Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tuberculosis Therapy, 1889

I'm reading about amputations, specifically the spread of Pirogov's "heel-conserving" technique, and I came across the following passage in the Philadelphia Medical Times of March 1, 1889:

Dr. Woodbury called attention to the observations of Agille, in which it is stated that the prognosis of pulmonary tuberculosis is improved by an amputation, the larger the better. It seems as if the nutritive powers are insufficient for the needs of the whole body, but may suffice if a large part has been removed.
So, as a treatment for a contagious bacterial infection which involves the lungs, nowadays usually treated over a course of half a year with a quartet of heavy-hitting drugs, one recommended strategy was lopping off major body parts! Given that nutrition and rest were then the only ways known to respond to the symptoms of the disease, which include unitentional weight loss and fatigue, I suppose it seems logical in context to "relieve the stress" on the damaged lungs by giving them less body to breathe for, but I do wonder how often doctors recommended leg removal as a remedy for TB? And how often patients agreed to this draconian measure?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Secret Service

My honorary nephew Noah is a born capitalist. His mother is a CPA and his father is an economist, so it is perhaps to be expected that he would take to calculation from an early age. He’d learned his multiplication tables by age 4 (a feat I didn’t manage myself until age 10), but has lately taken to attempting (at just shy of age 6) to attempting to charge his parents for such amenities as the morning paper—a sign on his bedroom door proclaims that it was 50 cents, but can be had for the amazing sale price of only 25 cents…per page. He has also, his mother tells me, taken to taxing his parents a dollar a day. They explained to him that in exchange for taxes, the government provides services: “What service are you going to provide, Noah?” He thought a moment and responded, “It’s a secret service.”

My friend Leah, Noah’s mother, is a saint. She’s currently struggling with my 2010 taxes, which are quintuply complicated by the fact that not only have I earned dribs and drabs of income from four or so sources as an independent contractor, I also changed my residency to VA from GA last year. I still will probably be below the federal poverty line when all is said and done. But Lord willing, I’ll have my dissertation done by December, and then I can cast about for more lucrative employment.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Priced Out of Housing

I am quite upset by the news I received in the mail today that my rent is going up to $1345 per month, an increase of $50 per month (a staggering $600 per year).  I don't know what to do.  There is no place in the DC area that is even reasonable (this is one of the best), and it's not worth it (gas prices being what they are) to move even miles out of town for a better rental rate--then, the money would simply go into the tank rather than into the rental office.  I love my apartment.  For the first time in my life I've hung pictures on the walls of place not owned by a relative.  I have furniture, lamps, a workroom for my jewelry-making, plenty of space for my books.  I have a spot to park my car.  It's not too loud, and I have a friendly resident manager.  Moving in and of itself will be expensive--probably a grand or more to pack and shift everything.  Not to mention the time involved.  On the other hand, I have a debt to my mom that I need to repay.  I don't know what to do!  I was expecting the fee to go up a little--say, $15-20, maybe even $25, but this is a tremendous leap and I don't see how I can handle it.  I mean, I'm earning a pittance above minimum wage as it is, and I am actually working on my dissertation in what little free time I can scrimp.  Please pray that I will have wisdom to know what to do!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


This evening I hosted a semi-surprise 30th birthday party for the NPV.  It was only semi-surprise because he'd (he claimed) noticed too many cars parked on the street, and because the ten or so people who were here in my living room waiting to yell "surprise" were yakking away and he could hear them through the door when he and his fiancee were knocking.  In fact (I don't think he noticed this) they (all the guys at least) were so deeply engrossed in discussing the weight they'd gained (ladies, don't you HATE when guys--and these weren't overweight men--obsess about this?!) that most of them hadn't heard them knocking on the door and were a bit caught off-guard when it opened to let in the guest of honor.

The cake was put together thanks to Susan, who came over early to help with prep--I was way, way behind (I'd turned off my alarm, and instead of the insomnia that I've suffered the past two Friday nights, I slept straight through for over 14 hours, waking at 2:30 PM with a nasty backache from an overfull bladder) , and all my grand plans for elaborate decorating were killed by the clock.

Little Augustus Wiggle was a star attraction--at 9 weeks old, he's almost 14 lbs, and has tremendous baby jowls on either side of a wee little nose and mouth.  It was the first time Susan or Steven had seen him, and though he spent most of the evening being rocked on his daddy's knees, any who wanted to got to cuddle him in turns.  I forgot, again, to get out my camera, but Rachel brought hers, and she's a much better photographer than I, so maybe they'll eventually be cute baby pictures for me to post.

I made my niece/goddaughter's birthday present this afternoon while the cake was in the oven--her 6th birthday is coming up April 18, and every girl needs a little jewelry (in addition to some picture books).  She's into the solar system and Spiderman comic, so I may see if there's a science-related book I can find her in addition to the usual fiction.

