Capsule study finally over!

I’m trashed. I’ve been up since 3:30 and now I’m too tired to rest.

Today was Mama’s capsule study at the gastrointestinal lab. I woke up at 3:30 for the dog to go potty, and just as I was about to doze back off at 4:30, she called to entreat me to get up and dress. So I got up, dressed, ate some of that diet “oatmeal” stuff, and put her in the car to head towards the hospital around 5 AM. We got there a little before six, just as the lab techs and nurses were getting there. Man, was this ever a high-tech test.

First they fitted her with a sensor belt that was kind of like a heavy fanny pack. It wasn’t unlike the heart harness that you wear to monitor your heart for a day. Then they stuck the leads and the whatchacallits all over her stomach and chest. Then they attached the cable to the “box” and put it (the hard drive/sensor) into the fanny pack pocket. There was an orange light on the side of the box.

“Watch this light. It will turn blue as soon as it starts receiving data.” The nurse held out a capsule that was an electronic firefly light with a camera inside. It was SO geek-hypnotic. “Swallow this.”

My mother was a good girl and swallowed it right down (which wasn’t easy, because she hadn’t had anything to eat since noon of the day before, and had even given up the chicken broth and clear liquids at 8 PM the night before!) The light obligingly turned blue and began to flash.

“There! Just look down at that light every fifteen minutes or so. It should keep flashing. If for any reason it stops, or if you feel nauseated or any kind of pain, or if you just feel, ‘This isn’t right, no, I can’t do this,’ call 911 and slip the harness off. It could indicate that the pill got stuck or that something went wrong. BUT that doesn’t happen . . . hasn’t happened to us yet, and I’ve been doing this since last August.” Well, it isn’t QUITE as foolproof as something that has been going on for ten years, but Mama was a trouper. (*Yes, it’s “trouper” for an actor who makes sure that “the show must go on,” I think, not “trooper” as in state trooper or a Marine. I think. Whichever.*) She smiled weakly and said, “When can I eat?”

“Not for four hours. 10:30. But something LIGHT, like soup or a sandwich. No meat loaf with potatoes! You can’t drink until 2 hours from now, at 8:30. Go home and walk around for fifteen minutes out of every hour to keep things moving. Don’t go near a microwave. Then we’ll see you at 2:30 this afternoon!”

Mama looked like a cocker spaniel who just heard he doesn’t get to play this afternoon. But she crawled back into the wheelchair and we headed home.

She paced the floor and leaned against the kitchen counter and rocked in her rocker and found a way to lie on the bed on her side, but she wasn’t ever comfy. She claimed she could feel her digestive tract trying to digest the deeliebobber. I visualized the soldiers of digestion getting disgusted: “This ain’t digestible, chief!” one shouts upstairs. “I’m not getting any minerals out of it, even,” adds the intestinal supervisor. “Well, get rid of it, then,” says the boss, and peristalsis marches on. Eep!

We FINALLY went back, arriving right at 2:30. “How’d you do? See any sparklies in the potty?” they asked. “Not yet,” said the grouchy grizzly bear. “You should . . . then we’ll say we’ve had success.” They took the gear off and said, “We’ll download this today, and it goes to a lab in Las Colinas, and then the results get read, and your doctor will have it in about three or four days. Don’t look for a reply until early next week, though.”

I knew Mama didn’t really want to hear unless it’s an all-clear, so I hadn’t been too concerned with anything but getting her through this. That hospital needs candy stripers, though; I had to push the wheelchair all the way from the lobby and all the way back, this morning AND this afternoon. The *Richardson* hospital has eager volunteers who do that for you. *superior look* But I went back and rolled the chair into the back of the emergency room both times so it couldn’t be Purloined or even Spirited Away, because the last thing I wanted was an entry on her bill, “Wheelchair–$600.”

As we crawled in the door, the phone started ringing. My uncle wanted to fax our preliminary tax return to me. But the fax line was busy, and although I crawled around trying to find some reason that it should be, I didn’t. “You can only ride Ol’ Nelly so far before she collapses,” I informed the universe, “so I decree that Hubby can fix this when he gets home, and we’ll fax tomorrow.”

Of course he’s on that Sekrit Project and staying until 8 PM every night, but he loves what they’re debugging. Whatever. I did take the dog outside again (poor little fluffball–he looked at her as if to say, that fanny pack is SO unflattering on you–but he had to go walkies whether I was tired or not!) But that’s IT. No cooking. Everyone can just make nachos out of whatever they can find in the kitchen.

