Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Monday, February 23, 2004

    That's not his real name, but I would like to preserve his privacy.

    Michael and I went to the same church. I got to know him well over the years; he was a kind and generous guy, deeply spiritual (he was a Benedictine oblate). He loved to throw dinner parties, and would share his theater tickets with friends regularly. Sadly, he also struggled with clinical depression for many years.

    He killed himself a few days ago. His neighbor found him on Saturday.

    I was called Saturday night by another church member, also one of Michael's friends, who was trying to get the phone number of the doctor who took care of him. I found the number for him and then struggled with shock and denial for hours afterwards. The next day, at church, word had clearly gotten around: We stood in little clumps, discussing and mourning.

    Michael stayed at my house for several weeks in the fall of 2001, while work was being done on his house. He was there, in fact, on September 11. I remember the two of us sitting in shock that night after getting home from work. Every time I go into my spare bedroom now, I think of him. Most of all I keep thinking of the coffee mug I'd gotten for him for Christmas. He canceled his annual Christmas party because he wasn't feeling well (in retrospect, I think that was a danger sign) and then I went out of town for the holiday, so that I never got around to giving it to him. It's still in its gift box in my closet.

    I think it's going to be there for a long time. I can't bring myself to give it to anyone else; it's his, even if he never got it.

    Saturday, February 21, 2004
    One Last Thing

    Speaking of Peanuts: Bookslut has links to an announcement that the complete Peanuts collection is going to be published; also, links to articles written by or about Caitlin Flanagan, who writes for the Atlantic. I'd never heard of her (Flanagan)before but like her stuff quite a bit now that I've read it. She focuses on homemaking and domestic issues.

    Linkies to Blinkies, Among Other Things

    This blogger hates cliches, apparently. He (or she) also hates blinkies. Whatever you do, don't use the phrase "my little corner of the Web" on your blog, or you may wind up as blog fodder for him or her. It's a very funny post; go check it out. (thanks, Ernie)

    If you're staring out the window at the rain and need a good game to help you kill time, try this one, courtesy of Dave. It's basic but irresistible.

    Dave is on a roll lately: among other things, he's posted links to the Lobster Cam and to a story about guys throwing bowling balls out of airplanes (oh, they said they had a reason, but my theory is they're doing it because they think it's cool). Incidentally, about that Lobster Cam: it is remarkably unexciting. I was hitting the "Refresh" button all day yesterday during work, to catch the two-minute updates, and nothing changed the entire time. It's the inside of a freaking lobster basket, and that's all there is to it. If you ask why I cared enough to keep hitting "Refresh" in the first place, I will clear my throat and change the subject.

    California Dreamin'

    It's cold and raining today; no heat in the house. The weather reminds me of an old Peanuts cartoon, in which Snoopy is gazing out the window and thinks, "Today is the kind of day that makes you want to drink tea and play sad songs on the stereo," and then he goes and does it.

    I've got the tea right here. Think I'll go turn on the stereo...

    Tuesday, February 17, 2004
    Food Musings (with links!)

    The other night I came home to find a mysterious package in the mail. It turned out to be two books I'd requested from John Thorne's annual book sale. John Thorne, in case you don't know, is the author of a quarterly food newsletter and website called "Simple Cooking." I highly recommend that you check out the website, and if you like subscribing to newsletters this one is excellent.

    In addition to Thorne's website I can recommend these, too: Walker New York: Eats, Chocolate & Zucchini, the lunch blog and the blog of what this guy had for dinner last night. I love to read about what people cook for dinner - but it has to be home cooking, I don't want to hear about fancy. I just like to read about what people throw together for dinner.

    In case you were wondering, the two books were Peter Mayle's French Lessons and Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book. Nancy Silverton is a chef, owner of the restaurant Campanile and well known in Los Angeles; Peter Mayle is, of course, the guy who writes about Provence. Mayle's book contains no recipes but is full of amusing essays about local French specialties. Silverton's book is mouthwatering and great fun to read, but her idea of a sandwich is not exactly PB & J. For many of the recipes you have to start by preparing various spreads, roast meats, roasted vegetables, homemade mayonnaise, etc. and then make the sandwich. Still, I think the book is worthwhile for two reasons: first, if you were going to have a somewhat casual dinner party, many of the ingredients can be made ahead of time and just set out for people to make their own sandwiches. Second, many of the ingredients would be worth it to make just on their own for a side dish (e.g., slow-cooked broccoli, roasted radicchio, roasted onions).

    Well, I guess it's time to go home and have cold cereal for dinner. Heh. (I read 'em, but I rarely cook from them.)

    Back Again

    I do have things to post about, just haven't had time. In the meanwhile, I am proud to present by way of Tim Blair:

    The 1000 Fighting Styles of Donald Rumsfeld

    I am particularly fond of the "Drunken Temple Boxing" pose.

    Thursday, February 12, 2004
    My Candidate Can Devour Your Candidate

    Well, now that the news about Kerry has broken, would you consider this guy as a write-in candidate for President? I love the slogan: "Why vote for a lesser evil?"

    Wednesday, February 11, 2004
    Money Pit

    Let me preface this post with the observation that V. has started referring to me as "Alice Ingalls Wilder."

    Monday, in the middle of my workday, I got a call from my contractor. "I thought you ought to know," he begins --

    I freeze in anticipation --

    "-- that your neighbors' contractor hit the gas main today. The fire department had to come out and shut things off."

    Oh, well, I think, at least it wasn't my contractor that hit the gas main.

    "They wanted you to come home and let them into the house, but I was able to get them in. We checked around and opened a couple windows, but they're sending everybody home because of the fumes."

    Sigh. Okay, that's one day gone.

