Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Year in Exercise

I probably won't get to walk tomorrow, though I may wind up doing some shoveling, so here's my walking(mostly)/kayaking(a little) stats for 2012:

  • 600.5 miles
  • 352 workouts
  • 227 hours walking/kayaking
  • 61,843 calories burned

And I do recommend for tracking your waling/running/biking distance statistics.

I have been, very informally, participating in an activity called "Walk to Rivendell," where a group of Lord of the Rings fans have calculated distances in Middle Earth. I walked at least 700 miles between 2003 and 2011, and 600 miles this year, for 1300 miles total. That's 9 miles short of Rauros (the end of Fellowship of the Ring).

My goals for 2013:

  • 800 miles (1,000 if still unemployed) - use treadmill more in bad weather
  • start adding some weight training and XBox workouts
  • try to learn a little yoga (have a book that says it MIGHT help with insomnia)
  • do more kayaking
  • walk on the Montour Trail - we've done about 5 miles of it in years past, but should do more. Maybe try to do more good weather weekends and attempt to do 20 miles over the next year
  • eat more spinach and fewer carbs and meat

Weightwise, I wound up loosing about 10 total pounds...but I had lost 20 and regained 10 over the fall. Ug. Main issue seemed to be when I stopped taking Ambien back in September, I started craving carbs again something fierce. Also, a bunch of travel, depressing life events, etc which tends to make me eat more. However, over the next six weeks, we won't be traveling and I should be able to get my eating back under better control. If I start to lose weight over the winter (and I never lose weight over the winter), that would be a very good sign indeed.

Who Said "Religious Freedom Doesn't Mean You Can Force Others to Live by Your Own Beliefs"?

Even in the days when I was still religious, I was never evangelical. I generally believed in "live and let live," but, well, religions that restricted women's rights and advocated beating children have always offended me.

When I can find quotes about life that are meaningful to me, I like to add them to my Good Quotes page. I also try to find the original person who said it, so that the quote is properly attributed.

I ran into "Religious freedom doesn't mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs" and liked it. It was on a graphic passed around that attributed it to President Obama. I thought I'd check...and, it looks like, he didn't say it.

Since we on the left are constantly reminding people that "facts matter," we need to be more careful about our facts. I'm about 99% sure he never said it, as I went to, and this quote is not attributed to him at his own site.

Now, he did give a talk back in February 2012 over health care and reproductive rights, where he clearly never made this statement. If he had made this statement, he would have probably included it in his concluding remarks:

Now, I've been confident from the start that we could work out a sensible approach here, just as I promised. I understand some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue, but it shouldn’t be. I certainly never saw it that way. This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone. With today’s announcement, we've done that. Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.

We live in a pluralistic society where we're not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief. That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans. We are unique among nations for having been founded upon both these principles, and our obligation as citizens is to carry them forward. I have complete faith that we can do that.

So, who did say "Religious freedom doesn't mean you can force others to live by your own beliefs" first? It's not clear. I wish I had. But, certainly, people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison pretty much said it in the First Amendment over 200 years ago:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do You Think a Group That Practices Harassment Like the Westboro Baptist Church Should be Tax-Exempt?

I started a White House Petition 14 days ago to tell the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church. Since then, 72,000 people have signed it. A person named Ralph W from Maine was number 72,000. It'll be online another 2 weeks, and I hope to reach 100,000 signers by then.

Monday, December 24, 2012

From Holidaysburg to Newtown...

Since moving back to Pittsburgh in 1993, I've probably done the drive between Western Pennsylvania and Central Massachusetts 50 times. I take 22 to 220 to 80 to 81 to 84 to the Mass Pike, meaning I drive across the very rural parts of Pennsylvania and New York, and near many cities/suburbs in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

So I've driven through many small towns in these areas many times without giving them a second thought...until this month.

Just off of Route 22, Holidaysburg was the site of gun-nuttery last Friday (just before Wayne LaPierre's infamous diatribe/non-press conference), when a man took a gun, shot into a church, murdered a woman, murdered two men out walking and shot three police officers who killed him.

A few hours later, we drove by the familiar sign for Newtown/Sandy Hook in Connecticut on Route 84. Someone had put a large wreath on it. I couldn't stop on 84 to take a photo of the sign due to traffic. The incident is now so well known that I don't need to say anything about it.

Except now I'll always think of my drive from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts as just another tour of gun-related mass murder.

When you live in Pennsylvania, you know people like their guns. Pennsylvania is full of hunters. Since moving to a more rural area of Pennsylvania a few years back, we hear target shooters and hunters in the woods behind our house much of the fall. While I would never own a gun myself, I have no issue with game hunters owning guns...except when they want to own people-hunting semis. That's got to stop.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Follow-up to It's Time to #StopTheNRA #StopTheGOP #StopTheWBC

A few days after the Newtown Massacre, I decided my anger over the situation needed more than 140 characters, so I wrote a blog post. A number of things happened over the last week to the WBC/NRA/GOP this week, so I thought I'd update.

A week after the Newtown Gun Massacre, after a week of hiding away in an undisclosed location, NRA president Wayne LaPierre claimed he was going to have press conference. In reality, he spewed 20 minutes of a gun fantasyland, that included that America should have armed security guards in every school. He blamed everything he didn't like in America, never blaming the actual murder weapons themselves - the guns the NRA promote. While the easily-terrorized ran out and bought more guns, it sounds like more rational people have quit the NRA.

Just before LaPierre started to speak, a gunman murdered three people in rural Pennsylvania - a woman helping to decorate a church and two men, a man and his father-in-law, just out for a walk. He also shot (but did not kill) a few cops before the cops took him out like the mad dog he was.

There was even an excellent editorial in The New York Times by Richard Painter The NRA Protection Racket. And another one on gun control by Daniel O'Shea. And Andrew Sullivan is mad as hell and he's not going to take the stupidity and fanaticism of the Republican party anymore!

The GOP didn't have its best best week either. The far-far-right Tea Partiers deserted John Boehner's far-right Republicans and wouldn't vote in favor of his bad plan B because it still asked for more taxes from millionaires. So the House of Representatives couldn't vote, even though the right-wing Senate had approved a bill with rational concessions to avoid sending the country over the fiscal cliff. Boehner may be out of a job, but whoever replaces him will probably be worse given how highly the Tea Party thinks of itself and how utterly incapable they are of dealing with modern times.

My Investigate the IRS Tax-Exempt Status of the Westboro Baptist Church petition has 58,629 signatures. Thanks to everyone who has signed it.

The Westboro Baptist Church did try to protest a few of the Newtown funerals, but the word was that good, local people came out to shield the mourners from the morons.

Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let Your Senator Know How You Feel About Semiautomatic Weapons

Mother Jones published a list of Senators and their opinions on semiautomatic assault weapons ban.

My Senators, Bob Casey & Pat Toomey, both call themselves pro-life. But, Toomey really cares about the NRA, and Casey...well, there might be a little hope for him. So this is what I wrote to both of them:

I hope you will take your "pro-life" attitude seriously and vote in favor of any legislation that bans semiautomatic weapon/ammunition and any legislation that repairs the gun show sale background check loophole. Your constituents are more important than an NRA rating.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's Time to #StopTheNRA #StopTheGOP #StopTheWBC

For me, the Newtown massacre was the tipping point.

It's time to stop pretending that the NRA is good for this country. It's a stain on the country, in much the same way that Grover Norquist, the Westboro Baptist Church and even the Republican Party are all stains on the country.

Without the NRA caring more about gun companies than gun owners and buying a number of politicians, this country would have had a semiautomatic gun/ammo ban, and hundreds if not thousands of people murdered in this country with semis wouldn't have been killed. I know banning semis will not end gun violence, but it will end massacres as we've had in Connecticut, Virginia and Colorado over the last few years. It will end the murder of mass numbers of random people.

The Republican party has done nothing but show that loyalty to Grover Norquist and big business and rich people is more important than supporting the country. It is utterly out-of-touch with the people, who should thoroughly reject it. Many of us have, but more need to. The Republicans have been convincing people to vote against their own self-interest for many years. The facts don't matter to Republicans. The facts should matter to the people -- we're the ones who have to live and die by facts.

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a self-proclaimed church, but is not a real church. It is a group of raving, litigious homophobes. They picketed funerals of soldiers, and they are so low that they plan to picket the funerals of people murdered in Newtown. Enough is enough. If these people still have a tax-exemption, it should be revoked. I applaud the group of anonymous hackers who broke into the church's computer system and posted the names and addresses of members of this "church" online.

Enough is enough. We need to have a rational country. We do have a rational president, but, sadly, not a rational Congress. We must do everything we can to vote out the NRA-loving, gerry-mandering, women-hating Republicans and replace them with rational representatives who care more about the country as a whole than about the rich as a group.

But talking and tweeting is not enough. We must be advocates for people rather than for guns or for big-money interests. We must support groups like DemandAPlan and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to make semi-automatic weapons and ammo illegal. Remind the White House to take action on semi-automatic weapons by signing this petition (by the time I'd signed it on the afternoon of 12/14, I was around number 14,000). Sign the White House Petition to declare the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group and revoke its tax-exempt status.

As we Americans showed in the 2012 election, when we all work together, we can bring sensible people to government. We need to do this more consistently.

If you think it's time to stop these groups, add #StopTheNRA #StopTheGOP #StopTheWBC to your tweets and other messages. Let's start a movement - stop these groups that have brought (in the case of the NRA with its loose gun laws) or tried to bring so much terror to our country. It's time.

By using a lot of social network reminders (especially Twitter), I collected 25,000 signatures in less than 33 hours telling the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church. The White House has gotten a number of anti-Westboro Baptist Church petitions in the last few days, and I'm glad mine is one they will have to read and respond to.

Related Essays

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Letter to President Obama After the Murder of Children/Teachers in a Connecticut School

I am horrified by yet another gun-related mass murder in this country.

But, President Obama, this is yet another fight you must take on.

I know, it's a hard fight. I know the NRA has many politicians in utter thrall, in much the same way Grover Norquist has many politicians in thrall. But it's time to stop letter guns be such a common splatter on our society and start controlling guns more rationally.

