Thursday, December 28, 2006

DMARDs and Biologics - A love/hate relationship

It's that day again (well, it was a few days ago, but I was slacking and didn't publish this post)--"shot day" as I have come to refer to it. I both love and hate this day, the day that I take my once weekly doses of Enbrel (the shot) and methotrexate (8 little pills).

I love the day because, well, until about 4 months ago when I started taking Enbrel, I was in ridiculous amounts of pain nine days out of ten. About two months after I began taking Enbrel, I started to have fewer days of pain--now about four out of ten. My previous drug cocktails (Plaquenil, Azulfidine, Methotrexate) helped some, but not nearly as well as the new mix of Enbrel and methotrexate. Up until a few months ago, I was pretty much dependent on prednisone to be able to function at home and at work. Up until this week, I've been off of prednisone for about three months, and hopefully, in a few days, I will be able to completely taper off of the prednisone (6 day quick taper course, though that usually doesn't work and I end up hovering at 10-20 mg of prednisone for quite a while).

HateI hate this day though because it is a reminder of my illness. I am reminded that I will never get better, that each time I take the meds I will be weakening my defenses against illnesses, that the possible side effects could hit me at any time. Of course, there is the pain of the shot itself. Enbrel (the pre-mixed syringe) burns like fire as it goes in. A few seconds of pain is worth it for the relief it provides, but it still sucks. The day after I take Enbrel and methotrexate is rough (nausea, fatigue, weakness), but again, worth it in the long run.

It is difficult, once you find a drug regime that seems to work, to realize that your body can (and will) still revolt. Previously, I didn't worry about that because the drug cocktails I was taking didn't really work all that well, so I expected more pain. Now, after a few months of feeling the best I have in years, I feel let down that the Enbrel/methotrexate combo isn't working as well. The pain is breaking though, and worse, it is coming at me stronger in joints that never bothered me that much before.

I am at war with my body, and I think it is winning this week.

Friday, December 22, 2006

LED beer cooling device

This is pretty cool--beverage cooling, lighting, and style all in one.

The Coolight (via), is a product that may hit the market soon.

COOLIGHT combines a handle and a steel cylinder filled with cryogen. When you need an ice beer, just put the COOLIGHT into the beer bottle. It would help you to cool down the beer as soon as possible. On the top of the handle , there is a cork made by rubber would fix the hole device and the bottle close together, and you can drink the beer through the hole on the top of it. COOLIGHT has another convenient device on its body, LED. LED would display the information of time and temperature in order that you could know what time it is or what the temperature of the beer.

China to change adoption rules

As has been reported all over the place, China has changed its rules for foreigners to adopt children. According to the articles, the changes are in response to the overwhelming number of foreign applicants seeking to adopt orphans in China--currently applicants outnumber orphans.

I understand China's desire to tighten their current rules (which are apparently pretty lax), but one restriction strikes me: the physically disabled are not allowed to adopt.

I can understand some of the rules as they are geared to ensure the child has a parent around for quite some time, but most of the physically disabled are going to be around for quite some time too. At least this concern was brought up by the NYT article:

The quality of the Chinese system and the health of the children is what prompted Mindy and Michael Henderson of Austin to apply for a Chinese child this year, a girl, Grace, who they adopted last month. Under the new rules, Ms. Henderson, 33, would have been disqualified because she uses a wheelchair for a neuromuscular condition. As it was, she said, her adoption agency had to lobby hard to gain approval, and was successful only because Grace is 5, not an infant.

“It’s really a shame,“ Ms. Henderson said of the health-related restrictions. “I’m really, really active. I use a motorized wheelchair so I can get around by myself. I drive my own car, I’ve got a master’s degree and I work a full-time job in management. My husband doesn’t have any sort of a disability.”

Note: The new rules have not been officially announced by the Chinese government, so these reports may be off base.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rituxan receives FDA warning

The FDA issued a warning for those taking Rituxan. Rituxan is a biologic response modifier that is approved for people with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and Rheumatoid arthritis. The warning comes after 2 deaths and 23 cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a viral brain infection.

First Celebrex et al.. now this. I don't take this drug, but I know that this must be disheartening to those who are. Adding new "side effects" to your drug cocktail is never pleasant.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Illegal Workers Building Border Fence

It's almost too funny: Golden State Fence will pay "nearly $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrants".

As many as a third of the company's 750 workers may have been in the country illegally.

This doesn't really surprise me.

Sidenote: Carlos Mencia was right!

Friday, December 15, 2006

IT security hype, lots of it

Bruce Schneier beat me to it, but there has been a bit of a surge of IT security related articles in the mainstream media this week.

First we have:
Criminals target tech students - children as young as 14 being targeted by organized crime!

Hackers to step up 'cyberwar' in 2007

Usually, I'm all in favor of bringing security awareness to the masses, but sensationalism and hype are not going to help.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chronic illness and relationships

What no one tells you when you're facing a lifelong illness is that it is going to wiggle its way into every one of your relationships. At first, when the symptoms aren't so bad and the drugs aren't so numerous, you think that it's no big deal. Yeah, you're not normal, not fully healthy, but you're not that bad off either. At some point though, the reality sinks in: this thing is going to be around for awhile

It's not a sudden epiphany, but rather a slowly developing awareness that the disease ravaging your body is starting to make your relationships more difficult.
It's hard to get up in the morning.
You can hardly sleep at night.
You don't want to go out for date night.
You're too tired/hurt/sore/depressed to make love.

