Monday, December 31, 2007

There's Nothing Like the Smell of Self Destruction in the Morning

It smells like Primary Season!

What you have to keep in mind when running for president ~ something that no presidential candidate EVER keeps in mind ~ is that YOU are your own worst enemy.

It would appear Rudy Giuliani is learning that lesson the hard way.

Remember that company, Giuliani Partners, that Rudy never really talks about?

Everyone wanted to know what they did ~ consulting, who were their client ~ not saying. All very hush, hush.

Well, here's what the hush, hush was all about.

There's a company called Purdue Pharma. They manufacture a drug call OxyContin, or O.C. if you're looking to buy it without a prescription from someone who is in no way licensed to sell it.

According to the New York Times, the DEA described the promotional campaign for OxyContin as perhaps the most aggressive for high powered narcotics, ever. Further, they aimed their physician campaign not only at pain specialists, but also family doctors with little experience in treating serious pain and who are not as well trained to identify drug abuse or drug seeking behavior. This marketing strategy alone increased the amount of the OxyContin that would end up out on the streets.

And there were some other problems.

Security at the manufacturing facility wasn't particularly good. And the record keeping was a bit questionable.

O.C. became a very popular street drug and proved to be highly addictive. Even the time released version could provide an immediate high if ground up and snorted.

Then there were the overdoses and the deaths. The abuse, addiction and death occurred in place where the community wasn't used to deadly drugs, places like Appalachian Virginia.

Purdue has an image problem, a government oversight problem, and in Virginia, a legal problem. They needed an image makeover. A new face.

So they hired Rudy.

He became their face with the federal government: the Federal Court, Members of Congress, the DEA ~ He was their crisis control.

How does Giuliani defend his part this?

In the OxyContin case, Mr. Giuliani’s supporters suggest that as a cancer survivor himself, he was driven by a noble goal: to keep the company’s proven pain reliever available to the widest circle of sufferers.

“I understand the pain and distress that accompanies illness,” Mr. Giuliani said at the time. “I know that proper medications are necessary for people to treat their sickness and improve their quality of life.”

Nice try, there, Rudy. I might actually believe you if your had bone cancer or had survived some form of cancer that's known to be physically painful. But prostate cancer is almost always a slow growth tumor. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is rarely accompanied by symptoms, forget pain.

So what have we learned about Rudy? If it weren't for that pesky campaigning he might be doing crisis management for those Chinese manufacturers that keep forgetting that lead paint is not appropriate for toys?

Well, yes.

But more importantly, he can't be counted on to use his powers for good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The BEST Christmas Present EVER

I'm not sure if I've been hemming and hawing here about my financial issues.

I need a bridgework where my tooth was extracted. Price: $3,000

According to the closing paperwork I signed when I bought my house last year, my property taxes were not be taken out as part of my mortgage payment and put in escrow to be paid by my mortgage company. Price: $3,900

Now, I suppose it would be silly to point out that I don't have $7,000 sitting in some account or in my walk-in freezer, (I'm not mentioning names, but I do have a relative that does this.) or even my money market account.

Why? Well, lets see. I've been paying in excess of $200 a month in co-payments for my prescription medications. Am I frickin' kidding you? Sorry, no. And that's on top of the close to $400 that's paid for my insurance coverage.

But, this blog entry is not to rant and rave about the ridiculousness of a health care system that can't even care for it's high functioning, working, self-advocating, health insurance covered chronically ill ~ that would be a much longer post titled "so very, very broken"


As you may recall from my posts at the time of my house closing I'm not okay, the whole thing nearly fell apart because I lost my job, my mortgage and my electrical wiring all in about the same week.

My mother and I were literally sitting at the closing waiting for documents to be faxed up from the Florida offices of my bank. I was a nervous wreck. My mother had every checkbook she owned, including the home equity line my father had taken out on their home. (She actually had a backup plan of buying the house outright.)

Now, I don't remember a whole lot from that day, but I do remember reading through the bank paperwork and noticing the I was paying the 2006 property taxes, but the 2007 and following years would not be taken out of my mortgage escrow account.

So, imagine my surprise when I received a receipt in the mail today from the county tax office thanking me for my full payment of my 2007 property taxes in the amount of $3,900 (and some change).

Let's just say that's one debt off of my conscious.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I've linked an editorial from the CDC Journal, Preventing Chronic Disease. It's a meditation on resilience and the differences between generations ~ the GI Generation, the Boomer Generation ~ and what we can expect from them as they grow old.

The concept is pretty simple. The GI Generation has resilience woven into their DNA. They survived the Great Depression, they fought in WWII. If anything can be said for them, it is that they are resilient. Boomers on the other hand are the generation of the Vietnam War, of protest, of assassinations. They as a group will live longer than their preceding generation, but not from sheer force of will, but because the road was paved before them. Most of them anyway.

That's the generational analysis.

On the individual level, it's a whole different ball of wax.

We share the experience of our generation, but in each of our lives, we exist in completely different worlds. To some resilience is a survival instinct. To others it is something kept in reserve that they never knew they had until the absolutely horrible happens and everything in their character is tested. And for some, resilience is something they lack as some lack integrity or honesty and it is only when they need it most that their lacking becomes so glaringly apparent.

I could laugh this off and tell you that being a Red Sox fan fosters resiliency. But that would only be true if baseball were life and death.

Disease fosters resiliency. Survival is all about resiliency. Coping and finding a way to not get caught up in all the little things that tie up everyone else so that you can focus on the big thing, moving on.

I do believe I learned about resilience from my grandmother; the only member of her family to have a job during the Great Depression, the single mother and beat cop during WWII, the no-nonsense matriarch for the first half of my life.

But here is the real truth: If she were alive today, she would tell you that she had learned about resilience from me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And just like that ~ he reappears....

It's amazing to me how people wander in and out of your life.

They probably don't even realize that they're doing it.

I was actually the one who was remiss in emailing, but he was the one who had let the time between messages lag. But then I hear from him again and it's like no time has passed.

It's seriously pathetic.

The truth is there's a certain intimacy in our emails ~ partly because we've known each other for decades, but partly because it means something that all that effort went into finding each other.

Of course, I'm talking about the guy from 20 years and 2000 miles away.

I did track him down and I never got a straight answer about that postcard. But we're both still single and we still make each other laugh and that has to mean something, doesn't it? I mean, beyond the fact that I'm a pathetic romantic who is just tired of meeting *new* people. (Seriously, at this point in my life, haven't I filled my quota???)

But since I started hearing from him again, this song has just.... Maybe it makes me think of our hometown or the things and people where I came from, but it is definitely him...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Syndromes, Disorders and the Way We Were

I've been rather distracted lately.

My nephew was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder (or Dysfunction, depending on who you talk to). According to Time Magazine, it's the new ADD. I wouldn't want my nephew to have to suffer with some unpopular ailment, god forbid!

So what is SID? It's a neurological disorder when your brain/neurons don't accurately process information from your near senses. Who knew there were near and far senses, right? The far senses are the five senses we generally think of when we thinks of "senses." The near senses are balance from the inner ear, the nerve endings all over the body and the brain's ability to know where any or all of the appendages are at any given time. So, how does that translate into symptoms?

According to A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., OTR, who first described the interaction between these senses and the brain, these are some of the symptoms:
An acute awareness of background noises
Fascination with lights, fans, water
Hand flapping/repetitive movements
Spinning items, taking things apart
Walking on tip-toe
Little awareness of pain or temperature
Coordination problems
Unusually high or low activity level
Difficulty with transitions (doesn't "go with the flow")
Self-Injury or aggression
Extremes of activity level (either hyperactive or under active).
Fearful in space (on the swings, seesaw or heights).
Striking out at someone who accidentally brushes by them.
Avoidance of physical contact with people and with certain "textures," such as sand, paste and finger paints.
The child may react strongly to stimuli on face, hands and feet.
A child may have a very short attention span and become easily distracted.
A strong dislike of certain grooming activities, such as brushing the teeth, washing the face, having the hair brushed or cut.
An unusual sensitivity to sounds and smells.
A child may refuse to wear certain clothes or insist on wearing long sleeves/pants so that the skin is not exposed.
Frequently adjusts clothing, pushing up sleeves and/or pant legs

So that, almost exactly, is my nephew. He has been refusing to were anything without long sleeves and long pants for the last two years. We've been trying to figure out how he's been surviving the unbelievably hot Austin summers dressed like this. Now we know. He hates the beach because of the sand. He actually tells you "Not so high" when you push him on the swing. And apparently, he can't complete activities requiring multiple steps ~ like riding a tricycle. I feel so guilty for having my father get him one last year. He tried it once and then refused to ever use it again. We had no idea he physically couldn't.

But my sister and I have both confessed to experiencing many symptoms of his disorder through out our lives ~ I have texture issues with food and surfaces, can't cut on a line and have no balance; she can remember going through many of the diagnostic tests she watched him take. Could we have wandered through life firing off the wrong neurons? Or the uglier question, for me, the one I don't share with her, does this mean he'll follow me to additional diagnoses?

