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June 30, 2005

Sustenance

Doom Song: God, I'm slow today.
Me: I am so exhausted I'm about to fall over.
Doom Song: I need, like, 6 more Diet Cokes.
Me: I need vodka, and a naked man.
Doom Song: Dude, NICE. That's my girl.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 03:47 PM | Comments (1)

June 28, 2005

At Your Service

People often ask me just what the hell it is I do for a living. Well, I do a lot of things. One thing I do is research and write help text.

Today, I spent 7 hours on the following (help text for a Military Service section of a registration page):

Some of the fields described in this help text may not be shown, due to your systemís configuration.

Military Campaign Badge | Transitioning Type | Veteran Status | Combat Veteran | Type of Discharge | Disabled Veteran | Homeless Veteran

Military Campaign Badge - Campaign badges are awarded to military servicemembers who participate in certain expeditions/campaigns around the world. For more information on which expeditions/campaigns are eligible for badges, visit the Office of Personnel Management's Veteran's Guide.

Two recently awarded campaign badges not listed in that guide include:

  • Afghanistan Campaign Medal - Eligible servicemembers must have served in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom on or after Oct. 24, 2001, to a future date to be determined by the Secretary of Defense or the cessation of the operation. The area of eligibility encompasses all land areas of the country of Afghanistan and all air spaces above the land.

  • Iraq Campaign Medal - Eligible servicemembers must have served in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on or after March 19, 2003, to a future date to be determined by the Secretary of Defense or the cessation of the operation. The area of eligibility encompasses all land area of the country of Iraq, and the contiguous water area out to 12 nautical miles, and all air spaces above the land area of Iraq and above the contiguous water area out to 12 nautical miles.
Transitioning Type - Select the time frame for your transition out of the military. If you are not a transitioning service member, select "Not Applicable" from the drop down list.

Enter dates for transitioning, entrance into the military, and discharge in the fields provided using an MM/DD/YYYY format (e.g. 04/19/2005), or by clicking the calendar icon beside each field.

If you do not know the exact day you or your spouse entered the military or were discharged, use "01" as the date (for example, 06/01/1984).

Veteran Status - Choose Eligible Person from the drop down list if you are the spouse of:

  • Any person who died of a service connected disability;

  • Any member of the Armed Forces serving on active duty who, at the time of application, is listed by the appropriate Secretary in one or more of the following categories for a total of more than 90 days: missing in action, captured in line of duty by a hostile force, or forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power; or

  • Any person who has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service connected disability, or who died while a disability so evaluated was in existence.
Combat Veteran - Make a selection from the drop down list using the following guidelines:

  • Not Applicable - You or your spouse is not a veteran of a campaign.

  • Yes, Vietnam Veteran - You or your spouse served in the active U.S. military, naval or air service and was discharged from such service under conditions other than dishonorable during the Vietnam-era (the period beginning on February 28, 1961 and ending on May 7, 1975, in the case of a veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period, and the period beginning on August 5, 1964 and ending on May 7, 1975, in all other cases.)

  • Yes, Campaign Veteran - You or your spouse is a veteran of a campaign other than Vietnam.

  • Yes, Not a Campaign Veteran - NEED DEFINITION

  • Eligible Person - You are the spouse of:

    • Any person who died of a service connected disability;

    • Any member of the Armed Forces serving on active duty who, at the time of application, is listed by the appropriate Secretary in one or more of the following categories for a total of more than 90 days: missing in action, captured in line of duty by a hostile force, or forcibly detained or interned in line of duty by a foreign government or power; or

    • Any person who has a total disability permanent in nature resulting from a service connected disability, or who died while a disability so evaluated was in existence.
Click the Combat Veteran Website link for more information about which armed conflicts qualify as campaigns.

Type of Discharge - Make a selection from the drop down list using the following guidelines:

  • Honorable - You or your spouse received an honorable discharge, having met or exceeded the required standards of duty performance and personal conduct.
A less than honorable discharge refers to a discharge that occurs under other than honorable conditions. This can be due to generally improper conduct, conviction of a crime either in a military court martial or a civilian court, or some other inappropriate action on the part of a soldier or someone associated with that soldier.

The United States military subdivides less-than-honorable discharges into four categories, in increasing order of severity:


  • General (under honorable conditions) - You or your spouse received a general discharge when you separated from the service under honorable conditions, but without a sufficiently meritorious military record to deserve an honorable discharge.

  • Other than honorable - You or your spouse received an other than honorable discharge for misconduct or security reasons.

  • Bad conduct - You or your spouse received a bad conduct discharge when you separated from the service under conditions other than honorable under an approved sentence of a general or a special court-martial.

  • Dishonorable - You or your spouse received a dishonorable discharge when you separated from the service under dishonorable conditions after a general court-martial.
If you were a commissioned officer who received a dismissal from the military, select "Dishonorable" from the drop down list. A dismissal of a commissioned officer, in general, the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge of an enlisted member.

Disabled Veteran - A disability is considered to be service related if it was incurred or aggravated during a period of active military service from which the veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, and was not due to willful misconduct of the veteran. A service connected disability evaluated 10 percent or more disabling by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs entitles a veteran to receive disability compensation.

Make a selection from the drop down list using the following guidelines:

  • Yes, Disabled Veteran - You or your spouse is a veteran who is entitled to disability compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the U.S. Department of Veteransí Affairs for a disability rated at less than 30 percent, and who is not classified as a Special Disabled Veteran (see below), or a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service connected disability.

  • Yes, Special Disabled - You or your spouse is a veteran who is entitled to disability compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the U.S. Department of Veteransí Affairs for a disability:

    • Rated at 30 percent or more; or

    • Rated at 10 or 20 percent in the case of a veteran who has been determined by the U.S. Department of Veteransí Affairs to have a serious employment handicap under Chapter 31, Training and Rehabilitation for Veterans with Service Connected Disabilities; or

    • A person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service connected disability.
  • No - You or your spouse is not a disabled veteran.
If you or your spouse is disabled, chose a Disability Percentage from the drop down list.