At some point, it seems, anger and resentment will come from those you love. They can never truly understand what it's like to suffer the pain everyday. They don't understand that some days you're fine and others you're not. Or that the morning can be dreadful but the evening quite pleasant. The cloud of the depression, resentment and hostility is hard to escape in our closest relationships. A wall comes between you and them--one that, in my marriage, I fear will never be completely torn down.

Road trips and arthritis flares

I was on vacation all last week (though, I don't know if driving 2400 miles over the course of a week counts as a vacation). Of course, we drove because we had to take care of a few things, and driving made that much simpler. Unfortunately, I always forget how painful sitting in a car for 12 hours can be.

Typically I don't have terrible pain in my hips, but something about sitting in car seats for hours on end aggravates them. We did stop fairly frequently to let the dogs get out and do their business and for me to move around, but 5 minutes isn't nearly enough time to get rid of stiffness that sets in after 1, 2 or 3 hours in the car. By the time we arrived at our destination on the first day, I could hardly move and every joint in my body was swollen.

It seems that every time I go on a trip, I end up back on the prednisone for my PA. I don't know if it was the sitting all day, the stress or the changes in climate. On top of that, I got a sinus infection and had to skip the methotrexate and Enbrel when I came back. Thankfully, I'm getting over the infection, but I think I'm feeling the effects of skipping the immunosuppressants this week.

Someone really needs to invent a teleportation device! Or somethingto ward off vacation flares.

Good news for women's health

Breast cancer rates in the U.S. dropped in 2003.

The 7.2 percent decline came a year after a big federal study linked menopause hormones to a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other problems. Within months, millions of women stopped taking estrogen and progestin pills.
About 200,000 cases of breast cancer had been expected in 2003; the drop means that about 14,000 fewer women actually were diagnosed with the disease.

New scan could be better (and certainly less painful) than mammograms.
The new scan produces three-dimensional pictures, which are better at showing whether a spot on the X-ray is a benign lesion or a tumor, the researchers at the University of Rochester in New York said.

It can also provide pictures of tissue around the ribs and outer breast toward the armpit, where 50 percent of cancers are found, the researchers told a Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.

Better tools to detect breast cancer early, thus raising the odds of survival.

New oral contraceptives may allow women to forgo their periods!

After a year on the pill, roughly 60% of the women in the study experienced no periods and 20% had some spotting.
"There just is no good medical reason for a woman to have menstrual periods if she doesn't want them," gynecologist and study researcher David F. Archer, MD, tells WebMD. "It really does come down to an issue of preference."

Woohoo! I already do the 4 periods a year thing. No periods just sounds so much better than 4 (though 4 is way better than 12 a year). No more cramps, no more crazy hormonal changes, no more migraines during the week of placebo. I'm sure plenty of women out there will be thrilled with this development.

Friday, December 01, 2006

In case you thought the Dems would actually implement intelligence oversight...

"Democrats are balking, just as Republicans did before them" in regard to strengthening congressional oversight of intelligence.

This doesn't really surprise me. I don't really care for either party; I vote based on the issues that matter most to me. But, considering the Democratic Party ran on platforms against the war and against President Bush's intelligence activities, this is a slap in the face to voters who were seeking change--real change.

So once more, the 9/11 commission's recommendations are pushed off. Instead, Democratic leaders have decided to create a panel to look at the issue. So, more time analyzing, no time doing.

The Libertarian Party keeps looking better and better.

Bush says AIDS "can be defeated"

A Washington Post article discusses Bush's initiatives to combat AIDS. Bush's AIDS initiative has helped AIDS efforts in 15 countries. This includes a treatment program that gets drugs to 800,000+ people. On the downside, however, the initiative requires that a third of the money be dedicated to the promotion of abstinence.

I don't see how the President can say the AIDS can be defeated when abstinence is one-third of the education efforts. These efforts are targeted at adults. Adults will do what they want to do--abstinence isn't all that appealing to most. The initiative would be more successful if it took a holistic and realistic approach to its education efforts. Then, maybe AIDS really can be defeated. Until then, consenting adults will continue to do what they want to do.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

VoIP is vulnerable to attack

In case you didn't already know, VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is vulnerable to attack. VoIP calls to call centers are "vulnerable to attack because call centres are failing to secure their networks robustly enough" (via The Register).

The audit, that pinpoints these vulnerabilities, conducted by Scanit, was able to pick up data such as PIN numbers entered on a touch tone phone. Call centers, according to research, believe that VoIP vendors put proper security measure in place, so they do not take measure to protect VoIP calls.

It's quite easy to eavesdrop on VoIP calls, programs like WireShark or Cain & Abel, which are widely available on the Internet, can give unexperienced users with all the tools they need to detect and record VoIP calls.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gingrich: 1st Amendment helps the terrorists

Via BoingBoing and Slashdot.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, at a dinner honoring proponents of free speech, said that "the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism" (link).