But for now he's doing well with his therapy. He's trying more complicated games and becoming less fearful of falling ~ image how scared you'd be of falling down if you had no balance? It exhausts him. It exhausts my sister. All of us worry. He's otherwise exceptional. My mother wants my sister to push for the school district to take over the cost of his treatment, but I'm afraid he may be placed in treatment with autistic or mentally disabled children, since this disorder occurs more often in children with autism or mental retardation. My nephew is gifted, scary smart. His vocabulary is enormous and he's very articulate.

But for now, we just wait to see what happens next.

In the meantime, the NYT published an article about parents identifying with their children's disorders ~ like me and my sister did. I couldn't stomach the first reader comment however and got to it too late to post a response. So, I'm posting it here! Below is a link to the comment.

Morons Masquerading as Experts

My respectful response: Look you moron, try reading a medical journal once in a while before making statements regarding the existence of genetic evidence or lack there of. There have actually been four different genes that have been identified as being related to major mental illness. Genetic researchers believe their may be as many as 50,000 genes that have a role in some type of disease involving the brain function. AND, the twin studies, especially those done with identical twins raised apart looking at schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as EXTREMELY compelling. AND, don't forget the significant genetic research done with Amish populations where no stigma is attached to mental illness and no drug or alcohol can be used to self medicate and cover disease.

Next time, do your homework, DOOFUS!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Many Errors in Thinking About Mistakes

I really loved this article and the reader responses.

It reminds me of the upside of living with illness ~ you mess up.
You can never be perfect or live to your full potential, but you still have to try.

Life itself is a risk.

And the things that would or should be scary pale in comparison to the things you've survived.

No one can fault you (at least not down to the bone) for the places and parts of your life where things have gone to pieces.

It just happens.

Then you pick up the pieces or you start over from scorched earth and you move on.

I'm not saying it's easy.

It's HELL.

There are times when suicide is the most rational option. And for very good reason.

But in return, you learn how to fall.

You learn how to be imperfect.

You learn that mistakes don't constitute flaws or failure.

And you learn that you're strong. That you persevere.

And you never live in fear of failure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ain't got wings.... Comin' down is the hardest thing....

I found this on (And let's be honest, what isn't on youtube these days??)

It's two of my favorite artists, Mat Kearney and Matt Nathanson, trying to finesse their way through a cover of Tom Petty's Learning to Fly.

Thing is, there was something so perfect about it. So perfect about how I'm feeling and how much I love those guys and that song even if they did butcher it just a little bit.

Isn't that really what life is about? Learning to fly?

We crash and we dust ourselves off and we try again.

And, honestly, you'll be hard pressed to find more truth than "Comin' down is the hardest thing..."

Except perhaps finding the courage to keep on crashing... That's even more difficult.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You would think there's at least be a hideous plaque or something...

Well, congratulations Austin!!

You've been ranked #1 in the 2007 Fall Allergy Capitals!! Making you "The Most Challenging Place to Live with Fall Allergies." (And to think, it's not even Cedar Season yet!!

It was quite the meteoric rise from your Spring Allergy Capital ranking this year of #24 ~ a sad showing below both Phoenix and Tuscon! (Isn't Arizona supposed to be heaven for allergy sufferers???) And also quite the jump from last Fall where you only ranked #12, behind San Antonio and Dallas/Ft Worth. But this year you showed them!!

You go Austin!!

As for me, I'll be hitting the Zyrtec-D, Singular, and Nasonex and be keeping close to my HEPA filtered home.

To check Allergy Capital rankings:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You have got to be kidding me....

Since the Boston Globe doesn't have have a permalink function, I can't link to this article. Instead, I've reprinted it with the Boston Globe copyright intact.

I miss my depression
By Tim Bugansky

November 20, 2007


AUTUMN visited Israel recently. The temperature sank, chilly rain spattered the streets, the wind tossed the trees to and fro. As I sat outside on the porch one night, I found my mind yanked back to Ohio, and I was struck by a familiar pang of sadness - and I missed, achingly, the decade when I was clinically depressed.

The irony of depression - for me, at least - was that it made me feel a pervasive sadness that pierced my heart like frigid, jagged glass, but it also made me feel supremely alive. Depression isolated me within myself, yet through its ever-present melancholy, it also made me feel completely connected to the world.

Anything had the potential to envelop me in tentacles of despondency: a parking lot at dusk; illuminated living rooms on dark city streets with families moving about inside; an elderly man hobbling through a store all by himself; train tracks disappearing into the distance.

These were amplified by the gracefully turbulent decay that accompanies autumn in Ohio, where I have spent most of my life. Brisk breezes bore reminders that life is fleeting. The moon hung morosely above cornfields. Brittle leaves crunched resoundingly like fragile hearts underfoot.

Amidst the crushing poignancy, I was also more creative, more perceptive, more in tune with the world. I can remember entire weeks when I was depressed more clearly than I can remember the particulars of any one day last week. Although days were interminable back then, they were also alive and palpable, bursting with beautiful futility.

It's been four years now since I began a course of treatment, swallowing daily a white pill that changes not only my brain chemistry, but also the very ways I perceive the world, the ways the world affects me. Besides all the questions antidepressants raise about reality and perception, "mental illness" and normalcy, my personal reality is that I am different now. Antidepressants altered my existence.

I eat and sleep more regularly. I can now get sad without venturing into the borderlands of despair. I can get happy without that happiness seeming like the gleaming tip of an iceberg - full of splendor at the surface, but dwarfed by the hulking dark mass of potential disappointment beneath.

I don't mean to glorify depression. Had I not taken those little white pills, I would probably have become seriously ill, more and more troubled, increasingly incapable of living in a world constructed by and for the "normal." There is no question that depression can and does hurt people, both the depressed and those around them.

But while depression is often portrayed or understood in simple terms, it is more than just an affliction. Its complexity is all the more apparent to me now that it is absent from my life; yet the memory of it can still transport me from the edge of the Middle Eastern desert to the American heartland.

And I wonder - as I sit outside on quiet nights and sense the seasons shifting and wish that I could "feel" the phenomenon like I used to - I wonder how many others like me are out there in the world, wandering through their own private autumns, fortunate to be alive today yet missing the brilliant sadness of the past.

Tim Bugansky, a writer and teacher in Israel, is author of "Anywhere But Here." He wrote this column for the International Herald Tribune.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

Personally, I find this Op-Ed insulting, naive, ignorant and repulsive. It is completely lacking in respect for anyone who struggles and survives a life with real depression.

Those people know the numbing effect of a disease that, to paraphrase a talk* given by William Styron, causes the brain so much pain that it is incapable of doing anything but enumerate its own suffering.

It's odd, at best, that the Globe would choose to print such an article just one day after it printed a science piece on new research showing that depression may cause degeneration of the hippocampus, the part of the brain believed to have an essential role in memory. Further, the use of SSRIs (a class of anti depressants) may actually regenerate neurons in the hippocampus.

Take a moment to soak that in. Depression is connected to the part of the brain that controls memory. Memory, say, of the things that usually bring a person happiness and pleasure.

So, while the rest of us are in some fog ~ all joy, beauty, and interest forgotten. Some even feeling so numb with lack of emotion that they harm themselves just to feel. Mr. Bugansky is experiencing life on a new ultrasensory level.

Mr. Bugansky, I'd like you to meet Mr. Frey. The two of you will be spending a long, long time together in a place we call a Special Hell. This one is reserved for lying liars who lie.

*This talk was given at a symposium at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the mid to late 1980s and later became the basis for Styron's memoir Darkness Visible. The particular quote I refer to did not make it from the speech to the manuscript, but remains one of my favorite pieces of prose from his talk.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The RIGHT way to start the World Series!!!

You start with John Williams and the brass section of the Boston Pops performing a special arrangement of the Star Spangled banner.

Then you pass the ball to Red Sox legendary outfield Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski, #8 in Left Field, # 1 in our hearts ~ alright, I'm going on a bit, but when I was 7 years old, I did want to be Yaz when I grew up ~ to throw out the first pitch.

Now that the game has officially begun...

Josh Beckett strikes out the first three Colorado batters.
Red Sox hit the plate: Dustin Pedroia hits a homer; Kevin Youkilis hits a double; Manny Ramirez hit an RBI single; J.D. Drew threw in another RBI double.

End of the first inning? Red Sox: 3 Rockies: zip

Final Score: 13 to 1 RED SOX

Sing it with me now!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007



This is the dividing issue in the Red Sox Nation.

Frickin' Pink Hats!!!

Let me start this post with a little confession. I own and wear a pink Red Sox cap. I seem to recall purchasing the hat in that color because I look horrid in red and in the Texas sun, a navy blue hat is not your friend on a hot day. (Have I mentioned melanoma runs in my family? I actually wear hats for a utilitarian purpose as well as showing my team loyalty.)

Now these pink hats have become associated with part time, turncoat, johnny come lately, girlfriend only fans.

I take offense.

One blogger referred to them as "bleacher bimbos."

Another said they "couldn't pick Jim Rice out of a line up."

