again.