Strength

Last year, after my grandfather told Victor, my best friend of 15 years ago, that I had died, and after my friend had grieved for me for two weeks, we got back in touch. Since then, we’ve remained in good contact.

We’re both going through difficult times right now, and have both wanted to just be done with life. He gave me an amazing pep talk, though, and overwhelmingly good life advice.

He was trying to tell me about my own inner strength, but I was basically refusing to listen. I am in a self-defeating rut, with no urge to climb out. He was simultaneously kicking my ass while telling me how wonderful I am, and I needed it.

I’d told him how I was out of happiness, was just miserable all the time. How I couldn’t even wrap my brain around trying to protect my life like everyone else around me did so preciously with their own. How could not being alive be a bad thing? “My god,” he said quietly; “what has happened to you?”

While we were talking, he had a memory flash of when he and I and my boyfriend at the time, Joseph, were all living together. Joseph was a pretty enormous guy, and Victor is (by comparison) small. He and Joseph got into an argument, which escalated. Joseph grabbed Victor by the hair, and Victor instinctively went for Joseph’s throat.

I was raised to be excruciatingly polite, and to eschew physical violence.

But when I saw Joseph attacking Victor, I guess it caused a primal, protective response in me. I leaped onto Joseph’s back, wrapped one arm around his throat, yanked his hair back with the other hand until his neck wrenched backwards, and started screaming “FUCKING LET GO OF HIM!!!” until he did.

“So you see, Erin,” Victor said calmly, “you have strength.”

That’s not an example I would ever think of to illustrate strength. In fact, it took me awhile to even remember what he was talking about; I think I blocked it from my memory. Recalling it, I felt a brief surge of what it was like to be in that moment, feeling nothing but confident that I could make The Bad Thing stop, no matter what it took. In the moment, it wasn’t about physical strength – it was about confidence, lack of fear, complete mental focus. Seeing an outcome and making it happen.

“You haven’t allowed yourself to be strong for a long time,” Victor continued. “You’ve blocked all of that off for some reason. Back then, if you weren’t strong, I would have chewed you up, spit you out and destroyed your psyche – it’s who I was then. But look at us.”

I am reluctant to acknowledge my strengths. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized I do have them, and that’s how I pried Joseph off of my friend with every ounce of it. In the moment of crisis, I let myself be strong, but in day to day life… I recede.

Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to trauma nursing – so many moments to shine, to excel, to be strong. I don’t find these in everyday, normal life. There are no opportunities for me to be brilliant. I am dull. There are no serious challenges outside of the academic ones, which (in truth) aren’t that tremendous. I have no way to shine, to demonstrate to myself that I am of worth.

I simply ooze along, feeling defeated, worthless, made of fail.

While Victor and I were talking, I felt radiant – but it’s wearing off as the moments tick by.

I wish I could keep him in my pocket.


April 12th, 2008
I realized today that the previous entry is not one to just leave hanging and not post again for several months.

Thanks to everyone who commented, called, chatted, texted or emailed to make sure all is indeed well in my world – as everything does, this will pass. I just have to actively haul my own ass out of it this time.

I did get some good news today; I’ve won a $1500 scholarship for academic excellence to help pay for next year’s schooling – yay. I’m busting reasonable ass to maintain my 4.0, and I don’t see that being a problem unless something goes unexpectedly and hideously awry.

Something about the responses to the last post, though – two of the anecdotes I received were about physical strength; prying Joseph off of Victor and lifting the garage off of Wes, had very little to do with the sort of inner strength I need to recapture; but, strangely… they both made me feel better, anyhow.

Kevin: that’s a true story, right?
12:18 AM
me: what, sorry?

Kevin: wes’s garage fell on him

me: oh, the lj post

Kevin: and you lifted it off?

me: OH!!!

LOL

where did you hear that?

Kevin: from wes

me: god, when did he tell you that?

Kevin: as he told it, you kept him from being crushed

me: and yeah, it’s true

Kevin: 2 days after it happened

me: lol

true story

Kevin: there was a pile of garage

and a bruised, sheepish wes
12:19 AM
me: i’d forgotten about that

Kevin: one does not see a lot of sheepish wes

so I was naturally curious

me: LOL LOL

that was the big garage demolition project. fun stuff.

Kevin: yeah
12:20 AM
it’s funny

—————————

Ok. I hear NavyFIELD calling me, because my brain is fried after shoving too much nervous system anatomy into it – oh, the irony…

It is too late to be writing and not sleeping

However, here I am.

For those of you with needle or blood phobias, you’ll want to stop reading here.

Another phlebotomy class is in the books. Today, I was partnered with the non-recovered cotton-ball-phobe. I let her draw on me first, and discovered she is a very sweet girl. As she meticulously assembled all of her materials, she picked up the plastic cup with the screw-on top which housed her nemeses – the cotton balls. She held it up, drew a deep breath and opened it resolutely.

The cup had been packed so full with balls, when she removed the lid, they actually puffed up out of the cup at her. She startled with an “OO!” and was visibly alarmed. I chuckled out loud, thinking she would recover quickly, but she paused, just staring at them, and said, “they just jumped right out at me!”

I managed to get my giggles under control and explained I wasn’t laughing at her fear, just that of all the people to have cotton balls jump out at, of course it had to be her. I offered that I also hate the sound cotton balls make, and said it reminded me of the sound wet wool socks make when you rub them.

