Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

Yeah, this is too long. Sue me.

The year 2007 has been a real roller coaster for us here at the Collective Sigh International Headquarters.

There have been sad losses and goodbyes – a dear kitty, several good friends died far too young, and of course the health insurance industry decided they were too good for us or we were too poor for them or both.

But there were some wonderful victories, too – mainly seeing the First-And-Only-Born-Child graduate from college, get a J.O.B. with great benefits, and take off soaring from the nest. The latter was a loss for us, too, but a good one that made us very proud.

Now if we could just figure out how to become her dependants….

And I look forward to working for mo’ better Democrats in 2008. Seeing the Dems make Karl Rove’s ‘real numbers’ show him up for the jackass he really is was almost as good as seeing The Kid graduate.

Whadja get?

I love to hear what gifts people received for Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa or whatever. Tell me all about it, especially if it was something off the wall.

I got a CHAIR.

Not just any chair….a real desk chair that is height-adjustable and rolls around on wheels. Padded nicely, too. What a difference from the castaway conference room chair Mr. Andante dragged home one day for some reason – an uncomfortable chair that didn’t roll, was too close to the ground, couldn’t be adjusted, and was already flattened by someone else’s butt. No more craning my neck to see the monitor, hallelujah.

The chair was even something on my “wish list” – that thing I create every year but usually might as well not bother making.

I also got a PONY. Yep, a pony.

When First-And-Only-Born was little, she begged and pleaded for a pony.
“Puhleeeeeeez can I have a pony?! I’ll keep him in the back yard, take care of him myself and if you give me an increase in my allowance I’ll feed him and pay for all the vet bills and…..”
See the Verizon commercial for a little context.

Yeah, right – this is the same kid whose cats I’ve fed and lugged to the vet myself for the last umpteen years. The same kid who ‘forgot’ to close the gerbil cage adequately and they ate her blue jeans and scared the bejeezus out of me while the cats laughed their furry butts off from the opposite corner of the room.

But for years, a pony (or horse) was the first item on her birthday or Christmas ‘wish list’. And when she got older and wiser, she STILL says it, this time as a joke.

“Baby, what would you like for a college graduation present?”


Now that she’s making more money than I do (including benefits), she asked ME what I wanted for Christmas. Revenge time for Mama.

Me: “A PONY!!!”

And I got one….he’s brown and Made in China, about 5-6 inches tall and comes with a cute little plastic saddle, bridle, and curry comb.

I shall call him “Brownie”.

Anti-Predictions and Anti-Resolutions

I don’t do predictions, as I’m usually wrong and end up looking silly. Ditto New Year’s resolutions.

I will predict this: John McCain will eventually emerge the Republican presidential nominee, if only as the least insane of the bunch. Given the competition, that's not hard.

Democrats? No clue. That last crack from Obama about trial lawyers pissed me off and turned me away.

I don’t think I could take 4-8 more years of Clinton-hunting from the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy. Neither could the country.

John Edwards? I’ve always liked him. To be realistic, he didn’t do much as North Carolina’s senator except work on his reputation. He wouldn’t have been re-elected.

But he was a hell of a ‘trial lawyer’ – not on behalf of Big Bidness, but for those who didn’t have the family or political connections to get justice from grievous injuries. He earned every buck he ever made and earned it the hard way – through hard work, determination, and a refusal to back down.

And I’ve said it before – I’ll say it again ”(July 4, 2004 – “John Edwards, trial lawyer – bring it on” - and link to it again. Dirty politics don’t scare him. He stared down the rightwing Jesse Helms’ protégée Lauch Faircloth and beat him, fair and square.

I don't go so far out on the limb as to predict he'll be the nominee - but if Edwards is, I resolve to work my tail off on his behalf.

Hope your 2008 is satisfying...

Peace, Love, and all that Stuff -

Andante, Mr. Andante, First-And-Only-Born, The Chihuahua Herd, and Trouble the Clueless Kitty


Friday, December 28, 2007

If it's not one thing, it's another...

Mourning the death of a friend in an automobile accident.

Back soon.


Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving....

You may have seen it on the news at one time - over two decades ago, 677 nuns from the School Sisters of Notre Dame granted a young researcher's request to test them each year in order to track the progression of Alzheimer's disease and other age-related brain disorders.

Now they've given the world the final, loving gift that will benefit untold numbers of people for generations to come.

If you've never considered organ donation - why not? You think the devil really wants your sorry, wrinkled butt in pristine condition?

If the ravages of dementia have ever touched you or your loved ones, read on -
Nuns in aging study leaving their brains behind
After major Alzheimer's findings, research will end with final sacrifice

The 61 surviving nuns recently completed their last round of intellectual and physical tests for the Nun Study, one of the world's most comprehensive neurological research projects.