Homeless Veteran - A homeless veteran is an individual who:

  • Served in the active military, naval, or air service
  • Was discharged or released from such service under conditions other than dishonorable
  • Lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
This definition includes any individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a publicly or privately operated shelter for temporary accommodation; an institution providing temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or a public or private place not designated for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 04:36 PM | Comments (2)

June 27, 2005

Ugh

Hey.

Still ... yeah. I may have portrayed last week/weekend as a hectic time at work, but it's this week when TOTAL CHAOS is about to break loose.

Deadline is Thursday night. I'd say we're about ... yeah, no. I'm not going to commit what I think to print.

I'm taking my 2.5 minute break and eating a cup of Publix Fat Free key lime pie yogurt and slice of whole wheat bread.

This is what I've become.

I plan on getting way inebriated Friday night. And this weekend, I hope to get Movable Type loaded on my impending photoblog:

FOECUS - Girl vs. Camera

Posted by Highwaygirl on 11:10 AM | Comments (4)

June 26, 2005

In the RAW

I'm doing two things here - testing the ability of the Image:Magick plugin to create a thumbnail from a full-size photo, and posting a photo that I took using the RAW format and converting it, post-production, to JPG.

This is the view out the back of my apartment.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 12:20 PM | Comments (3)

June 24, 2005

Hell Is For Children

HEY YOU.

Yes, YOU. The person reading this. I may or may not know who you are. But here's the thing - I am in work HELL right now. I'm serious. I'm ... very stressed. Yes. There is very little joy in my life at the moment, in addition to very little time for social activities such as updating this site.

This is where you come in. Do me a favor? Post a comment to this entry. Anything, I don't care. Something funny, something poignant ... something I never knew about you (if I know you), or an introduction if I don't.

I need something that will help me get my mind off of work during those rare minutes when I'm not frantically trying to fix something that's messed up. I'll be working all weekend (bleh); I need you to give me the will to go on.

So if anything I've ever posted has amused, entertained, or otherwise held meaning for you, be a sport and return the kindness just this once. My sanity thanks you.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 11:33 AM | Comments (16)

June 22, 2005

We're So Pretty, Oh So Pretty

Sex Pistols
"Pretty Vacant"
Listen | Buy

NOTES: I remember when I was a teenager that all of the music I listened to (Bauhaus, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols) seemed so subversive. I used to walk around singing the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia" thinking I was really cool. My friends and I used to sing the chorus of this song - "We're so pretty, oh so pretty - we're vacant!" without a trace of irony. God we were dumb.

Incidentally, I'm looking for a copy of Wire's "12XU" if anyone has it.

There's no point in asking, you'll get no reply
Oh just remember I don't decide
I got no reason it's all too much
You'll always find us
Out to lunch

Oh we're so pretty, oh so pretty
We're vacant

Don't ask us to attend. 'cause we're not all there
Oh don't pretend 'cause I don't care
I don't believe illusions, and too much is real
So stop your cheap comments
'Cause we know what we feel

Oh we're so pretty, oh so pretty
We're vacant

And we donít care

We're pretty - pretty vacant

Posted by Highwaygirl on 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

Big Money! Big Money!

Roo: I just saw a picture of Jennifer Garner, and though, for some reason, I've decided to pretend she's not really pregnant, there is no question now
Me: please kill me
Me: *offers neck*
Roo: *bites*
Me: link me to the Jen photo!
Me: I like her, still
Roo: me too
Me: But I think she deserves better than Affleck
Roo: Jen photo
Roo: eh, I don't know...I don't hate them together, for some reason
Roo: though he's nasTAY in that picture
Me: HOLY
Roo: I KNOW!
Me: she really popped
Me: that's ... wow
Roo: I know...my same reaction
Me: EWWWW
Me: he's gross
Me: what the hell is he doing smoking around her?!?
Me: she needs to kick his ass
Me: or have Victor Garber do it
Roo: he was smoking outside away from her at least
Roo: hee! SpyDaddy!
Roo: (at first I typed SpayDaddy!)
Me: hahahaha
Me: Bob Barker is SpayDaddy
Roo: YES! HA!

And this little thing is the answer to all of my prayers. Behold, the SCOOBA!

Posted by Highwaygirl on 11:05 AM | Comments (2)

June 20, 2005

Josie's On a Vacation Far Away

The Outfield
"Your Love"
Listen | Buy

NOTES: Ah, mid-80s pop. I just like screaming the first line of this song whenever I hear it come across the airwaves.

Josie's on a vacation far away
Come around and talk it over
So many things that I want to say
You know I like my girls a little bit older

I just wanna use your love tonight
I don't wanna lose your love tonight

I ain't got many friends left to talk to
No one's around when I'm in trouble
You know I'd do anything for you
Stay the night, but keep it undercover

I just wanna use your love tonight
I don't wanna lose your love tonight

Try to stop my hands from shakin'
'Cause somethin' in my mind's not makin' sense
It's been awhile since we've been all alone
I can't hide the way I'm feelin'

As you're leaving please would you close the door
And don't forget what I told you
Just 'cause you're right that don't mean I'm wrong
Another shoulder to cry upon

I just wanna use your love tonight
I don't wanna lose your love tonight

Posted by Highwaygirl on 11:19 AM | Comments (49)

June 19, 2005

I Became Chronologically Fucked Up

Tragically Hip
"Locked In the Trunk of a Car"
Listen | Buy

NOTES: Hello, I'm back. And HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! to all the dads in the viewing audience.

Now here's a little song about a serial killer.