And an actual newspaper suggested they were folks with no New England connection who were trying to defect to Red Sox Nation since 2004.

Did I mention that I take offense?

To all of the above and those who agree with them ~ BITE. ME.

I'm just going to glide over the idea that me being mistaken for a bimbo is laughable. And new to the bandwagon? Not in this life time. I've been a Red Sox fan since birth and possibly before then. And as for Jim Rice? I haven't had the chance to see a game at Fenway since Jim Rice was actually playing there. You can take the girl out of Boston, but you can't take the Boston out of the girl.

I had my first Red Sox cap when I was less than a year old. My uncle, a sports writer for the Cape Cod Times and a Manager and later President of the Cape Cod League, gave it to me. I wore it year round until it no longer fit. (I believe it too was pastel in color, but don't quote me on it.) I had such pale blonde hair that the sun burned my scalp right through it, so the hat was essential for all of my outdoor activities.

I went to college in Baltimore in the late 1980s and had the misfortune to meet a New Yorker who thought it fun to run through the seventh game of the 1986 World Series play-by-play. I don't remember his name, but I do hold the Mets personally accountable for his existence. The great thing about being in Baltimore at that time though was the fact that the Orioles were still playing at Memorial Stadium, just 6 blocks from campus. We could decide to go to a game at 7pm. Walk over and pay $2 for bleacher seats and be in our seats for the National Anthem. Their last season at Memorial Stadium had an added bonus: Dwight Evans, an old friend from my trips to Fenway as a child.

I still find it hard to believe that anyone would actively become a Red Sox fan. It seems to me that it's something you're born into either by geography or genetics or a little bit of both. It's not a happy life.

You're constantly being let down and having your heart broken. You can walk away from a game assured of a positive outcome because of a 7 to 10 run lead, only to find out the next day that it all fell apart in a single inning.

People try to analyze baseball down to statistics and physics ~ the hits, the runs, the speed of the ball. But with the Red Sox, there's always some extra force at work that can't be accounted for, like karma or luck or acts of God, except they can never be explained by positive or negative acts or energy. They just happen. In that way, it's a lot like life.

I like to believe that being a Red Sox fan has prepared me for life in the real world, in a way no Yankees fan could be prepared. Shit happens. Things go wrong. Sometimes everything is a whole lot harder that it ever should have been. And no matter how good a person you are, and how many wonderful and amazing things you do for others, awful things are going to happen. It can't be avoided. Even when you think everything is going right; it can still go completely wrong. It's just part of the game.

As for these so-called "bleacher bimbos" and hangers-on, they won't last. Once the Red Sox are true to their reputation and remind us all why the Irish identify with them so strongly, only the fans from birth will remain.

In the mean time, I hardly think a team from the American League, where the pitchers don't hit, can use any "purity of the game or fandom" argument to put down the pink hats.

Maybe people just want to keep their heads cool in the sun? Ever thought of that?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Because I am weak...

... And I cannot handle....

I was talking with a colleague today about my own procrastination in posting sick leave for work missed due to an asthma attack I had last week after being in a room at my office where the levels of rubber and latex particles were so high that even after doubling my allergy medication and leaving a HEPA air purifier in the room over night and then sitting practically on top of it, I was coughing and wheezing within minutes of stepping into the room.

My superviser and her supervisor are well aware of the issue. I was relocated for 3 months while the carpetting was replaced on our floor of the building. They required me to complete "Request for Reasonable Accomodations" paperwork and provide documentation from my treating physician that such special treatment was necessary. I was annoyed by the extra effort I was required to exert, but my doctor provided the perfect explanation. I could die if I was exposed to latex and rubber.

So, while I'm doing everything I can and the reasonable accomodations are not met ~ keep in mind, I'm not the one who made this into an ADA legal issue ~ why should I have to use MY time to recover when I become ill.

My colleague, not meaning to be insulting, said something about me being weak and unable to handle the conference room and that was why it should come from MY time.

But the more I think about this, the more infuriated I become.

There is nothing about me that is weak.

I put in another six hours of work following the asthma attack, consuming nothing but albuterol and Zen tea, in order to complete and polish a presentation that needed to be given the following day at an outside meeting. Granted, the following day, after all the albuterol and wheezing, I had no voice, I couldn't stand because my back muscles were so sore from gasping for air and things just wouldn't stay still either from dehydration, lack of oxygen or lack of food or some combination. It took me two days to recover. The fact that I have an IgE mitigated allergy that causes a very severe immune response ~ inability to breath, anaphalactic shock ~ does not make me weak. The fact that I live with it, through it, makes me strong.

And the fact that I put such attention to my work and do so much to try to lessen the effects of this immunological response despite the ignorant, insulting and, frankly, illegal acts of my employer, make me extraordinary.

Weak, my ass.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Giving Up.... Moving On....

I'm turning 37 tomorrow.

I honestly have no idea how that happened. It really seemed like just last week I was taking calculus in high school.

And still it seems, every time I'm faced with a new number, that I left to take stock of where I am, and where I expected to be.

We'll start with the obvious. No ONE saw Texas coming.

I knew I'd have the college degree and the graduate degree, but the being alone thing is still a bit of a let down. I was planning on having kids by now. You know, the American Dream ~ the husband, the house, the 2.3 kids and the retriever. Instead, I have the house, a grouchy old cat and the knowledge that with an allergy to cats I will never become the old woman with all the cats. Small relief. I also have my extremely tactful mother telling me that I can barely take care of myself, I most certainly couldn't care for a child. (She's always done wonders for my confidence.)

We'll admit it. The disease(s) were a surprise, an unfair handicap to say the least. It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been fair. But I've proven myself to be far stronger than anyone (including me) believed I could be.

So this is where we go from here.... We throw out the old plan. We trash the dream. We make it up as we go along.

Forget the husband, forget the kids ~ today I got the dog.

And I named her Frannie ~ for Frances Mays ~ the character and author of the book that is the basis for the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. It has one of the best life lessons at it's center, beyond great leaps of faith and courage lead to great reward.

It's one of life's pure truths ~ you eventually get what you want and need in life; it just doesn't always look like you expected it to.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Do you feel safer than you did 6 years ago?


Because you totally shouldn't....

I don't make a habit of reprinting entire NYT articles, but I had to make a VERY special exception for this one.

Just one personal editorial comment: This is SO consistent with my three year tenure in Emergency Preparedness...

October 4, 2007
An E-Mail Chain Reaction
On Wednesday, an innocuous e-mail request transformed into a flood of more than 2.2 million messages nationwide. The first e-mail, with addresses redacted:

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Alex Greene"
To: "NICCReports"

Effective October 15th I am switching jobs and would like to receive the DHS daily report at my new e-mail address;

Alex Greene
Manager - International Operations, Roxboro
GKN Freight Services Inc.

Excerpts from the e-mails that followed:

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "State of Texas SOC"
To: "Alex Greene
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Mr. Greene,
We do not maintain the DHS_Daily_Report 2007. You will have to contact NICC to update your email address.

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Johnson, Dawn"
To: "State of Texas SOC
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Please for goodness sake, no one else reply to all, some of us actually have work to do

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Wight, Collins"
To: "Caldwell, Dwayne"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Collins Wight, Jr.
LDRPS System Administrator
Corporate Contingency Planning
National City Corporation

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Koszalka, Sue (DPH)"
To: "State of Texas SOC
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Don’t know if anyone realizes it but these e-mails are going to the entire distribution list.

Sue Koszalka
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Bureau of Environmental Health
Coordinated Environmental Response Program

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-0

It's good here in DC. Just a bit muggy

Bill Miller
Emergency Management Information Officer
Office of Emergency Programs
Department of the Treasury

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Caldwell, Dwayne"
To: "Koszalka, Sue
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

I don’t think everyone realizes that yet, but what a nice way for all of us to get to know one another! J
Hope all is well in Boston.

Dwayne Caldwell, REHS, PEM
Environmental Health Supervisor
Vanderburgh Co. Health Dept.
Evansville, IN 47713

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Steve Siegfried"
To: "Caldwell, Dwayne"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Since we are introducing ourselves, I'm Steve and I like long walks on the beach and a nice chardonnay with my roasted duck. LOL.

Steve Siegfried
WING Investigator
HIDTA Investigator

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Flowers, Monique"
To: "Steve Siegfried"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

I’m a Sagittarius and am from York, PA…

Monique Flowers
Harley-Davidson Security
1st Shift Asst. Supervisor

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-03
From: "Lee, Margaret"
To: "Lee, Jeanene M"

I am from the great state of LOUISIANA.

Margaret Lee
Infrastructure Protection Grant Specialist
Governors Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness, Preparedness Section

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Smith, Michael B. Mr OASA\(I&E\)-Plexus Contractor"
To: "Wight, Collins"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Dear Mr. Alex Greene (the guy who started this mess),
May the fleas of a thousand camels infest you armpits and may a yak in heat make love to your shin.

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "JHF Security Command"
To: "David A. Africano"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

STOP.. this is the Command Center and i keep getting your messages.

Subject: Re: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-03

Well as long as we have a free for all going here, I'm job hunting. Anybody have anything open out there?

