Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Robert Reich, William Peterson and no Blagojevich

Photos: Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (top), and actors Nicole Wiesner and William Peterson onstage in "Dublin Carol" now at Steppenwolf Theatre.
 This is a Rod Blagojevich free zone.
 You may continue to read, assured you will not see any bleeping bleeps in this blog once you have reached the end of this sentence.
  That said, we know actor William Peterson best as Gil Grissom, the iconic TV bug doc whose scientific analysis can unravel almost any mysterious death.
Indeed, as "CSI" continues its monumental hold on television audiences, the actor who helped launch the series and headlines the cast (well, at least for bit longer), continues to gain fame, superstardom anywhere in the world the hit series is aired.
Right now, Peterson commands the stage at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. More on that in a bit.
  First, a phenomenal book for your holiday reading.
 If you have any curiosity as to why democracy and capitalism are so disabled in this country and how they got that way, pick up Robert Reich's fast-moving "Supercapitalism." 
  Don't let the topic or title dissuade you. 
 Trust me, this is not dry reading. Nor is it complex. If it were, I would've put it down after the first few pages, but as a nonfiction tome, this is a page-turner. 
Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and now a professor at University of California Berkeley as well as advisor on the Barack Obama transition team, pulls the reader along on a compelling examination of money and government -- capitalism and democracy  -- and why both are on advanced life support.
You can check out Reich's style at www.robertreich.blogspot.com.
  Indeed, Reich's book reveals the real state of the union
Now I promised you more about Gil Grissom and his alter ego (or is it the other way around?) William Peterson.
Before 2000, neither name was a household world.
But Peterson's fan base has expanded exponentially since that fall when the now wildly popular crime forensics show premiered. As an aside, Marc Vann, the Chicago-based actor who plays the boss we all love to hate, Conrad Ecklie, in the series, told me Peterson actually is amazingly intelligent, just as his character comes across in the series. (Unlike Ecklie, Vann is affable and much better looking than his TV character.)
Unfortunately. "CSI" aficionados see only one iota of Peterson's talents. 
He's a commanding and exceptionally talented actor.
Peterson's strength in live theater takes center stage through Jan. 4 in "Dublin Carol" at Chicago's legendary Steppenwolf Theatre where he has just been named a company member, joining other extraordinary talents including John Malkovich, Gary Sinese and Joan Allen, to mention a few.
Steppenwolf's Amy Morton directs Conor McPherson's tightly scripted drama "Dublin Carol," a somber drama that explores the mindset of an alcoholic. Peterson's portrays John whose interactions with his daughter (Nicole Wiesner) and his young coworker (Stephen Louis Grush) reveal the futility of his own whiskey-soaked life on yet one more Christmas Eve.
Peterson's extraordinary performance in the three-person play is magnified by a script that has his character onstage continuously. Grush and Wiesner perform as if the tough supporting roles were written for them. 
 Stage chemistry is tangible, three-dimensional.
While not your typical upbeat happily-ever-after holiday play, "Dublin Carol" tackles the holiday with human frailties, authentic emotional challenges many experience during the season that's not always one of good will. 
Peterson is in the show for its full run, through Jan. 4.  Steppenwolf Theatre is at 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Tickets are at 312-335-1650 and at steppenwolf.org.
  Non sequitor factoid: Non Muslims are not permitted to visit the religion's holy city of Mecca, according to print sources. I just found that info happenstance. Does anyone have firsthand knowledge about the city? I would love to hear.

