Tuesday, December 20, 2005

worth remembering

Something I read years ago and came across the other day (while reading A-Word-A-Day, wordsmith.org, my favorite subscription. Anu Garg is a man who honors and loves the English language.):

    For all our conceits about being the center of the universe, we live in a routine planet of a humdrum star stuck away in an obscure corner...on an unexceptional galaxy which is one of about 100 billion galaxies....That is the fundamental fact of the universe we inhabit, and it is very good for us to understand that.

    —Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

there are only two of them

How do you detail the account of a maddening experience? Particularly an experience chockfull of maddening details—without boring the shit out of your reader? It's not an original solution, but this is what prompted the birth of bullets. Scan or skip...

  • got called back (for the 3rd time in 5 years) on a mammogram
  • ominous "mass" in my left breast (all former were in the right)
  • but I'm not worried...probably just a cyst like the others
  • set up appointment for spot compression and an ultrasound
  • for the uninitiated: spot compression is the difference between someone stepping on (let's say) your foot with a big boot and someone stepping on it with a high heel. It's all physics, baby.
  • picked up my own film from M.D. Anderson because River Oaks Imaging has a history of not being able to find their metaphorical ass with both latex-gloved hands
  • got there half-hour early (as mandated) and waited the customary hour before someone came out and told me there was a problem
  • even though I'd brought my own film, the report was not included...they needed the radiology report
  • my doctor's office was closed for lunch
  • another half-hour elapsed before they had everything
  • finally I was called and put on the odd mam-cape (like a small, thin cotton poncho with snaps)
  • the technician did the series: a couple large plate horizontal and vertical x-rays and then a series of small plate ("small heel") x-rays
  • she took the film to the radiologist
  • then, like random searches, I qualified for another round of the same
  • back to the radiologist
  • and back for a third series
  • and then, holy shit, a fourth round of increasingly tight compressions
  • and she seems very concerned about the area closest to my chest wall and under my arm
  • now I'm worried
  • finally she sends me in to get the ultrasound
  • the ultrasound technician sets me up, squirts warm gel all over my now glowing-with-radiation left breast and begins rolling the sensor around and watching those mysterious images on the screen
  • she gets called away and I'm miffed
  • 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes pass
  • the previously warm gel-covered left tit is now freezing and I am fully pissed off
  • doing the enraged patient twice in one week is exhausting
  • I clean off my abused breast and put on my cape, hop off the exam table just as the technician comes in
  • what the hell is going on here? I am not smiling while I bark.
  • the ultrasound technician seems uncomfortable and says she is waiting for the x-ray technician...in comes the masher tech
  • they stand there awkwardly and try to tell me (without compromising themselves legally) that the think the original mammogram was mislabeled.
  • that the breast that was labeled "L" was actually the right breast and that they've been furiously trying to find something on the left breast that had already been examined, biopsied and cleared for landing three years earlier on the right.
  • their concern and thoroughness and apologetic behavior reminded me not to kill the messenger
  • then they mammed the right breast, for good measure, ultrasounded the left (as ordered) and said that the original work had to go back to M.D. Anderson for reevaluation and correction
  • when all was said and done, I was infuriated but too weary to give a shit
  • and relieved. I hate it when I start thinking about saying good-bye to my breasts.
So, patient reader, whenever you read about someone getting the wrong limb amputated, don't be surprised. There are only two of most of our appendages, but evidently that's one too many for some medical technicians. Before my next mammogram I'm going to label them both with a Sharpie.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

fake to the 2nd power

First they extrude some butter-flavored, sugared chemicals and call it a Butterfinger. Then, they make a powder which tastes like the fake Butterfinger flavor, add it to hot cocoa mix (another manufactured pouch-sealed wonder) and before you know it, I'm drinking Butterfinger Hot Cocoa. And liking it. It's all wrong, I know. It's just that Butterfingers are so addictive. Now, I've got hot heroin.

The other day I came across another one of those words that make me grunt and look around wildly. "Cosmeceuticals" And my friend said he's heard that the corporate jargon extruder has just pooped out "Marketecture." It's blasphemy. Yes, I know...so is Butterfinger Hot Cocoa. I agree. I'm not trying to legitimize the shit, I'm just sheepishly admitting that I enjoy it every once in a while.

But cocoa can be thrown away or rejected. Kept out of the reach of children. Words, however, are sticky. Before you know it, people will think that "cremains" has always been around—like it wasn't the bastard child spawned from a nasty affair between funeral corporations and marketing.

Friday, December 02, 2005


My workspace at the Chronicle is even less defined than the aforementioned (like many months afore) detestable cubes I've inhabited. I thought at one point that this was going to be a colossal problem but it's not. I mean, I would much prefer not to have my back to a walkway and my workspace wide open, but I don't feel like committing a homicide over it either. The saving grace is headphones and the type of job where I am not interrupted too often. So I listen to music loudly and crank out my work.

Today I discovered a flamenco station. A moorish/gypsy/spanish blend that comes close to the perfect definition of deep red. Instant images of watching flamenco dancers in Andalucia. More authetic than the staged variety in Madrid (we were bused up the narrow winding mountain roads to these small gypsy villages) but certainly tourist-driven. Nonetheless, they were spectacular.

The performance took place in long, narrow, cave-like rooms decorated with copper cookware. The audience sat one-deep along the white plastered walls and three or four deep at the end of the room. The guitar players and random singers sat near the opening of the room. The dancers entered the hall and began their dance three feet from the viewers—dancing shoes clicking up and down the room and stopping periodically to strike some dramatic stance. In spite of the tourist appeal, this was their town, these were their relatives and the dance and the costumes were breathtaking and erotic and nothing less than vertical foreplay.

P.S. Richard Pryor died this past week. Sweared extra the past couple of days in his honor. If there's a god up there, hope Richard Pryor has him peeing his royal robes.