Her eyes widened and lit up, and she got this look of long-lost kinship… this almost faraway, “at last, someone who gets me!” look… upon her angelic face. “Exactly!” she exclaimed. “Exactly,” she said quietly, almost to herself. She shuddered.

She soldiered on through the ordeal of getting the cotton ball out and placed on the table. She drew my blood via Vacutainer without incident and put the cotton ball on my arm. Good girl! She did a great job, start to finish, and there was almost no discomfort whatsoever.

The second draw was via syringe, which I hate on both ends; it’s intimidating to draw and it hurts a hell of a lot more, too, for some reason. My theory is that the syringe needle seems less flexible, and therefore transmits every single movement quite sternly to the flesh. On the receiving side, that really sucks. On the drawing side, I know that it hurts more, and it sucks being the person delivering the hurt. Plus there’s more stuff one has to do with a syringe draw.

She got herself all set up. The syringe poke hurt like hell, but she got blood and I got a hematoma. It’s still swollen and bruised, and I reckon will probably be just about healed by next week. Alas. I don’t blame her at all; this was the first week we were basically completely on our own; Stacy was across the room, helping someone else and my partner had a lot on her mind. She did a good job for our level of achievement thus far, and certainly better than I would do.

Then it was my turn. As I was filling out my “patient information form,” I noticed her birth date: October 22, 1988.

I very nearly fell down.

“You were born the year I graduated high school,” I said. “In fact, I had already begun my freshman year of college when you took your first breath! Holy Shit!”

Nevertheless, I pushed ahead. The veins on her left arm were great; with very little fuss or muss, I nabbed a quick two Vacutainers of blood and was internally pretty damned satisfied with myself. I felt like the little girl in the commercial way back when (was it for Betty Crocker?) who says, “and I helped!” but instead I’m saying “and I did it all by myself!”

I placed her cotton ball, took the needle out and began my post-procedural… um, procedures. After about a minute, I realized she was still holding the cotton ball and what that implied with this particular girl. “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! Let’s get your Band-Aid on.” She sighed relief.

I prepped her for the syringe draw, already psyching myself out and knowing that was just a stupid, self-defeating thing to do. One vein in her right arm felt great; plump and juicy, just beneath the surface… but was invisible to the inexperienced eye. I could feel it, but I couldn’t see it.

When getting a blood sample, one palpates for the vein, one wipes the area with alcohol… and then one must not touch that area again. To do so would be to contaminate the sterile surface. Thus, if one is inexperienced in the subtle arts of visual vein location, one can easily lose one’s place.

My veins are easily visible from across the room; I never realized that other people’s veins aren’t usually like that. This makes phlebotomy much more of an art than a science.

I’ve never been much of an artist.

I thought I had the right spot, but I admit – when I looked back to her arm after grasping the syringe, I felt a moment of abject panic. I’d lost it. It was Not Visible, not at all. Well, nothing for it, I have to try.

I must’ve been a millimeter or two off. I poked, I pulled back the plunger… nothing. Nothing but an “Oo” of discomfort from my patient. Stacy had said, “if you don’t get blood, don’t pull out – call me.” She was across the room, so I called out calmly, “Stacy, if you’re not occupied, could you please come here?”

Meanwhile, my patient has a needle in her arm. Stacy is busy. I push in slightly – nothing. I pull out slightly – nothing. My patient is clearly not enjoying the process, so I made the executive decision to pull out. Cotton ball again, sorry, but this time we put the Band-Aid on much more quickly.

She was great about the whole thing, very understanding about the level of discomfort with the syringe, said I did a great job both times, et cetera. Just a very sweet girl.

A sweet girl with the damnest fear of cotton balls!

I was tempted to tell her that I’d written about her, and that I would probably write about her again tonight… but for now, I think I’ll just keep that between you and me.

Later in the day, a $13,000 bird would be crawling all over me, refusing to let go, and at one point, I thought he might do a little venipuncture on my jugular. That, however, is a story for when it is not 2:30am in the morning.

Phlebotomy

From the Latin, “phleb,” meaning “to flounder” and “otomy,” meaning “around in a person’s actual living flesh.”

I’m taking Introductory Phlebotomy this term, as perhaps you have surmised. I looked forward to this class with a sort of glee: I would actually get to do stuff! Medical stuff! I planned to totally rock at it. I have no needle phobia, a high tolerance for pain, and an undying curiosity about all things medical. Bring it!

This is a Saturday class, with lecture for an hour and a half, and lab for an hour and a half. Usually, both are shorter.

During the first week of class, we spent an hour being lectured to on how to properly wash one’s’ hands. This may sound silly; however, when you’re dealing with bodily fluids and venipuncture and whatnot, you’ll want to be certain to be somewhat sanitary. So, we all washed our hands. A lot.

During class, two people (not one person, but TWO real, living, functional human beings) professed a fear of… cotton balls. Seriously. One of them is taking the class expressly to overcome her fear of them. While I cannot say I am afraid of cotton balls, per se, I can absolutely appreciate the foundation of their phobia: The sound cotton balls make when you rub them together. I hate that sound! It makes my skin crawl. Still, to out oneself with a bona fide fear of such an odd thing… it certainly takes a measure of courage.

Another student says she cries whenever she gets poked with a needle. Two say they might pass out. The only male present says he might cry, too. I admire their courage in taking the class, too. I mean, I’m taking this class largely because I thought it would be fun and interesting, and don’t especially mind the penetrative part. Them? They’re coming into school on a Saturday and facing a fear. Impressive.

