stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-20 09:35 pm

The Surgery

The surgery didn't go as I was hoping today. They pulled the stones out with a scope (no sonic waves). I had two more they hadn't seen on the left. And then they put another stent in. I'm in just as much pain as before. I still have to go back, probably two or three more times--once to remove the new stent, once to break up the other stones (for which they'll probably stent the other side), and once to have =that= stent removed. I'm not handling this well.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-16 12:37 pm
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The Hospital and Me: So Here's What Happened

Most of you know I was in the hospital last week for three days with kidney stones that required an operation.  Here's what happened.  This is a long entry, folks. The whole thing was traumatic and awful for me, and I process difficult experiences through words, so I'm writing it all down.

Last Sunday, Darwin went up to Lansing to visit friends, and Max was at his mother's, which meant I had the house to myself for a whole day.  Wow!  Pretty cool!  But around noon, I got a familiar pain in my left flank, and I recognized an oncoming kidney stone problem. 

I've gotten kidney stones most of my life.  The first hit me when I was 22.  If you're unfamiliar with kidney stones, in my case they're calcite deposits that get stuck in the kidneys and eventually clump together to form rough stones. Most of them pass out of the body undetected, others grow larger and I can feel them go--it's distinctly unpleasant--and a few hang out in the kidney, growing larger and larger, until they clog everything up, which causes enormous pain.  They've continued ever since, and I end up in the hospital every three years or so for a bad one.  The usual treatment is to administer powerful painkillers and hook me up to a saline IV to flood my body with fluid, which usually pops the stone free and lets it pass.  The painkillers make this possible without screaming.  Kidney stones are considered one of the most painful, gut-wrenching events a human can undergo, and bad ones even outrank childbirth on the pain scale.  (As one nurse put it, "I've had kidney stones and gone through childbirth. I'd way rather go through childbirth. At least with childbirth, you get a baby when it's over.  With a kidney stones, you get a rock.")

I've had so many stones that I knew instantly what was going on.  Almost all the time, the pain twinges, grows, then fades as the stone moves, and I start drinking a lot of water to wash it out.  But this time, the pain grew fast, and was getting worse and worse.  I finally called Kala to see if she could bring Max home from her place instead of me picking him up, then jumped into the car and drove like hell for the ER.  On the way I called Darwin, who was still in Lansing, and he said he would leave right away.

By the time I got to the ER, I was in considerable distress and barely ambulatory.  Inside, the security guard asked what I wanted, and I told him I was in great pain from a kidney stone, so I needed to be admitted right away.  At which point, the guard ignored me and turned to a mother and son who had come in behind me. He asked them what they wanted, and gave them complicated directions on how to find and visit someone already in the ER.  Meanwhile, I was standing there, panting in pain, and he ignored me.  I finally limped past him and sat down at the admissions desk, to the nurse's surprise.

I managed to get through the check-in ("Did someone bring you hear?" "I drove myself."  "How do you know it's a kidney stone?"  "I've had four or five dozen of them.  I know the signs.") and into the ER proper.

Meanwhile, the pain kept growing.  It was a demon chewing on my insides with white-hot teeth.  The admitting nurse went through a mess of questions, material that's already in my medical records with that hospital, but hospitals apparently can't be bothered to check their own computers.  One of the stupider things is that every single person--and I mean EVERY ONE of them--asked what medicine allergies I have.  It's right there on your computer screen!  Just give me the pain medication.

By now the pain was making me scream.  I lay there on the gurney howling and biting my arm and shouting with the pain, and I couldn't stop.  I screamed and screamed and screamed, and the nurse clucked, "We'll get you some painkillers soon," leaving me to scream and scream and scream some more.  The pain was so bad, I couldn't think of anything else.  I wadded my sweatshirt up and pressed it to my mouth to muffle the noise, but I couldn't stop screaming.  I have no idea why it took them so long to give me a shot, either.  Hospital bureaucracy trumps patient need.

Finally, a nurse showed up with a pair of syringes.  By now, I didn't really know where I was or who I was.  I was vaguely aware of the bed and the ER curtain.  All I felt was the all-consuming pain, and I couldn't stop screaming.

At last--at LAST--the nurse administered the shots.  After a few moments, the pain dulled and I collapsed back on the gurney with all my limbs heavy.  I could feel the tension drain under the drug.

"We need to do an MRI to find the stone," the nurse announced, and an intern wheeled the bed down the hall.  I could still feel the pain, but the drugs prevented it from bothering me.  A technician ran me through the MRI scanner--very science-fictional--and wheeled me back to the ER.  The shot was already wearing off, and I had to ask for more meds.

"I'll put in the request," said the nurse.

Darwin finally arrived, with Max in tow.  I told them what was going on, then lay there on the bed, monitoring my pain levels.  It was getting steadily worse, and again I called for the next shot, but the nurse was still processing the request.

The pain shot up again, and I started screaming.  I knew it was unnerving Max, but I couldn't stop.  Finally, they gave me another.  It lasted about half an hour, and then more pain ripped my side.  Fortunately by now they'd put me on an "as needed" order, and I was able to get the meds faster.

During the first series of shots, though, my heart rate went way down.  My resting heart rate is normally in the 50s because I run so much.  This already made the ER nurses nervous.  (The more fit your are, the worse off you become?)  With morphine, it went down into the 30s.  And so they decided to put me on a heart monitor and call a cardiologist.

Someone off-stage read my MRI and came in to report that I had three stones--two on the left, one on the right.  One of the left ones was 8mm in diameter--very big--and it was causing the problems.  The other two were 3 and 4mm, respectively, but they weren't doing anything just then.

The ER physician said I needed an operation. Using a scope, they would put a stent--a drain--between my kidney and my bladder to let the kidney drain.  Once the swelling went down, which would take about a week, they would do a lithotripsy, which uses a sonic cannon to break up the stone so it can more easy wash away.

At last the pain subsided.  I was sweaty and itchy and zoned out from the medication.  They put me on a regular rotation--a new pain shot every few hours.  The stent operation was scheduled for that evening, and they would admit me in the meantime.

They wheeled my bed upstairs to a regular room--private, thank gods--and here's where the strange ordeal began.

Because my heart is in good shape, the hospital decided I was a heart attack risk.  I'm not kidding.  They spent more time worrying about my heart than the kidney stones.  They ordered an EKG.  It came back perfectly normal.  They ordered a thyroid blood test.  It came back normal.  They ordered a sonogram of my heart.  Normal.  A cardiologist examined me twice.  Normal.  Every single test came back normal, normal, normal.  "So I can take this monitor off?" I said.

"No," said the cardiologist.  "But everything is normal."

I was in pain and getting angry, as people in pain are wont to do.  Every time I tried to go to the bathroom, I had to deal with wires and cords and IV lines, for example.  Every test they ran involved putting electrodes on me and then ripping them off, and when you're hairy like me, it's highly painful.  Once, the nurse pointed out that I had a rash on my chest, and I couldn't help snapping at her that I wouldn't have one if people would quit ripping electrodes off me.  I hit the point where I was going to drop the next person who demanded a heart test out the window, but the demands finally ceased, though the monitor stayed.

And then it turned out the operating room didn't have a slot on the roster for me after all.  I could 1) go home and come back in the morning; or 2) stay in the hospital and wait for the next slot, which would probably be tomorrow morning.  I couldn't go home--the pain kept coming back at unexpected intervals, and I couldn't survive without the painkiller shots.

Darwin went home and brought me some stuff, and I found myself subjected to the hospital regimen.  First, they wanted me to take an anticoagulant because my poor, absolutely normal heart might develop circulation problems and blood clots if I stayed in bed for all of 24 hours.  Seriously?  I flatly refused this one, and the staff backed off.

The food service was nice, though.  They don't bring meals on a regular schedule at this hospital.  Instead, you call a number, order from a menu, and they send it up.  That was good.  I hadn't eaten in hours and hours because I was supposed to stay away from food until the operation--which now wasn't happening.  So I could eat, at least. 

Darwin and Max hung around the hospital until I finally sent them home on the grounds that I was fine for the moment, and they had to sleep.  I also made lesson plans and sent them into the school.  You don't get to just call in sick when you're a teacher.

The bed was weird.  Every few minutes, the mattress moved under me, forcing me to rearrange.  This, I realized, was also to prevent blood clots.  This must be the de rigeur thing to worry about in hospitals, even with patients who aren't at risk for them.  It kept waking me up.

In the morning, the hospital denied me breakfast because the operation was coming up soon now.  10 AM they'd come for me.  Darwin took the day off from work so he could stay with me.  And then the operation was moved to 10:30.  And then it was canceled outright and scheduled for Tuesday.  Again, I could 1) go home and come back tomorrow; or 2) stay in the hospital and wait.

I tried not be upset.  The doctor said that the weekend had been unexpectedly busy, so the OR schedule was crowded, and I tried to remember that someone who needed open heart surgery or an emergency appendectomy needed to get in right away, and I was stable so I could wait.  But it was hard.  The pain had abated, but could come roaring back any time, and the schedule of pain meds made me constantly loopy.  I had to stay--no way I could risk going home and then having to rush back to the ER.  I was also cranky because I hadn't eaten in more than thirteen hours for an operation that now wouldn't take place.

I sat in the hospital all day Monday, reading and watching videos.  I even managed a bit of writing on my laptop, which Darwin brought to me.  I was glad he was there, but he was also becoming agitated about missing another day of work himself.  He was charged with transporting Max to and from school as well, and with bringing Max in to see me.  It wasn't any fun for any of us.