Because, you know, the 1st Amendment is making terrorism a problem, not the country's foreign policies. Even if changing or getting rid of the 1st Amendment happened, you cannot enforce the change on people in other countries. I am aghast that someone would even consider chaning or eliminating the 1st Amendment.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Pie for You!

TSA is at it again. This time they are confiscating pies from passengers.

But, just how dangerous are these pies?

Not at all, apparently, since the confiscated pies are "taken to the airport's United Service Organizations [USO] lounge, where soldiers passing through can relax and eat".

If the pies are truly a security threat, then they should be disposed of properly (read: not taken to the USO lounge for military personnel to eat). What if the pies were really a threat? Then the military travellers would be at risk. Doesn't anyone at TSA have common sense?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Abstinence only sex-ed doesn't work!

Yet another example of abstinence only sex education not working in Carroll County, Maryland.

"There are days when seven or so teens come for emergency contraception and all come from the same high school or middle school," Marucci-Bosley said. "There's a huge number of 16- and 17-year-olds who say they've had 30 or 40 partners."

Yeah, abstinence only education is doing wonders for those students. EC is not for regular use as birth control. I don't even want to think about the STDs that are probably going around those schools. Maryland should go the way of New Jersey and stand up for full sex education.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blind Soccer World Cup

Cnn reports on the blind soccer World Cup. While I know that many visually impaired people participate in active sports, I have never heard about soccer specifically for the legally blind. According to the CNN report, referees calm down the crowd when they get too loud and halt play when planes fly overhead. The players have guides who tell them when to kick for a goal. I think this is a great example of adapting traditional activities for the disabled.

Now can someone tell me how to lift weights (upper body workout) without using my hands?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on Keroac appointment to HHS

Via Feministing:
Members of the House and Senate have sent letters to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, criticizing the appointment of Keroac. They're not too long, and summarize the objections well.

Among other interesting tidbits in Feministing's post:
Keroac isn't a certified OB/GYN. Though, HHS personnel have referred to him as a "skilled doctor and a nationally recognized expert on preventing teenage pregnancy". I wonder where that "nationally recognized" part comes from.

Anyway, go read the post and the Washington Post article associated with it.

Top Ten "Girl Geeks" on CNET

As reported on Slashdot, CNET has listed their top ten list of girl geeks. While there are some women on the list who truly deserve the geek title (In case you think being a geek is bad, in this case it is not. Women have been struggling to be taken seriously as geeks for a long time), there are several that should by no means be on the list.

The list from CNET:

  1. Ada Byron - credited with creating the first computer program. The language "Ada" is named after her.

  2. Val Tereshkova - first woman in space

  3. Grace Hopper - Wrote the first compile (COBOL).

  4. Daryl Hannah - "She's starred in some of the most important geek movies of all time including Blade Runner and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman." I would put an "eco" geek on a different list. Being in geek movies doesn't make you a geek.

  5. Rosalind Franklin - Chemist who was an expert in the structure of DNA and viruses.

  6. Mary Shelley - Wrote Frankenstein. While I enjoy Shelley's work, I fail to see how writing Frankenstein qualifies her as a geek.

  7. Lisa Simpson - WHAT? Cartoon characters don't count. Period. Even if they did, Lisa is more nerd than geek.

  8. Marie Curie - Discovered the elements radium and polonium.

  9. Aleks Krotoski - Writer for the Guardian. "an expert" on social psychology of virtual worlds.

  10. Paris Hilton - WHAT??? They list her for carrying her PSP, using a Sidekick, and attending E3. Having a sex tape on the Internet does not make you a geek.

While some of these, I'm sure, were included jokingly, putting someone such as Paris Hilton on the same pedestal as Grace Murray Hopper or Ada Byron or Marie Curie is insane. Some commenters on Slashdot have gone so far as to say that the list is offensive to women. I say it's offensive to geeks. Paris Hilton a geek? Puhleeze!

Different length legs ups probability of developing arthritis

A recent study reported by the NY Times indicates that a difference in leg length (2 cm or more), seems to indicate a higher incidence of arthritis, particularly in the hips and knees.

The article does not specify what type of arthritis (the research abstract does), but this is only for osteoarthritis, not inflammatory arthritis like Rheumatoid or Psoriatic. This could be very useful to doctors in the future, however, since they may be able to identify patients that may develop osteoarthritis and start preventative measures such as using lifts shoes to alleviate the difference in leg length.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Germs be gone!

For those of us with compromised immune systems for whatever reasons, in my case a lovely combination of the immunosuppressant drugs methotrexate and Enbrel, keeping those nasty office germs away is pretty important. I've been a big fan of waterless hand sanitizers, except for the dryness they tend to cause. This weekend, I discovered Purell with Aloe.

So far, it's great. I can be almost as obsessive compulsive about washing my hands as I want without worrying about how dry my hands will end up at the end of the day. Of course, it still has a high alcohol content, so it will dry out the hands, but the aloe seems to counteract this nicely. Added bonus: it smells much better than original Purell. Surfing the Purell website, I also found that they make a hand sanitizing moisturizer. Next time I'm at the store, I'm going to have to track it down.

And for anyone who hasn't done so yet: GO GET YOUR FLU SHOT!

