Friday, December 21, 2007

How Many?


Find a Sonography school near you

New Project

After thinking long and hard, I have decided that my next project will be a series of guitar jams with lyrics entirely taken from the comments section of YouTube videos of guitar players like Eddie, Vai, Satriani.  The combination of righteous anger, poor spelling, impenetrable syntax and total ignorance is just too fantastic to ignore.

Who's in?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Misanthrope Leads - The MSM Follows

More on fertility rates in the US and Europe.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

God Bless the New York Post

Truly, the New York Post deserves the Nobel Prize for Headline Writing.  It's so hard to pick a favorite as they are all gems.  Who can forget the cover photo of disgraced New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey after admitting his affair with his Israeli security adviser?  The headline? 

Alien versus Predator

Well, the good folks at the Post have outdone themselves again.  As I noted below, Ike Turner died last week.  The headline?

Ike, 76, Beats Tina to Death

That's just awe-inspiring copy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Return of Sat...uh, the MagDog

She's baaaaaack.

The Scottish Lass and I went to pick up Her Satanic Highness on Saturday night.  It had been 3 days since her surgery and she had been ahead of schedule on all fronts.  They removed the chest tube quicker than expected.  She was weaned off the IV drugs quicker than expected.  Basically, the dog is made of fucking titanium.

When we showed up, we didn't know quite what to expect.  When we saw her on Thursday, she was still very groggy from all the pain meds and didn't look happy at all.  We expected the nurse to bring her out wrapped in a blanket, only her little head sticking out with a plaintive look.

What actually happened was that the Iron Bitch STORMED out of the hospital and into the waiting room.  Once outside, she was trotting as fast as she could down 15th Street.  Because the wound is on her chest, you can't really see it most of the time.  You could have been forgiven for not realizing that anything at all had happened to her this week.

Once home, she availed herself of a big bowl of kibble and then went straight to her dog bed.  Instead of sleeping, she sat on her haunches for a while, like a Queen returning to survey her kingdom.

It was a huge relief.  

So, we have a couple of weeks of heavy pill rotation coming up.  She's on five pills, twice a day.  Luckily, the vet recommended a treat called "Pill Pockets," which have a little hole in which to place the medicine.  She wolfs those down like she hasn't eaten for weeks, so the meds should be no problem.

Plus, that zipper scar on her chest is fucking bitchin'.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The end of Europe?

This article reminds me of a conversation that I was having with some friends of mine last Fall.  They are a married couple.  She is Italian and he is half-German/half-American.  Among other subjects, our boozy post-dinner conversation turned to differences between America and Europe.  We got on to the subject of the high level of benefits that European governments provide to their citizens.  In particular, we started talking about the level of paid maternity leave required by law and other related pregnancy benefits.

My Italian friend was arguing the standard line of well-educated, upper middle class liberals that these benefits were crucial.  When I asked what public good was being served by having such a high burden on employers, she responded that it promoted childbirth and population growth.  The problem, as I pointed out to her, was that European birth rates are amongst the lowest in the world and trail a slew of nations with no such benefits.   If that is the public policy goal of the benefits, it isn't working.

As this article points out, however, Europeans have gotten used to a level of government benefit and support that is probably politically impossible to reduce.  At some point, these countries are going to buckle under the weight of their social welfare systems and their weak economies.  

There are many wonderful things about Europe and certainly many things that Americans could learn from the Continent.  In fact, one thing that frustrates me no end is the tendency of Americans to reflexively take the position that everything is done the best here, better than anywhere else.  As just a small example, consider the difference in public transportation integration between European and American cities.  Coming home to JFK and grabbing a horrible, smelly cab is downright embarrassing after having been in, say, Zurich. 