I told the nurse I needed to take a shower, and she said she'd "put in a request" for it.  I just nodded.  I didn't tell her that I had already decided to take a shower, request or not, and if she didn't come back with "permission" in fifteen minutes, I was heading in.  I don't do well with asking permission for basic functions, I'm afraid, which makes me difficult patient sometimes.  But a few minutes later, the nurse came back to report I was cleared for cleansing.  I took the stupid monitor off and showered, which made me feel better.  Afterward, nearly an hour went by before anyone noticed the monitor hadn't been reconnected, and they sent a tech in to deal with it.  One of the electrode stickers had come loose in the shower, and she reached for it, intending to tear it off and replace it.  I blocked her hand.

"Sorry," I said.  "If that electrode comes off, it's staying off.  No more ripping.  I'm afraid I'm done with that."

She managed to make it work without replacing it, and we were both happy.

My primary care physician stopped by on his rounds.  I was more than a little unhappy with him.  Years ago, he put me on Topamax, an anti-seizure med that also helps control migraines.  But one of the nurses told me that Topamax is definitively linked to increased kidney stone formation.  My doctor KNEW I get kidney stones, but he prescribed this anyway?  Doing my best not to be sharp, I told him he needed to find another medication, and he said we would discuss it.  Damn right we will.

The day passed slowly.  Finally, they alerted me that I was scheduled for a 10:30 AM operation.  But I couldn't eat or drink after midnight!

Usual protocol for operations dictates no eating or drinking only six hours before anesthesia.  (This is in case the anesthetic makes you barf.  They want your stomach empty for that.)  When did six hours become ten and a half?  But I just smiled and nodded.  Anesthesia doesn't make me barf, and Darwin had brought me food anyway.

In the morning, I ate a breakfast of a contraband banana and some crackers.  I had just tossed the banana peel away when the nurse came in for the morning readings.

Darwin came in to wait with me, but he hadn't eaten breakfast yet.  After a couple hours, he went out to get some food, and while he was gone, the nursing team came in and announced the operation was a go, early!  They rushed me down to OR prep, and here I actually talked to the urologist for the first time.  (Before, I'd seen interns.)  She said that they might be able to get the stone out today, depending on what happened, but there was no guarantee.  Did I eat anything after midnight?

"Nope," I lied.

Darwin tracked me down and waited through the OR prep stuff, which was mostly answering the same questions over and over.  The main one that got me was, "What happens to you when you take penicillin?", which I'm allergic to.  Over and over, I said, "I don't know. I was tested as a baby and haven't had it since." Inwardly, I was thinking, "Does it matter? You aren't planning to GIVE it to me, are you?"  I must have answered that question fifteen times.

At last, they wheeled me away from Darwin and into the OR with the surgical team.  There was a bad moment when they couldn't find the anesthesiologist.  It turned out he was stuck with another patient, and they had to find someone else.  She finally arrived and we were able to start.

I've learned that I don't like anesthesia.  (Does anyone?)  The drug doesn't bother me, and I don't have bad reactions to it.  What I learned I don't like is going through a major procedure that involves my body while I'm totally unaware of what's going on.  I can't ask questions, I can't watch what's happening, I can't make decisions.  I don't know who's in the room.  I don't know what they're doing to me, and I can't stop them from doing something I don't want.  I don't know what they're saying about me.  This bothers me enormously.  It would make me feel a great deal better if Darwin were able to watch the operation and report to me afterward what happened, but they don't allow that in this hospital.

I realized this when my gall bladder had to come out.  When I woke up, I had a big chancre sore in my mouth.  I mused aloud to the recovery room nurse that I must have bitten myself while I was under anesthesia.  She exchanged an odd look with another nurse, nodded, and then just said, "Maybe."  I later learned that I had been on a breathing tube, and the sore was from the tube.  This stabbed me through.  Why wasn't I told I'd be on a respirator?  And why didn't the nurse just give me the information?  This is my body, my care, my information, and the hospital deliberately withheld it from me.  There were other aspects of the operation that I found out about after the fact, too, and this upset me even more.  People were doing things to me while I was unconscious, and I felt violated and angry.  Yes, I know they were doing their best to help me.  That doesn't mean they can rush ahead and do it without explaining it, and then try to hide what they did.  It's as if the hospital doesn't see a person.  They see a lump of meat that needs to be rushed around, sliced, diced, and then rushed back out.

So I hate anesthesia.

The anesthesiologist put a breathing mask on me and injected the drugs.  And then I was in the recovery room with Darwin next to my bed.  No, I didn't throw up. 

My memory is foggy for that first hour, but eventually I ended up back in my old room.  The urologist had only installed the stent.  The stone hadn't come out.  A great deal of fluid and even pus had drained immediately from my kidney, she said, but the stone was too high up to come down.  I would need lithotripsy later, and would have to schedule that.

This upset me all over again, and I hadn't realized how much I'd been hoping for this all to end that day until they told me I had more to do.

More waiting in the hospital room, this time for final discharge.  The hated heart monitor was gone, leaving me freer to walk about the room.  I was also unhooked from my IV.  I took advantage of this to take another shower and strip the electrodes off for the final time.  Just after that, the floor nurse came back in to check things.  "And we'll put the heart monitor back on."

"No," I said tiredly.  "It's not going back on.  If you want, you can call the doctor and have him come in and yell at me, but it's staying off."

The nurse let that ride.  For some reason, she didn't hook me back up to the IV, either.  I think she forgot.

I was in pain again, this time from the stent.  One third of patients don't even notice the stent.  One third have small problems with it.  And one third have big problems with it.  Guess which category I fell into?

Going to the bathroom is a horrifying ordeal.  It hurt almost as bad as the stones, and made me wonder if they had moved and clogged something up.  But the stent is designed to halt clogging entirely, and to stretch out the ureter a little to make passage of future stones easier.  The pain was just me being one of the third group who has problems with a stent.  The urologist assured me the pain would ease and disappear after a day or two.  Passing blood was to be expected.  I could resume all normal activities right away.

At last, it was time to go home.  I checked out of the hospital with a bagful of medications, and Max drove me home--Darwin had the other car.

At home, I tried to rest, but the stent pain was still there.  Constant.  Twisting my insides.  I dreaded going to the bathroom, not only because the pain shot up whenever I did, but also because I never knew what I would see.  Sometimes everything looked just fine, and then suddenly I'd be expelling dark red or bits of tissue.  The simple act of going to the toilet became an ordeal, and I found myself putting it off (which is bad for this condition) and getting tense in anticipation of the pain.  It's steadily conditioning me to avoid the bathroom, and that's problematic.

This whole thing is exhausting.  Between the pain, the memory of agony, fear that it'll come back worse, uncertainty about what'll happen next, I'm wrecked.  It's tiring to be scared and in pain all the time.  The original pain was so bad, I break into a sweat over the idea that it could come back.

I had originally planned to go back to work on Wednesday, but Tuesday evening I was still exhausted and in pain.  I couldn't work.  I had to make more lesson plans before I could call in.

I shuffle slowly around the house these days.  I can't handle bumps or jarring.  When I ride in the car, I have to remind Darwin to avoid all possible bumps because each one sends a jolt of pain through me.

A hospital robo-voice called to request that I take a survey about my care.  I hung up.  I don't do surveys.

Wednesday, I slept and watched TV and ate painkillers that didn't seem to work.  I compared my pills to the ones Max got after his wisdom teeth operation and discovered my pills are a much lower dosage.  WTF?  So I started using Max's leftover pills and that helped.

I go through temper flare-ups that I can't seem to control.  I know it's because I'm in pain and because of the psychological trauma I underwent.  The pain Pain PAIN still weighs on me, and I keep waiting for it to pounce on me again like an gleeful tiger. Just the memory of it makes me shake.  For a moment just this evening, it looked like the pain might be coming back, and I found myself fighting off a panic attack, I was so scared.

And now I'm being tossed about the medical field like a volleyball.  My primary care physician said I have to see him for a follow-up, but when I called his office, the receptionist said he wouldn't be able to see me until next week, though I could see a PA instead.  "No," I said. "I need to see the doctor."  "It's not required that you see the doctor," said the receptionist.  "It's only--"  "I have to talk directly to Dr. S-- about my medications."  The receptionist scared up a cancellation and scheduled me for Monday afternoon.  I called the urologist to schedule the lithotripsy, and this was a two-day problem to solve.  I received follow-up calls from the hospital.   Volleyball.

I taught classes on Thursday and Friday.  Both days I discovered my stamina was only good for 45 minutes, and I had to reconstruct my lessons to give me sit-down time for the last 15 minutes of class.  This is where being a 22-year veteran has its advantages.  I can redo lessons very quickly.

By Friday afternoon, I was completely wiped.  Darwin wanted to go out to eat, but I was TIRED of eating hospital food and cheap diner food and of going here and there and everywhere.  But I couldn't cook, and Darwin refuses to try.  (Before we married, he lived at restaurants.)  Truly, once or twice a month, I would love it if Someone Else cooked a meal for me.  But whenever I suggest it, Darwin only offers to bring home takeout.  Marriage is overlooking the stuff about your husband that drive you crazy.