Rangel pushes for return of the Draft --maybe...

The Draft
News outlets are reporting that Rep. Rangel (D-NY), a longtime proponent of reinstating the draft, plans to push it again, since he will now chair the Ways and Means Committee.

Some politicians, including Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Reid (D-Nev.), are admitting that the current strength of the armed forces in Iraq are not sufficient enough to win the war. Others like Sen. Graham (R-S.C.) think that we should send more troops to Iraq, but that the current volunteer military is sufficient.

I am not a fan of reinstating the draft, but if President Bush and Congress continue to fight the war, more troops are going to be needed. With President Bush seeming to put his eyes on Iran and N. Korea, the possibility of reinstating the draft is higher. Troops are already stretched thin in Iraq. Another engagement would push the military beyond its limits.

Draft to the Federal Government--Not Just Military
According to CNN's account of Rangel's possible proposal, "young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals". With that quote, I begin to wonder if Rangel is seeing the shortage of workers that the federal government will face.

Generations X and Y (and those to follow) don't seem to consider federal employment like previous generations. As a Gen Y'er who worked for the federal government, I found the archaic nature of it all depressing. Lack of advancement opportunities, rampant incompetence and poor pay drove me away. Federal wages, especially in the D.C. area are barely livable (except for special pay scale excepted service positions, but even those are below average for the area). With an estimated 50 percent of the federal workforce expected to retire in the next five years, the government has to do something to attract younger workers. Unfortunately, Rangel's move to push a draft with other federal non-military service options, may very well succeed.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A sad day for women in the USA

The Washington Post reports that President Bush has appointed Eric Keroack as the new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Keroack, for those who aren't aware, is the director of A Woman's Concern (sounds innocent, huh?). According to the article, "A Woman's Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts."

Keroac wll oversee funds "designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons." However, his organization, A Woman's Concern, believes that "the crass commercialization and distribution of birth control is demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness".

My biggest problem with the current administration and the GOP is that they try to legislate morality. If you don't think that contraception is acceptable, that's fine. Just don't force your viewpoint on everyone else. Tolerance of other people's views and beliefs is the key here.

I worry that if this trend continues, medical authority over our bodies will be given to the government. I can envision a future when this scenario is not that far-fetched: Have endometriosis or PCOS? Sorry, you can't have the medication that relieves the symptoms because it could be used as a contraceptive.

Hopefully, in 2008 we'll get a non-GOP president, or at least one who's not so swayed by the evangelical right, and this won't be as much of an issue. Luckily, 2 years isn't that much time, in government terms, to effect a lot of change.

Another model dies due to eating disorder

According to news reports, another model has died as a result of an eating disorder. Ana Carolina Reston, a 21 year-old model from Brazil, died "from a generalized infection caused by anorexia". At the time of her death, Reston weighed just 88 pounds; extremely underweight for the 5'8" woman. This is the second death of a model due to eating disorders in recent months.

This news has barely raised a blip in mainstream news. Dying models, apparently, are not worth much to the news world. We are continually turning a blind eye toward these incidents. The fashion industry, where rail thin models are panacea, needs to make changes. By setting the standard of beauty to some unhealthy, unattainable thin stature, the industry is harming women and girls everywhere. Beauty comes in more sizes than Extra Small.

The restrictions on runway models in Madrid, in my opinion, are a good start. The fashion industry is not going to change its ways, it is up to governments and private organizations to force this change. While Madrid's ban is not perfect (models with a BMI under 18, which is still considered underweight, are banned), it is a step in the right direction.

Beauty is more than being a size 2!

Edit: The Telegraph has an article up on their site with more specifics on the model's death. She had apparently subsisted on a diet of apples and tomatoes. Kidney failure finally ended her life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Users are the weakest link

A PC World article today points out what many IT security professionals already know:

Your network is only as secure as your dumbest user.

The article does bring up a good way to educate users on phishing and "spear phishing" (and hopefully prevent them). The suggested method is to conduct spear phishing attacks against your users. If they succumb to the attack, inform them that it was a test, and it embarrasses them. The hope is that the next time they get a phishing email, they'll think twice about taking action.

Unfortunately, there's not an easy way to stop social engineering and phishing attacks. Spear phishing attacks are even more difficult because they contain detailed information and look very legitimate.

Every James Bond Trailer...

Two more days until Casino Royale opens. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a huge James Bond fan. So, when I ran across this, it made my day:
Cinematical has every single James Bond movie trailer up here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Doctors Should Google More

According to two Australian doctors, Google helps doctors with difficult diagnoses (via Boing Boing). The headline is a bit misleading though, since only 58% of the diagnoses given by Google were correct.

Though, from my Googling of my symptoms over the years, and the lack of a firm diagnosis until recently, I think the doctors could have benefited from Googling some themselves.

Still the geek in me says: Google rocks!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gets boost from CDC

The CDC is pushing efforts to make the public aware that CFS is a real disease. For many years CFS has been considered a "fake" illness by many in the medical community, largely due to the fact that no cause or effective treatment has been found to date. Much like depression and asthma, which were previously believed to be psychosomatic illnesses, CFS for a long time has been though to be in patients' heads.

