Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Hey! it's my anniversary!

Today is the 30th of July, which means my lovely wife and I have been married for 13 years. I'd post some pictures of our wedding, but I've done it before, so I won't do it again. I just thought I'd trumpet the fact that someone has actually put up with Krys for 13 years! I kid, of course. It's the other way around - people who know me marvel that Krys hasn't strangled me in my sleep yet (or while I'm awake, which would probably be more satisfying for her). Thirteen years seems long, but when you consider my parents' 40th is this year, it seems paltry. But it's still a good number of years, and it keeps getting better each day.

I'll have some pictures of our weekend tomorrow. Good stuff from northern Arizona!

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Goin' to California with an aching in my heart ...

I'm off to San Diego for the big comic book convention, and then Krys and I are going to Sedona and points north and west of Phoenix for the weekend. It's our anniversary on Monday and my parents are in town, so we don't have to take the kids! Yay! I'll be back with pictures of northern Arizona, where it's actually somewhat pleasant. Be good, all y'all!

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What I've been reading

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. 759 pages, 2007, Arthur A. Levine Books (an imprint of Scholastic).

Well, duh. Usually I don't get too caught up in the Pottermania, preferring to read the books in my own sweet time, but when it arrived on Saturday, I wasn't really reading anything, so I decided to plow through it. Krys buys them, but she decided to re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince just to get caught up, so I had free rein.

I should point out here that I'm going to try not to SPOIL anything, but I'll be discussing a few things about the book that you might not want to know if you haven't read it yet. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!!!! No, I'm not going to reveal the ending. I'm not evil, after all.

This final book in the series does a nice job, I think, tying up loose ends. Rowling obviously has had a good outline for the book for a while, and everything fits pretty well (from what I remember, and I'm kind of stupid that way, so take it with a grain of salt). Krys asked me if it was any good, and I told her that if she liked the first six books, she'll like this one. If anything in the past twenty years is review-proof, this book is. I liked it quite a bit, but a few things bugged me about it:

The fate of the Dursleys. I realize that it's completely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I would have liked to see them again at the end, or at least have an idea of what happened to them. We finally get to see them as human beings in this book, and then they're gone. It's a shame.

The fate, really, of Harry himself. I won't say too much if you haven't read it, but although Rowling wraps it up so that it seems like there won't be any more adventures, the rather ambiguous epilogue makes me wonder if she has more stories planned. I hope not, because then it becomes a story-creating machine, and I'd rather it have an ending. The very end (I mean the epilogue) seemed kind of weak. It didn't really give us too much new information, just what we could have inferred on our own (except, perhaps, for the fate of Draco Malfoy).

The dating of the book. This is kind of strange, because fantasy novels tend to take place in a mystical "always-present-day" and don't want to tie themselves to a specific date, unless they're specifically set in the distant past. The fact that this book takes place in 1997 is kind of off-putting. It adds an unnecessary dose of realism to the entire story. We know it takes place in England, and there's a Prime Minister, and we get Tottenham Court Road in this book, so there's no need, really, to ground it at a certain time. It's odd.

The Severus Snape arc. Again, I won't get too into it, but Rowling pretty much ignored Snape for a lot of the book, and that was disappointing. Snape was always one of the most interesting characters in the saga, after all, and for him to be relegated to the background for a good deal of the book was a bit of a misstep. Especially when you consider what happens with him.

The book felt off in a few places, as well. I certainly didn't want it to be longer, but I think Rowling could have dropped some stuff and added different stuff and the book would have been much better. Rowling's strengths as a writer do not really lie in long descriptive passages, so the parts of the book where not a lot happens (which, I admit, isn't very often) tended to drag. I grew a bit bored, I'll admit, by the traipsing around the country by Harry, Hermione, and Ron. It wasn't awful, but I would have liked a bit less of that and a bit more with the other characters. That way, when we reach the final act, we'll be a bit more invested in things.

So, did any of my vast readership (I mean, come on, I have to be at 8 or even 9 readers!) read the confounded thing? And what did you think?