Enough is enough, sir. You are wrong to say that now is not the time to talk gun control. Now we must discuss gun control. I demand that the federal government starts dealing with gun control.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Letter to Any Republican Congressional Representative

You won your gerrymandered district. President Obama won a majority of the national vote. I trust President Obama - I do not trust you in Congress who consistently put the wishes of your party (and Grover Norquist) in front of the needs of your constituents. The top 2% can afford to pay a little more in taxes to help the country. Move us away from the fiscal cliff - serve the country for a change.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Preparing for Death Online - How ISPs and Social Media Companies Can Help People Plan

I'm a realist - we all die and we ought to have a few clues about how we handle the material we've written/developed online over time.

I'm maybe a little more conscious about this fact as I've been running a site called Dead People Server since 1997. This is a trivia site about celebrities, but it is a daily reminder that we all come to an end sometime. I've also had two surgeries over the last five years, and while I've recovered well from both, chronic pain, hospital visits, and putting advanced directives and living wills into effect remind you how fragile life can be.

I've been following, slightly, the "Digital Death" folks, who've been trying to remind people about the importance of being aware that "your online stuff" survives you. And Jaweek Kaleem wrote good article on Huffington Post called Death On Facebook Now Common As 'Dead Profiles' Create Vast Virtual Cemetery. Yes, the article was a little too Facebook-centric, as many of the same issues apply to other types of online sites, even Huffington Post itself.

So there are several simple additions sites like Facebook and Tumbler and Huffington Post can make to their profile software, to help remind people that their digital material will survive them - and what do they want to do about it?

  • Add an option for "my account's executor" - a name and E-mail address (or maybe multiple names and E-mail addresses) so the account owner, before they die, can assign a person (or people) the right to control their material after their death. We all die some day. Many of us will have an idea (we're old or sick), but some die in accidents, sudden death, war or natural disasters. Plan ahead.
  • Add an option for "make archive site" - it retains the site, but marks the site "archive" (for people who might quit a site while keeping their material up) or "memorial" (for people who've died - it might pin a note to the top of the site, saying how/where/when the accountowner died and keep the site open for comments from friends and relatives).
  • Add an option for "remove all accountowner content," with an option to download it by the account owner or executor if desired. Some people like their papers burned after death and this is the virtual equivalent (even if some of it still survives in

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Creeps in Society, Part II

Last weekend, I was in Philadelphia, co-running Smofcon 30, a small conference for conference planners (yeah, that does sound a little self-referential). As I still have bad insomnia, I tended to shower, dress, take my laptop and go find breakfast and free WIFI. I found a nearby 24-hour diner where I'd have an omelette and get caught up on my E-mail.

The second morning I was there, I was busily typing away when the man at the next booth got up and asked, "Can you look something up for me?"

This guy was probably 50-something and was a little scruffy-looking, but, what the hell. I'm 50-something and often a little scruffy-looking myself. "Sure."

"I have to see if my lawyer listed my company."


He gave me the name of his company. It was only listed in some public database of Pennsylvania companies. He had me look up a second company name, which was also just listed in the same public database.

Then he asked me to look up his name (which, while I do remember it, I will not mention it here). OK, this was getting a little odd, but, I did.

We concluded I probably didn't find him in particular because he's not online and his name is relatively common.

"Let me buy you breakfast."

Now, that was weird. "No, I'm all set."

"I want to buy you breakfast."

A little louder. "No."

"I insist on buying you breakfast."

WTF!! "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" I said it loud enough that it probably echoed through the room.

The man skittered back to his booth.

I returned to my computer, and it was quiet in our part of the restaurant. About five minutes later, the guy yelled, "I have a cell phone."

I looked up but otherwise ignored the creep. It's just occurred to me that he might have taken my photo. Ugh.

The waitress stopped back, I asked for my check, paid it quickly in cash and got the heck out of there, taking a quick look behind as I went to make sure the guy wasn't following me. He wasn't.

It was annoying example that many other women experience way more often than I have - that some men are sufficiently stupid that they don't understand the word "NO." Women need to be rude and loud when a man doesn't comprehend "NO." No apologies.

Later that day, I was going out to lunch with a friend from out of the country and she wanted plain old local food. We went over to the diner, as the food was about as local as you could get. We had a very pleasant lunch. At one point, one of the waitresses stopped by and said, "You were here this morning, weren't you?"

It turned out the guy was a known quantity in the diner and was a bit of a problem. She wanted to make sure I was OK, and I assured her I was.

Being firm to clueless men is just part of being an adult woman. If I'd had to do anything more than yell "NO" at the jerk, I bet the laptop would have been a fine weapon of self-defense.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Republicans Still Can't Come to Grips with Voters

The Republicans are still pretending that they lost many of the 2012 elections, especially on the federal level, because they were not conservative enough.

Since they don't like dealing with facts, they are ignoring both the vote and many exit polls that indicated the following facts:

  • Voters believe in keeping abortion legal - roughly 60% in favor
  • Voters want improved rights to health care by implementing Obamacare
  • Voters don't believe that women magical powers over their bodies, like mystically becoming non-pregnant if they become pregnant as the result of a rape
  • Voters believe people shouldn't be subject to different laws because they are gay
  • Voters believe the rich should pay more in taxes
  • In many areas, voters will vote for candidates without worrying about their race or gender

I heard the Republicans complaining over these issues time and time again yesterday.

The Republicans lost the big elections because they are completely out-of-touch with the average American. Yes, they do have very vocal supporters, there's no doubt about that. But most Republican politicians cannot relate to people who do not share their regressive views.

Even now, the Republicans are still playing the "we can't increase taxes" card. This is bull. Grover Norquist and his famous "no new taxes" pledge is crippling this country, threatening to send it over the famous fiscal cliff at the end of December. An awful lot of our hideous national debt is due to Bush, Cheney and Norquist, but to hear the Republicans talk, it's all the Democrats' fault.

Reality check - when was the last time we didn't have a high federal debt?

Under President Clinton, a Democrat.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

My Hopes for the Second Obama Term

Watching the returns after the 2012 election was mostly a thrilling experience.

I'm so happy that the billions the Republican noise machine spent trying to discredit Obama were wasted! I'm very happy that the Website 538 was spot on with its meta-analysis of polls. I'm very happy that the members of the Rape Caucus lost and that Chuck Fuqua ("Parents should be able to execute their disobedient children") lost and that Michelle Bachmann almost lost. Women won all over the place - Warren, McCaskill, Baldwin. Paul Krugman has been nothing but right for years. Twitter was heavily overloaded and did not crash and burn Election Night. And Faux News was completely discredited as anything like a news source all night long. Millions of us already knew this, but I think millions more finally caught on last night,

Mostly, I'm glad we'll have four more years of President Obama. Like other developed nations, we'll have a more inclusive healthcare system. Yes, some people (and we might be some of them) will need to pay more taxes. The long "tax holiday" is over. Yes, I'm sure we'll still have some obstructionism, but I don't think the gridlock will be quite as strong as it was.

And, I do look forward to the coming civil war within the Republican party. The TPers are still as delusional as ever and think the American public wants them. They don't. More Republicans don't even want them anymore. For the next four years anyway, the country will progress and not regress. I think the TPers will try to start their own party, and will become increasingly less relevant. America voted for more women, voted for gay rights and legal pot, and re-elected a black president with both plenty of electoral votes and a clear popular majority.

The people who lost will continue to whine and cry - heard a few minutes of the Akin "concession" speech and it was amazingly juvenile. They can whine and cry all they want, but democracy and rationality basically won the day yesterday, and we can be very happy about that. Vote suppression and vote buying did not win - the voters won!

It looks like our country will finally not be involved in multiple wars simultaneously. While Romney and the hawks seem to want nothing more than a war with Iran, there are ways around that, and I'm sure Obama would not start a war with anyone unless absolutely necessary.

Perhaps our country will finally raise enough in taxes to improve crumbling infrastructure, improve the schools, contribute to science research and NASA. America can be a great country again, but it needs the tax money to do so.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Importance of Pollworkers

Good pollworkers are the lifeblood of every election. It's a thankless job with long hours. Getting sharp pollworkers is vital, particularly given voter intimidation, voter suppression and voter fraud efforts. The pollworkers are there to ensure we have a fair election and that every vote is counted (at least in most states) and that every voter votes only once.

We live in the suburbs west of Pittsburgh, in North Fayette Township. It's a very white, fairly Republican area. We've voted there without any problem since 2006 when we moved here. Usually, we're in and out in under 20 minutes, maybe a half hour.

We decided to vote early, got there before 7:25 and were shocked to see the many cars parked illegally and the long lines. We also parked illegally and got in line for our precinct. One line moved reasonably well, but our line moved extraordinarily slowly. One rumor that went down our line was that there was only one working voting machine for our precinct. It felt a little like voter suppression, except that we're in a Republican area in a state where Governor Tom Corbett has said he supports voter suppression in Democratic areas like Philadelphia. It seems unlikely they would try to suppress votes in a majority Republican area.

After about a half hour, someone who seemed to be working for the town said that the slowness of our line was due to "trainees." So they didn't see if their "trainees" could comprehend alphabetical order before they gave them a job as pollworker? That wasn't a good sign.

When we got inside (after a very cold hour and 15 minutes outside, we could finally get warmed up), some of the pollworkers looked pretty familiar to me. It was taking each person almost a minute to get processed to vote. When I got up to the table, it was already 8:50 (and, remember, the polls opened at 7:00) and I was voter number 102. That meant it was taking nearly a minute to process each voter before they even got to vote!

I don't like to criticize older people for being a little slow, and I appreciate the work they do. Heck, I'm middle aged and I'm slower than I'd like to be. But the woman who was in the critical position of having to look up people in a book that was in alphabetical order had trouble doing so. She couldn't remember that "M" was at the beginning of the second book. She couldn't find my husband's name right away, but once she found it, I said "and I"m after him" so she'd keep the book open to the same location.

They say with age comes wisdom, but it isn't wise to put a person on a voter processing table who slowed down hundreds of voters today. What if we lived in an area without enough voting machines, or if genuine voter suppression efforts were in play? How much longer would the line have been? How much longer would people have waited? But, most people waited.

Finally, we got to the voting machines, selected our candidates, pressed the big VOTE button and pressed CONFIRMED. We were out of there.

And the line outside was longer than ever.

