Tuesday, February 27, 2007


18 seconds is about how long it takes to change a lightbulb. Changing one, just one, of your regular incandescent light bulbs to something better can make a difference - both in your pocket book and in the Earth's environment. Using Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs is one of the easiest ways I've come across to make a difference.

The common light bulb is an energy sucker and it has been since the 1880s. It hasn't changed much since then, has it? From the electricity it draws, it uses anywhere between 10-20% for light, and the rest is wasted in heat. You've heard that over and over again. It doesn't seem that big a deal until you find yourself in a cool and -dark- basement in the summer time because you can't fathom turning on lights that will just warm the place up again. CFLs don't. They don't because they draw 20% of the electricity to produce the same amount of light, and because they don't pull that other 80% for heat, they are practically cool to the touch. You get light. Not heat.
Drawing less electricity means you're paying less in your electricity bill. Currently, about 1/4 of the electrical usage in America is for lighting. Use a bulb that uses 1/3 of the energy and you'll get a bill that reflects it.
OK, let's say you pay $200/mo for your electricity bill. About $50/mo is the lights. Lights when you're reading in bed, lights when you're brushing your teeth, lights when you're having dinner, or getting ready for work. Your kids leave the bedroom light on when they go to school. You have your front porch light on all night. The bathroom light leads the way for midnight potty breaks.
Now switch your 60W incandescent bulbs for 15W CFLs. Use your lights the normal amount. Pay $12.50. Your monthly bill drops to $162.50. Wouldn't that be worth it?
But it starts with a single light bulb. Or what I'm encouraging... one room a month. Count up the lights in your bedroom or the hallway. Then replace them.
But but... you say: the bulbs are expensive! Sure. You can pay $1.50 or $2 for a regular bulb. It'll last about 1000 hours (let's see, we'll pick 5 hours a day for regular use, 200 days... about 1/2 a year), then you get to buy another $2 bulb to last the rest of the year. Seems like an OK deal. Or, buy a CFL for $3-$6. These energy saver CFLs by TCP through Amazon are $12 for 4 bulbs. For that same year your electricity bill drops. A tiny bit for a single lamp, more for 4, but it drops which offsets some of the CFL cost. Here's where it becomes a happy thought for me though... These bulbs replace a typical 60W bulb and they last 10,000 hours. So, from changing your light bulbs twice a year, you move to changing them about, oh, about every 5 years.
And you're using less energy. And if you're using less energy, the power plants can produce less energy. And if they produce less energy, they pollute less. And if they pollute less, we all win.
So, can you do it? Can you spend $3 or $5 to replace, for years, a single light in your home? Can you spend $20 and switch over a whole room? Can you ask your friends and family to switch? Even just a single bulb?
I hope so.
Can you imagine if all it took to cut our energy use nationwide by a 1/4 was 18 seconds a lightbulb? And we all did it?
Disclaimer: Obviously, my figures are examples. Actual results will vary dependent on your light usage and your current electricity bill figures.
Next time I talk about CFLs, I'll give you an idea of what light options are out there.
In the meantime, check out 18seconds.org for info on the light changing movement, energyfederation.org for info on the bulb options are out there (some are OK for recessed or enclosed fixtures, or dimmers), and of course the site on An Inconvenient Truth, just because we think it can make a difference.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Of CFLs and Powhatans

I'm learning way more than I ever needed to learn about Powhatan Native Americans (for the next USA Fun Day) and Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (for a project I'm working on). The next couple weeks I'm going to have way too much face time with my Mac. I think yoga is calling me again... ooooohhhmmm.

An Anniversary Forgotten

It was pointed out that yesterday (the 26th.. I never recall what the date stamp on my entries will actually be) was the 14th anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing. It was pointed out that few people remember this anniversary, that "Never Forget" doesn't always hold.

Should it? In light of 9/11 and the complete loss of the World Trade Center? Should we remember the date?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Happy Weekend

Our laid back weekend went by quickly.