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Stupid Arizona weather

It's not enough that we've had a couple of weeks of consistent 115-degree weather. Oh no, as charming as that sounds, it's not enough. Even though it has made the only bearable thing about Arizona in the summer, the pool, too hot to swim in a month earlier than usual, there's still more! On Thursday night the monsoon, which began about a week ago (and usually means very little in the grand scheme of things), kicked up with some fury. We got hit with lots of rain, thunder, and lightning, some right by the house. It was kind of cool standing on the porch looking out at the back yard (it was still somewhat hot out, but at least the temperature went down a bit) as the trees whipped in the wind and the rain poured down. I was surprised the kids didn't wake up, because some of the thunder was very loud. Norah did whine at 11.30 or so, but when I went into her room, she was still asleep. Of course, in the morning the pool was green and the floor was covered with mud. How nice. I had to shock it because it was lacking chlorine and brush the floor before I turned the vacuum on, and only a few minutes into the chore, I slipped. And fell in the pool. With my bathrobe on. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

Stupid Arizona. Even when we get some much-needed rain, the weather still sucks. Of course, by morning the temperature was back up, plus there was a lot of humidity in the air. That's good stuff.

Sorry. You know I have to rant about the weather here every once in a while. I'll try not to do it again. But, you know, falling in the pool with your bath robe on makes you want to vent.

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Answering some questions

Roger asked me some questions, so I'll answer them here.

1. There was a lot of conversation about whether or not to rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. Should we [be] rebuilding in the desert after these annual fires, with water at such a premium?

If I had my way, we'd all leave the desert to the freakin' scorpions. The problem isn't the rebuilding, it's that no one wants to admit we have a water problem. If someone suggested we shouldn't rebuild because of the water problem, they'd have to address the water problem, and no one wants that. I think it would be the perfect time, really. So no, we shouldn't be blithely rebuilding unless we can figure out how to supply everyone.

2. All-time favorite pitcher and position player, and why.

That's a tough one. Mike Schmidt is my favorite position player, because he was the best third baseman of all time (screw you, Brooks Robinson!). He never hit for average very well, but he hit a bunch of home runs in an era where 35 led the league, and he was the best defensive third baseman ever. Plus, he played his entire career in Philadelphia, which was nice.

As for pitcher, I don't know if I have one. Steve Carlton was my favorite growing up, for a lot of the same reasons as Schmidt - he played for the Phillies, he was the best lefthander in the game for a decade, he won crucial games for them - but then he retired and went nuts, so my love for him is tempered by my knowledge that he's insane (and not in a good way). I've always loved Lefty Grove, because he pitched for those great Athletics teams of 1929-1931, and from what I've read about him, he was unhittable for five years. And I like that he won his 300th game and then quite.

3. How many major league sporting events have you attended, roughly?

Probably 50 Phillies games, 2 Diamondbacks games, a Philadelphia Stars (USFL) game, and two Cardinals game (they played the Eagles both times). So I'd say around 60. Unless you count Penn State football games, which I'd count as "major" (they draw 100,000 fans, after all). That puts it at close to 80. And I saw an Australian Rules Football game in Melbourne.

4. How has Seinfeld held up? What still works and what feels dated?

Pretty well, I'd say. Nothing really feels dated because they weren't really into topical humor all that much. I mean, the O. J. references are dated, obviously, but they won't stop being funny until everyone who's aware of the case is dead. I think it's one of those comedies that will remain a classic for a long time, because it's about people being jerks - and who doesn't love that?

5. Your analysis of the Phillies' 10,000 loss. Did you know that Harry Kalas broadcast 29% of them?

I assume Roger means their 10,000th loss, but that was just a typical game in Philadelphia - lots of home runs and poor pitching by the home team. If he means their 10,000 losses, we have to remember that the team has been around longer than any team except two, and for many years, they were simply awful. These days they can't get over the hump, but they've been a decent team for five years. They were also the best team in baseball for the years 1976-1983, with only one World Championship to show for it. The biggest issue I have with the Phillies is that the media in the country hasn't romanticized their futility like they have the Cubs and the Red Sox, so there's no cult around them to sustain fan interest when they suck so bad. The Cubs suck as bad as the Phillies do, but everyone loves them. When people talk about the Phillies sucking, it's not with a wistful nostalgic longing for simpler times - because they sucked then, too. I guess the Phillies should have played in an ivy-covered stadium without lights for decades, and then maybe people would have inordinate love for them instead of the losers in Chicago.

