Saturday, May 01, 2004

Today in Orléans 

I'm a little sad today that I'm again missing the annual Fêtes de Jeanne d'Arc in Orléans.

Le 1er mai, à 10 h, devant la Maison de Jeanne d'Arc, place de Gaulle, remise de l'étendard par le maire d'Orléans et départ de la chevauchée. En fin de matinée, Jeanne rejoindra l'île Charlemagne et la fête médiévale. Là, de 10 h 30 à 19 h, les animations battront leur plein au cœur du campement militaire : spectacles de rapaces, jongleries, musiciens, danseurs, cracheurs de feu, saltimbanques, spectacles équestres, reconstitution d'une grande bataille, fauconnerie à cheval, théâtre de rue, magie et illusions, dresseur animalier, tir à la corde et à l'arbalète, jeux pour enfants, promenades en attelages…, l'ambiance est garantie.
Laissant la foule à son plaisir, Jeanne rejoindra ensuite le monument des Tourelles pour la cérémonie de l'envoi de l'Étendard (16 h). À 17 h : concert gratuit de la Musique municipale d'Orléans, au palais des sports. Puis, le 5 mai, ce sera le grand concert d'ouverture à la Cathédrale. Pensez à retirer vos places dès le 27 avril à l'office de tourisme ; elles vous seront remises gratuitement, dans la limite des places disponibles.

Orléans lives, eats, and breathes Joan of Arc, and they have held this fair every single first of May since she headed the army that delivered the city from the English in 1429. That's some serious dedication. While I was studying there, I quickly became familiar with the Jeanne obsession that captures the city by way of the myriad street names, storefront portraits, and devotional statuettes that dot the old town (including the impressive Place du Martroi, the central square marked by a huge bronze of Jeanne, in full armor, on horseback). People will admit to being a bit bogged down by the repetitive nature of reliving history, but at the same time everyone recognizes the seriousness of Jeanne's impact on the region's development (I can't imagine going to Orléans and hearing English spoken... it simply wouldn't be the same place). To make things interesting, every year the city elects a young girl to play Jeanne in the reenactment festivities, complete with period costumery, horses, cannons, and a load of spectators.

My host family had a home on the side of the Loire from which the French army, Jeanne in tow, came to the well-barricaded city walls. My host mother would tell me that pilgrims walk the streets in the days corresponding to Jeanne's historic presence in the city, hoping to capture a brief message from the spirit of the divine lady whose shrine is an entire town, whose compassion and sensitivity was great enough to at once display furious fits of carnage and to permanently entrance a city and, indeed, a nation for hundreds of years.


Last year, just before my sister and her family moved back to Arkansas from Louisville, my sister and I took my parents for a daytrip north to Cincinatti for one sole purpose: Jungle Jim's Fucking Warehouse and a Half of Esoteric International Food and Alcohol. Well, that isn't the real name of the place (I just know it as "Jungle Jim's"), but it ought to be. During that visit I went weak in the knees when I found a variety of French cheese (named Aux Cendres for the presence of tiny bits of hickory ash) that I'd only seen previously in tiny shops in Orléans. Even the French consider it a marginal ($12 for half a wedge), hard to find mark, and they had it at this place in Ohio... too cool. I'd also been introduced to a spotted, fleshy fruit called a "Pluot," a hybridized plum/apricot creation. Needless to say, they've got tons of shit, and it's all fun to look at and pick up and taste and smell. We had so much fun there that Gina and A.J. (my sister and brother-in-law) got me a fifty dollar gift certificate to Jungle Jim's for Chrismas! I was elated until I found out that they have neither a catalog nor an online store, but, hey, good things come to those who wait. More specifically, good things come this weekend for those who wait, as the two of them drove north for a business meeting last week and casually asked if I would like to send the certificate along with them. Hizell yes.

Bounty! I'd only specified some key items: a bag of good Kona coffee, a box of Assam tea, and some tubed condiments (ever since Europe I can't get over the thought paint tubes filled with relish or mayonnaise or whatever). Gina, however, employed her expert eye and gourmet-like sense of adventure to find me some truly ass-kicking items to fill out that gift certificate. For my own pleasure, a list of the goods.