As to my own (advanced) age...I was rather chagrined to learn that, whereas I automatically think of people who are taller than me as being older than me (that is, adults--because I'm short and thus permanently youthful), the reverse isn't true, and I'm not even within possibilities range for some men who are, well, a bit younger, but definitely considerably taller.  It's not like I'm even interested (after all, if someone makes disparaging comments about cats, that's pretty much a deal-breaker), but to be written off by someone with whom you otherwise have a downright remarkable number of shared interests because of piddly little details like "years" is insulting.  Ptooie--may he rot.  I spit upon his grave.

I have found the cemetery where I wish to be interred!  It's probably clear that despite being "too old" for certain young whippersnappers to romance, I am (as far as I know) hale and well, and hope to remain so for decades yet.  But since I've been doing so much research about funerary practices for my dissertation, and I'm a "crunchy con", and Daddy's departure came out of the blue (reemphasizing the fact that one never knows one's end) I've decided to nail down my own desires in that quarter.  Given that I expire expectedly--this doesn't hold true if I'm abroad at the time or something equally inconvenient to friends and family assembling within a week or so happens--I do NOT want to be embalmed, and I want my mortal remains to be buried in a plain wooden box  (the only kind allowed), clad in one of what my sister calls my "Miss Havisham" nightgowns, at Ramsey Creek preserve in South Carolina.   That way, it'll be relatively cheap for my estate, and I'll biodegrade quickly and naturally--and people might actually be interested in visiting the site, since it's not a "cemetery" in the conventional sense of the word, but more like a wilderness hiking area.  Modern memorial gardens are so incredibly dull, anyway, without the great long saccharine inscriptions and the ornate tombstones that make old churchyards so appealing--I'd rather be let push up wildflowers in the woods.

As to temporal dwelling-places, on Wednesday my mother finalized the purchase of her new townhouse and yesterday she sold the house where we spent 27 or so years (it was way too big, and she and Daddy had been planning to move elsewhere for a long time, but he could never find the perfect house plan for their prospective new place...).  She's got to be out of the old place by the end of the month, and so she and some folks from her church spent all day today shifting the lighter items the two miles between house and townhouse.  It'll be weird to go "home" again in a month or two...I need to make sure she gives me a key!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Hoarder

After all, nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a mermaid ornament...unless it's 74 identical mermaid ornaments...still lying untouched in styrofoam sarcophagi in individual boxes.  The estate sale company I work for is dealing with its first hoarder.  It is (it's really a "I am selling this house because I can't physically walk through it anymore, much less sleep in it" sale, not a case of death) not only a person who threw (and still throws...a knowledgible source told us her current residence is just as bad) nothing away, she is a shopaholic. 

Therefore, not only are there newspapers, and hangers, and used candy-wrappers, and pens and pins and crumpled stationery and so on and so on...there are designer purses, and clothing still with the price tags affixed, and other items still in the plastic bags in which they traveled from the store--some with sales slips included--which were apparently lost immediately upon their arrival at the house.

We've filled three of the industrial-size dumpsters with trash from the ground floor alone, and we haven't touched the garage or the basement (which is as large as the rest of the house).  I went out to Home Depot today and bought myself a respirator, because the mold is so bad in the basement that just a few minutes getting the lay of the land down there gave me a hoarse voice and constricted lungs.  I am wearing long sleeves, long pants, and rubber gloves, and tomorrow I intend to wear my most delapidated pair of jeans and my old hiking boots.  Curiously, I have not seen a single roach or other nasty bug, and there is little evidence of mice.

The owner of all these things (more than 10 times what the house should normally hold--even after we've thrown away many metric tons of garbage, the rooms are so full of saleable stuff they are hard to navigate) has (or had) I said, there are designer items around, underneath the piles of debris.  There is also some really nice furniture that we've dug out, and as I told my boss, "If we sell half the picture frames, we'll break even on the cost of the sale."  We've found more than a dozen living-room style table lamps so far.

I've always thought of myself as a packrat, but this sale has provided both a cautionary tale and a profound relief...I'm not bad off (there but for the grace of God and daily meds go I!), and there's no way on this earth I would ever want to have even a quarter of the amount of paraphernalia this person has collected.  After I get off work I'm anxious to run home and (besides take a thorough and lengthy shower to wash all vestiges of the house from my skin) clean out even more of my own possessions: just as a gut reflex.  I'm even winnowing my shoe collection.  But I need help with my closet.  I hope some fashion-savvy girlfriends can brutally cull, so I'll be chic and uncluttered.   And frugal--neatness really does save money, because when you know where your scissors are, you won't be tempted to buy another pair, and another. And another.  And another... (and those are just the pairs we found in the dining room!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sleepless in Arlington

I don't know how I am still awake.  I've been awake since 8:40 AM Friday.  Right now, it is 2:15 AM Sunday.  My brain just keeps churning, and I haven't experienced my usual ache between the shoulder blades that comes when I'm tired. 