They don't know how old I am
They found armor in my belly
From the sixteenth century
Conquistador, I think
They don't know how old I am
They found armour in my belly
Fashioned out of machine revving tension
Lashing out at machine revving tension
Rushing by the machine revving tension

Morning broke out the backside of a truck stop
The end of a line, a real rainbow-likening luck stop
Where you could say I became chronologically fucked up
Put ten bucks in just to get the tank topped off

Then I found a place it's dark and it's rotted
It's a cool, sweet kinda place
Where the copters won't spot it
And I destroyed the map, I even thought I forgot it
However, every day I'm dumping the body

It'd be better for us if you don't understand
It'd be better for me if you don't understand

And I found a place it's dark and it's rotted
It's a cool, sweet kinda place
Where the copters won't spot it
And I destroyed the map that I'd carefully dotted
However, every day I'm dumping the body

It'd be better for us if you don't understand
It'd be better for us if you don't understand

It'd be better for me if you don't understand

Let me out...

Posted by Highwaygirl on 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2005

You Put Your Right Hand Up

President Bush, mid-Hokey Pokey:

That's what it's all about, yo!

President Bush is photogenic as all hell, don't you think? There's an "... and starring Laura Bush as EVA BRAUN" joke in here somewhere.

Posted by Highwaygirl on 11:34 AM | Comments (1)

Focusyn

So yesterday I went to the doctor on account of the white-hot lightning bolts of pain I was feeling in my kidneys. Final verdict - kidney infection, and now I'm taking chalky white horse pills twice a day for a week.

But that's not the interesting part. The really interesting part is that I am, apparently, a lizard. You'd think with an infection I'd have a fever, right? Oh no. No, no, no. MY temperature was a cool 97.2, almost 1.5 degrees below normal. The nurse took it three times because she didn't believe the readout on the electronic thermometer.

Other random stuff:

  • I bought a new domain name. What happened was that I was helping Eric try to come up with a hip/trendy/cool name for the website he wants to create (something photography related). We've been throwing ideas back and forth for a few weeks. Almost every "good" dot-com name is already taken, so I thought an alternative spelling of a word was the way to go.

    Well, after testing a lot of variations (I still kinda like friendorfoto.com), I came up with foecus.com. And the more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with it. It's short, easy to remember, phonetically sounds like a real photography term, and is just damn cool.

    Eric wanted to think about it. Eric hesitated, and he who hesitates is lost.

    I bought it myself. I did clear it with him first, and if he thinks about it and decides he does want to use it, I'll transfer the rights to the name to him (because, honestly, it would be perfect for him).

  • My broken elbow is all healed. I can extend it all the way out with no tightness or pain, I can put weight on it and do pushups, etc. Which is fanfreakingtastic, because my orthopedist initially said that I probably would not get full range of motion back (the kind of fracture I had is notorious for not healing 100%).

    But my broken right pinky is still giving me problems. It healed a little bit bent at the base, so now it's slightly curved. I can make a proper fist, but there's still tightness there, and if I hit it against something the wrong way it really hurts. I never would have thought that my main, lingering issue from rolling head-first down the stairs would be my fractured finger, but ... it is.

  • Last night I dreamt of a midget. It was a helper-midget of sorts, at my office. Only it didn't walk around anywhere. One of my coworkers (Watto) carried him around everywhere on his back. Like Master Blaster from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (only my coworker doesn't wear a face shield ... yet). I told John about it and he was amused, but then decided that I "have some f*cked up dreams."

  • I have a new breakfast of champions. Due to the fact that my metabolism has decided to suck beyond the telling of it, I'm trying to be super - nay, UBER - careful about not eating junk. This means no more fast food. Make it myself or go hungry, that's my new motto.

    For breakfast this morning I had Egg Beaters topped with a smattering of 2% sharp chedder and a dollop of salsa, and a Merita Lite wheat hamburger bun toasted with a thin schmear of ICBINB. You know what? It was really damn good, and filling. Now I feel STRONG LIKE BULL! (or something)

  • Work is about to get insanely busy. Bleh.

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 09:00 AM | Comments (1)
  • June 13, 2005

    First Do No Harm

    There's something about this story of the girl whose parents had opposed radiation treatment for her cancer that just annoys me.

    From NYTimes.com:

    CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex., June 10 - A bitter standoff between the parents of a 12-year-old and Texas social workers and doctors over radiation treatment ended on Friday on a somber note with a medical report that the girl's Hodgkin's disease, which had seemed in remission, had reappeared.

    The parents, Michele and Edward Wernecke, lost custody of their daughter Katie a week ago, after opposing radiation therapy as unnecessary. When the new test results were announced at a hearing in juvenile court, the parents quickly complied and agreed through their lawyers to let doctors set the course of treatment, which could resume in days.

    "The Werneckes are devastated," said Daniel F. Horne, a lawyer for the couple. Mr. Horne said they were too distraught to comment.

    Mrs. Wernecke went with a doctor to tell Katie the news before a family gathering under state supervision to celebrate her birthday. She will turn 13 on Saturday.

    The agreement on treatment appeared to douse another hot spot in the field of patients' rights. Coming on the heels of the polarizing right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, Katie's case raised the provocative question of when parents lose their rights to control a child's medical treatment. Under Texas law, parents may withhold medical treatment from a terminally ill child, but not in lesser situations.

    "If the benefits of treatment are clear and clear harm can result from withholding care, ethically the state has the right to step in," Dr. Robert Klitzman, co-director of the Center for Bioethics at Columbia University, said.

    Allowing a disease to inflict harm, Dr. Klitzman said, "is a form of child abuse."


    I know it's an utterly tragic situation; now that tests have shown that Katie Wernecke's disease has returned - possibly during the intervening time when the parents sought to block radiation treatment - I'm sure her parents are second-guessing the decisions that they made. Everyone suffers in this situation.

    I guess what annoys me is the apparent hubris of the parents in thinking they knew what was medically best for their child, rather than accepting the knowledge and expertise of three oncologists who were all prescribing the same treatment - chemotherapy followed by radiation.

