Dr. Wintemute
Tuesday April 22nd 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Politics

I thought I was going to blog about picking the first two, so perfect blueberries of the season today. Instead I’m going to go political on you for a moment–but wait: there’s something for both sides.

Here is the interview from a year ago with the lead researcher from back in the ’90′s before the funding for what he was doing at the Centers for Disease Control got outlawed by Congress. He spoke with the reporter while it looked, ever so briefly, that his work might finally be a go again.

And here is the interview with the professor of emergency room medicine, a doctor who sees the results of our gun culture on the daily job, who had been one of those CDC researchers into the effects of guns on the American public’s health.

When his funding got cut off, rather than folding up shop, he used his inheritance and his doctor’s salary and by living simply he had the means to keep his team of four going. It was too important not to.  He won’t accept donations from anyone with a side in the argument: not the Brady folks, not the NRA people, not Michael Bloomberg, nada. It’s too important to him to be able to offer up the findings in a way that nobody can claim is tainted.

You could take someone with a string of misdemeanors and he’ll keep committing nonviolent misdemeanors. But if he buys a gun, the chance that he will commit a crime of violence escalates.

Okay, that didn’t surprise me.

Closing the gunshow loophole would have not much effect.

Okay, that quite surprised me.

There are very strong emotions on the whole subject of gun control.  We desperately need an even-keeled voice offering a tallying of what is done–or not done–with the guns that are bought, stolen, or used however and in whatever circumstances. We think we know.  Perhaps, though, not so much.

This man’s whole life is about giving us the information we need to have rational discussions on the subject and as we plan for the future. I’ve never been quite so glad that someone had a nice inheritance. He is multiplying its value three hundred thirteen million times over.

Just add water
Monday April 21st 2014, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Can’t blog yet, gotta finish this… Fog blue, with the leaves of the trees peeking out from under the San Francisco morning cloud cover.

Well there you go. Now to block it and run the ends in.

The fog rolling into the city
Sunday April 20th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

A joyful Easter Sunday–and a birthday dinner at Michelle’s, shared with our niece and nephew.


For about 15 years now I’ve been in a lupus study at UCSF, the current focus being longterm SLE patient outcomes. There is an annual phone call of an hour to an hour and a half.

That call was scheduled for Friday, and we got through most of it–but the woman’s voice was giving out and you can’t talk softly to my hearing. She apologized that it had been an intense week and sorry about her voice and could we finish the memory testing part next week? Maybe Thursday?

Yes, sure, of course.

Then, with some hesitation, she told me why she was so stressed: her mother had just been diagnosed as being terminal.

Oh honey!

Which is why I found the ever-so-slightly-grayish-ice-blue Venezia merino/silk in my stash, very soft, and got right to it: the sheen of the morning light across the San Francisco fog for where the daughter lives, warmth and love to the both of them, whoever they may be.

A chemo cap. A little bit of knitting. It’s nothing and it’s everything.

Saturday April 19th 2014, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family

Tap. Tap. This thing on? The resident geek spent quite a bit of time stamping out the bug in the program and I’m trying again. Apparently there was an automatic platform update that got snatched back to a new-improved version almost immediately but we were stuck with the bad one and it did not want to let go peacefully.

HEY! Dad! (Photo taken Monday before I flew home.) There you are!

Okay, let’s try to link. How about to the pomegranate farmer I met at a festival whose products taste like the best fresh pomegranate you ever tasted, not that horrifically bitter stuff like most of the commercial juices.

Well now. So we do have our linking back. (Testing some more: unlink from the fruit spread page. Yup. Now go to Skylake’s home page that says free shipping through Monday, link up again–and it works. There you go.)

Okay, let’s try uploading the amaryllis picture.


Okay, folks, we are back in business here.

Cinnamon covered
Friday April 18th 2014, 10:50 pm
Filed under: My Garden

I’m dying to show some pictures but the latest blog-platform update doesn’t seem willing to do anything but straight text so far. But my amaryllises are starting to bloom–21 stalks’ worth! Something to look forward to, anyway.

Meantime. Last Christmas Trader Joe’s was selling ornamental brooms of branches of the cinnamon plant. They smelled heavenly, they were only a few bucks, and I bought one.

I didn’t read the tag till I got home, though–it warned not to let it touch the paint on the walls or this surface or that or that and I wondered how I got myself into this? But hey, cinnamon. I kept it.

I would later read that it’s a natural pest repellant: critters don’t like it and ants will avoid it.

I found ants crawling up my baby cherry tree a few weeks ago and as my friend Phyllis points out, they bring mites that damage the trees to farm them for food. When we bought this house it had an elderly cherry tree dying of an infestation.