Friday I went back to working at an estate sale.  I hadn't left my apartment since Monday (had been holed up working on my dissertation for four days), and was desperate for human contact.  Grabbed basic groceries on way back home from work and then went to a movie with Susan and her husband.  Home after midnight and tried to wind down by making jewelry.  At three AM I took a shower and tried to sleep.  I lay down and thought about Daddy and Granddaddy (and something mean I had done to someone thirteen years ago), and cried.  I got up, I checked my email or something, tried to relax.  Took Tylenol for a burgeoning headache. Lay down again, tried mentally counting backwards and chanting "sleep" to myself, which frequently works when I'm getting stuck trying to doze off--I am not one of those people who can just sleep on command.  Finally got back up at 5 and took a sleeping pill.  Still lay awake, staring off into space and watching the light grow between the blinds.  Anita called me to make sure I was awake at 7:15. 

The market was windy, and slow (Anita came in to help me set up and then went back home to nap), but the sales have not been bad thus far this year--a better start than any of the past three years, I'd say.  It was sunny, and I didn't mind at all getting a little burnt on my face and neck because I've been mewed up for so long indoors and desperately needed the solar radiation.  I took notes on a book about the Russian Orthodox cult of the saints (yes, relevant to my dissertation topic...the formal proposal I turned in on Thursday to my advisor: she wrote me that she liked it, and believed I had found a good perspective, which was so encouraging after her earlier voicing doubts about the workability of biography) and waited for customers to choose baubles and fork over their paper and plastic.  Then I went to Michaels to use my weekly 40% off coupon on one item (I've got a list of more expensive supplies that I'm gradually collecting, thanks to this once-weekly or bi-weekly shopping) and then home to chill, thinking I'd try to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime, since the time change, and my vampire-like study habits, and this bizarre insomnia, have my sleep schedule more cockeyed than it's ever been.  And I'm still awake eleven hours later.  It's hard to type, and this post is probably not making much sense.

Somehow I don't think I'm going to make it to church in the morning.     Mr. B., who has been going to the eleven o'clock service every Sunday with me lately, called Saturday afternoon to say that he probably wasn't going to make it this week.  My physical shutdown is overdue.  Maybe I'll sleep for 16 hours straight, like I did Thursday afternoon and night.  It could be I'm just establishing my own weird rest/work rhythm: sleep for 16 hours, awake for 48.  Or maybe I'm about to get KOed by fatigue--what the illness didn't two in two weeks, the weariness will.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Stupid Shall Behave Idiotically

I remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the problems in Japan, though significant, are nothing to compare, except perhaps for the fifty or so people currently working immediately on or around the reactors who are potentially getting poisonous doses of radiation trying to plug the leak(s).  Japanese government has done a decent job of preemptively evacuting people around the plant so that the risk to the public is minimized--the higher levels of radiation are heavily localized within the plant, with an exponential drop in exposures over even small distances.  Americans in the contiguous US need not start wigging and buying iodide tablets!  For a good dose of sense rather than hysteria about the situation, I recommend reading the comments responding to recent posts on the issue on BubbleHeads, a retired (nuclear) submariner blog--his readers and commenters, almost all fellow "nukes," are among the best informed people in the world about the realities and ramifications of nuclear power and dealing with leaks, spikes and shocks.  I would say that the risk of contagious disease in the aftermath of the tsunami should concern people more than "what ifs" about radiation.

I am not only annoyed by the Chicken Little announcements coming from science-ignorant reporters, I am less than happy with the state of my own historical researches, as reading Pirogov makes me feel like I am dealing with a cross between Jimmy Carter and Stephen Hawking.  Very intelligent, social-gospel oriented guy--would have probably won both the Nobel Prizes for Peace and for some form of scientific innovation had there been Nobel Prizes when he was around.  But his philosophy of life was fundamentally egocentric, he was almost George Lucas-esque in his belief in a universal mind ("God" in his definition) and a life-force running through humans and the "higher animals."  Niceness was his ideal, and a very static and shallow ideal it is, for all its inspiration to him to mitigate the suffering of soldiers in battlefield hospitals all over Europe (he was instrumental in the founding and propagation of the Red Cross).  I don't know yet where I'm going to start with my biography, but I think it will be on his deathbed.  Seventy-two hours to go yet before presentation of the chapter and I've thirty pages of criticism of the illogic of his worldview and diestic religious model in a file, but little else.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Nine Days

That's how long I've been sick.  Or is it ten?  I think I'm on the way to wellness, but that's what I thought last Thursday, and Saturday I was so ill I couldn't hold my head up, much less think about working on my dissertation.  The first chapter of which I have NINE DAYS to write.  I present it to a roundtable of my fellow Russianists next Friday.

No sweat.

I notice that I was spammed, in Russian, by an anonymous commenter on my last post.