Monday, November 24, 2008

'Wonderful Life' and turkeytime trivia

In the top photo, Rod Thomas as George and James Harms as Clarence star in Theatre at the Center's wonderful production of yes, "It's A Wonderful Life."
The lower image is, of course, Thomas Jefferson.
Yes, I've been a wayward blogger. No excuses, but I'm here to delight you (I hope) with holiday treats. With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I've assembled a roundup of Thanksgiving tidbits. First, for those of you who live in the area, my review of a Chicago area do-not-miss production of the holiday classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," is first.
After that, please check out my list of Thanksgiving trivia and no, not questions, but straight out nuggets of interest.
While the factoids will be fun to read, the show is the perfect antidote for holiday doldrums.
Yes, Clarence has returned, this time to Munster.
He's the same Clarence who desperately wants his wings. Alas, the 200-year-old angel has been unable to earn the divine honor badge, beautiful, fluffy white wings signifying full-fledged angelic status.
Joseph, an older wiser angel, presents Clarence with an opportunity, perhaps a final one, to reach his goal. Clarence must successfully tackle an earthy challenge, save one George Bailey of Bedford Falls, New York, a good family man whose kindness and generosity are about to sink him and put his family into bankruptcy while lining the pockets of greed-driven Mr. Potter.
It's Christmas Eve and a despondent George is on the verge of throwing himself in front of an oncoming train.
The American classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," first brought to the screen in 1946 starring the legendary Jimmy Stewart has been reworked for the musical theater stage by Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo. TAC artistic director Bill Pullinsi's decision more than a year ago to present the holiday musical in December 2008 could not have been more prescient with so many people facing such wrenching financial struggles of their own.
While the Raposo Harnick music is not the walk-away-humming variety, it doesn't need to be. The words alone and phenomenal performances by the TAC cast touch the soul, tap into the funny bones and bring the season of good will to the heart.
Rod Thomas, a strong George, is onstage most of the time and never falters. He melds with his character in a commanding, convincing performance. George's wit and confidence followed by his despair and then disbelief are totally safe with Thomas who will remind audiences of the young Stewart.
As Mary, George's girlfriend and then wife, Natalie Ford is at once coy and forward, always focused on George and clearly his soulmate. Ford and Thomas generate tremendous stage chemistry, so necessary to make their relationship real.
Still, the angels have it. 
Veteran actors James Harms as the beleaguered Clarence and Dale Benson as the older, wiser Joseph float through the show with their intermittent but absolutely essential appearances.
With Harms' cherubic innocence and Benson's paternal consternation with his 200-year-old charge, the two actors generate the real magic of this production. Fans of Benson and Harms should finish reading this review and then immediately order tickets to the show. I am not overstating the joy, humor and force of the two actors' performances. They are not to be missed.
Stacey Flaster, who directs and choreographs "Wonderful Life" should garner a Jeff Award nomination and award for this incredible package of holiday theater. Her imaginative choreography, perfect for the large thrust stage, along with her inspired direction make this production soar.
Chicago actors Ron Keaton as the somewhat lost Uncle Billy Bailey and Skip Lundry as the nasty Mr. Potter who feeds on avarice deserve note with their superb performances, essential to a wonderful "Wonderful Life," a production that embraces the holiday spirit and reminds us that life's joys are not found in fat wallets.
The production runs through Dec. 21. Theatre at the Center is at 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, just east of Calumet. Tickets are $36 and $40 at (800) 511-3255. There is no charge for parking in the spacious lot.
OK. Now for the tidbits you don't need to know but will find just plan, well, fun. Along with the review, I hope this holiblog will add some knowledge, lightheartedness and even a bit of levity to your Thanksgiving week.
No surprise, the internet is stuffed with Thanksgiving trivia so I've pulled together some factoids that might surprise you as they did me. Although I cannot validate the items with first person documents, I've double checked a few and they appear to be true.
Pilgrims, who first set foot on land in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620 celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 with a meal of deer, codfish and boiled pumpkin, and they ate with their hands, spoons and knives. They had no ovens for baking, no sugar or milk.
 Alas, only half the people who landed at Plymouth survived to observe the one-year mark  in the new land.
More than 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday.
On a lighter note, it appears turkeys can drown by looking up when it's raining. Also, only male turkeys gobble and only seasonally and when they're going to sleep. 
Speaking of turkeys, Californians consume more turkey than folks in any other state and speaking of eating turkey, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first astronauts to eat a turkey dinner on the moon, obviously on their historic voyage in July 1969. In fact, foil packets with turkey and all the trimmings contained that celebratory dinner, a safe landing certainly cause for giving thanks.
What about all those pardoned turkeys. Well, the lucky birds pardoned by presidents and other elected officials (including Sarah Palin; did you see the clips on TV?) should thank the memory of President Harry Truman, the first chief executives to make that kind gesture to the big bird.
Now about that picture of Thomas Jefferson at the top of the blog. 
If you've wondered -- or even if you haven't -- why male turkeys are called Tom, here's the story as passed down throughout American history. We know that Benjamin Franklin actually wanted the turkey to be our national bird. Thank goodness he didn't get his way, in part because of strong opposition by Thomas Jefferson. Franklin retaliated by dubbing male turkeys "Tom," a name that somehow stuck. Not exactly a tribute to the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States.
Have a joyous and very thankful Thanksgiving.
 Added note: Laugh your way through 'How to become the first she-president of the U.S.' at www.thepaleoreport.com

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You might not believe this but ...

It's absolutely true ... a bizarre tale of life on the campaign phonebank.
As most of you know, I'm an enthusiastic Barack Obama supporter and having been making cell phone calls on behalf of my favorite candidate. But this is NOT a story about Obama. Rather this incident is linked to the incredible technology the campaign has and continues to employ in linking people.
In short, those of us who want to phone from home simply log on to our mybarackobama.com homepages and can quickly and easily access call lists from any of the swing states. The setup is easy to follow and results a breeze to record, right on the sight.
And here is where this amazing incident comes in.
About 1 p.m. Chicago time today, Sunday, I logged into my site to link to a list of voters to call. I selected the swing state of Missouri and told the computer I was ready to start to work on my cell phone. A list of potential Obama supporters came up along with a script and check list to report the outcome of each call. The key is to remind people to vote and give them the details of their own polling places, hours and addresses.
So there I was, plugging along on my cell phone. About 15 calls into the list, a name came up that looked very familiar. Gilda Williams.
Now then, for years I worked at The Star, our suburban newspaper chain, with a woman with the same name ... Gilda Williams. She had moved away in the late 1990s to be with her husband, a high level government employee who had been transferred. 
It had been years since I'd seen or talked with the Gilda Williams from the past. But no, this couldn't be the same woman. Of the millions of names on the people to call lists, the chance of this being the same woman I'd worked with for years was next to zero.
After all, Williams is a common American last name and while Gilda isn't a name one hears all the time, it is pretty and isn't terribly unusual either.
So I dialed (OK, punched buttons) this Gilda Williams on my phone and when I got an answering machine, I gave my name and left the "please vote for Obama message" followed by a quick comment that if by any weird chance this was the Gilda I knew, my former newspaper colleague, I could be reached at ... and gave my home phone number.
So I was going along, making my calls on my cell when the house phone rang. Don't ask how, but I just knew it would be Gilda and yes, indeed this would be the woman I'd worked with for many years.
We both were astounded by the coincidence and of course, caught up with our lives over the last 10 or so years. What a total gas. 
Indeed, my phone volunteer work has made me one of millions who won't sit back and hope but rather have taken time to help get out the vote in this historic 2008 election.
But this true Obama for Change campaign story would have to take a prize, wouldn't it?
Of course, the real prize would be an Obama/Biden victory this week that will indeed take the nation in a fresh direction of hope and sanity!
Have a great week and of course, make sure you vote!   myra

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What, no typewriter? Buddy Holly, iced tea and what?

