Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mutter Mutter Mütter...

The sad thing about the Mütter Museum is that they do not allow photography. So while I desperately wanted to bring you photos of heads in jars, lifelike wax models of various skin diseases, and the six-foot colon, I am unable to supply them except via this link. Instead I can only tell you that their motto ("Disturbingly Informative") is about as good as a motto gets. I'd been before, of course, but Coworker had not; so I got quite a kick out of her reactions to various and sundry awfulnesses as we worked our way around the displays. In the museum world there is always an open, neverending debate on the ethical issues surrounding the display of human remains in Natural History museums. But medical museums can neatly sidestep this issue--they're doing it for SCIENCE, and science trumps ethics. Of course, many of the specimens at the Mutter were donated by, but many more were donated by 19th century doctors who just...kept....items... after autopsies and the like. They're now enshrined in the College of Physicians (home of the Mutter, and the country's oldest medical professional organization) for the education and edification of both medical professionals and the public at large. I'm all for this, as I find it all pretty damn fascinating.

This fascination with the unseemly spilled over into a book purchase at the conference--not of something directly related to work, but a book called The Ghost Map, which is about how a map of the last great outbreak of cholera in London (in 1854) paved the way both for epidemiologists to understand how diseases are spread in an urban environment, and for the development of infrastrutures that make modern cities possible. Before the advent of water treatment and planned sewers, it was simply not possible for a city as large as London to continue growing beyond a certain point. Cool stuff, if you're a big picture sort of person--and still a hell of a story even if you're not.

And in other news, one of my cats smacked me in the face today and cut my lip open. I'm not sure if there's some kind of hotline I can call for this. Domestic abuse is a terrible thing; but abuse BY domestic animals is a tragedy not often discussed in public. Mostly because it makes their owners look like asses.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

I was going to do another Philly blog entry today complete with drama, excitement, and a review of the Mutter Museum (one of my all-time favorite museums ever) but instead I am forced to pre-empt myself to say--Sarah Palin on SNL? SERIOUSLY? Holy crap, could she have been LESS funny??? I admit to having very, verrry little sympathy for this woman on nearly all fronts. And I have been loving Tina Fey (not literally, though I certainly would jump at the opportunity.) But could they have MAYBE written something a little bit better than what we got? The intro bit was not horrible but not hilarious; her turn on SNL News was just sad. Her sitting there, looking uncomfortable and completely out of her element, not even trying to participate in the joke at her expense--why did she even want to come on the show, if she wasn't inclined to show us a willingness to poke a little fun at herself? John McCain has hosted a couple times, and I hear he's been hilarious--say what you like about the man, he's got a sharp sense of humor. But this was just further proof that Palin is truly unfunny both politically AND personally. I didn't think it was possible for me to be more disappointed in McCain's choice of running mate, but apparently I was wrong. Siiiiiigh.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Looking for Socks in Philadelphia

I realize that it's traditional to pack a full wardrobe, including socks, when one goes traveling for work. But I, like the McCain/Palin team, have always been a "maverick." Also like McCain/Palin, I am "more of the same damn thing" in that I never remember to think about whether I have clean socks or not until it's far too late to do another load of laundry before heading to the airport. And so it was that I found myself wandering the streets of Philadelphia looking for socks yesterday morning.