So, if you're voting in North Fayette Township today, dress warmly, wear comfortable boots and maybe bring along a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee - you're probably going to need it. But vote anyway. Everyone's vote is too important to be deterred by slow processing.

Twelve hours later, I was tweeting with a neighbor who was in line at the same precinct after 8pm (PA polls close at 8). She said 150 people were in line in front of her. She didn't get to vote until 9pm. Her husband tried to vote earlier. They told him they couldn't find him on the voter lists, told him he was in the wrong place (when he wasn't) and did not offer him a provisional ballot. Residents of North Fayette Township need to talk to the County Board of Elections about this. It may not be deliberate suppression but it is gross incompetence.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Get Out and Vote, 2012 Edition

It's interesting how terrified Republicans are of all adults voting. It's as if they've finally realized how irrelevant they'd be in a true democracy. I frankly don't care who you vote for (well, of course I'd prefer that you vote for Obama), but I've always believed, whether I've tended to vote Republican, or gone the straight Democratic ticket (since 2000), that it's the civic responsibility of all adults to study the candidates and vote. Voter suppression, as already seen in Ohio and Florida, and will probably see in parts of Pennsylvania (especially Philadelphia) tomorrow is just plain evil no matter which party is doing it (but, over the last 20 years, it's been Republicans).

There are been times in our country's history when the Democrats have been the party of idiots, and now it's been the Republican party for over 20 years.

On the federal level, they've obstructed President Obama at every turn, including when he tried to bring more federal aid to job creation...and then they claimed in their political advertising that Obama failed to create jobs. I'll grant you, President Obama has had problems, but when I compare what he actually accomplished in the poisoned atmosphere of the Congress, I'm amazed.

In some states and localities, Republicans have gone out of their way to make it difficult for people to vote. Witness the long voting lines in Ohio and Florida. Why is that? These area with lines are in areas that tend to vote Democratic. You'll never see voting lines like that in Republican enclaves.

Republicans keep claiming they're for freedom...unless you're a woman, of course. Or a Muslim. Or an atheist. Or trying to vote for someone other than a Republican. Or...whatever minority they want to control this week.

The Republicans are trying to turn the United States of America into a tax haven for the rich and a hell hole for the poor. We're on our way to being a third world country because of the way they've turned "taxes" into a four letter word. I want to live in a place where there are good roads, good schools and good health care. Infrastructure matters - have you already forgotten what Sandy, Irene and Katrina did to areas that failed to have the cash to make needed improvements?

I want a government that's forward-thinking, and not one that only wants to go fight another war somewhere.

I want a government that's paying attention to environmental issues, not one that's busily polluting our water and air.

I want a government that's realistic and admits there are problems and wants to correct them, and work across the bureaucracy and with businesses and citizens to correct them. We need a big tent approach that's inclusive to deal with the future, and not a little estate that supports only the 1%.

I want four more years of Obama. While I'm not a big fan of Bob Casey, he has my vote for Senator as he's less bad than his opponent. Ditto Larry Maggi for Congress, Matt Smith for PA House and Mark Scappe for PA House.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Insomnia, Ambien and Me

I've had insomnia, on and off, since I was 5 years old.  Also had issues with depression and, at times, anxiety.  Been on and off of Prozac a few times, but not in this millennium.  Started having really chronic insomnia about 10 years ago when I was 45.  Went through temazapan and something else - both stopped working within months.  The one time I took Lunesta, it made me sleep much less.

In the meantime, I went from working full time to working part time to getting fired from a contract job because my concentration was so poor.  I work occasional odd jobs and do a lot of volunteer work.  Luckily, my husband has a job, but I'd really like to be able to work full time again.

In early 2008, I got involved with a medicine sleep study at the University of Pittsburgh, run by Dr. Douglas Moul (now of the Cleveland Clinic).   I spent three nights getting my sleep recorded and observed.  While it is frequently assumed that the sleep problem of all fat people is sleep apnea, I do not have it (which is good because I know I could never sleep with a CPAP machine). They found no reason for my persistent insomnia at all.  The only symptom they observed was that my blood oxygen decreased slightly just before I woke up.

I was put in a randomized group and given either a mystery drug or a placebo.  Within days, I was sleeping about an extra half hour to hour a night without any side effects.  Eight weeks later, I found out I was in the Ambien group.

Not that Ambien solved all my problems, but any extra sleep was very helpful.

So, since I wasn't having any side effects, I stayed on Ambien.  Every few months, I'd take an Ambien vacation where my sleep would drop to 2-3 hours from the 5-6 hours I'd get on Ambien.  So I'd go back on it.

Over time, though, I was getting less sleep on Ambien.  After 4 1/2 years on it, I finally took my last Ambien a month ago, at a time when I am unemployed, walking 2-4 miles a day, not drinking anything caffeinated and drinking maybe a beer or glass of wine a day.

Other than the insomnia being worse than ever (never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time), I feel OK.  No depression, just frustration.  I have tried Melatonin and it does nothing for me.  Ditto Benedryl.  Ditto Valerian. Ditto a white noise machine. Ditto a variety of specialty pillows. Ditto wearing orange safety glasses for a bit in the evening to cut out "blue light" (though I'm still giving that odd trick a try). Ditto buying a high-end mattress 10 years ago after 17 years of a water bed. Ditto not having a phone in the bedroom. Ditto...well, you think of any odd sleep trick and I've probably tried it over the last 10 years.

I do break down and take Nyqil once a week as that helps a little. Sometimes, having some tuna as a snack in the evening seems to help due to tryptophan. 

The only side effect (other than sleeplessness) from getting off of Ambien I've had is craving sweets.  I'm walking enough that I haven't gained any weight, but I'm currently not loosing either. Ambien was also a very slight appetite suppressant for me and helped me lose about 30 pounds while I was on it.

The insomnia I'm having now is somewhat different from the insomnia I was having pre-Ambien.  Ten years ago, I'd sleep 3-4 hours, wake up for 2 then, sometimes, sleep for an hour.  Now, It takes me an hour to fall asleep, I wake up 4-6 times a night and I haven't slept for more than 2 hours at a time in over a month.

During the day, it is pretty much the same as when I was on Ambien.  Some days, I get a lot of things done.  Other days, I get very little done.  My concentration is, generally, a little better when I can concentrate, so that's a good sign.

So, during a particularly bad bout of insomnia tonight, I went to our computer and looked up "Ambien withdrawl."  I ran into some pretty bad horror stories.  I'm having a somewhat different experience than many.  I don't feel depressed, suicidal or confused. I'm just very tired.  The fact that my insomnia is so different means that I agree with the point many of have made - Ambien can alter the sleep receptors.  I never had any of the bad side effects of Ambien people mention - no sleep walking, no sleep eating - other than not remembering dreams.  And I'm still not dreaming. I did have those odd "shocky" feelings at night sometimes, but those are also reported by menopausal women who aren't on Ambien.

The root cause of my insomnia is probably due to estrogen.  My mother had terrible insomnia in her 40s, but it got better in her 50s, and she said her grandmother had the same experience.  So I'm hoping, now that I'm through menopause as well, that that will also help get my sleep back into some sort of normal pattern.

But, it turns out that a few people who had warned me about Ambien were right - it is addictive and it can change your brain in ways you don't expect.

For a lot of discussion on Ambien addiction/recovery, see  I only wish I'd started reading this area five years ago.

PS (10/28/12): No Ambien for nearly 7 weeks and my sleep is more disrupted now than it was before I took Ambien. Very annoying. Melatonin does nothing. Nyqil helps a little but I only take that one night a week. And now, there's a link between taking sleeping pills like Ambien and cancer.

PPS (3/15/13): No Ambien in over 6 months. Sometimes, I'm sleeping up to 3 hours at a time once during the night, which is a gradual improvement. I generally get about 5 hours of sleep a night with one or two brief wake-ups, but some nights get only 2 or 3 hours of sleep for no reason at all. On the down side, I've gained about 15 pounds since September, but the carbohydrate cravings are getting better so I'm being more "mindful" about my eating. I rarely drink soda (don't have any at home) but sometimes have Diet Coke or mocha drinks when I'm out. Still averaging 2 miles of walking a day. Am writing a little more some days.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Creeps in Society

I would like to be surprised by the way some people are trying to redefine the word "creep."  One person's bad behavior shouldn't deserve being called "the creep," as if he was somehow unique.  Many fans have creepy behavior.

I can think of three types of creepiness:
  •      personally creepy
  •      generally creepy
  •      specifically creepy
Personally creepy is what creeps you out.  It may not creep out anyone else in the world.  Take clowns.  I enjoy clowns, they are generally amusing and often acrobatic.  Now, maybe it was in response to Killer Klowns from Outer Space or It, but, about 20 years ago, people started to say that clowns creeped them out. I still don't understand that one.  I was in the situation for most of the summer of being majorly creeped out by my own body after surgery.  I hate looking at incisions.  In fact, I would not look at my incision if I could possibly avoid it.  As fascinating as medicine has always been to me, I could never consider a career in medicine because of this problem.  But it doesn't seem to bother medical professionals that much.  So I know my response was my problem.

Generally creepy is behavior that people engage in without thinking about it and it's not aimed at any individual.  Wearing clothes inappropriate to a situation, for example, not bathing regularly...general behavior we can point at and say "Weird."  But it's just the way the person is.  We can either accept it or reject it.

Specifically creepy is when one person does something to another that really creeps the second person out.  This happens from time to time in personal interactions, and is more likely to happen when one person is attracted to another, and completely misreads the situation.

Take that Readercon situation again. I respect the fact the man involved really creeped out one specific woman during Readercon. I believe the woman who brought the complaint about him. Given the Readercon rules of conduct, she did the right thing.  But, an awful lot of people have chosen to go beyond being sympathetic and helpful to the woman to being outraged and therefore generally creeped out.   They are trying to project their feelings of outrage on the rest of us by blowing this unfortunate situation out of all proportion.

What's next - burquas? Male bodyguards? Being forced to stay home to avoid the possible outrage of a man making a pass?   Now that's really creepy.

Related postings:

  • They Said/They Said
  • Dealing with Anonymous and/or Abusive Comments
  • Sexual Abuse and the Pillars of Society
  • Friday, September 07, 2012

    Dealing with Anonymous and/or Abusive Comments

    I do not engage in any conversation in my blog with anonymous posters.  I normally delete such messages without even reading them.  I started to read an anonymous poster's response to "They Said/They Said" and stopped when the person presumed to tell me how I should feel about things.  If you wish to attack me or anyone else, have the courage of your convictions and sign your name.  Life is too short to enable cowards.

