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October 6, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: When you're down, pump up the volume


It seems obvious enough that your brain can only deal with one intense sensation or input at a time.

When you fall and hurt yourself, you find that you're no longer hungry.

When you're fatigued and trying not to fall asleep, the last thing you care about is whether or not your car is dirty.

So it would seem to me that when you're feeling very depressed — not down or having a bad day but heading for the abyss — anything that might force your mind out of its one-track, endlessly repeating ruminations on your own misery can't hurt and might very well help.

But when you're down, you have no interest in doing anything: watching TV, reading, working out, anything requiring attention or concentration seems impossible.

So why not try something requiring no active input on your part?

I say put on the headphones and blast music — any music — loud enough to prevent you from thinking or doing anything else.

Just derailing the endless train of internally-centered thoughts for a while has to be helpful.

The more often and the longer you can stand it, the better.

I say it's a no-lose proposition.

October 6, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

5-Outlet Corner Power Block


Nicely done.

From the website:

    Five Outlet Corner Power Block

    Slides into compact corner space and provides a place to plug in up to five entertainment center wires or computer and peripheries.

    Built-in surge protector prevents computers and more from getting damaged if electricity spikes or goes out.

    Fits nicely on corner of desk, too.

    6-3/4 x 6-1/4 x 2-1/4".


October 6, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ralph Alpher — The man who saw through time


Alpher (above) was a physicist whose doctoral dissertation provided the basis for his two 1948 papers correctly predicting, respectively, the varying abundances of elements following a "Big Bang" origin for our universe and the resulting radio wave "echo" that should still be present.

In 1978 radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Laboratories shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work characterizing the accidentally detected hiss of background radiation picked up by their radio receiver in 1964.

At first, Penzias and Wilson thought the noise was the result of bird droppings on their radio telescope.

Only after they combined their findings with the work of a separate team at Princeton University which had proposed that there might be radio waves left over from the Big Bang — just as Alpher had proposed in 1948 — did Penzias and Wilson publish their paper, which mesmerized the scientific world.

Dr. Alpher's 1948 work was not cited.

Nevertheless, as time passed and Alpher's visionary papers became widely known, he came to be called by some "the forgotten father of the Big Bang."

Here is Patricia Sullivan's August 14, 2007 Washington Post obituary of Alpher, who died on August 12, 2007 at 86.

    Ralph A. Alpher; Physicist Published Theory of Big Bang


    Ralph Asher Alpher, 86, a physicist whose doctoral dissertation provided a feasible formula for the scientific idea of the big bang but whose work was forgotten until after other scientists won the Nobel Prize for the same idea, died of respiratory failure Aug. 12 at an acute care facility in Austin.

    Dr. Alpher was awarded the 2005 National Medal of Science last month for his 1948 prediction that, if the universe started with a big bang, as others had hypothesized, it would explain the varying abundances of elements in the universe. Months later, he and two colleagues figured out that a big bang would have released an "echo" that should still be present in today's universe as radio waves.

    "It had vast implications, but unfortunately it got very little attention," said Vera C. Rubin of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution. "It's a very complicated story. He and Bob Herman did something very early and very brilliant. There's really no other word for it. They were kind of forgotten."

    When Dr. Alpher published his dissertation, the scientific establishment hadn't fully accepted the big-bang hypothesis. When he published further theories that advanced his ideas, astronomers were unwilling to search for an echo of an event that they were not convinced had happened.

    Then, in 1964, radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Telephone Laboratories accidentally detected a constant hiss when they pointed their radio receiver into space. About the same time, a separate Princeton University team proposed that there might be radio waves left over from the big bang, just as Dr. Alpher had proposed. Penzias and Wilson put the two ideas together, and their paper mesmerized the scientific world.

    But Dr. Alpher's work was nowhere cited.

    "Was I hurt? Yes! How the hell did they think I'd feel?" he told Joseph D'Agnese in a July 1999 article in Discover magazine. "I was miffed at the time that they'd never even invited us down to see the damned radio telescope. It was silly to be annoyed, but I was."

    For the next decade, Dr. Alpher and colleague Robert Herman wrote letters attempting to correct the record, with spotty success. But in 1978, Penzias and Wilson shared the Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation.

    Penzias credited Dr. Alpher and his colleagues in his Nobel laureate speech, but the stress of fighting for credit contributed to a heart attack Dr. Alpher suffered a month later.

    A native Washingtonian, Dr. Alpher graduated from Roosevelt High School as a 16-year-old prodigy. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered him a full scholarship. But after he disclosed that he was Jewish, the scholarship was withdrawn without explanation.