I’m beat to the gills! But finally everything’s over that we’ve been working on doing. Oh, except for getting her driver’s license renewed, getting the A/C fixed in hubby’s car, and getting the yard cleanup done on a day when I can stay awake and walk around the yard to show the guys what to do. It’s always SOMEthing, but that’s why I get paid the big bux!

A big thank you to all of you who sent positive thoughts and prayers and kept your fingers crossed for us over these past few weeks. Now I can spend my time working on becoming a famous something-or-other.

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Personal-type life stuff (as also suggested by . . . me)

I remember mentioning something about how personal-type life stuff might be more interesting than promoting novels in one’s blog, so here we go. Um, some kinda unhappy news first.

My cousin’s wife has been fighting to stay alive for three and a half years, but she lost her battle and Crossed Over last Wednesday morning. Her memorial was this past Sunday at their church in tiny Corinth, Texas. My mother tried to make herself attend, but at the last minute she wimped out and wouldn’t get dressed and go; she doesn’t DO these kinds of ceremonies well. Her excuse was that she doesn’t want anyone to see her with her teeth messed up (she broke her bridge three years ago, and now our dentist has also died, so . . . she’s dreading the starting-over part.) Also, she’s fasting today in preparation for swallowing a tiny camera that wants to see whether she has more problems in her intestinal tract, which happens tomorrow from 8 AM to 2 PM. Whee!

But it wasn’t that so much, or the travel, or whatever. I know she just didn’t want to go. This was the kind of torture-laden (to me) service during which they read aloud several poems the lady had written about her illness and feelings, and also her children and co-workers got up and spoke about her life, and there was an _a cappella_ choir singing sad songs, so . . . who can really blame my mother for wanting to keep away. So we ended up having a Moment of Silence here at home. My cousin is not in the best of shape himself, but all of his siblings and all their children attended, and his daughter and her boyfriend will be staying at his house this coming week so he won’t be alone just yet. *sigh* I knew my cousin’s wife only slightly, having met her at various family functions but not having crossed paths with her outside of these get-togethers, but she was a nice person, a month YOUNGER than I am now, and had two children and three grandchildren. They all went on a great trip at Christmastime to San Francisco, right before she started downhill, but this year hadn’t been a lot of fun. I sent a flower and a cookie bouquet and that kind of jazz, but really, nothing helps. Nothing but time, if it helps, that is.

In lighter news, I’ve figured out one of the reasons I tend to analyze and then make generalizations (which often upsets so many people). It’s in part because of all that math! (Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, after all.) In higher math, we like to try to reason from the specific to the general (which is one type of reasoning used in the scientific method, after all). We like to say, “Hey, I just found several instances in which (2^n)-1 is prime and so is n. Is it true in general, or over some subset of the real numbers?” After all the heavy sighs and eye-rolling from everyone else, eventually we figure out that if for some positive integer n, (2^n)-1 is prime, then so is n. This is useful. It may not SEEM useful, but trust me.

Now, in other venues it may not be so useful to try generalization. But it’s such a great tool in the sciences that we forget. I think mnemonics and memory rules for how to use punctuation and so forth might also qualify as a quantization or generalization for students, too. I never knew why I like to come up with a generalization or a “rule” so much, but here’s part of the reason at last.

A lot of my generalizations have (limited) application, too, but they’re mine, all mine. . . .

It’s Benchley Contest Time Again!

Yes, once again I play the fool and enter this year’s ROBERT BENCHLEY SOCIETY 2009 HUMOR WRITING COMPETITION. If you’re not familiar with the contest, take a look at the Society’s website, their weblog, and their essay page, which has links to 2008’s entries. The essays every year are hilarious and Benchleyesque. They haven’t revealed this year’s judge, which I find suspicious . . . it’s probably because last year Mr. Newhart claimed that he had to mark me down from first to fourth place for sucking up, because I sneaked his name into the essay after finding out he was the judge. He was just kidding, I’m sure, but I wonder.

To prove that I *do* sometimes accidentally listen to my friends, I have put the essay (500 words! Only two pages!) behind a cut.

How to Lie: Practice the Art of Deception

No more blatant promotion on blogs–let’s start a movement

I don’t know about you and your friendslist, but mine has become a big turnoff lately. Many, MANY of my cohorts are published authors. They have come to believe that a blog or journal is naught but a marketing tool. They have come to see nothing out here but big old wallets, entities that they humor with a few content-containing posts and then blast with the ol’ BUY MY BOOK and HERE’S MY COVER entries. Man, it’s getting old.