Week two: We learned about the Vacutainer system, as well as the steps one goes through in order to get a clean draw. This was largely review for me, having done a few draws on canids during my time at Wolf Haven. The Vacutainer system is pretty much (fortunately) idiot-proof. For lab, we went through a faux-draw, doing all of the steps, minus the sharp, pointy bits.

One of the cotton-ball-phobes conquers her fear. The other has a hard time picking one up.

Week three: Actual venipuncture. There are no dummies, no oranges, no substitutes for actual blood-carrying vessels and the nerves in between them and the outside world. No. We applied our tourniquets to our quivering partners and we jabbed a needle into their arms. Some of us did it twice.

Thankfully, the instructors do not simply sit by and say, “GO!” as we stab, stab, stab our unwitting victims randomly in their elbowy parts. They actually hold our trembling hands and guide us to the proper angle, and to the proper depth. On week three, they did not go probing around for the vein, should it have rolled or not been where we thought it was.

My partner for my first draw had truly stunning veins, which was fantastic. I got blood on both draws. I have no actual memory, however, of the first one. I remember prepping her, I remember Stacy (our lab instructor) standing at my side and holding my right hand. Somehow, magically, the needle got put in correctly, I put on my tube, switched my tube and completed the procedure. Wow! I rule! Phlebotomy is so flipping easy!

I also have pretty spectacular veins (at least for now,) so my partner was able to get blood on me, too, and she did a fine job of it. I offered to let anyone who didn’t get blood draw on me, and Stacy happened to notice the tattoo I have on my right deltoid. “No wonder you don’t mind needles, young lady – you’ve had thousands of ’em.” Well, yes… sort of.

Week four: More of the same. I am paired up with a different partner, a medium-skinned woman from the Caribbean with teeny, tiny, deep veins that roll if you look at them oddly. Again, Stacy guided me, even helped me to locate the probable puncture point. No blood. Not on the first draw, and not on the second one. Not even on the fricking third one. Wow! I suck! Phlebotomy is so flipping hard!

During her draws on me, the first one went just fine. My veins are very superficial, quite large and do not roll. The tourniquet is mostly a formality in my case – my blood simply leaps into the tube. On the second draw, she apparently cranked the tourniquet down a bit too much, and as soon as she punctured the vein, a small spurt of blood popped out of my skin and scared the pants off of her. She recovered well, I reassured her that I was fine, and she completed the procedure.

After she was done, Stacy asked her, “Do you want to know what happened?” “YES,” we both said in unison. “Well… you can really tie a tourniquet, girl.” My partner opted not to attempt a third draw, and I bruised up quite nicely.

Week five: We learn about syringe draws. Many phlebotomy people seem to prefer the syringe draw, because it offers them a “finer grain of control of the flow of blood.” I’ve yet to be impressed with this in practice, but I can appreciate it in theory. Last week, however, I hated that fricking syringe.

My partner (the recovered cotton-ball-phobe) is a heavier girl with pale skin and no veins. Whatsoever. Upon palpation and visual inspection, we can only assume her blood returns to her heart via diffusion. We ratchet down the tourniquet, we hold her arm lower than her heart. Jerry, the other instructor, guides my hand in – nothing. We root around in her arm for a good 45 seconds, hunting.

More precisely, Jerry roots around in her arm, holding my hand captive in the process, with his feet spread apart and standing in this crazed sprinter starting-line position. My eyes are as big as my head. I am horrified. Surely, that could not be comfortable. Further, there was this wild battle raging in my head: On the one hand, I wanted my hand to be as limp as possible as Jerry “guided” me toward my prey; on the other hand, it is nearly impossible to fight the urge to try and hold one’s hand still when grasping a very thin, sharp instrument that is currently inserted into another human being’s living tissue.

Who won that battle for control of my appendage, I haven’t a clue: Jerry could’ve thought he was wrestling an alligator or grasping an al dente linguine. I was too conflicted to remember. Incidentally, this may not bode well for a life in trauma, but one hopes this sort of initial shock wears off after one acclimates briefly.

At any rate, back into this young lady’s dermal tissue, because that’s where I was. Not one damn drop of blood. She claims it doesn’t hurt, honestly. We give up anyhow. SHIT! Not again! Since we only get to do this once a week, having two no-blood weeks in a row would be totally devastating to my confidence.

On the second draw, we went back to the comfortable realm of the Vacutainer, and Stacy assisted. Stacy, wise after 20-mumble years at this sort of thing, sagely advised me thusly: “Aim for last week’s puncture mark – we got blood on that one.” Following her advise, I did my very first solo poke, and it worked like a charm. Yay! I love Phlebotomy!

At this point, several people have had days when they didn’t get blood. We have to have new partners every week, so at the beginning of class, we’re all sort of sizing each other up, some trying not to be totally obvious about it, others with eyes as big as saucers. We all look like new junkies, with our little bruises and track marks. No one has cried, screamed or passed out. There have been a few, loud “OUCH!” yelps and at least one, “HEY! That really hurt!”

Mostly, we’re functioning as a team, a team whose sport is to punch holes in each other’s circulatory systems, who are all stuck on the same boat, and that boat is the pirate ship, “Fledgling, Fumbling Vampyre.”

Avast.

I’m hoping my perfect, plump and willing veins don’t become overwrought from this class… giving blood has always been a breeze for me, and that’s not something I’d like to see slip-sliding away.