One final sacrifice remains: When they die, their brains will be taken for further study, joining a collection of hundreds of other brains donated by the the nuns who died before them.

Sister Treanor, a 93-year-old former school principal who is one of the last of the volunteers at a Wilton convent, looks at her participation as service, not sacrifice.

"I've tried to do good while I'm alive, and I liked the idea that I could do something good after death," she said.


Findings keep coming
Researchers say Snowdon's work already has produced interesting results, including a finding that people who challenge themselves intellectually can apparently delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms.

(Dr. David) Snowdon's work also suggests that in people predisposed to Alzheimer's, a stroke or head trauma can speed the disease's progression — an argument for wearing seat belts, helmets and other protective gear.

He also has researched the levels of folic acid in the blood of deceased nuns with and without dementia; why nuns with positive attitudes and creative verbal skills tend to live longer than their glass-half-empty peers; and other questions.

The timing of brain donation is somewhat tricky; the brain has to be removed rather quickly after death, with all arrangements made by the donor and family before death is imminent.

Some autopsy charges may be waived, sometimes not - it depends on the medical center. They may want to do an exam & assessment while the patient is still alive.

If you or a loved one live anywhere near a participating research center, won't you please consider it?

Thank you, Sisters - I bow before you.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Random ramblings

With all the profits Wal Mart makes from low-paid workers and driving competitors out of business - why don't they hire traffic cops at Christmas time?

I don't mean outside in the parking lot (not a bad idea), but inside the store. Morons who park themselves and their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle while they yakety-yak on their cell phones should have their shopping cart privileges withdrawn or be fined or forced to work it off stocking shelves or something.


Let me second Atrios, at least partially. Not every kid needs to go or should get a 4-year college degree.

When I applied for my first, full-time after-some-college job, my education as a music major meant squat to the company. The fact that I had survived, sort of, for several years seem to indicate to them that I had a slighter higher IQ than a wet noodle.

These would be the same geniuses that make such judgments as rewarding CEO's and upper management with huge bonuses when the company is losing money faster than Bush ignores laws he doesn't like.

Besides, with just some not-quite-a-degree, the company can work your butt off, then refuse you a promotion or raise because, they say regretfully - you don't have a degree in something totally meaningless.

Having said that, I do feel it's important to pursue some sort of advanced training or study after high school. A high school diploma these days hardly amounts to a hill of beans. An Associate Degree in the Something-Vague Sciences would impress the majority of human resource managers. Not to mention the higher pay for technical training such as electricians, diesel mechanics, plumbers, and so on. Nurses are always in short supply, as are good CNAs and hands-on caregivers.


What may irk me most about this stupid "War on Christmas" stuff is the angry, defiant way some people say "Merry CHRISMAS!".
As in, "it's CHRISTMAS, you frickin', librul, commie slattern. If you dare say "Happy HOLIDAYS" to me, I'll ram all that peace, harmony, and good will to men down your pinko throat!!!"
You wanna fight an imaginary, unnecessary war? Join the Army and request duty in Iraq.


As a Holiday Grinch/Scrooge, you'll have to look elsewhere for any holiday spirit (at least for now...I'm still wrapping #&@! presents).

But here's something most anyone can enjoy. It's the precious, departed Luciano Pavarotti singing "O Holy Night" in Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica, @ 1975.

It's in Italian rather than the original French, his high 'B' starts a bit shakily, but he recovers nicely. I think it's the orchestra conductor's fault, but what do I know.

It's The Man, the Divine One, doing his thing. That's all that matters to me.


Friday, December 21, 2007

The baby comes home today!

No, not this one.....

This one......

Judging from her wishlist, I am sure my 22-yr-old baby still believes in Santa Claus, so - ssssshhhhhhhhhhhh.....

Disclaimer: No, the baby in the first picture isn't mine; I didn't have time to search my hard drive for a picture of my own squalling, scrawny infant. This one is a friend's adorable little boy who is now just old enough to cry whenever I try to cuddle him. :(
Friday Cat Blogging

When not posing as a Christmas present under the tree (you'll have to take my word for it there's a tree on his other side), Trouble takes time off from looking for his brother to wake me up at 1:30 a.m. wanting his ears scratched.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Twas the fight before Christmas...

....North Carolina style.

And a damned fine Merry Christmas was had by all.

Someone should get O'Reilly down here right away.
Parents May Face Charges After Christmas Program Fight

HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) – Witnesses said elementary school children were shaken and crying after a fight between three adults disrupted their Christmas program Tuesday night.

One parent said a child was hit in the head with a chair.

In a written account of the fight, Oak Hill prinicipal Sara Roberts said witnesses claim it started when a father confronted another student about pushing his daughter on stage.