    This treatment is standard for the mid-range stages of Hodgkin's - an early stage (Stage I) is typically treated solely with radiation because the disease is so localized. The latest stage, Stage IV, does not usually include treatment with radiation due to the extent (spread) of disease - people at Stage IV typically have disease both above and below the diaphragm, or they have disease that has spread to their organs and/or bone marrow. In Stage IV the person would need full-body irradiation, which is usually seen as being too high-risk when compared to possible benefits.

    So Katie's oncologists recommending chemo followed by radiation was in no way experimental or "out there" - it's the gold standard for treatment. After four months of chemo, the girl's scans showed the disease to be in remission. At this point, her parents decided that was good enough. She didn't need radiation because her disease had been eliminated; adding the radiation treatment would only harm a "healthy girl."

    I hope that the oncologists in question adequately explained the treatment of Hodgkin's disease and what it entails. But maybe they had poor communication skills and never explained - in a way the parents and the girl could understand - the treatments and potential side effects.

    A CT or PET scan is no guarantee of remission. The only true indicator of remission is a lymph node biopsy, and even then, it's possible that the cancer in the lymph nodes in a secondary site was not as responsive to treatment as the node that was biopsied.

    A scan is used to measure the difference in size of the affected lymph nodes. A decrease in size is seen as an indication that the treatment (either chemo or radiation) is having an effect. But it is by no means an exact science. It cannot measure on a microscopic level whether or not there are any active cancer cells in those tissues.

    Just one active cell left behind means your cancer regrows. Recurrent disease is more difficult to treat than the initial disease.

    This is why it is important to do everything possible to treat cancer the first time. I was diagnosed as a Stage IIA - this meant that I had disease on just one side of the diaphragm (in my case, above the diaphragm), with no poor-prognosis indicators (night sweats, weight loss, bulky disease). However, I had enlarged lymph nodes all over my chest (under both arms, both collarbones, and between my lungs), which meant that the disease was definitely on the move.

    I did research and learned that the standard treatment for my stage was either chemotherapy alone, or chemotherapy plus radiation. The disease-free rates (the percentage of people who are still in remission five years after finishing treatment) didn't seem all that different - I believe it was 80% with chemo and around 87% with radiation. Both very good numbers, all things considering.

    I decided early on that I only wanted to deal with Hodgkin's disease one time, so I sought out an oncologist who would treat me with both chemo and radiation. Fortunately my oncologist was a cowboy who told me that he was going to "pump (me) full of drugs until (I) turn green."

    Strangely enough, that was exactly what I wanted to hear.

    I had six cycles of chemo (I think Katie only had four because of her age; the patient gets sicker and weaker the more cycles of chemo they have), followed by a CT scan. MY scan showed that my lymph nodes were still enlarged - the opposite of Katie's situation. This was taken to mean that I still had active cancer cells; the chemotherapy had been partially effective, but not fully. I had disease over too big an area to risk radiation, so my only recourse at that point was a stem cell transplant.

    So I had another lymph node biopsy, which showed that my nodes were enlarged due to scar tissue, not active cancer. I went on to have three weeks of daily radiation treatments, and I've been in remission for almost nine years.

    It's impossible to say if I would have done equally well with just chemo. There are certain risk factors and side effects from radiation treatment (thyroid problems, soft-tissue tumors, breast cancer), but fortunately I'm past the point when any of those things are likely to happen.

    Chemotherapy, which the girl's parents approved of, is also not without risks. First, you're much more likely to have a fatal reaction to a chemotherapy drug than you are to a treatment of radiation. I actually DO have long-term side effects from chemo (scar tissue in my lungs). I'm past the point where I'm much at risk for secondary leukemia or other blood disorders. Chemo can also cause heart damage, nerve damage, or sterility, depending upon the drugs you are given.

    So this idea that the potential side effects of radiation was the breaking point for the parents is just ... odd. You're already taking a huge risk by agreeing to chemotherapy.

    I sincerely hope that this girl's disease is able to be treated successfully with radiation and/or additional chemotherapy, and that the time fighting against the advice of her oncologists doesn't end up negatively impacting her survival.

    There's one quote from the many news stories that sticks out for me. The parents rationalized their decision by saying that Katie herself didn't want to have radiation therapy; she talked about having kids, and that she'd rather risk getting cancer again than have radiation treatment.

    I'm sorry, but that kid was 12 years old and scared. This is when parents step up and make more level-headed decisions than "I'd rather risk getting cancer again." Because if her cancer had returned, chances were going to be that the treatment would not be more chemo (although they might have tried that first), it would be a stem cell transplant.

    A stem cell transplant has much greater long-term risk than radiation, AND there is a greatly increased chance of dying from the treatment itself than there is with radiation. It's not even close. The short-term AND long-term side effects are much more grave when you choose the path of "I'd rather risk getting cancer again" rather than choosing radiation treatment.

    I don't know anyone who died from radiation treatment for cancer; I know at least six people who died from a stem cell transplant.

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

    June 10, 2005

    Spiff-y

    It's been a sucktastic day (hellaciously busy at work, tropical storm moving through the area), so I've got nothing. Except this:

    My favorite Calvin and Hobbes strip
    My second favorite Calvin and Hobbes strip

    Enjoy!

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 12:59 PM | Comments (9)

    June 09, 2005

    Caterpillar Girl

    Click for a high resolution image

    I've been trying to take a decent photo of these weird caterpillars we have around here, and this is the best I've been able to do so far. It's not as in focus as I wanted, but I was operating on SUPERMACRO with no flash.

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 02:42 PM | Comments (3)

    June 08, 2005

    Spoons, Man

    More proof that Eric and I are cosmically connected:

    Unbeknownst to the other, we both enjoy taking photos of cutlery. We even chose our subjects along gender lines – I took shots of a spoon (curvy, rounded), while Eric chose a fork (elongated, pointed).