   Hi there. I'm baaaccckkk.
   Summer fun with family, a wonderful wedding, Murray's half century high school reunion (he's much older than me) and visits with grandsons, along with freelance work, pre-empted my plans for blogging this last month.
   But summer is over -- officially Sept. 22 -- and I will try so hard to keep up my reignited blog.
   Item one this week. Simply tons of fun.
   I love checking out the annual Beloit College Mindset List.
   For those not familiar with it, each fall Beloit College in Wisconsin (daughter Sarah's alma mater) releases a list of "cultural touchstones that shape the lives of (today's) entering freshmen."
   That is, what do young adults in their late teens expect in their daily lives compared to what older generations find innovative, newer elements that have impacted society but before the college freshmen were born.
   Such as ... the class of 2012 has grown up with GPS, computers and rapid communications of all sorts. These have always been there.
   Likewise, personal privacy has always been threatened.
   Roommates have already checked each other out on Facebook or MySpace. In fact, they may have had video chats before school starts.
   Telephones in dorm rooms will be superfluous.
   Caller ID is what ringing phones always display.
   Harry Potter could've been a classmate.
   IBM has never made typewriters. What's a Remington? Yes, the sleek portable typewriters, carbon paper and ink eradicator are antiquities.
   Coke and Pepsi have always been in recycled plastic bottles.
   WWW (www) has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
   The "Tonight Show" has always been hosted by Jay Leno.
   Want to read the entire list? Go to Beloit Mindset for 2012 .
   'That'll Be the Day'
   Speaking of past vs. present, just about everyone has heard of Buddy Holly.
   But only some of us remember "The Day the Music Died," Feb. 3, 1959, when rock 'n' rollers Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Richie Valens died in a plane crash after leaving Clear Lake, Iowa, for the next stop on their tour.
    Indeed there have been loads of Buddy Tributes but "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" now playing through Nov. 2 at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place is a total knockout.
   Justin Berkobien (left photo above) as the legendary rocker (right photo) absolutely mesmerizes. I had to keep reminding myself the young man was playing a part, not his real life. In short, Berkobien totally convinces the audience he is Buddy for a few hours.
   The entire cast, for that matter, is phenomenal. 
   John Steven Crowley sets the place on fire as the Apollo theater MC. Yes, true story. Buddy and the Crickets were booked, unseen, to perform at the legendary Harlem night club. People thought they were black. The scene almost knocked me on the floor with laughter. And I was not alone. It's an absolute classic.
   If you live in Chicago or plan to visit and want a trip back to the earlier days of rock, this show offers a terrific time time trip. Tickets are $40 to $55 (cheap for downtown Chicago) at (312) 642-2000 or Ticketmaster. Oh, discounted parking is available in the Water Tower Place underground garage but be sure you get your parking ticket validated in the theater.
   And BTW: My all-time favorite rock 'n' roll song, the best ever? "That'll Be the Day." It still makes me smile and soar.
OK. Read my lips. Not.
   I cannot avoid talking politics in this presidential race between polar opposites.
   On one side, you have the future.
   On the other, the past.
   Democrat Barack Obama (a friend's 6-year-old-son wants to be Obama for Halloween) launched his bid for the presidency via 21st century communications.
   I don't know about Republican John McCain's use of the Internet (or maybe the Blackberry he invented, hahaha), but the GOP never asked me to sign up for text messages, that's for sure.
   Obviously none of the electronic communications from Obama are personal but at least three or four times a week, sometimes more, I receive e-mails from Obama or Joe Biden or a key campaign operative updating me on the prez race and asking for whatever help, financial or otherwise, I can offer. The 21st century campaign has motivated me as no other election ever has.
   In fact, for all you Obama fans out there, if you are looking for a place to watch this Friday night's debate, we are opening our living room to people who want to join us for what promises to be a fireworks night. 
   No, we will not be asking for money for the campaign. So let me know if you would like to come on by for the evening. Our condo is small so we are limiting guests to 15. 
   OK, yes, I know. I promised I would not write about politics. 
   But with Sarah Palin on the ticket, I cannot resist.
   Palin would bring back the era of the Scopes Monkey Trial. 
   Nether her much-touted creationism nor any faith-based views belong in public schools outside of comparative religion classes.
   In fact, last week, the Vatican reiterated support for evolution and its rightful place in the classroom. Even the Catholic Church does not question the theory of evolution.
   If parents want their kids to learn creationism, send them to a church school where it's taught.
   Neither Christianity, nor Judaism, nor Islam belong, as religious teachings, in public school. There is so much more for debate on the GOP platform I find offensive, including the promise to overturn Roe v. Wade. And McCain could take the Supreme Court to a far right offensive.
   But back to prayer ... I grew up with Christian prayers often starting the day in school, and I cringed. It felt as if everyone was looking at this little Jewish girl. 
   It remains an uncomfortable memory for me. 
   Scariest of all -- if McCain is elected, the likelihood of Palin landing in the White House is very high.            Actuarial figures put McCain -- 72 and a three-time melanoma survivor -- in a mucho high risk category. 
   Melanoma silently explodes and in spite of treatment, if and when it does, death can be swift.
   My father died of melanoma, very fast, and although treatments have come a long way since then, this horrible skin cancer remains one of the deadliest of all cancers.
   Anyway, feel free to disagree with me if you want on this blog comment section or by e-mail. If you can argue politics without getting personal, I'm happy to debate.
About that iced tea
   Meanwhile, in other, much lighter offerings, Murray owns a brand new cell phone.
   He was not planning on replacing his older one until about 10 days ago. As the now legendary story (in our family) goes, our little grandsons were visiting with their Mom.
   As with most 2-year-olds, the oldest grandson, left to his own devices, is very creative with what artists refer to as "found objects."
   Murray was not out of the living room for more than a few minutes and while I had one eye on the tot to make certain he didn't hurt himself, I could see he was sitting quietly on the couch where Grandpa usually sits.
   What I didn't see was that Grandpa had left his cell phone next to his iced tea, on the end table.
   But be sure, the little one noticed and yes, when Murray walked back in the room, his phone was in the iced tea. 
   It was hard not to laugh and of course, no one was angry except Murray who was only irritated with himself for leaving the situation as he did.
   We usually hope kids learn from mistakes. Now, I am sure my husband got the message on this one.
   Happy week.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Txt msg addendum, Flying monkey, Navy SEALs, more