Darwin, meanwhile, was putting up with me being cranky and short-tempered and emotional. I'd been away for three days, and became visibly upset to find that no one had taken the bread out of the breadmaker while I was gone (I started a batch before the pain demons arrived), no one had filled or run the dishwasher, which now smelled rancid, no one had changed the cat box.  No one had gone grocery shopping.  I was trying not to be in a foul mood about any of it, but it felt like Darwin and Max had decided between them to leave everything for me to do when I got home.  I doubt that was their thinking--it just didn't occur to them to do these things unless I'm there to point them out.  But that's the way I felt.  My emotions went--still go--all over.  One moment, I'm rampaging about something small, and the next I'm huddled on the bed in tears from the pain and fear. 

I have lithotripsy--breaking up the stones with shock waves--on Wednesday.  Another day away from work, another dose of anesthesia.  I'm scared that it won't go well, and I'll have to come back, and I'm scared they won't take the stent out, and I'll have to come back for that, too--as well as live with awful pain every time I go to the bathroom.

I have to get through this.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-15 07:35 am
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More Shopping Stereotypes

I found this display at Meijers:

The left is for girls, the right for boys.

First, notice the color scheme.  Pinks is absolutely required for girls, Only one outfit has no pink on it.  For boys, it's blue.  Every single outfit has blue on it somewhere.  For boys, we also have dinosaurs, tools, a puppy, and a fire engine.  Active, power imagines.  To top it off, one of the shirts says, "Mommy's rescue hero," casting an TODDLER in the role of rescuer for his mother.  (And why isn't that on the girls' side, pray?)

Meanwhile, the girls have butterflies, pandas, kittens, and flowers, all images of passivity and prettiness.  No action there.

If a boy wants to be quiet and passive or enjoy pretty things, he's out of luck.  If a girl wants to be loud and active or enjoy monsters and fire trucks, she's dead in the water.  So says the fashion industry and Meijer.

stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-13 07:57 am
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Shopping: Making and Breaking the Stereotypes

Over the weekend, Darwin and I went clothes shopping.  We both needed shirts for work.

The standard or stereotypical shopping method for men is that they decide what they want BEFORE they go into the store. When they arrive at the store, they find what they want as quickly as possible, pay for it, and leave immediately.

The standard or stereotypical method for women is that they decide what they want AT the store.  They therefore spend more time in the store itself, and shopping also often becomes a social event.

When we arrived at the mall, Darwin directed me to head for Sears.  "They have my size in dress shirts," he said.  "I can get them there."

Usually I'm agreement with this method.  However, in today's case, I didn't need dress shirts.  I needed overshirts--fleeces or sweaters or heavy shirts with a dressy look that I can wear in my classroom.  The heating system at Nameless High School is breaking down, and my room starts out freezing in the morning, and is roasting hot by the end of the day, so I have to dress in layers.  It's tricky to find stuff that is both functional in these circumstances and also looks decent.  I literally can't wear a dress shirt with a t-shirt under it, for example.  I'll freeze until sometime after lunch.  But I don't like most sweaters, either--the texturing is uncomfortable and prickly.  This means, unfortunately, that I have to go hunting for what will work.

"I have to shop like a woman today," I told him, and Darwin groaned.

True to form, Darwin headed straight for the dress shirt display at Sears and pulled five  of them in his size.  Done!  I wandered about the store, examining and rejecting, until I found some heavy dress-ish shirts that would work for me and snagged a couple of them.  Cool!

"Are we done?" Darwin said.

"You have five shirts, I have two," I said.  "Into the mall!"

And Darwin groaned.

We went here and there throughout the mall.  I was mostly looking for fleeces and sweaters, but the only sweaters I could find were thin, thin, thin!  I needed something with a little more heft.  My classroom is COLD.

I pulled Darwin into Buckle, but the store was too young for my demographic.  "We'll have to remember this place when we're Christmas shopping for Sasha," I said.

I also noticed how Twelve Oaks Mall has gotten rid of their loud, annoying fountains and hard benches and replaced them with lounging areas stuffed with comfortable chairs and couches.  The hard benches are gone.  I observed aloud to Darwin how mall philosophy has changed.  The hard benches and loud fountains were designed to keep people moving.  But now mall designers have realized that people who stop to rest on comfy chairs are likely to shop longer (duh), and that fountains are damned expensive to maintain.  Off with their heads!

Darwin noticed several men who were lounging on said comfy chairs while I was dragging him into several stores.  "Can I sit there with those husbands whose wives are shopping?" he complained.

"Am I your wife?" I shot back.  "Several studies showed that women spend the least amount of time in a mall store when they have a male companion with them. They'll spend more time in a store with a small child in tow than they will with a man.  A psychologist urged stores to put a man cave in the corner to occupy the men and let the women shop--and spend money.  The stores that did saw their sales rise, but corporate ultimately made them get rid of the man caves because they didn't like losing the retail space.  A clear case of corporate stupidity.  These stores don't have man caves in them, so you'll have to suffer."

A sales clerk overheard me, and chimed in.  "I see that all the time!" she said.  "We should have a man corner so the women will shop.  It would totally help!"

We tried Macy's, but I ended up fleeing the store.  It looked like a bomb went off in the men's department.  The clothing racks were a mass of unfolded slacks and flipped-around shirts and other messy, pawed-over cloth.  It was awful!  No clerks were in evidence even trying to recover the merchandise.  Meanwhile, in the makeup and perfume department we passed through, there were dozens of clerks behind well-lit counters panting to wait on people.  They needed to move some of them into clothing.  You could see where Macy's figured the money was.  We left.  If a place won't take care of its stuff when it's on the floor, what the hell are they trying sell me?  No.

Lord and Taylor's selection ranged from Old Fogey to I'M TWELVE AND LOVING IT! with nothing in between.  And everything was $100 or more.  We left.

On impulse--and because Darwin liked the way it smelled--we ducked into Abercrombie & Fitch.  I didn't have high hopes.  But to my surprise, I found a great, non-textured sweater and two heavy dress-ish shirts that were exactly what I needed.  Who knew?

And then we had supper in the food court, because I can get the quasi-Asian food I like, and Darwin can get the soup he likes.

On the way out, I said, "There's one more store I want to hit," and Darwin said he didn't slug me only because he loved me.


stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-11 07:44 am
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Visiting Aran

Saturday, Darwin and I popped down to Ypsilanti to see how Aran was doing.  (We wanted to see Sasha, too, but he had plans, so it was just Aran.)

A side note: Aran's apartment is two floors directly above Sasha's.  It turned out that Sasha's WiFi reaches Aran's apartment comfortably, which means they can share an Internet account. This cuts both their Internet bills in half and it means Aran doesn't have to pay extortive installment fees from AT&T or Comcast.  Cool!

Anyway, when Darwin and I got to Aran's apartment, we found everything nicely arranged and spotless.  I'd given Aran a list of daily cleaning chores to do so he'd be able to keep his place clean, and he's been doing it.  He's also unpacked everything and put it about as he likes.  The apartment is bright and airy, and he likes the high view.  He can even see a bit of the distant lake.

It's clear he's really happy in the apartment and is enjoying his newfound freedom and independence.  He was happy and chatty while we were there.  He said he's gone to the store already, and he also went to get a haircut completely on his own.  This surprised me--he's never done that before!  I always had to take him.

We all went out to lunch.  While we were out, we showed Aran where Darwin's office is, in case of an emergency.  It's within walking distance of Aran's apartment, another reason we're glad Aran is where he is.

It was a good visit.  Aran is adjusting well, and enjoying himself hugely!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-10 12:56 pm

Dreamwidth Question

Fellow Dreamwidth users:

What's the advantage of a pay account?

And is there a way to find out how many hits your blog is getting?  I can't find one listed anywhere.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-10 12:16 pm
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Aran Moving: the Blowback

So now Aran has moved out.  That's two out of three of the boys gone now.  And we have the blowback.

The house is quite a lot emptier and quieter.  Aran's car isn't in the driveway anymore, but I find myself expecting it.  He doesn't pop into my office to tell about a piece of fanfic he's writing or the latest super-villain he's created.  The weekly grocery bill has dropped sharply.  Cookies stay in the cookie jar longer.  We don't hear the pipes rattling in the downstairs bathroom in the morning any more, or Aran's music wafting up from the basement through the ventilation system.  He's conspicuous through his absence.

I've had to readjust my cooking.  Subtracting a 20-year-old from the table changes the equation quite a lot.  I always cooked with the idea of having a few leftovers in mind so I can take them to work for lunch, but without Aran around, the leftover level jumped.  I have to halve a pot of chili now, and there's still a lot left.  A little chicken goes a long way now.  I have to be careful not to overmake.  I mistakenly did up a brisket that delicious but just too much for the three of us, and I froze the remainder because it would go bad before we ate it.  I'll disguise it in a stir fry or pulled BBQ sandwiches later.

I actually end up with the house to myself fairly often now.  This is also strange.  Aran is gone, and Maksim works after school a few days a week, and Darwin is work until 6:00, so the house is big and empty with just me in it.  I'm not used to being in the house alone.  It was a rare event after Aran was born in 1997, and almost never happened after we adopted Sasha and Maksim in 2005, and I became used to a great deal of traffic in and out of the house, the bedroom, the kitchen, my office.  Working at home was always a bit of work interspersed with a series of interruptions.  Overnight, this has all but ended, and it's odd.  I feel like I should be attending to a stream childhood or teenage problems or just general conversation.  But Aran and Sasha's problems have been relegated to long-distance.  They have SSI paperwork, and bank paperwork, and payee paperwork, and state paperwork, but all that can be done when I wish.  No one barges in and makes me drop everything to fill out an SSI form.  Oddly, I've gotten used to working with interruptions, and I'm finding it hard to work without them now.

