Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chivalry Is Still Alive and Well

From Wikipedia: "Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood. It is usually associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honour and courtly love. Today, the terms chivalry and chivalrous are used to describe courteous behavior, especially that of men towards women."

And to that last point, I must say I see this everyday on the bus and on the train - men giving their seats up to women. I see all races, all ages, doing this and it is honestly quite refreshing to see that we CAN be courteous to one another.

This morning there were six folks standing in the aisle because all the seats were taken. In the beginning, three of those folks were women. I closed my eyes for a moment and looked back up and the women had sat and were replaced by men. Nice, really nice!

The buses and trains are experiencing an increase in ridership, more than they've ever seen in the past. Obviously this can be directly attributed to the rise in gas prices (average in Atlanta area is $4.29 a gallon) and also to the fact that, well, some of us can't find gas at all!

And the governer had the audacity to say the other day that the gas panic was "self-induced". Yup, read it here, http://www.ajc.com/search/content/metro/stories/2008/09/24/atlanta_gas_governor.html. He says there is ample fuel in the Atlanta area. Well that was on September 24th. Folks are stalking gas stations waiting for deliveries. They're following tanker trucks to their next destination. They're stealing gas from parked vehicles. They're sitting in lines for hours on end just for a chance to put in $20-$25 worth, whatever limit that gas station might have implemented.

Now, on September 30th, news is that Governor Perdue is asking President Bush to release some crude oil from the nation's reserves. Go figure. Unfortunately that won't help the immediate problem because releasing any crude oil from the reserves will still take 4-5 days (or more) to reach the Atlanta area - after it hits the refinery, after it hits the pipeline, after it hits the gas tanker truck delivering it to the gas station, etc. It's not that there isn't any crude oil to refine, it's that the refineries were shut down due to the hurricane. They are now up to par and operating at full capacity. The pipeline is also flowing at full capacity. It will just take some time for everyone in the metro area to realize the next tanker of gas at their neighborhood gas station won't be the last. It will just take a bit of time and patience.

In the interim, I will continue to enjoy my daily commute via the GRTA bus system and the MARTA rail system, all the while using little to no gas on a daily basis. Oh, by using the word "enjoy", by no means am I implying that I really "enjoy" the commute (I could do without getting up before the roosters), but I do appreciate the fact that it truly is a safe mode of travel, the fact that I am lucky enough to be able to get from Point A to Point B via public transportation, and the fact that my fellow riders are usually courteous to one another. It certainly does help to restore your faith in the human race! Pin It

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On The Commuting Front . . .

Well, yesterday I woke up before the roosters and met my cubemates on the early bus - I mean early, like it's the first bus of the morning at 5:15 a.m. Yes, that means I have to leave my house by 5 a.m. to make it to the bus stop in time. Errgh!! I did it, much to my dismay. We arrived at the Brookhaven Station by 6:25 a.m. or maybe a tad earlier. Our shuttle (again, the first one of the morning) doesn't arrive until 6:45 a.m. So, what did we do with that extra time - of course, we proceeded across Peachtree Road to visit the local Dunkin' Donuts. Well, I just couldn't resist getting a chocolate frosted raised donut - heck, why not? How many WW points could it possibly be? I also had the audacity to order a medium coffee with Equal (really, would it make any difference at this point if I used real sugar?). She asked if I'd like cream and as I was pondering the Equal/sugar thing, I unconsciously blurted out, "Yes, I would like cream". When I had focused again, I figured if I was going to treat myself to a donut, I wouldn't miss out on the cream, too. The deed was done! I sipped my coffee on the shuttle ride to the office and devoured the donut at my desk shortly after I arrived. It was heaven, I must say. And it definitely satisfied that "need" to have a sweet, fattening, treat! It also used six of my 22 points allotted for the day. "Blasted!", I thought but you know, this is what WWs does, it teaches you to eat right and not to waste calories on stuff like that. Lesson learned! No more donuts! (first one I've had in about a year!)

So with that being said, this morning I decided I would take my regular bus at 5:35 a.m. It would give me another 20 minutes prep time and NO TIME to walk over to Dunkin Donuts to be tempted, once again. It's all strategy, you know? Well, I must have missed the 5:35 a.m. bus by a minute or two so had to wait for the next bus at 5:50 a.m. No biggie, I thought, I'd still get to work around 7:15 a.m. or so.