       As I put this blog together last night, I remained on high alert for the veep watch. But just so you know, the "Wizard of Oz" photo relates to an item further down, not the campaign of either candidate.
   So then, like some few million other Americans I waited for that text message with the big news of the weekend. 
   As you probably surmised, I plugged my cell phone into the recharger and left it near our bed  -- just in case.
   And of course, it happened.
   At 3:43, Murray woke me. "Mi, you're cell phone just beeped."
   Yikes, message! Immediately I knew who it would be from since no one else would txt me at that hour. 
   I grabbed my phone, went into the hallway, turned on the light and pressed "view now" for latest message.
   There it was. Joe Biden would stand beside Obama for the campaign and possibly the next four years or more.
   How very cool and what a brilliant strategy move, letting anyone sign up to learn by e-mail or cell phone text message Obama's pick for No. 2 slot on the Democratic ticket.  Who cares if millions of us shared the insider role at the very same moment. As a onetime political columnist and forever political junkie, I loved the excitement of the whole thing. 
   Meanwhile, I haven't checked John McCain's website but then I have not heard anything about e-mails or text messages going out to regular folk with his choice. 
   McCain's campaign would be wise to come up with some strategy of their own to bring all those interested into the "insider" fold. The 72-year-old presidential hopeful could give his push for the White House a major boost with some such clever move. The guy won the nomination against all odds. He should be able to take that next step to generate some intrigue and excitement.
   Meanwhile, word is Mitt Romney is at the top of the short list to run with McCain ... but for now, that is speculation.
   Keep your eyes and ears tuned to the news.
   Speaking of news, how many of you have noticed that cable TV anchors especially have been cut, pasted and botoxed into wrinkle-free face folks. 
   They all look as if their faces were poured into a mold (maybe about four different ones with various hair and eye combinations) and then allowed on the air only if the result turned out perfectly crease-free. 
   Women, especially, have no character in their faces. It's bizarre, disturbing and as I said months ago, all this plasticizing of appearance sends a horrendous message to young people.
  On a much more entertaining note, flying monkeys have scared millions of kids since 1939. 
  How many of you, like me, wondered if they were real the first time you saw the classic film, "The Wizard of Oz?" In the late 1950s, our local movie theater in Detroit showed children's pics on Tuesday afternoons during the summer. It was one of those summer days when I first fell into the frightening and the magical world of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Wizard, Wicked Witch, flying monkeys, et al.
   Well, by now we know the winged monkeys really were people in costumes, flapping their wings across a screen as they were held up by wires. 
   My guess is you, like me, have never met any flying monkey actors.
   That can change for Oz fans -- and soon. Danny Windsor (pictured above with Oz friends) who, at 13, donned a flying monkey costume and flew into the nightmares of children of all ages for countless generations to come, will be in town, or nearby anyway.
    The 27th annual Indiana Wizard of Oz Festival returns to Valparaiso, Indiana, again for three days of festivities, shopping, sharing memories and more for fans of all ages. Windsor will be at the Sept. 12 to 14 mega festival and there will be several opportunities to meet him and get his autograph.
   Click here for all the details of what probably is the country's biggest and best  Wizard of Oz event. Scroll down on the festival home page if you want a list of places to stay.
   From the world of make believe, we now leap into the topic of physical fitness.
   Hear the words Navy SEAL and almost everyone visualizes a strong, totally bulked up young man whose appearance screams "extraordinary." The law says only men can apply.
   However, both men and women -- in fact anyone 13 or older -- can take part in the Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge on Sept. 6 at the University of Illinois-Chicago, physical education building, 839 W. Roosevelt Road.  
  The entire day of events is FREE to participants and those who want to watch as others take the SEAL challenge in a 500-yard swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run. You don't need to sign up for all the events and the goal is to do your best.
  No this is not in any way an application to the SEALs. Rather, it's the fifth stop of a SEAL tour "to promote fitness and heighten awareness of the epidemic of obesity," the press announcement says.
  Capt. Duncan Smith, Navy SEAL, says "This Challenge is a means to encourage citizens of Chicago and its suburbs to improve fitness and utilize our SEAL standard as a way to measure their own level of fitness.
  If you're buff or working on it, this sounds like high energy fun.
   All the details are at www.sealfitnesschallenge.com
   Oh, if you're wondering what SEAL stands for, according to the Navy website it reflects Sea, Air and Land, "elements in which the SEALs operate."
   You won't need to go any place except outside on Aug. 31 if you want to see Venus, Mars and Mercury. They will be in "close triangle in the western sky after sunset," Art Maurer says in his latest sky bulletin. 
   Maurer, an enthusiastic veteran astronomer, also runs the Trackman Planetarium at Joliet Junior College. 
   He loves to bring the wonders of the skies to anyone who wants to know so if you would like to receive his brief and fascinating monthly sky updates and/or learn more about the Trackman Planetarium and its terrific free sky shows, e-mail Art at amaurer@jjc.edu. Tell him myra sent you.
   Have a great weekend and terrific last week of August.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tumors and CyberKnife