1 box, 50 Assam teabags, Taylors of Harrogate
1 bag late season Hawai'ian Kona (so delicious)
1 tube pesto
1 tube Hengstenberg German mustard
1 tin orange flower French hard candies
1 box Rava Dosai mix (kind of like an Indian crepe batter)
1 bag Bhusu (a superb mix of every variety of fried chickpea batter imaginable)
1 box Arnotts Vita-Wheat cracked pepper crackers
1 bottle Professor Flash Point's Capsicum Creation habanero sauce
1 bottle Not Cool chocolate habanero sauce (made with coffee, yams, cacao, and many other ingredients)
1 tub Rosa Maria seasoning (throw this shit in some e.v. olive oil and you got yourselves an awesome bread dip)
1 bottle Willie's Hemp Soda
1 bottle Bella Sera merlot
1 half carton (!) Boursin (a clearance item, I assume by volume)
1 wedge Locatelli Peccarino Romano
1 package gnocchi (packed wet so they're all still juicy litle dumplings)

And let's not forget the candy:
1 Cherry Ripe (I love Australians for this candy bar)
1 Ritter Sport Cappucino cookie bar
2 Coffee Crisp bars
1 Kit-Kat Orange
1 Nuts About Caramel with hazelnuts

I can't wait to eat every bit of this stuff, but I have to spread it out or I'll blow my wad and be sad that I've already finished everything. I strongly sense we'll be having a gnocchi ai peccarino dinner with a dash of chocolate habanero for good measure. At least the tea and coffee will make it through the weekend. Thanks, Gina!


Friday, April 30, 2004

Get your link on 

These are all for Megan, who thinks that one can run out of things to do on the internet. Oh girl, you have so much to learn...

This is my newest favorite collection of recipes that I can't even afford to make.

Andres Bouchet can be pretty funny (and he started from the same blog template as me).

I frequently zone out looking at amazing pictures of stars and galaxies here.

The best interview ever! I love Throatie.

Here's an article about the high-speed collision of art and science.

And since I'm nerdy, here's a link to the graphically beautiful molecule of the month site. The descriptions are pretty short and not too full of impenetrable jargon.

Billmon is a favorite political commentator of mine, if for no other reason than he lets his contempt for the current administration hang out for all to see.

Fuck an inmate!

A cool visual language for people like Megan.

I have to stop for a minute or I'll just go on forever.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

This could be fun, revisited 

I want everyone who reads this to ask me 3 questions, no more no less.

Ask me anything you want. Really. I'll answer anything. I may opt to e-mail answers to particularly sensitive questions, however.

Then I want you to go to your journal, copy and paste this, allowing your friends (including myself) to ask you anything

-compliments PiousBetty-


When sixty Nobel laureates sign a statement condemning your administration's ignorance and misuse of science, it's a bad sign. When Scientific American publishes this fact in its quite internal magazine preface in addition to its more third-person article format, it's a truly bad sign. I'm an included member of this petition to acknowledge fact, to acknowledge that, although policy historically hasn't been guided by science alone, it was once an integral component in the prosperity and advancement of the modern world and is now being ignored wholesale as well as, even more despicably, contorted beyond reality for capital gain and the promotion of an ideological agenda. From the statement's executive summary, a numerated listing of the principal resuslts of this investigation into science in the context of George W. Bush's administration:

1. There is a well-established pattern of supression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees across numerous federal agencies. These actions have consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being.

2. There is strong documentation of a wide-ranging effort to manipulate the government's scientific advisory system to prevent the appearance of advice that might run counter to the administration's political agenda.