    He enrolled in night classes at George Washington University and worked by day at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory and later at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on torpedo exploder devices and guided missiles. He graduated from GWU in 1943 and received a master's degree in physics there two years later and his doctorate in physics in 1948.

    His thesis adviser, a brilliant and quirky Soviet defector named George Gamow, suggested that Dr. Alpher look at the beginning of time. The big bang, which had been proposed about 25 years earlier, was controversial and not widely accepted. But if a single atom had exploded and thrown out the matter that formed the universe, some physical evidence might remain, the scientists figured, and they should be able to calculate it.

    His doctoral thesis said this: After the explosion, what remained would be radiation and other matter, which Dr. Alpher dubbed ylem. This cloud of neutrons decayed and formed protons, electrons and neutrinos. As the universe cooled, the remaining neutrons, protons and electrons combined to form all the chemical elements of which the physical world is composed. His calculations found 10 atoms of hydrogen for every one atom of helium, exactly the ratio observed by astronomers looking at the stars.

    The idea was profound and exciting. But his thesis adviser had another twist to offer; he wanted to add renowned physicist Hans Bethe's name to the list of authors as a scientific pun: Alpher, Bethe and Gamow would be the alpha, beta and gamma of science. Bethe, who had nothing to do with the research, gamely agreed.

    Word spread that the young Silver Spring resident had made a major scientific breakthrough. His thesis defense drew 300 spectators to GWU's auditorium, including prominent scientists and the press. Asked how long the whole process of primordial nucleosynthesis had taken, Dr. Alpher said about 300 seconds.

    The next day, a six-paragraph article in The Washington Post was headlined: "World Began in 5 Minutes, New Theory." A Herblock cartoon showed an evil-looking atom bomb reading the headline, scratching its chin and pondering, "Five Minutes, Eh?"

    Within months, Dr. Alpher next published, with Herman, a paper that said radiation from the big bang should still be in the universe, cooled to a temperature of 5 degrees Kelvin (about 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit). But astronomers, skeptical of the big-bang theory in general, did not believe it could be measured and would not pursue it.

    Stymied by the lack of enthusiasm, Dr. Alpher left Johns Hopkins in 1955 to join General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y. He joined the faculty at Union College in Schenectady in 1986. He retired in 2004.

    Eventually, he did receive recognition for his achievements: the 1975 Magellanic Premium from the American Philosophical Society, the John Price Wetherill Medal from the Franklin Institute and the National Academy of Sciences' 1993 Henry Draper Medal. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    His wife of 66 years, Louise Simons Alpher, died in 2004.

    Survivors include two children, Victor Alpher of Austin and Harriet Lebetkin of Danbury, Conn.; and two grandchildren.


Here is John Noble Wilford's August 18, 2007 New York Times obituary.

    Ralph Alpher, 86, Expert in Work on the Big Bang, Dies


    Ralph Alpher, a physicist whose early calculations and theoretical predictions supported the Big Bang concept for the origin of the universe, though his role was largely overlooked as later discoveries proved him right, died last Sunday in Austin, Tex. He was 86.

    His death was announced by Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., where he was a professor emeritus. The announcement said he had been living in Austin and been in failing health since breaking his hip in February.

    Only last month, Dr. Alpher was awarded the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony where he was cited for “his unprecedented work” on the origin of cosmic particles, “for his prediction that universe expansion leaves behind background radiation and for providing the model for the Big Bang theory.”

    It was the science establishment’s last effort to make amends to a “forgotten father of the Big Bang” for the failure to recognize fully and earlier Dr. Alpher’s role in the theory’s foundations. He was unable to accept the award in person.

    When he was a graduate student at George Washington University in the 1940s, some scientists had for about two decades hypothesized that the universe had begun in an explosion of condensed matter and had been expanding ever since. But some still favored the steady-state theory, which held that the universe had always existed in more or less its current state.

    In 1948, Dr. Alpher published two papers based on research for his doctoral dissertation. The first was written with his adviser, George Gamow, a Russian-born physicist with a puckish turn of mind who obtained permission to include as a co-author Hans Bethe, an authority on the origin of cosmic elements. The authorship by Alpher, Bethe and Gamow was a scientific pun on the first letters of the Greek alphabet, which seemed appropriate for a paper on cosmic genesis.

    The paper reported Dr. Alpher’s calculations on how, as the initial universe cooled, the remaining particles combined to form all the chemical elements in the world. This elemental radiation and matter he dubbed ylem, for the Greek term defining the chaos out of which the world was born.