Mary Brown, DVM, MPH

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Strohman GS11 Jeffrey T"
To: "Tripathy, Rasika"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela


AT Training Program Manager
ISS, Camp Lejeune, NC 28542

Subject: URGENT REQUEST FROM DOD RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Kinder, Mike"
To: "Taraba, Joseph"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

This is your COMBATING TERRORISM OFFICE for DOD asking you to kindly stop now please. We actually have work to do.
Not to be a buzz kill but this is NOT a networking tool. I will make a list of these responses to have all of you removed if it continues.
Thank you.

Michael Kinder
Infrastructure Protection
SETA Support to the TSWG

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Meyers, Charles L CTR OSD POLICY"
To: "Taraba, Joseph"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

As a representative of the Department of Defense, I am ordering all to cease and desist with the emails! I'm a Sagittarius and it's overcast here in D.C.! :-)

Charlie Meyers

Subject: Re: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-03
From: "Bynum, Sarah J SPGI CWCS"

Well I am in jordan and this is costing me a fortune. Sent from my blackberry. Best regards. Sarah Bynum -----

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-03
From: "Palmer, Joseph H"
To: "King, James M"

If you happen to get near Golden, Colorado, stop by our plant for a tour of the world's largest single site brewery and a terrific product line from Coors!
Wonderful fall weather here in Colorado!! This is a better networking opportunity than the ASIS conference in Vegas last week

Joseph H Palmer Jr
Corporate Security Manager
Coors Brewing Company

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Slick, Scott S. BUMED Contractor"
To: "Eric Hamilton"


Scott S. Slick, CHS-III
Battelle Memorial Institute
Navy Medicine Office of Homeland Security (N35)

From: TechGuy
Subject: Fwd: Please do not use "reply to all" button
Cc: DHS Daily OSIR Distribution List

Are you serious? Is this actually the official response and remedy for this issue?
I have refrained from commenting up till now as to not perpetuate this issue, but this sort of response is unacceptable and just goes to prove why so many lack faith in our government and government agencies.
How about utilize some common measures to ensure that others are not allowed to send to the list. Its actually pretty simple and common place to do.

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Bass, Michael L SFC 94TH RRC"
To: "Chris"
Cc: "Ryan-Bunger, Gisela

Im a Sagitarius from NY. My only fault is that I am partial to V.O. on the rocks as I cut into my rare Porterhouse!

SFC Michael L. Bass
94th RRC
Command Security Manager

From: Jonathon Bangler
Subject: Vegas Anyone?
To: DHS Daily OSIR Distribution List

Anyone want to plan a gathering in Vegas?

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "Joseph Key"
To: "Darrel West"
Cc: "Alex Greene"

Does anyone have high level media contacts? This would make a great story for the national news.

From: "Alan Steinberg"
To: "'Bob Dart'"
Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02

I would expect that the list would be worth something!
What if someone was running for political office had access to the list and just wanted to plug themselves. Perhaps say something like "I'm Alan Steinberg, and I'm running for U.S. Congress." Or even plug their website, by saying "Please visit"
Oh wait... I just did it =D

Alan Steinberg
Candidate, U.S. Congress, TX-22

Subject: RE: Unsubscribe!
From: "Arlt, Timothy J."
Cc: DHS Daily OSIR Distribution List

I applaud your reaction it was mine as well. I sent a message to the DHS message board stating the following: Very distributing that the so called "security stakeholders" would use this exploder list in this manner! It is obvious that this message from DHS is reaching an audience that has no clue about security nor how to use what relevant information is presented. DHS needs to tighten control and security of these messages!
I apologize for adding an email to your already expanding inbox, but I wanted to convey to you that you are not alone. This event has left a severe distaste and dissatisfaction with many of your peers.

Tim Arlt
Nebraska Public Power District
System Control Manager

From: "Bob Dart"
To: DHS Daily OSIR Distribution List
Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02

I like the SANS blog post: "dozens" of e-mail replies. Dozens wouldn't be nearly as funny as the 200-some that you guys have managed to send so far.
And where did all the funny go, anyway? Sure, endless "take me off this list" messages are pretty funny themselves, showing us how clueless so many "security professionals" can be, but they're no match for long, virtual walks on the beach in between scuba diving. Come on, I expect more from you! Don't make me do work!
By the way, anyone know how much money someone can get for a list of 200+ e-mail addresses of government security professionals?

Subject: RE: DHS_Daily_Report_2007-10-02
From: "McBride, Donald"
To: "Bob Dart"

Is there going to be a prize for the 300th response?
Maybe a bottle of wine for those with a sense of humor, or a CD on how to configure your email to delete messages for those without.

From: "Amir Ferdosi"
To: DHS Daily OSIR Distribution List
Subject: Is this being a joke?

why are so many messages today?

Amir Ferdosi
Sazeman-e Sana'et-e Defa'
Qom, Iran

From: Marshall Odom
Subject: Give it a read you may see yourself in here!!!!!
To: Amir Ferdosi

Wow a reply from Iran!!!! Open source really does mean open source!!!!! For those of you that have responded to this email from an official computer with your snazzy little signature at the bottom, especially those that have every piece of contact information listed, including those of you that have disclosed sensitive phone numbers and classified email addresses have knowingly provided this information to people all over the world some of which I am sure are deemed "undesirables'. Folks wise up. This is an open report that anyone with an email address can subscribe to. Although some of you responses have been humorous to say the least (leave poor alex alone) you are opening doors to people that you do not want to. I notice some of you are in jobs that use this list as a way of staying informed although you have no true capacity in the world of infrastructure security and I applaud you for using this tool to stay abreast of all the information provided. But those of you that are in the military or provide services through any official office you should know better than to advertise who you are and who you work for. The best tool that someone can use to gain access to information they should not have is to befriend you and what better way than through some harmless emails. besides now they have all your information. This is trade craft 101 folks. Wise up and don't reply to something just because you can. I know that I now have access to hundreds of IP addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, names of personnel in sensitive positions and locations, I am only a cover story and a fake letterhead away from trolling for intel. James Bond made it look cool but in it's most simple form intelligence gathering can very easily start right here.Not good folks, and don't blame DHS for this, no one forced your hands to type. Besides DHS is not some all knowing autonomous being, it is staffed by people just like us; human and fallible, add some computers to the mix and we sit. In closing I would like to say thanks to all of you that serve our country in whatever capacity you may find yourself; from nurses to night-watchman and soldiers to salesmen, we all contribute to this great country and I thank you all.

Friday, September 14, 2007

No Apology Needed, but maybe an explanation...

So there's more to the story from the blog I posted "Rescued", but isn't there always a bit more to the story?

This part has to do with another ex-boyfriend who happened to get rather harshly judged based on the performance of the guy I talked about in the earlier post. He even gets his own music....

He and I dated briefly months ago and when we broke up for reasons that weren't apparently clear but later became bluntly stated (my understanding) that he just didn't want to waste his time with someone he knew wasn't going to be the person he eventually wound up with. I, of course, was too absorbed with how he could tell I was missing some unique quality that would make me the perfect permanent fixture in his life to really evaluate what an asshole he was.

Anyway, he had spent several months/years tracking down the men who had served with his grandfather (who died when he was 2 months old) in WWII and he had written a book about the experience and his interactions and interviews with the 40 or so veterans he had tracked down from his grandfather's unit.

Being the history buff (especially WWII) that I am, I had agreed to read and edit his manuscript and when we broke up, I agreed I would continue the task.

When I finally returned the manuscript to him a few days ago, I just really let him have it. Told him he was really self involved and completely lacking in empathy, which was a deal breaker for me. I was mean, I was horrible. I told him I was only there returning the manuscript to demonstrate that I was the better person.


Why on earth would I be so mean? (In the voice that can be heard by other people? I'm frequently a total bitch in my internal monologue, but that doesn't really count since no one ever hears it...)

Let me start with a quick explanation of how we judge people in my family. It is based solely on how they treat others or more specifically other members of the family. You could be a Nobel prize winning multi-billionaire philanthropist who provides vaccines for children in SouthEast Asia and Africa and provides college scholarships for orphans in Darfur, but if you also beat your wife and refuse to help your own children out with health insurance and basic dental care that they need, you're still an asshole.

Case in point: in college, I had a friend who dropped acid, had promiscuity issues, dressed goth slut, had a marijuana habit and smoked, but she got me into the hospital when I needed it and was always there for me. My parents adored her. My roommate, who was little Miss Perfect, ready for presentation to all parents, but as my mother put it, always out for herself, got far less adoration ~ even fifteen years later...

Because of all this, I tend to judge people rather harshly on how they respond to me when I'm sick and at my worst. It is a rather important part of my life, after all.

The whole manuscript thing was a disaster. Of all the unsolicited advice I received concerning it (and there WAS quite a bit), it ranged from "don't even think about reading it" and "don't provide a single constructive edit" to various creative and violent means of destroying said manuscript. NO ONE supported the idea of me actually reading and commenting on the book. But I felt very strongly that I had given my word and we were, after all, still friends.