Being from a fairly spread-out midwestern city, it always seems incongruous to me to find Big Box stores nested in on downtown streets among the skyscrapers and pizza joints. Those kinds of businesses are by definition freestanding stores amid acres of the fast food jungle on the perimeter of town. So it was just a tad startling to walk 2 blocks from our hotel and go--as my roommate succinctly put it--"Shut UP! Is that a K-MART??" 15 minutes later my mission was fulfilled. (2 black, 1 beige, and one lovely pair of argyles.) Now I am more like Obama, having committed to a change of socks I can believe in.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Yesterday, Barack Obama came to town for a rally at the State Fairgrounds. This event was historic for a number of reasons. First, of course, is because he's the first black man to run for president, and the fact that he's here at all is amazing considering that as recently as 45 years ago people got murdered for trying to get black folks registered to vote. Secondly, it's amazing that a Democratic candidate for president is treating Indiana like it matters. Indiana has always had a strong democratic base--we've had democratic governors, senators, reps and city mayors on a regular basis in my lifetime. Yet in presidential elections we're always treated as a throwaway state--no one spends money here. The republicans assume we're in the bag, and the democrats have bigger fish to fry than our piddly 11 electoral votes. But not this year... This year, Obama's campaign put us on the hit list, along with the Carolinas and Missouri, as a state he could flip; and damned if he might not just do it. Polls here show him ahead by a couple % points, and allowing for margin of error it looks like he's at least in a dead heat with McCain--who by the way has not spent a DIME on advertising in this state until just this last week.

So this was the first chance in my life I've had to go to hear a presidential candidate speak in person--and it's someone who I support and feel good about voting for. Therefore, when the suggestion was made that a few of us hook off work and go, well... didn't have to ask me twice! The rally was at 12:15, doors at 10, so five of us piled into a car at 10 and headed over there, not completely sure we'd get seats.

The line. The line was unbefuckinglievable. A huge column of people, all moving briskly along thanks to some smooth organization on the part of volunteers, which snaked at least a half mile through the fairgrounds when we got there at 10:20 or so. We trotted along, trying to find the back of the line, behind an elderly woman who kept shouting out "OBAMA FOR MAMA! YEAH! I'M MAMA FOR OBAMA!" Finally, at a large gap in the line somewhere near the Home and Family Arts building, we jumped in, turned around and started walking back toward the front. (We lost the Obama Mama at this point.) We had white tickets for seats in the grandstand, which was fine--grandstand holds about 15,000 people so we figured we were probably OK. Then, when we were still a good ways from the gates, a volunteer walking down the line asked me, "Are you in a group?" I said, yeah, we're all together. She said, "Well, how many are you? Five? OK--" and she handed me 5 bright yellow tickets. "Do you guys want to be on the stage behind Obama? Just take these tickets, go right up to that tent there and they'll let you in."


Twenty mintues later, we were seated in the bleachers on the stage behind the podium, looking at a sea of Obama supporters. The official tally was apparently 21,000 people--I didnt' think the grandstand held that many, and one of the wings wasn't totally full. But still--15,000 or 21,000, either way that's the biggest event I've ever been at, possibly barring an Eric Clapton concert in the early 1990's. It was incredible, even before the speeches started. Since we were toward the back of the bleachers, we got a good view of the snipers setting up position, the arrival of the motorcade, and Obama's eventual entrance--got a nice little film of him walking right past not 10 feet from me before coming on stage, shaking some hands and starting his speech. Which was a great speech--it was both sobering and inspiring. At last, an intellectual running for president! Who'd have thought it. God, I hope he wins. I want him to win Indiana; but even if he doesn't, lord, let him win the shootin' match.

Friday, October 03, 2008


About a month ago I added new fish to my tank. I'd had 2 old tetras (one shabby, one brilliant-looking) and so added about 8 other tetras to keep them company.

Two weeks ago, I lost the shabby looking tetra--not surprising, he'd been shabby for a while.

One week ago, I noticed 2 more fish were dead. I looked closely and realized that they and all my remaining fish looked like this, in varying degrees. Apparently one of the new fish brought a gift with it--ichthyophthirius, a fairly virulent parasite. Within days, all but two of my fish were dead. I bought a treatment that supposedly will take care of it, but the treatment also kills snails; since I have 2 snails who I like, and about 40 that I hate, I figured this might be a mixed blessing, and evac-ed the chocolate snails to a hospital tank before putting in the treatment. Too late for one of the remaining fish... but the other one seems relatively healthy now, 48 hours after the treatment. So I now have ONE fish. And a tank that may or may not still be infested with free-swimming parasites. And 40 snails who appear to be completely resistant to Mardel Coppersafe. God DAMN it.