    I also don't like abusive comments.  They make me uncomfortable.  If someone makes you uncomfortable, it is OK to say "this makes me uncomfortable" and end the conversation there.  So I won't be enabling abusive commenters here either.

    In the case of anonymous (no E-mail) and abusive comments, I guess I can't respond to them personally, but that's no great loss.

    Related postings

  • They Said/They Said
  • Creeps in Society
  • Sexual Abuse and the Pillars of Society
  • They Said/They Said and Plunging all Fandom Into War

    [[Error correction - when I first posted this essay, I called it "He Said/She Said"  Not long afterwards, I realized that this title was completely wrong.  Only a few people doubt what she or he said in relation to what happened at Readercon this year.  The real problem has been what "they" said to further incite the situation.  OK, and I may be a "they" in this case, but I would really rather see reasonable discussion of this problem rather than general ranting, which is, sadly, what has often been happening.]]

    I've been very active in science fiction fandom since 1975.   We science fiction fans are generally people who love to read, love to speculate and love to argue. awful lot of us are socially awkward and/or bad tempered.  We don't always read people well.  To use a Big Bang Theory analogy, there are many Leonards and Howards in fandom, and a few Sheldons, and not too many Rajs.  And these archetypes exist in both genders in fandom.

    When I got involved, there weren't that many women in fandom. However, I always felt very safe in fandom.  I can think of a couple of times having long discussions with men, sometimes in their hotel rooms during SF conventions.  A few of them came onto me - a kiss, a grope, whatever.  I said no, and we just resumed our conversation.  No meant no, but an unwanted kiss did not mean I'd just been raped.  Fannish men were smart, right?  Fannish women knew how to stand up for themselves, right? By contrast, during my freshman year in college, I knew two women who'd been raped, and a third who was probably raped but was too drunk to know for sure (that was in a fraternity basement).  At the same time, I never heard about a woman being raped at a con.

    People in fandom seemed more enlightened about gender issues than people (especially men) outside of fandom.  Generally, but not always.  There was always a lot of discussion about the patriarchy and the move towards equality among some groups of us. The number of women now active in fandom approaches 50%, which is great.

    However, there are some trends in fandom that are making me uncomfortable. In particular, there was a recent incident at Readercon which was unfortunate, has been blown up way out of all proportion for a number of reasons.

    The basic overview - man follows woman, puts an arm around her, she says no, he follows her some, trying to apologize  (I think he was sent away 2 or 3 times).  I believe the woman involved, because of the way she described the man's actions.  I've known the man for years, and can see him reacting in the way she described - he was really trying to apologize, and she just wanted to be left alone, which was her right.

    This incident, which probably happens at every convention every weekend, was blown up because the woman's friends got very angry at the man, but also because Readercon has a conduct code, and, according to the code, the man should have been banned from Readercon permanently.  Instead, he was banned for two years, which caused a huge overreaction.

    Here are just a few of the things I've heard about this incident:

    • The man was likened to an infamous alleged child sex rapist who was very active in fandom until he got into trouble with the law.  For various reasons, his case has never gone to trial.  
    • A Hugo-award winner was criticized for mentioning the name of her longtime friend in her acceptance speech, who happened to be the man involved in the Readercon incident.
    • Some people have stated the man did nothing wrong.
    • Some people think he should be banned from all conferences for all time.

    I'm very much in the middle on this issue - while the man clearly misbehaved, I don't think he did anything close to being banned from all conventions for all time.  But, to liken stupid behavior by a man to a man accused of child rape is particularly enraging. Rape is rape - a bad pick-up line isn't rape.

    We need to try to be respectful of each other, but if we can't be respectful, we should just walk away sometimes.  I got involved in two arguments I didn't really want to get involved in again at Chicon.  In both cases, I walked.

    I am going to try to walk away from arguing about the Readercon incident in the future.  I've made my argument, I've said my piece, and I don't believe this incident should be plunging all fandom into war.

    But, if there can be reasonable discussion of some of the issues around men and women in fandom, I'd like to be a part of it.  We can't be afraid of each other.  Sadly, the level of vitriol around this incident can set the general egalitarianism in fandom back by decades.

    Related posts:

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Ground Rules

    I generally agree with Don D'Ammassa's "Ground Rules," though I'm at the point where I don't read Websites like Fox News or other sites not based in reality. I know all of the following are nothing but right wing propaganda: 

    • Barack Obama was not born in the US.
    • The CIA or other government agency was behind the 9/11 attack.
    • Creationism should be taught in schools.
    • Being gay is a choice.
    • Global warming is a hoax (the extent of human involvement is, on the other hand, a legitimate area of argument).
    • The Holocaust did not happen.
    • Obama's health care plan included death panels.
    • A woman's body can make a rapist's sperm not impregnate her.
    • The government is going to take away your guns (I sincerely hope they will limit the kinds of guns/ammunition sold, but that's a different issue).
    • Birth control is not health care.
    • Americans are taxed now more than ever and taxes for the richest should be decreased even further (there's no evidence from recent tax cuts that "trickle down" helps the economy - it just puts more money in the hands if the rich)

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Blast from my USENET Past: Sexual Abuse and the Pillars of Society

    [[Another in an occasional series of republishing some of my old USENET essays (in this case, someone reminded me about this as I'd forgotten it). Sadly, its even more relevant now than it was back in 1992, particularly when you think of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State. Some attitudes never change]]
    Last week, a former Catholic priest admitted to a reporter that he had raped between 50 and 100 children in Massachusetts churches in the early '60s. This week, a local minister goes to court, accused of raping three exchange students living  in his house. 
    We, as a society, have a terrible time dealing with child abuse, especially child sexual abuse.  We may admit that sexually-warped characters exist in the seamy underside of society, among the poor, the drug abusers and the prostitutes.  But when accused sexual abusers are among the "pillars" of society, among the clergy, doctors, police, and educators, people become apoplectic.  The accusation of sexual abuse, especially when the accused is a "good man," forces most into absolute denial of the issue.
    As a society, we have to be willing to listen when our children or our friends tell us that they are being abused.  We have to support the people bringing the allegations, and, when the allegations are proven in court, we must be willing to sentence the perpetrators to long jail terms and to develop programs that attempt to rehabilitate them.
    We must all do what we can to stop the attitudes that promote sexual abuse. These attitudes include:
    • the idea that people own one another. A husband does not own his wife, parents do not own their children, and youth leaders do not own the children in their care.
    • the "blame the victim" mentality. Children do not seduce adults, and a woman in a miniskirt is not an invitation to a rape.
    • the "if I want sex, I'll get it" mentality. Sex should be an act between consenting adults, not a power play between individuals, one of whom may be too young or too scared to resist.
    • the "pillar of society" trap. In a community's haste to "be fair to" the accused, the victim is often ridiculed, harassed, and blamed for the situation
    Our society makes it almost impossible for victims to come forward. But the consequence of our silence is tacit permission, leading to even greater tragedies. A few years ago, in Massachusetts, a middle-aged man took to picking up teenaged hitchhikers and exposing himself to them. He raped at least one of them. No one ever reported him. When his 13-year-old neighbor vanished, he helped to search for her. The teenager's body was later found in his cellar. If one of his previous victims had felt comfortable coming forward, Melissa Benoit might still be alive, and Henry Meinholz might have gotten into treatment. Instead, this ex-church deacon has been sentenced to life in prison without parole, and the judge regretted the lack of a death penalty. Sexually abusers are sick, but they are not usually insane. Sexual abusers need to be held accountable for their crimes, and they need to be rehabilitated. And we, as members of this society, must take a more active role in discouraging sexual abuse, encouraging its prosecution, and supporting sexual abuse survivors.
    Related postings:
  • They Said/They Said
  • Creeps in Society
  • Dealing with Anonymous and/or Abusive Comments
  • Tuesday, August 07, 2012

    My Chicon Panels

    I'll be on a couple of panels at Worldcon:

    Thu Aug 30 12:00:pm-1:30:pm 
    How to Moderate a Panel
    Veteran panelists discuss how to be an effective panel moderator, and offer suggestions on things to avoid.
    Janice Gelb Laurie Mann Teresa Nielsen Hayden

    Thu Aug 30 4:30:pm -6:00:pm 
    So You Think You Want to Run a Convention?
    A panel on the basics of con-planning and con-running.
    Deb Geisler Howard Scrimgeour Laurie Mann Milt Stevens Vincent Docherty

    Sun Sep 2 12:00:pm-1:30:pm
    Science Fiction In Memoriam
    A remembrance of authors, fans, artists, and actors who the science fiction community has lost since we last convened at Renovation.
    Laurie Mann Mike Glyer Steven H Silver

    Sun Sep 2 3:00:pm-4:30:pm
    Worldcon Heritage Project
    Fannish history exhibits are a way to connect fans of the present with mementos of the past. The Worldcon Heritage Project is working to collect, catalogue, and repair the publications, T-shirts, and other items from Worldcons past.
    Kevin Standlee Laurie Mann Mark Olson

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Tale of Two...GROAN...Three Surgeries

    Original Version: February 1978
    Updated: July 2007
    Updated Again: July 2012

    2007 was a bad year for health issues in our household. Leslie started off the year on January 3 with her car accident (not her fault), and we got to know the Emergency Room over at Ohio Valley Hospital. Jim's had some annoying neck pain, so he's been over there for tests. And, since January, I had chronic pelvic pain. I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts in March. I'd had ovarian cysts removed previously in 1978. It turns out ovarian cysts are very common in DES daughters; my sister and I, both DES daughters, have had them twice during our lifetimes (so far).
    2012 was a rotten year for me healthwise. Cysts came back big time. So...this essay is a comparison of how ovarian cyst surgery was done in 1978, and how it was done in 2007, and if the process changed any in 2012.
    What follows is probably way too much information about medical conditions, so don't say you weren't warned. Or just skip to here, where I talk about how the surgeries were different.