Kalas is a wonderful broadcaster. I heard on the Sunday broadcast that he had called 2900 losses. But he also got to call the only World Series win in franchise history. Plus, he got to work with Richie Ashburn for years. Not bad.

There you have it, Roger. The deal is, if you're reading this and you want me to ask you five questions, leave a request in the comments and I'll leave my questions in the comments. You can answer them there or at your own blog. I hope this gives you some insight into my twisted, bitter mind (I grew up in Philadelphia - of course I'm bitter and twisted!).

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Whose toes are these?

Are they:

A. My wife's;
B. A Chinese prostitute's;
C. A 16-year-old named Britnee's.

Of course, the answer is A, because I doubt I'm getting that close to the other two with a camera. But this just points out what happens when you're not paying too close attention to the woman giving you a pedicure. She goes hog wild!

Krys has learned her lesson, oh yes she has.

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The Pope is awesome

I'm sure you've seen this:

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday asserted the spiritual primacy of the Roman Catholic Church.

He did so at the expense of Christian Orthodox churches, which he said are wounded, and Protestant churches, which he said are not really churches at all.

The pope approved a document that says the only path to true salvation is Catholicism. The move was a stark reaffirmation of centuries-old Catholic belief that Protestant churches are lacking because they cannot trace their leadership back to Christ's apostles.


Some Catholic Church observers think the pope is trying to revisit the historic events of Vatican II from 1962 to 1965.

Last week, he eased restrictions on the Latin Mass, which was stopped almost entirely after Vatican II.

Even before his papacy began, he believed the church needed to draw more visible lines for Catholic faithful.

At the beginning of the process that made him the church's leader, he said, "We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires."


Others were not surprised by the pope's stance. For them, it was simply a reaffirmation of long-held beliefs.

"Catholicism is complicated, and being Catholic is a daily practice of understanding and acceptance that there is no order nor drive-up window to the gates of heaven," said Gayle Plato-Besley, 42, of Phoenix.

Those sentiments were echoed by the Rev. Christopher Fraser, adjutant judicial vicar of the Phoenix Diocese.

Fraser said it is important to note the intent of the pope's documents.

"In fact, the purpose of this document is more self-directed and reflective than it is a commentary on the incompleteness or insufficiencies of other churches and communities," Fraser said.

He pointed to the importance of language to the pope. "In the Catholic world, precise use of vocabulary and distinctions are imperative to the rendering of an authentic and genuine communication of beliefs."

Fuck yeah, Pope Benedict XVI! I knew there was a reason I loved this dude. I mean, given the Catholic Church's fucked-up stance on women in general, reproductive rights in particular, plus the idiotic rule of celibacy, it's about time someone made it obvious that the Church is still stuck in the 13th century. I mean, Benedict is just stating the obvious, isn't he? "Other churches"? Fuck that! Those wacky Protestants, reading the damned Bible and deciding for themselves what's relevant! We can't have that! That way lies anarchy ... and a loss of total power of the Pope! I mean, if the Pope doesn't have total control over your life, God might. And that's just ... well, it's just crazy, isn't it?

Somewhere in Hell, Innocent III is cheering.

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The Women of Jerry, Part 8

We're up to Season Seven, but I have to go back in time to correct a mistake. Yes, I forgot a girlfriend! How sad is that?

In Episode Three of Season Six ("The Pledge Drive") Jerry does indeed have a girlfriend. I completely forgot about it, and the episode recaps don't mention her, but then it aired not too long ago and I saw her. She's alive!!!!! His girlfriend gives him a thank-you card for appearing on the pledge drive, and Jerry throws it away and pisses her off. She was played by Rebecca Staab, and she was actually pretty cute. She's had quite the career on soap operas and as a guest star, plus I discovered she's the "hot mom" in those Tag Body Spray commercials, so I'll give her a Fame Rating of 5 out of 10. Plus, that same year she was Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four movie. Awesome! Ms. Staab was 33 when the episode aired (on 6 October 1994) and Jerry was 40. So not a bad age gap with her.

