Monday, February 26, 2007


Airports, flights, family. I am tired--no, exhausted. Hobbling around the airport while toting a rolling suitcase proves much more tiresome than toting the suitcase alone.

Oh yeah, for once, TSA didn't try to confiscate my inhaler (in either city!). They did make me send my cane through the x-ray machine, but the TSA officer let me use her arm for support, so it wasn't too bad. The TSA officer was very nice and pleasant (that never happens!) and before having me send my cane through, she very respectfully asked if I could walk without the assistance of my cane.

I'm still not sure if they should have made me send the cane through and hobble through without it (ie. what the official rules are), but it wasn't worth the fight since I was already so tired. I suppose the alternative is to send the cane through, have them pass it back to me, then wand me. I should call TSA tomorrow to see what the "official" procedure is.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The good and the bad.

The Good:
The majority of my joints are doing better. This took some assessment since when one joint really hurts, it's easy to think that the new meds aren't working at all.

The Bad:
My right hip is still hurting, a lot. It feels like someone bludgeoned the joint and chipped off parts of the bone and is now sticking knives into it. I can handle pain, but the grinding sensation combined with the frequent popping is getting unbearable. I don't know if this is arthritis related or something else.

I went to the gym for the first time in about 1.5 months yesterday (my rheumatologist has been getting onto me for not going, especially since my weight loss stalled at 135 lbs). I felt pretty good just doing the elliptical trainer at a low intensity and speed. As soon as I got off the thing though, the pain came back much worse than it has been. ::kicks self::

Now, to find some form of cardio exercise that doesn't involve hips.
Ruled out: bike, elliptical, arc trainer, treadmill, stair climber.

I keep trying to find a personal trainer with experience working with PWDs, but I'm not having any luck. So, if anyone knows of resources, please let me know.

Frances Allen Receives Turing Award

The L.A. Times reports that the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has awarded the Turing Award to Frances Allen, the first women to be given the honor in the 40 year history of the award. (h/t Broadsheet).

The Assn. for Computing Machinery has granted the A.M. Turing Award for technical merit to no more than a few people each year since 1966. Winners include Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, who helped create the underpinnings of the Internet; Marvin Minsky, an artificial intelligence guru; and Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the modern computer mouse.

As one Broadsheet reader pointed out, it seems strange that Grace Murray Hopper did not receive this award (especially since she received just about every other award under the sun, including "Man of the Year" from the Data Processing Management Association in 1969).

I posted my thoughts in the Letters section on Broadsheet, but I want to expand here. The other letters in response to the Broadsheet piece are an interesting look into women in the field.

Presenting the award to a woman is a great start for the ACM, but it's just that, a start. The general professional organizations for the computer industry have attempted to attract and retain women in computing, but their efforts have often been too little too late. Other organizations like Women in Technology International (WITI) and Association for Women in Computing for women in the field have sprung up, but their worth varies depending on location. But, these women-specific organizations seem to be worth much more than anything ACM or IEEE have done.

On top of that, the number of women pursuing computer science degrees at the undergraduate level has actually declined. At higher levels (MS, PhD), the numbers are far more dismal.

One anonymous commentor on Broadsheet contends that no women are core developers in large software projects. I don't believe this is true. For a fact, I know some in the defense industry doing precisely that, but, they will never be recognized (at least not any time soon) because their work is classified or considered sensitive. Also consider the fact that many work environments for large scale software aren't pleasant. As a woman, you have to prove yourself technically competent before you can even begin to do anything important. Having to constantly prove yourself is a hassle and it's not fair when a new man comes into the office and is automatically taken more seiously and does not have a huge uphill battle to prove his competence.

And a personal anecdote to underscore the experiences of women in computing, for good measure.