    Spoooooooooooooooon!

    Eric's birthday fork

    Incidentally, I am totally in love with my Canon G6. Now that I'm learning how to work with all the functions, I'm taking some very nice shots.

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 09:46 PM | Comments (2)

    June 07, 2005

    I Feel Like Letting Go

    Sarah Mclachlan
    "Full of Grace"
    Listen | Buy

    NOTES: From one of the best final scenes to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, ever.

    The winter here is cold and bitter
    It's chilled us to the bone
    We havenít seen the sun for weeks
    Too long, too far from home

    I feel just like Iím sinking
    And I claw for solid ground
    I'm pulled down by the undertow
    I never thought I could feel so low
    And oh, darkness, I feel like letting go

    If all of the strength and all of the courage
    Come and lift me from this place
    I know I can love you much better than this
    Full of grace
    Full of grace
    My love

    It's better this way, I said
    Haven't seen this place before
    Where everything we say and do
    Hurts us all the more

    It's just that we stayed too long
    In the same old sickly skin
    I'm pulled down by the undertow
    I never thought I could feel so low
    And oh, darkness, I feel like letting go

    If all of the strength and all of the courage
    Come and lift me from this place
    I know I can love you much better than this
    Full of grace

    I know I can love you much better than this
    It's better this way

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 07:02 AM | Comments (4)

    June 04, 2005

    Road Trip '05 - Itinerary

    Trina was in town last night, so we had a slumber party. We ate dinner at Mama Fu, got dessert at Cold Stone Creamery, watched the season finale of Lost, and planned our roadtrip through Arizona/New Mexico.

    I'm totally geeked about this trip, now.

    We can get roundtrip airfare from Tampa to Phoenix for $250/each, and renting a convertible for a week is only going to cost $380. Gas is going to cost a nice little sum (we're estimating driving about 2,000 miles over the course of the week), but still - I'm going to be driving in a convertible on Route 66. How cool is that?

    Here's our first attempt at an itinerary. If anyone is familiar with the area and can give me feedback on whether I'm attempting too much on any given day, please let me know.

    Here goes:

    DAY ONE - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1
    Arrive in Phoenix at 2:30 p.m. Get the rental, then take the rest of the afternoon to just drive around the area a bit before crashing at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at Metrocenter.

    DAY TWO - SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2
    Leave Phoenix and head to Sedona. Drive around, see stuff, then head up through Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. See the sights around Flagstaff and stay there for the night.

    DAY THREE - MONDAY, OCTOBER 3
    Drive from Flagstaff to Kingman, then up to the Hoover Dam. End the day driving back to Kingman (Route 66!) and staying there overnight.

    DAY FOUR - TUESDAY, OCTOBER 4
    Drive from Kingman to the Grand Canyon; spend the afternoon at the canyon before taking Highway 180 (through the San Francisco Peaks) back down to Flagstaff and staying there overnight.

    DAY FIVE - WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5
    Head to Winslow in the morning (stopping at the Meteor Crater on the way), then on to the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert after lunch. MAYBE go up to Canyon de Chelly if we have time. We plan on staying the night somewhere out there (near the border), or perhaps try to make it to Gallup, NM.

    DAY SIX - THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6
    Drive to Albuquerque in the morning. Go to the Rio Grande Zoo, then head up to Sandia Peak to take the tram to the top and eat dinner/see the sunset at the restaurant up there. Stay in Albuquerque overnight.

    DAY SEVEN - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7
    Leave Albuquerque and drive south on I-25 and pick up Highway 60 heading west. This will take us through several mountainous areas before we hit Eagar, AZ. Then we head south on 191, the Coronado Trail scenic route, down past Clifton, then pick up 70 heading west to Globe.

    From here, depending on time (we need to get back to Phoenix at a decent hour), we're going to hit as many scenic drives as we can. At the very least we'll take 60 west and then pick up 88 south (Apache Trail historic road). Time permitting, we might make a jaunt north up 288 through the Sierra Ancha.

    DAY EIGHT - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8
    Depart Phoenix at 11 a.m. Collapse from exhaustion on the plane.

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 04:04 PM | Comments (2)

    June 02, 2005

    Crash Into Me

    Hi. How are you? I'm not sure what day it is anymore.

    EZboards suck.

    But Teem pointed me in the direction of the following, which does not suck:

    aliasfinale.gif

    (Courtesy of this chick's profile on some random message board.)

    Phil: I've already told him "smart, witty"
    Phil: But he's asking the obvious physical questions
    Me: Tell him my breasts are 38DDs
    Me: BUT
    Me: I have wide feet
    Me: AND my legs are not long
    Me: even though I'm almost 5-9
    Me: I have a long torso
    Me: actually, tell him I'm built like Fred Flintstone
    Me: and then tell him to fuck off
    Phil: LOL

    And speaking of the god-forsaken EZboard...

    Me: http://p079.ezboard.com/fezboardfrm98.showMessage?topicID=107.topic
    Me: I love the first post in that thread
    Rappy: tee hee - I just started reading that before you linked
    Me: it really is AMAZING that the CEO mentioned marketing stuff
    Me: I did a double take at that
    Rappy: dude, they are doing a really bad job at attempting damage control
    Me: a textbook BAD case of damage control
    Rappy: it's kind of like the pilot thanking you for choosing Air "X" right after the flight attendant slammed a cart into you
    Me: or right after the plane crashed
    Rappy: Thank you for *boom* flying Oceanic

    Me: I love sarcastic smart people
    Rappy: "maybe in a couple of months, they might put up an announcement that says "We will re-imburse you for 7 days for you losing all your data, all your threads, all your posts, all your replies...etc..."
    Rappy: tee hee
    Rappy: these people ARE funny
    Rappy: I'd laugh if it all wasn't so sad
    Me: yeah
    Me: well, I have laughed
    Me: because some people are funny
    Me: but shit
    Me: HT might never recover
    Me: "That was a whole lot of nothing dressed up as a technically challenged something..."
    Me: HAHAHAHAHA
    Rappy: ok, i may want to marry skeletal grace...
    Me: I snorted out loud
    Me: "the new ezboard experience"
    Me: that phrase cracks me the fuck up
    Rappy: hehe
    Me: "So, stop being all happy. Business is business. If you want to feel happy go hold hands in a corner."
    Me: *offers hand, for holding*
    Me: you can pick the corner

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

    June 01, 2005

    The Flop, the Turn, and the River

    Mmm, Danny

    I almost filed this entry under "Celebrity Crush."