Ideally, we’d have this class several times per week… doing it two or three times, once per week, it just doesn’t build up the skill set terribly quickly. Still, I’m getting to Do Stuff. Medical Stuff.

And that’s good.

UUUuuuuugggggghhhh. Et cetera.

I am made of phlegm.

Aren’t you glad I’m posting, so you got to see that? 😉

Apparently, in Michigan, I get sick once per year instead of “never.” And when I get The Thing That Gets Me Sick, it makes me very, very sick. Since last Sunday, my throat has been on fire, and I have coughed up the equivalent of 148 lungs. I’ve had to excuse myself from several classes to go have coughing fits in the halls, lest I make everyone crazy.

Ever since early childhood, I have loathed Chloraseptic. It is the product in the world which most tastes like its color. Green Chloraseptic tastes unabashedly green, and not in a fun way. Red Chloraseptic tastes like the foulest perversion of “cherry” ever conceived in hell. They’ve come out with a new flavor, “Orange.” “Orange” is ostensibly “Soothing Citrus” in taste, but in truth… it just tastes orange, with undercurrents of green.

Also, in reading the directions, I was astonished to find the following. Bear in mind, this is throat spray. Spray that is applied to one’s throat.

“Apply to affected area. Allow to remain in place for at least 15 seconds, then spit out.

SERIOUSLY?

If you can apply anything to your esophagus (or better yet, to your oro- or laryngopharynx, which is what’s really hurting in my case) for “at least 15 seconds” and then spit it out, I will give you a dollar.

The rest of my life, briefly:

Nose to the Grindstone
Have a job – making minimum wage, but at a very, very cool pet shop here in Lansing. Love the people, love the philosophy, love the place. Come visit me at Preuss Pets!

Work and school are not good bedmates. Additionally, Anatomy, Micro lecture, Micro lab, Phlebotomy and Techniques of Study and work are really not good bedmates. At all. I got my first “B” on an exam – not happy. This past week, I had an Anatomy lecture exam Monday, a Micro lab exam first thing Tuesday, immediately followed by an Anatomy lab exam, immediately followed by a Micro exam. Monday night, I worked a killer 7-hour shift during which I had almost no assistance due to 2 people being sick. Worked til 10, was absolutely fried that night and couldn’t study. Thus, I got 3 out of 30 wrong on my Micro lab exam and got a damn “B.” It’s only a 1-credit class, so if I had to screw one of the four exams up, that was the one to biff. I got the highest score on my Anatomy and Micro lecture exams, though, and I suspect I aced my Anatomy lab exam, too – all good news.

Bad news is, most of my exam schedules will go this way – one exam Monday, and then three more exams on Tuesday. Or, one on Wednesday, and three more Thursday. I do not recommend taking Anatomy 4 days per week, and I hesitated doing so because I worried about this very reason: We get new material every day, right up until the day before the exam. This sucks.

Bad Volunteer
I have not had one single volunteer shift at the ED this year. I haven’t had the time – I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go. This is miserable, because they’ve moved into the new (presumably gorgeous) ED. I have yet to see it. This also sucks.

“Honestly, it’s just from school…”
Phlebotomy is very cool, but daunting. Also, I look like a junkie with bruised and tracked arms.

One Class, One Year
I had wanted to apply to the nursing program in June of this year. However, since I will not have completed Physiology by the time that deadline arrives (I’ll have just started the class in June,) I will not be considered. Applications are only accepted once per year. I have to wait until June of next year to apply. This is a good-news/bad-news-type deal. On the one hand, I don’t have to take Physiology during the 8-week summer term, and I’ll have time to take Spanish or some other interesting courses during my extra year. On the other (sucky) hand, I have to wait a whole nother year.

Critters
Dogs are good – spending a lot of time at Mom’s, so they aren’t home by themselves all day. I have not adopted any kittens from work, despite bonding hugely with several of them.

Inclement Awesomeness
We’ve had a snotload of snow lately, and it’s very cool. The Forester mocks the snow and most of the cars on the road. It rocks, apart from burning a lot of oil – that sucks.

The Fine Art of Negotiation
Two days ago, two enterprising young neighborhood kids knocked on the door and offered to shovel our (very short) driveway. “How much,” I asked. The older kid looked at the younger kid, and they pretended to consider it very carefully. “What do you think, ten bucks?” the older kid asked. “Yeah,” the younger agreed. It was already about a third of the way done, but I considered how much my time and back strain was worth. I countered with $5. They took it and I ended up giving them $6. I figured 20 minutes of study time and a lack of back pain was worth two gallons of gas.

Remaining Unspoiled
In this day and age, it’s incredibly easy to be inadvertently spoiled for something, like the Harry Potter book or Battlestar Galactica. However, I have managed to remain as pure as the driven snow on two things: 1.) Anything related to Harry Potter after the second movie and 2.) Anything having to do with the television series, “Lost.” Generally, I shy away from things that are All The Rage. “Lost” was so hyped, I didn’t bother, even though Wendy swore it was the best thing ever. My Dad, step-sister, and step-mom, however, convinced me to give it a shot. I watched all of season one in the course of three days. Then, I convinced H to watch it and we spent New Year’s Day and every waking moment following watching season one and two. We were utterly blown away by every episode.