    The research also offered an explanation for the varying abundances of the known elements. It yielded the estimate that there should be 10 atoms of hydrogen for every one atom of helium in the universe, as astronomers have observed.

    Months later, Dr. Alpher collaborated with Robert Herman of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University on a paper predicting that the explosive moment of creation would have released radiation that should still be echoing through space as radio waves. Astronomers, perhaps thinking it impossible to detect any residual radiation or still doubting the Big Bang theory, did not bother to search.

    Then, in 1964, the radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey accidentally detected the hiss of background radiation. Astrophysicists at Princeton University proposed that this was the radio echo from the Big Bang, which they had independently predicted and been looking for.

    Dr. Alpher and Dr. Herman had been vindicated, except that no one involved in the discovery so much as tipped a hat in their direction. Belatedly, scientists have acknowledged the slight.

    In his authoritative 1977 book, “The First Three Minutes,” Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate physicist at the University of Texas, described Dr. Alpher’s research as “the first thoroughly modern analysis of the early history of the universe.”

    Dr. Weinberg said in an e-mail message that the calculations by Dr. Alpher and Dr. Herman “had for the first time given an idea of the temperature of radiation left over from the early universe.” But, he added, “what is strange is that Alpher and Herman did not push radio astronomers to look for this radiation.”

    While Dr. Penzias and Dr. Wilson later received Nobel Prizes, Dr. Alpher and Dr. Herman soon dropped out of cosmology and were later seldom credited for their contribution. Dr. Alpher joined the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady in 1955 and became a research professor of physics at Union College in 1986, retiring in 2004.

    Ralph Asher Alpher was born in Washington. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered him a full scholarship, but after he disclosed that he was Jewish, he said, the scholarship was withdrawn without explanation. Instead, he attended George Washington University at nights while working at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington and at the Johns Hopkins physics laboratory.

    Dr. Alpher is survived by a son, Victor, of Austin; a daughter, Harriet Lebetkin of Danbury, Conn.; and two granddaughters. His wife, the former Louise Simons, died in 2004.

    In a 1999 article in Discover magazine, Dr. Alpher spoke of the ache of being the forgotten man of Big Bang science.

    “Was I hurt?” he said. “Yes! How the hell did they think I’d feel? I was miffed at the time that they’d never even invited us down to see the damned radiotelescope. It was silly to be annoyed, but I was.”

October 6, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Urban Cup Holder


From the website:

    Urban Cup Holder

    The aim of the urban cup holder is to encourage people to reinterpret street settings and claim them as their territory, instead of just using them as a means of passage from A to B.

    The cup holder is easily clamped with one hand to posts in the street, then used as a coat/bag/umbrella hanger and drink holder, in turn giving the user a feeling of control and creating a more personal space — a temporary territory.


Wonder how it would work on an IV pole in the OR.....

Like Tina Roth Eisenberg, I tried – and failed — to find it in the online shop of Up To You, which featured the item in an email to me.

Note to Up To You: You're probably losing about 75% (that's a conservative estimate) of those who visit your online shop ready to buy an item due to the fact that it's nearly impossible to find what they're looking for.

The website cannot be fixed, but needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up by a new team.

October 6, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hot to trot — Guided running tours gain traction


Bonnie Tsui's September 14, 2007 New York Times article about the rise of companies offering guided running tours of major U.S. cities got my attention.

I may well try one of these out next time I leave my Podunk town for bright lights, et al.

Here's the story.

    Tourism on the Trot: Getting a Runner's-Eye View

    Telegraph Hill in San Francisco wasn't called Loma Alta — "High Hill" — for nothing. This thought occupied my mind on a recent afternoon as I ran up the Greenwich Steps, a crooked line of stairs climbing the eastern side of the hill, guided by Jim Vernon of American Running Guides, which is based in San Francisco.

    The steep slope as it rises to Coit Tower is well documented in noir films like Hitchcock's "Vertigo"€ (look out the window of James Stewart's apartment after he rescues the sexy Kim Novak) and "The House on Telegraph Hill"€ (it's where Valentina Cortese loses control of her car after her brake lines have been cut).

    The usual city tours center on the history or filmography of this place and are done with it, but the latest crop to hit the tourist map is of the fleet-footed variety — locally guided running tours that take you around to see urban points of interest while giving you a customized workout. These exercise-meets-tour outings are now available in several cities across the country, including New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. And with the nearly 300-foot elevation gain to the top of Telegraph Hill, who needs a boring old hotel treadmill?

