And You Thought Latin Was a Dead Language

mani pedi

I saw this cartoon on The New Yorker website today and had to laugh because I knew my high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Maruxa Cargill, would have appreciated it.  Our Latin II class was very small, maybe 10 students.  I adored Mrs. Cargill, a petite, classy intellectual originally from Argentina, who taught Spanish as well as Latin.  To bring the language alive for her students, every year she organized a Latin Banquet where we all dressed in togas, competed in games, and ate a lot of pizza.  Often in her classroom I was chosen to read aloud from “Winnie the Pooh” in English while she followed with the Latin version from her book “Winnie ille Pu.”  Fun times.

So it wasn’t too much of a reach (for me anyway) to connect this continuance of the famous phrase “veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) to another one—“rock, paper, scissors.”  And, of course, we come to the episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon adds to it in the form of—“rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.”

And here it is:


Kiss Me, I’m 18% Irish!

Several months ago, I popped for a DNA ethnicity test kit from Ancestry.com.  Because I’m basically a cheap person, not trashy cheap, but fiscally, I waited until the cost had gone below $100 to do it.  I think it was money well-spent.  I thought I knew where many of my ancestors had come from, but it still was a bit of a surprise when I got the results.

It turns out I’m quite the mish-mash of “European-ness.”

25% Western Europe—which mainly translates into France, a whole lotta Dutch, and Germany.

21% Finnish/Western Russia—this was a shock because my maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Norway.  I did some research and found that, ethnically anyway, they were related to Finns who had migrated across Sweden because of their “slash and burn” agricultural style, finally coming to rest in the Hedmark region of Norway near the Swedish border in the early 1600’s.  Could have knocked me over with a feather.

18% Irish—I’m still researching this one.  I’ve found a few ancestors from Ireland, but the jury is still out.

12% Great Britain—This includes ancestors from Wales and a few from Scotland.

12% Scandinavia—A lot of people who have British DNA also have some from Scandinavia.  It appears that the plundering Vikings also liked to settle down and start families after a long day of rampaging and pillaging.

10% Iberian Peninsula—This is the real head-scratcher.  This area could also incorporate parts of France, besides just Spain and Portugal, so that would make sense in my genealogical paper trail.  At any rate, I say “Olé!”

And then there are trace amounts (1%) each of Eastern Europe and Italy/Greece.


This whole thing re-energized me in my ancestor research and resulted in finding out I had many Dutch ancestors who were the first settlers of New Amsterdam, which is now New York City.  There even was an on-going lawsuit for years by descendants of one of those families (of Anneke Jans) who claimed they were the true owners of Manhattan and wanted restitution for what was rightfully theirs.  The judges in the case said there were too many people involved (millions of descendants) to render any kind of do-able compensation and the matter was dropped.

Gee, I had my heart set on moving into The Plaza.




Ladybug Haiku


I was at the park yesterday, walking my little long-haired Chihuahua, Kelso, when I spied this ladybug.  It had found shelter in a crevice in a stone block that makes up part of the wall surrounding the park.  For our part of Texas, we’ve had a pretty cold winter (yeah, I hear you folks in the Northeast laughing) and some insects, like the ladybugs, will seek out any little spot they can find to help them over-winter until warmer weather comes along.

I thought she looked so snug that she deserved her own Haiku to commemorate her determination.

Ladybug holds tight

Winter shakes her head and laughs

Spring waits patiently.


Clap and Trade

From The Daily Kos (written by Bill from Portland, Maine):

An Open Letter from Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) 


Dear Americans,

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I’m proud to submit my long-term plan for dealing with one of the most pressing issues of our time: what to do about the environment. As a leader in the modern-day conservative movement, I realize the precious responsibility I have to take bold, decisive action. To that end, I have developed a solution that brings me great joy and satisfaction.

It’s called Clap and Trade, and it’s a simple two-part policy.

Step 1: Clap Everybody who is concerned about the environment should take five minutes a week to clap. Clap loudly. Clap forcefully. Clap until you feel the palms of your hands sting. You can clap in public or in private. You can clap alone or with others. Just clap your heart out once a week and all the so-called global warming will disappear, I’m told.