   Blog late ... but worth the wait.
   During the last several weeks, I plunged into my freelance work and also gathered information from my friend, Carol Ring, about her extensive experience with CyberKnife for three brain tumors.
Carol has been free with her time, e-mailing me all sorts of information about the high tech radiation as well as her own experiences "under the knife."
   In January 2006, Carol's hearing was normal. The 60-something educator and amateur musician was living in Kuala Lampur in Malaysia, the Southeast Asian country where she had been teaching since the mid-1990s.
   By March of that year, her hearing had deteriorated so dramatically she needed hearing aids in both ears. 
   But something else was wrong. Shortly after receiving the hearing instruments, while on a trip to Bolivia, Carol began hearing "words and sentences that were completely garbled," she said.
   Back in Kuala Lampur, an MRI led to a disheartening, in fact grave, diagnosis. 
   Carol learned she had tumors in the auditory portion of her brain where sound is received.
   A roundabout series of appointments led her to Wijaya International Medical Center in Malaysia where Dr. David Martin had arrived recently with a CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System (www.accuray.com).
   Martin also told Carol she was suffering from Neurofibromatosis Type II (NF2).  Carol explained NF2 as a "disease of the nervous system in which tumors can grow any time in any nerve of the body." That diagnosis came on a Friday.
   By Monday, she was under the CyberKnife. It was either that or traditional brain surgery.
   Her first treatment would be one of many cybersurgeries. 
   "There was a specific amount of treatment for each tumor," she said. "Each of two tumors had three consecutive treatments. My third tumor had two consecutive treatments." Although she began the series of cybersurgeries in Malaysia, she had to leave the country where she had been living in for close to 10 years.
   Now back in the United States and on disability from her teaching position due to her serious auditory problems, Carol has undergone a total of eight CyberKnife treatments, most recently at Stanford University Medical Center, the same facility in which Patrick Swayze was treated for pancreatic cancer, also with the CyberKnife. 
  So then, what is the CyberKnife?
  In short, it is a non invasive high powered radiation treatment administered by a robot that, with ultra-advanced imaging technology, can reach more locations than other forms of radiation and requires less patient discomfort during the procedure than other forms of radiation.
  Carol described her most recent CyberKnife procedure for this blog.
   For starters, she walked into the "operating room" in her street clothes.
   "Preparation for a CyberKnife treatment included having MRI and CT scans. After those, I was on the table, on my back, and the staff place a warm set fishnet cloth over my face. I stayed on the table until it dried. The purpose of the mask is to keep my face in a solid position so the radiation goes to specific spots inside my head," she wrote.
   With the mask dried and secured, the music (Carol's choice at Stanford) began and Carol held a button to push if she needed to stop the procedure.
   "I finally got the courage to keep my eyes open during my last (eighth) treatment." 
    "I saw the small hole of the robot above my nose. I couldn't see the radiation. I kept thinking 'You can zap my brain but you can't zap my nose.'"
  The robot moved around, indeed zapping various spots in Carol's brain.
  "My CyberKnife treatments varied between 45 minutes to an hour after which the mask was removed, I got up and walked away."
   Today, Carol's tumors are dying, a direct outcome of the CyberKnife procedures. She does hear noises and at times senses "a shimmery feeling bouncing off the tumors" as well as an electrical sensation in her head. Doctors cannot pinpoint the reason for those symptoms.  
   Still she's hopefully on her way to recovery and knows the tumors will take about 10 years to die. What happens during that time and after is anyone's guess. She could get more tumors or she could be tumor-free.
  NF2 is a tricky disease that still baffles the medical world in many ways.
  Carol is unabashed in her support of the CyberKnife but is angry as many physicians disregard the success of the robotic radiation procedure, especially those who have no experience with it. This disturbs her since a physician's opinion both opens and closes doors to treatment options for patients.
  In many cases, the CyberKnife can replace traditional surgery on the brain or any part of the body. It is FDA approved.
   While the CyberKnife sounds like it jumped out of Star Trek's sick bay, Carol notes, "CyberKnife is not totally risk free." In her case, there remains a 1 to 2 percent chance of serious side effects which could occur as long as 18 months after the final treatment. 
   "I had to sign a paper that I was aware of this possibility. I am assuming I won't be in this unfortunate group," she quipped.
   We certainly hope not. 
  Anyone who wants to know more about Carol's experience with CyberKnife, as well as tap into her vast knowledge of NF2 and CyberKnife, can e-mail me at myrasharon@comcast.net. I will forward any e-mails to Carol and you will hear from her.
   Next blog ... Navy SEALs, Yellow Brick Road, the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys and more.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

UFOs, cyberknife and Oops, it's happening again

It simply never stops.
And I simply detest it. 
If response to a column I wrote for The Star a few years ago is any indication, most women find it insulting, demeaning and thoughtless.
What is it?
I loathe when anyone who does not know me well calls me "Honey," "Dear" or anything of that sort. 
I've gotten on my soapbox a number of times with medical professionals and most recently, a young waiter who addressed me as "Dear."
It's simply not acceptable, I told him and so many others over the last few years. 
Not one them would ever address my husband, or for that matter any man, by any of those terms. They would address him as "sir" or by his name.
So then, why call me "dearie" I ask them.
Such faux familiarity means I'm tossed into a nameless group of people viewed as less than adult. Reduced in stature.
Those terms of endearment are how the medical folk and waiters and such address little kids, their own or anyone else's. 
Well, it's been lots of decades since I was a child, and I want to be addressed correctly.
So unless someone is a longtime friend, relative (including my husband, of course) or is greeting me with "Mom" or "Bobi" (Yiddish for grandmother), I tell them, "Please address me by ma'am or my name.
But do not call me "dear." 
Moving on. 
Yes, the government has covered up visits to Earth by ET for more than 40 years, according to a NASA legend.
Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell (pictured) last week said (visits from ETs) "have been covered up by all our governments (cover-ups) for the last 60 years or so, but slowly it's leaked out and some of us have been privileged to be briefed on some of it.
"I've been in military and intelligence circles who know that beneath the surface of what has been public knowledge, yes, we have been visited," Mitchell told major wire service reporters.
He added, "It's happening quite a bit."
Be sure, our technology here on Earth is nowhere near the level of theirs, he said. 
However, not to worry.
"If they had been hostile, we would have been gone now," he said. 
(Additional stories, beyond the link I've included, are easily accessed by googling "Mitchell on aliens." Also google Jesse Marcel Jr. The former flight surgeon in Iraq was a kid of 11 on the farm where the Roswell event took place. He and his father talk about it on their website.)
Moving on, no doubt you've been reading about Patrick Swayze's cyberknife surgery for pancreatic cancer, a virulent and often deadly form of the disease.
Cybernife, a high tech and cutting edge medical procedure is mind-boggling.
A longtime friend, Carol Ring, has undergone the procedure twice for brain tumors, once in Malaysia and also at Stanford University Medical Center in California where Swayze is being treated. (Carol said he was in the bed next to hers, but alas, not at the same time).
Carol is on a personal campaign to let people know about the cyberknife.
Good news.
Carol has agreed to let me write about her experiences under the cyberknife. She and I will be talking (or e-mailing) again, and I can pull information from her many earlier e-mails for next week in this blog. 
Reminder, Michael Cheney's phenomenal one-man show at Atlas Galleries, 535 N. Michigan, Chicago, is from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday (Aug. 1). 
It will be more than worth the trip to the Mag Mile. 
Go back a couple of blogs and check out Michael's work or go to his website at www.mikecheney.com. His paintings are unbelievably phenomenal as he captures the soul of the city.
Two blog quickies. 
My little blue Delta Sonic hearing aid continues to change my life.
It is so comfortable behind my right ear with just a light plastic (or some gentle synthetic) piece going into the outer ear canal  from the receiver.
Also we still continue to be very pleased with our decision to purchase expensive medications from www.Canadageneric.com.
It's mind-blowing how many meds are not available in generic in this country but are elsewhere and at humongously reduced prices.
For anyone not covered by a drug plan or anyone in the so-called "donut hole" of Medicare Part D, just check out the site. 
Have a great week.
 Sorry this is a bit late again. I am doing more freelance writing and time has been less flexible than when I was in my fully retired mode.
But I love being back in the groove.

Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell, lunar module commander for Apollo 14, stunned believers and disbelievers alike last week with his assertion that aliens have visited earth.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Harry Potter, Klingons and 'Antiques Roadshow'

Harry Potter's invisibility cloak and Klingon cloaking devices could be the world's next fantasy/sci-fi devices we see (OK, don't see) developed into real life technology.
OK. I admit we probably won't have Klingons.
But in fact, cloaking devices have gone from science fiction to science magazines and authentic news stories.
Check out Scientific American (www.sciam.com and search 'invisibility cloak.' The story was in the magazine's latest e-newsletter and is worth a read, especially for fans of Harry and any incarnation of Star Trek. (BTW: Scientific American's e-newsletters are free and terrific reads for anyone interested in the many worlds of science.)
Anyway, I'm convinced invisibility cloaks will become real.
Not that anyone will be able to walk into Nordstrom and buy one. But that too could happen. Only it won't be Nordstrom but a later-in-the-21st-century incarnation of the upscale department store concept.
Skeptical about cloaking devices?
Well when you were a kid, did you ever expect to see people walking around yakking on telephones -- anywhere -- and taking photos and videos (what?) with those same phones and sending the images around the world?
Certainly no one could have guessed the amount of information we would be able to access with phones, via the internet? What's an internet? With home computers? With laptops? "What's a laptop?"
Anyway, I digress. I could go on and on, but today's technology wonks will continue to turn fantasy and sci-fi into reality.
So, one day in the future you hear my voice ... but cannot see me, just think back to this blog item (blitem). (Where did she get that cloak?)
Moving on, I love "Antiques Roadshow."
It's fun, interesting and always a gas when one of my childhood toys turns up as an antique.
But also, I've learned there is something I need to do. Perhaps you need to do the same. That is, write down the story behind each family treasure -- at least whatever you know.
I am just starting to do that.
Most of the "heirlooms" are not monetary treasures.
Rather they are mementos of special times in my life, great people I have met or much loved relatives who once owned them.
There's the little metal bread tray with a raised leaf pattern I remember from dinners long ago. I haven't seen a bread tray used in decades but when my mother was moving to a smaller apartment, she gave it to me.
She chuckled when I told her I loved it and I remembered how she would put slices of bread on it almost every night for dinner, which of course was never served till Daddy was home from work.
I have that little tray in our kitchen. I don't really use it, but that's OK, as long as I have this memory of my mother and my childhood. That is one little story I need to write down.
Years before she gave me the tray, Mom surprised me by giving me a bright tomato red Bavarian porcelain tomato that had belonged to her mother. The stem and top of the little knickknack comprise the lid and yes, there are handles. It may have been a sugar bowl.
Though my initial research on the internet indicates it's worth only a few dollars, I would never part with it.
When I was very young, my grandparents on Mom's side lived in what was called a railroad apartment -- rooms one behind another like railroad cars -- above my grandfather's men's clothing store in Virginia, Minnesota, a one-time mining town on the Iron Range.
My grandmother, whom I loved dearly and called Bobi (our family spelling for bubbe, a Jewish grandmother), had all sorts of knickknacks in her small living room, including the little tomato.
When Bobi died suddenly of a stroke at age 60 in 1959, my devastated mother brought many of her mother's things back to our home in Oak Park, Michigan.
No doubt Mom's three siblings brought back other items.
Anyway, for some reason, the porcelain knicknack was one of the items I always loved most. When Mom surprised me with the tomato gift, I asked her what she remembered about it from her youth.
Alas, she didn't know where or how her mother came to own it. So while I know nothing of how the porcelain tomato came into Bobi's home, I know how it got to me.
Perhaps one of my descendants will beam over to a holographic "Antiques Roadshow" in 2030 with the little tomato that first belonged to his/her great-great grandmother, 100 or more years in the past. What a neat thought.
There are so many little stories to tell of treasures from my past and I will leave those tales for my children.
But I would love to hear yours. Please take a few minutes and e-mail one of yours at myrasharon@comcast.net.
Enjoy the rest of the week.
What stories will you write down for your family members of the future? I

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Famous artist, flying saucers and July hot stuff