    Mr. Vernon, 43, lives in the Castro neighborhood and regularly competes in ultramarathons and trail-running races (he has been a longtime training buddy of the endurance runner Dean Karnazes). He founded American Running Guides last year, after spending years crisscrossing the city in search of ever-newer running routes. But he says that though he gets the occasional marathoner in training, most of his clients are intermediate runners who just want to keep fit while traveling and to see a little bit of the place that they are visiting.

    "It's amazing how much you can squeeze in on a five-mile route around San Francisco, if you only know where to go,"€ Mr. Vernon said as we paused at the top of the hill to survey a dizzying and exhilarating panorama: barges passing under the rust-hued Golden Gate Bridge [top], the forbidding rock of Alcatraz, sailboats zipping along San Francisco Bay's green-gray waters, Marin County in the distance. I wasn't sure if the high I felt was from the view or the exercise, but it didn't really matter (I was also happy for the chance to catch my breath).

    On an hourlong run around San Francisco, Mr. Vernon and I managed to hoof it up to Coit Tower, join the tourists along Lombard Street's zigzag course, run through North Beach overlooking Crissy Field and Fisherman's Wharf, and cruise back along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, our starting point. It was a surprisingly mellow and enjoyable run, considering all the popular sites we visited; with his insider knowledge of the city, Mr. Vernon was able to lead me on a route that got maximum views with minimum hills and avoided crowded thoroughfares for quieter paths.

    "A lot of business travelers don't see anything more than the shuttle bus from the airport," said Mr. Vernon, whose guides also offer runs in Las Vegas. "I see people running all the time in the Tenderloin — a run-down downtown district in San Francisco that is decidedly unpretty — and I wince, because there are so many great places to run that are so close by."€ The inclusion of a run across the Golden Gate Bridge, he said, is one of the most popular requests he receives from customers.

    William Aston-Reese, a money-market broker who lives on Staten Island, tried to run to the Golden Gate Bridge on his own while on a work trip. "I was staying in Fisherman's Wharf, and so I pointed my nose at the bridge and started running,"€ said Mr. Aston-Reese, 49, a novice triathlete. "It wasn't all that great because it was foggy, and I couldn't see the bridge, and there was nothing else to look at."

    A couple of days later, he joined Mr. Vernon on a guided five-mile run and found the experience akin to running with a friend through his home neighborhood, complete with spontaneous twists and turns.

    "At home when I run, I plan my route so that I can look at interesting things,"€ he said. "I run through the park because I like looking at the birds and the flora; I don't run on the main road because it's boring. I wanted the same thing for when I was in San Francisco, and I never in a million years would have found the interesting route that we ran on the tour."€

    Other running-tour outfits include the New York-based City Running Tours, originally founded in 2005 as NYC Run. The owner of the company, Michael Gazaleh, was inspired to start the business after taking an Australian visitor on several impromptu running tours around Manhattan.

    "You go a lot further than a walking tour, as far or further than a bus tour, and to places they can't get to at all," said Mr. Gazaleh, 32, who also works as a chiropractor. "We get people of all ages and abilities from all over the world, from Malaysia to Australia to South Africa and Argentina, but they all share an interest. It makes for a really fun time."

    His New York run options can cover everything from Central Park and uptown to Brooklyn Bridge-oriented itineraries. City Running Tours also recently started new routes in Chicago, San Diego and Washington, with other cities on the way.

    The convenience of combining a sightseeing tour with a regular run is a draw for many recreational runners who are traveling for business. In the past year, Shae Hoschek has run with both American Running Guides in San Francisco and City Running Tours in New York. Mr. Hoschek, 29, is a civil engineer based in Burlington, Iowa, and usually runs three times a week.

    "Both my trips to New York City and San Francisco were only for a couple of days, and it seemed like a great way to combine my running with a guided tour of each city,"€ Mr. Hoschek said. "Safety would be another reason. I could have easily found myself in some not-so-safe neighborhoods since I don't know either city very well."€

    Joining a guided travel run also makes it harder to quit early when you run into roadblocks like construction sites or wrong turns, says Jami Strelsky Woodson, 30, a marketing director from Dallas. She likes the freedom of being able to follow someone without worrying about getting lost in a new place.