About 5 years ago, during college, I was participating in the ACM's collegiate programming competition (yes, I'm a geek). This is a team competition, and it's a good thing to have on your resume/CV for grad school and careers. The unusual thing that year was that my team consisted entirely of women (myself, a CS major; L, a CS and Physics major; and M, a CS and Math major). We did well, placing in the top 10 in our division; however, our experience was less than pleasant. When walking around the competition, we were stared at, leered at. We were ingored, shunned (not terribly surprising since most of the folks at these competitions have limited social skills, particularly around the opposite sex). We were made fun of: "How are those girls going to handle this. What a joke." And best of all, when we went up to receive our award, we were catcalled and groped. When we got to the stage, the woman presenting the award regarded us as freaks and commented, "Well, I can't believe you girls placed." The following year, with a team of 2 women and one man, we won first place in our division. Of course, many present commented the man was the one who did all the work because those two girls couldn't possibly be good. At least I had a supportive woman professor as my team sponsor and mentor. She'd been there, done that, and had good advice and support for the female undergrads.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

'Sport Killings' of Homeless

While I'm sure that this CNN article is more hype than is necessary, the fact that some tennagers are killing the homeless is awful.

This account of such a crime is disturbing:

It was a mistake, he said, a sudden primal surge that made him and his friends Luis Oyola, 16, and 17-year-old Andrew Ihrcke begin punching and kicking Baum.

"Luis says 'I'm gonna go hit him,' We're all laughing, thought he was joking around,'" but he wasn't, Moore concedes. "We just all started hitting him."

They hurled anything they could find -- rocks, bricks, even Baum's barbecue grill -- and pounded the 49-year-old with a pipe and with the baseball bat he kept at his campsite for protection.

Ihrcke smeared his own feces on Baum's face before cutting him with a knife "to see if he was alive," Moore said.

After destroying Baum's camp, the boys left the homeless man -- head wedged in his own grill -- under a piece of plastic where they hoped the "animals would eat" him.

Then, Moore says, they took off to grab a bite at McDonald's.

This is not just a humanity issue--these kids should have known better than to beat and kill the homeless, if nothing else for the sheer fact that the homeless are people. The issue becomes a disability issue when it is considered that "disability precipitates and prolongs homelessness" (source).

There is increasing awareness of the role of medical impairment and disability in precipitating and prolonging homelessness. The fact that people with disabilities constitute the “chronically homeless” population in America is extremely troubling. Any national strategy to end and prevent homelessness must include adequate financial supports to enable persons with disabilities which limit their capacity to earn sufficient income through employment to secure housing and meet other basic needs, including health care.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tragedy of Wounded Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

The Washington Post has two heart-wrenching articles about soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The first, about Walter Reed Army Medical Center, showcases the inability of the Army to take care of its own in their time of need. Soldiers are kept in limbo for months, even years, after they have been out of inpatient treatment. Lost paperwork, computer systems that don't interact with each other.

The second is about the lucky few who get to stay at a nice hotel on post, Mologne House. But still, the soldiers struggle to find their way--to get their disability support from the Army, to cope with the aftermath of ware, to get discharged or given an assignment.

Even among the gazebos and tranquility of the Walter Reed campus in upper Northwest Washington, manhole covers are sidestepped for fear of bombs and rooftops are scanned for snipers.

The same fight is being waged by their friends, who aren't the young warriors in Army posters but middle-age men who left factory jobs to deploy to Iraq with their Guard units. They were fit enough for war, but now they are facing teams of Army doctors scrutinizing their injuries for signs of preexisting conditions, lessening their chance for disability benefits.

Soldiers are being denied disability as doctors claim that their conditions were pre-existing.

And the government wants to put more soldiers out in Iraq. We can't even take care of the ones that are coming home now, how are we going to take care of the rest that will surely come?

"He was okay to sacrifice his body, but now that it's time he needs some help, they are not here,"

I want to cry. I wanted to shred my print copy of the Post, to make the problem disappear. I have friends in the Army and the other armed forces. I want better for them. I pray that they are safe and that they return home with as few bad effects as possible. I pray for every soldier and his/her family. I am thankful every day that my husband was medically discharged from ROTC before he was commissioned. I do not know how the military wives handle it; it is hard enough being a friend. Worst of all, I do not know how to help, how to bring forth change. The beaurocracy of the government and the military and the DoD is immense. Change is slow, and literally, takes an act of Congress at times.