Okay, now we're on to Season Seven!

Episode One (111), "The Engagement" (aired 21 September 1995). George and Jerry assess their lives and decide they aren't men. They swear to do something about it, so George asks Susan to marry him. Jerry, however, breaks up with his girlfriend because she eats her peas one at a time. His girlfriend is played by Athena Massey, who doesn't make much of an impression (I think she was in just the one scene). Ms. Massey didn't have much of a career - in fact, this might be the highlight of hers, although she was in Poison Ivy: The New Seduction and The Nutty Professor, where she played "Sexy Girl," so I might be speaking out of turn here. I'm giving her a Fame Rating of 3 out of 10, because she did work for a while. Although, given how easy it was to find pictures of her on-line, perhaps that's a bit low. She apparently has fans out there! Massey is younger than I am, which made her 23 when this episode aired (two months shy of her 24th birthday). Jerry was 41, so the age gap was significant. The biggest yet, I think.

Episode Two (112), "The Postponement" (aired 28 September 1995). George wants to postpone the wedding and weeps like a baby. Kramer spills coffee on himself, which will eventually introduce us to Jackie Childs, who is excellent. But no girlfriend.

Episode Three (113), "The Maestro" (aired 5 October 1995). No girlfriend, but this is a pretty decent episode. Phil Morris as Jackie Childs appears for the first time, and gets to yell at Kramer ("Who told you to put the balm on?"). The Maestro (Bob Cobb) is played by Mark Metcalf of Animal House and "We're Not Gonna Take It" fame. But he's not Jerry's girlfriend, now is he?

Episode Four (114), "The Wink" (aired 12 October 1995). This is bad episode because it's one of those that brings up something about the characters simply for that episode and is never mentioned again, in this case Jerry's healthy eating habits, which he takes to idiotic lengths. He does have a girlfriend, I guess, in Elaine's cousin, Holly, who is played by Stacey Travis. Travis has zipped around quite a lot in her career, but she's never really taken off as a star, but I'm still giving her a Fame Rating of 7 out of 10. Why? She starred in Hardware in 1990 (very early in her career), and Hardware is a freakin' excellent movie. Weird post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick with Dylan McDermott, Iggy Pop as an angry DJ, and Lemmy from Motörhead. How can you go wrong? Interestingly enough, I can't find a birthdate for Ms. Travis. Strange.

Episode Five (115), "The Hot Tub" (aired 19 October 1995). In this episode, Jerry tries to help the marathon runner Jean-Paul wake up in time for his race. Meanwhile, George starts cursing a lot when he hangs out with Texans. Isn't that always the way? There isn't a girlfriend in sight for our hero.

Episode Six (116), "The Soup Nazi" (aired 2 November 1995). This might be the most famous episode, and although it's very good, it's dragged down a bit by Jerry's annoying (and unfunny) baby-talk with his girlfriend, played by Alexandra Wentworth. Wentworth has made the most of her career, appearing in Jerry Maguire and Office Space, among others, but I'm still only giving her a Fame Rating of 5 out of 10, largely because she's in the Soup Nazi episode. Wentworth was 30 when the episode aired, while Jerry remained 41, so the ten-year gap seems to be back.

Episode Seven (117), "The Secret Code" (aired 9 November 1995). George refuses to tell Susan his ATM code (it's "Bosco") and then he gets dragged into a family drama with J. Peterman. Jerry is doing promos for Leapin' Larry, which means he goes girlfriend-less once more.

Episode Eight (118), "The Pool Guy" (aired 16 November 1995). Jerry has no girlfriend (unless we want to count Ramon, the pool guy who gloms onto him), but this is a very funny episode because Elaine decides to befriend Susan, leading to the great "Relationship George vs. Independent George" debate.