    "Running on my own is sort of monotonous and requires too much thought and planning," said Ms. Strelsky Woodson, who ended up on the Golden Gate Bridge. "On the tour, I got to let the guide lead and just take in the experience — the route was beautiful, tough and had lots of San Francisco landmarks. Plus, you get a great picture to take home.€"


American Running Guides, (415) 864-2103; www.americanrunningguides.com; from $45 for a five-mile tour; locations in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

City Running Tours, (877) 415-0058; www.cityrunningtours.com; from $60 for a two-and-a-half-hour run; locations in New York, Chicago, San Diego and Washington.

Off 'N Running Tours, (310) 246-1418; www.offnrunningtours.com; from $45 for a four-to-six-mile tour, Saturdays at 7 a.m.; Los Angeles.

October 6, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Throwback Tie Dye Pants


Wait a minute... what's that music I'm hearing?

From the website:

    Tie Dye Lounge Pants

    You'll want to wear these Tie Dye Lounge Pants everywhere, they're so comfortable!

    Great for sleeping on cold winter nights or just lounging around the house with coffee and newspaper!

    Adult sizes M, L, XL and XXL.

    Drawstring waist.

    100% cotton.



Money a little tight?

No problema: Print out about 50 copies of this close-up


on your company's equipment, then scotch tape them to whatever you're wearing: Instant Hippie™!

Note to file: Send this post to Phillip Torrone over at MAKE magazine.

October 6, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Talk Talk' — by T. C. Boyle


I finally got around to this book and let me tell you: it is a piece of work, in the very best sense.

The protagonist, Dana Halter, is a beautiful thirty-three year old woman who's been completely deaf since childhood.

Nevertheless, she's created a life for herself among those who hear, with a combination of grit and relentlessness that has always overcome obstacles — until she runs head-on into one that flattens her.

Her identity is stolen, not by some punk kid but, rather, by a very smart career criminal and fraudster.

What ensues is frightening, amusing and instructive, all wrapped up in one driving narrative intertwined with a love story.

The movie should be a plum role: I say dye Naomi Watts's hair black and just give her the part — she'd be perfect.

You want to see for yourself how good this novel is?

No problema.

Here's the first chapter.

Chapter One

She was running late, always running late, a failing of hers, she knew it, but then she couldn't find her purse and once she did manage to locate it (underneath her blue corduroy jacket on the coat tree in the front hall), she couldn't find her keys. They should have been in her purse, but they weren't, and so she'd made a circuit of the apartment— two circuits, three—before she thought to look through the pockets of the jeans she'd worn the day before, but where were they? No time for toast. Forget the toast, forget food. She was out of orange juice. Out of butter and cream cheese. The newspaper on the front mat was just another obstacle. Piss-warm—was that an acceptable term? Yes—piss-warm coffee in a stained mug, a quick check of lipstick and hair in the rear-view mirror, and then she was putting the car in gear and backing out onto the street.

She may have been peripherally aware of a van flitting by in the opposite direction, the piebald dog sniffing at a stain on the edge of the pavement, someone's lawn sprinkler holding the light in a shimmer of translucent beads, but the persistent beat of adrenaline—or nerves, or whatever it was—wouldn't allow her to focus. Plus, the sun was in her eyes, and where were her sunglasses? She thought she remembered seeing them on the bureau, in a snarl of jewelry—or was it the kitchen table, next to the bananas, and she'd considered taking a banana with her, fast food, potassium, roughage, but then she figured she wouldn't because with Dr. Stroud it was better to have nothing at all in your stomach. Air. Air alone would sustain her.

To rush, to hurry, to fret: Old English and Latinate roots, the same sad connotative stab of meaning. She wasn't thinking clearly. She was stressed, stressed out, running late. And when she got to the four-way stop at the end of the block she felt momentarily blessed because there was no one there to stop for, yet even as she made a feint of slowing and shifted from neutral to second with a quick deft plunge of the clutch accelerator, she spotted the patrol car parked just up the street in the bruised shadow of an SUV.

There was a moment of suspended time, the cop frozen at the wheel of his car, she giving him a helpless exculpatory look, and then she was past him and cursing herself as she watched him pull a lazy U-turn behind her and activate the flashing lights. All at once she saw the world complete, the palms with their pineapple trunks and peeling skirts, the armored spines of the yucca plants climbing the hill, yellow rock, red rock, a gunmetal pickup slowing to gape at her where she'd pulled over on a tan strip of dirt, and below her, a descending expanse of tiled rooftops and the distant blue wallop of the Pacific, no hurry now, no hurry at all. She watched the cop—the patrolman—in her side mirror as he sliced open the door, hitched up his belt (they all did that, as if the belt with its Mace and handcuffs and the hard black-handled revolver were all the badge they needed) and walked stiffly to her car.