Saturday morning started with piano lessons for the girls. They need to practice more during the week, but they do each sit down several times and run through their pieces. Their scales are sorely neglected though. Nicholas has expressed an interest in having lessons and will sit down to plunk out some melodies as well from Rebecca's book. He loves math so this fits him well, counting up, counting down, holding notes to fit a measure. I told him that if he continues on with his sister as tutor, and still has an interest in the Fall, then I will ask Ms. Becky to take him on as well.
Right after Ms. Becky left, we prepared for USA Fun Day at our house. About 15 kids and their parents gathered in our den to give and listen to presentations on various states and famous Americans. Everyone did a great job, it was obvious some time had been spent searching out answers to a string of questions. I was especially proud of my own kids... of course. Rebecca and Nicholas put in a lot of time and practice to pull their posters together and give their talks; it showed.
Right after everyone left, we drove down the ECR to pick up our new family of kitties. Momma Cat, now being referred to as Lucy I believe, will go to our neighbors about mid-April. The three littles include two all blacks and one tiger wild cat. All blacks huh? Maybe we should name them Kia and Ora.
Sunday after church we caught most of the Heroes marathon on TV. There have been all of 5 episodes shown here and the kids were interested in seeing them. During the week it's on after American Idol so they haven't had to opportunity to watch until now.
I've got a couple projects to keep me busy the next couple weeks. I'm going to have to force myself to take breaks from the computer, my neck aches today.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Home Sick Rebecca

Becca is home today. This is no surprise. Her teacher is out sick, her 2 best friends are out sick and she's been complaining of feeling ill the past few days. Last night her eye glued shut (most likely from a whack to the eye she took yesterday at school), and she threw up.

In India too long?

The kids are finishing up their projects for USA Fun Day. Rebecca is doing the state of Virginia and is collecting notes to give her little talk. She was curious about the people on the state flag, one who had succumbed to the spear of the other. While she was practicing we heard -

On the flag is the goddess Vishnu, who is holding a sword...

It's the goddess Virtue.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I'm seeing a moderately disturbing pattern.

About 6 months ago, I got itchy.

No seriously, one side of abdomen broke out in little bumps. I thought it was a reaction to something topical so I tried not to scratch. They didn't go away, and in fact most of them turned brown and are still with me. Suddenly I have hundreds of new moles, or what could pass as moles at first glance. Weird, but not much of a problem for me.
Until it happened again with a different section of my abdomen. And now around my belly button. It's unusual and I finally got curious enough to look it up. A similar series of steps to my understanding of BCC a year ago.
Well, my self-diagnosis has reached this conclusion: Eruptive Syringoma
Syringoma is a benign tumor of eccrine origin, first described by Biesiadecki and Kaposi[1] showing a differentiation toward intraepidermal eccrine ducts. Eruptive syringoma is a somewhat rare clinical variant, where numerous papules arise in successive crops on the anterior surface of the body.[1],[2]
The skin lesions of syringoma consist of yellow to flesh-colored to brown 1-5 mm papules, which are commonly found on the eyelids. Other characteristic sites include the neck, chest, axillae, antecubital fossae, upper extremities, lower part of the abdomen and groins. They occur predominantly in women and may develop at any age, with a peak incidence between the third and fourth decades.[3] Histopathologically, the epithelial component of the proliferation is composed of cells with pale or pinkish cytoplasm arrayed as nests and tubules of relatively uniform size. Depending upon the exact plane of section, the nests of syringoma vary in shape and some nests may resemble a comma or a tadpole.[4]
Eruptive syringoma may clinically resemble lichen planus, flat warts, papuler mucinosis, xanthoma disseminatum and mastocytosis. However, the diagnosis can be easily made with the distinct histopathological findings.
Therapy for syringomas is unsatisfactory. Surgical, oral and topical treatments have shown limited results. Due to the number of lesions, electrocoagulation and cryotherapy are too laborious, yielding poor cosmetic results.[3] Symptomatic eruptive syringomas have shown poor or no response to topical and oral corticosteroids, topical antifungal agents and topical retinoids.[5] Successful treatment with 1% topical atropine resulted in disappearance of the pruritus and in a reduction in the size of the lesions.[6] However, the limitation of this treatment was that the patients had to be carefully evaluated for the side effects of atropine such as blurred vision, headache, palpitation, difficulty in micturition, reduced intestinal peristalsis, etc.

