January 29, 2006

I love my Dad, but NPR is still boring, and other news


Me: Hello?

My Mom: Hi, it's me...

Me: (cutting her off) Yes, I'm listening, don't worry. He's not on yet. There's some other guy on. It's pretty boring. I'm not really paying attention to what they're talking about.

My Mom: Heh. I've got my walkman on so I can walk around and I won't miss it.

And then she started talking about something else for ten minutes, and by the time I turned the radio back on, they were already talking to him. She calls to make sure I'm listening, then makes me miss the intro. Thanks, Mom.

I really don't know how people can listen to talk radio. I don't. I'm not talking about all the right-wing stuff, the only exposure to which I ever get is during an occasional cab ride. I'm talking about NPR.

I'm a good liberal. I'm supposed to like NPR right? Well, I don't. Seriously, it makes me want to claw out my own eyes. Call me uncultured or shallow or whatever, but they're just so damn serious and boring. And I know there's Air America out there somewhere, but I have no idea where (sure, I know it would be easy to figure out, but still), and as much as I adore Al Franken, I still don't think I could listen. It's just too distracting - as a non-driving person, I'm always somewhere doing something whenever I might have occasion to turn on the radio, and I don't have a good enough attention span to pay attention to someone talking and do something else at the same time. (What? Me, with a short attention span? I know.)

So anyway, my Dad was a guest on some NPR program the other day to talk about the recent massive layoffs and plant closings at Ford and the implications it would have for American manufacturing. And while I love my Dad, and it's cool to hear him on the radio, I'm sorry, it was still boring. I do think he had a pretty good radio voice, and he certainly had plenty to say and sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but once they got past the part where it was just him and the host, to the part where people called in to ask questions or make comments, I completely zoned out. Well, except for the first caller, who was a former auto worker and said something to the effect of, "I think all of you are lying out your assess," and then proceeded to rip Ford and mock the fact that my Dad said "uh" and "um" a lot. Which he did (probably the main thing that was not good about his performance, but come on, it's not like he's a professional radio guy), but still, shut up, dude. Lay off my Dad. And I don't know what the heck he was talking about with the "lying" comment. My Dad doesn't work for Ford or any of the other auto companies, he just talks about them.

It's kind of funny - the way the guy was going off, it made it sound like he thought my Dad was a corporate shill and probably a Republican. Which he is most definitely not. This isn't the first time something like that has happened. A few months ago, he was quoted in a newspaper article, and they included an offhand comment he made about Bush's economic policies, and the way it was couched made it sound like he viewed Bush positively. Which, again, he most definitely does not, so it was quite distressing for him. "Ugh, they made it sound like I'm a Republican!" Hee.

In other news, I spent the holidays up in Maine with my family, which was fun. Yes, I'm aware that it's the end of January, which is a little late to be still talking about the holidays. I don't care. I'm writing about it now, and you'll read it and like it. Actually, if you want to be technical about it, I didn't really spend any holidays up there at all, because I didn't go up till Dec. 27, and came back before New Year's. Although if you count the fact that Chanukah spans eight days, and the fact that my family is arguably Jewish, I guess I spent at least part of Chanukah up there. Not that anyone really takes it very seriously, other than the part where we give each other presents, which, in the case of the female members of my family, means a big stack of Ann Taylor boxes, because none of us has any creativity whatsoever. I don't even know why we bother - we should just all go to the store together and buy ourselves a bunch of sweaters and be done with it. I did get one small other present - a copy of this book, which is only interesting because, a few days before, I was on the phone with my Mom discussing what I had bought for my Dad, and I mentioned that I'd almost bought the same book for him, except I didn't, because the publisher had been so cheap that they hadn't bothered to cut the edges of the pages after binding the book, so they were all jagged and uneven, and it really offended my aesthetic sensibilities, and I refused to pay money for such shoddy presentation. Of course, I didn't know at the time I went off on this tirade that she'd bought it for me. And when I opened it later, it wasn't awkward, at all.

We did light the menorah each night, but no one quite knew the exact words to the prayers you're supposed to say, and no one really paid much attention to it. The fact is, I think we're probably better off without it altogether, given the potential for fire. This year, on the first night (I wasn't there, but heard about it after the fact, which is probably a good thing; I do no think I would have dealt with this well if I'd been there), my Mom decided that the menorah would look excellent sitting on top of the wood stove. Except she forgot about the fact that the wood stove is super-hot, and the fact that wax tends to drip, and put the menorah directly on top without anything to catch the melted wax. So, because no one was paying any attention, the wax dripped all over the top of the stove, where it proceeded to burn, filling the house with burned-wax stink. At least there was no apparent permanent damage, unlike the time a few years ago when my Mom left the menorah burning unattended, and it fell over and burned a hole in the kitchen table before anyone noticed.

Now, just to be clear, I am not criticizing my mother. I am far worse when it comes to the proper care and handling of fire (back when I worked in the lab, I set my bench paper on fire more times than I care to admit). But also, this is why I do not personally use candles. Like, ever, for any reason (it's really a good thing I'm not a romantic person - I know you're probably shocked at that revelation - because if you believe what you see on TV, candles are required for romance).