What was very cool was that I had absolutely no idea what was coming – I’d never seen a preview or heard any rumors. It was as fresh as the morning dew. We immediately launched into season three, and midway into it (for reasons into which I shall not go) I got up and walked out in the middle of an episode, disgusted with the lack of creativity. Eventually, I came back and watched all of season three, too, and I’m watching season four as it unfolds – but only grudgingly and for a sense of eventual closure.

“Lost” seems to have lost its luster, and this makes me sad.

Drips
Every single plumbing fixture in our house, bar none, has leaked or is currently leaking. Our landladies are not, shall we say, “into spending money.” Still, the house is very cozy, thanks to H’s knack at decorating.

Schools of a different variety
My aquarium is doing very well, happily. I love it, and spend a couple of hours a week just sitting and enjoying it. There’s always something absolutely fascinating going on in there. I’d like to grow my school of Harlequin rasboras to 12ish, and my Celebes rainbows to more like 8. I’m less enamored with the Cherry barbs than I initially was, but they do nibble on algae. If they’re not nibbling on algae, they are spawning in the hornwort or in the polysperma. I love my little albino bristlenose pleco, who is a total spaz. My amano shrimp are utterly fascinating, and every time I see one of them swimming freely, all I can hear is the sound the flying cars made in “The Jetsons.” My couple of dozen snails of various sorts are more intriguing than I could have ever imagined, and I can literally sit for an hour watching them alone. The borrowed betta was donated, because his previous owner was concerned I’d become too attached to him. More correctly, I was concerned that the betta had become too attached to his palatial estates and wouldn’t be happy in a small home.

Thus far, the contents are as follows:

Fauna:
8 Cherry bars
5 Harlequin rasboras
4 Celebes rainbows
7 amano shrimp
1 betta
1 bristlenose pleco
30-ish snails, ramshorn, nerite and Malaysian trumpet snails

Flora:
Hornwort
Dwarf baby tears
Anubias nana
Ludwigia perennis
H. polysperma
Cabomba
Bolbitis
Echinodorus “apart”
Amazon sword
Water lettuce
Red tiger lotus

Filtering everything is a Fluval 305 canister filter, and it’s lit with 78 watts of Hagen GLO HO T5’s. Much of this aquarium has come together through the generosity of friends – good people!

Which brings me to…

Conflicting Interests
Working in the pet industry is a double-edged sword. I’m not going to go into it much right now, but we sell live insects, live arthropods, live fish, and live rodents as feeders. I’m not entirely comfortable with this. We also sell kittens (though not as food,) and I am adamantly against selling dogs or cats in pet stores. We’re not buying from “kitten mills,” but it’s still an uneasy feeling. I love being able to help educate people about how to properly care for their animals, and getting people excited about pets in general, but there’s a certain sense of betraying my little animal friends at times. I do good where I can.

Wrong Number
Even though I only worked at the motorcycle shop for 8 months, and even though that was over a year ago, I am frequently battling the urge to answer the phone at work, “Parts, Erin speaking.” Thus far, I’m winning. At some point, though, there will be at least one very confused customer on the line.

Airborne
There is a cold remedy product out there called “Airborne;” many people swear by it, and it seems to help me a tiny bit. However, should a chunk of the fizzing tablet not dissolve, and should said chunk come to rest on the tip of one’s tongue…that chunk will burn the living shit out of you as it effervesces. Ouch.

Red, Hot & Bald
captainblack Must be so loving all of this cold weather. I know I am, because (evidently,) I am either entering early menopause or have some other disorder. I am flushed and hot most of the time – not just in flashes, but like 80% of my entire existence. This has been going on since before I came back to Michigan – it’s just gotten worse here. Also, my hair is falling out. I’ve lost half of my hair. This totally sucks. If I become even slightly warm, I turn beet red. Thus, I’ve been loving the freezing temperatures. I never wear long sleeves anymore. I have no clue what I’ll do when warm weather returns, other than flee North.[EDIT, years later: It was the Niacin I was taking. Fun!]

The State of the State
Fleeing North (and West) is incredibly appealing in so many ways, because I am very angry with pretty much the entire state of Michigan – but mostly with Michigan’s politicians, present and past. However, I have obligations here for some time, and just have to do what I can to try and help in small ways.

Done.
I think I have to be done now – my head is going to explode from coughing too much. Maybe lying down will help. I still haven’t read anybody’s anything in months. I’m torn between doing that versus maintaining a 4.0 and detoxing in front of the fish tank. 🙁

When I Am Not Studying, I Am Assuredly Doing This

If I’m not glued to Anatomy or Micro, I am glued to the glass of my tank. Through the generosity of several local hobbyists, and thanks to a bunch of cool people at the overwhelmingly awesome Preuss Pets, I have an aquarium. It’s even well-stocked. It doesn’t look like much right now, but after it grows in a bit, I think it’ll begin looking quite pretty.