Think about this. More than half the year is gone. It's now history, disappeared into wherever days of yore wind up.
Fortunately, the summer isn't over and this blog issue (blissue) is packed with odds 'n ends stuff to do.
But first ... You have not seen Chicago until you've viewed this world-class city through the eyes and via the incredible talent of nationally acclaimed artist Michael Cheney (www.mikecheney.com).
Two images of oils in his soon-to-be-opened show, "Urban Impression," greet you at the top of this blog; 151 Sheridan and The Deli.
You cannot begin to imagine the mesmerizing quality of Cheney's oils until you've actually seen one, as in the real thing.
"Urban Imprssion" brings the artist's combined Chicago series collection to a whopping 200 separate oils.
Oh yes, Mike does more than Chicago works but this is his most voluminous body of masterpieces.
I met Mike via telephone years ago when I was first working in arts and entertainment. His work absolutely wowed me, and I have been in touch with and writing about Mike since my first contact with him in 2001.
On top of being truly gifted, Mike is warm, thrilled to meet new people, fascinating to listen to and simply a really neat person.
And guess what? You can meet him.
On Aug.1, from 6 to 8 p.m., the "Urban Impression" show officially opens at Atlas Galleries, 535 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. If you are going to be anywhere in the metro area, do yourself a favor and hit the event. It is open to the public.
It's a free gala in a magnficient city on the Mag Mile and you'll get to meet Mike whose work appears worldwide. You can sip wine and munch appetizers as you walk around and look at Mike's paintings, drawings and specially created prints.
Everyone who attends the opening will get a free limited edition show poster. These are huge treasures, trust me.
We'll be there, and I hope to see you, too.

Two more Chicagoland items before moving on.
First, a fun read and mega chances for interaction are easy to access at Jessi Virtusio's "Elaborating on Entertainment" blog in the SouthtownStar.
Jessi, arts and entertainment editor for the newspapers, always offers interesting observations and loves to hear from readers. Check out Jessi's blog at http://blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment .
if you've never been to the legendary Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., this is the time to go. "Superior Donuts," a provocative new comedy by award-winner Tracy Letts, continues through Aug. 24.
OK. So what awards did Letts win, you ask.
Well, he won the 2008 Pulitzer for drama for his blockbuster, "August: Osage County," which took several Tony awards this year after moving to New York following its sold-out performances at Steppenwolf.
Tickets to "Superior Donuts" are at (312) 335-1650 and are mega reasonable at $20 to $68.
We saw this show, and in addition to a phenomenal script, the cast, no surprise, is extraordinary.

Flying Saucers? No, haven't seen any, at least not this year.
But a real flying saucer is in the works. According to a fun and fascinating article in Scientific American, a University of Florida researcher has plans for a prototype flying saucer on the drawing board.
No, it does not use petro-fuel of any kind.
Rather this real life sci-fi come to life possibility turns air into fuel.
Sci-Am writes "The concept sounds far-fetched but the UF mechanical and aerospace engineering associate professor plans to have a mini model ready to demonstrate his theory within the next year." The short article should be a cinch to find at www.sciam.com.

Looking for a totally awesome summer read? A unisex adventure and romance?
Well, you've heard of Shangri-La, but if you've never read the 1933 novel, "Lost Horizon," by Brit novelist James Hilton, it's definitely time to check it out at the library or find a paperback copy somewhere.
Always one of my favorite books, "Lost Horizon," the novel, soars above both movies based on the mystical adventure.
In fact, I am about to track down a copy and re-read it myself.
Have a great week, and I'd love to hear from you at myrashron@comcast.net

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence Day facts and trivia

Tomorrow we honor what PBS calls "our nation's most cherished document" and of course, what the Declaration of Independence means to the citizens of this country.
Sure we complain about this, that and the other.
And this country has serious problems as we head toward the election of a new president -- an unpopular war or two, a dramatically declining economy and skyrocketing prices for fuel, food and just about everything else.
But we can complain all we want and are free to do so without fear of government reprisal.
So we hang our flags and party on which is probably what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (pictured) would have wanted us to do.
Indeed, July 4th has been celebrated grandly since 1776 when members of the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft.
However, when we visualize the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock's grandiose signature comes to mind first.
There's a reason Hancock signed on top of the other 55 signatures.
He was president of the Second Continental Congress.
Infoplease.com reminds us that each one of those rebel signers showed "great courage (as) announcing independence from Great Britain was an act of treason, punishable by death."
Because of that danger, their names reportedly were withheld from the public for more than six months.
But 13 colonies forged together with the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. The battle cry was "no taxation without representation."
While we Americans living in "Crook County" are inundated with taxes to fund ever more outrageous patronage jobs, we can complain as loudly as we want and not be accused of treason because of our forefathers -- and our foremothers who put their own lives in grave jeopardy by supporting the men they loved.
Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, no surprise, the Philadelphia Evening Post on July 6, 1776, became the first newspaper to publish the entire document.
On July 8, it was read aloud, at noon in public, for the first time, also in Philadelphia.
On July 9, it was read for all to hear in New York, reportedly by order of General George Washington.
And on July 18, 1776, the bold document was "read in Boston accompanied by church chimes and the firing of cannon," according to teachervision.fen.com/independence-day.
We still love noise on July 4th (or we don't like but put up with it).
Still, while holiday-minded Americans have observed the holiday since with its birth year, it took until June 28, 1870, for Congress to pass a law making Independence Day a national holiday.
The Fourth of July has a distinction shared by only four other observances in the United States.
In 1968, almost all general holidays celebrated in the United States were relocated from their original dates to Mondays to give weary American workers those beloved three-day weekends.
However, in addition to the Fourth of July, New Year's Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas keep their own calendar dates.
As an added July 4th note, this week archeologists announced they have located the foundation of George Washington's boyhood home.
Stories have hit the internet and an update, along with a very cool photo, is at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-george3-2008jul03,0,4764772.story
Alas, no one has found any cherry tree stump or even an ax handle.
The story of a truth-bound boy named George admitting he chopped down a cherry tree no doubt is apocryphal -- but it's neat anyway.
For all their faults, most notably owning slaves, Jefferson and Washington were key to American independence.
So celebrate, eat a lot, check out those fireworks and don't forget, our foremothers who risked their lives.
While their names appear on none of the freedom documents, their strengths were critical to a way of life we hold dear 232 years after their husbands inked a document for all time.
Happy Fourth of July.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Myra the heiress ... NOT!