3. There is evidence that the administration often imposes restrictions on what government scientists can say or write about "sensitive" topics

4. There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of manipulation, suppresion, and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration are unprecedented.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Conduite vers le crépuscule 

On a lark this afternoon I drove to Willow Park near Toltec mounds. The weather is currently at some isometric point of absolute comfort, when the wind is as cozy as still air and the shade is as welcoming as the sunlight. I am tense at work and recently tense at home, so when I saw the sign, buried in lush new foliage, for Toltec Mounds Archaeological Park, I just sort of took the exit and drove. I suppose I hadn't visited the mounds since junior high or some such young age when educators wish to instill an awareness of the historical ebb and flow and ebb and flow of populations. At dusk, alone, it was overpowering. Locked against an oxbow lake are several resting mounds of soil, smoothed by rain and plows and curiosity, exposed from the floodplain's formerly dense woodland by a naked belly of cotton and wheat fields. Not a single car passed me while I sat on the hood of mine just staring at the structures, synthetic but seeming such natural landmarks. The point is so near the river that I could smell the dampness of it, clover and honeysuckle wafting by occasionally on wind that sporadically shepherded early cottonwood puffs across the vast openness of the fields. Attempting to complete the drive home, I notice a sign for (praviously unheard-of) Willow Park Beach, 2 miles. Two miles didn't seem like much effort for such a pretty day. It was nearly deserted, save for a few campers taking advantage of the early season, and I was confronted by a wild face of the region that made me think that this was probably how Little Rock was just a couple of hundred years ago. There were geese honking away on a sandbar, a snake skittered across the water near the bank, and there were tracks in the fresh mud absolutely everywhere. I spent a couple of hours dawdling there, refreshingly free of all pressing engagements for just a few valuable minutes, escaped into the view. I get vision-drunk much more easily these days, and I'm glad of that. I don't question it, it's just a sort of need that I feel now and then, a pulling to see and stare at something god-awfully beautiful like it was gone. As the sun was setting, thinning clouds and approaching storm air massaged a rainbow arc out of the dimming light, gracefully cast through the clouds like an arm, curving to trace its fingers across the generous surface.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Breathless admission 

Dear Jeffrey:

Congratulations! I have the pleasure to inform you that you have been
accepted for the Master of Public Health program at Tulane School of Public
Health and Tropical Medicine, starting Fall 2004. An official letter will
be mailed to you from the Office of Admissions.

Best regards,

Jiang He, M.D.,D.M.S., Ph.D.
Joseph S. Copes Professor and Chair
Department of Epidemiology
Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
1440 Canal Street
New Orleans, La. 70112-2699


Monday, April 26, 2004



First I must issue an apology for having essentially unloaded in the previous post. The weekend had been rough, Monday's work was oppressive, and I simply haven't been on the most steady ground lately. Those who know me are familiar with the extreme sensitivity of my more emotional characteristics. One friend has called it my hair trigger, if that's any signifier. In my defense I'll argue that my tolerance for distress is pretty high, probably above average, but once the switch hath been flipped, I pity all of you for having to be an audience. If you think it's depressing in writing, you should hear me in person. My voice gets froggy, tears well like some artesian motherlode, and I furrow my brow in frustration.

Thanks to all of you who've bid Veruca well. This afternoon finds her marginally better than this morning, but I choose to emphasize the 'better' aspect of this assesment. She is still having panting episodes and I still have unanswered questions about her condition, but all that sort of fizzles away when your dog, catatonic and hyperventilating just two days ago, walks on her sore legs to where you're sitting at the computer, wags her tail as hard as she can, and leans uncomfortably against your leg.

There goes my trigger. Thanks everybody (and keep knocking on wood).

Veruca, a.k.a. Ruca, Buca, Stink, Stinkydog, Barkydog, Shags, Woof, Nappy, Tard, Shags McOrange, Doof, Doofa, etc. 

I'm tired everybody. Saturday morning I had some family come into town to drop off their young dogs to be babysat for the coming week. Normally my dog Veruca likes these little visits, even though she's famously skittish and generally antisocial, probably because in that community she's, very literally, the big dog. When the dogs arrived this time it was raining chaotically, a detail that seemed to excite the younger dogs (or scare them) to new heights of intensity. Their running and barking called other neighborhood dogs to action, and, at one point, there were five animals in my back yard that weren't my own. I should have thought sooner that my goffy-ass old dog couldn't deal with the situation well, but I suppose that's evil hindsight tugging at my sleeve.

