Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Happy Birthday to Meeeee.......

I haven't posted for a while because I (blush) misplaced the sheet of paper that had my user name and password for blogger on it. Yeah, I know, you're not supposed to write them down, but geez, even if I basically use the same ones most of the time, there are those sites (like the bank) that makes you change passwords every 60 days or whatever, or the ones that require you use "three out of four of the following: !#$^*^, lower case letters, upper case letters, and/or numbers" and must be 8 characters or more long. Like I'm going to remember that? I'm lucky if I remember where I left my car keys. And it makes me feel even more feeble minded if I have to email a site to get them to tell me my password. I have the list now, taped to my desk for all the world (not really) to see, and if I get my bifocals lined up just so, I too can see it.

Speaking of losing my mind and using bifocals, today is my birthday. I'm ____ today (fill in as you think appropriate). Hub has baked a cake and is fixing dinner, son and daughter brought home flowers yesterday, and last Sunday I got a new computer (an HP pavilion). Tomorrow I'm off to the spa for a massage and then get my hair done. All in all, a very satisfactory b-day arrangement. Especially since I've noticed that over time, I am slowly morphing into (say it isn't so!) my mother. I see her face in the mirror now, and I hear her voice coming out of my mouth, saying things like "back in the day..." and arguing with the hub about what other movie or TV show we saw that actor on. I truly believe there are only 50 actors and actresses in Hollywood, outside of the big stars, and they are endlessly recycled in show after show. For instance, I watch Law and Order on TNT (all the old ones, on every night) and the same actors will be the victim one show, the "perp" the next, and a lawyer the episode after that. You truly can't tell the players without a program. But I digress... I can remember my folks trying, when we were kids, to explain who some old-timey celebrity was, and we would roll our eyes and shake our heads as they labored to describe Charleton Heston or Jack Lemmon or whoever. Now I do that, trying to tell my kids (in their 20s) about Paul Newman and Robert Redford. If they've not seen Butch Cassidy, forget it. Barbra Striesand? Lucille Ball? Forget it.

Ah well, can't really complain about getting old, the alternative is so much worse.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It's History

Monday I went to human resources to review my Official Personnel File. The reason I went, is because this time next year I tentatively plan on retiring, and I wanted to see if all the time-in-service had been credited. I had, for most of my career, been paid on NIH grants, so-called "soft" money, and had changed departments, fund numbers, pay grades, over and over.
The file was depressingly accurate. It started in Sept. of 1980 (!), when I earned so little I thought I was looking at the employee number (4 digits). Then it went on and on and on, page after depressing page of personnel actions, appointed, terminated, appointed, over and over. I've worked on more federal grants than Carter has little liver pills, and all of those investigators have since moved on to bigger and better things (I guess) while I stayed. And stayed.
Don't get me wrong. I love West Virginia, the mountains, the people, and even (for the most part) the university I work for. But I've only to look at my lifetime earnings to realize that WV is economically challenged -- i.e., poor. The coal mines sucked the life out of the people here, and all the money dug out of the bones of these hills went to feather nests far from here. It was never good land for farming, being poor clay soil and rocky, with deep ravines and ragged mountains. The joke is that West Virginia cattle have legs of unequal length, so they can keep their balance on the hillsides. Industry has been a mixed blessing, for example, the huge chemical plants in the Charleston area bringing in money, and leaving WV a major pollution problem too. And being a poor state, the infrastructure found in other states just isn't here--the roads are narrow and twisty, the water/sewage supplies are poor or non-existent outside the town limits, the workforce, outside of the enclave here at the university, largely uneducated and in poor overall health. And with the growth of the "information age", life-long residents here can see in excruciating detail how far they fall from the television and movie portrayal of life in America.
The contrast is especially glaring for me, because we moved here from San Francisco. When we first came here and still had CA ID, people at the register would look at it, and say, why'd you move HERE? But from the start I was impressed by the people, so ready to talk to you and to lend a hand, and so very different from the big city anonymity. One time, I was transporting groceries home in the pickup truck, and the bags slid in the bed, going everywhere. I pulled off the side of the road to climb in the back and brace them better, and someone stopped right away to see if I needed help. Jeez! In CA you could be laying spread-eagled in the middle of the road and people would swerve to go around you before they'd stop.
So over all the years I've done OK at my job, slowly advancing the boundaries of knowledge in the laboratory, meeting a lot of great people and having a pretty good time, all in all. Never figured I'd get rich, anyway.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

TV commercials

Just for instance...
Am I the only one who finds the Burger King commercials with the plastic headed King more than a little creepy? The white tights, and the little silk dancing shoes? Or the great big "King Kong" sized King peering in the window at the blonde girl, who forgets all her fear when he hands her a Whopper? If I ever saw anything like the King on the street, burger or no burger, be assured I'd run the other way...

And the commercial for the "male enhancement" supplements, I think one is called Enzyte, with the super smarmy guy with the toothy grin who is (so they suggest) the envy of all his neighbors after he jumps in the swimming pool and loses his swim trunks? Are we supposed to believe that after using Enzyte, he is now noticably super endowed, or is he just super virile? Or has a constant hard-on? Or what? Just in the interest of scientific discovery, of course...

And what do you think of the bikini clad lovelies and oiled hunky guys working out on the Bowflex, the Ab cruncher, Nautilus equipment, or whatever. Do you think they REALLY got those six pack abs in three 20 minute workouts a week? I think not. I bet they spend hours and hours in the gym, weight lifting, running, stair climbing, aerobics, and resistance training to the total exclusion of a real life. Not to mention steroids (so that now the guys at least need Enzyte too).

Do they think we really believe a green lizard is a good source of information about car insurance? Most of the tiny green lizards I see are pancaked to my driveway, and aren't saying much about anything.

And that wee tiny print at the end of all the ads, the REAL information that disclaims all the foregoing information in the commercial, why do I get the feeling they don't want or expect that it will be read, since they put it up in type smaller than the phone book, and leave it on the screen for all of 0.5 seconds? I notice that as TVs have gotten larger, that the typeface is even smaller than it was before...imagine seeing it on a 9" screen, it would look like smudged bird crap.

And I really resent the ads for anti-depressants. In the first place, I think advertising aimed at the patient enormously inflates the price of the medication for the consumer (there are only two countries in the world which allow direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals). In the second place, the little idea that something as complicated as depression can be "fixed" with a mere pill leaves those of us struggling for years with depression with the feeling that we must be malingering if we don't become cured after popping this miracle pill. And in the third place, I resent the way they glibly hurry through the list of "side effects", many of which are fatal or life-threatening. If you've ever looked at the listing for a drug in the PDR (Physician's desk reference)then you know the known side effects go on and on, include common and uncommon effects with percentages, and include special warnings for lactating mothers, pregnant women, children, and other special groups. This is information that presumably your physician and/or pharmacist are familiar with, accounting for why they may well say "no" when the patient asks for a particular drug. And this doesn't even mention drug inter-actions and unique side effects or allergic reactions.

And don't even get me started on ads like the ones for Victoria Secrets underwear, with their impossible standard of feminine beauty--do we really need to see these so that we can feel even more inadequate in our own skins?

This is just my opinion, of course-- an Un-bowflexed, Non-luscious, dull toothed, finely wrinkled, depressed, medicated, woman who will probably need a house Scooter for mobility, a Medic Alert button around my neck, supplemental medicare insurance, and a lifetime supply of Jack Daniels before long.