Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Without going backwards and giving my opinion of everything leading up to this point (other than to say that the boys did an overall poor job last week, and then the girls threw down the gauntlet the next night!), here's my very brief opinion of tonight's performances. In order of preference, although I go back and forth on that, and could probably be swayed if I watched the show again.
1. Chris Sligh. This guy has solid and undeniable talent, no two ways about it. Bonus number 1 is that he picks great songs, bonus number 2 is his piercing sense of humor, and bonus number 3 is getting away with hair that Justin Guarini couldn't pull off.
2. Chris Richardson. It would be obvious to parrot the observation that he looked and sounded (and danced and dressed and acted) like Justin Timberlake in the auditions. But if he does it well, that's not a bad look/sound to aspire to. His choice tonight of a Jason Mraz song was spot-on. He was fantastic.
3. Blake Lewis. I admit that, at the beginning, I thought the beat box thing was a bit contrived, and pushing the limit given the venue. But he upped the ante with a great Keane song last week, and I was all but mesmerized by his rendition of a killer Jamiroquai song tonight. A little messy in spots, but bold, original, and more than respectable.
H.M. Nick Pedro. He's been inconsistent, and his look is a bit syrupy. But there's something smokin' about that raspy, hot-under-the-surface tone of his voice -- especially singing "Fever."
H.M. Sundance Head. Another one who has epitomized a roller coaster on this journey. His audition was stunning, but everything between then and now has been the vocal equivalent of a bad hair day. He saved his goatee'd butt tonight with a fun version of "Mustang Sally." And isn't his name just destiny?
The girls tomorrow night. Unless someone really screws up, I expect to be talking about Melinda, Lakisha, Sabrina, and Stephanie, with a dash of Jordin added for good measure. Good night.
"Man in a Uniform" by Prince. Although I admit to listening to some Jamiroquai after "Idol." Great music.
Monday, February 26, 2007
I was so excited, I had butterflies in my stomach. Isn’t that bizarre? I mean, all I did was buy tickets. And bad ones at that (upper deck). And the show isn’t for months. But I was seriously excited.
My friend, Rina, and I went to see them in August 1983. We had wanted to see them at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, but tickets sold out too fast. Then, an incredible thing happened. My Dad -- knowing how much we wanted to go to the concert -- bought us tickets to see them in Hartford. If he hadn’t already been declared the coolest dad ever, that gesture cemented it! Then, we just had to get from New Hampshire to Connecticut.
I didn’t have my license, and Rina did. Her parents wouldn’t let her take their car. So my parents allowed Rina to drive our car to Hartford and back. As it turned out, we both did some driving. But that’s a very long story for another day. We drove to Springfield, Massachusetts where we visited my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Don and then stayed overnight at my sister’s apartment. The day of the show, it was raining. We drove from Springfield to Hartford, arriving so early that we just sat in the car (for what now seems like a couple hours) before venturing into the arena. Rina took a picture of me holding a lighter under the tickets with an evil look in my eye – as if I would ever burn anything so precious as concert tickets.
Naturally, Rina and I are going together to this summer’s show, too. It will be almost exactly 24 years since we saw them in Hartford. I swear I’m not old enough for that to be possible. Speaking of which, don’t you agree that Andy Summers looks amazing for 65? I think 60 is the new 35, which makes me a teenager after all!
In any event, I’m going to see the Police again, and I can’t wait. Jon Pareles wrote a great article about them in the February 18th New York Times. Take the time and read it. It’s well worth the time. But before I close this entry with that article, here is a not-so-random song combination played recently on my iPod. I’m telling you, this technology is smart. I loved this grouping of songs.
"Love & Kisses" Sam Phillips
"Full Moon Full of Love" k.d. lang
"Transcontinental, 1:30AM" Vienna Teng
"Back to the Middle" India.Arie
Read the rest here.
They Can Play. Can They Play Nice?
By JON PARELES
In a high-ceilinged studio at the Lions Gate film complex earlier this month, the Police were rehearsing for a very public first gig: opening the Grammy Awards broadcast last Sunday with their 1978 hit ''Roxanne'' before announcing a world tour the next day. Sting, 55, on bass; Andy Summers, 64, on guitar; and Stewart Copeland, 54, on drums, were working through a list of two dozen songs. For the first time in decades the Police would be back together for more than one night. ''I've trapped myself back 30 years,'' Sting said.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I decided to file our taxes instead.