Anyone not interested in fish, skip the following down to the “Non-Fish Stuff Starts Here.” For those of you amongst us who are fish geeks, here are the particulars:

Equipment:
50-gallon breeder
Hagen GLO HO T5 light bar with 1 x 39W PowerGLO and 1 x 39W Current 10,000k Daylight bulbs
Fluval 305 (currently getting inoculated, so I’m also running the original Penguin 330 my friend Joshua lent me)
Stealth heater

Fauna:
8 Cherry barbs (4 male, 4 female…although it looks like one of the females has bloat. Half were given to me, including the bloaty one.)
3 Harlequin rasboras (these were donated – I plan to obtain at least 3 more when the shop gets them in to help them feel more comfortable. Thankfully, these are cheap.)
1 male betta (borrowed – helped get the cycle really going after it cycled on its own for awhile, and will be returned shortly. I think he’ll be disappointed to be booted out of his Emporium, but I’m not all that fond of bettas.)
1 albino bristlenose pleco
4 amano shrimp (3 male, 1 female – I think. One of these was donated.)
2 celebes rainbows (male/female)

I think I’m going to stay with these species, at least for now, but up the number of rasboras and celebes as I’m able. I don’t want a crazy mishmash of random species – I’d like larger numbers in the existing schools, so the fish are happier and so I can see more natural behavior.

Flora:
8 Ludwigia perennis
8 Cabomba
1 slew of a variety of Hygro (green with pink tops, shh)
6 blyxa japonica
2 giant wads of hornwort
1 echinodorus “apart”
1 other amazon sword
1 clump Potamogen crispus
1 clump giant hydro
1 red tiger lotus
2 pots of dwarf baby tears
1 4″ rhizome Bolbitis
10 Water lettuce
A very few duckweed

I don’t mind a random mishmash of plants, at least for now. I’m not Aquascaping – I’m just making something I think is nice to look at.

I love my aquarium and all of its inhabitants. Apart from the cherry barbs spawning like mad constantly, it’s very peaceful in there. Sadly, one of the female cherry barbs may have bloat, which is likely fatal. Other than that (and a minor outbreak of new-tank-algae due to low nitrates, which has been duly cleared up by the assorted critters) all is well thus far.

Lots of plants, relatively low bioload at this point, so I’m supplementing Nitrogen and Carbon darily and a comprehensive fertilizer once a week. Someday, a CO2 set-up, if I can find one on the (very) cheap.

More photos, from inception to a couple of days ago, are here. I’m also keeping an obsessive journal about the whole affair, which I won’t drag any of you through. 😉

Non-Fish Stuff Starts Here
I think I’m regaining humanity, after a shock of a first week of class. Some of you might remember me whinging about how easy classes were last term. Yes. Well. I needn’t have worried about that as a pattern. This term is quite serious.

Anatomy
Microbiology
Micro lab
Phlebotomy
Techniques of Study

Five classes, which, rather vexingly, result in a measly twelve credits! Twelve! I had to pick up the last class just to make full-time status, and yet the workload is enormous.

Ah well; I’ll have three of my Bio requirements knocked out, plus extra application points for the Phleb. Perhaps the development class will prove useful – I’m taking it online so it’s not quite as annoying as it might otherwise be.

I’ve met a very nifty group of people here at a local pet shop that are rapidly becoming my home base for friends. S, K and J have all sort of adopted me. K is one of the most intelligent and well-educated people I’ve met – he’s literally like having a walking encyclopedia on-hand for anything related to biology, zoology, geography, geology, chemistry, entomology… any of the hard sciences. His wife, S, is also extremely intelligent and well-read. Like my friend R, K and S have no television, and they spend pretty much every waking moment reading, and reading non-fiction at that. Very cool.

S and K will soon be moving in with J and his boyfriend, H2. J is sweet and kind and funny and fun. It’s nice finding a niche of people I relate easily with – even if I’m easily the most ignorant person in the room. They’re all very tolerant of my questions and lack of knowledge.

Today, I had a promising job interview; very promising, I have to say. I should hear back in a few days. The business owner and his wife evidently thought highly of me; now to see if they think well enough of me to make room in the schedule for me.

Living with H is going well, although I think she’s disappointed that I don’t like to spend most of my time hanging out in the living room with her, watching TV and chatting. I’m a denning creature; I like my room, especially now that there’s a fish tank in it. 🙂 I compromise and come out and play sometimes, but I really don’t like the shows she watches, often to the point of not being able to be in the same room with them for more than a moment. Still, we get along well.

H quickly turned the house into a home with a very nice eye for interior decorating on a dime. I’d planned to spend the break playing Bioshock, but instead… got hooked on “Lost.” Oh, man – I lost a HONKLOAD of time to “Lost.” H and I spent 4 days doing very little but watching the first two seasons. She’s finished season three, and I’m about halfway through. The third season has left me somewhat cooled, though – the first two kept me guessing constantly, but I almost feel like it’s predictable now. Of course, that will assuredly come back to bite me.

What else…

Yesterday and the day before, I woke up with such insane vertigo that I flung my arms and legs out to the sides from a complete, deep state of REM sleep and couldn’t get my head straight for several hours. While the initial extreme passed in about 5 minutes, a lesser version lurked. Today, it wasn’t nearly as bad, but still it’s somewhat of a concern. I hope it’s just a sinus or ear anomaly. Other than that, health is good, other than I am hot and totally flushed ALL THE TIME. I just don’t get cold anymore. Ever. This single-digit cold snap we’re having? Refreshing. I may perish in summer.

Mental state is pretty good, and will improve if I get this job.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my Long Days of class, with solid Bio from 10:30am until 3pm, so I need to sleep now.

Sorry about the long, boring update. I actually do have more interesting things I want to write about, but for now, the mundane.

Nite

Would You Care About These Characters?

“Wait,” Thurston stated slowly. “Tell me again why you had your date drop you home before you even arrived at the restaurant?”

“’Jabberwocky,’” she said. “He’d never heard of ‘Jabberwocky.’”

