Not Another Conan O’Brien Post

29 01 2010

When an MS patient suffers mental shortcomings—general forgetfulness or perplexing confusion—she is quick to blame it on the much maligned Cog Fog, a little understood MS symptom.  Those who have not been handed a neurological disease diagnosis must use instead the more general explanation, the dreaded Senior Moment.

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My husband was out-of-town last week when the final new Conan O’Brien Tonight Show episode aired.  He was, in fact, out of the country and so was unable to watch it.

When he finally got around to asking me about the show, the ensuing passage of time meant that my short-term memory was already shoving those recollections aside to make room for the new stuff.  And my long-term memory was balking at the prospect of adding those particular details to its catalog, feeling they did not merit storage in the already overcrowded files.

I was able to recall a bit from the monologue.  I remembered appearances made by Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, and Neil Young. Then I tried to tell him about the supposedly heartfelt and sincere comment O’Brien made, specifically to young people, about not being…..

And my mind went blank.  Could not think of the word.  Could not find the words to describe the word I couldn’t think of.

So I blurted out “Brian Martin.”

Brian and his wife Monica (names changed to protect the guilty) have been our friends since college days.  They’ve been married a long time and see eye to eye on such hot button issues as religion, politics, child rearing, and money.  But when it comes to a more basic personality trait they embody the epithet “Opposites attract.”  Monica is an optimistic , glass-half-full, make-lemonade person.

Her husband is not.

No sooner had I voiced his name that my husband shot back “cynical.”

To which I yelled “That’s it!”

Which got me to thinking about how you’ve got to respect a person who so perfectly embodies a trait that, regardless of what it is, they are virtually synonymous with it.  Mother Teresa and her altruism, Ken Jennings and his intelligence, Brian Martin and his cynicism. Me, I’m just a hodgepodge, a little of this, a bit of that.  Sigh…

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(Regular) Sensory Perception

27 01 2010

Since we upgraded to the Wii Fit Plus disk last month, I’ve been back in the saddle on the Balance Board again.  They’ve brought out new versions of Table Tilt and Balance Bubble, which are two of my favorites from the original.  They’ve added an obstacle course and a Segway impersonator, which have challenged and exasperated me.

But my current infatuation has been the bicycle ride.  You steer by manipulating the remote and you generate forward progression by stepping on the Wii board.  Unlike the running activity, in which you can only go where the game chooses to direct you, with biking you’re free to explore Wuhu Island as you wish.

I’ll never forget I’m doing all this on a cartoon island projected on my television while I manipulate white, plastic props, but I do enjoy the realism they have injected into the experience.  When you ride through grass or sand, to maintain your speed you have to step noticeably harder (faster?) than when you’re on a paved road.  Sound effects that resemble cruising through sand or on grass provide audio reinforcement to further drive home the sensation.

When you’re going up a steep hill, you can ease the effort by weaving back and forth just as you would on a real bike.  (Though with the rather awkward steering mechanism you must be careful you don’t send yourself careening off the side of a mountain.)  Little beads of sweat fly off your character, bolstering the biking impression.

When you pick up speed going downhill you can stop pedaling (stepping) and just enjoy coasting.  And if you start going too fast and are in danger of veering off the path into the stream below, they have provided front and rear brakes on a couple of the buttons.

It’s always bright and sunny on the island.  And after I had cruised around for a LONG TIME looking for that last flag (SPOILER ALERT: The one in the sand pit beyond the tunnel you come to after you’ve crossed the two skinny bridges was the one I spent ages looking for) I’m not sweating profusely but I’m feeling pretty warmed up.  So I was really amused when, after ascending a steep and challenging hill, my path led me into a shady tunnel.  I instantly had the perception of feeling COOLER, a refreshing break from the fierce rays of the sun.  But unless Nintendo has found a way to tap into my house’s HVAC system, I know they’re just messing with my mind.





Interchangeable Pieces

25 01 2010

Every morning before I get up I move my legs around to give the nerves and muscles extra help to get in gear.  Otherwise I risk collapsing in a heap en route to the bathroom.

Every night before my head hits the pillow, more important even than brushing or flossing my teeth, I take my Copaxone injection.

Between those two events, every day can be a bit of a surprise.  Sometimes I experience no multiple sclerosis symptoms at all.  But some days my fingers are numb or tingly.  Maybe my legs have hot, cold, or even deceptively wet spots.  Occasionally I’m so.. tired…I can’t….finish…my…zzz…zzzz.  When I get overheated, my underarms itch.  Sometimes my legs feel compelled to remind the rest of my body that they are still there—a very very mild electric current sensation humming along in the background.