As we were heading down I-20, the "in-training" bus driver took the Six Flags exit. I immediately woke from my nap, having noticed the shift of the bus and eventual stop at a red light. This was not the usual route - not at all. The regular bus driver took over at that point. He meandered around Six Flags, on past Charlie Brown Airport, to MLK Drive. I hadn't the foggiest idea where he was taking us. I honestly thought I may have gotten on the wrong bus but there are only two that come to my bus stop and they both take you downtown to the MARTA station. So, I patiently listened to my music on my Zune, all the while carefully watching where the driver was going. He eventually looped around and hopped on I-285 ending up at the I-285/I-20 interchange. I was so disoriented, I had no idea if we were heading North, South, East or West. He did get on I-20 from there and then we were definitely heading East. Good, I thought, it wouldn't be long and I would be on the train heading North to Brookhaven. Unfortunately, as I was running down the escalator, I soon saw the tail end of a train heading that direction so had to wait on the next one. Another near miss (story of my life).

I finally arrived at the Brookhaven Station only to see our shuttle bus leaving the Station. Again, a near miss, what, is there a full moon or what? So, we had to wait on the next shuttle. I say "we" because there were 12 other Department of Revenue employees waiting as well. There are usually two shuttles running and they show up every 15 minutes. As we were waiting, a very strange man was walking up to the Station. I had seen him a few mornings ago as well. He is carrying two white plastic bags that look like they are from a department store and I can see they are both packed full of something. The other morning when I saw him, he was carrying the two white overstuffed plastic department store bags, as well. This morning as he is nearing the turnstiles to enter the Station, he is glaring at our group, with his head cocked, peering over his glasses. I mean he has stopped dead in his tracks, and is flat out staring. He eventually enters the turnstiles and heads up the escalator. The other morning he actually approached where my cubemates and I were sitting and walked around us doing the same thing - head cocked, peering over his glasses, and flat out staring at us. I didn't think that much about this strange man the other morning, thinking it was a fluke and most likely I would never see him again. I must say that I have not felt uncomfortable or scared riding MARTA until this morning. I cannot imagine what he is looking at! Maybe he wants to ask one of us about his taxes? Who knows? In any event, it is quite unnerving, to say the least. I'm just thankful there are scads of people milling about so I'm not standing there all by myself!

To summarize the commute this morning with one word - weird. Just plain old weird. And this is the icing on the cake of weirdness encountered today - as we were waiting on our shuttle, a white stretch limo pulled up to the loading area as if he were about to drop someone off. My initial thought was, "why is a limo dropping someone off to get on MARTA?" Well, no one exited the vehicle so then I thought maybe he was picking someone up. Again, why would someone riding MARTA be getting into a limo to be driven on to their final destination? A taxi, yes, but a limo? No one came though and as we were boarding our shuttle I noticed the limo had pulled out of the station and was looping back around to the front loading area again. Really weird, I thought.

I joked with our shuttle driver that at first we all thought he had come to pick us up in that limo. He laughed and said "Nope, not today." Thirteeen of us then piled into the stinky, white cargo van to head to work. No limo for us! A girl can dream, can't she?

I finally arrived at work at 7:40 a.m. - almost 40 minutes later than normal. All because I missed my bus and had to wait 15 minutes on the next one. Go figure. Pin It

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Adventures of Neuton, the Half Breed

Well, my cubemate Barbie has spent most of the summer trying to teach Neuton to swim. He does fine with his life jacket on (see picture above), but much prefers to lounge on the float with his Daddy (see picture below).

Barbie is convinced he just doesn't like getting wet. Prissy dog, huh? At least she is somewhat confident, if he were to fall into the pool, he would be able to swim to the steps and get out himself. That's always good to know.

On another subject, Neuton's DNA test results came back. It was basically inconclusive because the company doesn't have the Whippet breed in their database. I can't imagine why they wouldn't but they didn't. Unfortunately, even Jack Russell isn't in their database. Anyway, the results show he does have some Parson's Jack Russell in him along with some Italian Greyhound, Pug, Chihuahua, and Irish Setter. So, it is felt that an accurate reading of his DNA wasn't possible because of the absence of the other two breeds. It doesn't really matter because Barbie and Russ love that little devil no matter what half-breed he is! As you can see from the pictures, he is spoiled rotten. Barbie has begun making his toys because it's so hard to find any that aren't made in China! So, she makes them in John's Creek. He loves them and tears them up, just the same. I'm sure he knows he has an endless supply.