    1977-1978: In about October of '77, I had a routine gynecological check-up and was told I seemed to have some sort of growth near my left ovary. The doctor said he thought it was a cyst, and told me to get a sonargram. A few weeks later, the sonargram confirmed the cyst. The doctor prescribed surgery, and I wound up scheduling it for my 21st birthday.
    The cyst was mostly asymptomatic, though I was working a sales job where I stood up most of the time, and I had occasional dizzy spells. That might also have been from stress over the surgery, as I'd never had surgery any more serious than a tonsilectomy before.
    The afternoon before surgery, I went to Magee Women's Hospital and had prep done - lung X-ray, blood tests, more exams. As Magee was a teaching hospital, I had my pelvic exam observed by a bunch of interns, which was kind of embarrassing. I was a little concerned about all the consent forms I had to sign, because they basically said I was signing away all future reproductive rights if they found cancer. I couldn't not sign, but reminded the doctor I did have hopes of having a child some day.
    I think I was in one room pre-surgery, and was in another room post-surgery. Unlike almost everyone else on the floor, I felt fine. I remember talking to the woman across the hall who was scheduled for a late term abortion the next day. She was very sick and had several small children at home already (she'd pretty much gotten the "having this baby will kill you" talk). Whenever I hear about medical procedures getting politicized, I think of her.
    After various other surgical prep in the evening, they gave me a sleeping pill and I slept pretty well. Early in the morning, they took me into surgery, and I don't remember anything until I woke up in the recovery room. I think I was told that everything was OK, and I'd just had a cyst. I was in recovery for a couple of hours, then brought to a new room. I don't remember too much about the first day, other than Jim and a friend from our club, Dave, stopping by. The reason why Dave could stop in so soon after surgery was because he was a student minister; clergy could pretty much come and go in the hospital as they pleased.
    Next day, I was detached from various tubes and encouraged to walk, which I did. I remember being extremely sore and unsteady walking, but I practiced faithfully. The surgical floor was near the obstetrics floor, so I'd pass by the nursery and look at the babies. Periodically, someone would check my dressing or take my temperature. Meals included soup and Jello (which I avoid). I don't remember what I was given for pain; I only had a standard IV for hydration, and, periodically, a nurse would shoot various drugs into a tube in the IV. Twice a day, I'd get a vitamin K shot in my abdomen. I learned you can't cough or laugh after you have abdominal surgery. Let me correct that - you have to cough, but you have to cough carefully. It's important to cough to keep your lungs clear so you don't develop pneumonia. But you need to avoid coughing using all the muscles in your abdomen.
    Seeing my roommate's condition spurred me to keep walking. My roommate was much older than me and had to have a total hysterectomy. She had her surgery the day after I did. I never saw her get out of bed over the next few days, and she wound up getting a special breathing apparatus to help keep her lungs clear. I'm not sure what happened to her afterwards, but I wouldn't have been surprised to learn that she didn't recover.
    So after about five days of hanging out in the hospital, I went home. A nurse removed the top layer of stitches (this was a "bikini scar" - horizontal) which kind of tickled in a funny way. I was still a little sore, and getting in and out of bed at home was really tough (our bed in those days was very low). As my job involved standing and carrying things, I couldn't go back to work for a month, even though I was only working part time.

    2007: Early in January, I started having pelvic pain not related to my period. This was very depressing, as my periods had been getting very painful, and to be in pain almost every day was annoying. And it was yet something else to disturb my sleep. Between the move and everything else that went on last year, I hadn't seen a gynecologist in nearly two years. Luckily, it turned out there was one nearby, and I arranged to see her in early March. Dr. Rosado thought I probably had a cyst. "Been there, done that."
    She sent me for a sonargram. Sonargrams haven't changed a whole lot over the last 30 years, except for the addition of the "transvaginal probe." Think vibrator-like device on a wire, that provides a slightly different angle on the pelvis. The sonargram tech said she found at least three cysts near the right ovary, one uterine fibroid, but nothing that looked particularly bad (tumors tend to show up as dense spots on sonargrams, while cysts are more diffuse). They said I had to go back for a follow-up sonargram in about two months, to make sure the cysts didn't just go away. Apparently, in some cases, they do.
    So I arranged for a follow-up test and waited. The pain wasn't all that bad most of the time, but it was chronic. I wound up having to take Aleve about twice a week when it got particularly bad. The cysts showed up again on the May sonargram. And then I was told it might be another six months of wait and see, since they weren't getting any bigger.
    My gynecologist sent me for additional tests to make sure that we were only dealing with cysts. Additional tests sometimes make some straightforward things not so straightforward. And, after the second sonargram, I started having pain on the left side as well as on the right. But the good thing about the extra tests was that they, temporarily, put me on the fast-track for surgery. I was hoping to have a laparoscopy, but my doctor said I'd need a full incision as I was now having pain on both sides.
    So surgery was scheduled and I went for pre-op tests - a chest X-ray, an EKG and blood work. But then other insurance issues, and my doctor's busy-ness (she's an OB/GYN and a surgeon) kept delaying the surgery. In the middle of all this, I saw Sicko. I was very relieved my insurance company did not appear anywhere in the documentary! I can deal with being jerked around, and even delays, both of which were very annoying, but it's not nearly so annoying as ultimately being denied care.
    Finally, surgery was confirmed by the insurance company, the doctor and the hospital. My doctor tends to be fairly conservative, and I did say I'd prefer to have the bare minimum removed. She thought I'd have to have one ovary removed because it looked like some of the cysts were actually in the right ovary. But unless she saw major problems (like cancer), she thought it was unlikely I'd have anything else beyond the cysts and an ovary taken out. Being older and having had a child, I didn't feel quite as uncomfortable about signing the surgical permission forms this time. I also felt better because my gynecologist and my surgeon was the same person, rather than being two different people. And I think it helps to have a woman do gynecological surgery, because I suspect they'd be a little more conservative in this area than a man might be.
    I spent the night before surgery at home, not eating, and drinking the ever popular "Go-Litely" (if you've had a colonoscopy, you know the drill). We had to get up at 4:30 the next morning, so I could get to the hospital by 5:30.
    The OB/GYN floor at Ohio Valley was new and very quiet. I had a room at the very end of the hall; at the time I thought that was because there were many patients there. However, the hall was almost empty. All the rooms appeared to be private rooms, which was very nice. I'd never had a private room in a hospital before.
    Two nurses came in to help get me ready for surgery. I have tough veins to find, and I hadn't been allowed to drink anything after midnight. So I was dehydrated, which makes the veins even harder to find. Getting an IV line inserted is tougher than just drawing blood, and the nurses tried three times before giving up.
    You also have to keep repeating who you are, what your doctor's name is and what surgery you're about to have. I remember meeting with the anesthesiologist and talking to him briefly. My doctor stopped in to say hi, and then I was wheeled off to surgery. They finally got the IV in and I was out pretty fast after that.
    I remember waking up while I was still intubated, which was psychologically tough for me to handle. I remember my doctor saying everything was fine, but was too upset by the breathing tube to be calm at that moment. I was taken to recovery, and went through about the longest 10 minutes of my life (I have a terrible gag reflex). Finally, they decided I was awake enough to be extubated, which was tough but fast.
    I was only in recovery about an hour, and I was much more comfortable once I was breathing on my own. There was a guy to my left, and at one point two heavily gowned nurses brought a patient with a staph infection (a jolly thing to hear in a recovery room!). Before I left recovery, Dr. Rosado gave me the good news in great detail - the cysts weren't in my ovaries at all, so she didn't need to remove either ovary. But the right Fallopian tube was filled with fluid and twisted, so she removed that tube and the cysts. Some of my pelvic pain had been caused by endometriel adhesions, most of which she removed. It turns out I have endometriosis, which shouldn't be a huge deal since I don't plan to have any more kids and menopause generally stops endometriosis. But that does help to explain why I have such bad menstrual cramps every month.
    Back in my room, I just laid back and watched TV. I called Jim (I'd foolishly only given the hospital his work number and not his cell phone, which meant they couldn't get through since he was always in phone meetings). He was relieved everything was fine and went around notifying folks (I'd left my cell phone home; it generally didn't work in the hospital anyway).
    This time, I was on a morphine drip for pain relief. It's the sort of thing that administers morphine in your IV, but if you feel particularly uncomfortable, you can press a button and get a tiny hit. I can't say morphine did anything for me other than suppress the pain and give me an odd sense of time. So I was in bed all of Friday. Jim and Leslie came to visit in the evening; the only other patient on the floor went home that afternoon. It was very quiet. But I slept very poorly. The ventilation was very noisy, and I was in some plastic leggings that inflated and deflated to help prevent clots. They also helped prevent sleep!
    I finally fell asleep and woke up with a little headache and general sinus discomfort. When a nurse came in to take my blood pressure and temperature early in the morning, I asked if I could have some saline nasal spray (remember, this isn't a medicine). She said the doctor would have to order it (sigh).
    Dr. Rosado stopped in around 8:30 or so, and she said I was looking good enough that I could get generally detached from bags and IVs and the like and could start to eat again. I told her my sinuses were acting up, and she said Jim could bring in saline spray and Pseudofedrine. She also removed my dressing and said everything looked fine. This time, I have a vertical incision a few inches below my navel. With staples. Now, they take the dressings off early, and you have to look at it to make sure it's not infected. I don't like to look at incisions, but take a quick look at my reflection (I know, this is silly, but...) when I'm in the bathroom. So far, it looks uninfected. The staples come out on Thursday.
    Once off the IVs, I took Percoset about every four hours. It does a good job suppressing the worst of the pain. There was some incision pain, but it was minor. And I've found walking and moving around much easier than last time. Not sure if it's because I knew what to expect this time, or if the pain medication is better at relieving the pain while leaving you reasonably steady on your feet. Or maybe a vertical abdominal incision is ultimately less painful than a horizontal incision (which gives better cosmetic results). However, they do tell you not to drive while you're on Percoset, and since I'll be on Percoset for about 10 days, I can't drive until late July.
    The main weird side effects I had post-surgery had nothing to do with the surgery itself. My blood pressure has stayed high throughout my hospitalization, to the point that they couldn't use the standard automatic blood pressure cuff on my starting on Saturday night. My right arm still has bruises from the automatic-inflate cuff. They started using the old fashion hand-pump pressure cuff and got results that were high. My doctor prescribed blood pressure medication, which brought my blood pressure down in about 12 hours.
    Worse than that, after Dr. Rosado said I could go home Sunday morning, I developed a horrible migraine. I hadn't had a migraine so bad in a few years (for that matter, I hadn't had any kind of a migraine since our cat died (I was very allergic to her)). Since my blood pressure had been so erratic, I couldn't take a Pseudofed (my migraines are always related to sinus problems and Pseudofed helps). They gave me Coricidan, and I sat with Jim my darkened room for about an hour until the worst of the nausea went away and the headache diminished slightly. Hot compresses also helped some. But I was surprised that the worst pain I had during the whole hospitalization was from the migraine, not from the surgery. And I still don't quite understand why the Percoset did almost nothing for the migraine.
    About an hour after Jim arrived, I was ready to go home, but I was so uncomfortable that I sat with my eyes closed and my head in my hands when my doctor stopped by to say so long. She said I could stay longer if I needed to, but I reminded her that since I thought the hospital air was causing the migraine, I'd rather go home. After an afternoon of sitting on a chair in the family room with hot compresses, the headache finally went away at about 4pm.
    Now I'm three days post-op, I feel a little dazed and slightly in pain, but I wound up taking a walk around the block twice today (this "block" is nearly half a mile). Today I'm treating myself to watching all of the LOTR movies and doing some minor Web catch-up. I think I'm writing reasonably coherently (maybe a bit much on the "TMI" side, but I did warn you).