So, somewhere in the midst of all this, my allergies and inflamed sinuses caused my migraines to flare up. I missed a ton of work. Spent an inordinate amount of time in sensory deprivation and was in a whole lot of pain.

The ex would email about the manuscript and I would tell him I was having real problems with migraines. Then nothing for a few weeks and he'd check in again. He couldn't even be bothered to drop a simple "Sorry to hear you're not feeling well. Hope you feel better soon." email.

So I started thinking, maybe we really weren't friends. I mean, a friend would have jotted off the little email, right? A FRIEND would show a little consideration. And I started feeling REALLY used. And I started getting REALLY pissed off for all the times I had defended him.

How does this relate to the earlier post I've linked to?

Comparison and Worthiness.

This whole time that I was having this one sided friendship and realizing it, I was also realizing the degree of loyalty and compassion that another person was not only capable of, but capable of showing for ME. It seems rather ridiculous that it was just dawning on me now, but finallly, the life lesson kicked in. I am entirely worthy of someone who will not run for the emergency exit when my life gets ugly. I deserve someone who holds on tighter the worse the storm gets. Why would I put up with anything less?

A few years ago when I was going through this particularly bad time ~ you know, when it seems like absolutely everything is going wrong because basically it is? ~ I got dumped by this jerk who actually had the nerve to tell me, "I just can't handle your drama of the week."

And yes, I did want to scream at him!

Are you fucking kidding me?! Do you think this is my life?? I would have checked out long ago if this were normal!!

But at the time, I kind of accepted his excuse. I acknowledged his weakness and since there wasn't much less I could think of him, just added it to the pile when my anger finally simmered down to pity.

I won't be accepting that anymore.

So when we finally met up to return the manuscript, I just let him have it, so to speak.

Maybe he didn't deserve it, but I don't think I owe him an apology. He brought it on himself...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


There's Something About Iowa and New Hampshire
NYT 9/10/2007 (link above)

I actually registered to vote before I turned 18. The deadline for the general election fell before my birthday, but the general election was after I turned 18. They actually had someone from the Town Clerk's office available during lunch ~ this was decades before anyone had even considered Motor-Voter bills. You had to actually register to vote with that as your singular intention.

I first started going to see Presidential candidates when I about 4 ~ Ford was trying to keep the presidency and Carter was running against a bunch of other Democrats.

I clearly remember the 1980 primaries when Ted Kennedy ran in the primaries against the incumbent Carter and I was too young to realize that Ted wasn't President Kennedy before. Reagan was running against Bush, Kemp, Dole, Howard Baker and a bunch of other forgettables. I was 9 and I met at least Kennedy, Kemp, Baker, Reagan, and maybe Carter.

My mother was a perfect resident for New Hampshire. She was a political junkie. During primary season it was like the circus was in town ~ well, for all intents and purposes, it was.

We washed our hands in the ladies room next to the female TV network anchors. We chatted up journalists from Spain and Ireland and I recorded radio interviews with at least 3 foreign correspondents before I was even old enough to vote.

It was that kind of education that gave me the poise and presence to discuss nuclear proliferation with a US Senator when I was only 11 and stun him with the fact that it was one of the more intelligent conversations he had on the subject.
I kept in touch with him and wrote to him about KAL flight 007 when it was shot down by the Soviets. And he responded.

It was because he didn't treat me like the preteen I was that I went to work for his re-election campaign in 1984, effectively becoming the youngest member of the NH Republican party. (yes, now you know about my dark ugly past.)

In 1984, the Democratic race was wide open. There were a ridiculous number of candidates in NH. I managed to meet Jesse Jackson, Biden, Hart, McGovern, and possibly, Mondale. I also saw Reagan again.

In 1988, it was mass chaos. No running incumbent, so everyone and their brother was running for President. I think my mother made a point of getting me out to see everyone that year ~ we missed Rummsfeld and Laxalt, I believe, because I have no recollection of seeing either of them.

I left New Hampshire after graduating from high school the following year, but still got back to see Dole (again!) and Lamar Alexander (no idea why) and a few others.

I do miss primary season ~ not the constant polling ~ but all the activity. I sometimes watch it on C-SPAN.

And I do think that being raised in that environment makes one more politically aware and take the whole process much more seriously.

I wish I could say that I vote in all elections, even the local ones. Here in Texas, they have this crazy ass system where you can vote for the two weeks before election day at certain supermarkets? And, well, the whole thing just confused the the bejesus out of me and I never managed to vote ~ I couldn't quite figure out if I was supposed to vote at one specific supermarket or what! So I was not able to cast my vote for Kinky for Governor ~ just as well. I was casting a vote out of some immature sense of rebellion. I had somehow worked out that a vote for Kinky Friedman was a slap in the face for W. Not sure on that logic anymore, but at the time it made SO much sense.

Oh, well, it looks as though I will have to live my primary season over C-SPAN. My coworkers tell me that no one even bothers campaigning in Texas, least of all in Austin, the tiny blue spot in that overwhelming sea of red....

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I've been listening to this Jack's Mannequin song lately. It's kind of crazy, but it really makes me think of my life 15 years ago. I've got some really ugly anniversaries coming up and it's always good to start early on the traumatic, don't you think?

Anyway, this is the song (complete with semi accurate lyrics for full comprehension) What on earth did we do with ourselves before youtube anyway?

The song reminds me of the most horrible experience in my life up until that point. Imagine, if you will, being a 22 year old senior at one of the top colleges in the country, fielding options for interviews with Andersen Consulting and Morgan Stanley and all that craziness and you're drowning. You can't seem to move past making the perfect plan for your own death.

So somewhere in the midst of midterms, you find yourself sitting in an office while someone talks your completely shell shocked mother through getting pre-approval from her insurance before they get you admitted into a locked psychiatric ward.

Ever seen your world come crashing down around you? In my scenario, it included pregnant women on crack detox, jello, a rather frightening guy from the hood who really did believe he was from outer space and took way too much interest in me and a whole lot of people in white coats.

It was years before Prozac was a drug of choice or the concept that there was a problem that the stigma attached to mental illness was actually a problem. Aside from my family, nearly everyone ran for the nearest emergency exit. I didn't even get a card from my sorority sisters until I had officially dropped out of college and gone home.

So while everyone else was running away from me, my boyfriend was holding on tighter than ever. He was the one person at the hospital every day. Once I had privileges to roam, we'd meet after visiting hours in the cafeteria (as the University hospital, student id got you entrance) and wander. He picked me up when I was discharged and came to visit me when I went home for the rest of the semester. He never judged. He just listened. He was the constant critic of my "perfect suicide" plan, always pointing out the holes, secretly knowing that I would never go through with the plan until I had it perfected. He knew better than to try to talk me out of it that would have been counter productive ~ his way played to my weaknesses.

For me, the song is all about him, all about his choices to stay with me in the chaos and wait it out with me. And looking back, his actions were amazing for a 23 year old kid. I don't think I ever fully thanked him for what he did or what it meant to me.

Years later, long after we had moved on and grown up, I would find it hard to be around him and then leave. He still held a certain power for me ~ like a stillness inside the storm. I could feel like no matter how crazy the disease was, in his presence, I was safe, it would end and I would come through it. I remember a particularly awkward evening when we had dinner together while I was in town for a wedding and when he dropped me off at my hotel, I just couldn't get out of the car. I was having a tough time in grad school and I just needed a fix of that calmness.

It's amazing how much power history can hold for you.

But it has made me realize something.

I don't need to waste my time with anyone who will run for the nearest escape hatch when I get sick. If at 22 I was worthy of a guy who could muster that kind of maturity, then any guy with an extra 15 years of life experience who doesn't pass the "Matt" test just isn't worthy. That would be a deal breaker.

And I don't think I'm asking too much.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Clearly, Everyone is NOT New Hampshire

Oh those crazy Presidential Primaries! And let's not forget the even crazier political parties!!

It's become a pissing contest of the highest proportion.

The states are jockeying for earlier primaries and the national committees are threatening to only allow half of their delegates to the national convention if they move their primaries ahead of the February 5th golden starting line. So the state's are flexing their electoral college muscles and swing state value, calling the threats empty.

Florida is even using double negatives!!!

“I am confident that the Republican National Committee or any eventual nominee will not allow the voices of Florida voters not to be heard,” he said. “Florida is too important a state as it relates electing to the next president.”

Oh, WHATEVER. Your Governor's brother can't run again. Everyone KNOWS Gore won the 2000 election and that your citizens are incapable of using the simplest of balloting systems.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire has maturely accepted the fact that they may be penalized for following their constitutional amendment that requires them to have the first presidential primary in the nation. The Democratic party has made an exception for NH and SC recognizing that they historically have early primaries while the Republican party appears to be incapable of making exceptions for special circumstances. How very Neoconservative AND Christian of them!


No one seems to have figured out that all this jockeying for early primaries is going to give the later primaries more power.


With so many early primaries, there won't be a clear winner until the later primaries hit.

Think about it.

With so many primaries to focus on candidates are cherry picking the states they'll concentrate on. Many candidates are choosing not to even participate in all the state primaries.