I put that broom across the rim of the big plant pot and the ants vanished and did not come back. The tree looks great.

I wished I had more of those branches, although the obvious thing is that of course in effect I do, I have a big Costco thing of cinnamon sticks, that should do, too.

In the last two days I found two clamshells and six peaches downed around my early peach and needed to do something, stat, before I lost the rest. Oh wait, the cinnamon broom! Put it where there’s actually going to be a crop. So tonight it is resting against the peach trunk and I’m hoping that that skunk that announced itself last night (probably while arguing with the raccoons over my fruit) will think it has met its smelly match.

Anti-morcellation campaign wins!
Thursday April 17th 2014, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Life,Politics

Thank you, Drs. Amy Reed and Hooman Noorchasm. You did it! The FDA has now officially declared morcellation of fibroids a dangerous procedure that should not be performed. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm393689.htm.

And here’s the New York Times article (blog glitch still won’t let me link, sorry.) http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/health/fda-tells-doctors-to-stop-procedure-used-to-remove-uterine-fibroids.html?hp&_r=0

Well done. And I was so relieved to read that the radical multi-organ surgery, as hard as it surely was and is, that was done on Dr. Reed gives her so much greater a chance of seeing her kids grow up. Wishing them all my best.

Eyas, eyas, oh
Wednesday April 16th 2014, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

And we are back in peregrine nesting season, with four one-week-old eyases (chicks) on San Jose City Hall and, as of today, four hatched in San Francisco.

Momma Clara feeding the little ones here.
Huh. Hmm. Blog’s being wonky after an updating, okay, the URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLBgR_GxZiE&feature=youtu.be and sorry it’s not linking.

We will find out the male/female ratio at banding.

Long and straight and no, not infinity-ish, she answered
Tuesday April 15th 2014, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

The connection was iffy. Sound came and went. The damaged hearing aid worked for the memorial concert after I toggled the battery case a bit, like I mentioned, it worked through the hours of the cousins gathering afterwards (with just a few moments where it randomly cut out and back on again a few times), and I simply left it on all that night, afraid to risk opening it again, after getting assurance from Marian that it wasn’t feeding back. I put it on in the morning thinking it should be okay that day too but so much for that, it was dead.

But by then it was just my folks, my brother, my sister, her friend, my son, my niece and her fiance… So I guess quite a few people actually but where it was easy to say, talk to my left side.

I kept the right one in, though, even if as custom-but-dead electronics it plugged up that ear a bit because at $4444 *each* (and that was at a discount from $7k) you just don’t lose those, y’know?

I opened the battery cases again on the plane home to turn them off, glad there was nobody in the middle seat this time, and after we landed I turned the left aid back on.

It went through the exasperating little overly-long tune it plays inside one’s head to let me know it was ready to go. (I would love to someday ask Oticon, hey, whose idea was that? Just–why? Why not make that part reprogrammable?)

Closed the other one, wishing if only, since I was going to need to call Richard to come out of park’n’call shortly. But I knew I could make the bluetooth work with just the one.

–When–hey, I know that song–it played! Look at that! Whyever, I’m happy, and we were able to talk all the way home on the noisy freeways, catching up after I’d spent three days with So. Much. LIFE! crammed into them. Small/great blessings.

And then this morning it was dead again. And intermittent again.

Yesterday, after seeing Dad’s museum and taking Bryan to the airport, Marian had said, call your audiologist right now and I looked at the clock and realized it was still before 5:00 California time. Hey. So I did.

They got me in this afternoon. They replaced the battery door (now I know the right way to describe it) under warranty. Done. And that was clearly all it needed.

And now I can go back to talking about things like handing cousin Bruce in person the cashmere/silk cowl for his wife Paige in handdyed turquoise, a color I knew she loves, as I asked how her treatments were coming. Still in radiation. He was so thrilled, and he told me how much she loves her shawl I’d already sent.

I was just grateful there was something I could do to be with them where they were in any way.

And how another cousin said she was moving to England and said it with so much embarrassment mixed with such fervent hope, something about how she was going to be needing a scarf and hat in seven months when they go, that I laughed and told her, “Of course. What color?”

“Surprise me.”

As I grinned but thought of my friend Constance’s line that color is everything, wondering just how adventurous I should be, she added, motioning at my blouse, “My coat is that shade of purple.”

Having twenty-three cousins on that side plus aunts and uncles and spouses, I almost told her, Just don’t let the word get out, okay?

Made it
Monday April 14th 2014, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family

Home again. So good to be home.

