Monday, November 27, 2006

Our Fine Four Fendered Friend

I watched this movie with the kids over the weekend and now I can't get the damn theme song out of my head. It didn't help to have my kids singing it over and over and over on a two-and-a-half hour car ride.


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Day They Cut My Wife's Head Open

This is the latest chapter in the FrankenKristin's tale. If you would like to read previous installments please visit:

Chapter 1: That's Fronkensteen!!
Chapter 1.5: Point of Clarification
Chapter 2: You Know I'm A Rather Brilliant Surgeon
Chapter 3: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!
Chapter 4: Opinions Are Like...

Kristin was scheduled for surgery to correct her Chiari Malformation on Wednesday, September 28th, 2005. The symptoms necessitating surgery were brought on by two car accidents earlier in the year. We flew to NY on Monday and went straight to the clinic for pre-surgical testing. The surgery was to take place at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) in Manhasset, NY which is where The Chiari Institute began, and where they perform all of their procedures. Because the hospital is in the middle of a Long Island suburb there aren’t a lot of hotels nearby. The few nearby require a 20 minute cab ride or a 40 minute bus ride.

Fortunately NSUH hosts The Variety House, an old brick house providing temporary shelter for out-of-town visitors on an as-needed basis. It wasn’t the fanciest of places but it was across the street and was free. As we made arrangements we were told that they had a room for us on the dates we were to arrive but we should know that if an “emergency case” were to arrive we might get bumped. Luckily we weren’t.

On Tuesday we visited my cousin and her new baby, which was a miserable experience for Kristin. The train and subway ride to her apartment in New Jersey took about an hour and was incredibly painful. As much as Kristin loves holding babies doing so was nearly impossible. However, she’s not one to pass up the chance to hold a baby so she made the best of it.

We returned to the Variety House that evening and began the long, sleepless night before surgery. Everything we had done for the last 8 months had led to this day. We were confident that we were making the right decision but that didn’t stop her from feeling nervous. After all, it’s not everyday that you have your head cut open. Unlike Kristin, I did manage to sleep a little bit.

During our prep the hospital staff was made it very clear that we needed to be in the admissions room NO LATER THAN 5:30am for check-in. If we were late we could lose our appointment. So, even though the hospital is across the street we got out of bed at 5:00am and headed off. To make matters worse the cafeteria wasn’t open so I COULDN’T GET ANY COFFEE!!

We were one of the first in the admitting room and were promptly told that we would be called when it was our turn. So we waited, and waited, and waited, while nearly everyone else in the waiting room was led of to the respective procedures. We sat for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, around 7:30 we were told that there was a problem with the schedule and that they might not be able to do the procedure due to an emergency surgery taking place in Dr. Milhorat’s operating room. Referring to him as "The Big Kahuna", the nurses commented to themselves that it must be a big deal as Dr. Milhorat is the Chief of Neurosurgery and practically owns the place.

Kristin and I asked how long it might take and were informed that it may be a short while or possibly several hours before they knew what would hapen. Since Kristin was going to use the time to sleep the nurse suggested I step out and grab some coffee and a paper as the cafeteria was now open. She assured us that it would be fine and that I could take my time.

When I returned with coffee and paper in hand the admissions staff said that not more than 5 minutes after I left they came to get her. She said they offered to wait but Kristin assured them I didn’t need to see her off, I would be fine. She had come this far and waited long enough, she had no interest in waiting any longer. So while I was buying my coffee she mounted the gurney and headed off to the OR. She also asked them to tell me not to stick around as it would be at least 5-7 hours before they were done and that I may as well do something with my day. The coffee and adrenaline had me too hopped up to sleep so rather than return to the Variety House I made my way to the train station and decided I’d do a little siteseeing.

If you have never been to Flushing Meadows Corona Park I highly recommend it. In 1940 it was the site of the World’s Fair and is adjacent to Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, and Arthur Ashe Stadium, home of the U.S. Open. Also located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is the Queens Museum of Art. The QMA houses one of the largest collection of Tiffany Glass and also features a full scale panorama of New York City including all five boroughs. If you're ever in the neighborhood I suggest you visit.

As for the surgery, here is what happened according to the post-op report:

Posterior fossa decompression under color Doppler ultrasonography guidance consisting of a suboccipital craniotomy, C1 and partial C2 laminectomy, dural opening, microlysis of arachnoidal adhesions, bipolar shrinkage of the cerebral tonsils, expansile duraplasty implying autogeneous pericranium, and remodeling of the posterior cranial fossa with a titanium mesh/acrylic cranioplasty.

In regular terms that means they cut out a piece of her skull, and removed portions of the C1 and C2 vertebra. Using color Doppler ultrasonography to monitor cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), they burned away a portion of her cerebral tonsils until the CSF flow was restored to normal. They finished by using a section of her pericranium and a titanium plate to cover the hole in her head and create a little more room. You can watch video of a similar procedure here.