In a normal primary season, the candidates run all out in the early primaries and several have dropped out by the time Super Tuesday comes around. With the field culled, candidates running low on funds, the leader(s) have effectively been chosen by the late primaries.

Now with all the early primaries and candidates selecting where they are (in effect) running, there could be several "leaders" coming out of Not-so-Super Tuesday and it will be up to the final primaries and those states will have the honor of hosting the BIG primaries that decide the elections. If we don't have too many media relayed self destructions, we could actually go into conventions without the candidates chosen.

In that case, Michigan and Florida could be very right. The importance of their delegates will depend on who the party leadership wants to get the nomination and who holds their delegates.

But let's hope not. I really hate it when Florida is right.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What makes me happy...

Have I mentioned that I grow orchids? It's one of those eccentric hobbies that seem to be the providence of solitary men with truly odd personalities like James Jesus Angleton, the legendary counter intelligence agent in the early days of the CIA, codename, MOTHER.

I cannot claim to be that odd or paranoid, but perhaps it is because I am drawn in by the beauty of the flower and not the intrinsic challenge of it, that makes me different from other orchid enthusiasts. I was, after all, drawn into the world of orchid growing by two individuals, or perhaps, entities, that were positive influences in my life during some of the worst years of my life. One was my therapist ~ who could possibly fall into the eccentric orchid grower whose interest involves the challenge ~ and the other was a local orchid grower who had nine greenhouses full of orchids and supplied the local botanical garden with a conservatory wing full of orchids. Between the two of them I received an education on phalaenopses and dendrobiums and other more exotic plants ~ the whys and hows of the spiking; the sizes of the blooms; the ways in which the orchids evolve within their surroundings; the fact that orchids are not the fussy, needy plants we are led to believe ~ in fact, benign neglect can sometimes be the best care. Many people kill them with too much attention.

Today I found this photo, from the Kew Gardens Orchid Festival. It's a hybrid of Baldan's Kaleidoscope, my favorite phal. Another orchid grower once told me that redheads have an affinity for Baldan's and vice verse ~ a rather interesting thought. I have no idea.

Yes definitely a bird, looking for an orchid with feathers now...

But when one of my orchids spikes and blooms with these amazing flowers. That's what makes me happy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Those Low Grades in College May Haunt Your Job Search

A young applicant’s G.P.A. is the best single predictor of job performance in the first few years of employment.

This is from an article published in the New York Times on December 31, 2006. [see link above]

Oddly not, April 1, 2007.

As I approach my 15 year college reunion, let me offer a few random thoughts on this...




In the last fifteen years I don't remember ANYONE asking about my college GPA. I think graduate school may have wanted the transcript, but that was it. And you know honestly, the fact the I GRADUATED from such an ACADEMICALLY CHALLENGING college was more than enough.

Here's the real truth: Once you get a graduate degree, no one even wants to see your undergraduate transcript. They just want to see proof of your highest degree.

Now if I were a bit less honest and didn't believe that with complete certainty that I would get caught, I would take advantage of this and make my undergraduate years a bit more interesting... I'm sure four years in Palo Alto would have been more fun than the four I spent in Baltimore (seriously, who gets mugged in Palo Alto???), but I'm just not going to go there. (And seriously, who would actually question it? Like I've ever interviewed with an actual Stanford graduate???? Like I've ever even interviewed with a Hopkins grad??? PLEASE!)

But this is what I love about the article. The guy who is the great authority on GPA predicting job performance hires for such industry giants as the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster and!!! Remind me again, are those Fortune 100 or Fortune 500? And they employ highly skilled, really intelligent individuals to do things like.... okay, I'm drawing a blank on the very important services they provide without which our nation would crumble... Right, over priced tickets, sub quality products for shut-ins and shopaholics with credit cards, TVs and telephones and, of course, dating opportunities for computer geeks, potential stalkers and xenophobes (present company included ~ xenophobe, if you must know). What would we do without them?

Meanwhile, those Fortune 500 companies will probably continue hiring using the tried and true standards they've used for centuries. Nepotism never hurt, even Jane Austen recognized that one. And a perfect GPA from some crappy college isn't going to even get you in the door, honey, because the big boys choose who to recruit. They go directly to the schools from which they want their staff to come.

Why do you think you hear about students at Brown protesting the CIA recruiters on campus but you never hear about students at West Podunk Community College doing the same? Is it because the students at WPCC are less organized, liberal and politically aware? Quite possibly. But more likely, it's because the CIA isn't recruiting at WPCC since, among other reasons, they don't have a programs in applied mathematics (or as the cool kids call it "apple math") or advances languages.

And as far as the ridiculous [RIDICULOUS] notion that there is some correlation between intelligence and GPA ~ first let me suggest that everyone involved in this article had excellent GPAs but could never quite test their way into MENSA ~ now that my juvenile jibing has satisfied, wait, who am I kidding? These people are frickin' morons!!!

Albert Einstein failed math. Kurt Vonnegut failed college English. Obliviously these grades reflect their lack of intellect. Get over yourselves! Once you're too old for your parents to post your report card on the fridge, it no longer matters.

"Truth #147: No one really cares about your GPA."

I had that postcard posted on my door throughout most of college. While my roommate attended offices hours, had TAs and professors read drafts of papers, kissed asses and collected copies of other students' notes all in a grand effort to make sure her B+ or A- would be an A, I quietly lost respect for her. In my land of ultra-integrity, she had crossed the line of "earning" those grades. In fact, she was taking up vital resources (the time and energy of the TAs and professors, the goodwill of other students) that should have be allocated to students who were really struggling with the course material, not that the culture of the university would ever allow someone to make that admission ~ the shame would be far too great.

So, in my mind, the great GPAs began to take on a completely different meaning. Not one of the student who has superior understanding, does superior work and shows superior skill, but of the student who works the system, kisses the asses and plays the game. None of those things were worthy of reward in my mind. They demonstrated a lack of character, an almost sociopathic narcissism. And those few people who did receive their GPA based on superior skills and work were completely lacking in social skills or the ability to interact with other people, mostly since they had spent the past four years in the underground library to compete against the students who were working the system.

Any way you look at it you lose.

Let's return then to reality. We'll all admit something to ourselves and to God ~ I never did want to work for Ticketmaster, the Home Shopping Network or And as my uncle Billy (who graduated last in his electrical engineering program at Cornell, and who I should mention has made a killing in the stock market,) once told me, the guy with the highest GPA and the guy with the lowest GPA walk away with the exact same diploma. (This is best NOT to consider when selecting a physician...)


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How I know, with almost absolute certainty, the we're not living in The Sims

So there's some philosopher at Oxford that has posited, perhaps for the sake of argument, that our entire world could be just a simulation under the control of a single individual playing a game. And there are others, who perhaps having seen the Matrix movies (Matrices, anyone?) too many time, think it is possible that the world down the rabbit hole is the real one.

Here's how I know that the real world is actually real.

There was a time when I had a bit of a Sims obsession. I still plan to return to it once my desktop computer is up and running, because it is a rather fun obsession.

Anyway, to get back on point, this is not so much about the Sims as it is about people who play the Sims.

If you've ever spent much time on the forums, you'll find there are a few different types of players.

There are those that play to decorate and beautify the world. They create new architectural features, furniture, landscapes, clothing, houses, objects, skin/makeup/hair. They are artists and they look to perfect the world in which their Sims inhabit. Many don't even play the game, they create dream worlds.

Others perverse the game. I don't mean this as a judgement call. They interbreed to create alien races. They create the least human-like Sims they can and make a society a new creatures.

Then there are the code writers who try to advance the game. They create objects with special powers ~ coffee that allows individuals to no longer need sleep, toys that potty train toddlers or puppies, books that give faster skill points, paintings that make friends, plants that care for themselves, new careers, telescopes that prevent or guarantee alien abductions...

And last, but certainly not least, there are the pranksters. And let's be honest, a large proportion of them work for Maxis. When I first got Sims2, I remember getting the option to "stare at the sky" when I click outside with one of my Sims and wondered why on earth I would want to do that. A few days later when reading in one of the forums, I found out why. Once in a while when you have a Sim "stare at the sky", a satellite drops out of the sky and kills him/her. Maxis thinks of everything! And the Sims has always been filled with such goodies!

Where else does Death actually show up to collect and individual, sometimes stopping to use the bathroom or help himself to a cup of espresso or to listen to a loved one plead for the life of the recently deceased? Want to play chess with Death? It happens. Have an ex you want to torment? Just put him or her in the game and have at it. I have yet to meet a prankster who hasn't pulled the disappearing diving board and stairs pool trick. No Sim can resist a swim, then you pause the game and remove the escape route and, voila, drowning Sim. And after Death leaves, you can sell their ashes for cash, or let them haunt your remaining Sims for continued entertainment.

I once starved a police officer in one of my Sim homes because I couldn't find another way to get him to leave. He was just stuck. The rest of the family went about their regular activities and he just hung out. Since it wasn't his house, he couldn't actually do any cooking, so he died of benign neglect. I had hoped when he got hungry enough he would go home. That didn't stop me from selling his urn. The family was a little strapped for cash with the new baby.

