June 26, 2001

I don't know what's up with me lately but I've been going activity nuts. I think something finally just clicked in my head and told me I need to start getting out in the world again. Not that I've been hiding. In fact I'm considerably more active than I was a year ago. But I still have a regular routine: Get up after multiple snoozes on the alarms (yes plural), get ready for work, take the bus, walk about 2 miles of the bus route for some exercise, work all day, walk 2 miles to the bus for more exercise, take the bus home, walk up the big hill to the apartment, sit around reading magazines, watching movies, occasionally writing or working on my site if my sister's computer is available. On the weekends things vary, I go to movies, take long walks, see my friends, go to parties or dancing sometimes, go to brunch with Mom and Dad. It's not a bad life by any means. In fact, I love my life. But I still feel like I need to put a little more excitement or enrichment or both into it. So I am.

I just signed up for a singing class which I'm almost unbearably happy about. I can't wait to start singing again. Not that I don't sing--I sing all the time around the house, while I walk, at work sometimes. But I used to be in choir and have weekly lessons in school and I really enjoyed that. And I want to get better. I've got a decent voice but I used to be able to hit some notes I only dream of now and I know it's because I don't exercise my voice anymore. So that's one thing.

Then there's salsa. I'm starting salsa lessons on the 10th which I'm also very excited by. I never did dance classes before, I think partly because I never thought I was in good enough shape to do it. I probably could have, but I was self-conscious. Now I can't wait.

And then there's the charity stuff. I never have lived up to my high ideals on this point. I've never really volunteered much, never made the efforts I felt that I should. I remember as a teenager joining Amnesty International, like so many other kids who adored Bob Geldof and Sting and Eurythmics, but never wrote any letters or did anything in particular besides joining. I never volunteered at a food bank. I never even really do those canned food charity drives. I have donated clothes and things on occasion, but usually it's the drives that require the least effort that I do, like when they leave the plastic bag for you to fill then you leave it in front of your house.

But now here I am, stumping for charity. On July 15th I'm going to be doing the AIDS Walk San Francisco. I recently did Bay to Breakers which was fun and the money went to charity, but this time around I'm actually collecting money and part of something pretty big and great. I'm really looking forward to the walk and have done reasonably well on collecting money. However, if you're interested in contributing, fill out a feedback form or email me and let me know and I'll email you back with details.

And I'm also doing the 24 hour Blogathon. You might have noticed the new button on the left-hand side of this page. If you click on that you can sign up to sponsor me. What I'm going to be doing is staying up from Saturday the 28th of July at noon until Sunday the 29th at noon and blogging every 30 minutes. Blogging, in case you don't know, is this, what I'm doing now, just my musings. So I'll be babbling on for 24 hours straight. I expect some of my blogs will get very amusing as I get punchy. Amusing at least to me... My charity is Planned Parenthood which I think is an amazing group. They do education, they offer low cost exams and birth control, give out condoms, and do free/low cost AIDS testing. They work for women's reproductive rights politically, visit other countries to talk about reproductive rights, and generally try to teach people as much as possible. My parents used to take us to this huge used book sale back in Iowa that was for Planned Parenthood. It was something I looked forward to all year. I've always felt good about them. I think they really make a difference.

You can sponsor me with as much or as little $$ as you like, hourly or a flat amount. Just click on the button to the left and fill out the form. Or if you'd rather, you can give me the money directly and I will send it in. All the checks are made out directly to the charity, we're just the conduits through which the money flows...

So here I am suddenly with a busy schedule for a change and I'm very happy about it. Sometimes I think it's too easy to just slump into your life, get too comfortable, and not even realize that you're not really living your life. I've been crawling out of that slump slowly for about a year now, gradually embracing bits and pieces of life. I'm starting to really feel it now. And it feels good. It feels damned good. Life is good.


Posted by Alyssa at 11:52 AM
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June 21, 2001

I had a brush with death recently. No, not the usual kind that comes with driving or walking across the street or eating blowfish sushi or any of the usual day to day terrors of living in SF. No, in fact, it was the scary word "cancer" that I bumped into and hoped it wouldn't see me. I had a mole that I noticed was bleeding one day (sorry for the unpleasant detail) and instantly became concerned (read: freaked out). I know a little about skin cancer and such so I knew this was a warning sign. I rushed to the computer, naturally, and immediately looked this symptom up on the internet. I know, I know, when you look up a symptom on the internet or in a medical book of course there are a million horrible diseases that your symptoms fit into. And if you have a touch of the hypochondriac, as I'm afraid I do, then it's easy to become convinced of the worst. So I looked at all the sites I could find when I punched in "bleeding mole" and of course they all pointed to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. I became increasingly concerned (read: terrified) as I read on and found the same answer on all the sites.