So, kudos to CDC for bringing this to the forefront. Hopefully this will help to push more funding and research to finding causes and treatments.

*Full disclosure -- My mother has suffered from CFS for at least 10 years now. CFS at the most extreme is debilitating fatigue compounded with other immune system problems (susceptibility to illness, for one). I hope and pray that one day she will be able to enjoy her life again, and not live life stuck in bed.

Study says women exposed to images of thin models overeat

An Australian Study published in the November issue of the journal "Eating Behaviors" shows that young women who are "obsessed" with their own body image eat more food after seeing images of super-thin models. The researchers who conducted the study seemed surprised with the findings. They had expected that "people who value the way they look would be reminded by viewing the image and not eat".

The relatively small study took 68 university students and had them answer a questionnaire to determine if they are obsessed with body image (high-objectifiers). Then the participants were shown "six magazine ads for body-related products like diet pills, some containing images of idealized female models, some not". The participants who identified as "body-obsessed" ate more after viewing the ads with models in them. The researchers concluded that "in [the] future eating disorders might be reduced by identifying high-objectifiers in schools, enabling education to change emphasis on appearance and promote a broader acceptance of body shapes."

While education and identifying girls and women who may end up suffering from eating disorders is a good thing, the fashion and beauty industries will still be there pushing the ultra thin model and a perfect face, body, skin, hair, etc. The recent ordeals involving banning models with low BMIs from fashion shows in Spain are a prime example of how hard thoes industries will fight to keep their "ideal" image. We have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One more for today: Abstinence Only Education for 20-somethings???

Apparently the Bush administration thinks that pushing abstinence only sex-ed to 20-somethings will make a difference in us young 'uns getting it on.

I really don't see how or where these programs would get implemented, let alone who would sign up for them (read: willingly subject themselves to sketchy claims about sex, contraception and disease).

Honestly, once you're an adult, the government should stay out of your private life--especially your sex life.


That is all.

New jobs, stress and fatigue

I finally started a new job a few weeks ago (16 Oct, to be exact). It really sounds like my dream job-- IT Security Consulting for a large company with several subsidiary companies. All the benefits (and things I liked) of consulting without the road warrior aspect that I hated so much at Accenture.

Things are off to a slow start, but they're definitely getting better. I now have 5 projects that I'm working on. Most require a lot of working with different organizations to make sure they know what's going on and coordinating everyone's efforts together. The rest is research into security vulnerabilities in new systems and changes to old systems. So, my job now is meetings and Googling. My Google-fu should get stronger.

My first 2 weeks were pretty stressful. It has taken its toll on me. This week alone, I've fallen asleep around 8:30-9:00 p.m. several nights. I really need to find a way to relax and keep my body from revolting.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Illness, Diagnosis, and Sanity

After reading Wheelchair Dancer's post the other day about her lack of diagnosis and the following posts and comments, I really got to thinking about how diagnosis of a chronic illness affects a person. I haven't really addressed my illness, struggles to get diagnosed or anything along those lines. Only recently have I really taken on "disability" as something that pertains to me.

From WD's posts, I see that in some people's minds you have to be "disabled enough" to count. I'm sure that I don't fall into that category. I look like a normal 20-something professional. I can walk and do the majority of the things I need to do--most of the time.

At the same time, But you Don't Look Sick has really made me feel more at home and at peace. There's something about facing a lifelong illness but still looking completely healthy and "normal" (whatever that means). Friends, family and spouses don't really understand what that's like.

I've been having problems with my joints, primarily my feet since I was about 8. I spent most of 3rd and 4th grade on crutches because of the pain. By high school, I had to give up my one love, classical ballet dancing, because my doctors told me that if I continued to dance, I would be unable to walk by the time I was in my 20s. In general, they didn't expect me to be able to walk by the time I was 25 (so far so good--only a few more months until I hit that milestone--granted, I walk like a little old lady some days, but I'm still doing better than the doctors expected). All those years, and no one ever even tested me for any cause to the pain or why I would be crippled.

I cried for weeks. I was devastated.

I asked why, and no one had an answer. I asked what was wrong and they said "Just some inflammation". Things got worse, and I changed doctors. Blood work followed, but still no answer. "You have a high ANA," they said.

What does that mean?

"You might have lupus or a connective tissue disease," they said.

So what do we do?
"Nothing, your symptoms aren't bad enough. You can have steroids if you're in pain."

More blood work. No more answers. "Nothing's wrong. You're an anomaly."

Then WHY DO I HURT? Why do my feet look like they're being twisted?

I finally got my diagnosis this year, at the age of 24. Psoriatic arthritis.

I never thought about how much a lack of diagnosis hurt me over the years. Growing up I was called "sickie", a hypochondriac, overreacting, attention seeking and many other awful things. When people asked what was wrong or why I was walking strangely or limping, I had no answer other than "it hurts". Over time, people don't believe that any more. Even my obviously swollen fingers, hands and feet weren't enough "proof" to anyone that I was not well. That I deserved to miss gym class. That I deserved their attention.

After some point, you begin to wonder if maybe it is all in your head. That's when diagnosis helps. Self-doubt is a horrible thing, and when you need all the energy you have just to make it through the day, it's the last thing you need.

Friday, October 06, 2006

This guy wants to run for president...