    I'll admit - my first exposure to the joys of Texas Hold 'Em poker was Celebrity Poker Challenge on Bravo. However, then I started watching the real thing, and right away my favorite player was Daniel Negreanu. Danny! He's so witty and wry and sarcastic; he always seems to be having fun and getting into the other players' heads.

    Plus, he's really good. And he blogs.

    Last Sunday the New York Times Magazine ran an excellent story about Danny, written by Pat Jordan. I didn't think I could like the guy more, but ... yeah.

    (Oh, and in my next life, I want to be named "Jesus Ferguson.")

    Card Stud

    By PAT JORDAN

    Daniel Negreanu is a vegetarian, without much interest in food. ''I ate two days ago'' is the kind of thing he says. His disdain for food is a reaction to his mother, who is obsessed with food. Mommy, as he calls her, likes to serve people food, then sit down and smile at them as they eat. When Negreanu was growing up in Toronto, Mommy sent him to school with his lunch packed in a brown bag. When he went to McDonald's with friends, she gave him a brown-bag lunch. When he got his first job as a telemarketer (''I lasted a day,'' he says), Mommy packed him a brown-bag lunch. When he got his next job at Subway (''I was a good sandwich maker''), Mommy packed him a brown-bag lunch. These days, when Negreanu goes to work at night at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, Mommy packs him a brown-bag lunch.

    Daniel Negreanu (pronounced neh-GRAH-noo) is a small, slightly built man of 30. His job in Las Vegas, where he has bought a house for Mommy, is playing poker for eight hours a night or more, for pots as high as a million dollars, with older men named Eskimo Clark, Jesus Ferguson and Texas Dolly Brunson. Negreanu looks small, boyish, defenseless, with his bottle of water and Mommy's brown-bag lunch at his feet. Often during his poker games, Mommy calls from home. If he's winning, she says: ''Good. That's enough. Come here, I made some cabbage rolls.'' If he's losing, she says: ''Today is not your day. Come home, I'll make you some mamaliga.'' If he's breaking even, she says: ''Nothing is happening. Come home, I made some fresh vinete.''

    Poker is no longer the sole preserve of unshaved, cigar-smoking older men in cheap motel rooms. It has become a game of the young, most of whom have made their poker bones playing online poker. Negreanu says they learn as much about poker in a year as he did in seven years playing cash games. ''I see Internet kids with a $250,000 bankroll,'' he told me. ''I had to hustle up games to get a bankroll, which is why I consider myself a bridge between the old-timers and the kids. I have a hustler's skills, but I'm up on what's happening now too. Some old-timers don't keep up with the kids and get passed by. They don't respect their intellect.''

    Many of these young players, like Negreanu, David Williams, Phil Ivey and John Juanda, have become instant celebrities because of their TV exposure at the World Series of Poker and on the World Poker Tour. ''We're the new rock stars,'' says Negreanu, who had a first-episode cameo in the ESPN poker series ''Tilt.'' Hollywood stars like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and James Woods treat such players as if they are the real celebrities. ''Poker is hot because it's everyone's sport,'' Negreanu says. ''Most guys can't play football or hockey. They're fat and out of shape, but they can play poker at home. Poker is the purest form of reality TV. Nothing's scripted. There's drama. Real people with real money on the line.''

    Last year Card Player magazine named Negreanu the poker Player of Year. Jeff Shulman, a publisher of the magazine, says, ''Daniel Negreanu wins so much he's a freak of nature.'' Texas Dolly Brunson, who is 71 and has won nine lesser World Series of Poker competitions and two grand-prize W.S.O.P. championships, says: ''He may be one of the all-time greats. Maybe the greatest ever.''

    This week, someone will win a grand prize of more than $5 million in No Limit Texas Hold 'Em, the main event at the World Series of Poker, which begins on June 2 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It's a prize Daniel Negreanu has never won, even if he is already one of the best poker players ever. ''He's on an amazing roll,'' Brunson says. ''The only thing that can bring him down is if he forgets who he is.''

    ***

    Since Negreanu moved to Las Vegas in 2000, he has won more tournaments, 30-plus, and more tournament money, about $6 million, than any other player. He has also won millions of dollars in private cash games at the Bellagio. ''If I had to play $100 games, I'd shoot myself,'' he says. ''I like million-dollar cash games.'' Cash games are dangerous. A player gambles with his own money. Often Negreanu brings hundreds of thousands of dollars to those games. If he loses, he has to go deeper into his own pocket. He once lost $156,000 on a single pot in a cash game.

    Tournaments are less dangerous. Each player puts up an entry fee of, say, $10,000; that is the most he can lose. But if he survives late into a tournament he can win hundreds of thousands, even millions, on his $10,000 investment. Last year at the W.S.O.P., an attorney from Connecticut, Greg (Fossilman) Raymer, won $5 million, and David Williams, a 23-year-old college student, finished second, winning $3.5 million. Negreanu himself won $1.8 million at a Bellagio tournament last year and another $1.1 million at a tournament in Atlantic City. When Negreanu first started playing tournaments in the late 90's, a sponsor occasionally covered his entry fee, and he had to split his winnings 50-50 with the backer. But since 2000, Negreanu has used his own money for cash games and tournaments.