I met with Dr. Milhorat after the surgery and he stated that Kristin had “quite a Chiari”. He said that her tonsils were herniated 10cm on one side and 12cm on the other. Because of this, as well as the lack of additional space in the back of her head, her CSF flow was completely blocked. They restored the flow to normal and were confident that she would make a proper recovery. They were unable to find any sign of permanent nerve or spinal cord damage. What he could not account for were those symptoms that would be consistent with whiplash resulting from the two car accidents. He cautioned us that as she recovers from the surgery (which could take up to a year) we would still want to seek evaluation and treatment for whiplash as well.

When they had finished patching her up she was ushered into the recovery room and I was invited to see her. She looked like crap and I was told that once the anesthesia wore off she would feel like crap as well. I was also told that she wouldn't be moved to a regular room until the next day since there weren’t any available at the time. Her aunt Kathy (the nurse) was flying in that night and would be spending the next several days caring for her so that I could return home to be with the kids. Because I couldn’t stay at the hospital and there was only one room available at the Variety House, it was either share a bed with her aunt or get a hotel room. I chose the hotel, much to Kathy's relief. I did offer to sleep with one foot on the floor but she wouldn't compromise.

Kristin spent most of Thursday in a dilauded-induced haze. The hopsital staff indicated that there wasn't much for us to do until she was more awake so I offered to take Kathy into the city and show her around. It had been several years since she had been to NYC so I took her to Ground Zero and Little Italy. We met my cousin and her husband who drove us back to hospital and I spent the night sleeping in a chair next in her room. The next day I flew home leaving her in the competent care of Nurse Kathy and the staff at NSUH.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Sunday Trumpet

With this week's review, Heather proves that breaking up isn't so hard to do afterall. Check out her review of The Breakup.


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Thursday, November 16, 2006

My New Toy

It's a Yamaha 12-string acoustic. I traded it for an old 6-string electric I haven't played in 10 years. That still keeps the total at four guitars, one mandolin and one banjo.

I haven't quite figured out how to play the banjo yet.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Happy Texas Is A Sad Place To Be

**NOTE** My IPS was giving me trouble yesterday so I wasn't able to post this on time. Please excuse the delay.

Thank you,

The Management

In the movies there are a several well-worn script formulas. One of the most common is the caught-in-a-situation-forced-to-be-something-you’re-not template. Over the years there have been some wonderful examples:

Some Like it Hot - Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau try pass themselves off as female musicians to hilarious effect.

The Music Man - The movie version featured Robert Preston as a slick traveling salesman attempting to convince an entire town that their biggest social ill is six-pocket pool and the remedy is a community marching band. Preposterous, I know, but it worked.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Steve Martin and Michael Caine play con men each trying to out con the other only be take by their mark.

School of Rock – Jack Black masqarades as a teacher attempting to convince a group of incorrigible little grade school students (and himself) that they have what it takes to be rock stars.

Unfortunately Happy Texas is not one of them.

The plot summary on IMDB describes the movie this way:

Two escaped convicts (Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn) arrive in the town of Happy, Texas, where they are mistaken for a gay couple who is to host the town's Little Miss Fresh Squeezed beauty pageant. Enjoying the celebrity and using their skill as con-men, the two adopt their persona to take on the task.

OK. But what the summary does NOT tell you is that there is no way on God’s green earth that anyone, not even the small town rubes of Happy, Texas, would believe that Steve Zahn could pass as a gay man. Even if he does go by David rather than Dave. Not since the '70s would a gay man be caught dead with facial hair like that unless he was auditioning for a Village People revivial or Freddy Mercury impersenator. I'm all for suspended disbelief, but this going a bit too far.

Sadly, this movie makes absolutely no effort to depict its actors as anything other than caricatures. Whether its Jo the small town bank manager, who turns out to be a woman, or the frumpy school teacher who is really a sex-crazed vixen, or the bumbling cast of local yokels, it's clear that character development was not in thr formula. Not even William H. Macy (as the “secretive” town sheriff) can save this shallow, sophomoric piece of crap. While the script gives them very little to work with, most of these actors display the range of a Daisy air rifle. And is Jeremy Northam trying to channel Alec Baldwin or does he always sound like that?

Although the writers probably think they’re clever, there is very little in this movie that actually passes for comedy. Naming your main character Wayne Wayne Wayne Jr. is the sort of creative writing I would expect from a third grade comic book, not a feature film. And in this post Jon Benet world, calling the pageant "Little Miss Fresh-Squeezed" is down right creepy.