Step 2: Trade Here’s how it works. We trade wind turbines for fracking stations. We trade solar arrays for drilling rigs in national parks and along the coasts. We trade emissions standards for no emissions standards. We trade vegetables for cows. We trade the EPA headquarters for a popsicle stand. (Popsicles are cold, so that should be comforting to you worrywarts.) We trade electric cars for good old-fashioned gas guzzlers. And we trade train tracks for above-ground pipelines. The list is longer, but that’s the gist. We’ll also trade lots of things for coal.

As you can see, Clap and Trade is a simple, straightforward, effective solution that will put America back on the path to the kind of environment we deserve. Namely, the kind humanity can suck the life out of for money and leave the cleanup to the kids.

Happy snowball tossing and God Bless,


P.S. Don’t forget that clapping thing. Seriously. They tell me it works.


Actually They’re Mostly Peas And Cat Hair

From The Daily Kos—written by Hunter:

The news that a New York state attorney general’s investigation found that the overwhelming majority of so-called “nutritional supplements” sold by some of the biggest retailers in the nation contained none of the actual ingredient they were supposed to be “supplementing” once again raises the question: Is the health supplement marketplace America’s Most Crooked Industry?

The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies. […]Three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid — tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. And at GNC, the agency said, it found pills with unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies.

“Houseplants” is a nice touch, although the news that the highly priced placebos may or may not contain unlisted ingredients that could kill some people is probably the one more worth focusing on.

Savvy attorney generals across the nation will hopefully repeat the experiment in their own states; the nutritional supplement industry makes money hand over fist—possibly due to the savings that can be achieved by putting little or no actual active ingredients in the products being sold—and the opportunities for high-profile fraud prosecutions could provide an easy boost to political profiles and state budgets alike. It also ought to end for once and for all this notion that the supplement industry needs no regulation. On the contrary, calling something a “supplement” has been adopted as the millennial version of ye olde snake oil.

In the meantime, you probably want to stop taking supplements. If the biggest brands in the industry don’t know or don’t care what’s in those bottles, the nice fellow selling you pills over the internet isn’t likely to give a damn either. You might call to inquire as to sending the unused portion of your pills to Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has been the industry’s champion in exempting themselves from FDA regulation under the banner of we don’t feel like doing that, and maybe he’ll be able to direct you as to how best to get a refund. Go on, give his office a call right now. He’s a bona fide expert in this stuff.

(Note: Do not actually send your unused pills to Orrin Hatch. The industry doesn’t give a damn if those things end up being “mostly anthrax, some filler” but you can put a lot of stuff in your stomach that would be a felony to send to a senator. They’re a bit stuffy like that.)




It Bears Repeating: Richard’s Story

(I originally posted this in 2010, but with the recent outbreak of the measles virus and the continued resistance of many parents to vaccinating their children, I offer it once again.  It won’t change the minds of those who can’t look beyond the “science” of Jenny McCarthy, but it does bear repeating.)

Polio.  Perhaps to someone born after 1957, this word probably doesn’t evoke much more than hazy images remembered from a high school history book or health class.  But to people who were born prior to that year, it was a word that held an icy grip on the hearts of parents and families across the nation.

The polio epidemic of 1952 was one of the worst outbreaks in the U.S., with 58,000 reported cases that year alone.  The following year saw over 35,000 victims.  Nearly everyone either had a family member affected by the disease or knew someone who had been touched by it.  The cause and the transmission of polio weren’t widely understood.  Parents lived in fear of summer vacation because that time of year seemed to be the peak season for infection.  Mothers kept their children home and inside, away from any possible contact with others.  Public swimming pools were closed.  Some people even resorted to keeping their windows sealed tight, out of fear the disease was somehow borne on the summer breezes.

In 1953 I was about six years old and my older brother was ten.  Our neighbors across the street had four children, two of them grown and on their own.  The youngest, Richard, was thirteen and was often a playmate of my brother’s.  Richard was an active, happy-go-lucky kid of the 1950’s.  But that all changed forever.

In July of 1953 Richard and his family had just returned from a camping trip.  My brother had gone over to Richard’s house and the two of them were having fun playing in the family’s travel trailer.  A day or two later, Richard woke up with a stiff neck and back, which worsened over the course of the day.  A visit to the doctor resulted in his being taken to L.A. County General Hospital to the communicable diseases ward, filled with many child patients just like him.  As his condition deteriorated, he underwent a painful spinal tap, a tracheotomy and was put on a respirator.  All this without ever being told exactly what it was he had or what he could expect.  He was later transferred to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California, which was located in our hometown.  (“Rancho,” as it has come to be known, became the hub of polio treatment and continues to this day to be an important center for rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions.)