    2008-2012: The ovarian cysts came back about a year after the second surgery. Since I assumed I was getting ever closer to menopause, I felt I would wait them out this time. I kept changing gynecologists because they kept telling me the same thing - more surgery. After 2008, I didn't have any major trouble with the cysts, so I had a sonogram every year to make sure they didn't grow. Gradually felt a little worse over the winter of 2012 with more pelvic pain. On March 12 (Jim's birthday), I felt awful, with severe pelvic pain, diarrhea and a urinary tract infection all at once. I went to a doctor for some tests and had to choose another new gynecologist who could see me that week. I was miserable and even spent a few days on the couch or in bed, not really doing anything than trying to make it to the bathroom. The new gynecologist, Dr. Rock, sent me for tests. A cyst we'd been watching for four years had grown from 3cm to 12cm over the last year.
    And that meant surgery.
    I did decide to defer the surgery until after a long-planned trip to Alaska was over, as sometimes it can take longer than 2 months to be fully recovered from a hysterectomy.  This turned out to be OK as the pain/illness from March was much better in April, May and June.

    July 2012 Surgery

    I had a complete hysterectomy on 7/12. I had other issues in addition to the cysts, and since I was 55, I was in agreement with my doctor that I needed to have one - that waiting for menopause to finish wasn't going to work. The surgery went pretty well, though it was more complicated and I was under anesthesia for about 4 1/2 hours. I was very nauseated when they woke me up (and, luckily for me, they had extubated me before waking me up), muttered "nausea" and they gave me something for the nausea right away, so I didn't throw up.
    As I've lost over 20 pounds since 2007, walk more, eat better, and take a Benicar every day, my blood pressure was very well controlled. No BP spikes this time.
    I brought saline spray for my nose and used it frequently once I was in my room after surgery. I also had arranged for a standing order of anti-migraine drug (probably Compazine) that I could take if I developed one. I did have mild sinus discomfort about 2 days post-op and a little headache, but no migraine!
    Getting over a hysterectomy is more involved than getting over a cyst surgery. I'm still walking slowly, but I've generally had less pain than in previous surgeries, which seems counter-intuitive. 2 1/2 weeks post-op, I stopped taking 200mg of Ibuprophen at night.
    Lost another 5 pounds since the surgery. I was told to eat whatever I wanted to, including more red meat, so I've been doing what I was told. Just walking about a mile a day. Have a follow-up with my surgeon on 8/1, and should be cleared to drive at that time (which I was).
    Felt well enough to go to Confluence about 2 weeks post-op, which I enjoyed even though I was in my room more than usual and left around noon on Sunday. It was just good to get out and see people. I should be more with things by Chicon.
    Feeling pretty good and am walking about 2 1/2 miles a day.  Incision is healing slowly but it is healing.  Surprisingly little pain - a few twinges, that kind of thing.  Felt better than pre-surgery on 8/6 as I spent the morning out running errands and had lunch out.  Also bought myself a gift - a new knapsack as the old one is about 10 years old and is getting frayed.  Today, I am tired, but have been doing some light housecleaning and watching Third Rock from the Sun DVDs.

    The main differences for the same surgery between 1978 and 2007/2012 were:
    • more pre-op testing
    • more surgery delays (in 2007, due to insurance; in 2012, due to my wanting to wait until after the Alaska trip)
    • better pain management in 2007 (the self-administered option is probably a good idea), tolerable in 2012
    • many fewer nights in the hospital
    • private room
    • radically different wound management (removing the dressing after 24 hours; staples instead of stitches)
    • woman surgeon (2007), male surgeons (1978, 2012)
    • better hospital food in 2007 (Ohio Valley made a lovely BBQ pulled pork sandwich and didn't serve Jello!), but the one solid meal I had at UPMC Mercy in 2012 was a massive plate of carbs and the glueist oatmeal I have ever tried to eat
    • in 2012 at UPMC Mercy, nurses came in every few hours to take your BP, which was less annoying than being on a autocuff overnight. However, I didn't sleep the first night after surgery in 2007 or 2012 due to being required to wear "pneumatic boots" to prevent formation of blood clots.
    • The recovery room at UPMC Mercy had windows. Even though it was a dreary day out, having some connection to the outside world during recovery was very nice.
    I was bored out of my mind by 5 or 6 nights in the hospital the last time; 2 nights in 2007 and 2012 was just about right.

    Pathology Report

    I also finally remembered to ask for my pathology report. I thought sure I also had fibroids, but I guess not:

    • Adenomyosis (enlarged uterus - 231 grams (60-70 is normal)
    • Proliferative endometrium (meaning I still could have had a period if I hadn't had a hysterectomy)
    • Unremarkable cervix (with a tiny cervical opening)
    • Abscessed left ovary
    • Lutein cyst and follicular cysts of right ovary (the largest cyst was 6cm, meaning one had shrunk since the March sonogram found a 12cm cyst)
    • Unremarkable Fallopian tubes (though the pathologist could only identify one tube and said the other tube was difficult to discern. One had also been partially removed in 2008).

    Related Postings

    July 2013: My Uterus - A Look Back

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Blast from my USENET Past: Women's Clothing

    I joined USENET newsgroups in April 1988 due to the good graces of Massachusetts-based geek Jim Murray.  He was running USENET on a home system and wanted to offer it to others.

    I'm pretty sure I made a USENET post or two on Rodney King back in 1991, but I haven't been able to find them.  But I did find some other old posts.  So, from time to time, I'll go back and grab old posts I made.  There was no date attached to this posting, but, based on the signature, it was from the spring or early summer of 1993 (before we moved to Pittsburgh).  The issue I was complaining about here is something I've never changed my opinion on:

    Downloaded from a USENET archive:

    From: lmann@jjmhome.UUCP (Laurie Mann)
    Subject: Clothing (Was  Re: male/female mystery [ Re: Dumbest automotive...])
    Lines: 41

    In article <>, (Wen-King Su) writes:
    > This has me thinking.  Is there a biological reason why women can't put
    > their keys in their pants pockets like men do?  I have two pockets on the
    > back of each of my pants.  I put my keys in one and wallent in another.
    > Many of the pockets even have a botton on them so I can close them securely.
    > Everything is that much simpler for me.  Why can't women do the same?
    > Is is biological (ie, not enough room for a bigger bottom plus keys and
    > a wallet) or is it the way they are raised by the parents? 


    It's not biology at all, it's clothing design.  Women's clothing is
    generally designed to be as non-functional as possible.  It's only been
    in the last five years or so that you could buy women's pants with
    pockets deep enough to carry anything in.  Previously, deep pockets were
    virtually unknown in women's clothing.  Skirts generally have better
    pockets now, too.  Dresses, espcially fancy dresses, are still pretty
    hopeless.  I often hand my driver's license over to my husband if we're
    dressed up to go out somewhere, so I don't have to be encumbered by a

    If women consistently bought functional clothing, and boycotted the
    manufacturers who refuse to make functional women's clothing, I think
    manufacturers would tend to bow to market pressures.  There's
    an interesting chapter in Susan Faludi's Backlash that described
    what happened the LAST time clothing manufacturers ignored the
    need for functional women's clothing.  The manufactuing industry
    lost millions.

    From a woman who would rather buy men's clothing WITH decent pockets and
    long legs and high waists than women's clothing without....

    ******** lmann@jjmhome.uucp (Internet) Laurie.Mann (GEnie) *********
    ** Claiming that sex education leads to irresponsible sex is like **
    *****  claiming that driver education leads to car accidents.  *****

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Rodney King, 1965-2012

    I think Rodney was basically a decent man who did some bad things but was treated horribly by many people in Los Angeles. The cops used him as an excuse to savagely beat a black man. Angry people used his trial as an excuse to behave savagely. On the day of the LA riots 20 years ago, King could have gone into hiding, but instead, clearly very shaken, stood before the cameras and begged for calm. He could look beyond the injustice done to him to ask people to not do injustice to others.

    Friday, April 27, 2012

    Write Your Representatives to Keep Student Loan Rates Low

    Dear Representative Murphy

    I'm writing to ask you to think of a clever way to keep student college loan rates low.

    It is not at all surprising that Republicans are suggesting "raiding a slush fund," this "slush fund" being money set aside for preventative medical care for women and children.  Please remind me why we're not supposed to believe that you Republicans are waging a war against women, when your leaders like Boehner want to fund student loans by defunding medical care.

    Why aren't you funding student loans by defunding subsidies to industries making obscene profits, like much of the oil & gas companies and factory farms?

    Middle class and poor college students need cheap college loans.  It frequently looks like the Republicans want a permanently  uneducated underclass without health care.  Remember, while you have won your district in the past, many of the people you are supposed to be representing are not Republicans.


    Dear Representative Boehner

    I'm writing to ask you to think of a clever way to keep student college loan rates low.