Memorial music
Sunday April 13th 2014, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Knit

The memorial concert was beautiful. Friends, family playing and even Uncle David taking part–my cousin found a recording of his dad playing in an ensemble from 1977.

And I got to listen with both ears. It occurred  to me that I’d had the battery cases hanging slightly open during the flight because that’s how you turn those aids off. That made the right one more vulnerable to the unwitting kid with the backpack.

So maybe I could nudge the case a little? I tried it and it worked. It cut in and out at times but basically I had both ears for the day. Such a relief I can’t even begin to say as I saw cousins I hadn’t seen in years. In a noisy environment.

I am so grateful.

Saturday April 12th 2014, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Knit

Had  two boys about ten and eleven sit next to me on the plane. Nice kids. The one next to me went oh cool!  when I pointed out Lake Tahoe below us, and then the Great Salt Lake.

He swung his backpack on when we landed and never knew it smacked my face.

I couldn’t hear Mom very well when she greeted me–huh. I just changed that battery yesterday. We got in the car, my son John at the wheel, and I took it out. Weird–it looked scratched. I put a new one in. Dead. It now looked scratched. Repeat one last time.

Its broken. I’ve never had such a thing happen before.

It’s under warranty, but meantime I now know why I kept feeling I should take my old hearing aids on the trip. That made NO sense and I left them home.

But at least I have one ear.

Suet do you do
Friday April 11th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Another 4:47 am alarm and off to the airport again–only, no baby snuggles this time, just a fly-in fly-out bleary-eyed business trip for him and now home.

As I wonder what I forgot to pack for tomorrow.

Meantime, the last few nights a raccoon (I think–possums don’t jump, right?) has been getting up on the wooden box and shoving the plywood cover and the 2x2s supporting it partly aside to get at the leftover suet crumbles. It hasn’t gotten the cover all the way off yet, but it’s tried. One of these times it’s going to push a 2×2 out and smash its paws, which is the last thing I want; I’ve moved the things further under to where they’re less accessible in hopes of the animal not getting hurt.

The Bewick’s wrens like to dart into the tight space under that cover (why I keep that box) and it is the one place I can feed that endangered species where the other birds can’t or won’t go and I wanted to be able to set out food to last them while I’m gone.

There is now a full gallon of water sitting on that cover. Maybe those seven pounds will outwrestle the critter.

Yarn to take, yarn to take, between projects, I have no idea what yarn to take. Pattern, idea, I need something! I’m thinking I’m probably not going to be cone-iverous, though; that bit of cardboard would be one extra thing to squeeze in. Plain old prewound wool.

I have time to decide in the light of the morning.

Longer newer louder
Thursday April 10th 2014, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus,Wildlife

After all that rejoicing over all those things I was hearing for the first time since I was twelve after getting the latest-and-greatest hearing aids a year ago, all of that was starting to quietly…fade. I was loathe to admit it. I was still occasionally picking up sounds I didn’t used to but I was often having a hard time hearing ordinary conversations again. It was quite discouraging.

When I got them I was used to soft earmolds, and the new ones, given that they had electronics in the molds as well as the main part, were hard. My connective tissue disease responds to pressure as pain and the hard ones soon hurt, so John-the-audiologist had to make the molds shorter–which meant I heard less and they fed back more but at least it left me knowing that someday they could make them longer in a material I could tolerate better and I would hear even better come the day. Something to look forward to.

But not if my hearing itself was going down again. And feedback can cause that.

Two weeks ago it finally dawned on me that this past year of finally, finally, slowly getting my weight back (due to the funky thyroid) from my big Crohn’s flare of ’09–maybe that was the problem with the hearing. One changes weight in the face and the ear canals first when the pounds go up or down and it changes how sound is transmitted. It was worth a shot. Ten pounds? John totally confirmed the possibility. So I went in.

This time I’m used to using the harder-material earmolds and this time I know to put them in and leave them alone, no fiddling, do nothing to irritate.

John did the impressions, he sent them off, the new molds came back and we chose to try for longer again. Yay! I went back to get them last Thursday glad they’d come just in time to be able to hear Parker and Hudson so much better…

…And the right one broke in the technician’s hand as she was affixing it, to her great surprise.

It was okay, though. I meant I went off to see the grandkids with one ear much louder, hearing all kinds of new things again, and the other ear not–giving me extra time to adjust to the EVERYTHING IS SO LOUD changes.

I got to hear Hudson saying Yawrrr at twelve months after the pirate book reading. How perfect is that!