    Negreanu claims not to have much interest in money, except as a means of keeping score. After he won that $1.8 million at the Bellagio, he bought six videos and put the rest of the money in poker chips in a lockbox at the casino as if it were a bus-station locker. The chips are still there. The $1.1 million Negreanu won in Atlantic City was converted into $300,000 in cash and an $800,000 check. Back home in Las Vegas, he discovered that he left the check in his hotel room; the maid threw it out, and Negreanu had to fly back for another check. ''I don't believe much in banks,'' he says. ''Although I do have one bank account with not much in it, just a couple hundred thousand.'' He also doesn't believe in credit cards, or buying anything he can't afford to pay cash for, which is why he always travels with a wad of $100 bills held together with an elastic band.

    Negreanu has two basic rules for playing poker. First, maximize your best hand and minimize a mediocre hand. Too many novices play too many mediocre hands when not bluffing, which increases their chances of losing. Great players only play hands when they have ''the nuts,'' or unbeatable cards; otherwise they fold hand after hand. Second, play hours, not results. Negreanu sets a time limit for his play and sticks to it, whether he's winning or losing. If he goes beyond his time limit, he risks playing ''tired hands'' when he is not sharp. (Before a tournament, Negreanu gives up alcohol and caffeine. ''I do nothing, to numb my brain,'' he says, ''except watch poker film -- just like an N.F.L. team before the Super Bowl.'')

    Negreanu says that most great players are geniuses, then lists the kinds of genius they must have: 1) a thorough knowledge of poker; 2) a mathematical understanding of the probabilities of a card being dealt, given the cards visible; 3) a psychological understanding of an opponent; 4) an understanding of an opponent's betting patterns -- that is, how he bets with the nuts and how he bets when bluffing; and 5) the ability to read ''tells,'' or a player's physical reactions to the cards he is dealt. Negreanu is a master at reading tells, although he claims it is an overrated gift, since only mediocre players have obvious tells. The best players, of course, have poker faces.

    Negreanu says he can break down opponents' hands into a range of 20 possibilities after two cards are dealt. After the next three cards are dealt, he says, he can narrow the possible hands to five, and after the last two cards are dealt, to two. ''It's not an exact science,'' he admits, ''but I can reduce the possibilities based on the cards showing, his betting pattern, tells, his personality and my pure instinct.''

    Shulman, Card Player's co-publisher, connects Negreanu's success to his personality: ''Daniel controls a table by getting everyone to talk and forget they're playing for millions,'' he told me. ''He makes every game seem like a home game -- you know, guys drinking beer and eating chips. They forget what's happening. Plus, Daniel is the best at reading an opponent's hands, as if their cards were transparent. He gets guys to play against him when he has a winning hand and gets them to fold when he has nothing. He's the King of Bluffing. You know some guys can beat bad players and not good players, and some vice versa. Daniel does both.''

    Beyond Negreanu's knowledge and considerable intelligence, what makes him truly great is his aggressiveness in a game -- his ruthlessness, some might say. He once bluffed his own girlfriend, also a professional poker player, out of a large pot at a tournament. ''I bet with nothing,'' he says, ''and she folded. To rub it in, I showed her my hand. She was furious. She stormed into the bathroom, and we could hear her kicking the door, screaming, smashing stuff. When she came out she kicked me in the shin and said, 'Take your own cab home.''' She is no longer his girlfriend.

    ***

    Negreanu began preparing for his poker career when he was a 5-year-old with ''grandiose dreams'' in Toronto. He was a change-of-life baby (his mother had nine previous miscarriages) raised in an Old World Romanian household. Before they moved to Toronto in 1967, his mother, Annie, and his father, Constantin, were so poor in their native country that, according to their son, they seldom had enough to eat. As a boy, Negreanu says: ''I was big on numbers and reading people. Mommy would take me to a mall, and I'd see a couple, the woman rolling her eyes, and I knew she was sick of him but he loved her.'' As a young teenager, Negreanu was short, so, he says, he never got the No. 1 girl -- ''Only maybe No. 3'' -- but he was personable and adaptable enough to fit in with all the school cliques, the ''blacks, nerds, cool kids.''

    By 16, Negreanu was skipping school to play pool. He showed up only for tests, usually ''acing them,'' he says, especially his math tests. ''My math teacher was a moron,'' he told me. ''I'd go up to the blackboard and show him a better way to do it.'' It was at the pool hall that Negreanu learned poker, becoming a regular at the house games there. He then taught his classmates to play and ran a daily game in the cafeteria. One day a kid wrote him a $300 check to cover his losses, and the next day Negreanu was in the principal's office. ''The principal told me the kid stole the money from his mother. I said, 'What's that got to do with me?' He expelled me. I said: 'Why me? He stole!' ''

    By the time he was 17, Negreanu was playing for as much as $1,500 a night: ''I played noon to 8 p.m. every day and won $45 an hour.'' At 21, he made enough money to finance a trip to Las Vegas. But he lost the money quickly and returned home humbled, beginning a vicious cycle that lasted more than a year. Negreanu would hustle up a bankroll in Toronto, go to Las Vegas and lose it, return to Toronto for another stake and so on. Eventually he had an epiphany: he had to stop being so aggressive. ''I realized I can't always be the bull,'' he says. ''I gotta rein it in and play some defense.''

    A few months later in Las Vegas Negreanu had his first big success. At 23, he became the youngest player to win one of the smaller World Series of Poker competitions. Shortly after that, he began to win regularly in Las Vegas in both cash games and tournaments, and soon he had settled there. Negreanu was on a roll that lasted until he was 26, when he fell in love with a woman he refers to as Delilah.