I am depressed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sign Language on Your Cellphone

Researchers at the University of WAshington and Cornell University are developing software to transmit video of sign language using cell phones (h/t MedGadget).

Low bandwidth of mobile networks is likely to be a problem for the foreseeable future, but as new technological advances in mobile telephony come along, this could be pretty cool for the Deaf community.

THe University is looking for folks fluent in ASL to participate in user studies. Sign up here to participate.

Default Passwords Are Bad

If you've never changed your home wireless access point or router's password, you need to do it now. Symantec reports that a new attack will really mess up your home network and make you susceptible to an attack.

This attack is very simple, and you won't realize that it has happened. The attack can be launched against your network just from a user on the network accessing a specially crafted web site.

Synopsis from Symantec:

Imagine that whenever you wanted to go to your bank, you picked up your phone directory, looked up the bank’s address, and then went there. Our attack shows a simple way that attackers can replace the phone books in your house with one that they created. Now, when you pick up that rogue phone book to get your bank’s address, it’ll actually give you the wrong address. At this wrong address, the attackers will have set up a fake bank that looks just like your bank. When you do business with this fake bank, you’ll give up all your sensitive bank account information. However, you’ll never realize that you were at a fake bank since you trusted the address that you got from what you thought was your legitimate telephone book.

The way to protect your home network?
Change the password on your home router or wireless access point so that it is not the default (the one that was already on it when you bought the thing). Also, use a good password, not something like "password".

I call it a "Crackberry" for a reason

A recent survey says that Blackberry owners are chained to work (h/t: ArsTechnica).

19 percent of BlackBerry-owning survey respondents reportedly worked more than 50 hours a week, compared to only 11 percent of the general population.

Yeah, Blackberries and other such devices really can make you feel like you must do work. On the other hand, they are quite helpful when you do not always work from your office (like me). Though, people like my husband are always on the silly things--during dinner, in the evening, while driving (drives me batty).

Alabama Sex Toy Ban

I was going to refrain from this topic, but it's been everywhere (here, here, here).

Personally, I think that what goes on behind closed door between consenting adults is none of the government's business. Apparently, the 11th Circuit court does not share my opinion. The reasoning behind this law being upheld when laws against particular sexual behaviors have been smacked down is that this law is "forbidding public, commercial activity" whereas the other decision granted "the right to engage in sexually protected acts within a zone of privacy".

Anyway, many of the sites I've seen seem to think that because there actually is a ban that you cannot purchase such items in Alabama. That's simply not true. The law isn't really enforced, at least in the Birmingham area. There seems to be a loophole in the law hat allows for "novelty items". So, when you go to an "adult store" (and there are several in the Birmingham area), all the outlawed items are labelled "For Novelty Use Only".

From reading the WAFF article, it seems the state agreed not to enforce the law until the court cases were closed (WAFF is a TV station in Northern Alabama). I don't see the law being enforced any time soon. The plaintiffs, mostly adult store owners, aren't going to back down.

Cagers will get jail time

An Ohio couple who caged their adopted children with disabilities has been sentenced to two years in prison.

It's so sad that anyone, no matter what the circumstances, would put another human being in a cage. These poor kids were treated like animals. Some of the children testified against the couple. Their testimony is heartbreaking. One boy spoke of having to steal food, being unable to use the bathroom when he wanted and having to sleep in a box.

The couple will appeal the ruling, but I think their punishment is lenient. The couple could have been sentenced for up to 5 years, but they were only given 2. One of the children testified that the couple "are grown adults who know the difference between right and wrong. So I ask that they get as much time in jail for as long as my siblings had to be in cages."