Episode Nine (119), "The Sponge" (aired 7 December 1995). This is another pretty fine episode, and introduced the word "spongeworthy" to the pop culture lexicon. Jerry gets a woman's name from an AIDS walk sign-up sheet but then thinks she's "too good" to have sex with. He then finds out she's stockpiling sponges, so obviously she digs the sex. But then she rejects him when he admits he changes the size on his jeans because he's so vain. This isn't a bad episode, but I haven't seen it in a while. Did they pull it from the rotation? Anyway, George is "out of the loop" because he spills secrets to Susan, and Elaine has to interview her boyfriend before she'll sleep with him. Pretty good. Jerry's girlfriend is played by Jennifer Guthrie, whose career was actually almost over by this point. She gets a Fame Rating of 2 out of 10, because she never really did anything besides take over the Elisabeth Shue part in the television version of Adventures in Babysitting. Guthrie had just turned 36 when the episode aired, so that's a pretty decent age gap with the 41-year-old Jerry. I can't find any pictures of her. She's vanished!

Episode Ten (120), "The Gum" (aired 14 December 1995). Jerry has no girlfriend. This is the episode with Lloyd Braun right after he gets out of the asylum, so everyone has to go out of their way to avoid making him think he's crazy. This leads to Jerry pretending he likes Chinese gum and wearing glasses and Kramer eating a 50-year-old hot dog. This was aired today, actually (Monday the 9th, that is).

Episode Eleven (121), "The Rye" (aired 4 January 1996). This is kind of a dumb episode, with the whole marble rye subplot, plus Elaine's jazz musician boyfriend (who happens to be spongeworthy, as Elaine says early on). No girlfriend for Jerry, so let's just move on.

Episode Twelve (122), "The Caddy" (aired 25 January 1996). We get the return of Jackie Childs, as Kramer sues Sue Ellen Mischkie (or however you spell it) because she was wearing only a bra in public and caused him to crash his car. Meanwhile, Jerry, who loves her "whole freewheeling attitude," falls hard for her. This is a pretty funny episode and introduces the heir to the Oh Henry! candy bar fortune to us all. Sue Ellen is played by Brenda Strong, who is of course famous for shooting herself in the head in the first episode of Desperate Housewives and never shutting up after that. Therefore, I'll give her a Fame Rating of 7 out of 10. She also got chopped in half in Starship Troopers, so there's that. Strong was 35 when the show aired - another decent age gap.

Episode Thirteen (123), "The Seven" (aired 1 February 1996). George gets mad when Susan's cousin steals the name "Seven" for her baby. Meanwhile, Jerry dates a woman who always wears the same outfit. This is an okay episode, although if Jerry really wanted to know that badly if she has any other clothes, he could have gone about it a different way (yes, I know that wouldn't have been funny, but still). Lisa Deanne plays the strangely-attired girl, and her Fame Rating is 2 out of 10, because she had a short career and didn't do much during it. I can't find out anything about her or a photograph. Oh well.

Episodes Fourteen & Fifteen (124 & 125), "The Cadillac" (aired 8 February 1996). Jerry goes to Florida, which means he has no girlfriend and the episode is boring. It's notable because George finds out he's Marisa Tomei's type, which is very funny. Why on earth didn't he wait six months after Susan died to call Marisa back instead of the same day? What a fool.

Episode Sixteen (126), "The Shower Head" (aired 15 February 1996). The highlight of this episode is the way the low-flow showers mess with Jerry's, Kramer's, and Newman's hair, but there's no girlfriend and no reason to write more about it.

Episode Seventeen (127), "The Doll" (aired 22 February 1996). Another show with no girlfriend, although this is the first appearance of Kathy Griffin as Susan's old roommate. And the Maestro returns!

Episode Eighteen (128), "The Friars Club" (aired 7 March 1996). Jerry is considered for membership in the Friars' Club, but when the jacket he wears in the club disappears, things go wacky. Meanwhile, he's dating Susan's best friend, which makes George happy because they can double-date. Samantha Smith is the girlfriend, and she's had an odd career. She was on Charles in Charge in 1984, but her next television appearance was this episode. She's done quite a bit since then, and now she's "Sarah Lennox" in Transformers. Has anyone seen the movie? Is this a big part? I mean, she has a last name, for crying out loud! I'm going to give her a Fame Rating of 6 out of 10. Smith was 26 when the episode aired, a 15-year age gap between her and Jerry. I'd like to show a picture, but have you ever tried Googling "Samantha Smith"? Yeah, I didn't think so. There are some nice photos at the IMDb page.