The variety of symptoms reminds me of the ever-popular LEGO building sets, specifically LEGO people.  Lots of fun details in a figure barely an inch and a half tall!  Most noticeable are the accessories—a cape, a sword, a hat, a surfboard, a light saber.  Heads and arms can be yanked off.  Even little hands are detachable.  The two legs come off individually or as a unit.  Depending on what body part is giving me grief, grand it would be to pull out the offending appendage and replace it with something less troublesome!  And if that didn’t suit me, I could switch it out again.

Note 1: LEGO is really picky about the word LEGO.  It should be written in all capital letters and used only as an adjective.  Thus you can have LEGO bricks, LEGO sets, and LEGO people but you should never have legos (or would it be legoes—I mean LEGOES?).

Note 2: Until 2003, all LEGO people had the same bright yellow skin tones.  But the cultural diversity people got hold of them and starting that year, the people became markedly more realistic, though a little less sunny.





This Girl Watches “That Girl”

22 01 2010

Monday the kids packed up the car and headed back to school.

Tuesday my husband caught a cab and he’s been off on business for the rest of the week.

So it’s been just me and the cat here at the old homestead.

I wouldn’t like being single.  I would get really lonely.

But every so often a little aloneness is nice.  The chance to eat what you want.  To sleep when you want.  To behave entirely selfishly.

Before he left my husband ordered a DVD from Netflix that he knew I would like.  Remember the old television series That Girl with Marlo Thomas, which ran 1966-71?  The disk arrived the day he left, perhaps cleverly timed so I would watch it in his absence and he would be spared having to sit through all seven episodes.

Well I have been enjoying them.  She’s so charming, so wholesome, so amusing.  It’s rare indeed to find all those qualities in the same show.

The other thing I noticed is that the opening is VERY similar to the opening to the Mary Tyler Moore show, which ran from 1970 to 1977 .  A single girl footloose in the city where she’s trying to make a go of it.  A distinctive hat, which Ann Marie (“That Girl”) wears on her head and Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) heaves into the air.  “That Girl” has her own airborne prop in the opening: she flies a kite.  Anyway, I never made the connection before.

I clearly haven’t solved any of the world’s problems this week.  But I’ve enjoyed the “me time.”





You Are Cordially Invited…

20 01 2010

I’m looking at a dinner invitation I just received in the mail.

It’s not for a White House State dinner.  People won’t be devising underhanded schemes to sneak into this event.  No formal attire or preparatory trips to the beauty salon will be required.

The sponsor of this affair is Serono, the maker of Rebif, one of the main line multiple sclerosis disease modifying drugs (DMDs).  (That’s a mouthful!)

I get invitations like these every few weeks.  I ignore most of them because the events are up in Maryland, WAY too hard to get to in the midst of the evening rush hour.

But once in a while they host one at a hotel about three miles from my house.

I’ve been to three of them.  Each time we had a nice salad, a great filet mignon AND a piece of salmon, asparagus, potato, and a rich, decadent dessert.  I especially enjoyed the food because I didn’t have to shop for it, prepare it, or clean up afterwards.  (One time a woman whipped out a Tupperware assortment to take significant portions of her meal home.  I’m tempted to do the same thing.  It would be plenty for two meals.)

The informational sessions that accompany the food are, in general, fairly mediocre.  Sort of remedial MS 101.  Lots of generalities, no meat (unlike the actual meal itself.)  But, blessedly, short.

On each occasion I’ve enjoyed meeting someone with whom I shared an MS diagnosis, but not much else.  A brand new sleep-deprived mom.  A woman who’d been a school teacher since forever.  A gay guy who was there with his partner.  In each case, the conversation was most engaging.

The thing is, the whole endeavor must be very expensive.  Mailing out tons of invitations to people for events that they cannot reasonably be expected to attend.  Providing these very nice meals.  You’re welcome to bring a dinner companion and they don’t care whether you’re actually taking Rebif or not.

Rebif, like all the MS disease modifying drugs, isn’t cheap.  The advertised rate is well over $100 per injection, three shots a week.  More than the cost of sending your kid to the state university: tuition, room, board, and books.  Plus the cost doesn’t end when junior graduates after four years (or five, depending on how academically focused your offspring is.)