All this emphasizes how huge our house is, and reminds me that, once Maksim is established as on his own, we'll have to sell it and find someplace smaller.  We were comfortable with four in this house, but it's too big for two.

Darwin and I are fast heading for an empty nest.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-04 04:19 pm
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Dipshit Pastor Is Secretly Gay?

Just for fun, in a "know your enemy" kind of way, I tracked down the web site for his filthy little "church" and found a section on weddings. I read it.

If you want to get married at their "church," you have to read their rules and regs (pages and pages of them). The very first thing that pops up is several paragraphs about marriage having to be between a man and woman. A biological man and a biological woman. One biological man and one biological woman. I'm not kidding. It goes on and on and on. This guy and his toadies give lots and lots and lots and LOTS of thought to gay people.

Also in their wedding information packet, they make almost passing references to the fact that they don't allow dancing at weddings at their church except between the bridge and groom and the wedding party parents. They also don't allow alcohol of any kind. This ban is also made in a passing reference--once briefly in the general rules and once in the FAQs. There are NO references to same-sex weddings in their FAQs. This means that people ask frequently ("frequently asked questions") about drinking and alcohol at weddings, but they DON'T ask about same-sex weddings, yet this church spends paragraph after paragraph after paragraph talking about same-sex marriage.

The church leaders seem to think about LGBT people quite a lot--even though no one in their congregation asks. However, we have WAY more drinkers and dancers than LGBT people in this country, and the issue of having both at weddings has come up often enough to deserve a FAQ entry for this "church." Yet they don't explain a single thing about their stance on this huge issue. They simply ban both with a single sentence while they spend many paragraphs on a non-issue.

Why spend so much time and effort on a non-issue--unless it preys on YOUR OWN mind, yeah?
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-03 10:18 pm
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Feeding the Hummers

The hummingbirds are HUNGRY.

Just before I left for Ireland, I filled my three hummingbird feeders all the way.  My house has become the territory of a family of four hummingbirds--mom, dad, and their two adolescents--so the feeders are busy.  When I got back, all three feeders were nearly empty.  So I boiled up some more syrup and filled them up again.

They're sucking the stuff dry.

Seriously.  The little hummers are draining these feeders like there's no tomorrow.  I've never seen them eat so much.  The two adolescents--both a yellow-green--fight over the feeders, too.  I sit on my porch writing and see one of them buzz up to the feeder, only to have the other rush up and chase it away.  This happens over and over. 

Hummingbirds do NOT like to share, even with family, and it's therefore best to set multiple feeders out of sight of one another.  I've done this with mine.  One feeder hangs on my front porch, another on the back deck, and the third at my bedroom window.  But this means the aggressive one has to patrol constantly, and the quieter one has to sneak around to eat.

But they do eat.  And eat and eat and eat.  I think they're storing up for migration.  They'll be leaving any time now.  So drink up, little hummers!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-09-03 11:09 am
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The Cursed Umbrella

When I got to Ireland, I knew I would need an umbrella.  It rains in Ireland a lot, you see.  I didn't bring one with me because I figured it would be easier to buy one when I arrived than try to stash one in my luggage.


When I got to Dublin, Darwin and I poked about a shopping district in Dublin on our first day. 

Perfect! I reasoned. I could get an umbrella.  Right?

No.  Not one store carried umbrellas.  We found stores for shoes, electronics, women's clothes, hiking equipment, even kitchenware, but not one store carried umbrellas.  And of course, it was starting to rain.

At long last, we checked a rather upscale men's store and found a rack of umbrellas.  Yay!  But they were expensive, like 60 Euros.  I just wanted an umbrella, not shares in an entire oilsilk factory. 

Well, I reasoned, this umbrella would last a long time, and I could take it home as my Irish umbrella.  So I bought it.

It worked just fine.  At first.

This umbrella, it turned, closed up with a frog--a button and clasp--instead of a snap.  In less than a day, the button that held the frog shut popped off and disappeared, meaning the umbrella couldn't be tightly furled and closed.  It therefore fell open or caught the breeze at the slightest provocation.  It liked to burst open at startling times, like when I was climbing onto a bus or going through a revolving door or about to enter a bathroom stall.  I hadn't kept the receipt and I couldn't remember where the store was anyway, so I had no way to return it.  I wrestled with the damned thing the whole time we were there.

But, I reasoned, when I got it home, I could put a new button on the umbrella and keep it anyway.  Sixty euros was sixty euros!

When it came time to pack, however, I discovered the stupid umbrella was about an inch too long to fit into my suitcase.

But, I reasoned, I could just tie it shut with some string and take it on the airplane with me.

When I got to the airport, however, an airline lady informed me that I couldn't take an umbrella into the main cabin because I might try to take over the airplane with it.

But, she reasoned, they would check it for me in a special section of the luggage hold for fragile items.

She strapped a routing sticker to the umbrella, put it in a plastic open-topped crate, and sent the whole thing on its merry way down the conveyor belt.

When we landed in Detroit, our suitcases arrived on the luggage carousel without incident.  So did the open-topped crate.  The umbrella itself was gone.

Well, I reasoned, that was that.  Sometimes when you travel a long ways, you pay for stuff that turns out to be a bad idea.  Such is life.  We went home.

About three hours later, I got a call from American Airlines.

"We have an umbrella here," the lady said.

Well, I reasoned, the umbrella is fucking cursed, and I don't want it in my house.

"Just throw it away," I said.  "Or maybe you'd like to keep it."

And I hung up.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-08-31 04:28 pm
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Ireland: Friday, Saturday, Sunday

The last part of the Ireland trip:

    Friday we had to get up early to pack up and leave for Dublin again.  We swiftly packed our things and bade Sinead a fond good-bye.  We had to return the rental car by noon, and it was an hour's drive to Dublin, so we had to get moving. 
    We gave ourselves an extra hour in case we got turned around again, but things went much more smoothly, and we arrived at the car rental place at the airport with no trouble at all.  I have to say I was relieved to give the car up.  It's stressful and nerve-wracking to drive in Ireland, and I felt like a great burden had lifted when I handed over the keys.
    It was a long, long, loooooooooooooong wait for the shuttle bus into town, for some reason.  The line for the bus grew longer and longer and longer and more and more pissed off.  After more than 45 minutes' wait for a bus that was supposed to run every 10 minutes, one finally arrived, and we made the slow drive into town.
    Our next accommodations were at Trinity College, which rents out its student dorms and apartments in the summer very reasonably.  Because the wait for the bus was so damned long, we arrived at Trinity at 1:30, only a little before the 2 PM check-in, and the college was already checking guests in.  I had booked us a double room/apartment, and the check-in went fine, but the apartment itself was so far across campus, it was almost off the map.  I suggested waiting for a ride--the clerk had said we could get if we waited a moment--but Darwin had been put off by the bus wait and said he wanted to walk.  So we set out.
    It took us more than half an hour.
    This was partly because we got lost several times.  The paper map they gave us was completely unhelpful--we couldn't tell where anything was on it.  My phone gave us directions, but it kept switching from walking directions to driving directions, for some reason.  We finally FINALLY found the place.  It's a modern building on the outside corner of the campus.  It's quite small and Spartan, as we knew it would be, though I didn't know it was a shared bathroom situation.  (We share with four other rooms.)  But it worked out--there was only one other couple staying there.  The main trouble was the noise.  Our window (second story) opened right onto the street, and it was NOISY.  Heavy traffic roared by 24/7, tour buses trundle past and you heard the guides barking through their loudspeakers, people talked and laughed and shouted as they passed, and you smelled their cigarette smoke.  The rooms on the other side of the hall faced the courtyard and were silent.  This was a bad luck room!
    We had supper at Kennedy's, a pub frequented by Oscar Wilde (well, he worked there when he was young), Yeats, and Joyce, which was pretty neat.  I had steak-and-Guinness pie, and Darwin had a tasty lamb shank.