    ''I got careless,'' he says. ''I thought I had plugged all my leaks at 19.'' Leaks can be alcohol, drugs, gambling, women. In Negreanu's case, he was winning so much money so quickly that he couldn't spend it fast enough. He began to splurge on expensive dinners, order bottles of Champagne, then try to play high-stakes poker. ''I began to lose $30,000 a night,'' he says. And Delilah was distracting him from poker; she never understood that it was his job and not a game. She called him during his games, pleading with him to come home because she was lonely. Negreanu was getting calls from two women while he played poker, his girlfriend and Mommy. Even worse, they were jealous of each other. ''If Mommy made me breakfast, Delilah's feelings would be hurt,'' Negreanu says. ''So she'd make me breakfast. Same with lunch and dinner. Jeez, I was eating two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners every day.'' Shortly after he broke up with Delilah, Negreanu went on a winning streak and formulated another poker rule: ''Avoid the poker table when there's a crisis in your life.''

    Today Negreanu has no crises in his life. He is rich, famous in his field and happily in love with a woman named Lori Weber. He says she's easygoing, self-assured and jealous of neither Negreanu's poker nor his mother. (His father died when Negreanu was 22.) ''I laugh at how much his mother adores him,'' Weber says. ''Let her do it. It makes her happy.''

    ***

    One afternoon in early January, Negreanu and a lifelong friend from Toronto, Jason Morofke, were navigating their way through a crowd of poker players and fans in the lobby of the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas. They were there for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament. The Atlantis is a sunny adult theme park. Rock waterfall pools. An underwater re-creation of Atlantis. A comedy club. A disco. All forms of gambling. The Atlantis is where people who don't know how to entertain themselves go. Negreanu, wearing a baseball cap pulled low over his eyes and a jacket with its collar pulled up around his neck, could walk only a few feet before being recognized and asked to pose for photographs. Morofke said, ''He's a celebrity now, but he's still the same guy he was at 17.''

    Negreanu plays his celebrity role graciously, which is why Steve Wynn, the Vegas casino impresario, hired him to be the poker ambassador at his new casino, Wynn Las Vegas, which opened in April. But in private, Negreanu is skeptical about poker players being viewed as celebrities. ''I hate idolatry,'' he told me. ''They're just nerds trying to be great men.''

    Negreanu entered a conference room crowded with men and a few women seated at the 30 or so poker tables. He circulated among them, glad-handing the players; he seemed to know everybody. Whenever he enters such a crowded poker room, he told me, he can look around and see all the players he has lent money to. ''In any given room,'' he said, ''I can see a million dollars of my money out there. Some guys I back in games, some I give personal loans, one guy I put in drug rehab. I guess you could say this is my leak. I was really soft in my 20's. I used to go to L.A. with $30,000, win $20,000 and leave with $20,000.'' He shrugged.

    Shulman told me that Negreanu is loved like no other poker player. ''College kids love him because they think he's one of them,'' he said. ''Mothers love him. He does things no pro athlete does. He answers all his e-mails. He has no ego. I haven't seen this in any other sport.''

    Texas Dolly Brunson told me: ''I didn't like Daniel at first. He was too brash, loud, always partying. . . . But he turned his train around. Now he's one of my favorite people. You know, poker transcends age. There's just this bond when you put your feet under the table and your hand in the pot.''

    Negreanu found his table, No. 14, and sat down beside Morofke. He acknowledged the eight other players around him. Only one was a seasoned pro, Yosh Nakano, from Los Angeles. The others were ordinary-looking young men who would like to become Daniel Negreanu someday. They tried not to stare at him, but every so often they sneaked a glance. Even the dealer couldn't help smiling at Negreanu. Before the game began, a woman stopped by to say hello to Negreanu. She was Evelyn Ng, the former girlfriend Negreanu bluffed out of a pot. I asked if the story was really true.

    ''Yes, it's true,'' she said, then faked a kick at his shins. She told me the problem with their relationship was that both of them were poker players with big egos. ''I had trouble taking his advice,'' she said. ''He wanted me to play like him, aggressive, but I was more conservative, so we broke up.'' They later tried dating again but decided they were better as friends. ''Daniel's a great friend,'' Ng said.

    Over the next four hours, Negreanu played poker. He was nervous at first, but as the games assumed a rhythm of their own, he relaxed. There was not much talk between games, since the players didn't know each other. There were a few grins, however, when Nakano nodded off during a hand. ''He's been playing for four days straight in L.A., without sleep,'' Negreanu whispered to me.

    The game continued in silence, players folding hand after hand before the final cards were dealt. It was boring. Poker is no sprint; it's an endurance race. But then Negreanu became hot and won six out of seven pots. He put $10,000 into the eighth pot and smiled at one of his opponents, a beefy man. ''I'm trying to get you all in,'' he said, '''cause I got you beat.'' But the man wouldn't bite. He flicked his cards toward the dealer. Negreanu said, ''I had two aces,'' but he didn't show his cards. He showed his cards a few hands later after he bluffed a player out of a pot with a pair of threes. He hugged his chips and said, ''My bluff of the day, gentlemen.''

    A few hands later, Negreanu bet $3,000 -- '''cause I got the best hand.'' He tossed a head fake at Morofke. ''You only got ace-king.'' Morofke folded. By the time the first session was halted for a dinner break at 8 p.m., Negreanu had built his $10,000 entry fee into $42,000. (He would end up with $11,000, finishing 75th.) Negreanu went up to his hotel suite with Morofke to relax for an hour before the second session at 9 p.m. He took off his sneakers and lay down on the sofa.

    ''The guys at the table weren't very good,'' Negreanu said. Then, glancing at Morofke, who is a landscaper and plays poker only occasionally, he added: ''I don't mean you. You played O.K., but you played too many hands. A good player wants to avoid confrontation unless he has the nuts. A few times I wanted them to think I was bluffing by taking a long time to place a bet, but even then I had the nuts. I'm walking through these guys 'cause they're letting me be aggressive. They're laying down like lambs at the slaughter.'' He grinned. ''My job -- taking money from chumps.''

    Posted by Highwaygirl on 08:23 AM | Comments (8)