    It is not at all surprising that you have suggested "raiding a slush fund," this "slush fund" being money set aside for preventative medical care for women and children.  Please remind me why we're not supposed to believe that you Republicans are waging a war against women, when people like you want to fund student loans by defunding medical care.

    Why aren't you funding student loans by defunding subsidies to industries making obscene profits, like much of the oil & gas companies and factory farms?

    Middle class and poor college students need cheap college loans.  It frequently looks like the Republicans want a permanently  uneducated underclass without health care.  Remember, while you have won your district in the past, many of the people you are supposed to be representing are not Republicans.

    Thursday, April 26, 2012

    Which "We" Are You Talking About?

    Commentator Charles M. Blow wrote an interesting essay called "We Are Not Stupid," in which he wonders how people can follow Romney.

    The answer, sadly, is that some Americans are profoundly stupid when it comes to voting.  In 2008, one set of "we" voted for McCain even after his team chose Palin.  A larger set of "we" (including me) voted for Obama.

    This year, a surprising number of "we" came out for Santorum, one of the most stunningly out-of-touch presidential candidates in recent memory.  Many more still support Romney, despite not having done anything for the people since helping to set up state-wide health care in Massachusetts when he was governor there.  I think at that point in time, he was trying to out-Kennedy Ted Kennedy, a rich man with at least a few clues about government supporting people in need.  Now, like most other Republicans, Romney wants to reduce the debt on the backs of the workers (especially government workers) while giving the rich a pass on tax increases.

    Some of "we" seem completely incapable of figuring out that an America constantly at war, with an ever-widening gulf between poor and rich, consistently vote against their own self-interest by voting for Republicans who are only interested in helping the rich and not the whole country.

    Politicians, religious leaders and business leaders have been flim-flamming Americans for generations.  Sometimes, they're just after our money or our support, but the politicians are also after our vote.  We have to carefully evaluate where the politicians come from, and how they've evolved over time.  While Obama has made mistakes, I have more trust in him, particularly after getting an initial health care bill passed through an incredibly hostile Congress, than I do for any Republican candidate.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    Tenth Anniversary Blog: Increasingly Aggravated by Google

    April 2012 marks 10 years of my erratic blogging, 17 1/2 years of being active on the Web, 24 years of being a USENET participant, and 28 1/2 years of having an E-mail address.


    For over 10 years, Google was the best search site.  It still is, but its other features are increasingly hard to use.

    There I was, trying to give feedback about a company on Google places.  I was logged into my Google account, I wrote up my comment, and this odd little box popped up:

         Set your appearance to start rating

    With little graphics the type of which you'd see on early '80s video games.

    My options were "Get started" or "Cancel your rating."

    On the one hand, I really wanted to rate a local business.

    On the other hand, I really have no interest in "Getting started" with some sort of bizarre little Google Places account.

    On of the options should have been "Rate."  

    Google always likes to say "Do no evil" or "Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful."
    I believed that for a long time, but I'm not so sure these days.  Increasingly, Google seems to only look for ways to monetize every bit of information anyone many be willing to share without listening to any user feedback.

    Maybe I'm just an old computer user and tired.  I don't object to change.  And I understand that companies need to make money.  I've had Google ads on my sites for many years, and that basically pays for my ISP account.  But once I'm logged into one Google account, Google should not demand for me to create another account just to rate a local business.  I can see where people might want the option to create another account for such ratings, but it should not be required.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Annual Look at Oscars, 2012

    2011 was a good year for movies, but it was not a great year for movies.  Last year, I found The Social Network, The King's Speech and Inception to basically be instant classics.  I knew when I was watching them that these were the great movies of not just of last year but they were some of the best movies of our very young millennia.
    This year...generally I found movies to be triumphs of style over substance, notably The Artist which has one of the lightest scripts I've ever seen for a serious Best Picture contender. I liked it but did not love it. While many people had mixed feelings about The Help, it was grounded by its performances and by avoiding melodrama. It was a movie I liked even more the second time I saw it. I liked The Descendents very much. Like The Help it had excellent performances and a script that was layered instead of flat. Finally, while Albert Nobbs and A Dangerous Method were overlooked, in many ways they were bookends of late Victorian and early-mid-Edwardian sexual mores in Europe - in short, movies for history-loving adults.
    There were two hopeful trends in moviemaking:
    • The re-emergence of movies with strong casts of actresses.  Movies with strong, female-dominated casts were more prominent in the '30s, '50s and late '70s, then pretty much died out except for, maybe, one movie a year. This year, we had The Help, Albert Nobbs, Young AdultBridesmaids and even, when we want to talk about very strong female characters in a man's world, The Iron Lady and Friends with Benefits. While Bridesmaids ultimately was flawed by humor more suitable for 10 year old boys, it shows there may be hope for more comedies featuring women. Just, please, Hollywood, don't sit there and remake The Hangover or other gross-out buddy-boy movies with women. Listen to Diablo Cody, she generally gets it, and Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo seem to as well. We need more outrageous and committed women both in front of and behind the camera. Make smart flicks about women, not stupid gross-out-flicks and rom-coms.
    • The willingness to take risks with different kinds of movies. While I don't think The Artist was the best movie of 2011, it took risks and it looked great. Ditto Hugo for being one of the rare movies to do 3-D correctly.
    Unlike most Americans, I actually went to more movies last year. I saw a few junk movies (the Razzie-nominated I Don't Know How She Does It and Abduction, and at least two other bad movies - the most recent Pirates movie and Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud). But I'd really like to see more movies for adults - movies like Albert Nobbs, The Descendents, The Help, A Dangerous Method, Margin Call, even Young Adult - movies that are thoughtful and don't rely on gore and explosions.
    In short, I'd go the the theater more often if I got to see more adult movies and less junk. That would include, for example, the reboot of The Muppets that was frequently a sly and subversive exercise.
    Things multiplexes could consider - dedicate some of the multiplex for movies and drinks for adults and keep the kid movies, video games, candy and party rooms in another part of the multiplex.  Have a weekday with special screenings for retired folks and for people who might have to attend a movie with a baby.  You have all that space - target its use a little better.
    Now, my look at this year's Oscar nominees. I'll be at an Oscar party this year so I won't be online during the Oscars, but I'm sure I'll have some things to say about the show later tonight or tomorrow. [And I was at the party, briefly. It turned out that there was basically no place to sit and watch the Oscars at this Oscar party. So, I flew home, got out of my party dress, but on my pajamas and watched the show from the comfort of my chair.]

    Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

    • Demián Bichir - A Better Life
    • George Clooney - The Descendents (should win)
    • Jean Dujardin - The Artist (will win * * WON)
    • Gary Oldman - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
    • Brad Pitt - Moneyball
    Jean Dujardin has a very expressive face...but Clooney's performance was great and he deserves the Oscar. Kudos to Gary Oldman for playing such a cipher in TTSS. [[Caught a bit of an interview from the Oscar lunch with Demian Bichir and he is very funny and bold. He'd be good working on a movie with Clooney and Pitt - he has that same attitude in real life. Excellent to see a likely future Oscar nominee, Benedict Cumberbatch, in a bit of the Gary Oldman scene. "When you get the answer you're looking for, hang up" - great line from Brad Pitt's scene in Moneyball. I do admire Jean Dujardin's performance, but...I just preferred George Clooney's for 2011. It's amazing how good Dujardin always looks when he much be terribly jet-lagged.]]

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

    • Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs
    • Viola Davis - The Help (should win, will win)
    • Rooney Mara - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    • Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady (WON)
    • Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn
    I have loved every single performance Meryl Streep has given on film. I think I've seen them all. She could win every award every year because she consistently makes good choices. However, the performance I thought the most about this year was Glenn Close's amazing performance in Albert Nobbs. She's also added a great deal to movie-making for nearly 30 years, and still has never won an Oscar. But...when I rewatched The Help, Viola Davis was even better than I'd remembered. She had a very tricky role, and, like Glenn Close's performance, it was all about being very quiet and very internal, except when you looked at her eyes. Michelle Williams also captured Marilyn Monroe in a way I did not think she'd be able to. This is one of those categories that if any of these women won, I would not be upset. But, I'm rooting for Viola Davis. [[They chose the perfect note from Albert Nobbs for Glenn Close. They chose an odd bit for Viola Davis because people who didn't see The Help had no clue what she was talking about. Lovely comments for Meryl Streep by Colin Firth (well, they've worked together so it sounds somewhat natural). Great scene for Meryl from The Iron Lady, though it could confuse Americans. Sweet comments for Michelle Williams. I'm not sad to see that Meryl won, but I did rather think it might have been Viola's year. Lovely that Meryl remembered to thank her husband first, and then her make-up artist second. ;-> Good speech all around.]]

    Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

    • Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn
    • Jonah Hill - Moneyball
    • Nick Nolte - Warrior
    • Christopher Plummer - Beginners (should win, will win * * WON)
    • Max von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
    I do a little extra work, and have can say now that I worked on an Oscar-nominated movie(!) - the Pittsburgh-made Warrior. I was in Nick Nolte's AA meeting at the very beginning of the movie, and if the camera shot had stayed fixed on the church stairs as Nolte drove away for another 3 seconds, I would have stayed in the movie. It was interesting to watch Nolte work, and he wound up giving an incredible performance in Warrior. Neither Branagh nor von Sydow really did that much for me. So as much as I enjoyed Nolte's fine work, I think I'll go along with the crowd and say Plummer will win for Beginners as he's owed for a lifetime of mostly great work. [[Really delighted - he is so owed, especially for The Last Station a few years back. Wonderful speech.]]

    Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

    • Bérénice Bejo - The Artist
    • Jessica Chastain - The Help
    • Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
    • Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
    • Octavia Spencer - The Help (should win, will win * * WON)
    Saw all of these performances and they were all very good. Janet McTeer who was utterly magnificent in Albert Nobbs and Melissa McCarthy was deliciously fearless in Bridesmaids. But I was very drawn in by Octavia Spencer who was so wonderful in The Help [[YAYAYAYAYAAY Octavia!! ]].

    Best Animated Feature Film

    • A Cat in Paris - Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli
    • Chico & Rita - Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal
    • Kung Fu Panda 2 - Jennifer Yuh Nelson
    • Puss in Boots - Chris Miller
    • Rango - Gore Verbinski (should win, will win * * WON)
    I saw none of the Best Animated Feature nominees, but heard good things about both Rango and Puss in Boots so Rango is my guess.