Episode Nineteen (129), "The Wig Master" (aired 4 April 1996). This is a very funny episode, with Kramer eventually getting mistaken for a pimp and Jerry getting grumpy when a man assumes he's not with another man even though they're sitting around drinking champagne coolies. Lots of good stuff, actually, but no girlfriend around.

Episode Twenty (130), "The Calzone" (aired 25 April 1996). Just before his 42nd birthday, Jerry gets a girlfriend who can get whatever she wants. He eventually loses her to Todd Gack, the guy who goes on dates with women without actually dating them. Nicki is played by Danette Tays (whose IMDb page is under Dylan Tays), who gets only a Fame Rating of 2 out of 10. Apparently she couldn't get everything she wanted, because she never had much of a career. According to the magic of Google, however, she's now an "exotic dancer" in the Los Angeles area. Good for her!

Episode Twenty-One & Twenty-Two (131 & 132), "The Bottle Deposit" (aired 2 May 1996). As funny as this episode is, there's not girlfriend, so I'll only discuss it briefly. Sue Ellen returns to bid against Elaine for JFK's golf clubs, and Brad Garrett shows up as Jerry's mechanic. Strange, considering they made such a big deal about how honest Puddy was, but oh well.

Episode Twenty-Three (133), "The Wait Out" (aired 9 May 1996). I'm going to count Debra Messing as a girlfriend here, although I'm not sure she technically counts until next season, when she actually dates Jerry. Whatever - she's a girlfriend at some point, and this is her first appearance, and one of the very few women to appear in more than one episode. Jerry and Elaine are "waiting out" a marriage between Messing and Cary Elwes, and when George says something stupid and causes a separation, they think they're in. Messing gets a Fame Rating of 9 out of 10 for Will and Grace, plus she's in that USA Network show now. Among other things, of course - she broke Ben Stiller's heart in Along Came Polly, and McHale's Navy launched many stars into the firmament, I'm sure. Jerry, you'll recall, was 42 when this episode aired, and Messing was 27. The age gap grows as Jerry gets older!

Episode Twenty-Four (134), "The Invitations" (aired 16 May 1996). George kills Susan. Sigh. Still, a brilliant way out of the marriage, even if it's a bit mean-spirited. But that's pretty much what this show is about, isn't it? Jerry, meanwhile, gets engaged to Jeannie Steinman, who's a female version of him. In a perfect casting situation, Janeane Garofalo plays Jeannie. Garofalo gets a Fame Rating of 8 out of 10, because although she's more talented than, say, Debra Messing, she's not quite as famous. She ought to be, because she's awesome, but she's not. She was in Cop Land, for crying out loud! Garofalo was 31 when this episode hit the airwaves, so the age gap is a respectable 12 years between her and Jerry.

So that's Season Seven, which I think we can agree was the last really good season. Seasons Eight and Nine had their moments, but weren't really up to the quality of the previous ones. Even this one slipped somewhat. Anyway, let's look at the totals. 11 girlfriends, which is about standard, and some pretty good ones, too. Brenda Strong, Debra Messing, and Janeane Garofalo are a pretty good trio, and Stacey Travis isn't bad at all (in terms of fame, that is - she's kind of annoying in the episode). The age gap continues to grow for the most part, and I'm curious to see what happens in the last two seasons (I know, I'm probably the only one).

If you've missed any of these posts, and for some bizarre reason are interested, here are the others: the Pilot, Season One, Season Two, Season Three, Season Four, Season Five, and Season Six. Enjoy!

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So close!

The Phillies lost on Saturday, 7 July. This isn't much of a shock, but it was their 9999th loss in franchise history. They avoided the ignominy of being the first professional team to lose 10000 games on Sunday, but it's coming. I was so close! I said on the 19th of June that they would lose their 10000th game on the 7th. Oh well. I was one off.

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What I've been reading

The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman. 421 pages, 2006, Simon & Schuster (Scribner).