Sarifakioglu E, Gorpelioglu C, Bayrak R. Numerous yellow-brown papules over the trunk. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2006 [cited 2007 Feb 20];72:247-248. Available from: http://www.ijdvl.com/article.asp?issn=0378-6323;year=2006;volume=72;issue=3;spage=247;epage=248;aulast=Sarifakioglu
In easier to read terms:
Syringoma: A benign (non-cancerous) skin tumor that derives from eccrine cells, specialized cells that are related to sweat glands. The skin lesions usually appear during puberty or adult life, and consist of small bumps one to three millimeters in diameter that form underneath the surface of the skin. The most frequent site is the eyelids and around the eyes, but other areas of the body can also be affected. There may be only one or a few lesions in a localized area, or numerous lesions covering a wide area. Syringomas more frequently affect women and do have an hereditary basis in some, but not all, cases.
From Medterms
While this is not me, this is what my abdomen looked like with the first outbreak, now many of the spots are brown and new crops have sprung up that look like these again.
Thankfully, it's not dangerous, and it's not on my face. Though I do have to wonder what is up with my skin.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cut The Cheese

Nah, I don't mean THAT cut the cheese. Our gardener, Paneer, quit.

Paneer is a local cheese food, similar in texture to tofu. The kids never could understand why someone would name their kid Cheese. Maybe paneer means something different in Tamil.
Not that any of that matters. When we hired him, with our driver as translator, we agreed on Rs150/day. Just over $3. Trust me when I say that's a decent pay for an uneducated, untrained gardener who had never actually been a gardener before. Our driver worked with him, they have a little vegetable plit growing and Paneer's main jobs were to sweep the driveway, rake the yard and keep the grass free of snakes. He carted out a lot of tree branches and dead grass over the past 5 months.
But he was hired for Rs150/day and 6 days a week. The days he showed up I tallied and paid him for at the end of the month. If there was a need to go to his village, or a string of holidays or a sick father, he didn't get paid. That's the basic method of day wages and that's what we agreed to when he was hired. At least I think so from what I gathered through Aruna. Apparently by last Friday Paneer had had enough. He waited until Mercy was gone for the day and Aruna was getting gas in the car, and he snowballed me with Tamil and broken English, a spattering of words including "father," "fever," "Rs1200," "February," "Monday" and "salary." I asked him over and over to wait until Aruna arrived so I could calrify what he was saying and/or asking, but he kept going, repeating the same words among a string of language I couldn't understand. That's my fault I know, I should be learning Tamil too not just Hindi, but suffice to say I didn't know what he really wanted.
I pulled together the various words I did know and asked if his father was sick, he needed a Rs1200 advance on his February pay and would he be back on Monday? He stated he would. I don't know if he understood my summary, but we seemed to have reached as far as we could in understanding each other. I gave him the Rs1200 and noted it down in my book.
Monday came, he didn't show up. Mercy didn't know why, Aruna didn't know why. Today, Mercy learned from Aruna, who learned from the neighbor gardener that Paneer had quit over the perceived unfair pay scheme.
I talked with Mercy a bit and explained to her (because obviously stories get around right quick) that Paneer had been on a day to day pay scale while she and Aruna were on monthly salaries. It's what we had each agreed on. Whatever and how the neighbor pays her gardener has nothing to do with me and what Paneer had agreed to.
She figured something fishy was going on. Whenever she has something up, she tells the others, and then there's always the checking up on each other. Neither she nor Aruna had been told anything about Paneer's father or his quitting. He'd been lying to me and had waited until the others were gone because they would have known.
Ah, the drama. But it's no big deal, really. I wish him well in finding another job that pays the same or better for what he did here. And guess what, the driver already has someone else in mind to garden for us.
Of course he does.

A Good News Day for Niger

Thanks to Dina for posting this NY Times news link about Niger. Who knew that the trees were growing in Niger, that some of the desert is being held back, and some of the population is thriving with its ecological and tree inspired farming?

I'm Going to Go Against the Grain

The Washington Post reported on a gum chewing exercise done by some speakers in high schools to demonstrate how STDs are spread. Am I the only one that thinks this is a great (yes, gross, but still pretty harmless) way to drive home an important point?