    Best Art Direction

    • The Artist - Laurence Bennett (Production Design); Robert Gould (Set Decoration) (will win)
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Stuart Craig (Production Design); Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration)
    • Hugo - Dante Ferretti (Production Design); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration) (should win * * WON)
    • Midnight in Paris - Anne Seibel (Production Design); Hélène Dubreuil (Set Decoration)
    • War Horse - Rick Carter (Production Design); Lee Sandales (Set Decoration)
    While I can't speak for War Horse, the art direction for each of the other movies was excellent at capturing a specific time and place. Hugo had more interesting Art Direction, but I expect The Artist will win, though that wouldn't be that bad. But this is an example where I wish Harry Potter would get a special Oscar - its Art Direction and Special Effects have been consistently excellent over eight movies. [[Great to see Hugo win the first two awards of the night!!!!!]]

    Best Cinematography

    • The Artist - Guillaume Schiffman (will win)
    • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Jeff Cronenweth
    • Hugo - Robert Richardson (should win * WON)
    • The Tree of Life - Emmanuel Lubezki
    • War Horse - Janusz Kaminski
    This should be Robert Richard's for Hugo, who, I'm sure with help from director Martin Scorsese figured out the right way to do 3-D. This movie looked absolutely amazing. Instead of using that old and annoying 3D trick of "throwing" things at the audience, the photography in this movie gave the train station great depth. The cinemetography for The Artist was very good, but not ground-breaking. I suspect The Artist will win. [[I'm especially glad that Hugo won this award!!]]

    Best Costume Design

    • Anonymous - Lisy Christl
    • The Artist - Mark Bridges (should win, will win * * WON)
    • Hugo - Sandy Powell
    • Jane Eyre - Michael O'Connor
    • W.E. - Arianne Phillips
    I don't have a problem with the likely win of The Artist for its costume, but I would like to observe that Hugo walked a fine line for costuming what had started off as a kid's book and delivered a costume look that was slightly "hyper-real" without being "surreal."

    Best Directing

    • The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius (will win * * WON)
    • The Descendants - Alexander Payne (should win)
    • Hugo - Martin Scorsese
    • Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen
    • The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick
    Alexander Payne keeps directing small gems of the human experience. Love his work, wish he'd win an Oscar for The Descendants. My hope is that The Descendants gets Best Director and The Artist gets Best Picture. But, I have the feeling The Artist will get most of the awards it's nominated for, including this one. Hugo is a wonderful movie, with a somewhat more complicated script than The Artist and great performances, especially from the kids. I very much enjoyed Midnight in Paris, but I don't believe it would be in this category if it hadn't shown such a return to form by Woody Allen. It is too bad. Because the other person who deserved to be in this category is Tate Taylor for The Help. I made a point of rewatching The Help this weekend, and it's even better on a second viewing. [[Oh well...well, maybe it'll go the other way, and something like Hugo or The Descendants will win Best Picture? I don't begrudge The Artist winning some awards, but I just didn't think it was great enough to win loads of awards (which, as it's turned out, it did not)]]

    Best Documentary Feature

    • Hell and Back Again - Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
    • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front - Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
    • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (should win, will win)
    • Pina - Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
    • Undefeated - TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas (WON)
    Haven't seen any, but I'm guessing Paradise Lost because documentaries that point out injustices tend to win. There's a chance for Wim Wenders' artistic experiment Pina to take the prize. [[The producers of The Undefeated gave a funny speech. Ahh, the Undefeated is related to Weinstein. Oh well...]]

    Best Documentary Short

    • "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement" - Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
    • "God is the Bigger Elvis" - Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
    • "Incident in New Baghdad" - James Spione
    • "Saving Face" - Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (WON)
    • "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" - Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen (should win, will win)
    Haven't seen any of them, so this is a guess. [[If I'd remembered what "Saving Face" was about, I probably would have thought that one would have won.]]

    Best Film Editing

    • The Artist - Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius (should win, will win)
    • The Descendants - Kevin Tent
    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (WON)
    • Hugo - Thelma Schoonmaker
    • Moneyball - Christopher Tellefsen
    Will give a "but" - Moneyball has many fans, and maybe it'll win this Oscar. [[Well I was completely wrong on this one - but was bound to happen. I also didn't like the editing of The Social Network last year.]]

    Best Foreign Language Film

    • Belgium - Bullhead - Michael R. Roskam, director
    • Canada - Monsieur Lazhar - Philippe Falardeau, director
    • Iran - A Separation - Asghar Farhadi, director (should win, will win * * WON)
    • Israel - Footnote - Joseph Cedar, director
    • Poland - In Darkness - Agnieszka Holland, director
    A Separation has great buzz, and In Darkness seems to have some. [[The Iranian director gave a wonderful acceptance speech]]

    Best Makeup

    • Albert Nobbs - Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
    • The Iron Lady - Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland (should win, will win * * WON)
    I think it'll go for a smaller movie, and make-up made Streep look uncannily like Thatcher.

    Best Music (Original Score)

    • The Adventures of Tintin - John Williams
    • The Artist - Ludovic Bource (will win * * WON)
    • Hugo - Howard Shore (should win)
    • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Alberto Iglesias
    • War Horse - John Williams
    Not sure...wonder if the interesting Hugo score has a chance?

    Best Music (Original Song)

    • "Man or Muppet" - The Muppets - Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie (should win, will win * * WON)
    • “Real in Rio” - Rio - Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; Lyric by Siedah Garrett
    Haven't heard "Real in Rio" but "Man or Muppet" worked perfectly. [[At least they showed a little of "Man or Muppet," but not the part with Jim Parsons. Yay Bret McKenzie!!!!]]

    Best Picture

    • The Artist - Thomas Langmann, Producer (will win * * WON)
    • The Descendants - Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers (should win)
    • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Scott Rudin, Producer
    • The Help - Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
    • Hugo - Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
    • Midnight in Paris - Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
    • Moneyball - Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
    • The Tree of Life - Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill, Producers
    • War Horse - Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

    I expect The Artist to win, but I really preferred The Descendents, The Help and Hugo to it. The Artist is a nice, inventive movie, but it isn't great. [[Nice blend of Best Picture nominated scenes just before the award was announced. ]]

    Best Short Film (Animated)

    • "Dimanche/Sunday: - Patrick Doyon
    • "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" - William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg (should win, will win * * WON)
    • "La Luna" - Enrico Casarosa
    • "A Morning Stroll" - Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
    • "Wild Life" - Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
    A guess - haven't seen anything in this category. [[The winner looks so cool. "Wild Life" also looked very good.]]

    Best Short Film (Live Action)

    • "Pentecost" - Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
    • "Raju" - Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
    • "The Shore" - Terry George and Oorlagh George (WON)
    • "Time Freak" - Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey (should win, will win)
    • "Tuba Atlantic" - Hallvar Witzø
    A guess - haven't seen anything in this category. [["The Shore" was made by a friend of Michael Moore's]]

    Best Sound Editing

    • Drive - Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis (should win, will win)
    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Ren Klyce
    • Hugo - Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty (WON)
    • Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
    • War Horse - Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom
    Like Moneyball, I expect Drive to win something, somewhere...

    Best Sound Mixing

    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
    • Hugo - Tom Fleischman and John Midgley (WON)
    • Moneyball - Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, David Giammarco and Ed Novick (should win, will win)
    • Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
    • War Horse - Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson
    20-time Oscar nominee (and no wins) Kevin O'Connell managed to not be nominated (he worked on The Muppets this year). Maybe this will be Moneyball's Oscar?

    Best Visual Effects

    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
    • Hugo - Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning (WON)
    • Real Steel - Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
    • Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett (should win, will win)
    • Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier
    I keep going back between Harry Potter and Planet of the Apes. Hugo's effects were fine, but Real Steel and Transformers were so-so. I think I'm going with Planet of the Apes for its excellent integration of San Francisco and apes.

    Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

    • The Descendants - Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash (should win, will win * * WON)
    • Hugo - Screenplay by John Logan
    • The Ides of March - Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
    • Moneyball - Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
    • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan
    A tough category. The Ides of March had two great first act and a great scene in the third act, but a horrible, horrible, horrible third act. I found Tinker Tailor... very engrossing despite my strong dislike of spy movies. Really caught that mid-70s angst very well. Hugo was about the only movie I had a slight "instant classic" vibe about this year. Ultimately, I have to go with The Descendants for its excellent characters and for the sense that life is always a little off-kilter. Because often it is.

    Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

    • The Artist - Written by Michel Hazanavicius (will win)
    • Bridesmaids - Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
    • Margin Call - Written by J.C. Chandor (should win)
    • Midnight in Paris - Written by Woody Allen (WON)
    • A Separation - Written by Asghar Farhadi
    And, actually, this category isn't so tough, but it'll probably go to The Artist anyway even though the script is very cliched throughout. There was much to admire about Bridesmaids and it's nice to see a comedy be nominated, but there were too many scenes that were, frankly, juvenile. Midnight in Paris was a sweet ode to 1920s Paris intellectual life, and it has a chance. However, Margin Call was the sharpest script of last year, and that's the script that deserves to win. [[Nice to see they showed a very good scene from Bridesmaids. At least The Artist didn't win - Midnight in Paris was a lovely flick.]]

    Governor's Awards/Honorary Oscars

    • James Earl Jones
    • Dick Smith
    • Oprah Winfrey (Gene Hershalt Award)

    Comments on the Show

    Two tech awards were given out in the first 20 minutes. They could have saved another five minutes by dropping the Billy's Oscar song which was pretty awful this year. Liked the small clusters of musicians on the balconies.

    I liked Sandra Bullock's presentation, but didn't she speak German as a joke during a presentation a few years back?

    Liked the acknowledgement of the love of movie-going, and the popcorn girls were amusing.

    The JC Penny ads with Ellen were all very amusing.

    Enjoyed the short inserts with actors talking about movies they loved.

    Sad to see there are still so few women who work in the technical end of movies.

    Good to see Michael Douglas looking better!

    Award Counts

    • The Artist - 5
    • Beginners - 1
    • The Descendants - 1
    • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 1
    • The Help - 1
    • Hugo - 5
    • The Iron Lady - 2
    • Midnight in Paris -1
    • The Muppets - 1
    • The Separation - 1

    My guesses - 12 out of 24 - 50%