    Next morning, I noticed that the shower was a little... tepid. However, I got through it without freezing and then promptly forgot all about it in my rush to get out the door.

    This morning, of course, there was no hot water at all. I made do by heating a teakettle of water on the stove and taking an abbreviated sponge bath. And this time, as I left the house, I made sure to stop and ask one of the workers to please make sure the pilot light to the water heater was turned back on.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2004

    I've started taking evening shifts in our Urgent Care clinic. Reason: cash. I got a really disturbing bill in the mail last week for this ongoing house project. I worked my first Urgent Care shift tonight - it wasn't difficult, but this adds up to a full twelve hours of seeing patients today.

    And I'm on call.

    And I have no heat in the house - have I mentioned that? I can't remember. Yep, no furnace for the past two weeks and not for another two weeks at least. It's February, people, even if this is California.

    Hmm. Well, the Boards are over and I have nothing to dread, thank God. It's all vaguely unpleasant but none of this is disturbing my sleep at night. Anyway. I'm logging off and going home. Get to get up and do it all again tomorrow. G'night.

    Monday, February 09, 2004
    Normal Time

    We're still in the season of Epiphany, but Lent will be upon us in two weeks. Time to start cutting back on my caffeine (never again will I go cold turkey on Ash Wednesday, unless I really want to suffer). I'm working on a list of some reading ideas for Lent, with some help from Jack. One book I really do want to read is The Practice of the Presence of God, which I have started before but never finished. Or maybe I should just try to get through the books I've already bought but haven't read!

    This weekend I found a wonderful book by Madeline L'Engle, A Stone for a Pillow, which is a series of meditations on the story of Jacob and Esau. Her focus on Jacob is interesting: she points out that he was a cheat and trickster (he cheated Esau out of his position as eldest son) and was slow to accept the God that Isaac worshiped - yet he became the founder of Israel. Jacob was able to sense God's presence and take delight in it, which was his great strength. L'Engle also has thoughts on how humanity tends to favor belief in a "forensic god," or one who punishes transgressions, over the idea of a loving God. It's very readable (I have dropped a lot of books which were recommended to me because of their convoluted logic and endless sentences) and I definitely recommend it.

    In other news, by the time Lent begins our rector will have left for his new job in Arizona as bishop. Next Sunday is his final day with us - we're throwing a party for him. We will miss him, but I am looking forward to having our assistant rector take a bigger part in the services (he's a really nice guy).

    Lastly, and this is probably the biggest reason why my thoughts have trended to religion recently, a good friend of mine was ordained a priest a few weeks ago. I was able to attend the ordination ceremony and it made me very happy to see him afterwards. He went through a long period of struggle prior to attending seminary - the first church that sponsored him did not work out and the rector there told him he wouldn't be a good candidate for the priesthood. I feel this is clearly what he was meant to do, but I think that the difficulties he faced will sustain him during his career as a priest. I hope to go hear him preach later this year.

    Friday, February 06, 2004
    Naked Chef?

    The Amateur Gourmet has come up with a recipe for Janet Jackson Breast Cupcakes.

    (Via Ernie, of course)

    Thursday, February 05, 2004
    What Does the Queen Read?

    Apparently, she reads Harry Potter:

    The Queen has outwitted a group of children with her knowledge of Harry Potter.

    She surprised the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev Dr John Sentamu, by revealing she knew the answer to a question about the teenage wizard's adventures which foxed the young congregation at a service she attended.

    I do like the idea of Her Highness reading Goblet of Fire or Order of the Phoenix.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004
    Question of the Day

    How long till one of these ends up on eBay, and how much will it go for?

    Sunday, February 01, 2004

    Cold, windy winter weather makes me want to curl up and reach for a good book. I might as well admit that I have old-fashioned tastes in reading; I'm not a "literature" type, and mysteries are what I live for. Also, I love to read the same books over and over again. This habit of mine has let me in for criticism more than once; when my sister sees me reading anything, she always asks: "How many times have you read that?" In my defense I point to none other than P.G. Wodehouse, also an inveterate re-reader, who said of the Nero Wolfe series: "I know what's going to happen and how it's all going to end, but it doesn't matter. That's writing."

    Let us return to the title of this post: HIBK. This acronym stands for "Had I But Known," a phrase coined by Ogden Nash to describe a certain type of mystery novel. Today this type of mystery is known in the publishing field as a "cozy." The HIBK novels always have a female heroine and are often narrated in the first person by said heroine. They are usually, but not always, written by women; they tend to have a strong emphasis on suspense (lots of heroine-in-danger scenarios) and romance (she usually winds up with a fiance at the end). The HIBK heyday began around 1905 with Mary Roberts Rinehart (generally considered to have been the founder of the genre) and lasted into the 1950's. I enjoy Mary Roberts Rinehart's work - she has a better literary reputation than most of the writers who followed in her footsteps - but a favorite guilty pleasure of mine is Mabel Seeley, who is probably a better example of HIBK anyway.

    I enjoy Ms. Seeley's books for several reasons. A Minnesota native herself, her books are usually set in this state - some in the big-city venue of Minneapolis, but often out in smaller rural communities. They contain a lot of information about the social mores and living conditions of this time. We learn that in these more remote areas of the United States, some houses didn't have electricity untiil well until the ninteen-forties; shared telephone lines ("party lines") were the norm; and the climax of one book involves an appendectomy that takes place on the kitchen table. Her heroines are not social butterflies, as Rinehart's often are - they're working women, supporting themselves and sometimes their parents as well. They have lots of breathless first-person narrative and heroine-cornered-by-the-killer scenarios. In short, they're a lot of fun to read. Seeley's books are mostly out of print, but I believe a few have been re-released in paperback form - or try your library.