I just hope that no one allows these people to foster or adopt any more children.


The British Medical Journal published an article titled "Sword swallowing and its side effects". And, guess what the researchers found? Swallowing swords is dangerous! Well, duh. (h/t: BoingBoing)


For example, one swallower lacerated his pharynx when trying to swallow a curved sabre, a second lacerated his oesophagus and developed pleurisy after being distracted by a misbehaving macaw on his shoulder, and a belly dancer suffered a major haemorrhage when a bystander pushed dollar bills into her belt causing three blades in her oesophagus to scissor.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fashion and Eating Disorders in the News

More news on the fashion industry and eating disorders...

Miss England speaks out against super skinny models.

Zero tolerance for the "Cult of Skinny Models"

Even Forbes magazine is weighing in on the issue.

Updates (Feb 16):

Milan fashion week wouldn't include a plus-size show.

Another model dies, this time, Eliana Ramos, sister to Luisel who died last August. No word on the cause of the heart attack that took her life. Edit one blog suggest malnutrition was the cause, but I suspect that is just speculation (though it wouldn't surprise me if that's the case).

Posh Says "No" to Size 0 Models

I'm usually not a big fan of Posh Spice, a.k.a. Victoria Beckham, but I ran across an article today that made her show up on my radar. For her new clothing line, Beckham has decided not to use size 0 models.

From the article:

She's also one of the first of many fashion designers to ban Size 0 models from promoting her new fashion label, despite that she is often criticized in the tabloids for being unhealthily skinny herself. Her decision comes after two fashion models died from complications with Anorexia last year.

Here's hoping this is the start of a trend towards accepting different body types.

Gimpin' Around

So, the Remicade effects have faded. I'm now in pretty bad shape (slipping and falling on the ice outside twice over the past 2 days has not helped): hips are stiff and painful, fingers curled up into a claw, feet are sore. So, I made the decision today to use the cane for walking, not just the stairs. I'm very glad I did.

My day started out miserably. It took me 20 minutes to get the ice off of my car enough so that I could put the windshield wipers back down. Then another 30 minutes to pull out of my parking space (I got stuck on several inches of ice and fell trying to walk around the car to see where I was stuck). Then another 15 trying to get up a slight incline that wasn't salted well. Then I got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on my way into the office for over an hour (driving my Acura Integra GSR, a manual transmission, instead of the Jeep Wrangler that my husband drove today). Sitting and changing gears for an hour took its toll on my hips. At least I finally got in to the office!

Of course, in the office, several people were asking what happened. Others just gave me a weird look. My boss' boss asked if I was ok. I had told him before that I have arthritis (when he was asking why I was limping). Later in the day, he pulled me aside (when his boss was there too) and asked "Do you really have arthritis, or is that just a convenient way to explain?" I took that opportunity to explain psoriatic arthritis and how it sometimes affects me in a visible way. I just hope that the quick education helps him to understand. When I explained that it is an autoimmune disease and that it affects may of my joints, he said, "Oh, like RA. My cousin has that--that's rough".

So, all in all, it's not too bad. My boss and the co-workers that know about my arthritis had the best responses: no response at all.

The best (as in funny) comment:
Older gentleman I work with: "I bet I could beat you in a race!"
Me: "I'm not so sure!"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Good Neighbors

My next door neighbor, whose house is on the market (so sad--they're good neighbors, very important when you share a wall with them), shoveled part of my sidewalk for me.

We had chit-chatted earlier while she was working on her sidewalks and I was taking the dogs out for a walk. Of course, my use of the cane came up since I just recently got it and I don't always use it when I'm walking to/from the house. I was sitting in my home office working away on a proposal when I heard shoveling noises very near. I looked out and my neighbor was shoveling shoveling part of my sidewalk so that I can make it safely to the car from the house. She also shoveled our other neighbor's walkway for her (that neighbor is an older widow in poor health).

I will have to bake some cookies or something. It was quite sweet of her, and I truly appreciate her thoughtfulness.


