Saturday, January 30, 2010

goodbye to Alaska

I tried to avoid Christmas. I was leaving a few hours into December 27. I had a million things to do and far too many people to say goodbye to.

This had been my home for 15 years. I wasn't at all sure that leaving was what I wanted.

But Christmas has its own plans. December was even more beautiful than usual in Anchorage. Someone started hanging ornaments on the trees in the University Lake dog park. Many others were inspired to add to them.

Linda, Marge, and I started watching "A Christmas Carol" on television. The 1934 version, and the Muppets, and Bill Murray, and the great Patrick Stewart. Then Doreen contributed perhaps the greatest version - Mr. Magoo. It was a wonderful Christmas.

The next night at the airport was hard. Rocky cried as we handed him over in his crate. Sookie screamed and panted until I was sure she would die. I clung to Linda and sobbed all the way through security. The TSA people handed me tissues.

It seemed only a few hours, then I was in Orlando and Bonnie and Jim were there to meet me. I picked up the dogs within minutes. They were calm and mildly happy to see me.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

fuss about mammography guidelines

Old news, just another agency saying it again.

And you'd think a sniper was shooting 40 year old women at a shopping mall.

I don't understand why women are so devoted to such a lousy test. Mammography may save some lives - not often and usually in older women.

And the blogosphere is full of women saying they were diagnosed by mammogram in their 40's and would be dead if they hadn't been tested. That might be true for a few, but it can't be true for many. This is like basing health policy on shark attacks or lightning strikes. Most of these women would have found lumps a little later, had them biopsied, and been treated the same way months or years later, with the same excellent survival rates. Some of them would have been screened at 50 and the lesions that were present at 44 would have vanished anyway.

Commentators tell me that breast cancer is the greatest health concern of women. Only if they are illiterate or misinformed or responding too enthusiastically to marketing plans. Others have announced that women do not base health decisions on evidence or statistics. That's not true. I do.

I was 53 at diagnosis but I don't think that mammogram saved my life. I can't be sure, but I might have died of heart disease at 70 with the same DCIS in my right breast, not bothering anyone.

I've always looked at evidence and guidelines. I was skeptical about mammography. No skeptical enough to ignore it
completely, but I spaced them 5 years apart. I thought that was often enough and it turned out it was.

We have way too much breast cancer "awareness" and way too much screening.

The guidelines (which are not new incidentally) are rational, not rationing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Reasons to live in Alaska

Nobody ever asks what I think about Sarah Palin

Muktuk (no one eats raw whale in the Lower 48)


Night skies in winter

Moose in yard


Dog mushing

Fillipino food

Fourth of July in Juneau

legal ivory from extinct mammals

Reasons to move to Florida

Cuban sandwiches

place is swarming with Keadys

can walk dog without putting on sweater, coat, and four booties

26 species of turtles

over one million alligators

no volcanoes


better chance for a real chopped liver sandwich

fresh produce

flowers all year round

Saturday, August 22, 2009

alaska vegies

Last week I went to the one of the many local farmers' markets. Now I know many people don't associate Alaska with fresh produce. But we have beautiful and delicious vegetables, and more types than southerners would imagine. Big, expensive vegetables.

Last week I bought some carrots, cucumbers, and parsley. And I looked for cabbage. The usual table cabbages ( not the giants grown for competition every year) were way too big.

I love cabbage - raw or cooked. I can eat the usual supermarket cabbage all by myself in a week or two. And Alaska cabbages are remarkably sweet and tender. But huge.

So I thought about buying a nice Alaska cabbage. I would have to find three other people to share it with me. It was all too much to cope with.

Today I visited another farmers' market. I bought local cheese, mikunya greens, daikon, turnips. And a couple normal size cabbages, one green and one red. I asked the Korean farmers about them. "Pick early," they said. "Too big, no one buy".

Tomorrow, cole slaw with shredded daikon and carrots!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

health care reform and stupidity

I am trying to figure out the health care reform protesters. They don't look like wealthy hospital owners, cardiac surgeons, or imaging equipment executives. Most of them look like people who have jobs and the kind of health insurance which will bankrupt them after a trip to the emergency room, the birth if a baby, or an early and treatable cancer. What the hell are they defending?

It can't possibly be health care in the US today. This seems to be a new and mysterious battle in the culture wars, like creationists, vaccination resistors, and gay marriage opponents. Sarah Palin, of course, is right in the middle of it. I didn't think she would just disappear but this is even worse than I thought.

Maybe Charles Pierce is right in "Idiot America", when he says we have become a nation that values ignorance and superstition over knowledge and science.

And the health care reform they are objecting to isn't even the single payer or "socialized" model they are protesting. In fact it looks like a rather wimpy compromise instead of a solution. There are sound reasons why all other major industrialized nations have gone the single payer route.

Obama has only been in office seven months and I am already back to my old angry self!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

happy to have herps

I came home from work today frustrated about my job and my life. I am a little embarrassed to report how much my reptile and amphibian pets improved my mood.

I have two great dogs. They greet me with enthusiasm after an absence of ten hours. But they are almost too much like me. They read my moods and respond to them. They know how to get what they want (food) from me.

Tonight we will snuggle in my bed and I will pet them and talk to them.

The herps really don't care about me. This is remarkably soothing.

I have been worried about the frog for six months. He has refused to eat more than once every six to eight weeks. I know that he is an old frog. I am at least his third human and I adopted him four years ago. So I have worried about frog palliative care and frog euthanasia Then a month ago, he started eating. Now he is up to two goldfish (and the occasional earthworm) each week. Tonight I cleaned an enormous poop from his cage and told him how pleased I was.

My brothers used to tease me about being easily entertained.

The king snake had eaten a mouse on Saturday. She was only a week past a shed and was so soft to touch and brilliant to look at that it made my day. She has bitten me twice,so I was pleased when she curled around my neck peacefully as I cleaned her cage.

On careful inspection, the corn snake didn't need anything. I turned on everybody's basking lights for the evening and thought about how grateful I was to be living all these creatures.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where were you when you heard?

Not Michael Jackson's death. And why is this sad story 24/7 news? Every time I turn on CNN they have a banner that says "Breaking News Michael Jackson". Breaking news? I suspect he is still dead.

I have felt bad about Michael ever since his skin turned white and his nose disappeared. This is a tragic classic American story too much like Elvis. I am looking forward to a definitive biography from someone like Greil Marcus about ten years from now.

But where were you when you heard that Sarah Palin is leaving office? I was in Juneau taking this picture when I heard the news on the car radio. Juneau's roads form an H, with the bar as the Juneau Douglas Bridge. Technically there are four "ends of the road". The one pictured here, "out the road" past Eagle Beach is the most dramatic. Perhaps because it is about 40 miles out from the center of town, this is the one that is called "end of the road".

And Sarah. I have never voted for her and never would. But I'm horrified by the media coverage. This Vanity Fair article is so vicious I can't believe it would have been written about a male public figure. According to the article, Palin is a monster because 1) she is from Alaska and 2) had a baby a year ago.

Todd S. Purdum on Sarah Palin |