This is a gripping book about Hawaii's leper colony on Molokai, which opened in 1866 and didn't officially stop accepting new patients until 1969, a pretty shocking fact if you think about it. Tayman tells a fascinating tale that has some problems, but on the whole exposes a dark corner of our history, one that is relevant even today.

The colony on Molokai came about because Hawaiian doctors began to notice that the disease was gaining strength in the islands. Leprosy, long a misunderstood disease, thanks in large part, says Tayman, to the Bible, sent a scare into the islanders and they over-reacted. It's perhaps a natural reaction when confronted with something one doesn't understand to want to put that thing as far away as possible, and the Hawaiian officials found a perfect spot: a peninsula on the northern shore of Molokai, cut off from the rest of the island by imposing cliffs, buffeted by the waves and the winds so that even getting to it by boat was a terrifying experience. The health officials began scouring the islands for lepers and shipping them off to the colony, basically dumping them on the land and leaving them. Only as an afterthought did they decide to actually provide some care for them.

Tayman splits the book into basically two parts. The first part is better, as it tells the story of the founding of the colony, the struggles of the patients to get it going, and the stories of the people who volunteered to go to the colony to help out, most notably Father Damien, a Belgian priest, and Mother Marianne Cope, a nun from Syracuse. The stories of the colony from its inception through the early twentieth century are gripping and full of tragedy and minor triumphs and bigotry and transcendence. It's a wonderful read, as Tayman tracks the islanders' gradual awakening to what was going on in the colony and the lepers' efforts to hide their disease or flee into the hinterlands. He also goes into the history of the disease quite nicely. Leprosy in the Bible, he points out, probably wasn't what we think of as leprosy. Biblical "leprosy" simply meant any skin blemish, which is not a good symptom of leprosy. When the Bible says they are "unclean," it could even mean they are simply sinners and have no disease whatsoever. When a Greek translation of the Bible came out, the word for "ritually impure" was translated as "lepra," which means "rough and scaly." Arabic doctors used the word "judham" to describe true leprosy, and in the eleventh century, a monk translating medical texts simply substituted "lepra" - a disease of the soul - for "judham" - a disease of the body. Thus leprosy became linked to an idea of impurity. Tayman points out that leprosy itself is very difficult to contract. Skin-to-skin transmission is "virtually impossible." Even if the bacilli gets into a body, 95% of people have a natural immunity to the disease. Yes, it's a horrific disease once it takes hold, but there are two different kinds, one which is not fatal and impossible to transmit. Tayman blends this knowledge nicely in with the narrative history of the colony, showing how centuries of prejudice swept the officials along until they simply condemned thousands of people, who could never see their families again. Children born to couples on the colony were taken away to foster homes.

When Tayman gets to the more modern days, however, his book becomes a bit less interesting. It's not bad, but it becomes more languid and episodic. He begins to jump around a bit more, especially once he reaches the 1930s and is able to base his history on interviews with some of the patients (as of 2003, there were still people at the colony, ones who had been there for decades and wanted to stay when the government stopped exiling people to it). Therefore, he focuses on four separate patients to the detriment of telling the bigger story of the colony, and he skips back and forth between the four people, and he loses a bit of the book's focus. Part of the reason is that he stops giving us a time frame - we know generally when things happen, but it would have been nice to read when one of the patients, for instance, graduated from college. It all seems to take place in an indeterminate time period from about 1975 to the present, and it adds to the looseness of the narrative. It doesn't ruin the book, because the stories he tells are interesting, but we lose a bit of the context of what is happening in the big wide world, which was a fascinating part of the first section of the book. It's a bit of a shame, but it shouldn't deter you from reading this.

One of the interesting things about reading this book recently is because I heard a few weeks ago that Pat Buchanan (I think) was blaming immigrants for bringing leprosy into the country. Now, Buchanan's an idiot, but CNN (or was it MSNBC?) reported it too, claiming that in the past three years, we've seen 7000 new cases of leprosy. 60 Minutes put the kibosh on that, pointing out that it's 7000 new cases in 30 years, but I get a bit peeved when a news organization doesn't do its homework. Tayman points out that we shouldn't even call it leprosy because of the negative connotations; it's called Hansen's disease after the man who discovered the bacillus. I'm sure a quick call to a doctor would have confirmed that. Also, for CNN (or MSNBC) to suggest that this would be a major epidemic, when leprosy is not that communicable, is just awful. Buchanan, of course, wants to scare everyone into deporting all those filthy immigrants. I guess I thought news organizations were above that. I know, silly me.

