Archive for December, 2009

Yesterday morning Margaret would not eat or drink.  So I couldn’t give her insulin.  Then she vomited, and tried to defecate in the house.  That was enough for me–I rushed her to the vet.  The doc was about to go into surgery, but she took a quick look and suggested that we hydrate Margaret and give her the feline equivalent of pepcid.  They also drew blood to see what was going on, and gave me an appointment for four pm, when the doc would be out of surgery.

I waited while they hydrated Maggie and then we came home.  And I spent the day pondering what I would do if the bloodwork showed kidney failure, which fits the symptoms and is likely in aged cats.  Euthanasia for Maggie has been in the back of my mind for a couple of years now, but I discovered yesterday that I had never faced its reality square on with regard to Margaret, who has been my companion since 1992.

Trep, you lost Paul recently, and a few months back, Winston and Jack.  So you know how hard it is to make this decision, especially when you are really close to a cat.

By the time we went back to the vet in the afternoon Margaret was feeling a little better–good enough to hiss at the tech, anyhow.  But as the tech said, it was a half-hearted hiss (she remembers when Margaret was a “use caution kitty,” back in the day).  The vet examined Maggie, recommended another hydration and more pepcid, and went to read the test results.  Apparently an emergency intervened because Margaret and I waited, and waited, and waited, in a cold tiny room.

We could hear clients laughing with the receptionist, and a dog waking up from surgery (I know this sound well by now–dogs make an incessant yip, yip, yip, as they come slowly awake).  An angry cat took up residence in the room next door (that made M perk up).  She paced (a good sign) and I fretted, wondering if I had the chutzpah to do what would be necessary were the results to show a deterioration in kidney function.  I had just gotten to the point of resignation when the vet returned with a big smile.  Margaret’s kidney function has actually improved since the last test six months ago.

So we hydrated her yet again and gave her more pepcid.  Margaret was quiet as we drove home in the dark.  We have made that trip so many times she knows every turn, and she knew we were headed home.  I tuned into the local sports radio station to catch the Nebraska game just in time to hear that Matt Hanlon had intercepted an Arizona pass!  Wow!  By the time we got home, Nebraska had scored the first seven of an eventual thirty-three points in the Holiday Bowl’s first-ever shutout.

Margaret didn’t care much about that.  She ate some tuna, sipped a little water, and took a nap while I sat dumbfounded by our near escape.  And by the slapdown Big Red was putting on an Arizona team who thought they were pretty hot, having beaten all those PAC-10 teams and all.

When I checked my phone messages, I discovered that desert hub had invited me over for vegetarian chili (his specialty) and to watch the game with their neighbor, who is an Arizona fan.  I called to explain why I hadn’t answered or been able to come over (which I would very much liked to have done).  At that point Nebraska was up ten points, so desert hub wouldn’t let me talk to his neighbor.

I often say that one of the best things about menopause is that after you’re through it you are no longer a slave to your emotions.  Well, I have to quit saying that–I found out yesterday that they’re still there, all of them, and they can still function.   I’m wiped.   Maggie, on the other hand, is feeling relatively chipper.  She took a swipe at White Guy, anyhow, when he tried to mooch her breakfast.


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Nebraska plays Arizona this evening in the Holiday bowl.  Turns out their coaches (Bo Pelini and Mike Stoops) are best friends, having grown up together in Youngstown, Ohio.

I hear that Nebraska’s chancellor made a suggestion to Arizona’s president (they aren’t allowed to bet on the game, of course.)   Anyhow, Nebraska’s chancellor suggested that if Nebraska wins, Arizona’s prex spends January in Nebraska.  If Arizona wins, Nebraska’s chancellor spends January in Arizona.

Sounds like a fair deal to me.

Trep, you might be interested to learn that the Nebraska band got snowed in in Lincoln and couldn’t get their six-bus caravan to San Diego.  Yesterday a battle of the bands with the Arizona band was scheduled in SD, and so Lincoln Southeast High School was commandeered to stand in for the Husker band.   (Southeast was in San Diego to march in the Holiday Bowl parade).   They did their best, having all of three hours to learn the NU fight songs.

The Southeast bandmaster is recruiting Nebraska band alumni from the area to help out during the game.  It will be interesting to hear this amalgam do “There is no place like Nebraska” in waltz time, which is a staple of the NU band.  I don’t feel a bit sorry for them because, after all, they got free seats to the game.

Update:   Nebraska wins, 33-0!   Go Big Red.  Etc.

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I watched a bit of the Cardinals/Rams game on Sunday.  The Rams are at the bottom of the heap this year, so they get their pick of the draft in April.  If they are smart, they will draft Ndamukong Suh right off the top.

Pun alert:  the Rams’ quarterback is named Keith Null.  This cries out for a running back named Bill Void.   “Null hands off to Void, who is tackled behind the line of scrimmage for minus yardage.”

Or better yet, a wide receiver named Void.  “Null’s pass to Void is good for forty yards, but the gain is wiped out by a penalty.”

I forebear to give examples of Void acting as Null’s tight end.

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Portmanteau for those who must fiddle with computers:   margin of terror.

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Back in My Day . . .

I’m jazzed.  I finally got the password thingie straightened out with the help of a nice man at my university’s help desk.  He actually seemed grateful for someone to talk to, given that, as he said, “nobody is here between Christmas and New Year’s.”  Which I grok, having on occasions visited campus during breaks.  Here you have this massive space with nobody in it–the open malls and imposing buildings are a little bit frightening without people to lend them scale, and the silence is downright eerie. When classes are in session, on the other hand, walking across campus to class is akin to running, in heels and with baggage, to catch a plane at O’Hare.