The weather has been pretty gross around here lately, and last night we got a lovely winter mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain. My street hasn't been cleared or treated. And of course, the weather has made my joints decide to revolt (let me tell you, using a cane when your fingers don't want to grip makes for an interesting experience). The cold/infection/etc that I thought I was over is back, and because of the weather, my rheumatologist's office is closed.

Fortunately, my company allows employees to work from home, especially when there is inclement weather. It works out nicely when I a) don't want to drive and b) don't feel like trying to walk on icy sidewalks. I'm a consultant anyway, so it's not like my work depends on my physical presence. So, my co-workers and I, for the most part, are all working from our homes and interacting via email and instant messages. I really don't see why more companies don't embrace telecommuting.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I need one of these

The Clocky alarm clock (h/t PopGadget is an innovative take on the alarm clock. It seems specifically designed for people who, like me, are addicted to the snooze button.

The alarm goes off. You can snooze once. After one snooze, Clocky jumps off the nightstand and runs away from you. It even tries to hide.

I imagine that this, combined with what would surely be my dog's loud reaction, would get me out of bed in the morning.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dinner party if humans acted like dogs

For all the dog lovers out there.

I came across a cute article in Bark Magazine online. The article talks about what a dinner party would be like if humans acted like dogs.

A few excerpts:

Another guest arrives at the door and rings the bell. Everyone runs over to the door, evidently excited beyond belief, and stands or jumps around, jostling each other while staring at the door and yelling, “WHO’S THERE?!?! WHO’S THERE!?!?!”
The guest on the other side of the door yells back, “WHO’S THERE?!?!? WHO’S THERE!?!?”
Somehow, the new arrival enters and the party resumes as before.

Everyone races over to the table and there’s a big to-do while the seating arrangement is worked out.
Then all the guests eat as fast as they possibly can. Every so often, one guest simply grabs something off the plate of the person next to him/her. Sometimes that person grabs it back.
When everyone’s finished, they jump up and change places to inspect each other’s plates.

It made me laugh. And lord knows we can all use a laugh on Mondays.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Remicade #2

I had my second dose of Remicade yesterday afternoon. I'm still sick, but since I seem to be getting better, the Dr. went ahead and let me take it. This time, the fatigue wasn't so bad. I was tired, but nothing like with the first infusion.

Unfortunately, this experience with the needle wasn't as good as last time. The nurse got it on the first stick, but it kept hurting for the entire 2.5 hours it was in. Nothing major, just sore. She had to readjust the butterfly so it wasn't digging into my skin, and because of the adjustment and moving of the needle, I now have a nice bruise forming on my arm. I think next time I'll have her go into my wrist or hand again--it hurt much less, and there was no bruising (though that spot still hasn't healed after 3 weeks).

I still can't tell if the Remicade is working. My hips are really bothering me (I'll blame this on the doctor's exam yesterday where he made me put my foot up on the opposite knee--I haven't felt the same since I attempted to do that). Now it hurts when I sit, stand, walk, move. My feet are doing better, and the swelling in my hands is down. I'd forgotten how bony my hands are! The psoriasis on my elbows and knees is almost gone, and the spots on my fingers look significantly better. Now, if the hip pain would get better, I'd be able to say for sure that it's working.

As of right now, I'd say there is improvement, but not enough to phone home about just yet.

Update (Feb 12): Looks like (knock on wood), I may be feeling some of the effects of the Remicade. Swelling is still down. Hip pain is less--I can walk up and down the stairs without my cane most of the time. Feet fit into my dress shoes. Things are looking up.

Now, if I could get rid of the nasty bruise on my arm from the infusion... I'm tired of people asking me what I did to myself and giving me accusing looks (the bruise really looks like I was shooting up).

Update #2 (Feb 14): It seems the Remicade's usefulness lasts about 4 days. I felt like I had been run over by a mack truck this morning, and the cane is back out. Still, 4 days of relief is more than I've had in a few years.