Below is Neuton with his Doggles on. He didn't like them much so Barbie took them back. Too funny. I've got to get my girls a pair to get their picture taken for the 2009 Calendar! I'm scared to put a pair on Lucy for fear she'll eat them! We'll see.

Back to Neuton, I wonder what activities Barbie has planned for Neuton for the Fall? Pumpkin carving? Tree trimming? Who knows - what I do know is that Neuton has never had life so good! What a lucky boy indeed!

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sugar Update

Well, I took her back yesterday for another blood test. I just couldn't wait another week! Basically the ALT has stayed the same but the ALKP (Alkaline Phosphatase) actually went down. The doc said this was good improvement, even if the ALT was the same (it takes longer for that one to go down). The ALKP going down was good. I'm suppose to wait a month or so before taking her back for another blood test. I hope I'm able to be patient!

She is definitely feeling better, is pinker, and is eating without any "spiking" of her food. All of which, is definitely a positive improvement from a few weeks ago. I do believe we are on the road to a full recovery! Pin It

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Portraits

Last year about this time I discovered an artist who lives down in bayou country, actually in Youngsville, Louisiana, which is dead center of the State near the coastline. Her name is Mary Sewell Hillier. Her style is very colorful and quite unique, as you can see. So, I thought I'd start by having her do Remi's portrait. I sent a photo and told her a few things about my first girl. Here is the final painting. Pretty cool, huh? I think the size is about 18" x 24" or something like that.

About a month or so ago, I contacted Mary again to ask her about doing Sugar's portrait. As before, I provided her with a picture and gave her a good description of Sugar's personality. She emailed at some point and said she had to "batten down the hatches" in preparation of Hurricane Gustav, so she was delayed in starting Sugar's portrait. For Pete's sake, I told her to get the heck out of dodge and we'd worry about the portrait later. It was very considerate of her to let me know though. I just chuckled, having "been there, done that" on so many occasions I knew in the flurry of hurricane preparations and evacuations, oddly enough, you do try to "tie up loose ends". Once things simmered down a bit and things were back to normal, she commenced to working on the portrait again. Here is Sugar's final painting. I just love it!

Next, I have to get Lucy's done. Knowing her nickname is Lucy(fer), I can't imagine how she'll paint her but I think it'll be interesting to see the final results.

I'll be getting these framed and will mount on one wall in my dining room. I'm quite proud, as you can imagine!

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sugar Update

This morning we were at the Doctor at 8:30 a.m. for our appointment. They took some of Sugar's blood and intended to test it in-house for the most important liver values. Apparently their machine had not been turned on to "warm-up", so we had to wait on that. Then, her values were higher than the machine registered so they had to dilute the serum to get a reading that they assured me would still be accurate. End result after an hour and a half - the Alkaline Phosphatase is now 2,890 U/L and the ALT (SGPT) came down to 1,266 U/L. The original results done at a lab were:

(BUN) Urea Nitrogen - 22 normal
Albumin - 3.1 normal
Bilirubin - 13.1 mg/dL very high
Alkaline Phosphatase - 2,552 U/L very high
ALT (SGPT) - 1,966 U/L very high
Lymphocytes - 19% normal

So, the Alkaline Phosphatase is higher and the ALT (SGPT) is about 800 points lower, which the good Doc said was "great improvement". I also emailed all of this to Dr. Suzanne Stack (had already sent the first lab results but today sent the new results) and she also said she was "happy" with those results and that the ALT (SGPT) is the"only one they really care about" and the fact that it came down is good news. It has only been a week since the first testing and a week of antibiotics and other medicines. So, I am hopeful. We have a two week supply and are to go back at that time for another testing to see how things are then. Her Doctor suggested perhaps we get an ultrasound done at some point. There is no major hurry to do that, since she is improving.