She had her license and registration ready and held them out to him in offering, in supplication, but he didn't take them, not yet. He was saying something, lips flapping as if he were chewing a wad of gristle, but what was it? It wasn't license and registration, but what else could it be? Is that the sun in the sky? What's the square root of a hundred forty-four? Do you know why I pulled you over? Yes. That was it. And she did know. She'd run a stop sign. Because she was in a hurry—a hurry to get to the dentist's, of all places—and she was running late.

"I know," she said, "I know, but... but I did shift down ..."

He was young, this patrolman, no older than she, a coeval, a contemporary, somebody she might have danced alongside of—or with— at Velvet Jones or one of the other clubs on lower State. His eyes were too big for his head and they bulged out like a Boston terrier's—and what was that called? Exophthalmia. The word came to her and she felt a quick glow of satisfaction despite the circumstances. But the cop, the patrolman. There was a softness to his jaw, that when combined with the eyes—liquid and weepy—gave him an unfinished look, as if he weren't her age at all but an adolescent, a big-headed child all dressed up spick-and-span in his uniform and playing at authority. She saw his face change when she spoke, but she was used to that.

He said something then, and this time she read him correctly, handing him the laminated license and the thin wafer of the registration slip, and she couldn't help asking him what was the matter, though she knew her face would give her away. A question always flared her eyebrows as if she were being accusatory or angry, and she'd tried to work on that but with mixed success. He backed away from the car and said something further—probably that he was going to go back to his own vehicle and run a standard check on her license before writing out the standard ticket for running the standard stop sign—and this time she kept her mouth shut.

For the first few minutes she wasn't aware of the time passing. All she could think was what this was going to cost her, points on her license, the insurance—was it last year or the year before that she'd got her speeding ticket?—and that now she was definitely going to be late. For the dentist. All this for the dentist. And if she was late for the dentist and the procedure that was to take two hours minimum, as she'd been advised in writing to assure that there would be no misunderstanding, then she would be late for her class too and no one to cover for her.

She thought of the problem of the telephone—she supposed she could use the dentist's receptionist as an intermediary, but what a hassle. Hassle. And what was the derivation of that? she wondered. She made a note to herself to look it up in her Dictionary of American Slang when she got home. But what was taking him so long? She had an urge to look over her shoulder, fix the glowing sun-blistered windshield with a withering stare, but she resisted the impulse and lowered her left shoulder to peer instead through the side mirror.

Nothing. There was a form there, the patrolman's form, a bulked-up shadow, head bent. She glanced at the clock on the dash. Ten minutes had passed since he'd left her. She wondered if he was a slow learner, dyslexic, the sort of person who would have trouble recollecting the particular statute of the motor vehicle code she stood in violation of, who would fumble with the nub of his pencil, pressing extra hard for the duplicate. A dope, a dummy, a half-wit. A Neanderthal. She tried out the word on her tongue, beating out the syllables—Ne-an-der-thal—and watched in the mirror as her lips pursed and drew back and pursed again.

She was thinking of her dentist, an inveterate talker, with eyebrows that seemed to crawl across his inverted face as he hung over her, oblivious to the fact that she couldn't respond except with grunts and deep-throated cries as the cotton wads throttled her tongue and the vacuum tube tugged at her lip, when the door of the police car caught the light as it swung open again and the patrolman emerged. Right away she could see that something was wrong. His body language was different, radically different, the stiffness gone out of his legs, his shoulders hunched forward and his feet stalking the gravel with exaggerated care. She watched till his face loomed up in the mirror—his mouth drawn tight, his eyes narrowed and deflated—and then turned to face him.

That was when she had her first shock.

He was standing three paces back from the driver's door and he had his weapon drawn and pointed at her and he was saying something about her hands—barking, his face discomposed, furious—and he had to repeat himself, more furious each time, until she understood: Put your hands where I can see them.

At first, she'd been too scared to speak, numbly complying, stung by the elemental violence of the moment. He'd jerked her out of the car, the gun still on her, shoved her face into the hot metal and glass of her own vehicle and twisted her arms round behind her to clamp the cuffs over her wrists, the weight of him pressing into her until she felt him forcing her legs apart with the anvil of his knee. His hands were on her then, gripping her ankles first, sliding up her legs to her hips, her abdomen, her armpits, patting, probing. There was the sharp hormonal smell of him, of his contempt and outrage, his hot breath exploding in her ear with the fricatives and plosives of speech. He was brisk, brutal, sparing nothing. There might have been questions, orders, a meliorating softness in his tone, but she couldn't hear and she couldn't see his face—and her hands, her hands were caught like fish on a stringer.