But the truth is that the lovely mirage of long-vacations, short work weeks and lavish government benefits with no negative consequences is not sustainable much longer.  It's no coincidence that young, ambitious French people are abandoning Paris in droves for London, where they might be able to gain something from hard work and long hours.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Guess We Are All Just Making Vibrations in the Air

Whether it is strings, drumheads or something else, I guess all music is really just making vibrations that travel through the air.

It's a little less distinguished than all vocal performances like, say, Bobby McFerrin or the French singer Camille, but it's all the same concept.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Don't You Sass Me Now Anna Mae!

Ike Turner is dead.

Every time I hear his name, I think of the time I saw "What's Love Got to Do with It?" on television once in a summer house I shared with a gaggle of women.  I didn't really know anything about Ike or Tina Turner except that he supposedly beat her.  So, to be honest, I was really just waiting for that part to show up in the movie because the other stuff was pretty dull to me.  Let's face it, if the "triumphant" part of your story is producing "Private Dancer," the story isn't so good.

So there I was, sitting with about 10 women in the living room, when the first scene of Ike's crazy, violent temper finally comes on.  Without thinking, I cried out with a fist-pumping, "Yes!!!"

Maybe I shouldn't have told that story.

Two Down, One To Go!

Just spoke with the surgeon.  Maggie is out of surgery and doing very well.  They did have to cut open her sternum, so she will have some awesome pain meds, but the operation went about as well as it could go. 

They were able to remove all of the mass and a nice margin of healthy tissue around it.  That's the best possible outcome.

We will have to wait 5-7 days for the histopathology report to determine if it is cancer and to know if the margin was big enough, but for now we have had the best possible result.  It's a huge relief.

Unsurprisingly, Maggie has won the hearts of the staff at the vet hospital, as we found out last night from the nurses.  I fully expect to go in tomorrow and find Maggie in her bed, surrounded by nurses laughing at her jokes as she sips the bottle of booze they smuggled in for her. 

Decision '08

I think this is a must-see item for all interested in next year's election.

Seriously, how low can these guys go?

Waiting - Part Two

We visited the Iron Bitch last night and this morning and she looks much, much better.  In fact, you'd hardly know that she has been so sick.  That made us feel really good, although I couldn't help but feel bad that the poor pup doesn't know what she's about to go through.

So, in a few minutes, she will go into surgery and they will try to remove all of the 4 inch tissue mass and whatever portion of the pericardium is involved.  This is some pretty serious surgery, so the first hurdle today is getting her through the procedure itself.  She's a very tough little beagle and should do well, but it is nerve-wracking nonetheless. 

The second hurdle will be knowing if they could remove the whole mass.  They can't fully visualize it using ultra-sound, so they won't know until they are inside whether parts of it are too close to sensitive nerves or vasculature for removal.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that the whole mass can be resected completely.

And that's where we will be at the end of the day.  The procedure takes about an hour and half, so we should know by 5 o'clock how things have gone.

The last hurdle will be the histopathology report on the tissue mass.  Obviously, we are hoping it is non-cancerous, which would indicate a very good prognosis for her.

In the midst of our stress, we had to laugh when we realized that this whole thing is classic Maggie.  Only she could have a huge tissue mass near her heart, a heart sac filled with nearly half a liter of fluid and, by the way, a GI parasite that needed to be flushed, and still walk around with nothing worse than a strange cough.

That dog is tough, I tell you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some Good News

I just spoke with the veterinary cardiologist, who is absolutely incredible, and got the good news that the fluid from Maggie's pericardium did not test positive for lymphoma.  Now, lymphomas do not tend to exfoliate that much, which means that there are not as many cells to detect in samples, so this is not a guarantee that it is not a lymphoma, but it is a good start.  It also doesn't guarantee that it is not a sarcoma or a carcinoma, but we won't know until the surgery is performed, which will be tomorrow.