There is still some small chance the replaced earmold will come tomorrow, before I fly off to a memorial concert in honor of my late Uncle David. (Just me this trip.) Either way: it is enough.

And what got me to sit down and write all this. I was watering my blueberry bushes this evening when a seagull passed at a goodly height overhead, its cry faint in the distance.

I knew it instantly. And almost as instantly I realized that I only recognized the sound from my childhood. After all these years I was finally gull-ible again. Wow. And it’s going to get even better.

One other thing. Being too cheap to pay Turbotax the $25 for submitting the state taxes over the ‘net, I went to the post office today. There is a place where the Bayshore parkland lies just past the next road, where, as I sat at my light, there were two lanes of onramps to the side and nine lanes of freeway behind, cars, cars, cars, and tucked between the ramps and me was an oasis of a triangled culvert.

Green and lush in a way few places are in the drought we’ve been in and with a bit of water at the bottom. Overflow from the marsh starting at the other side of the road ahead, it seemed.

The most magnificently colorful duck dove in there, too fast to be sure what type.

And I looked across at the wetlands ahead and the mountains away on the other side of the Bay and this one little wildlife-sustaining spot of thick and thriving and green despite all that hedged it in and thought, Nature adores a backroom.

Our full support
Wednesday April 09th 2014, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

My lupus group meets once a month and I’ve already missed two months this year. But somehow, today felt different and for the past few days I’ve felt like I must not brush this one off–I must go.

Actually, I was going to take a friend to the airport this morning, hoping it wouldn’t make me late (and that, once late, I wouldn’t go oh forget it); but another friend stepped forward to offer to do the ferrying without even knowing it was being a problem for me and suddenly my path to that meeting was wide open.

There is no such thing as a small act of kindness.

Due to all kinds of unusual circumstances all playing out on one day, after the first of the two hours we were scheduled for there were only three of us there. I shut the door to the loud voices in the hospital hallway that were drowning ours out, which gave us our privacy.

And one woman in that room had needed to be heard. One does not open up one’s inner soul in a noisy crowd, but two friends, she decided she would.

The rest of that story would be hers to tell alone and not mine.  It was one of those moments where one could look back years later at how the pieces fell into place for her sake and how it all began at last to come out okay.

I fervently pray.

I gave her a hug and she was grateful. I was, too.

Beating around the bush
Tuesday April 08th 2014, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

“You’re doing it backwards.”

This was yesterday evening. I caught my breath a moment, mindful of the zero-UV to too-dark-to-work sliver of time I had to work in and told the guy, “I’m doing the best I can.”

There was a very dead large bush at the corner of my older neighbor’s yard right by the edge of my front walkway, ugly and a fire hazard; she had asked her gardener to take it out and he apparently had looked at that thing and thought, you have got to be kidding.

Or whatever, but, he didn’t touch it, so when I happened to ask her if I could try to tackle it she said oh please do thank you.

It was amazing how big that stack of branches was getting as I clippered away: near as long as me and getting pretty darn tall too and I was, well, bushed. I’d gotten all the smaller ones and the majority of the middling ones. Some of those, though…

And that is when the guy across the street walked over.

“You should start with the bottom!” he added to his first statement.

I was trying to read his face–he couldn’t be serious.

He was, though, just not in the way I thought. He walked back to his own driveway and chatted with his teenage son a moment. When I heard the plan, I said, Wait, she told me she wanted it out but let me just make sure she knows what we’re doing, (yeah, kinda late there, hon, but I knew this was way more than she was expecting) and I ran and knocked on her door.

The kid had one question for me: it really was dead, right?

Oh yeah, had been for some time.


Don’t do anything that will damage your truck, it’s not worth it!

He laughed. Not a problem.

Back in my own driveway stepping well and clear as he and his friend put a thick yellow strap around the lower part of the multiply-trunked-above-ground deadwood. Made quite the little tree. They were going to back the truck up onto the grass–nah, got another length of that strapping, don’t have to, here you go–and they linked the two and then the end of the second to the hitch on the truck. Fire’er up!

REVVV *thud*!

And that was that and it was done. We all left it all there where it lay.

I knew today was the day her gardener came and I quietly offered to pay him to haul my pile and that short log away; he laughed and waved me away, the hard work already taken care of, and when he was done you couldn’t even find the hole in the ground to see where it had come from.

It looks amazingly better to have that big dead bristly thing gone. But the surprise of the teamwork was the best part.

I came home from a trip to the post office this afternoon to find a raven standing in the spot the stump had been dragged to. Staring at where that bush had been. Transfixed. Not able to replace its missing landmark by the power of its mind. Poe thing.