Sam Brownback, a Republican Senator from Kansas, has his eye on the Presidency according to news reports. He is a conservative Christian right-wing politician who has appeared in churches and been "anoint[ed]... as the Christian right's next candidate for president".

According to the Rolling Stone article:

He is running for president because murder is always on his mind: the abortion of what he considers fetal citizens. He speaks often and admiringly of John Brown, the abolitionist who massacred five pro-slavery settlers just north of the farm where Brownback grew up. Brown wanted to free the slaves; Brownback wants to free fetuses.

I find it odd that "murder is always on his mind", but he admires a murderer and speaks often of the man. In the Christian belief system, murder is a sin. Abortion is killing a baby; therefore it is sin, regardless of the mother's situation (rape, incest, furthering the pregnancy may harm the mother's health, etc). Yet, somehow the man's moral compass allows him to think that John Brown's actions were justified because they had a political purpose. This begs the question: What does he think of abortion clinic bombers?

Aside from his wonky political beliefs, I find his choice of idol very disturbing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One and a half weeks to go...

A week from Friday will be my last day at my current, horrific government job.

While government jobs offer incredible job security, there is no driving force to encourage people to do a good job (or even DO their job) for that matter. Eventually, the fact that my ultimate boss, the President of the United States, stands for things like torture, have taken their toll. Working in the government (civil service) is not for everyone. It is definitely not for someone with a strong political sense, especially if those sensibilities go against much of what the current administration is doing.

When congress gave the President more power to spy on Americans (yes, only under certain situations that should have been covered under FISA), make it okay to torture prisoners, and whatever other evil things are going on that we don't know about, I really lost any and all desire to continue working in that hellhole.

Thankfully, that day will come soon.

The private sector is not perfect, but at least the most evil things most corporations do involve swindling money--not torturing people.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Language Quiz

Just for fun. Though I am surprised that I scored anything on Yankee, seeing as I spent the majority of my life in the South/Southwest. And I'm wondering what answers made me 5% Upper Midwestern. The only time I have ever spent in that region was a short stint consulting in Milwaukee.

Your Linguistic Profile:
50% General American English
30% Dixie
10% Yankee
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Funny headline

Whoever wrote this headline for DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency must have a sense of humor.

ICE arrests 15 aliens in Roswell working for U.S. military contractor

That is all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Flying in a post "OMG the terrorists will use liquids to blow us up" world

Today was my first experience flying since the plot to use liquid/gel explosives was uncovered by the Brits.

Let me first preface this by saying that I do not trust the airline to get any checked baggage from my place of departure to my final destination, especially when said trip involves a change of plane. I also loathe waiting around that baggage carousel with hordes of people waiting for my bag to finally come down the chute. So, whenever possible, I don't check any bags.

Luckily, I was not flying out of one of the more busy airports in my metropolitan area. Still, because of the whole no aerosols rule, I had to go out of my way to produce medical documentation for my inhaler--for severe asthma. They actually questioned me on the necessity of carrying this on the plane! Sorry, I'd like to arrive at my final destination alive and breathing reasonably well.

Now, before I packed my bags, I did the responsible thing and went to the TSA's website as well as other websites that listed the prohibited items and things that other travelers had problems with. For this reason, I procured several necessities for my trip:

  • solid perfume

  • pure shea butter - in solid form (from L'Occitane)

  • a brand new inhaler with box including prescribing information

  • lip balm - which is allowed, according to the TSA web site

My larger carry on item made it through the scanners with no problem. My purse, however, was another issue. And, there's nothing more embarassing than having your purse's entire contents emptied out in front of the world. Does everyone in the security screening area really need to know that I need an inhaler or tampons or any such personal item? They didn't bother pulling the bag aside and me along with it--instead they emptied the entire thing (this is not a small purse either) out on the table area just past the x-ray machine conveyor belt. So, after dumping everything (which I had so neatly packed in there so that I could find what I needed easily), they pull out my solid perfume and solid shea butter and inform me that they are not allowed. Thankfully, the screener didn't get an attitude when I suggested she read the labels of the items she was going to confiscate and informed her that both items were solids of consistency similar to lip balm. Luckily she indulged me and looked and changed her mind. Otherwise, I would have been one unhappy camper considering all of my research indicated those items were acceptable.

All in all, I really don't think these new restrictions are helping security. People are on edge when they're flying--they're scared. We've responded exactly how terrorists want us to.

Reports on the web indicate that flights have been delayed, diverted or other such hassles simply because passengers and/or flight attendants think two people might be of asian or middle eastern descent and who might be speaking in Arabic and glancing at their watches are a threat.

Give me a break. Banning liquids and gels and such is ridiculous--we're giving in to what the terrorists want: for us to live in fear and change the way we live our lives based off of that fear.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Don't Marry a Woman With a Career...

You've got to be kidding me.

Forbes Magazine has an article up now proclaiming that men shouldn't marry career women. It even goes so far as to say that if you do fall for a career woman, you're not very likely to actually get married.. or have kids... or be happy... or have a clean house

Well then, welcome back to the 1950s ladies. We're supposed to be happy, at home, barefooted and pregnant in the kitchen with dinner on the table by the time dear hubby comes home.