The next day I called my doctor's office. Naturally I left several messages before I was finally able to get an appointment despite my imminent death but finally I got one in a week and so I just waited. I managed not to think about the horrible thing that was happening to me (I thought) and went about the usual business of my life. But every now and then a creeping thought would pop into my mind--imagining chemotherapy and my hair falling out, thinking about taking a class in a month and wondering if I would be strong enough to manage--all silly things that I knew would probably not be an issue. But there was that niggling doubt, that little thing in my brain that said 'people do get cancer, you could theoretically have cancer, just because you're a bit of a hypochondriac doesn't mean something might not be really wrong with you.' So I waited, trying not to think about my mole but putting my face up to every mirror I came across to examine it closely, see if it was asymetrical or if the color or size had changed. Everytime I looked at it it seemed different to me, this mutant item that I'd become so used to and now seemed like a living thing trying to take over my life.

To make things worse, during this time a coworker of mine at a different office was struck all of a sudden, with no warning, with Bell's Palsy, a facial paralysis that results from many things including an infection in the nerves behind the ear. It comes out of the blue for most people and some are able to recover while some have it for the rest of their lives. She's 29 years old. And there it was--proof that the universe is randomly cruel, that at any moment anyone could be struck with anything, from Bell's Palsy to a car to cancer. And here I was still waiting for my doctor's appointment.

I saw my doctor yesterday, well, not my doctor but a doctor--I've never actually seen my primary care doctor--and, after a two hour wait in the treatment room, she finally came in, looked at the offending creature, and declared it fine. She said moles on the face often have lots of veins and mine was one of them and it was probably just bleeding from a light trauma that I didn't even realize I'd had. I wondered if it might have been a scrape from my sunglasses. From cancer to sunglasses. The relief was impressive (read: bouncing up and down inside). I had her glance at my other moles and she said they were all fine. I told her how panicked I had been. I told her how I couldn't believe I might have skin cancer as I'm the one who slathers on the sun screen, whom my family has occasionally called a vampire as I shrink from the sun, who has skin so pale it's almost transparent. She told me that all the researchers, all the doctors, are just guessing, hoping, that sunscreen actually can prevent skin cancer. She said no one really knows. I wanted to laugh. The universe does as it likes and we just hope we can try to protect ourselves from it. Still, I put on my SPF15 moisturizer this morning. I might as well go on hoping. After all, for the time being anyway, I'm going to live.

Posted by Alyssa at 02:30 PM
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June 12, 2001

I watch the "Today" show every morning. I don't necessarily admit this proudly. It started when Channel 20 stopped having good cartoons on in the morning. There was a time when I used to watch "Jonny Quest" in the early hours but those days are gone. So I switched over to the news. I've never been a fan of the news and actually to this day will watch anything but the local news if I can. But "Today" appeals to me for some reason. Maybe it's Katie's recent change in wardrobe to include fabulous footwear.

There are some who say the "Today" show is not news. And they would be partly right. I used to recite factoids to my parents then have to explain to them when asked that I'd gotten my info from the comic strip Sylvia (which incidentally often has lots of very interesting factoids, the validity of which I don't doubt). Now I talk about the stories I've heard--you need to take 10,000 steps a day to be healthy I heard some old doctor say, there's a light bulb in a firehouse in Maine or somewhere that's 100 years old and still burning--and my parents look at me just as skeptically when I tell them I got the info from the "Today" show. But no one can argue that I don't know my events. I knew about the plane going down in China nearly the moment it happened; I knew about the submarine hitting the Japanese fishing boat just as instantly; and I know every little thing that "President" W does and says (whether I want to or not--it just makes the whole thing seem more real). I also happen to know more than I care to about Angelina Jolie, Sugar Ray, and Tatiana Ali (not to mention Katie, Matt, Al, Ann, and occasionally Willard (who I'm convinced is a little old pervert from the way he flirts grotesquely with Katie, but I digress)). Regardless, I'm actually better informed than many of the people I know. And I'm much better informed than I was when I watched "Jonny Quest."

Well, I was watching "Today" as usual yesterday and heard Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City federal building bomber, had been put to death finally. I suppose I should have felt the moral outrage others who oppose the death penalty felt but as usual I just sort of thought 'Well, it's wrong for us to kill him, but he certainly deserved it.' It was one of those cases where no one had any doubt that he did the crime and he himself felt he deserved to die. He killed 168 people, including children in the day care center of the building, when he bombed the building at 9:15 in the morning, a time he knew the building would be full of people. There's been much said about this event, much mourning, a memorial put up with a chair representing each of the people killed, and plenty of media coverage. I've listened with a vague ear to reports over the last few weeks of execution delays, trial misconduct, and "Today" interviewing everyone from Tim's lawyer to his next door neighbor when he was a kid. I know more about the fellow and the case than I'd like, really. And I honestly didn't care that he was killed, though I would tell you it was wrong if you asked. But I was really outraged watching "Today" yesterday.