Oh boy...

From an article on CNN:

Serial numbers and markings on explosives used in Iraq provide "pretty good" evidence that Iran is providing either weapons or technology for militants there, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asserted Friday.


"I think there's some serial numbers, there may be some markings on some of the projectile fragments that we found," that point to Iran.

"Pretty good". Yeah, that's the intelligence I want to depend on. Here's hoping the administration is smarter this time around. Especially with the current reports that the Pentagon manipulated pre-war intelligence.

But it's times like these that I picture George W. Bush sitting at his desk in the oval office going "I wanna push the button!", presumably to destroy yet another country.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Hoohaa Monologues.. That can't be right.

I saw this at work earlier today, but I forgot about it until now!

A theater marquee in Florida was changed to read "The Hoohaa Monologues" after someone complained that the play's real title "The Vagina Monologues" was offensive. Really, how is the scientific name for a part of the female body offensive?

And hoohaa is better? A theater rep said that they "decided we would just use child slang for it. That's how we decided on Hoohah Monologues." Hmm.. so resorting to childish slang is better than keeping the title of a well known play on the marquee? The director of the play says she will try to get the theater to change the marquee back to the real name.

Co-workers and Invisible Disabilities

Having an invisible (at least most of the time it's invisible) disability can throw an interesting kink into a person's career. This is not to say that those of us with invisible disabilities have it worse than those with visible ones, just that it adds a different dimension to the dynamics of the workplace.

I work as a consultant, so I have to deal with people on a daily basis. This is particularly unfortunate when I'm having a bad flare and am in a lot of pain. When I'm hurting, I tend to snap at people or be less forgiving of their idiosyncrasies. But, how do you explain that to someone who has no idea that you have a chronic illness or disability? It's no excuse, but I've found that the few co-workers who do know that I have psoriatic arthritis are much more understanding when I'm grumpy. At the same time, I don't want to broadcast my health issues to the entire office. At the most I've provided the information that I have a "medical condition". It's really none of their business anyway, and I don't want to have to educate every person in the office about psoriatic arthritis and how it's not the same as the arthritis in their [insert joint here].

Now, when I'm in a flare, like now, I walk like a zombie. My joints are stiff and swollen, and every movement brings pain. When this happens, the gossip starts and the snide comments.

"Oh, what did she do to herself this time?" (because I really want to be in pain, yeah right).

"She's just attention seeking."

"She's said she has a medical condition, what is it? She must want me to ask what it is! I will bug her relentlessly."

"Hey grandma, get moving"

"Well, I've got arthritis in [insert joint here], and I don't walk like that, so she must be faking."

"What do you mean you can't walk a mile to the other office building? Well, I'm [X] times older than you, and I can do it."

"What a hypochondriac--she's always going to the doctor!"

The list goes on.

Of course, this is all compounded by the fact that I'm in my 20s. So, of course I have to be perfectly able to walk and move. ugh.

Then there are the countless doctor's appointments. My weakened immune system means that I get every single bug that goes around, missing work.

I'm very fortunate that my boss has been very understanding. He's totally fine with me working from home when I am sick. He's letting me miss work for my infusions (and not asking what they're for--just letting me tell him what I want to share) and make up the lost time other days of the week.

Now, if only the other folks at work would be a bit more understanding.

So, if these descriptions sound like something you or your co-workers have ever said about someone, think about it. Maybe that person is dealing with a chronic illness or invisible disability. None of us have a right to judge. And, as long as that person is getting their work done, what does it matter to you?

The key to getting along at work, regardless of abilities, is compassion and tolerance. Just because you are able to do something does not mean that everyone else is able.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mental Age - More on Ashley

As the fervor of the blogosphere dies down in regard to Ashley and the "Ashley Treatment", I ran across an interesting article on Wired News today about determining age. It's a good read, and it touches on one argument brought up by the disability community: no one really knows what Ashley's mental function is.