Career aspirations do pull on women, and admittedly there are many women in high places who don't have children. But, those aren't necessarily by choice of career over children. I know many women who just don't want kids of their own. Nieces, nephews? sure! But kids of their own? no. Some women don't have that inherent "mommy" gene that so many men seem to think all women posess.

Really, the problem with career women and having children and being happy about that is a symptom of a society that doesn't offer enough assistance to working parents. Mothers and fathers need more flexibility to be able to cope with work and personal life. The U.S. is much better at this than when I was growing up, but we're definitely not doing well by any means.

A few things that would help out in this regard:

  • Flexible schedules and work arrangements - and not just saying they exist, actually making them work and not penalizing those who take advantage of them.

  • Adjust tax law so that the second earner in a marriage doesn't pay the majority of their salary in taxes.

  • Affordable, good childcare. Many middle class women can't afford to work AND have kids in childcare. After taxes, some women who still choose to work end up LOSING money--in effect paying for the chance to work.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Combat Stress != Excuse for Rape

For those who may have missed it, several soldiers in Iraq raped and killed a 14 year old Iraqi girl and her entire family in March of this year. An article 32 hearing (like a civilian grand jury) is ongoing for four of those soldiers. The defense that has been stated for these crimes? "The constant fear of death and the trauma of several devastating incidents"

According to news reports, the "ringleader" of the attacks was discharged from the military at a later date due to a personality disorder. The fact that someone suffering from a mental illness made it into the Army in the first place is something that needs to be investigating. Add to that the fact that hate groups and gang members are making it into the military, and you have a real mess.

Iraq has become a mess. We've overstretched our military to the point that we'll recruit and take anyone just to meet quotas. The direct result of these efforts is the tragic events like the death of this girl and her family. Meanwhile, the armed forces are giving "early out" packages to officers, valuable, highly trained individuals who have proven themselves worthy of being officers.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Porn on the news!

A weekend news broadcast played a porn clip in the background during a segment. I guess someone wanted to a) make the news more interesting b) increase ratings.

Stupid Fundies...

A Sunday School teacher was asked to quit teaching her normal Sunday school class because there were men in the class. She'd been teaching at the same church for 50 some years! Why in the world make her quit now?

Of course, many news outlets are saying she was "fired". I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but every Sunday school class I've ever been in was taught by volunteers, not paid employees - thus being "fired" is not the best way to portray it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I really didn't think this would happen...

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled that the terrorist surveillance program is unconstitutional.

I'm really glad to hear this. However, I don't think it changes much. Similar situations in the past have come up, and those programs just moved to a different government agency.

And of course, W still defends the program that SPYS ON AMERICANS! Yeah, and making me take off my flimsy 1/8" thick flip-flops at the airport is making the skies safer.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

RANT: On being a female "hacker"/network security professional

What is it that makes men, especially "geeky" men, act like complete idiots around a woman who shares their interests? This week I have been attending BlackHat and DefCon conferences in Las Vegas. Both are conferences focused on Network security and hacking.

Over the course of BlackHat, a more organized and professional conference, I was approached on more than one occasion to be asked which company I represented at the vendor plaza (meaning, obviously since you are a reasonably attractive female, you are a booth babe!). Upon hearing that I was not a "booth babe", such men tended to tuck their tails between their legs and walk away. Over the course of the conference, I was gawked at, followed, pointed at, and made to feel like a novelty and second class citizen. How dare a woman come to their conference!

Next on to DefCon. The attendees at this conference were not the problem. I did get some unusual looks, but DefCon attracts an interesting demographic -- said demographic does not include straight-laced preppy blonde women but rather goth/punk/counter-culture types. I expected to look out of place, so this didn't really bother me too much. The comments from the hotel staff, however, really irked me.

"What's a girl like you doing at a hacker event"

"Oooooh, a beautiful hacker. Come here beautiful hacker, I have deals for you"

"Heh, what are women doing here? Isn't this some computer-type stuff?"

All of these incidents combined make me wonder if women really have achieved as much as we would like to hope in the fields of science and technology.

About 4 years ago, I volunteered with Girls, Inc. teaching technology skills to middle school girls and trying to spark interest in technology. The first comment any of the girls said to me was "Well, you're too pretty to be a computer scientist".

All of these attitudes about women and technology, math, engineering, and science have to change. Women bring incredible skills to all of these fields. And contrary to dinosaurs like those I encountered this week, women excel at these fields.

This has really pushed me to join an organization for women in technology, perhaps WITI ( or ACM-W. The only way women are going to make progress in the fields is to increase visibility and band together.

In the meantime, I will start working with the Girl Scouts through GirlsGoTech--a program to encourage girls' participation in math, science, and technology. I had great role models as a girl to encourage my intrest in computers, and I hope that I can help some girls to further their interests and perhaps some day pursue a career in technology.

Office Space Wars

I had forgotten about this classic until it was shown on the big screen at DefCon earlier today. I had a good laugh.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fetus Vs. Pregnant Woman - who wins?

Reading Feministing today alerted me to this.