By no means do I think we are out of the woods yet but the fact that she improved over a week's time is encouraging. To put this into perspective, a normal level of Alkaline Phosphatase would be between 10-150 U/L and the ALT (SGPT) would be between 5-107 U/L. So, you see, she is WAY, WAY over both of those. A normal Bilirubin would be between 0.0-0.4 mg/dL and she is WAY, WAY over that one as well. Most, if not all, of her other blood values are normal.

We will continue the medicines in hopes that she will continue to improve. She appears to feel better every day and is eating as well as can be expected. I have to coax her sometimes but she eats her whole bowl of kibble. She weighed 56 pounds when we first went in for the UTI, then 58 pounds last weekend, and 60 pounds today. I'm happy that she is gaining rather than loosing.

I am encouraged and am hopeful she will pull out of this completely with no ill effects. The Doctor and I discussed what could have caused this to start with and it could be a number of things. He did mention mushrooms in the backyard which is what I was thinking might have caused it. I did see her munching on something a few weeks back as Lucy munched on another pear from the neighbor's tree that "flew" into my backyard. I had assumed Sugar was also munching on the same pear but it could very well have been a mushroom. An ultrasound will show if there are any masses so I do plan to do that in a few weeks.

Again, I am hopeful. Keep praying and "think pink". (yes, she is still jaundiced but not nearly as much and is getting pinker every day) Pin It

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Dear Sugar

My dear Sugar is ill. She first had a UTI which we've cleared up and now her liver values are in the thousands. Well, not all but the critical liver values are. She is on some meds and appears to be doing better. She feels better (yes, I asked her this morning) and is eating better. We go back to the doctor Saturday morning for a blood test to see if her values have dropped any. She has been jaundiced but that is slowing easing up as well. I see more pink to her skin, gums, and ears. I've never seen anyone or any dog with jaundice and let me tell you, the skin is most certainly yellow. If you think your dog is ever in this state, check the gums and the ears as well.

Anyway, I just emailed my sister about Sugar and her story. I thought it worth repeating here.

Her story is extraordinary - first being plucked from the side of I-75 scrounging garbage for food, then being fostered by someone with the Henry County Humane Society, then getting attacked by said foster's black lab (which has had a profound affect on Sugar and her hatred for black dogs), then getting picked up by me for fostering, then getting adopted out to a farm family with 5 children (step ladder in ages) and the Mom was pregnant again, then not liking the children because they chased her, then getting into the Emu massacre at said farm, then being returned to SEGA because of dislike of children and said Emu massacre, then being fostered again by me, then being adopted by me, then becoming the #4 Greyhound in lure coursing in 2005 winning numerous trophies and ribbons (we are very proud of her), then getting her own wine label (proud again), then finally to retirement only to get sick! Quiet a story, huh? She is such a sweet one, too. She'll come out of this, I know it!

But if her values haven't improved on Saturday, the next step is an ultrasound and then depending on what that shows, a biopsy, if needed.

I'll keep you posted. Keep Sugar in your thoughts and prayers. She is only 7 and surely has more to do on this earth!
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Gadget Girl Is At It Again!

Well, I couldn't stand it yesterday when I received an email from Williams Sonoma touting an Imperia Pasta Machine (made in Italy) they are exclusively offering at this time. It's so exclusive and so popular that it is now on backorder until September 11th.
I've been wanting a pasta machine for so long now - I just couldn't stand it. I had to order one. And the accompanying ravioli maker. Heck, if they offered more attachments, I probably would have ordered them as well! Yep, like I need another kitchen gadget (or two).

I honestly think I'm going to have to seek out a home loan to build an extension to my kitchen so I can house all these "extras" that I think I must have. Or I could bust out the wall between the kitchen and the guest bedroom and expand the kitchen that direction. Umm, now that's an idea!

In any event, isn't it a beauty (yes, I get excited about a new kitchen gadget)? I cannot wait to make some fresh, homemade, from scratch, spaghetti or linguine. I guess now I've got to get a pasta cookbook so I can figure out how to do this. (It's never ending, isn't it?) But it keeps me out of trouble and off the streets as my Mom might say. She used to say that about my Dad's hobby . . . deer hunting. And I'm sure she'd say it now about my hobby, cooking (and of course, Greyhounds).

I'll keep you posted on what delicious, low-fat, pasta dishes I come up with. Good thing the dogs like spaghetti, too!
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