I mean really, the -parents- are grossed out? The education and health officials are up in arms? Ok, ok, it's their job to protect us against ourselves. But let's be real. As quoted:
"This basically is an unacceptable and unsanitary practice. It should never occur," said Judith Covich, director of school health services at the county health department. "The risk is about the same as sharing a glass, sharing the same straw." The practice carried a low risk of spreading the cold or flu, she said.
The risk is about the same as sharing a glass, sharing the same straw.
Both the kids who are going ahead with the exercise and the adults who are against them having the option are missing the objective points. The leaders of these exercises are trying to get the kids to experiment in a safe manner that doesn't involve any risk. If it's gross to chew someone else's gum, something that's been in their mouth and mixed with their body fluids and picked up their germs (and these are the mostly harmless germs unless one of the participants is suffering strep or mono) with no side effects except for the icky factor... and the germ and icky factor goes up with each successive chewer... then compare that with what happens with sexual contact and repeated contacts with different people.
You know, I almost wouldn't get angry if my kid -did- come down with a cold, the flu, strep or some other mouth transferred illness. That would drive home the intended message pretty darn clearly, wouldn't it?
I guess it's a good thing my kids aren't in high school yet. I'd probably be shunned as a heartless, unsanitary, risky parent who obviously doesn't care about the health and well-being of my kids. Letting them chew someone else's gum... indeed.
Now, do I think that kids -should- share gum, or straws or glasses or much of anything else that has already visited a mouth? No. I too think it's gross and an unnecessary risk to catch some germs we certainly don't need on a day to day basis. And there's always that backwash problem. Ew. But as part of a demonstration to have my kids think about the risks of sex in a practical manner... yeah, I'd have to say I think the idea is a good one.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why didn't I know there was a Website?

Sparkey's, the American restaurant here in Chennai, has a website. The food looks -almost- like the photos!

A Year

A year ago I had BCC removal surgery. A year already. I should probably take a picture to show the change, but really... before I had a BCC and now I have a scar so it's not like face has changed much.

Friday, February 9, 2007

So I Was Trying to Pick Myself Up...

I don't know why I've taken this so hard. They were cats. We had them less than 6 months. But I'm doing the Coulda/Shoulda jig in my brain and it's exhausting, frustrating and angering all wrapped in one.

The kids are patching up their sadness by focussing on the next good thing - the three kittens we are adopting at the beginning of March. We saw them yesterday and they're cute as all kittens are cute. The dad looks like a bona fide wild cat, not with stripes but spots like a leopard, and rock solid with muscle. The mom is a black and white softie, not frightened but cautious and quite pretty. They are cats.
But I want -my- cats, my loving fluffballs whose purrs would shake the room. My deaf cottonball spitfire. My dignified striped calico who announced herself everytime she entered the den. I don't want scampy little furrballs I have no attachment to. Not yet, not now.
Instead, I've been cleaning out stuff. I like to clean when I'm upset about anything and I've fallen right into my normal pattern... cleaning out files this time and putting my shredder to the test. It's a handy coping device to have, especially as my dad will be here tomorrow for a quick visit. We're all looking forward to seeing him, it's been a year.
The other time passer I did today was search my name on Google. Everyone does it, admit it. I'm not sure how I missed this last year but here you go, a short bit on us in in the MU Alumni section: http://www.marymount.edu/news/mutoday/62/alumni.html
Further down the page you'll see Angel's thoughts on Fred Franke. Fred died in China when we lived in Manila and Ian helped with the process of getting Fred back home to his mom. We attended the rememberance service at Marymount the following year; Ian and Fred were friends in college.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Dosa Lives On In Our Hearts

Earlier today I'd written the following:

"We picked up Dosa from the vet and brought her to a "pet specialist" who wasn't in, so we could take her to a 3rd office for an xray, then go back to office #2 to show the xray to the vet who wasn't there, and we'll go back to the "specialist" when he's actually in, sometime after 7:30 this evening.
The xray showed hip dysplasia, apparently a side effect of the unknown trauma? Her hind legs are still paralyzed, they are also cooler than the rest of her body and the right leg is becoming rigid. She's feeling pain now, yesterday was probably shock and the swelling blocked the pain nerves. As the swelling diminishes she's regaining some sensation but no mobility."
We waited until the appointed time and we saw the vet. Throughout the day we watched her slowly fail and by the time the specialist saw her, noted that she'd burst her inner stitches and her muscles were working their way outside, that her temperature was dangerously low and she was severely dehydrated, coupled with raging inflammation...
They started an IV on our prone and unmoving pet to attempt to stabilize her before repairing her wound and hopefully curb the inflammation and pain that was preventing her from using her back end.
She died within minutes

Monday, February 5, 2007

I'd Call It An Emotional RollCoaster, But...