This is not a pro-choice or pro-life post. This is about the strange phenomenon in which pregnancy in and of itself is becoming state in which a woman must, apparently, be punished for harming a fetus - something that isn't even born yet- arguably, not even a citizen of this country which has a right to protection. So, in light of the recent "breast is best" monstrosity that the government is touting, this all comes down to one giant slippery slope.

At what point does a fetus gain more rights than the Mother carrying it? When states consider making it a crime for a pregnant woman to smoke cigarettes, something is wrong. Next they'll want to make it a crime for mothers not to breastfeed.

Of course, this also raises the question: What impact will criminalizing pregnant women have on their children? If you put a woman in jail or on probation, that will affect her employability in some cases. All because someone wants to criminalize an individual's behavior.

It boggles... it really does.

Let's blow stuff up...

Or, "That Whole North Korea Thing".

Sometimes I just have to laugh at how juvenile world domination seems. I tend to picture Kim Jong Il as the "Team America" charicature, and now he's jumping up and down like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum because his nukes don't work.

On a serious note. China and Japan disagree--go figure. Something has to be done eventually. Otherwise, we'll end up in another Cold War with everyone stockpiling nukes. Personally, I'd prefer that the Earth not be further contaminated by exploding nuclear weapons. But, I guess that's just me.


Post the Pork Online. That's what Investor's Business Daily is hailing.

Not a bad idea. However, I have little faith in the majority of the public would even bother trying to look up where their tax money is going.

Standardized Testing

Why are we Americans so obsessed with testing our nation's children incessantly? This is not a new problem; though it seems to be getting worse since the No Child Left Behind Act. Studies have shown that tests are biased, especially toward those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. So, why do we still test kids every year--or even more than once a year?

Homeland Stupidity has a good write up on testing and some interesting tidbits here.

My favorite bit from the article comes from a New York practice test and shows how tests don't really teach knowledge learned in school (well, maybe gym class -- if they have it, in this case) or deductive reasoning capabilities.

The year 1999 was a big one for the Williams sisters. In February, Serena won her first pro singles championship. In March, the sisters met for the first time in a tournament final. Venus won. And at doubles tennis, the Williams girls could not seem to lose that year.

The story says that in 1999, the sisters could not seem to lose at doubles tennis. This probably means when they played:

A. two matches in one day
B. against each other
C. with two balls at once
D. as partners

Sad... it's really just sad.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Christian video game--kill the infidels....

The Register is reporting on a video game based on Tim LaHayes' "Left Behind" series of Christian books about the end of times. The video game, according to The Register's report, involves the faithful Christians either converting the unbelievers or killing them-violently.

All in all, this just seems very UN-Christian to me. Jesus preached patience, kindness, tolerance, and love. Blowing the unbelievers up doesn't really fit into that, now does it? Then again, the ultra conservative right wing Christians aren't known for their tolerance or such values. Just look at Pat Robertson and his calls for world leaders to be assasinated.

On top of the violence, the game has spyware! Come on people, do something right.

What's the world coming to?

More laptops???

A statement from the FTC was released yesterday. Yet another government laptop was stolen that contains "personally identifiable information". From a car--the laptop was stolen from a car! Of course the statement mentions that it was a locked car, but I really wonder if the genious left the laptop in plain view.

Once again, when are people going to learn to make use of available solutions that keep private information off of the local hard drive. A simple VPN with a file server or some such application would fix this problem.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stephen Colbert is my hero

Quit losing laptops!

This and this--namely laptops with lots of people's personal data (SSN, name, address, etc) being stolen--is getting old.

Who thought is was a good idea for these people to be carrying around laptops with that much private data all the time? Why weren't those programs/files/etc at least protected, at the very minimum, with passwords. Let me rephrase... good passwords. I really hope that the people who had their laptops stolen are punished. I can't think of a good reason that the data would be stored on the laptops. Laptops are often stolen. That's a fact. So, why not use a VPN to connect to your office and keep the personal data there!

Equifax, I'm sure, is going to feel the hurt. At least they're a public company (not the government), so their stock can go down. What do we do when the government loses the data? we can't just not use the government. We can't make it go out of business.

I'm of the opinion that government needs to be run like a business. Don't meet your goals? You lose x percentage of your cut of the tax-payers dollars. I think we could fire 80% of government workers, and we'd never know the difference.

Lawsuit happy - or how did we let this happen?

On ArsTechnica There's a post about a teenager and her mother suing because the girl met the guy who sexually assaulted her through MySpace. Their reasoning for the suit: "[MySpace] fails to protect minors from adult sexual predators".

Another thing to add, the guy that is accused of sexually assaulting her is 19. So he's a teenager too. I realize he's not a minor, but is it possible that this girl was also presenting herself as older than she really is?

Now, maybe I'm a little slow on this one, but it seems to me that the parents need to keep an eye on what their kids are doing online - that's their job, not's job. Ultimately, the girl made a bad decision. Everyone makes bad decisions--some are worse than others, but it's not MySpace's fault that she made that decision to meet the guy in real life.

It's unfortunate that she was assaulted, but I really don't think MySpace should be held liable for her decision.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

hopping on the bandwagon

I've finally decided to hop on the blogging bandwagon. I don't expect to keep it up too much, but this should give me some small creative outlet.

Expect tech news, women's news, and random thoughts. Yippee for randomness.