We went to lunch around noon so that we could chat with my sister and her family before she left town. We got back to the house around two in the afternoon, and, after my sister's departure, my brother and I stood in the shelter of the garage and watched the downpour slowly slacken. It was about then that I saw my dog standing on the front porch, still but panting and wagging her tail, and I went to pet her. It startled her when I touched her, and her entire right side clenched like a fist from the stimulus. I thought momentarily that I'd just tickled her or something innocuous like that, but when I walked over to hed bed pillow and patted it (normally a call that brings her jogging over to lie down, knowing that she's about to get some royal scratchy action) she didn't budge. I called her name, and she slowly craned her head around to look at me, no longer wagging her tail. That was when I started to get nervous. After a bit of calling her name and encouraging her to come my way, she slowly, goofily made something like a three point turn, obviously hurting with each muscle tension. When she arrived at her pillow, she couldn't lift her front legs the three inches required to clear the top of the pillow. I lift her a little bit, causing her obvious pain, so that she can at least sit on the edge of the bed and decide later if she'd like to lie down. Having sat there for only a few seconds, I see that she's sliding off of the pillow and not physically responding to it, not changing her balance to keep from tipping over. This is where nervousness gives way to a throbbing heart.

I try to tell my folks that something isn't right--I'm especially afraid because this is the same general behavior that I remember Pee-Wee, my childhood Beagle, displayed the day he died. My parents pass it off, assuring me that she's just agitated by the presence of other dogs. I point out the cyclic muscular contractions that keep locking up her gut, but they shrug. My brother even suggests that she's just trying to get sympathy so she can come inside. Fuck sypathy, my dog's hurting so she is coming inside. Aww, Jeff, she'll bring in ticks. Fuck you, asshole, she's coming inside. By the time I get her indoors, she's not responding much to any stimulus. She's panting in rapid, shallow braths, and her heart is beating with such force that it's rocking her entire body. She's got her ears flat against her head. All the signs are telling me that something dangerous is happening and I don't know what to do.

My family's disinterest makes it clear that no one else is willing to accept the expensive burden of taking our girl to a veterinarian. Out of nervousness, I hop in my car, light a cigarette, and drive down the street to the closest vet office, even though I know it's closed. I just cross my fingers and hope someone's there by chance. No dice, but the time away from my family was priceless. I get back home, I pick up the phone book and start calling every vet office I can find. It's Saturday, though, so everyone is closed, even the ones whose ads in the yelow pages say "evenings and weekends." I finally call a clinic in Maumelle, and, after I've nervously told them what's happening, the woman on the phone calmly explains their pricing schedule, followed by a briefly stated requirement that all debts are settled on a per-item basis before you leave their offices. Great, I say, fucking whatever, are you open?

When I pick Veruca up to carry her to the car, she goes stiff and lets out a tense grunt. I feel a lump in my throat, and I fear that she's been poisoned, or bitten by a snake, or contracted some neurological disease, or any number of other potentially shitty associations. Veruca is very calm on the drive to the animal clinic, and it spooks me. Normally when she sees movement, any movement, it's enough of an interest that it will draw her eyes and nose. Now she's just sitting there, panting, staring off. At the clinic, I open the door to let her out of the car, and I'm stunned that Veruca, facing the driver's side door with her back to the open passenger door, can't figure out how to turn around. She looks at me, wiggles a little, looks at the ground, wiggles more, looks at me. I shepherd her out of the seat and carry her in, where the front desk lady promptly hands me forms to fill out guaranteeing my payment and asks me if I've brought my dog in to be euthanized. No, I curtly tell her, I'd called earlier and would like to see a vet.

After our pre-consultation interview, I hear the front desk woman retelling my story to the roomfull of loud vet students in the back. I hear her mention that "he says the dog seems confused," which is met with chuckles from all. "Confused?" one pre-vet asks, "That's what he said, man," responds the front desk lady. Had my dog not been so fucked up, I would have burst in on them and told them to fuck themselves before knocking over somtething expensive and sterile. But that's my irrationality (and fear) talking. The vet finally comes in and doesn't seem to think much of her condition. She passes all the neurological tests of stability and pain response, she doesn't show any sypmtoms of having ingested toxic material, and she isn't vomiting. He suggests that it's either been a stroke or a semi-paralytic tick-borne infection. In the earlier case, there's no real treatment nor therapy that's easily available for dogs and we'll simply have to play it by ear. If it's a tick infection, it's easily ameliorated by a round of antibiotic therapy. In both cases, though, tests to confirm the problem are prohibitively expensive and of negligible benefit. Since Veruca seemed a little pepped up from the vists, I take his advice and just buy the antibiotics.