    Saturday morning, we'd booked a bus tour to visit Newgrange and the Hill of Tara.  You can't visit these places on your own--you have to go through their visitor's center--and I definitely didn't want to drive to them.  Newgrange also only allows 400 visitors per day, and if you get there too late, your loss!  The tour was the perfect way to go.
    We arrived at the tourism center in plenty of time to catch the tour and got seats at the front of the bus so we could see nicely.  Our tour guide (totally gay!) was named Trevor, and once everyone had boarded, he got on the microphone and gave us a little tour of Dublin sites that we passed, which was nice.  We stopped at the fishing harbor north of Dublin, which was extremely interesting to me.  The trawlers with their great nets were docked there, the smell of fish lay on the wind, and all the shops lining the quay sold every kind of fresh fish you can imagine.  My inner chef was jumping up and down and wanting to shop here every week.
    Unfortunately, this is where things went badly for me.  I started getting stomach cramps, a knot right under my diaphragm that started, increased, cramped HARD, then eased off.  Then the cycle started over again.  As the day passed, the feeling got worse and worse.  I tried to ignore it, but it didn't stop.  It set off a migraine headache.  The migraine started from the tension of the stomach pain and from (I'm sure) the abrupt release of tension from returning the car.  And I hadn't brought any of my meds with me.
    By the time we arrived at Newgrange, I was in considerable distress.  Darwin and I got some lunch at the visitor's centers--and here I have to pause to point out that the Irish know how to run a visitor's center cafeteria.  The food is REAL food.  Thick sandwiches, home made soup, sausage rolls, fresh fruit desserts.  In America it would be hot dogs, hamburgers, and waffle fries. Not in Ireland, thank you!
    I had some lunch, hoping it would ease the pain, but it didn't.  Our tour group got on a (different) shuttle bus to head for Newgrange itself, and I was trying not to let my head fall off my shoulders.
    Newgrange is a splendid site, though.  It's the biggest mound tomb you've ever seen, and it's older than anything in Egypt.  White stone rings the mound, and famously, sunlight enters the tomb only on the winter solstice.  Unfortunately, I was in no condition to enjoy it.  Even when we slipped inside and beneath the tons of rock, the pain was horrendous.  I was sweating and panting and wondering if I should ask to go to the hospital, but I didn't know how such a thing would work.  Newgrange barely registered for me.  I'm glad it was my second visit and I already knew what was what.
    Darwin knew by now I was in trouble.  The stomach and head pain were both so bad, it was all I could do to stand upright.  The visitors center didn't sell pain relievers, either.  When we boarded the bus, I told Darwin to ask Trevor if he had anything.  Trevor didn't, but should he ask the tour at large if they had anything?  I said he should.  A woman from Sweden had something--I don't know what, and I didn't care.  I swallowed it, and lay back to doze off.
    The drive to the Hill of Tara took about an hour, and I slept through it.  The painkillers, whatever they were, started to work, though, and by the time we arrived, I was functional again.  Go Sweden!
    The Hill of Tara was new to me. It's where ancient Irish kings were crowned.  A phallic stone about five feet high sticks out the top, and legend says if it roars when you touch it, you're the next king of Ireland.  (There's a lot of phallic imagery in Irish folklore, which is not for the timid.  In order to be crowned king, for example, a new Irish king copulated with a mare in front of the assembled tribes. The mare was then chopped into pieces and cooked in a broth, in which the king sat naked while everyone had a sip.  As I said, not for the timid.)  Darwin and I climbed up to the hill and wobbled through the circular ditches cut into the hillside.  No one knows what they're for, but I suspect they were put there to provide shelter so the tribes could watch the new king and his horse friend without getting flung off the hillside by the wind!  Both Darwin and I embraced the stone.  When Darwin touched it, a group of nearby ladies obligingly roared, which made him laugh.
    You have to walk through a 1700s and modern graveyard to get to the hill.  The latest burial we saw was from 2015.  Yes, you can be buried on the Hill of Tara.  I would like that.
    And then it was the bus ride home.  We had supper at O'Neill's, a pub continually in business since 1885!

    This was a slow day, our last day in Ireland.  We visited the Museum of Archaeology and looked at the bog people who have been discovered in the bogs, and the gold treasures from the Bronze Age.  This was extremely fascinating.  We tried to get into the Dublin Library, but the reading room was closed.  The only thing open was an exhibition of William Yeats's papers and other materials.  The exhibit was quite extensive--room after room after room--but all of it so dimly lit, you couldn't see much of anything.  Also, I'm not a Yeats person, so most of it was lost on me.
    We spent the rest of the day in the room, just resting and catching up on things.  Tomorrow, we go home!
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-08-31 02:34 pm
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Iron Axe and Weltanspalter

IRON AXE is now available in German translation!  WELTENSPALTER ("world splitter") is now available at and in bookstores everywhere. 

I've been paging through the book. A few observations:

1. They translated Trollboy's name to Trolljunge! Cool! When David Eddings sold THE BELGARIAD to a German publisher, the translator kept all the names in English, including the characters Silk and Velvet, instead of translating them into Seide and Samt, and it came across as silly in the German. This translator is way better!

2. Although I loosely used Danish and German culture as the basis for the land of Balsia, I wasn't thinking when I created the death god Vik, whose name in the book is also used as a swear word. Looking at the name surrounded by German words has made me realize that a German reader would naturally pronounce that name "fick," which is the German word for "fuck." Oops! Or . . . did I do that on purpose? Yeah! That's it!

3. They also translated the map names! "Alfhame" became "Alfheim." "Skyford" became "Himmelsfurth." I love it!

4. I still love the cover!

stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-08-29 07:11 pm
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Ireland: Thursday and Friday

Still more about our trip to Ireland:

    We slept in again, and took considerable time to get going in the morning.  Finally we headed off for more sight-seeing--Navan and the Hill of Slane.  Navan was a dumpy, nasty town when I was there eight years ago, but it's improved now.  Darwin liked it, but I still didn't.  Crowded, difficult to navigate, boring shops.  We did some window shopping and got stuck around a truly stupid shopping mall, and had lunch at a burger place before finally heading to Slane.
    The Hill of Slane is an anti-pilgrimage for me, since it's the place where Saint Patrick lit a forbidden bonfire on Beltaine and got away with it, introducing Christianity to Ireland.  This was the beginning of the end of paganism there.
    There's also a ruined monastery, a small ruined castle, a graveyard (still working), and a bell tower up there.  We went to have a look.
    The monastery and castle were great fun to explore.  Darwin and I always enjoy trying to figure out what used to be what.  The monastery's living quarters--there were two sets--had many, many fireplaces in them on three floors, so the place must have been cozy even in winter.  (Since the place has a relationship with fire, this makes sense.)  We were puzzled by one area that seemed to be a great hall, but also clearly couldn't have been.  And Darwin found a dragon carved into the wall in one place, which was really cool.  We climbed around spiral stairs and under vaulted roofs and had a splendid time.
    The graveyard wasn't a graveyard originally.  It was the monastery grounds, and it got turned into a cemetery after the building became a ruin.  People are still buried there today, and gravestones now sit where people used to eat, sleep, and work.  People with higher status are buried in places like the original hall or near the statue of St. Patrick that greets you at the entrance.  People with lower status are buried around the edges.  This is still true today.
    At last we left, and I spat on the Patrick statue when Darwin wasn't looking.
    On the way home, we passed an unexpected ruin and impulsively turned down a side lane to see if we could explore it better.  It was a tall house-like castle surrounded by an expansive cow pasture and a high stone wall.  We explored a bit, and I found another stile for climbing over.  Darwin, who is a nervous trespasser, reluctantly followed.
    When we got closer, we discovered a second wall around a semi-abandoned graveyard.  I climbed over that wall for a better look.  Here, Darwin refused to follow.  Some of the graves were from the late 1700s, many were from the 1800s, and a few were less than 10 years old.  But the whole place had gone to ruin.  No one had mowed it, or kept up the stones.  In the corner, I found a pile of wrecked, ivy-covered stone, and after a moment I realized it must have been a small church or chapel.  (Later, when I looked the place up, I found out I was right.)
    The main building, a total wreck, was huge three stories tall and one story down and falling down.  No roof.  Ireland went through a period of taxing the roof, meaning if your building had a roof on it, you paid a tax on it, even if it was a church.  (This was one way to get rid of a church the government didn't like.)  To avoid the tax, people took the roof off a building and let it go to ruin.  We wondered if this had happened here.  The building showed remains of old fireplaces, staircases, rooms, and windows.  Darwin found a huge, HUGE tree that had come down during a storm and been sawed in half by someone.  The tree was several hundred years old, and the roots brought up an enormous ball of earth.
    Later, we did some research and discovered the place is called Fennor Castle.  It was built just before the reign of Elizabeth I and modified during her reign.  There wasn't anything much else about it.  It has a wrecked chapel and a graveyard.  We couldn't find anything about who used to live there, or who owns it now, or why it was abandoned.  But it was great fun to explore!

    Friday we had to get up early to pack up and leave for Dublin again.  We swiftly packed our things and bade Sinead a fond good-bye.  We had to return the rental car by noon, and it was an hour's drive to Dublin, so we had to get moving. 
    We gave ourselves an extra hour in case we got turned around again, but things went much more smoothly, and we arrived at the car rental place at the airport with no trouble at all.  I have to say I was relieved to give the car up.  It's stressful and nerve-wracking to drive in Ireland, and I felt like a great burden had lifted when I handed over the keys.
    It was a long, long, loooooooooooooong wait for the shuttle bus into town, for some reason.  The line for the bus grew longer and longer and longer and more and more pissed off.  After more than 45 minutes' wait for a bus that was supposed to run every 10 minutes, one finally arrived, and we made the slow drive into town.
    Our next accommodations were at Trinity College, which rents out its student dorms and apartments in the summer very reasonably.  Because the wait for the bus was so damned long, we arrived at Trinity at 1:30, only a little before the 2 PM check-in, and the college was already checking guests in.  I had booked us a double room/apartment, and the check-in went fine, but the apartment itself was so far across campus, it was almost off the map.  I suggested waiting for a ride--the clerk had said we could get if we waited a moment--but Darwin had been put off by the bus wait and said he wanted to walk.  So we set out.
    It took us more than half an hour.
    This was partly because we got lost several times.  The paper map they gave us was completely unhelpful--we couldn't tell where anything was on it.  My phone gave us directions, but it kept switching from walking directions to driving directions, for some reason.  We finally FINALLY found the place.  It's a modern building on the outside corner of the campus.  It's quite Spartan, as we knew it would be, though I didn't know it was a shared bathroom situation.  (We share with four other rooms.)  But it worked out--there was only one other couple staying there.  The main trouble was the noise.  Our window (second story) opened right onto the street, and it was NOISY.  Heavy traffic roared by 24/7, tour buses trundle past and you heard the guides barking through their loudspeakers, people talked and laughed and shouted as they passed, and you smelled their cigarette smoke.  The rooms on the other side of the hall faced the courtyard and were silent.  This was a bad luck room!
    We had supper at Kennedy's, a pub frequented by Oscar Wilde (well, he worked there when he was young), Yeats, and Joyce, which was pretty neat.  I had steak-and-Guinness pie, and Darwin had a tasty lamb shank.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-08-28 11:50 am
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Violence Against Nazis

I see a lot of discussion about whether it's a good idea to use--or just be =ready= to use--violence against Nazis and other white supremacists.  Anti-violence people want to take the way of Gandhi: no violence ever.