I've heard of player creating 'death rooms' for getting rid of the more irritating nannies, people creating entire haunted towns.

And Sims is very much unlike real life ~ you rarely get pregnant if you're not trying, teens can't even have sex, and at least someone always knows how strongly each individual feels about one another.

So, until ladders start mysteriously disappearing from pools, books make people more athletic, men start giving birth to alien babies, unwanted pregnancies dissipate and teen pregnancies disappear altogether (and my ex-boyfriend gets killed by a falling satellite), I'm going to stick with my assertion that we're not living in The Sims!

Friday, August 03, 2007

BIG Bodies of Water

It's strange having grown up on the East Coast. You believe you know what it's like to live near a large body of water. It's the Atlantic Ocean for god's sake. It's huge! The gravitational force of another planet actually controls it's tides, huge.

You actually believe that living near this body of water is a vital part of your existence. You can't imagine not living on a coast. It's like the distance from the great tides somehow affects you.

You live with a constant calculation of distance to the water. Under two hours is acceptable. Anything more, questionable.

But it's not like you're planning an escape. Like there's a submarine off shore.

It's just a strange superstition you developed because you grew up in a county with a coast.

And well, the West Coast, it just completely messes with your sense of direction. The water shouldn't be to the West. When you're traveling North the water should be to the right, South to the left, otherwise you're just lost.


Then somehow you wind up in the center of the country. No oceans.

That's when you meet the big bodies of water of American myth and legend ~ the Great Mississippi, the Mighty Colorado - true waterways, unlike the Connecticut or the James. While the other water powers hurricanes and Nor'easters, these are of the waters of floods and droughts. They bisect the country, the continental divide. Other rivers run East and West of them, literally.

But it's not until they swallow people up that you remember how mighty they actually are. Somehow the fact they you don't need a 747 to cross them diminishes their danger. Don't be fooled.

We thought we could tame them. With damns and canals and such. Silly us. We are the Sigfried and Roy to the river's Bengal tiger; it plays along when it feels like it, but when push comes to shove, it will go for the jugular every time.

I lived here for over a year before realizing that Lake Travis, Town Lake were all the Colorado River. I mean, I knew they weren't actual lakes, I just didn't know it was the Colorado.

I cross that river every day. Twice in fact. Until the bridge in Minnesota collapsed, it didn't even occur to me how amazing that is.

So how does my former self survive thoousands of miles from the Atlantic? I go back and stick my feet in every year. But I don't think it matters so much when you really don't like the beach.

Monday, June 18, 2007

This is the value of a "brand name" education

The other night over dinner, my boyfriend and I were discussing tuition prices for our first year of college. He started at UT Austin in the Fall of 1988; I started at Johns Hopkins University in the Fall of 1989. His first semester as a Texas resident was $450 and the price rose to $500 his second semester, making the grand total for his first year of college education a full $950. Now I, the East Coast Sophisticate, as he teases me, paid (or rather, my father paid) $15,000 for my first year of tuition.

Insane? Obviously.

To the outside observer, anyway.

He was a student on a campus of 50,000 students, while I enjoyed the relative quiet of being amongst less than 3,000 undergrads and a few hundred more graduate students. I knew a large proportion of my graduating class, but I know he can't say the same. And while we are both very intelligent people, I have experienced being one of the least intelligent people in a class or just simply in a room. He has not. He understands not wanting to be the smartest person in a room, but he's never spent years in a place where, even in an elevator or bathroom, you knew with almost absolute certainty that you weren't the smartest person in the room. I can't quite explain the comfort in that, but there's something easy about being able to use all your SAT words and skip as many steps in logical thought as you want, over a bowl of Lucky Charms, and not feel self conscious about it.

But here's the true power of the designer label education. It's where your friends wind up. I not only know doctors and lawyers and professors and such, but I know a great transplant surgeon in New York City. I can email a friend and get a referral to one of the top specialists on a rare autoimmune disorder for a friend's brother. In the space of 20 minutes, I can get a full explanation on the current methodology for biopsies of breast lumps and a recommendation for a second opinion.

It's that part of what college is about? Making the connections that will help you throughout your life? I don't mean to suggest that there aren't many people who graduated from UT who have gone on to do amazing things and help their former classmates, just that there were probably a higher proportion of Hopkins alum who did and with the smaller number of students, one had a much higher probability of actually knowing them.

We're just going to ignore the guy I went to school with who produces Pimp My Ride. That works for you, right?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sometimes I Miss New Hampshire

Why does it take a ridiculous Travel section article in the New York Times to remind what I left behind? And an incomplete article at that! Nowhere do they mention the trained bears at Clark's Trading Post!!!

My sister wrote an essay many years ago about growing up in our small suburb. In the essay, she spoke about her experiences living in Mexico where there is an almost mystical connection to where you come from, where your roots were planted. The place leaves an indelible imprint upon you. It is the origin of you, whether you like it or not.

My new boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go back to New Hampshire someday. He has become my conscious ~ he corrects me when I give my vague answer to "Where do you come from?" He doesn't let me get away with my well rehearsed pat answer "Outside of Boston." It's not a lie; it just lacks accuracy. They've even renamed the airport the is half in my hometown, The Manchester-Boston Regional International Airport.

It's not that I'm ashamed of being from NH. I love the first in the nation primary and the libertarian spirit of the state. The world looks a whole lot different from New Hampshire than it does from anywhere else.

It's just that the further away from New England you get, the less people understand New Hampshire. They lump us all together; Maine is Vermont is New Hampshire is Massachusetts is Rhode Island is Connecticut which might as well be New York or New Jersey. See what I'm saying? New Hampshire is NOT New Jersey. It's not even Massachusetts on its very worst day.

But on days like these, no matter how much I appreciate the fact that I left New Hampshire, when I see a picture like this, I miss New Hampshire.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Relief and Perhaps a Little Disappointment

On my way home from work last night I went to the grocery store to get the pregnancy test. I bought some healthy food as well since I should be eating better just on general principle.

The young kid at the check out was hysterical. It was like he was frightened by the pregnancy test, like it had special powers. He seemed to be afraid to touch it with his bare hands because if he did, the next female he touched may become pregnant. It was all I could do not to laugh at him, but seriously, the comic relief I needed.

Who knew peeing on a stick was such a complex skill???

I could hardly sleep as I was recounting the odd first trimester-like symptoms I was experiencing ~ bionic sense of smell, extreme exhaustion, the constant need to pee, heartburn and most troubling, complete lack of PMS and/or cramping.

So, when I woke up at 3am needing to pee, I figured that was the first urine of the morning and got out the stick. It must have taken me 20 minutes to manage to pee and pee on the stick. I'm blaming at least part of it on the early hour...

I wait the three minutes, which go by surprisingly fast, and there's only one line.

I go back to bed and when I get up at six and go to the bathroom, there's blood.

I go into work and talk to my friend, telling her about the skittish check out boy, the negative test and the period finally coming. She's the one who finally points out that I seem disappointed, that I really did want a baby.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What, Me? Pregnant?

The Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Neuman reference is actually horribly appropriate.

I'm four days late. I've had sex once in the last three years. (I know, TMI.)

I didn't intend to have sex because I had been on and off antibiotics with my tooth abscess and extraction and I wasn't feeling all that confident about my birth control. And we weren't going to... but then he did that thing with my back and well, never mind... You can figure it out from there.

Here's the thing. I'm taking at least two drugs that are known to be tetragenic. I'm not taking ANY folic acid. My caffeine intake is ridiculous and I've been drinking more than once a week, which is a lot for me. And my basic nutrition SUCKS. This is NOT how I would go about being pregnant. Vital organs could be forming and I'm doing everything in my power to screw them up.

But here's the other thing. I'm almost 37. What if this is my only chance to have a baby? How can I NOT do that?

I can't tell anyone because I can't admit who I slept with, among other things, so I went to the iVillage website and forums.

Well, if you ever want to feel better about yourself, that would be the place to go!

After reading through the other posts, I have no idea what my problem is. I don't have any illegal drug addictions, children in the custody of social services, the father of the possible child isn't trying to kill me, I have a job, a roof over my head, I don't have 8 other kids already, I'm out of my teens, graduated from high school ~ I really feel like I should just be taking the kids off of these other women's hands!!

So, after getting over the fact that I don't have a problem, I discuss my very real problem with one of my very non-judgemental co-workers. She has the best advice. Go out and buy a pregnancy test and find out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

And yet somehow, it's still about Duke...


They lost.

They got their asses handed to them in the first half. Yes, they made a gorgeous rally in the third quarter, but bottom line: THEY. LOST.

Okay, so yes, I am a Hopkins fan. Class of 1993, thank you very much. And it's Johns to you!

But how does it work that even when Duke loses the championship, it's still about them??? Sure, they were wrongfully accused of rape. But it's not like they were a bunch of boy scouts doing yard work for nuns. Doesn't anyone remember that they were a bunch of drunk and disorderly complaints against Duke players that came to light with the rape allegation? Or what about the assault charges in Georgetown that some of those same players earned while out barhopping? PLEASE. And let's not forget that email message sent by Ryan McFadyen saying he planned to invite strippers to his dorm room, kill them and cut off their skin. He's still on the team, by the way...