Richard spent many months in an iron lung, the tank-like device that breathed for him because he couldn’t do that for himself.  Eventually, he regained that ability and was finally allowed to return home.  He wore a full set of leg braces on each leg, enabling him to walk, but with difficulty.  He graduated from high school in 1959.  Because of his disability, he was prevented from working full-time but made up for that by becoming a writer for publications on medical disability issues and by working with medical students who needed to know more about polio and its effects. He is also president of The Amigos Fund which raises money for patient care at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.

Despite all that polio took away from him, he still remained a positive and optimistic person.  However, in the 1980’s Richard encountered something that had begun to affect many polio survivors:  post-polio syndrome, or the onset of deterioration of the muscles and nerves that had been affected in the initial disease.  There are several theories about the cause of this, from the over-use of muscles compensating for the effects of polio to a possible reawakening of the virus responsible for the disease.  Whatever the reason, currently there are over 1.1 million polio survivors living in the U.S. and many are facing the same situation.  Richard subsquently required an electric wheelchair in order to be able to get around.  He also had to have another tracheotomy so he could use a portable respirator.

In one of those strange flukes that are so common now with the advent of the internet and “Googling,” I connected with Richard after all these years and found that he is president of a non-profit organization called The Polio Survivors Association.  His website is www.polioassociation.org.  It provides much needed information about post-polio syndrome to anyone who is interested.  There is also a forum for survivors run by the Salk Institute called Polio Today at www.poliotoday.org.

The average age of polio survivors is about 64.  The doctors who initially treated these patients are gone now, leaving a void in the understanding about the vagaries of this disease and its aftermath.  Richard will be celebrating his 70th birthday in June and remains an upbeat person, even while facing the loss of all the triumphs over polio he fought so hard for in the past.

Here is a brief video slide show set to music which he created for YouTube about his experience with polio.  Please take a moment to watch it and then give thanks for your health and for those determined people who pioneered the polio vaccine. Unfortunately, many parents today take this for granted and are against vaccinating their children for any childhood illnesses.

They need to watch Richard’s story and reflect on the lessons it holds for us all.


Can You Hear Me Now?

So a little over a month ago, you may recall, I came down with the flu.  I’d gotten the flu shot, but by now we’ve all learned that it was, at best, only about 23% effective in protecting folks from the dominant strain going around.  That strain had evolved in the time between the creation of the vaccine in March and the current flu season now on the rampage.

You know, evolution.  The thing that the creationists say is impossible.

But, 23% is better than nothing.  I’m sure I would have been in a lot worse condition if I’d been completely unvaccinated since this flu strain is particularly virulent.  At least there were a few lone antibodies running around trying to do their best to protect me from the ill effects of the majority.  Kind of like what Democrats in Texas try to do.

At my gym, I ran into a friend who expressed concern because she hadn’t seen me for weeks. I told her what had happened and her response was “Yeah, that’s why I never get the flu shot.”

If I’d been drinking coffee I would have done a spit take.


Anyway, for most of that month of being under the influence of influenza, I was rendered essentially deaf from the acute middle ear infections that tagged along as a nice complimentary gift.

Now that my hearing has started to return at a snail’s pace, I’m constantly surprised at the things that I hadn’t been hearing and now could.  The TV was the biggest one and all I can say is:  thank gawd for closed captioning.

But it’s the little everyday sounds we take for granted that bring me up short now.

The clock ticking.  The microwave beeping.  The refrigerator humming.  Water running in the shower.  Cars driving past the house.  Dogs barking.  People talking below a shout.  (You had to get right up in my ear for me to hear you when it was at its worst.)

I have to admit, though, there were times when my enforced deafness was almost peaceful.  I’m a light sleeper and little sounds cause me to snap to attention right away.  Must be a hold-over from motherhood.  But this last month I was the one sleeping like a baby—except when I was coughing.

So now that I can hear these sounds once more, sometimes it almost feels like an affront to my senses.  Do I really want to hear all the annoying noises again?  I have to say that I do, because when all the annoying noises are lost, so are the good ones that connect me to the people around me.