But I digress.  Once I was into the system again I checked my e-mail, but I had heard from no friends or acquaintances (although there was plenty of spam from Borders).  It is an academic rule of thumb that no professor sends e-mail over winter break.  That is a precious time to finish up a manuscript, compose an index or bibliography, or get started on the next project by actually visiting a library.  Some professors use this time (and research money, if they are fortunate enough to have it) to travel to small libraries that house special collections.  So we don’t talk to each other much over break–we save that for when we are back on government time.

I digress yet again (ancient rhetoricians had a name for double or triple digression, but damned if I can remember its name right now.  Cicero used it when he didn’t want to get to the point, because the point was damaging to his case.  But to leave it out would also damage his case).  See how it’s done?

Anyhow, when I got in to the university library’s e-books, I decided finally to take the time to get an account with Ebrary, their book-reading software.  I’ve been reading books with it for years, but never took time to sign up for the goodies.

And what goodies they are!  You can copy whole swatches of text to your word processor, thus saving hours of time transcribing or entering text.  Ebrary even provides a complete citation for each passage copied, thus assuring correct citation and saving time as well.  You can also annotate the text, so next time you read it there are bookmarks, with your comments, telling you what you thought about the passage on your first time through, and maybe giving you a clue as to why you saved it in the first place.

Believe me, when you read as much as professors do, all this stuff is like mana from the heavens.  The way it used to be was this:  you went to the library carrying a suitcase or something, spent a morning using the card catalog to find what you wanted, checked out a mountain of books by signing over your first-born, lugged the damned things out of the library, across a huge campus and a parking lot the size of the football field, into your car and home, where you reversed the process.

Then you read and read and read, using sticky notes to mark stuff you wanted to look at again  (before sticky notes there were little torn-up pieces of paper, or toothpicks, or napkin fragments, or bobby pins, whatever.  In those days you never knew what you might find stuck between pages of a library book).   Then you painstakingly copied out passages you wanted to remember, at first by hand and later, using a word processor.  You had to cite everything very carefully because there is no feeling quite like the lurch your stomach gives when you are assembling a bibliography under deadline and are unable to find a citation.  For years I warned my students about this, and none ever believed me until it happened to her or him.

I started out in graduate school with my own card catalog, and I kept it going for forty years (you can imagine how big it is now).  Once electronic storage became available I asked the occasional research assistant if she or he were interested in entering the information into Endnote (another remarkably useful program for scholars), but I never got an affirmative answer from any of them once they saw the size of my collection.  The personal card catalog is no longer necessary, thank the goddess, because the intertubes provide full citation (except for page citations, of course, which a researcher still has to keep track of).  Back in the day I also began to keep handwritten notebooks with comments on my research.  They now take up a whole shelf in my storage closet, and they too are full of sticky notes.

But an Ebrary account has saved me from the copying part, at least.  I spent this morning reading the first chapter of Leonard Levy’s Origins of the Bill of Rights, annotating to my heart’s content.  Now I’m off to reread parts of the Federalist Papers, which I own, which means in turn that I can write in the margins and begin to use up those sticky notes I got for Christmas.

So brace yourselves, dear readers.  Your humble correspondent is about to belch forth those promised essays on the BofR, thanks to the wonders of the intertubes.

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Happy Holidays Everyone!


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I remember when the theory that chemicals could steer our emotions was considered alarming.  What did that imply about our humanity, the difference between us and mere machinery?  Nowadays, some people consider you a bit odd if you don’t look to chemicals to adjust your emotional state.  Of course, we’ve been tweaking our perceptions for centuries, if not millenia, with chemicals such as caffeine, alcohol, theobromine, THC and mescaline, discovered in various plants and fermented products around the world to our ancestors’ delight.
But as the wonders of science have now determined, getting high is so intrinsic to our nature that we make our own mood enhancing chemicals, such as runner’s-high endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.
I learned some more a couple of days ago about one called oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘hormone of love’.  We produce this chemical when we have sex, and when women give birth or nurse infants.  It’s considered to facilitate bonding and trust, to ease stress and increase positive regard toward others.  Sounds mood-enhancing to me.  (You can even buy it now.)
What I read recently is that we also produce oxytocin when we stroke our pets.  Not only that, but they produce oxytocin on being stroked.  So now we know the real reason cats jump in our laps every time we sit down – they’re looking to get high.  No surprise.  Anyone who lives with cats knows what hedonists they are.  The cool thing is, when we pet them (or dogs, or anyone else who’s up for it), we get to get high, too.
I’ve sometimes regarded such phrases as, ‘What goes around comes around’, and ‘Give and you will receive’, as sort of societal wheel-grease, warnings or promises of potential outcomes meant to keep us from misbehaving and being disruptive, especially when given a religious overlay.  But it turns out they may be based on down-to-earth biological fact.  At least with regard to giving strokes.  Maybe we lost track of that with the religious co-option.  ‘Make others feel good and you’ll feel good’, has been converted to, ‘Make others feel good and you’ll go to heaven’.  Hm.  Hanging out with a purring cat on my lap and dogs snoozing nearby does feel pretty heavenly.  Could be I’m high.

So if you’re looking for some holiday cheer, be generous with those oxytocin producing hugs and strokes.  Give and you’ll receive.

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