And McFadyen isn't the only one still on the team. Much of the 2006 squad managed to get the 2006 season removed from their NCAA eligibility, giving them a postgraduate or fifth year senior (or in one case, if ESPN was accurate, a sixth year junior) year on the team. So when ex-coach Pressler predicted that Duke would win because they had the better senior class, was he referring to both of them?

These guys thought an appropriate activity for a Monday night was underage drinking and hiring exotic dancers (you know, strippers) at the home of their team captains. Now they will be the legacy, the standard-bearers that everyone will look up to for everything, in the classroom and on the field, at least according to their new coach. Kind of makes you fear for the future, doesn't it?

Yesterday was at least partially a grudge match for Duke. Two years ago they faced Hopkins in the National Championship and lost. Then last year when their season was cancelled and the future of their entire program looked bleak, Johns Hopkins was one of the first schools to come out and say that they wouldn't touch anyone associated with the Duke program. (read: Don't even think about trying to transfer here. We're better than you.)

The reality is that even with a 3.45 or 3.3 at Duke (gentleman's B, anyone?), a student would hard pressed to prove himself up to the academic standards of Hopkins.

Meanwhile, back at the Homewood campus, home of the NCAA Lacrosse champions, the team members may not be slated for sainthood, but at least they can define terms like integrity, character and ethics. One of the team captains is even a member of the University Ethics board. I'm pretty sure you don't get that kind of position if throw parties with strippers and underage drinking. And trust me when I tell you that the staff know what's going on. I seem to remember getting busted as an IFC officer for not busting a fraternity that was making their pledges wear New Kids on the Block buttons ~ harmless, yes, but still hazing. We knew it was wrong, but found it rather amusing and had a certain amount of respect for the creativity involved. But I digress....

We were really hoping that Cornell would beat Duke in the semi-finals. The game would then have been about undefeated Cornell, but that would have been more bearable. You would have thought that was Duke was shut down the story would be over, but you would have been wrong.

“When I woke up this morning and ESPN did a story on the national championship game and didn’t mention Johns Hopkins once, I took that personally,” the Hopkins senior Jake Byrne said.

And he wasn't the only one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Elevator from Hell

Forget Love in an Elevator.

How about those moments of your life that you'll never get back when you're stuck riding in an elevator with someone that you were really hoping you would never ever see again for the rest of your life? The elevator itself, including the four other people, shrinks to the size of an upright coffin and the nearness is unbearable.

I can still smell his cologne. And I actually forgot he wore any.

It smells like betrayal.

He was my boss, my advisor, the person who was going to direct my development in this new direction of my career.

Instead he just terminated it. Without any warning. Without any criticism. Completely blindsiding me.

It will be a year three weeks from today. The anniversary of the only time, in my twenty one years of employment (according to the Social Security Administration), that I have ever been fired.

I figure I still have at least nine months to loathe him. Maybe I can hold out forever. I did move halfway across the country for that job.

The truth is, I don't really need to expend my energy holding a grudge.

I'm fully aware of the truth, as much as his cheap perfume, Karma is a bitch.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hold the benefits...

So, I think I may have gotten dumped....

Last night, I stop over to my friend's place and we're just hanging out and talking. He's telling me that he went to the doctor that day and something about his blood pressure but shouldn't his Mediterranean background and diet and wine intake prevent high blood pressure? (Yeah, whatever, believe everything you hear that was printed in the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA and was re-reported in USA Today because it's all meant for non-medical people.)

Should I be so impatient with him?

Absolutely. One reason I would kill him if we dated is that he completely lacks empathy and has no concept of THE GREATER GOOD. Medical research is completely beyond his comprehension and did I mention that he's really not that bright? And he totally doesn't get my sense of humor. That's like 8 separate deal breakers.

So, as we're watching the 10 o'clock news to see if the bank robbery that happened near his office is going to be on and I realize that I really haven't had enough to drink to find him appealing...

He says If I tell you something do you promise not to be mad?

Now having spent a few years working in infectious diseases and knowing that he just went to the doctor, my first thought is If you tell me you have an STD, I WILL kill you!

But instead, I dutifully tell him that of course I won't be mad.

Seriously, though. What the hell are guys thinking when they say these things??? They obviously know they're about to piss us off. Are they trying to get some get out of jail free card??? Why make someone make a promise? Be a man and suck it up! Take the fury that you've earned!!

He's met someone else. He actually already knew her, but something romantic has developed. (That was quick...)

Fine, I tell him, relieved that my name and address won't be filed on a reportable disease form with the state agency where I work, in an office where I actually interviewed for a job...

This was just an arrangement I tell him. It wasn't a relationship. Relationships take precedence I tell him. I'm happy for you.

I'm very calm and business-like. In fact I'm probably about 50 degrees below cold.

He's stunned, but watches as I get up off the couch and go home.

I consider that this is probably my own fault, at least tangentially.

He had been putting the moves on me for nearly a year and now that he knew he was never going to have a relationship with me, he may have opened up his eyes to other opportunities he had been oblivious of.

Or there's also the attraction of being wanted ~ you've experienced it, I'm sure. When someone wants you, you radiate a confidence or something and all of a sudden others are attracted to you.

I had the strangest experience one day when I was seeing this guy and he wanted to meet for "lunch", but I was really busy at work and absolutely couldn't and wouldn't. But when I walked out of my office that day at noon to pick up a sandwich to eat at my desk, it seemed like every man in a two block radiance turned to stare at me. I was convinced I'd tucked my skirt into my underwear or something, but I didn't ~ maybe I just had some mischievous grin that said I could be having a completely different kind of lunch right now if I wanted to...

Now, this is not to say that it's completely about me.

Well, why can't it be completely about me??? This is MY blog.

But do I feel dumped? Not at all. I feel like I tried something different. It was a nice change, but not what I want in the long run. I okay with the way things went.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gimme A Break!!

No Nelle Carter jokes. This is a high class operation...

I'm talking about Wolfowitz again, and hopefully for the last time. My life is too damn short to spend this much time considering a FOW (friend of W).

So he's resigned from the World Bank. Hurrah!

He's been exonerated and he got to negotiate his compensation package!

How come only complete assholes get to leave under their own best terms???


The rest of us are lucky to get our vacation time paid out and not have someone screw up our COBRA benefits.

Am I wrong?

This guy screws the pooch, in more ways than one, no offense to Ms. Riza, I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but how on earth does he get a severance package???

Oh, and did I mention that he never had to pay income tax on his earnings at the World Bank? Nice little perk, huh? And his contract already allowed for a year's compensation if he were terminated (again, tax free) ~ since he resigned, he probably got more. Wrong, wrong, wrong....

Is it any wonder the rest of the world believes the United States is bereft of any morality? We're doing a better job of demonizing ourselves than radical Islam ever could!

And let's just add insult to injury ~ Wolfowitz wasn't even a freakin' economist!! He had no business running the World Bank!!! (Not that proper credentials, experience or education has ever been a factor for job placement in the W. administration.... How silly of me to thing otherwise.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Oh, Come On!!!

So let's get this straight.

A chump, let's say a chump with a very impressive resume and beltway connections coming out of his ears, gets a really high profile job, say President of the World Bank. Just for example. It seems like a nice place.

His girlfriend works there and she's assured him that as long as you're not a woman of Arab decent, you get treated fairly.

He starts out pretty well. He follows the rules, discloses that his girlfriend is also an employee and offers to recuse himself from any personnel decisions regarding her. Ethics Committee agrees. Everybody's happy.

But then somewhere along the way, somebody stepped in it BIG TIME.

Girlfriend decides she wants an outside assignment and you know what, she should really be making a lot more money. Remember the thing about being an Arab woman? Well, she's been getting screwed on pay because of that for years, so she wants to be bumped a few pay grades and not to the base of the pay grades. We like the middle. And enough of this depending on other people to make sure your compensation keeps up with inflation, she wants her pay grade upped every few years regardless of anything else. Oversight, performance evaluations? Who needs those?

And remember Mr. Recuse Himself? Well, he approves the whole deal!!!

Word gets out, as it always does. And don't go thinking about investigative journalism or Deep Throat. Inside the Beltway, information is leaked via press release.

Next thing you know, people, like the Board of Directors, are calling for President Recuse Himself to resign from the World Bank. Not an unrealistic request. Generally, when you're caught padding the salary of someone you're sleeping with, it is customary to get fired....

Here's where it gets ridiculous. Paul Wolfowitz, with George W. and Dick watching his back, has basically dared the Board of Directors of the World Bank to fire him. He's trying to negotiate a way out where he is cleared of any wrong doing otherwise the United States won't play with the World Bank anymore.

What are we, 3 years old?

You screwed up, buddy. Deal with it!!

And PS, I don't really want to be part of a country that plays hardball in a situation like this. Could someone overnight some integrity to the White House? They've apparently run out...