No one is arguing that an intellectual mind is hidden inside the now-famous girl known only as "Ashley." But determining mental age is not a precise science. While assigning a mental age may give Ashley's parents some comfort, determining that number is based largely on guesswork.

It's nice to see a somewhat balanced article in the mainstream media for a change.

Head of Modeling Agency Wishes More Models Had Anorexia

Janice Dickinson, of the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency and the show on the Oxygen network, is speaking out against the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) proposed regulations for models.

From a New York Post article:

The welfare of models should not be a concern of designers, Dickinson declares. "It's up to the models, the parents and the agents," says Dickinson, who is herself in the position of hiring models for her L.A. agency. "I'm dying to find kids who are too thin. I've got 42 models in my agency and I'm trying to get them to lose weight. In fact, I wish they'd come down with some anorexia." When you laugh at such politically incorrect statements, Dickinson yells back, "I'm not kidding. I'm running into a bunch of fat-assed, lazy little bitches who don't know how to do the stairs or get their butts into the gym."

This statement exemplifies the views of the fashion industry:
Models are supposed to be thin. They're not supposed to eat. In fact, I'm not going to eat for the rest of the day because we had this conversation."

Yes, the models, parents and agents need to look out for the models, but this attitude that she wishes some of the girls would become anorexic is disgusting. Change is needed in this industry. Bring back the Cindy Crawfords and Tyra Banks types. They were still thin, but at least they looked like women, not little boys. Fashion is about making people look good, not just making beautiful clothes.

The CFDA's proposed regulations are tame compared to the rules being put in place by Spain. In fact, the CFDA proposal focuses mainly on educating models about eating disorders and healthy eating. How on earth can that be a bad thing? Clearly, as long as people like Janice Dickinson are running modeling agencies, these issues will continue.

Maryland Snow

It snowed last night here in lovely Maryland. In my neck of the woods, we got maybe 2 inches, and that's being generous. Of course, my homeowner's association (HOA) didn't plow/salt my road (this is becoming a trend), but otherwise, the roads aren't bad.

So, to recap, 2 inches, probably less, of snow, and the roads are, for the most part clear. But still, a large number of the schools (160 according to one local news channel) here are closed. Pretty much all the school districts between D.C. and Baltimore are closed. I'm sure that if I still worked at my former job, I'd have today off too. Such is life.

If this were Texas or Southern California, I could understand, but this is not unusual for this area. Oh well, I will just use this as an excuse to work from home for a few hours and avoid the scary people on the roads.

Monday, February 05, 2007


If a Z-pack won't cure the infection; it's bad. I'm still not getting better (if anything I'm worse), so I'll be staying off-line for a few days.

It's times like these that I hate immunosuppressants.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Return of Perky Nurse

For some reason, every time I go to the rheumatologist, I see Perky Nurse (who can't hit my veins to save her life). Now, she's sweet, and aside from the inability to hit my veins, seems fairly competent. But she really irked me this morning when she took my blood pressure.

Her: "100 over 68. How does that compare to your usual bp?"
Me: "A little high."
Her: "You mean low."
Me: "No, I mean high, as in it's usually 78-80 over 58-60."
Her: "Um.. yeah, whatever."
Me: evil glare

Now really, if you think I'm lying, look at my chart. My bp is usually in the range I stated, and the notes of my dysautonomia and fainting spells are in there. Seriously, my bp isn't that low. I'm sure that if she took my bp after that exchange it would have been "normal".

What ever happened to bedside manner?

Air Travel Gadget

Anyone who has traveled on an airplane recently knows how much of a pain it is. Security is horrific, and once you get past that and actually board the plane, you are greeted with a tiny seat. The only thing that's worse is the person in front of you reclining their seat and smashing into your knees.

With arthritis, I get stiff after sitting for long periods and not being able to move. I always get very annoyed when that seat comes and smashes into my already sore knees and makes it impossible to move and stretch out my legs. The Knee Defender from GadgetDuck aims to help.