Those who know me may be surprised to hear that I think it's foolish to avoid violence.  Violence works.

Violence is sometimes the best way to end a conflict, and the threat of violence can stop a conflict from beginning.  I know as a teacher I'm required to say that school children should avoid hitting bullies, but you know what?  Sometimes the fastest way to stop a bully is to punch one in the face. 

When we first moved to Wherever with Aran, no one in school knew him.  He was a six-foot tall seventh grader who had odd mannerisms and speech patterns.  A kid on Aran's bus took it on himself to bully Aran about it.  (Why the hell anyone would bully someone who's more than a foot taller than they are, I don't know.)  The kid bugged Aran and bugged him and bugged him.  Nothing Aran said would stop him.  Finally, Aran hit his break point and smashed him in the face in full view of a bunch of other kids.  The kids stared.  The bully scrambled away.  No one ever bullied Aran again for the rest of his school career in Wherever.

This is the way bullies operate.  They go after people they think are smaller, weaker, or otherwise less powerful than they are.  They go after such people because they figure such people won't hurt them.  I can hit you all I want, and you won't do a damn thing.

Nazis and white supremacists are extreme bullies.  They go after minority groups they perceive as weak or ineffective.

You'll notice that under the Obama administration, Nazis and supremacists didn't say much.  They didn't march much.  But under bully Trump, they've become bolder.  They figure no one will hurt them.  They've started their shouting and demonstrating and the GOP in charge isn't saying anything against them, which makes them bolder.  This is how the Nazi party got going in Germany.

Words don't stop these people.  Words do nothing at all.  They see people who use words as weak, wimpy, and soft, people they can bulldoze right over.  And they have.  Trump has helped them.  Words won't get these people to change their minds, either.  By the time they're so hyped up that they're out on the street demonstrating, they're past the point of persuasion.

There's only one way to stop them.

The police use it.  When a demonstration gets out of hand, the police have no compunctions about breaking out the hoses, night sticks, and pepper spray.  Violence.  Though this didn't help poor Heather Meyer.

The kid who bullied Aran stopped because he knew if he continued, he'd get physical pain.  It was the only language he understood.  It's sad, but true.  Nazis and supremacists are exactly the same.  They understand violence.  They understand pain.  They want to dish it out, but when it comes to taking it, they'll flee.  Why?  Because, just like Aran's bully, Nazis and supremacists only pick on people they perceive as weak.  And for them, "weak" means "non-violent."  If they know a group will hit them, punch them, smash them, they'll slink away--or not even show up in the first place.  This is why the anti-Nazis and anti-supremacists should be perfectly willing to use their own methods against them.  It's a powerful method that works.

The anti-violencers have said that using violence only gives the alt-right protesters a grievance.  The alt-right will claim they've been unjustly hurt by those awful left-wingers and antifa people. 

This is a ridiculous argument.  The Nazis and supremacists ALREADY believe they're victims of the left.  They ALREADY think the left has been hitting them.  Just listen to Fox "News" for ten minutes.  The victim mentality of the right becomes apparent within seconds.  America has become anti-Christian, anti-white, anti-man, they moan.  We're going to disappear!  They're hurting us!  They're crushing us!  There's nothing the left, including the antifa, can do that will change this mentality.  Look at the scenarios this way:

1. NO VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT: The right continue to bitch and moan about how they've been victimized by the left, and Nazis demonstrate in the street, unmolested.

2.  VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT: The right continue to bitch and moan about how they've been victimized by the left, and Nazis think twice before demonstrating.

Which one is better?  The right will bitch no matter what.  At least with #2, we shut up the Nazis.

The anti-violencers like to say that violence drives the Nazis and supremacists underground.  We need to keep them out in the open, where we can see them and know who they are.


Nazis who are out in the open, demonstrating in the streets, are automatically granted a certain legitimacy.  They're recognized as a movement.  People who are on the fence or who might keep quiet about their Nazi views are encouraged to open up about them, perhaps demonstrate themselves, swell the ranks.  The Nazis become BOLD.  They ACT instead of just demonstrate, as Heather Meyer tragically discovered.  An open movement receives support.  It expands and grows more easily.  How would Hitler and his new Nazis have taken over Germany if they had remained a small underground movement?  Answer: they would not have done it.  They would have faded away and died.

An underground movement is harder to find.  People who have vague feelings of sympathy for it don't know where to get to it or find like-minded people.  They have hunt for it, take risks to find it, rather than just walk down the street or turn on the news.  An underground group remains smaller, less powerful.  If you don't believe it, ask yourself how much you knew about American Nazis until two months ago.  The fact that you're reading this blog says quite a lot.

The gay community has benefited from coming out of the underground.  LGBT people demonstrated in the streets, held parades, gave interviews on the news as neighbors, family, and co-workers, and started showing up as characters in movies, television, and in books.  It happened more and more and more, and LGBT people have become more accepted as a result.  LGBT people who were in the closet felt more comfortable about coming out and swelling the public ranks.  Straight people discovered they had friends, family, and co-workers who were LGBT, and more of them supported the LGBT movement.  We have a long ways to go, but we've made enormous strides forward in the last 20 years.  And it all happened because of VISIBILITY.

This is a positive.  However, Nazis and white supremacists are now trying to use the same strategy.  Become more visible, swell the ranks, become more accepted.

How different would world history be if anti-Nazi supporters had used a little violence against Hitler and his ilk back when they were small and just getting started?  How different would the world be if a town had smacked up Mussolini back when he only had 100 supporters?  Gandhi may have gotten the British out of India--eventually--but his methods wouldn't have been able to stop World War II.

If Nazis and supremacists know they run the risk of having their signs shoved up their asses the moment they starting heiling Trump, they'll back off.  They'll stay underground. 

If the bullies know their target isn't weak, they'll slink away.  Aran's bully knew this.  And so do we.
stevenpiziks: (Default)
2017-08-28 11:28 am
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Max and Wisdom Teeth

Max's orthodontist recommended that he be evaluated for wisdom teeth extraction.  He's not even 16 yet, and this seemed young to me, but I took him to an oral surgeon, who said they should come out.  So we scheduled it to happen a couple weeks before school starts so he'd have time to recover.

In the interim, as I noted on my blog before, Aran was abruptly given clearance to move into an apartment on the same day as Max's surgery. 

We couldn't reschedule the apartment.  I didn't want to reschedule the surgery.  Chances were, we'd have to do it after school started, and that would be more complicated and difficult for everyone.  I called Kala and said she could either help Aran move or take Max to surgery.  Mysteriously, she chose the latter.  :)

Max was nervous about it all, but went in just fine.  Kala kept me updated with texts.  When we got back from Aran's apartment, he was already recovered from anesthesia and on pain meds.  He wouldn't keep ice on his face, though, and I predicted more swelling.

He got it.  The next day, his face was markedly rounder, though if you didn't know him, you wouldn't know.  You'd just think he had a round face.  The swelling has been steadily going away, and he takes the pain meds.  He seems to be doing just fine.

And now he doesn't have to have this done later!
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2017-08-28 10:32 am
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Aran Moves

While I was in Ireland, Aran texted me.  The Section 8 apartment complex in Ypsilanti had a vacancy and they'd approved him for a place to live.  He could move in the Friday after we got back.


Aran had applied for an apartment at this place--the same complex Sasha lives in--several weeks ago, and was told he had to go on the waiting list.  There were three people ahead of him, and the complex couldn't--wouldn't--estimate when they might have an opening.  I figured it would be months or even a year.  It turned out to be weeks.

This spot is ideal, really.  It's near Darwin's office and in the same complex as Sasha, so we have a clump of family all in the same area.  There's a Kroger Aran can transfer to so he can keep his job.  Aran already knows Ypsilanti, so he won't have to learn a new city.  Cool!

This touched off a flurry of . . . everything.  When we got home from Ireland, we had to prep.  Aran needed a number of things, of course.  Kala took Aran out to hunt for garage sale finds, and since Darwin and I had combined households, we had a bunch of stuff already that he could have.  Some stuff we'd have to buy, but we didn't want to buy very much, since anything we bought would have to be moved down to Ypsilanti.  Easier to move him in, and buy stuff down there.

Moving Day was complicated by the fact that Max was long scheduled to have his wisdom teeth removed the same day.  It was further complicated by the fact the Darwin and I both got bad colds and we felt awful.  Everything was happening at once!  Kala came up to take Max to the surgeon while I went with Aran to Ypsilanti. We loaded up both our cars with a lot of his stuff and drove down.

At the complex, Aran signed a barrage of paperwork, handed over a check, and was pleased to get his keys.  Ta da!  It turned out his apartment was two floors directly above Sasha's!  Sasha came down, and we all hauled stuff into Aran's place.  Then Aran and I went furniture shopping at Ikea.  We found him an inexpensive (if small) couch and a bedstead.  Aran and I put the couch together, and by now it was 4:30.  I was exhausted and sick, and I decided we needed to go back home.  Aran was also tired, so we did.

Back home, Max was recovering from the surgery (more on that later) and Darwin came home from work, feeling as crappy as I did.  Kala decided to spend the night at our place to help the next day.