Now, in the patrol car, in the cage of the backseat that was exactly like the cage they put stray dogs in, she felt the way they wanted you to feel: small, helpless, without hope or recourse. Her heart was hammering. She was on the verge of tears. People were staring at her, slowing their cars to get a good look, and there was nothing she could do but turn away in shame and horror and pray that one of her students didn't happen to be passing by—or anybody she knew, her neighbors, the landlord. She slouched down in the seat, dropped her head till her hair shook loose. She'd always wondered why the accused shielded their faces on the courthouse steps, why they tried so hard to hide their identities even when everyone in the world knew who they were, but now she understood, now she felt it for herself.

The color rose to her face—she was being arrested, and in public no less—and for a moment she was paralyzed. All she could think of was the shame of it, a shame that stung like some physical hurt, like the bite of an insect, a thousand insects seething all over her body—she could still feel the hot clamp of his hands on her ankles, her thighs. It was as if he'd burned her, scored her flesh with acid. She studied the back of the seat, the floormat, her right foot tapping and jittering with the uncontainable pulse of her nerves, and then all at once, as if a switch had been thrown in her brain, she felt the anger rising in her. Why should she feel shame? What had she done?

It was the cop. He was the one. He was responsible for all this.

She lifted her eyes and there he was, the idiot, the pig, a pair of squared-off shoulders in the tight blue-black uniform, the back of his head as flat and rigid as a paddle strapped to his neck, and he was saying something into his radio, the microphone at his mouth even as the cruiser lurched out into the street and she felt herself flung helplessly forward against the seat restraint. Suddenly she was furious, ready to explode. What was wrong with him? What did he think, she was a drug dealer or something? A thief? A terrorist? She'd run a stop sign, for Christ's sake, that was all—a stop sign. Jesus.

Before she knew it, the words were out of her mouth. "Are you crazy?" she demanded, and she didn't care if her voice was too loud, if it was toneless and ugly and made people wince. She didn't care what she sounded like, not now, not here. "I said, are you crazy?"

But he wasn't hearing her, he didn't understand. "Listen," she said, leaning forward as far as the seat restraint would allow her, struggling to enunciate as carefully as she could, though she was choked and wrought up and the manacles were too tight and her heart was throbbing like a trapped bird trying to beat its way out of the nest, "there must be some mistake. Don't you know who I am?"

The world chopped by in a harsh savage glide, the car jolting beneath her. She strained to see his face reflected in the rearview mirror, to see if his lips were moving, to get a clue—the smallest hint, anything—as to what was happening to her. He must have read her her rights as he handcuffed her—You have the right to remain silent and all the rest of it, the obligatory phrases she'd seen on the TV screen a hundred times and more. But why? What had she done? And why did his eyes keep leaping from the road to the mirror and back again as if she couldn't be trusted even in the cage arid the cuffs, as if he expected her to change shape, vomit bile, ooze and leak and smell? Why the hate? The bitterness? The intransigence?

It took her a moment, the blood burning in her veins, her face flushed with shame and anger and frustration, until she understood: it was a case of mistaken identity. Of course it was. Obviously. What else could it be? Someone who looked like her—some other slim graceful dark-eyed deaf woman of thirty-three who wasn't on her way to the dentist with a sheaf of papers she had to finish grading by the time her class met—had robbed a bank at gunpoint, shot up the neighborhood, hit a child and run. It was the only explanation, because she'd never violated the law in her life except in the most ordinary and innocuous ways, speeding on the freeway alongside a hundred other speeders, smoking the occasional joint when she was a teenager (she and Carrie Cheung and later Richie Cohen, cruising the neighborhood, high as—well, kites—but no one ever knew or cared, least of all the police), collecting the odd parking ticket or moving violation—all of which had been duly registered, paid for and expunged from her record. At least she thought they'd been. That parking ticket in Venice, sixty bucks and she was maybe two minutes late, the meter maid already writing out the summons even as she stood there pleading with her—but she'd taken care of that, hadn't she?

No, it was too much. The whole thing, the shock of it, the scare—and these people were going to pay, they were, she'd get an attorney, police brutality, incompetence, false arrest, the whole works. All right. All right, fine. If that was what they wanted, she'd give it to them. The car rocked beneath her. The cop held rigid, like a mannequin. She closed her eyes a moment, an old habit, and took herself out of the world.