The surgery itself is major and I am pretty nervous about that.  The mass is too big (10 cm - about 4 inches!) to remove through thorascopy, so the next step would be to scan her and use a rib spreader to clear enough space to remove the mass.  The most involved would be to actually open her rib cage, but that is pretty drastic.  Unfortunately, there is no way to know until tomorrow.  Amidst my anxiety, I cannot help but marvel that surgery this complex has now become almost commonplace for veterinary medicine.

So, two major hurdles remain.  First, the successful completion of the surgery.  I will let everybody know how that goes tomorrow afternoon.  It is definitely scary.  It is not possible to tell before getting into the chest whether the entire mass can be removed, so we won't know for sure that they can take every bit out until it is done.

Second, the post-surgical biopsy will tell us if the mass is cancer or not.  If it is, then she'll need to take some anti-cancer drugs for some time post surgery.  If it is not, well, assuming no complications, we've reached the best of all worlds.  According to the doctor, removal of the pericardium doesn't have a negative effect on lifespan for the dog.  So there is hope for a very good outcome and I am just going to concentrate on that to get me through the next 24 hours.

Updates to follow, but first a thank you to all of you who have sent me such kind words.  Dog people are really good people and, thankfully, my friends are also really good people.


I was all fired up to come back from Australia and post some photos about our trip and then write some stuff about working with my friend Mano Felciano on his show last Sunday at Crash Mansion.

Unfortunately, life doesn't work out that way.

My last post, about Maggie and her sedatives, was funny at the time but it is less so given what has transpired in the last 48 hours.

Maggie's cough resolved, but when we got home, she looked like she had lost a lot of weight and she wasn't acting right.  Hard to explain why, but you just know when your dog ain't right.
By Sunday, she was breathing only in little short breaths, which I figured was a result of continued throat infection or maybe congestion in the lungs.  So I took her to the vet on Monday morning.

It turns out that the pericardium, the tissue sac that surrounds the heart, was filled with what later turned out to be 400 ml (about a quart) of fluid.  Maggie was breathing so shallowly because her heart sac was filling up 1/3 of her chest, compressing her lungs.  As a result, what I thought would be a trip to the vet to get some antibiotics turned into a sprint to the emergency room to have the fluid drained.  Given her size and the amount of fluid, nobody could believe she was walking around so normally.  I can't even begin to imagine what would have happened had I hesitated and scheduled the appointment for later in the week or next week.  So, lesson number one - IF YOU THINK YOUR DOG ISN'T "RIGHT" GO TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY

They drained the fluid at the emergency room and she is doing much better now.  The nurse called this morning and told me she was "eating like a champ," which sounds like the little piglet, so I am relieved.  Above is a photo we snapped last night during visiting hours.

Unfortunately, the cause of the fluid build-up was a large tissue mass in the pericardium.  We are awaiting the result of the blood tests right now to determine if it is malignant.  It is also possible it was caused by a viral or fungal infection, which would be a more welcome result than a cancer.  Luckily, the full-body scan they did of her last night didn't show any tissue masses or tumors anywhere else in her tiny beagle body.  

Still, this waiting is killing me.

It's a strange thing to have a dog in such distress.  As anybody who knows me can tell you, I adore my dogs.  And I was an absolute wreck yesterday due to the lethal combination of intense jet lag (only about 9 hours of sleep in three days), lack of food (I was so wound up all I could get down was three cups of coffee) and having to keep a stiff upper lip during some business calls and meetings during the day.  But it's just not possible to explain that you want to cry because your dog is in a life-threatening situation.

At any rate, there were many, many tears yesterday and many sad thoughts about preparing for the possibility of a life without the Magdog.  And I reflected that loving a dog is really about the loving of the dog and being the one responsible for protecting and caring for her.  People will tell you that they get unconditional love from their dog, but the most wonderful and also, in these cases, most painful part is being the one who must love and care and, in the worst situations, make difficult decisions.  We are not there yet with Maggie, but in the midst of this scare I was able to glimpse how love can make you strong enough to ensure that there is no needless suffering.  I truly hope we do not get there, but I will admit that I am scared.