Robert said another parent got involved, telling that father not to confront the child and that's when, according to Robert's account, two other parents got involved.

"I had to stop the program and remind everyone to be respectful to the children on stage," Roberts said in her statement. "However the yelling escalated further and thus the fight began."

Roberts said she plans to ban each of the parents taking part in the fight and that charges are pending.

High Point police is still investigation the incident.
I am sure the High Point police won't have any problem.

It was caught on video.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh, THANK YOU, Preznit Bush!

Our Man in the White House:
He acknowledged the nation's major economic woes — mainly the housing and credit crunch — in the context of explaining what his administration is doing to help.

"We can mitigate some of the issues," Bush said.
That's great news.

I'll send the Deciderer my grocery list.

Take my car. Before you bring it back, fill it up with gas.

My War on Christmas, the Gift Wrapping Phase

My gift-wrapping skills leave something to be desired. Okay, a LOT.

At least they give moments of amusement, and comments like "Oh, LET ME GUESS who this is from!!"

I want to make it clear that I do NOT envy people who can give exquisitely wrapped presents.

They either had it done at the mall or they spent far too much time and money on what's outside, only to give me useless junk inside.

I would rather have something useful and/or wanted either unwrapped altogether or in a plain brown bag.

So I came across this from wikiHow:

How to Wrap a Gift in A Bag

1. Open the gift bag and lay it on its side on a table or surface. Make sure it is the correct size for the gift. Wrap the gift in colored tissue paper.

2. Scrunch tissue paper and place at the bottom of the bag.

3. Slide gift into bag and turn bag upright. Place two small sheets of paper inside the bag between bag opening and gift.

4. Make sure the tissue paper covers the gift. Allow the tissue paper to extend over the side of the bag itself, arranging it neatly and attractively.

5. Tie the handles together with a small piece of scissor curled ribbon if the gift is small enough to accept this. Otherwise, just allow the handles to be separate. Its easier to carry it this way.

They forgot the proper prelude:

***Save gift bags received and saved from previous Christmases.


***Mark out the "TO and FROM" on the attached gift card to you can write your name and the recipient's.

(In our family, we usually have to start brand new gift cards, since the bags are 're-gifted' over many year's time.)

Number four gives me problems, too. My gift bags always look like Santa's trash can, brimming over with wadded up tissue paper.

Number five is kind of fun - especially if you can double-tape the entire opening shut to frustrate your recipient. But it ruins the chain of 'bag re-gifting' for that particular bag.

You can see it clearly on their faces as they struggle with all that tape - "DAMN ANDANTE...I won't be able to use this bag next year!".

On the other hand, YOU won't get it back.

One of my favorite strategies, which should probably be confined to close friends and family, is throwing the gift in a plastic grocery bag. Staple it shut, attach bow and "to/from" gift card. Or write the to/from part on the bag itself with a Sharpie. Done.

So it's not particularly attractive or creatively wrapped. Give it back to me unopened and I'll get my money back.

But I guarantee the gift will be something you want or need and I've spent some time thinking about you before buying.

Isn't that what it's all about?


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Less one

Sadly, the Collective Sigh Household and Menagerie is less one important member tonight.

I heard Randy making a gut-wrenching, agonizing howling noise in the back of the house. I frantically went searching for him - he was lying 'funny' on the floor, his pupils completely dilated and breathing labored as he cried.

We immediately bundled him off to the emergency vet, but by the time we got there he went into seizures. Within just a few minutes - before the vet could put him out of his suffering or even do more than listen to his heartbeat - he was gone.

I don't know what happened. He seemed fine earlier today. He & Trouble use the same dishes and litter box, usually in the middle of the night, so I can't very well monitor water & food intake or what comes out.

With all the nosy small critters around here, I am extraordinarily careful to not leave any toxic substances within reach.

Kidney failure? Brain tumor? We'll never know. In the meantime, we watch Trouble carefully for signs of, well, trouble. He will miss his brother very much.

Randy made his first appearance on this blog years ago. He hadn't changed a bit:

Rest ye gently, big fellow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday cat blogging

It IS Friday, isn't it?

Trouble sits at the sliding glass door every morning, chirping back at the birds and hoping to persuade one to open the door and hop into his mouth.

Yes, I know the vertical blinds are filthy. Someone should really ring for the maid.

Bonus chihuahua blogging

It's normally the cat's job, but Nicky fills in on that daily "Relax on freshly-washed pile of laundry" duty.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Fixing" our broken health care insurance system

For whom?
How healthy is your medical credit score?

System being designed to help hospitals figure out whether you'll pay them

Mortgage lenders aren't the only ones showing more interest in your credit score these days – the health industry is creating its own score to judge your ability to pay.