Knee Defender™ helps you stop reclining seats on airplanes so your knees won't have to.

I've got to get these for the next time I fly!

What a day.

Well, thanks to my lovely co-workers passing this bug to me, I cannot take my second dose of Remicade today. I trekked into the doctor's office this morning, and as soon as I heard my talk (I'm quite hoarse) decided that I needed a Z-pack and some rest. I had to reschedule my infusion for next week. So, I'm now officially off schedule. And I'm missing even more work than originally planned.

Oh well, it could be worse.

On the plus side, I think my rheumatologist finally understood how much pain my hips have been causing. I've been telling him for a few months that my hips are really hurting and affecting my mobility, but he's pretty much dismissed it since my feet looked horrible and they're my usual complaint. When he started moving my right hip around during his exam, it let out this loud, nasty, grinding pop and I whimpered, well, yelped really. He started asking questions about the hip pain and poking and prodding the outer side of the hip (I presume to rule out fibromyalgia). So, maybe now he'll take my hip complaints seriously.

Why is it that doctors don't really listen? I hate having to "prove" my problems. It's bad enough that all of my labs look "normal" except for a high ANA. Proving that my hip does indeed grind and hurt shouldn't be such an ordeal.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Too many workplace germs, and now I'm sick

I hate working in a cube farm for one reason: I always get sick. Even before I began taking immunosuppressants, I was always getting anything and everything that went around at school and at work. Those co-workers who come into work no matter what's wrong--flu, cold, stomach bug, you name it, they drive me crazy because, once again, I am sick with whatever it was that someone else had last week. Of course, no one there understands that I have no immune system. I've tried to get them to be courteous by doing basic things: cover their mouths when they cough, use a tissue instead of their hand when they sneeze, use hand sanitizer, and stay at least a few feet away from me when they're sick.

But no. That means I'm rude.

No, rude would be carrying Lysol around with me at all times and spraying any offensive behavior. What I'm doing is self-preservation. The common cold puts me out of commission for a few weeks. I can't miss that much work. Thankfully, I can work from home, but it is no fun being sick and working, even from my comfy bed.

Microsoft Vista Voice Recognition Exploit

One of the great features of the new Microsoft Vista operating system is its new voice recognition and control software. It's supposed to be really good, as in good enough to replace Dragon Naturally Speaking or other similar products. The most unique factor is that it does not require "training"--meaning, the software doesn't have to be taught what your voice sounds like. This is great because, well, reading 20 pages of text to some software to teach it what you sound like is a real bore. Not to mention, most of these products only print the text you need to read on the screen, making it more difficult for those with visual impairments to train the software.

Unfortunately, not having to train the software has a downside: the computer will recognize any voice and respond to its commands. So, if you happen to go to a website that has a sound clip that issues voice commands to the computer, your computer will follow the commands.

A few things have to be in place for this to work. First, you have to have Vista's speech recognition software enabled and configured. Second, you have to have speakers and a microphone connected to your computer. This is a far-fetched scenario, but one that users should be aware of, especially people with visual impairments who may be more likely to switch to Vista because of this new speech recognition software.

Edit: In my pondering of solutions for this, I realize that this is a difficult problem.

My first instinct was to create a "voiceprint" and associate that with authorized users on the computer, then require that the voiceprint match the command giver's voice for any system commands (delete, file navigation, file transfer, etc.). But, that's easier said than done. First, creating a voiceprint is a difficult task since voices change. Then, the overhead of constantly comparing the speaker's voice to the voiceprint for commands is significant. Implementation would be time and resource intensive, and, once implemented, hardware minimum requirements would likely be higher.

The other option would be to develop a method to distinguish what sounds are being played through the computer's speakers. But again, it's easier said than done and would require a HUGE amount of work and code (not to mention, I don't think there's any current research into this sort of technology).

I don't really see Microsoft fixing this any time soon.