They booked her, fingerprinted her, took away her cell phone and her rings and her jade pendant and her purse, made her stand against a wall—cowed and miserable and with her shoulders slumped and her eyes vacant—for the lingering humiliation of the mug shot, and still nothing. No charges. No sense. The lips of the policemen flailed at her and she let her voice go till it must have grown wings and careened round the room with the dull gray walls and framed certificates and the flag that hung from a shining brass pole in limp validation of the whole corrupt and tottering system. She was beside herself. Hurt. Furious. Stung. "There must be some mistake," she insisted over and over again. "I'm Dana, Dana Halter. I teach at the San Roque School for the Deaf and I've never ...

I'm deaf, can't you see that? You've got the wrong person."

She watched them shift and shrug as if she were some sort of freak of nature, a talking dolphin or a ventriloquist's dummy come to life, but they gave her nothing. To them she was just another criminal— another perp—one more worthless case to be locked away and ignored.

But they didn't lock her away, not yet. She was handcuffed to a bench that gave onto a hallway behind the front desk, and she didn't catch the explanation offered her—the cop, the booking officer, a man in his thirties who looked almost apologetic as he took her by the arm, had averted his face as he gently but firmly pushed her down and readjusted the cuffs—but it became clear when a bleached-out wisp of a man with a labile face and the faintest pale trace of a mustache came through the door and made his way to her, his hands already in motion. His name—he finger-spelled it for her—was Charles Iverson and he was an interpreter for the deaf. Work at the San Roque School sometimes, he signed. I've seen you around.

She didn't recognize him—or maybe she did. There was something familiar in the smallness and neatness of him, and she seemed to recollect the image of him in the hallway, his head down, moving with swift, sure strides. She forced a smile. "I'm glad you're here," she said aloud, lifting her cuffed hands in an attempt to sign simultaneously as i she tended to do when she was agitated. "There's some huge mistake. All I did was run a four-way stop ... and they, they"—she felt the injustice and the hurt of it building in her and struggled to control her face. And her voice. It must have jumped and planed off because people were staring—the booking officer, a secretary with an embellished figure and a hard plain face, two young Latinos stalled at the front desk in their canted baseball caps and voluminous shorts. Put a lid on it, that's what their body language told her.

Iverson took his time. His signing was rigid and inelegant but comprehensible for all that, and she focused her whole being on him as he explained the charges against her. There are multiple outstanding warrants, he began, in Marin County, Tulare and L.A. Counties—and out of state too, in Nevada. Reno and Stateline.

Warrants? What warrants?

He was wearing a sport coat over a T-shirt with the name of a basketball team emblazoned across the breast. His hair had been sprayed or gelled, but not very successfully—it curled up like the fluff of the chicks they'd kept under a heat lamp in elementary school, so blond it was nearly translucent. She watched him lift the lapel of his jacket and extract a folded sheet of paper from the inside pocket. He seemed to consider it a moment, weighing it like a knife, before dropping it to his lap and signing, Failure to appear on a number of charges, different courts, different dates, over the past two years. Passing bad checks, auto theft, possession of a controlled substance, assault with a deadly weapon—the list goes on. He held her eyes. His mouth was drawn tight, no sympathy there. It came to her that he believed the charges, believed that she'd led a double life, that she'd violated every decent standard and let the deaf community down, one more hearing prejudice confirmed. Yes, his eyes said, the deaf live by their own rules, inferior rules, compromised rules, they live off of us and on us. It was a look she'd seen all her life.

He handed her the sheet and there it all was, dates, places, the police department codes and the charges brought.

Incredibly, her name was there too, undeniably and indelibly, in caps, under Felony Complaint, Superior Court of this county or the other, and the warrant numbers marching down the margin of the page.

She looked up and it was as if he'd slapped her across the face. I've never even been to Tulare County—I don't even know where it is. Or to Nevada either. It's crazy. It's wrong, a mistake, that's all, tell them it's a mistake.

The coldest look, the smallest sign. You get one phone call.

October 6, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Spider Spatula — Just add 'eye of newt, and toe of frog...'*


From the website:

    Silicone Spider Spatula

    Easy to spot in a kitchen drawer.

    This spatula was designed with Halloween in mind but you're sure to use it year 'round for all your cooking and baking projects.

    Sturdier and more heat-resistant than a traditional rubber spatula, it's safe to use on non-stick surfaces.

    This spider spatula is fun to use but works hard, too.

    The silicone head is curved on one side, flat on the other.

    Tapered edges easily scrape bowls and pans clean.

    Heat resistant to 600°, it won’t fade or discolor.

    Durable wood handle.



October 6, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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