Anyway, it was too late to talk with Ted about it: he was already asleep. So, when he headed out for work at 5:30 this morning, despite my mere 3½ hours of sleep, I bounded out of bed, became instantly focused, and followed him through the house and out to the garage, telling him every detail. He must have thought I was sleepwalking. I wasn't. I was so energized, I almost stayed awake. But I decided it made more sense to get a full night's sleep. A decision made easy by my discovery of the answer. I slept incredibly well, and woke up (again) energized by the thoughts of my next steps.
It's still scary. Don't get me wrong. I've been through major life decisions in the past, and my experience has been that the longest and most excruciating part of them is the constant contemplation leading up to the decision. Everything that follows -- as uncertain as it may be -- eventually leads to the right direction.
So, most of all, I'm relieved to have made the decision. Now, I'm also excited, nervous, petrified, and excited. Did I say that twice? The second time is for maybe being able to actually reveal all this mystery here on sanguinary blue. It may come sooner than I ever thought it would.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
For dinner, he prepared filet mignon, seafood stuffed lobster, black truffle potato gratin, and green bean almondine. Seriously yummy and terribly decadent, especially considering we didn't go to a restaurant.
Dessert was two dark chocolate covered strawberries with lovely pink swirls. Do you think he got his inspiration from Google? The other way around? I suppose it's just a natural Valentine's Day treat.
His gift was twofold. On Monday, he arrived at my office with a dozen long-stemmed, red roses. That way, I could enjoy them all week long. Isn't that nice? Tonight's gift was a pair of tickets to see Wayne Brady at Mohegan Sun! This is very exciting because we've both been big fans of Whose Line Is It Anyway (both versions).
Now, I'm going to go spend the rest of my evening with my wonderful husband. Ain't love grand?
Here's some Wayne and Whose Line for ya'.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Extrapolate this decision-making process over a period of time. A day, a week, ten months (give or take). Do you notice that you come around to asking the same questions later, even though you have already answered the questions or deemed them to be inconsequential to the situation or just plain unanswerable? Do you find yourself frustrated for repeating questions, even though, logically, you're merely being thorough, contemplating all the details?
During this internal discourse, do you ever speak the questions aloud? To yourself? In the car or shower? In the house when no one else is home, except maybe the cat, and you honestly think that you may get at least a little feline sympathy, even if you're not getting answers?
Do you ask the questions of another person? If so, do you ask rhetorically, or do you genuinely want to hear how the person would answer the questions? Or do you just want to hear your own voice in the presence of someone other than yourself? Does the person listening to your questions try to answer them, or attempt a few active listening skills culled from a college interpersonal relationships course? Do you feel burdened if the person is compelled to inject opinion and formulate an answer (i.e. suggestion, advice), or if the person isn't really listening at all? I mean, really, didn't you just want a sounding board? Or were you really looking to get a fresh perspective on these questions that haunt your soul?
At what point, do you stop asking questions?
And once you've finally reached the point of making the decision and implementing it, do you analyze how effective it was to have asked all of those questions, in all of those circumstances, and to all of those listeners (feline and otherwise)? What conclusion do you draw? Was it worthwhile to ask the questions? Faced with another, equally vexing dilemma, would you repeat the process? Faced with a friend or family member in the same position, how would you respond if you were the one being asked the questions instead?
P.S. Only 22 questions in this post. A drop in the bucket.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
So, when I heard that the Police were reuniting to play on the Grammy awards show, I had two conflicting thoughts. The first is this: people wonder why the Grammies seem out of touch. How about featuring a band that broke up 23 years ago. At the same time, I was and am still a huge fan, and will tune in -- at least temporarily -- just to see Mssrs. Sumner, Copeland, and Summers play.
Heaven help me if they decide to tour. I'll have no choice but to pony up the $300 to see them live again. The first time since I saw them at the Hartford Civic Center in August 1983, with a new and upcoming opening act called R.E.M. I'm off to watch the Grammies.