Saturday, we loaded the rest of Aran's things into our cars.  This was tricky--he had a dresser and a desk--but the desk's legs telescoped, making it much shorter, and we had a furniture dolly for the dresser.  Everything finally got loaded and we headed down again.

It turned out we were missing a section of the bed, so Darwin and I popped up to Ikea to get it.  We also got a mattress for it.  Meanwhile, Kala helped Aran unpack most of his apartment.  (Max was well enough to stay home by himself.)  The bedstead, like most of these things from Ikea, was insanely complicated to assemble, and the thought of doing so made me shake, but Kala and Darwin, who are much better at these things than I am, volunteered to do it while I took Aran shopping for the final things he needed.  Win-win!

I took Aran to Target for a few more apartment things and then to Kroger for groceries.  This latter considerable time, since he needed =everything.=  But eventually we got it done and hauled many, many bags to his apartment, arriving just as Kala and Darwin were finishing the bedstead.  We all spent more time putting everything away.  In the end, there was nothing left but assembling electronics and ordering the strange odds and ends that really only the owner of the apartment can deal with.  It was time to go.

Kala and I were stalling.  We both knew it.  We didn't want to leave Aran there.  We're both worried about him.  Can he handle everything?  Will he be okay?  Even though I knew I'd be back to deal with various issues, including his job, I was worried and unhappy.  I know it's normal for parents to think about such things, but autism throws another dimension into them. 

But we said good-bye.  Aran, as usual, was perfunctory about it.  We left, and both Kala and I were teary-eyed as we walked toward the elevator.  Darwin stayed silent about it.

Moments after we left, we learned, Aran ran a Facebook Live session on his phone.  Like young people everywhere, he was happy to be in his own space and not the least bit bothered.
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2017-08-27 11:10 am

Ireland: Tuesday and Wednesday

Our adventures in Ireland continue:

    The weather was, amazingly, bright and sunny, with only a few wispy clouds.  I said on such a day we should visit Loughcrew and Castle Trim, since they're completely outdoors.  So off we went.
    Darwin realized that he had disliked Dublin--too crowded, the history was too hidden or too changed to notice easily.  That was why he was so quiet there.  But he adored the Irish countryside.  The ancient stone walls with trees growing out of the tops, the herds of cows, the old stone cottages, the little towns, the unexpected churches and graveyards, all of it.  He fell hard for Ireland.
    We got to Loughcrew (and the first syllable is pronounced "loch" with a guttural "ch"), which is a set of hills with 5,000 year old passage tombs at the top.  The tombs started out as rings of stone with earth and rock piled in a mound in the middle, and a single passage threading up the middle, in which cremains were usually deposited.  Loughcrew's are older than the pyramids, older than Newgrange, older than everything!  You park the car at the bottom of the hill, go through a cow gate, and climb, climb, climb through a sheep pasture to the top of relentlessly windy hill, from which it feels like you can see all of Ireland.  At the top are mound tombs so ancient that all the earth and rock have washed away.  Only the largest mound survives.  It's aligned with the rising sun of the equinox, and the sun strikes sun carvings on the back wall for 12 minutes twice a year.  The big mystery is how (and why) stone age people transported the stones from a quarry 40 miles away and hauled them to the top of the hill before animals were domesticated.  Darwin explored them to his heart's content.  A great kerb stone is carved something like a chair, and it's called the Hag's Chair.  If you sit on it, you get a wish.  We both sat and wished.  :)
    Last time I was here, I jumped down inside one of the washed-away tombs and made a video of myself playing music, but when I got back to the cottage, the video was gone.  The other videos I made that day were there, but not that one. (!)  Since the empty tombs are also called fairy rings, this made for an eerie evening.  Today, I played in a tomb again with Darwin behind the camera, and the video survived properly.  Ha!
    On our way back, I found a small rock at the base of the big tomb that had a small well worn into it, like a bowl.  It was full of water.  I drank from it, and it was the sweetest, most delicious water I had ever tasted.  I drank twice more--three times in all--and was greatly refreshed.  It was a powerful witch's moment.
    We also explored a lane that led down to a new visitors center at Lough Crew that hadn't been there the last time.  It turned out to be in the house of a family who has lived in the area for generations.  The grandpa, Martin Shortt, had written a memoir about his life in the area, and I bought a copy.  It made for fascinating reading--life in rural Ireland in the 50s.  The part that stuck with me most was how the author's uncle Patrick used to snare rabbits on Lough Crew, tie the dozen-odd carcasses to the handlebars of his bike, and ride into town every morning.  By the time he got to town, he'd always sold every one.  The family depended on the cash.  One day, Mr. Naper, who owned all the land around Lough Crew, caught him, took all the rabbits, and angrily threw them to his dogs to teach Patrick not to trespass.  It was a disastrous day for the family, and after that, Patrick had to be more cautious about his trespassing.
    Next up, we went to Trim.  Trim is mostly famous these days as the castle where BRAVEHEART was partly filmed.  This was Darwin's first castle, and he loved this, too.  We took the tour of the main keep.  The place was originally built in the 1100s and added on to, then eventually fell into ruin.  Spiral staircases, old stone walls, ruined rooms, everything an ancient castle should be.  We also explored the grounds and the area outside it.  It was a fine day!

    We slept in a little later than we intended, then had breakfast (Shreddies! the Irish cereal of champions!) and headed off for Kells.
    Kells is the town that originated the Book of Kells, and they weren't happy when Dublin took it away from them for "safekeeping."  It's also famous for a number of Celtic artifacts, including four Celtic stone crosses scattered about the town.  I'd never been to Kells. so this was a new trip for me.  We both found the town a delight.  Our first stop was the visitor's bureau, which turned out to be the town hall as well, and Darwin asked about the local government, as he likes to do whenever we go to a new place.  The lady we talked to was thrilled to get so much interest about things like local population and how the government is run and such, and she gave Darwin a personal tour of the town hall, which is quite modern.
    We wandered about Kells, enjoying the town's old-and-new mix.  We found all four Celtic crosses throughout the course of the day, including the Broken Cross and the Unfinished Cross.  We thoroughly explored the church and graveyard and the stone tower.  The latter was built more than a thousand years ago and is over seven stories tall, made of rough fieldstone (though it was probably done over in white plaster back in its day).  It's famous for being the site where a man declared himself High King of Ireland, and was murdered for his trouble a few days later.
    The graveyard was fascinating.  We love to look for the oldest legible gravestone.  Irish graveyards, oddly, rarely have anything earlier than the 1700s, possibly because any earlier stones were worn away, removed/stolen for houses, or broken.  They're dashedly hard to read sometimes, but they do get verbose: THIS STONE ERECTED BY WILLIAM MCHARRIS IN THE MEMORY OF HIS FATHER RICHARD MCHARRIS WHO DEPARTED THIS EARTH ON YE 22ND OF MAY, 1843 AT THE AGE OF 79. ALSO HIS WIFE MARY WHO DIED ON YE 4TH OF APRILL, 1845 AT THE AGE OF 82. ALSO THE ABOVE WILLIAM, WHO DIED ON...
    A common tactic was to have a single, table-sized grave marker with everyone buried beneath it, and the marker lay atop it all like a giant table.  The trouble here is that the engravings were exposed to the elements and quickly wore away.
    The oldest marker we found was also what I called the world's saddest gravestone.  It's a chunk of slate, lopped off raggedly and inexpertly.  The inscription, done in an uneven hand, says simply BOB DEC. YE 25TH 1750 IHS with a cross arising from the H.  (IHS is a Latin abbreviation for "Jesus saves mankind.") 
    I think Bob was a baby born to a poor family, and he died at birth.  "What are we going to do?" wept the mother.  "We can't afford a stone, and he doesn't even have a name."  "We'll call him Bob," said the father, and he dug a piece of slate out of the field, sadly chiseled BOB on it (perhaps even because the name was short and easy to spell), and erected it in the graveyard himself.
    We tried to get into Saint Colmcille's ("collum-killah") house.  It's a tall stone house with a peaked roof and a gated stone wall all the way around it.  A sign tells you to go get the key from Mrs. Carpenter, who lives just up the road, but when we found her house, we discovered she wasn't in, so we had to content ourselves with looking at the place from the road.  I don't know about you, but I find it charming beyond charm that to get into a major historical site, you have to get the key from Mrs. Carpenter, who might have popped out to do her shopping or have tea with a friend, but once you get it, she'll trust you to return it presently.
    Along the way, we came across a half-ruined stone cottage with a surprisingly generous garden (yard) around it.  Darwin declared it our retirement home.  It would certainly be cheap to buy, but expensive to renovate!  I wouldn't mind living in Kells, though.
    We had a late supper at home.  The weather was a little sprinkly, but I suggested we pop down to Girley Bog for a look.  Darwin agreed to this, so off we went.
    Along the way, we passed through Fordstown, which has its own graveyard.  We stopped to have a look.  The graveyard is surrounded by yet another stone wall and a gate held shut with a chain.  I pointed out to Darwin the stones sticking out of the wall beside the gate that form a little ladder.  It's called a stile, and you're supposed to climb over them.  A matching set of stones on the other side get you down.  I don't know why the stile is there, though I suspect it has something to do with allowing people to visit the yard after it's closed, or with a superstition that the gate only opens for funerals--the dead go through the gate, and the living go over the wall.
    Darwin and I explored the graveyard for a while, then proceeded to Girley Bog.  I parked the car beside a little lane that leads past a cow pasture into the bog, and we tromped inward.  Darwin wasn't impressed at first--it was just a stroll through some scrubby-looking brushland.  A large group of hikers burst out of nowhere around a curve and passed as.  We let them by, and I caught the last one to ask who they were.  He said they were a fitness group and we were welcome to join them.  I declined on the grounds that we were strolling, not on a serious walk.  He recognized our accents and asked where in America we were from.  I always say "Detroit" because no one knows where Wherever is.  He nodded and then said jokingly, "So you're responsible for Donald Trump, are you?"
    We both backed away in horror.  "Donald Trump is the biggest embarrassment America has ever produced," I said.
    This wasn't the first time we've run across this.  More than one Irish person has brought up Donald Trump to us, and all of them hate him.  We say we hate him right back.  A taxi driver laughingly said he's driven dozens of Americans and never once found one who admitted to voting for Trump.  I said it's probably because people who travel are more broad-minded and aren't likely to vote for a person like him.
    Anyway, the hiking group went cheerily on their way.  The bog path was paved--it wasn't the last time I was there--and at one point, I took Darwin's arm and dived sideways into the pine trees.  He was a little surprised, but came along.  NOW he was impressed.  This was the tree part of the bog.  Giant trees reached up to the sky, creating a cathedral-like area beneath.  The ground was soft and spongy, but not wet.  Owls twittered in the silence.  The path was clear, but easy to lose.  "Don't get lost in here," I warned.  "Even with GPS, it'll be a trick to find our way out."
    We explored the bog for a considerable time, and Darwin enjoyed it very much.  Then darkness chased us back home.
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2017-08-24 09:18 am
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Ireland: Monday