“And how, exactly, did ‘Jabberwocky’ come up in casual first-date conversation within the first 25 minutes?”

“I said, ‘Chickens sort of freak me out,’ and he said, ‘Chickens? Seriously?’ and I said, ‘Yeah. They make me nervous. They’re so reptilian.’ Then he said, ‘So… like, do you run away or freeze up or go all ping-pong Yoda on them, or…’ so I said, ‘Well, it’s not like I whip out my vorpal blade on them or anything,’ and he interrupted me and said, ‘your what?’”

“He didn’t know what a ‘vorpal blade’ was.”

“Exactly,” she said, touching his arm lightly, relieved he understood.

“So you had him bring you right back home.”

“Of course!”

“Did it occur to you,” Thurston stated slowly, as if to a crazy person, “that full-contact Lewis Carroll on a first date might be considered a breach of some sort of first-date etiquette? I mean, it’s not as if you’d quote Homer or Dickens or Hemmingway and expect him to step up, right? Even so, surely drawing a blank on ‘vorpal blade’ is a pretty small offense.”

“You’d think,” she paused for effect. “However, you haven’t heard the rest of the story.”

Thurston settled back into the chair and arched an eyebrow.

“I could forgive simply misplacing the terminology,” she continued. “If I’d slipped him a “slithy tove” reference and he’d initially been perplexed but then suddenly regained footing when I gave him the source, well that would have been fine, naturally. However. He had never heard of the bloody poem! ‘Jabberwhat?’ he’d asked, looking at me as if I’d turned into a … well, into a slithy tove – not that he’d know what one even was.”

“Honestly, Helen. You’ll never have a second date if you keep terminating them before they have the opportunity to tell the jokes they’ve been plotting all week or to pull out your chair at the dinner table!” He was vexed. “What possesses you to become such an incredible snob after you tell them you would, in fact, like to go on a date? This poor man has probably been hovering in a horrific state of anticipation and terror all week because you agreed to go out with him. He might have imagined that it wouldn’t go smashingly well, but never in his wildest nightmares did he think it would end before you even arrived at the restaurant.”

“I’m sorry.” She sounded genuinely forlorn. “He seemed nice, and well-rounded and literate and sweet, but I can’t imagine myself having a serious relationship with someone who has never heard of one of my favorite childhood poems! I could recite ‘Jabberwocky’ by the time I was five! “

“Fine, but do you think it’s a bit, oh, I don’t know, desperately sad to begin planning your future disappointments with someone you’ve only just met? Perhaps he’s a perfectly wonderful person, a well-rounded and articulate person, who just managed to escape the ravages of Lewis Carroll?”

“How you ‘escape’ the classics?”

“You have the misfortune to live in an abysmal school system. You have parents who don’t place a high value on what have been historically considered ‘the classics.’ Your teachers focus on authors who weren’t overtly influenced by hallucinogens. You read it once long ago, it failed to make an impression, and it is lost to the ravages of time.”

“That’s the second time you’ve said ‘ravages’ in the last thirty seconds.”

“I don’t suppose you could stop being such an English major for a moment…”

“Have we met?”

“Right.”

“Allow me to frame it thusly: You’re a music person. Could you date someone who hadn’t ever heard of Pink Floyd?”

“You’re comparing Lewis Carroll to Floyd? Are you out of your mind?” He pondered for a moment. “Actually, that’s not a bad analogy. Still, I object to it on general principle.”

“Whatever. Could you?”

Thurston thought awhile before answering. “I could educate him in the ways of Pink Floyd. I could teach him, try to instill a genuine appreciation of the nuances, of the passion. As long as he got it…”

“Sure, but Floyd wouldn’t have been an integral part of his growing up. He wouldn’t remember tentatively playing ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ on a boom-box in a corner of the playground in elementary school, quietly, rebelliously singing, ‘we don’t need no education!!’ He wouldn’t have seen ‘The Wall’ in high school or college and had his tender mind blown and expanded. He wouldn’t be able to hear three notes and identify David Gilmour’s hands on a guitar, and be sent soaring back in time to the nights spent in his room listening to ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Those are part of your formative experiences. Floyd is hard-wired into your brain, and I don’t think you could share true intimacy with someone who didn’t have, if not a vaguely similar set of experiences, at least a memory of those songs during those times. You’d always have this gap, this disconnect. That’s how deep is my Lewis Carroll disconnect with Pablo.”

Thurston continued his pondering, wondering what it would be like, having a long-term relationship with someone who didn’t grok “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!” and with whom he couldn’t share the memory of the boyhood joys of air-guitaring through brilliant, sweeping solos, of the moment of clarity when they each first realized what was behind the story of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” and were struck with the tragedy of it all.

Finally, he capitulated. “You may be right. The baseline wouldn’t be there, but I don’t know that I’d absolutely disqualify someone, especially on the first bloody date, for not knowing Floyd.”

“You’re a far more generous soul than I am,” Helen sighed.

They watched the fire dancing and went on in comfortable silence for a very long time, and she rested her head upon his shoulder contentedly.

This Just Makes Me Sick

This isn’t a “Bush Sucks” entry, but consider the icon to apply to politics as a whole. I am not well-versed in politics, so this whole thing may be utter crap – and if it is, please tell me so. Help me to learn and to understand why this is not a clusterfuck, or if I’ve got the right idea but the wrong reasoning.