The new medFICO score, being designed with the help of credit industry giant Fair Isaac Corp., could debut as early as this summer in some hospitals.

Healthcare Analytics, a Waltham, Mass., health technology firm, is developing the score. It is backed by funding from Fair Isaac, of Minneapolis; Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp.; and venture capital firm North Bridge Venture Partners, also based in Waltham. Each kicked in $10 million for the project.
Just what we need - another layer of bureaucracy to add even more increases to our health insurance premiums.

And don't even get me started on the problems of inferior or incomplete care for those with a low score, I.D. theft, or no credit score at all.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The wearing of the pants

To: Robin Givhan
From: Andante
Subject: You go, girl

In regard to your piece in the Washington Post's "Front Runners" of December 9, 2007 concerning the ickiness and creepiness of Hillary Clinton's wearing slacks instead of dresses, I'd like to thank you on behalf of women the world over.

Ever since I was a girl (I'm just several years younger than Hillary - really), I have wondered why in the world women would prefer slacks to dresses or skirts.

I wondered this while standing at the school bus stop in below-freezing weather as I watched my scrawny little legs turn blue and every gust of wind blew my skirt up, to the immense amusement of others.

I was just THRILLED every time I went up the stairs at school and looked down to see a bunch of perverted, horny boys trying to catch a glimpse up a girl's skirt.

Robin, honey - I really have no explanation for Hillary's creepy wardrobe. Maybe it was standing on a raised stage while crowds of photographers and others tried to kill each other for a good view that converted her to Pants Hell.

Here's my suggestion. If we're going to wish that Hillary should don a dress or skirt, why don't we make it a requirement of EVERY presidential candidate? No exceptions - not even Fred Thompson.

I've shared this photo with friends before, but since you weren't on my buddy list until now, here it is again -

Do try to get that image of Fred Thompson out of your head.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Haven't we been here before?

Via TPM:
Huckabee not aware of NIE report on Iran
..and a blast from the past:
Bush fails reporter's pop quiz on international leaders
Been there, done that.

Never again.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In other words

Sometimes it's hard for we science-challenged folks to understand much about the stem cell debate.

But I feel pretty good taking the word of of Alan I. Leshner (chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science) and James A. Thomson (professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the first scientist to create human embryonic stem cells). Standing in the Way of Stem Cell Research
Far from vindicating the current U.S. policy of withholding federal funds from many of those working to develop potentially lifesaving embryonic stem cells, recent papers in the journals Science and Cell described a breakthrough achieved despite political restrictions. In fact, work by both the U.S. and Japanese teams that reprogrammed skin cells depended entirely on previous embryonic stem cell research.
Shorter version - "Charles, you ignorant slut".


Saturday, December 01, 2007

As Satan commands

As BarbinMD of the Great Orange Satan commands, let us all pause for a moment to ponder the great mystery of the latest crooked Republican shenanigans and call it what it is - Sex on the City.

I refer, of course, to the wonderment that is Rudy Giuliani; not just his well-documented, Reaganesque fact vs. fantasy problems, his total disregard for expert advice pre-911, his questionable 'friends' and - well, just Google 'giuliani scandal' and you get over 513,000 links on a plethora of subjects.

I'm not in the least surprised. Early on, I recognized the personality type because I was married to one for about seven years.

They are ALWAYS right; legends in their own minds. Those who object, disagree, seek to reach agreements, or refuse to kowtow to them in any fashion are beneath them.

In addition, the grass is always greener, be it a job, domicile, friends, spouse, you-name-it, they change it with nary a thought for how it might affect anyone else.

I have almost zero contact with my ex, thank God. No children by him, thank all the deities. I've lost count of how many jobs he's held - seven during our seven years of marriage. We moved eight times. I saw him drop and shun five Best-Friends-Forevah at the slightest imagined insult

Last I heard, he was on wife number five. He was a constant pain-in-the-ass and sorrow to his total-opposite brother and lovely parents. He could be devastatingly emotionally abusive and even physically so when challenged.

My best advice to Republican voters? Drop-kick the sorry bastard right out of your lives before he drives you crazy(crazier).

If, as this Gallup poll states, "Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health", a Giuliani presidency will significantly decrease that number. I guarantee it.

And to Mrs. G3 - regardless of your own haughty behavior, you have my sympathy.

If your Beloved comes to believe YOU were responsible in any way for sabotaging his presidential ambitions - and trust me, honey...he doesn't need facts - Wife Number Three will become Divorce Number Three.

I beg you, Republican primary voters and Mrs. G3 - please spare us the 24/7 media coverage of another glittery, gooey White House wedding.

Oh, and Mrs. G3 - just like me, you won't be the first, second, or twentieth to hear about the impending explosion. Instead, you'll hear it all for the first time on national television.


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