More Ireland here:

    On Monday, we headed back to the airport to pick up THE RENTAL CAR.  This was a scary prospect because of the stupid Irish custom of driving on the wrong damn side of the road.  The entire world uses the right, but the Irish use the left, and it's truly awful.  Darwin flatly refused to consider driving, so it was all me behind the wheel.
    One bonus was the GPS.  I downloaded UK maps to my portable GPS and installed it in the car for us.  This made navigation a thousand times easier!  Last time, I spent a great deal of time pulling over and using a map to figure out where I was and still making wrong turns and getting lost.  The GPS solved all that in a heartbeat, allowing me to concentrate on driving the stupid way.  It was nerve-wracking.  When you switch to the wrong side of the road, your instincts shout at you YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! YOU'RE GOING TO CRASH! And when cars come around a curve at you, it looks like they're coming at you in your lane because YOU'RE ON THE WRONG SIDE and you want to swerve over to the correct side, something you mustn't ever do. You spend the entire time fighting deeply-bred instincts, and it's intensely stressful and awful.
    There were some bobbles along the line to our cottage in the Irish countryside.  Despite the GPS, the confusing highways around the airport got us a little lost, and Darwin kept yelping at me.  He had a hard time with the idea that there's a learning curve to Irish driving, but neither would he take the wheel himself, which gave me a more tense and difficult time as a driver.  It doesn't help that Irish country roads have no shoulders and are closely bordered by high hedges, so you can't see and you have no escape route if something goes wrong.  We had no incidents or accidents, though, and I told Darwin it was his job to ensure I stayed in the correct lane, since American drivers want to drift over to the right instead of staying on the left.  Eventually Darwin calmed down and learned not to yip or howl, and he instead concentrated more on navigation assist and saying things like, "You'll need to be in that lane so we can turn," which made things better.
    Finally we made it to Clonleason Cottage.
    Clonleason is the cottage where I stayed at last time.  It sits at the front of the driveway and just behind the retaining wall of a Georgian estate house that was built in 1773, though the gatehouse (now a guest house and cottage) was expanded in the 30s to include a living room. The acres and acres of Irish garden grounds are immaculately kept, complete with herb and vegetable gardens, centuries-old trees, shaded walks, rose arbors, and a 500-year-old stone bridge that arcs across the river that borders the estate.  The cottage itself is beautiful inside.  The door opens into the cozy, slate-floored kitchen, which has a little table and two chairs, a china shelf, and a sink-and-cupboard area.  To the left is a living room filled with bookshelves and comfortable furniture gathered around a little fireplace.  French doors open into a gorgeous flower garden.  To the right is a generous bedroom and bathroom.  Everything is done in green and yellow, and it's all light and air.  Darwin fell instantly in love.  Sinead, our landlady, and her dog met us with a friendly greeting, along with carrot cake and some vegetable soup--much appreciated!
    We unpacked and explored.  The grove with the 1000-year-old beech tree in the center that I remembered from last time absolutely enchanted Darwin.  He decided we would never leave!
    We had to go into Athboy, the nearby small town, for groceries and things.  The drive was still nerve-wracking but uneventful, and Darwin discovered the Irish rule that you can park facing any direction you like also unnerving.  Like Dublin, Athboy was a LOT busier than I remembered.  The main street was a constant drone of traffic.  How things change!
    We grocery shopped and explored the town.  Here, I was able to take Darwin to his first stone church and graveyard in Ireland.  As a cemetery and old church afficionado, he loved them both.
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2017-08-23 02:06 pm
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Ireland, Baby!

Darwin and I are back from Ireland!  Darwin enjoyed himself hugely and had to be physically dragged to the airport to leave.  I'm posting my journal in segments here.  It's really hard to post photos and videos on this site, but I'll have them on Facebook, so come see over there!

    Darwin and I landed at Dublin airport Saturday morning after a boring flight, went through a loooooonnngg line at customs, gathered our luggage without incident, and boarded a shuttle bus that took us to downtown Dublin.  Yay!
    First, we shall point out that the weather was stunningly cooperative all week.  As you know, Bob, Ireland is notoriously rainy, and the weather forecasts on my phone kept calling for rain, rain, and more rain.  But all week, the worst we got was a passing shower that didn't last more than a few minutes.  The temperature stayed in the 50s at night and the 60s during the day with a surprising amount of sunshine.  Double yay!
    We ended up at one of the tourist centers across the street from Trinity College, where Oscar Wilde attended university.  They have a luggage check, which was important because we couldn't get into our flat until 2:00, and it wasn't even noon.  We dropped off our luggage and got some breakfast at a pub.  I had a full Irish breakfast, and Darwin had some lighter fare.  When I ordered tea to drink, I got an actual teapot filled with properly brewed tea, not a cup of lukewarm water and a tea bag like you do in America. The Irish know proper tea.
    Dublin was way, WAY more crowded than it was when I visited eight years ago.  The streets outside the tourist center were so packed, you could scarcely move.  Later, when Darwin and I popped into Trinity for a look, the crowds were equally immense.  I couldn't understand it until Darwin pointed out that eight years ago, we were deep in a recession, which hits tourism badly.  This would explain it.
    Anyway, we hopped on board a bus to tour Dublin while we waited for our flat.  Darwin didn't seem very happy or impressed, for all that he'd been looking forward to this trip so much, but I put it down to jet lag and fatigue--we'd been up all night and were now moving into morning, and we had leaped ahead five hours.  I pointed out some areas we might want to come back later to visit, and Darwin nodded.
    We stopped by the Molly Malone statue, which was near the tourist center, and got several pictures, then reclaimed our luggage and grabbed a taxi to the flat.
    The flat was . . . well, awful.  It was clean, I'll say that.  But it was so very tiny.  The bathroom was so minuscule, you couldn't function in it.  The lighting was poor.  The mattress was lumpy.  And even though the listing said it was "convenient" for city center, you had to take a taxi or be prepared to walk for half an hour or longer.  At least it was relatively inexpensive.  Never, ever will we stay there again, though, and we were glad that we were getting out quickly.  It certainly wasn't worth 100 Euros per night.
    For two days, we wandered about Dublin.  Christchurch Cathedral--always impressive.  Darwin found it awe-inspiring.  That took most of an afternoon, and we picnicked on the grounds outside for lunch.  We visited Trinity College and discovered stampedes of crowds everywhere.  We wanted to see the Book of Kells and the long room, but the line to get in was two or three blocks long.  I couldn't get over it!  When I was here last, I breezed right in.  Later, we bought tickets on-line for it, with a reserved time in the morning, and showed up at 9 AM.  A separate line for e-tickets rushed us right in past the already-forming regular line, but when we left an hour later, the e-ticket line was also a block long.
    Book of Kells was, as always, stunning, even if you only get to see the two pages the curators have set up for the day.  Really, the BoK stands up to world-class works of art like the Mona Lisa or the Pieta.  The Long Room library, 2/3ds the length of a soccer pitch, was also wonderful, with Brian Boru's harp on display and books that are older than any other in Ireland.  We spent considerable time there.
    That evening we went on a ghost tour, which was pushed as a tour of haunted places in Dublin.  We climbed aboard a black bus with curtained-over windows, and an actor in ghostly makeup told stories about the Black Plague and other awful ways to die in 19th century Dublin while we drove around town for a look-see at various sites. It was long on the plague and short on ghosts, but it was kind of fun overall.
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2017-08-10 09:11 pm

Alcohol and Us

Didn't we just learn that 1 in 8 Americans has an alcohol problem? I was talking to Darwin about that and I was saying that in the last several years, I'd noticed the emphasis our society puts on women and alcohol. Women getting hammered in groups. Women having rowdy, alcohol-soaked gal parties. Women gulping down huge drinks after work with their gal pals, deliberately setting out to get drunk and shouting "Woooo! I need this!" Was it just me noticing this? Apparently not.…/giving-up-alcohol-opened-my-eyes-to-the-i…/

1 American in 8, everyone. 1 in 8.