Please . . . I know you have a book coming out. It’s fine for you to tell me briefly. Remind me when you have appearances and when you’ve sold a book. But seriously, posting the cover of the book all the time and the cover of this or that anthology you were in and all this rot gets really old. It makes me feel as if I am at an Amway distributors’ convention and that they have been pretending to be talking to me and listening to what I was saying when all along they were simply waiting for the opportunity to start the sales pitch. Is this evil of me? Is it just envy, green-eyed monster, etc.? If it is, I don’t even care–“make the most of it,” as Patrick Henry or someone said. (“If this be treason, make the most of it!”)

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I have so many different authors on my list, and I’ve overdosed. But heck, I come here for discussions and interesting exchanges, not to see all this promo material. Let’s look at some GOOD examples. Shanna Swendson doesn’t do this (at least not often). Judith Tarr never does it (she talks about her horses and her life, mostly). Jim Butcher mostly doesn’t do this. Very seldom will you see book covers and lists of appearances and so forth . . . most of the time, they talk about how to write, their processes in writing, the markets, what they’ve done in the industry (conventions), or actual PERSONAL LIFE STUFF. It’s actually interesting, and it makes me far more likely to want to read their books and see them in person. Does this make any sense?

Perhaps not. Could be that the moment one of my books goes under contract, I will become the most obnoxious git on the ‘net. Go ahead, try me–throw me into that briar patch, Br’er Bear. (Meaning “If only I could have THAT problem/dilemma instead of these other cruddy ones.”)

If I’m the only person that this bothers, then I am wrong. I’m weird. I’m just being a pain.

But today, I am weary of seeing contests to win ARCs, pictures of people’s book covers, those “interviews” that all the friends of a particular author will run on their blogs because a new book has come out (and it’s all so Spontaneous and Exciting! This book is so Amazing!), and all that. I tire of seeing the same promo material on six different journals (because there’s a handshaking agreement going on, and everyone posts each other’s promo material in turn.) Let us see something more original. Isn’t there something interesting you want to talk about?

(Not YOU . . . THEM.)

It’s Ada Lovelace Day!

Ada Lovelace is the namesake of the DoD-sanctioned programming language Ada. (It didn’t last long because it was a camel–designed by a gov’t committee and too bloated and messed up–but they meant well.)

Found all over the ‘net: “Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognized. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.”

I’ve worked with a good number of female software engineers. They’re out there. Sing their praises when you meet them.

I think it’s tough for women in engineering of any sort, because there is such a weird boy-nerd mentality. You are either one of the guys or you’re not in the club at all. The worst part for me was that they didn’t think of me at all, even though I was in the crowd, invited to lunch, taken to group events, and so forth . . . I ran into a man I had worked closely with ten years ago and recognized him; I asked where everyone had gone, and he explained that they’d just had a reunion party the previous month. “I guess we forgot about you,” he said with a chuckle. I am so forgettable that this isn’t unusual (my piano teacher “forgot” to invite me to her recital, even though I had asked about it at every lesson, and I wasn’t trying to play–I simply wanted to attend and applaud), but it does hurt my feelings. I wasn’t ever in the gals’ clique when I was a software engineer. When I went to a different company and joined software quality metrics, that group was all women, so we had our own clique. That worked better for me. Still, you’re never really on the same level with the guys who are in your group, because you can’t socialize with them in the same way (their wives get upset, for one thing, when they discover you are tagging along to lunch.) They feel hampered in telling their porn jokes when you are standing there, at first, but it really gets bad when they decide they’re gonna tell the jokes even with you standing there wincing. Hmm.

But then I am not good at working for The Man anyway.

Thank your female IT person today. She needs a hug!

Signs of Spring–been going on for several weeks now

March came in like a lion, all spring thunderstorms and rain, and now spring has sprung like gangbusters here in North Texas/DFW.

I had forgotten that challenged her LiveJournal friends to post signs of spring, but I just saw some of y’all’s photos, so I thought I would show you all up with my Texas photos (all except California–and it’s not fair to compare, because their stuff has an 11/12 month growing season!). We’ve taken Sunday drives the last few weeks, and here’s what we saw.

The redbuds are fully bloomed out! (Their leaves are heart-shaped. That’s my favorite tree, overall.)

The squirrels have dug up some acorns and are feasting on them.

Bradford pear trees in somebody’s side yard

Texas jackrabbit in the night landscaping (at Wendy’s drive-through nearby!)

Crabapple tree

(My photos are scaled small, so they shouldn’t zap your friendslist, but tell me if you need them behind an lj-cut)