Loopy LinksCheck out her blog. Wow!
by Sandy Szwarc
You are about to learn of a beverage so dangerous, that we must ban or restrict its sales, or at least enact tax penalties on it to deter consumption. Here's what the research shows:
• Every American who drinks it dies.
• It's been linked to obesity: in fact, bigger people drink the most of it.
• It's associated with type 2 diabetes and all diabetics drink it in especially large amounts.
• All heart attack victims drink it and it's a known factor in heart failure.
There are been hundreds of studies finding these correlations -- correlations so strong they make the evidence irrefutable. This is bad stuff.
Everything you've just read is true. What is it?
Of course, you could have filled in the blank with anything that today is frequently blamed for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease or premature death: sodas, high fructose corn syrup, dietary fat, carbs, high cholesterol, prediabetes, fast food, snacking, trans fats, watching television and all sorts of things others want to fix in us. And they're all just as spurious as water.
This illustration demonstrates just how easy it is to think that correlations (links between things) mean anything at all. Just because certain lifestyle or dietary habits, laboratory values or numbers on the scale, rise or fall in synch or appear together, doesn't mean they have anything to do with each other. Yet, we hear assertions made every day by mainstream scientists and medical professionals, reputable healthcare organizations, public policy makers and, most of all, media in which correlations are used as proof of a cause. These are taken as facts, not because of any sound evidence, but because they seem intuitively correct and match what "everybody knows."
But correlations taken as cause become even more nonsensical ... and dangerous ... when the link is turned backwards to say:
"Therefore, restricting or eliminating water ("it") will prevent or cure obesity, heart disease or type 2 diabetes."
Please don't try that at home. It's clearly a preposterous and groundless cure.
We should all be concerned by how correlations found in "studies" or even simply incorrectly assumed, are being used to support healthcare guidelines and public regulations, with absolutely no proof that such solutions work. Even worse, they completely disregard the harm that can result. For instance, people at risk for type 2 diabetes, believing sodas and sweets are the cause, might change their diets but fail to do the very thing that averts, minimizes and even reverses the condition: physical activity. This mistake could cost them their lives, vision or limbs. People might restrict their calories, fats or carbs (dieting) in futile attempts at weight loss, but fail to do the one thing that would avert, minimize and even reverse supposed "obesity-related" health concerns: physical activity. This could significantly increase their risks for premature death, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancers.
To protect yourself from making unsound health choices for you or your children, or putting your support behind costly public health solutions, learn to identify "data dredge" studies -- where correlations frequently come from -- and to differentiate them from evidence you can trust to mean something. Data dredges, are among the weakest types of epidemiological studies upon which we can base any meaningful conclusions about our own health.
Data Dredge of the Week
Last week, a study led by Barry Popkin, PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was released which claimed soda consumption had increased 135% since 1977 and since rates of type 2 diabetes and obesity were rising, too, that was evidence that "consuming these [drinks] increase weight gain in children and adults."
Based on that correlation alone, they then leapt in reverse to conclude, "reduced soft drink and fruit drink intake ... would seem to be one of the simpler ways to reduce obesity in the United States."
Did you catch the fallacies in this example? Just because consumption of a certain food goes up or down among an entire population does not demonstrate that only fat people are eating that food or that that food is the cause of obesity or type 2 diabetes. Such correlation-generated claims rely on the belief that fat people eat differently. But consumption of sodas and sweets, for instance, have been shown to actually be as high or higher among thinner, more active people. Such claims also rely on the belief that sugary foods and beverages cause obesity and type 2 diabetes. But sugar has been studied probably more than any other food ingredient in history and it's been repeatedly found to not cause obesity, type 2 diabetes or any chronic disease. In fact, a surprising number of studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between dietary sugars and obesity.
Popkin cited a study led by David Ludwig of Boston Children's Hospital in 2001 to support sweet beverages' role in obesity, which Popkin said "showed the effect of increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on increased energy intake and obesity among U.S. teens." But Ludwig's study actually found no difference in the BMIs of children consuming the most and least amounts of sugar and the researchers noted "there is no clear evidence that consumption of sugar per se affects food intake in a unique manner or causes obesity."