I don't know if something can be an emotional roller coaster if it just keeps plummeting. I guess the idea is that eventually something good will happen.

Ian and I buried Samosa today. As luck would have it, the little pet cemetery on the CG compound is part of the construction zone so it is filled with broken bricks, piles of junk and has huge holes dug throughout. We received permission to bury her in our yard, a quiet and shady spot marked with the tile marker the kids and I painted. We were going to have her little funeral ceremony this afternoon when the kids returned home. Dosa is extremely affectionate now, desperate for attention and companionship. She's a totally different cat to the point of curling up on the couch between Jonathon and Rebecca over the weekend. This from the cat that would turn tail and run the instant she saw Jonathon.
Ready at 2:45 p.m., we delivered cupcakes to Katherine's class for her birthday and then brought the kids home. At 3:45 while Ian was getting ready to take Katherine to a Super Bowl party at the Consulate, I crouched to pet Dosa who was laying on the den floor. Dosa dragged herself to me. Her hind legs are paralyzed. After a frantic call to the vet, we packed everyone and the cat to the vet clinic. It doesn't seem that there is a broken bone, but the vet seems sure there was a trauma. A hard and interrupted fall from a great distance. After a shot of cortizone to start reducing the swelling and the pressure on her spinal cord, we left Dosa at the vet for overnight observation. She'll receive regular cortizone injections and tomorrow morning we'll learn whether she needs x-rays on her back and what our next steps would be.
Some good thoughts would be greatly welcomed.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

"This Has Been the Worst and Best Weekend"

We can't find true pleasure in the joys of life, without experiencing and understanding the sorrows. While we lost a small member of the family this weekend, another gained another year.

Katherine is a full-fledged preteen, and she looks the part. After opening her gifts last night, she donned new clothes for school this morning, brushed her hair and pulled it back, and seemed to have grown a couple inches over night.
Her party on Friday night was fun. She and a couple sleepover friends made a full dinner complete with drinks (sour and thick fruit smoothies along with bubbly fruity juice spritzer), appetizers (chicken noodle "stew" that was pasty, and yummy tuna biscuits) and dessert (ice cream balls rolled in coconut). The main pasta dish was decent as well. And all told, they cooked and served and ate from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The girls were bushed by the end of it but proud of their efforts. And they had plenty of fun in the process.
As we wish Katherine a very happy 11th birthday, we also wish my mom a Happy happy Birthday!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Been a bad Sad Day, Aka Routine isn't Always as Straightforward as We'd Like

Wednesday evening we put away the food and water as requested, Thursday morning the cats went to the vet to be spayed. As all conscientious pet owners, we get all our pets fixed ASAP and this time it's when the kitties reached about 6 months old. In by 7 a.m., home by 9 a.m. with all the comforts for recovery.

Dosa went down fine and her procedure and recovery went smoothly. She's up and climbing furniture, meowing for a petting, taking care of her incision and being very catlike about the whole thing.
Samosa had a harder time going under with the anaesthetic and took a long time to come out of it on Thursday. Her breathing steadily declined until this morning she was wheezing and listless. Periodically she got up for a drink or to use the litterbox, but otherwise she layed in the corner on a blanket. Since she was worsening, we brought her to the vet at 1 p.m. where she received a shot to help her breathing, another with additional antibiotics and another against "acidosis" since the low level of oxygen and no food for days could affect her body functions. By 5 p.m. every breathe was accompanied by audible gasping and her eyes were open but vacant. We called the vet again and she recommended a medication, so we went to the corner store and Ian gave Samosa the dosage. Samosa vomitted it up with blood, went into convulsions with more blood, and her heart stopped.
The kids are devastated, Ian is angry. There's no way to know what was the cause of Samosa's rapid failure but Ian feels not everything was done for her that could have been. Steady monitoring by the vet, having the symptoms taken more seriously, something. The vet thought it could be related to cat flu. I felt it was an underlying condition, something no one could have foreseen, that was complicated or exacerbated by the anaesthetic or surgery.
None of that matters though. We are crushed.
Samosa is gone.