Half way through the movie Steve Zahn takes his frustration out on his partner this way,

"If you ever leave me with a kid again I'll make sure you never have one. You have no idea what those screaming booger eaters are like. They expect you to... know stuff!"

As an audience, we do too. Like HOW TO BE FUNNY!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Open Letter To Michele Bachmann

Dear Ms. Bachmann-

Congratulations on your victory. If one thing is for certain, it’s that you have figured out how to run a winning political campaign. Yesterday, you were successful in defeating, Patty Wetterling. I can only hope that she is able to recover from the hateful things that were said about her on your behalf - and continue her excellent work in the field of child safety.

I should be upfront and tell you that I would not be considered one of your biggest fans. In fact, I have found myself in opposition to nearly everything you have stood for publicly. Except for one thing, we both believe in God. Which brings me to my concern.

I, along with many others, had a chance to view your remarks at the Living Word Christian Center last month. I took note when you exclaimed that God called you to run for the United States Congress. This of course is in not uncommon, history is filled with stories of good and decent people listening to and answering the call to serve God and creation. I was a bit taken aback though when you stated that, “God has focused like a laser beam, in his reasoning, on (your) race.”

With all that God has going on right now, I was surprised to hear that He had chosen to accompany you on the campaign trail. Especially given the large number of powerful people who have already lent their support your way including Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, President Bush and Laura Bush. But He is omnipotent and all knowing so perhaps He could tell you needed a little extra push.

That is why I was so surprised last night when I listened to your victory speech on the radio. You’re opening comment about approving this message was clever and showed a sense of irony that usually seems lost on you. You went on to thank a number of people including your husband, children, campaign staff, volunteers and donors. I couldn’t help noticing that, absent from that list, was God Himself.

Please tell me this was an oversight. I would hate to think that, after all God had done for you, after all He must have given up in order to focus like a laser beam on your race, that you would be so callous as to toss Him aside now that your mission had been accomplished. I can understand why you might not have invited Him to you victory party. After all, He’s God, you wouldn’t want Him stealing the spotlight. But would it have hurt you to at least offer a word or two of acknowledgement. It just seems disrespectful given that you practically wore Him around your neck like a shawl during the campaign. Fortunately for you, God is forgiving (at least the God I believe in is), but I wouldn’t blame Him if He didn’t speak to you for a while.

Either way, you might want to think about looking Him up in the next few days. I’m pretty sure He’ll listen.

One more thing, when you get to Congress, please don’t waste your entire two years trying to mess with the Constitution, it’s a pretty sacred document. And keep your guard up, I heard they let gays and Muslims in now.



Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Sunday Trumpet

Finally! Someone else is willing to stand up and proclaim that the Wizard has no clothes. This week Miss Keeks takes on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Although I did like her review of the book better than her review of the movie.


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Friday, November 03, 2006

Oh Brother! Where Art Thou Cojones?

Last night I saw an amazing live show. It was at a local club once made famous but a skinny little guy in purple tights. The band was Split Lip Rayfield.

I first saw them when the opened up for The Drive-By Truckers a few years ago. At that time I had no idea what to expect but with a name like that it was worth a try. Since then I’ve seen them several times and I am continually blown away.

SLR hails from Lawrence, KS and sounds like a cross between Metallica and The Del McCoury Band. With four part harmonies at breakneck tempo, their music is firmly rooted in the bluegrass tradition but their influences are clearly more punk-rock in nature. With song titles such as Redneck Tailgate Dream, C’mon Get Your Gun, 3.2 Flu and How Many Biscuits Can You Eat? they have figured out how to tap the age-old themes of country music and bring them into the 21st century.

The line-up consists of:

- Kirk Rundstrom (guitar) - with the armload of tattoos and creepy Deliverance stare he looks like he’d just as soon smash the guitar over your head than play it. But play it he can.

- Eric Mardis (banjo) - This guy won’t be getting a day-job playing the banjo at Shakey’s Pizza any time soon. He does things with the banjo that Roy Clark wishes he could do.

- Wayne Gottstine (mandolin) - This guy surely must have had a motor and ball joint surgically implanted in his wrist. He can move his hand so fast that it is literally a blur.

- Jeff Eaton (one-string gas tank bass) – With a body made from the gas tank of a '65 Ford and one string of weed whip line, this guy is an entire rhythm section onto himself.

Together these guys whip up more energy than any band I’ve seen in a long time. While their CDs are good they pale in comparison to the live shows.

Unfortunately their days are numbered. Earlier this year guitarist Kirk Rundstrom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Although he identifies music as the thing that makes him the happiest he has decided to retire from performing to concentrate in his health. The band is taking one last run before hanging up SLR for good.

Don’t miss your chance to see these guys before they are gone.

And donate some money to the Kirk Rundstrom Cancer Fund too.