What else...I found out that the guy who was the main character in this book has now outed himself (in the book, his name and some personal details were changed), and it was someone I actually knew in college. Well, not knew personally, but I knew who he was quite well, because I knew some of the other guys at his frat house, and I had a huge crush on him. You know the kind - you never actually speak to the person, but you lust after them from afar, and you develop ridiculous code names like Red Sweatshirt Man and Plaid Shirt Guy and Freezer Man and Ted Achtung Baby so you can excitedly tell your friends how you saw them walking down the hall or buying a soda in the dining hall, without worrying that anyone might overhear you and know who you're talking about. Come on, don't tell me you never did that (really, don't tell me; let me pretend I was at least somewhat normal).

Anyway, the fact that the guy in the book turned out to be this guy has completely blown my mind. It's totally bizarre. I never even remotely guessed it was him. What's funny is that I did actually know a guy named Kevin Lewis (the pseudonym in the book), and even though it said the names had been changed, I wondered if maybe it was actually him. However, because there were certain details about him in the book that had to have been at least partly true (based on the importance to the plot), I knew it couldn't have been the actual Kevin Lewis I knew.


And now the sad part.

Sometime around the middle of December, I went out to lunch with my aunt. After we were finished, she was going to give me a ride home, but she asked whether I minded if we stopped at a nearby toy store so she could buy something for her grandson Little Bob. Little Bob, so-named by me here because he is obsessed with Bob the Builder, is the three year-old son of her daughter, my cousin M. Little Bob is also one of the cutest, most sweet-natured children you'll ever meet. He's really a great kid, and I don't say that about all of them. If he can melt my cold, blackened heart, you know he's really one of the good ones.

As my aunt told me at the time, M had recently taken Little Bob to the doctor because his stomach seemed to be swollen, and all the poking and prodding and needle-sticking had been upsetting for him. The local doctor wasn't sure exactly what was wrong with him, and so Little Bob was being sent to the big city hospital for more tests, and my aunt wanted to be there after the appointment with a toy to, hopefully, calm him down and cheer him up.

According to my aunt, the local doctor had determined that Little Bob's spleen was enlarged, and his bloodwork looked a little abnormal, but the doctor didn't know why. Possibilities at the time included a viral infection, although he wasn't sick at all, or possibly even a form of a genetic blood disorder called thalassemia, which another cousin, M's brother, is apparently a carrier of.

Fortunately, Little Bob handled the big city hospital appointment just fine. Not so fortunately, Little Bob's spleen wasn't enlarged at all. Normally, that would be good news, but in this case, it was not. Because the real problem was that his spleen only appeared enlarged because there was a huge tumor growing behind it. Needless to say, it had to come out, and Little Bob spent a week over Christmas in the hospital in order to have surgery. Not the best way to spend the holidays.

After the surgery, the good news was that they appeared to have gotten all of the tumor out, and it had not visibly spread. The bad news was that the doctors were almost certain, based, presumably, on the type of cancer and how aggressive it was, that it would come back, possibly in another part of his body.

The latest news I heard was that my cousin and her husband are trying to decide whether to put him through chemotherapy now. Not that any chemo is easy, but apparently what they'd have to give him is particularly nasty, with side effects such as sterility and heart and hearing damage, and it doesn't even have that high of a survival rate. One of the doctors said she wouldn't put her own child through it. That's not a comforting thought. Without the chemo, they'll just have to watch him very carefully and hope that if the cancer returns, they'll be able to catch it before it's too late, and then at that point, they can give him the chemo. Some choice - give your child drugs that make him sick and could permanently damage his body and may not help anyway, or wait for what seems like an inevitable ticking time bomb to go off again.

*sigh* Sorry to end on a downer, but it is what it is, I guess. Get well, Little Bob.

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On 1/30/2006 5:02 PM, Blogger Dweeze said:

Hugs and good thoughts to Little Bob.

And to you, for that matter.

On 1/31/2006 2:36 PM, Blogger Immunegirl said:

1. Wishing Little Bob very good thoughts.

2. Is this the place for setting the lab on fire stories?

3. No, I have never referred to a guy as "Red Shorts" or "Pink Tie" or "Dave" (whose name was Stephen) before. I have no idea what you're talking about.

4. I can't believe you know the "Bringing Down the House" guy. That is so cool! I love that book. :)

On 1/31/2006 9:12 PM, Blogger Jolene said:

Iggy, setting-the-lab-on-fire stories are always welcome. :)

On 2/02/2006 2:58 PM, Blogger HistoryDetective said:

First of all, I am an NPR addict. I just can't get enough, except when it comes to the local guy who has his own show for two hours every day starting at noon. H'es a good liberal, but he's smarmy and arrogant.

More important, I'm sorry to hear about Little Bob. I hope that the cancer does not return and that he is able to continue building for many, many decades to come.

On 2/07/2007 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said:

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