I suppose I started watching it around 7:15. I left the house around 8 (late as usual). That whole time was spent with interview after interview with people who had watched Timothy McVeigh die. Over and over again I heard descriptions of Tim glancing at the spectators behind the glass; searching the faces for someone, but no one knowing who; looking slightly frightened, looking strangely calm, looking angry--basically looking however the person describing the scene wanted him to look. I heard descriptions of him falling asleep. I heard the doctor who examined the body tell what she found, whether he had felt any pain, getting the impression that Matt Lauer wanted to hear that Tim had felt pain. Katie talked to survivors or the family members of those who didn't survive the bombing, asking them to describe again covering up bodies of dead children, a man telling his wife not to hug him because his back was full of glass, asking a mother who lost her daughter what she had felt watching McVeigh die. It was disturbing, very disturbing to me, not because of the images they pulled up though they were of course unpleasant. But because there was no pleasure, no release, no sense of closure to the voices of these people. They didn't seem happy or relieved or vindicated that this man was finally dead--they just seemed uncomfortable talking about it. What sticks in my mind is Katie asking the woman who covered up all the dead children if the image of McVeigh dying would replace the images of the dead children. I couldn't tell if she was suggesting that watching the man die would finally release her from that memory or if she was being carefully accusatory, suggesting the horror of watching the man die would take the place of the memory of the already dead. The woman's simple answer was no.

I was also disturbed because we've heard these stories a hundred times, or at least I have, over the 6 years since the bombing happened. And to see these people reliving this horrible experience over and over, interviewers asking what seem to me insensitive questions, is just painful now. They devoted an entire "Today" show to the erecting of the monument last year, interviewing everyone involved. Now they've devoted an entire "Today" show to sitting in front of that monument again, going over what seem like the same stories again, searching for something new and meaningful to say about the situation. There's a point where journalism stops and exploitation starts and I think they crossed that line. It's not the first time and I'm sure it's not the last time, but it was one of those days I was missing "Jonny Quest."

Speaking of news...
I'm taking a cue from my sister's site http://www.eleganthack.com/gleanings and sharing some interesting stuff I've found lately.

Bad Movies and The People Who Love Them
Some advertising execs made up a film critic who gave great reviews to the movies the execs were promoting. People are now suing, who went to "A Knight's Tale" based on the fictional critic's reviews. First of all, Hollywood's all about fiction so it's hard to blame these guys for going the extra fictional mile. Secondly, suing seems strange to me, considering a review of a film is simply someone's opinion and you really shouldn't be going to a movie based on someone whose opinions you know nothing about... For instance, I went to see "A Knight's Tale" simply because Heath Ledger is a babe, and I would recommend the film simply because Heath Ledger is a babe. Should my straight male friend Tony see this film based on my recommendation? I think not...

And The Winner Is
My nomination for the news story with the least possible number of facts...
"Forget rheumatic fever, kidney stones, heart disease, pneumonia and even poisoning. What may have really killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were pork cutlets."
While I especially love hearing about the dangers of eating meat, my favorite part of the story is this quote, from "Dr. Faith Fitzgerald, a University of California-Davis professor of medicine," yes, a doctor:
"I personally think that he died because they needed a new choirmaster in heaven."
I guess that's why her name is Faith.

No Women On Mars
Ok, this just pisses me off...
"Women are likely to be barred from any Russian mission to Mars because they would increase the "probability of conflicts" among the crew, says a Russian space official."
I especially love this part: "Dr Grigoryev says that a single-sex crew is likely to be more "serene" with a lower probability of conflicts." Aside from the fact that putting a bunch of men in an isolated ship for 9 months each way with no women and only each other as company is unlikely to be serene, they don't even stop to consider that single-sex could mean all-women. From what I know of men and women, an all-woman flight would be far more likely to land on earth not speaking to one another but a lot less likely to land with broken noses questioning their sexuality.

I would explain why you should read this story but I can't stop laughing...
"Stone Hubby Enters the Dragon
by Josh Grossberg
Jun 11, 2001, 9:30 AM PT
In the movies, Sharon Stone prefers an ice pick to dispatch significant others. In real life, she apparently goes with...dragons?!"

Find any interesting news/whatever stories while surfing? Feel free to email me at: alyssa@stylewithsubstance.com. Thanks.

Posted by Alyssa at 06:38 PM
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