Another problem with the way Tayman writes the final section, and the problem with any book that relies on interviews and personal accounting, is the potential for controversy. Three of the people Tayman focuses on in the book have disavowed most of it, and even Tayman's movements into the colony have been questioned. It's an interesting side note to the book, but it doesn't change the fact that it's a very compelling read. Tayman's blog is here, by the way, if you're interested.

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Happy Independence Day!

Our neighborhood newsletter has today's civics lesson, on this 231st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence:

I wonder how the ancient Greeks, or even the British themselves, would feel about this assertion about "Democracy." But they don't really matter, do they? It's all about the U! S! A!

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Let's see what's going on in the world of Youtube:

The best thing about this video is the aftermath. You'll see what I mean. I found this here.

Woody found this one. I had the exact same problem in my class, so I told them I would take the money and spend it on myself. Then I ended up buying pizza on the last day.

Here's why I fear for the younger generation. Seriously, this girl is awful. Her mom isn't much better. I found it here, where the comments are really vicious.

Finally, I love Mika Brzezinski!

Ah, Youtube. How did we ever get along without you?

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Sleep study

Last night I went to a sleep clinic to have my sleeping checked. Krys has been getting more worried about my snoring, and I don't think I'm really getting the sleep I need. Of course, that might have something to do with the two children, but I'm tired pretty much all the time and usually I go to sleep about 10.15 and wake up around 6, which ought to be enough sleep. I've known for years that I snore, but according to the wife, it's getting worse. So I went to the ENT and told him about it, and he referred me on to the sleep clinic.

I arrived about 9.30 last night and had to talk to the attending nurse for a while (her name was Bliss, which is just weird). She also showed a ridiculously goofy video about sleep apnea, something I know all about. Krys never thought I stopped breathing while I sleep, but she says that early in the morning, I sometimes make strange noises, so she was concerned about that. The clinic has a sleep apnea device in every room, since I imagine most people who go there are afflicted with it. I am not one of those people, as it turns out.

Bliss placed all sorts of electrodes on my body, as if I were getting an EEG - but some the electrodes were on my legs, too. She told me they would be monitoring me on the video camera and that the entire room was miked, so if I needed to pee in the night, all I had to do is sit up, and she would come in. I usually have to go to the bathroom at least once, so that would be something that came up. It was a pain to go, because I was hooked up to all the crap, but all she had to do was unplug a couple of things and I took all the wires with me. Lots of fun, that was.

I settled into bed about quarter to eleven. And couldn't sleep. Usually I fall asleep very quickly, but I was pretty uncomfortable. I sleep on my side, so I had to roll over with all these wires sticking on my head and a thing in my nose to help me breathe. I did fall asleep eventually, but it wasn't the most restful night, I'll tell you that much. At one point Bliss told me she needed to get readings from me while I slept on my back, which was tough. I used to sleep on my back all the time, but years of having Krys tell me to roll over has meant that now it's hard for me. I did fall asleep, eventually, but I didn't feel like I slept for long, and eventually I rolled back on my side without finding out if she was done with her monitoring. Screw her - I needed to sleep!

I woke up at 6.20 or so, which is ten minutes before she would have woken me up anyway. They won't know any results for 5-7 business days, so it will be next week before the results go to my doctor. I guess I don't have sleep apnea, because I didn't need to device. I know the best way to cut back on snoring is to lose weight, but as Krys points out, when I weighed 40 pounds less than I do today, I still snored (yes, I've gained a lot of weight over the years - I suck). I'm hoping that they can figure out how to curtail my snoring and help us both sleep better. I feel very bad for Krys, but I also feel bad for me, because I'm just so tired all the time, and it makes me grumpy. And nobody likes a grumpy Daddy!

I'm looking forward to the results. If they tell me there's nothing wrong with me and I have to lose 50 pounds, I may get angry. But at least I'll know!

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