The Popkin study was a "meta-analyses," lumping together five different dietary surveys (telephone surveys to questionnaires) gathered over the decades from a total of 73,345 random individuals. These one- and two-day population dietary surveys were all done using different methods and also underwent significant redesigns over the years to probe for more complete information and lessen under-reporting, meaning the earlier surveys would be more likely to under-estimate how much people actually ate and using them would accentuate perceived increases. Like all meta-analyses, when researchers combine data from several different sources trying to create something bigger and more convincing, their results are actually more untenable. I call them Rorschach2 studies. That might explain why sounder studies, such as those at the University of Michigan led by Youngme Park which closely following the diets for weeks at a time for years of a total of 12,000 children, have found no increase in soda consumption and no evidence that sodas were reducing milk consumption.
Of the thousands of foods and beverages people consume, this study chose sodas. But in typical data dredge fashion, Popkin could have mined that databank and pulled out anything...and has. For example, in a previous study he found grains, legumes and low-fat milk intake up among adults since 1965, along with significant decreases in calories and percentages of dietary fat. Yet he didn't tie these overall "healthful" eating trends to rising rates of obesity or type 2 diabetes. Why, that wouldn't have made sense.
© 2004 Sandy Szwarc
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Ted got sick. Ted got big sick. The kind of sick that requires lots of initials -- DVT, PE, RHF. In layman's terms, he had a blood clot in his leg that broke off and went into his lung, causing his heart to work too hard.
The morning I took him to the emergency room was the fifth day in a row he hadn't felt well enough to go to work. That morning was different because, sitting still, he was panting for air and his lips were purple. Later that day in the emergency room, two doctors told him if he had just rolled over and gone back to sleep (as he had done every other day that week), the clot would have killed him.
When I told my family and friends this piece of information, most everyone was shocked and horrified. Me? I was instantly happy. Because we did go the ER. Because I did not allow him to just go back to bed. Because the clot did not kill him. Call me crazy, but that made me extremely grateful.
All in all, he spent 16 days in the hospital. He hasn't worked in over a month, and he's still on oxygen. Since returning home about 10 days ago, he's had his blood drawn and tested twice, and will go to his fourth doctor appointment tomorrow. He has two more appointments scheduled after that. I did reschedule his six-month dental cleaning, though. A person can only take so much.
Anyway, the tests and appointments thus far indicate that he is making progress, although it is very slow. He's lost 45 lbs. in less than a month (the right heart failure caused massive edema). We call this the "Near Death Diet" and strongly urge people against trying it for themselves.
The doctors continue to tweak, add, and discontinue a variety of medications to try and make everything balance. They are not certain he'll ever be able to go off oxygen all together.
We work on things that need constant attention now, to make sure that we're doing our part to get him as healthy as possible. He goes back to work next week, and I'm not sure how we're going to be able to continue to give enough time to the increased maintenance. The upside of his being home is that he has had plenty of time to do all this stuff. I guess we'll just figure it all out.
So, forgive me for not blogging. It was all I could do to continue functioning for a while there. I spent so much time in the hospital that the aides counted on me doing certain things. I went to work sporadically, missing six days. Days when I was there, I spent a lot of time answering well intentioned co-workers' questions about how my husband was. Those days were the hardest because I followed my regular daily routine and then spent 4-5 hours in the hospital with Ted. Somewhere in there, I'd have to make time to feed the cats, clean the litter boxes, fill my car with gas, do laundry, etc. It sounds stupid, but it really became quite overwhelming.
My sister, Cathy, and her youngest daughter, Ariel, came to my rescue the second weekend Ted was hospitalized. They helped me do stuff like organize and put away Christmas paraphernalia, shred old bills that were clogging up my file cabinet, vacuum every nook and cranny of the house, reorganize the linen closet. We threw away so much stuff, we had to start putting the trash bags on the ground outside the Dumpster. Ariel re-alphabetized my entire CD collection. Whoa.
They had meals with me and they came with me to visit Ted and they let me talk incessantly and they generally took care of my fragile soul for a few days. Words can't describe how much that meant to me.
So now, God willing, the big drama is behind us, and we can concentrate on the process of returning Ted to health. Oh yeah, and cleaning up the glass shards from those broken windows. Maybe in between, I can find a little more time to blog.
"Body and Soul" by Dianne Reeves