And this interesting experience isn’t quite over yet.  My own voice continues to sound (to me) muffled and alien, like I’m underwater.  But, on the plus side, if someone is telling me something I don’t want to acknowledge, I just have to point to my ears and say (with a sheepish smile), “Sorry. I can’t hear you now.”

I just might ride that pony into the ground.


The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Mucus: 2014 Edition

Back in 2011, I wrote a short blog post of the same name when I came down with what I thought at the time was a whopper of a cold.

And God said:  “Ha!”

Dear Abby, may she rest in peace, used to take people to task for indulging in the sin of “The Organ Recital” during conversations.  It had nothing to do with music, but everything to do with one person boring the hell out of a captive audience with the litany of ailments, conditions, and diseases that were currently afflicting the speaker.

I will not go into excruciating detail here, but there are a few salient points I must touch upon in order to gain the maximum amount of sympathy from the reader.

Hey, it’s all I’ve got going for me right now, so cut me some slack.

Last Thursday morning, the 18th, I was the dutiful grandparent and attended Grandparents’ Day at my grandkids’ school.  I’d had a scratchy throat for about a day and my usual get-up-and-go seemed to have got-up-and-went, but this was something I had to do.  The grandparents get to observe the kids in their classes and it’s always a big deal for them to get to introduce their grandparent to their fellow students.  I couldn’t disappoint.

Then, that same evening, I had to make an appearance at the kids’ annual Christmas concert.  Another command performance that I couldn’t cop out on.  I took a lot of cough drops with me and hoped I wouldn’t break into a coughing fit in the middle of “Silent Night.”  The room was SRO, we were all tightly packed in the pews, and all I could think about was all the germs I was disseminating to these unsuspecting folks.  I tried to keep my exhalations pointed toward my program.

Friday, the next day, whatever I had (I swear I got a flu vaccination early this year) had taken hold with body aches, coughing, etc.  Over the course of the weekend the coughing increased to Brobdingnagian proportions.  Monday morning when I awoke, my ears felt like they were filled with water (which they were) and my usual tinnitus had become a roaring dishwasher.  Not good.

But, being the trooper (or idiot) that I am, I soldiered on.  However, Christmas was only a couple of days away and the thought occurred to me through the haze of mucus that I just might need to see the doctor before everybody hightails it for the holiday.

Tuesday morning, the 23rd, I phoned my physician’s office and found that she and her staff were gone for the entire week and wouldn’t be back until the following Monday.  But the receptionist for the clinic took pity on me.  Perhaps it was my muffled sobbing.  She offered me an appointment with one of the other doctors, a man I’d seen several years ago whom I liked.

I grabbed the appointment like it was a life jacket thrown to a drowning woman. Drowning in mucus, that is.

By the time of the appointment Tuesday afternoon around 3:00, I was essentially deaf in both ears.  Deaf-er, I should say since the tinnitus I already had before this plague struck had rendered me pretty hard of hearing most of the time.

So I hopped up on the exam table and the good doctor looked in my throat (not too bad), and up my nose (hmm, worse) and then he peered into my right ear.  Whoa!  He said the eardrum was one of the worst he’d seen.  I told him to look at the left one, the right was the “good” one.

He was equally impressed with the magnitude of the sight before him.  He pointed to the bright red plastic cover of a folder on the counter and said my tympanic membranes shared the same color.

As he sat back and started typing into his laptop, he said,

“If you were the baby in the next room, you would have been screaming your head off all night last night.  You’re tough!”

To which I replied, “Or stupid.”

He only smiled and kept on typing.

So before I left I received an antibiotic injection in the tucchus and am taking an oral version twice a day for ten days.  I have a prescription for codeine cough syrup that I’ve used a couple of times at night when the coughing just won’t quit.  My little Chihuahua, Kelso, has vacated the bed temporarily because of the noise.  He gives me that look that says, “You know I don’t like this.  Why do you insist on doing it?”

The Cough from Hell is better but my hearing is shot for the time being.  It’s like trying to talk with someone across the street while using a tin can and a string.  Just about as effective.  I can hear my muffled voice in my head, but not with my ears.  And when I wash my hair in the shower, I can hear the water hitting my head, but only as it’s conducted through the bones of my skull.  Very odd sensation.

The doctor had said it was going to take “awhile” for the crud plugging my middle ears to clear out.  I’m not optimistic on that front.

In the meantime I’ve been browsing the personal hearing amplifiers on Amazon.com and brushing up on my American Sign Language.

Just in case.