Two days later and I'm wishing I'd fronted the money for the bloodwork. When I brought Veruca home Saturday, she was still a little up from having been poked and prodded at the vet. She quickly faded, though, and within an hour she was again motionless, save for her panting, and unresponsive. By ten p.m., she was panting so hard and shallowly that I was fearing hyperventilation or narcosis or something. As she got worse, her eyes lost the ability to focus and, essentially unconscious, she would just lie on her pillow, panting, staring off into space. I thought she was going to die when her eyes had rolled back a bit, and unevenly so. Occasionally her panting would culminate to a big sigh, followed by a eerie pause in her breathing. As the night progressed, these pauses lengthened. Periodically her panting would simply stop and show no signs of restarting, so I would shake her a bit and talk to her and make her wake back up into awareness. Each time she'd breathe again, but I couldn't tell if I was doing good or doing harm. Was she simply trying to let go? Was I forcing her to stay in pain by jostling her back when she would let go? By this point I'm red-faced and tear-soaked, ready to let her go but not wanting her to. I freaked out. I mean totally, I freaked out. I love this dog more than I love most of my extended family, and here I am watching her go delirious in death. I force myself to get away from her, to go get into the car and drive, to let her do her business without my interference, but fifteen minutes into it I'm hit with a wave of parental responsibility and devotion, so I turn around and hightail it back to my dog.

I throw a blanket and pillow onto the floor beside her and turn the television on. There's an episode of Austin City Limits on PBS with Beck singing from his Sea Changes album, so I leave it there, dim the lights, and curl up with my panting dog. Every time her breathing slows or stalls, I nudge her a little , say a few words, call her name, but gently so as not to disturb her if she's finding that moment of oblivion. I think I drift off around four or so, and, when I wake up at seven, Veruca is sitting bolt upright on her bed, looking around the room, loking at me. She's still jittery, so I nudge her water bowl closer to her. She tries to bend down to it but can't, so I lift it up to her face level, and she aggressively slurps down its entire contents. I get another bowl of water and she empties it again. I go back to the kitchen to get her some food, but by the time I come back into the living room, she's actually standing on all fours, albeit wobbly, but standing nonetheless! I set the food on the floor in front of her and, slowly, she lowered her head and started wolfing down the food. I sighed with relief, convinced that she'd made it through some essential test point.

During the day her physical appearance improves in significant steps. She regains the ability to lift herself up onto a patio chair. By seven p.m. she's already had three doses of her antibiotic. Her appetite is amazing, she's drinking plenty, and she even poops a little. She's still panting, but it's not as shallow as during the night before.

By night, my optimism is slammed by her descent back into convulsions and near paralysis. Occasionally, while lying on her pillow, she will jump up, legs all screwy and uncoordinated, and walk almost sideways while sighing painfully. I'll follow her through the room, listening to her panting speeding up, until she's hit by a massive tensioning up on her right side that draws her right leg into a straight line and curves her entire body into an arc. I try to pet her head and neck to help her calm down, trying to avoid those tensing muslces for fear of provoking another tonic clonic fit. At around midnight, she's exhausted herself so much that the sudden tensions don't even rouse her and she simply lies there and takes it. She's on the floor by the door where to cold air is spilling in from outside, and I bring my blankets over and lie beside her, continuing the previous night's ritual of simply being there.

She made it through the night again, and even insisted on being let out into the backyard to eat and drink before I left for work, but I'm nervous. I'm a wreck. I can't do anyhting for her and, other than blindly feeding her antibiotics, I have no idea if she's even getting better. After all, I still have no idea whether or not her symptoms are being cause by a tick-caused infection.

Everybody knock on wood. My dog's sick.


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