Because I have decent insurance I don’t have to deal with those enormous costs.  (I don’t know what deals exist between the drug companies and the insurance companies.)

But all the attention focused on health care reform has made me think about the poor guy who’s trying to pay for his Rebif without insurance, while I dine on this exquisite meal.  From a microeconomic point of view, I’m getting lots of utils (remember your Econ 101 class?) from this delectable delight, this gustatory celebration, this party for the taste buds.  But from a macroeconomic point of view, I’m pretty sure we could spend our health care dollars in a more productive fashion.

This probably won’t prevent me from accepting this dinner invitation.  It may, however, mean the filet mignon gets served up with a side of guilt.





Better Luck Next Year

18 01 2010

Darkness has descended once again on my street.

About a third of our residents either don’t celebrate Christmas or don’t decorate for the occasion.

Another third do, but opt for the less is more, traditional holiday decorating schemes.  Heavy on greenery, candles, even fruit. You know, tasteful.

Another third, my husband included, are more interested in wattage.  Lots of lights.  He even mixes his colors and his whites.  (No wonder I don’t let him near the laundry.)  I used to try to get him to commit to one or the other, but my first rule of a happy marriage is “Pick your battles.”  I finally listened to my own advice.  (His preferred decorating scheme is juvenile.  The only modification he’s made since reaching adulthood is to add one of those huge electric-fan-driven blowup Santas.)

So anyway last November as lawns went into winter hiatus, as foliage no longer pleased us with gorgeous autumn color but just looked, well, dead, when the only colors to be seen were those gosh awful winter cabbages that only the true botanical buff plants, we were on the verge of falling into depression.  Then Advent arrived and, when one turned the car onto our street, he was cheered by an assortment of brightly lit houses.

But after the last present was opened and the last champagne bottle was uncorked, people rapidly took the glowing strands down.  And neighbors would have fallen into winter doldrums were it not for OUR HOUSE.

Because we have a tradition that we don’t take the outdoor lights down until the Dallas Cowboys’ season is over.  Some Many years this means nothing; we take them down with everyone else.  On at least one occasion we’ve had them up into February.  This year, we had them up until yesterday.

But they’re packed away now, waiting for next year, just like Tony Romo.

We can also put our Roger Staubach (Cowboys quarterback, 1969-79) ornament, which has been standing watch on the top of the television, back in storage.

Sayonara, ‘Boys.





A Change of Pace

15 01 2010

I just spent two days in January reading Seven Days in May, a book published in 1962 about an attempt to organize a military coup overthrowing the President of the United States.

I first read the book many years ago as a middle-schooler.  I thought it was very intriguing and exciting at that time (second only to Fail Safe, a book about a nuclear crisis between Washington and Moscow during the Cold War.)

When I ran across the book recently, I eagerly reread it to discover my reaction after so many years.

The book mentions various Northern Virginia localities.  Arlington Boulevard, Fort Myers, Falls Church, Route 7, Leesburg.  I know these places like the back of my hand (living just two blocks off Arlington Boulevard several miles beyond Falls Church.)  But how weird to think that the first time I read it I was a mere eighth grader in North Carolina and had no idea I would grow up to live in the environs where this story unfolds.

So I’ve changed.

The world has also changed.

In the book, the president’s approval rating falls to 29%, a figure that was viewed with horror.  Since the book came out, four presidents have tied or beat that figure: Nixon, 24%; Carter, 28%; G.H.W. Bush, 29%; and G.W. Bush, 25%.  There have been no military coups, but one president resigned (Nixon) and another was impeached (Clinton.)  What was once extraordinary has become commonplace.

And I’m reminded of the  FOX television drama, 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland. Each season the entire series takes place in one twenty-four hour period, and the show is memorable in the number of terrorist attacks, use of torture, amount of gunfire, and use of nuclear weaponry that it depicts.  It gives new meaning to the phrase “action-packed.”  On the contrary, the book I just finished took a WHOLE WEEK to play itself out.  No gunfire.  Only one character died, the result of a plane crash, which was just an unfortunate accident, not something carried out by the “bad guys.”

A little bit slow by today’s standards.

(There was one comment by a main character that almost made me chuck the book before I even finished chapter one.  He says to his wife in a friendly, suggestive manner, “If….we had more time, this might be a pretty good afternoon for a rape.”  It’s a comment that probably slipped by unnoticed in 1962.  Today it sticks out like a sore thumb and sticks in my craw.)