This has been on my mind for quite awhile, but I’ve been focused elsewhere. Tonight, reading a link from the Stilyagi list, I read the article from group member Larry Kestenbaum and that pretty much broke me. I have to say something.

As many of you know, in a slow-moving train wreck, Michigan has moved up its Presidential primary election to January 15. Officials made the move ostensibly to make Michigan’s primary election outcome “more relevant.” The battle has been long and I feel haggard after having watched it. It’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.

Instead of “making Michigan more relevant,” they have made Michigan completely irrelevant. We’ve been stripped of our Democratic delegates entirely, and our Republican delegates have been halved. How flipping relevant are we now?! We have 156 delegates, a not insignificant number. So now what? We hope that the media attention our election gets will influence other states’ elections?

Michigan is a state that both parties have taken reasonably seriously over the years; with our auto-making industry and other important sectors, Michigan has been an important state to win. With our economy in the trash and businesses leaving town as if they are on fire, is this really the time to go mucking about with our political relevance? Seriously, I’m asking – is it the perfect time or the worst time?

Granted, I think the electoral college is complete bullshit. Its era has come and gone – we need a straight popular vote to avoid the types of debacles we’ve seen in recent times. [See comments for some really good discussions of the electoral college] However, I also don’t want to start having primary elections before Christmas, so I understand that there needs to be some sort of cap on the earliest possible date.

One of the most vexing problems is that now I can’t even vote for my candidate of choice, Barack Obama, in the primary because he withdrew due to pressure from the states whose primaries we’re trodding upon, Iowa and New Hampshire.

I’ve still got Hillary to vote for, but good grief – I don’t really want to. If she wins the nomination, I’ll vote for her … but once again, it would be voting for the lesser of two evils, rather than for someone I’m really excited about.

Also, I feel rather strongly that two families should not have a stranglehold on our highest office. If Hillary is elected and serves out her full term, maybe even two… think back to how long it will have been since a Clinton or a Bush was not in the Oval Office.

One of my Senators, Carl Levin, had this to say:

“The threat not to seat the delegates of Michigan and Florida at the Democratic convention is a hollow threat. They will be seated, and when they are, it will be plain for all to see that the privileged position that New Hampshire and Iowa have extracted through threats and pledges from candidates is on its last legs.”

Of course the Senator is far wiser in the ways of politics than I am, and perhaps our delegates will be seated. However, as Larry Kestenbaum notes in the article below, neither hotel rooms nor floor space are reserved for them at the convention.

Everyone wants to be first.

What. The. Fuck? Why the pissing contest? Is a failed attempt at relevance actually worth this punishment?

If Senator Levin, a man I’ve long respected, is correct, and this is a battle mainly to uproot the status quo, then I’m a little less annoyed by it; however, I can’t help but see it as anything but bad news.

Debbie Dingell, a DNC member from Michigan, said (from the same article as Levin,) “Michigan will pull together. We know how to fight.” Yeah. We know how to fight amongst ourselves. Our state representatives are fan-freaking-tastic at in-fighting. Our unions and companies know how to trade body-blows. But this is the damn Presidential election! Have we not learned yet what happens when we have the slightest screw-up during this process?

Am I missing the whole point of this rebellion? tlatoani, help me out here.

Larry Kestenbaum, Washtenaw Clerck/Register (and just a heck of a nice guy with a brain weighing more than you and I put together) wrote an informative article about what’s going to happen with the primary. Unfortunately, and I would imagine, due to his position, he cannot speak extensively about what the pros and cons of this outcome are. Instead, he concludes with this: “We election officials aren’t happy with this state of affairs, but it’s our job to conduct the election according to law.”

Who is happy with this state of affairs?

Who wins?

Not Michigan.

History

Taking a break from studying, I looked up my hometown on Wikipedia to see what was there.

As I read about our famous residents, I recalled a comment my cousin made. My great uncle Dick (my dad’s mom’s brother) evidently went to school with Malcom X for a time. His single comment about Malcom X? “That kid was an arrogant asshole.” I can’t help but wonder if assholes like my uncle Dick and other conservative white people in Ingham County embittered a young, ambitious black kid who dreamed of becoming a lawyer. I’m sure there was no end to the mocking of him. [sigh]

Uncle Dick’s daughter now lives in the house a few doors South from where I lived at Grandpa’s. Her entire third floor used to be packed with relics from the Civil War. Apparently, the house belonged to a colonel in the war, and he had just a ton of stuff stored there. Much to my dismay (and, I’m sure, to the dismay of the entire family,) it was all stolen and sold off. It would have been absolutely fascinating to rummage through there. Alas.

Boggle. Timing.

After a long, hard day of rental-hunting after giving my horrifically dry presentation on acute lymphoblastic leukemia, I came home, plunked down and turned on “Stargate: Atlantis” to begin my Night of No Studying.

Fifteen minutes in, I am stupefied to hear the new bad guy telling us how his daughter is suffering from a nearly identical disorder (“acute lymphocytic leukemia,”) and how some of the preferred treatments I presented this morning (induction chemotherapy, Vincristine, Prednisone and cranial irradiation) were not working.

I could’ve cited 677 clinical trials to take a look at prior to injecting his daughter with nanites, but we only have 45-ish minutes per episode, after all.

Funny timing, though. 🙂

Proper Attire

Outside each trauma room in the ED is a small sign stating the following:

“Proper attire is required. Do not enter without hat, mask, gown and gloves.”

The trauma rooms could be filled with people who look …

LIKE THIS!