Apparently, I could have been an heiress as could my three sisters (photo me, from left, Cheryl and Karen taken in April. Sister Joanna not in town).
My cousins Michael and Sandi as well as Steve and Marci also could be riding along on easy street with huge bank accounts and portfolios beyond anything we could imagine.
Alas, it never happened.
Still, family treasures go far beyond any monetary or material possessions passed down through generations.
Perhaps most important are stories, those of relatives who died and your own life's tales -- ones you want your children, grandchildren and future generations to know about family members who came before them.
I am starting to gather information and make notes about anecdotes and tales about my life, my parents' lives, grandparents and whoever in the family added a bit of humor or tale worth saving for future generations.
Now about that money I could've had.
My father, Sam Eder (died in 1971), had two siblings (actually three but one died long before he was born), two sisters, my Aunt Helen (died in 1991) and my Aunt Esther. A few years before Aunt Esther died (two years ago at 96), she and I were talking about my father and her and their father, my Zada Moshe (died when I was 14) who apparently never succeeded in any business.
According to Aunt Esther, Zada had a grocery business in Detroit during the Depression years or perhaps before. Anyway, a man he knew wanted to start a soft drink company but couldn't afford the sugar needed for the pop (soda here in Chicago).
This man offered Zada stock in his future company if he could have the sugar to start production.
Zada said no.
Wrong answer.
That man who asked for sugar founded Faygo, the huge soft drink company, Aunt Esther said with a smile.
I had never heard that tale before she told me about five years ago, but oh how much fun I have now thinking about how we almost were among the phenomenally wealthy.
Those are the kinds of anecdotes my children should know and hopefully remember to tell their children. That is why I am starting to write down our family gems.
So for family members, if I ask all sorts of questions, you will know why.
Changing the subject, last night on television, there was a report about a man, who like Oskar Schindler, managed to rescue many Jews from the Nazis.
Nicholas Winton, born in 1909 and still living, was a 29-year-old stockbroker when he rescued more than 600 Czech children from the throes of death by putting them on trains and bringing them to London to live with British families. Most of these children never saw their birth families again.
Winton, now 98, has been nominated for a Nobel Prize though it is unclear if the decision has been made about that nomination.
In any case, I had never heard of him before brief television interviews, first with him and also with a woman who was one of those youngsters Winton rescued.
There is tons of material on the Internet and you might want to take a moment and read more about this incredible and silent hero whose story apparently has only recently surfaced.
Update from my nephew camp official at the now-vanished Lake Delton indicates camp life is settling down, alternate water sports venues are nearby and the summer programs will go on pretty much as usual though certainly in a dramatically changed landscape, er lakescape.
A news story today reveals cleanup workers found four guns and two bones and the empty lakebed. Cops will try and track the guns (hey, calling Lake Delton CSI) and while bones are probably not human, forensic specialists will double check.
Alas, the city of Lake Delton at the Wisconsin Dells is taking a huge financial hit.
Many people with lakeshore homes saw their investments literally washed away as the lake gushed out of its bed on toward the Wisconsin River.
Lake Delton resorts, motels and hotels now offer huge discounts to hoped-for vacationers, and while gawkers flock to the site of the empty lakebed, much of the region's attraction simply isn't there.
Plans are underway to refill the man-made lake which took shape in the 1920s, but it's not likely much will happen this year.
Again, much more on the net.
On the lighter side of summer life, so what can you do with the small fry coming to visit this summer?
Sure there's the local water park or pool, regular parks, videos at home and so on.
But that, of course, is same old, same old.
For a real family treat, take everyone to Adler Planetarium to see "Fly Me to the Moon," an animated short feature that will delight kids and have the big folk smiling and elbowing each other with chuckles. If you have any questions about Adler, it's been my fave place in the city for decades so just email me at myrasharon@comcast.net. The website is adlerplanetarium.org.
Have a great week.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weird world

Not possible, I thought. Lake Delton gone? Vanished? How could it be? Following massive rainstorms and violent winds less than two weeks ago, the Wisconsin vacation lake simply "barreled though the woods, taking with it a roadway, several houses, boats, fish and the lake bed," according to the Chicago Tribune. The lake emptied into the Wisconsin River, leaving behind only trickles of water and an exposed lakebed. Home of the breath-taking Wisconsin Dells, Lake Delton has been a vacation hotspot since it was created in the 1920s. My nephew, Brian Gutman, is working at a camp at what used to be Lake Delton. Camp continues but obviously with a hugely revised sports program. As in, no water-skiing on the lake. I asked Brian what it's like up there, and his description has the feel of other-worldly. "Everything has been out of this world," Brian wrote. "We were in bathrooms for about eight hours in one day as three tornadoes touched down within an hour. For two days it was raining harder than anything I have ever seen. "At camp we have entire roads washed into the river ... Although the rain stopped two days ago, the drainage ditches still sound like rushing rapids," he said on June 11. "On June 8, we were told that we needed to get our boats out of Lake Delton ... My understanding is that within 20 minutes of us getting notified of the original dam break, the lake was nearly gone. "We went down there today. It is now a puddle with dead fish all around," Brian said. News articles indicate the lake probably won't be restored this year but the Army Corps. of Engineers, government hydrologists and city officials hope they can restore the lake by summer 2009. While truly bizarre, Lake Delton's disappearance does not stand alone in the world of strange news items. I've collected a few to share with you during the last few weeks. How about this one? "Woman sues Victoria's Secret, claims injury from defective thong." For real. You can check that one out on Foxnews.com. Then there's this piece of scientific information of value to chocoholics everywhere: "Chocolate craving determined by bacteria." So when you're indulging in creamy chocolate whatevers, you could blame your body's bacteria for their robust appetites, according to a British study in the London Telegraph. Anything missing in your life? Has something disappeared? Could be the fault of the universe. According to the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA, "Two of the Milky Way's spiral arms go missing." It would appear our galaxy does not have the pinwheel shape we are so used to seeing in graphics but rather has two arms, according to the infrared studies. So actually, while arms are missing, it's not likely anything you need has vanished. You can find more information about this galactic phenomenon at www.spitzer.caltech.educ. Then there are the headlines about human feet washing up near Vancouver, B.C. Apparently the last one was not human but an animal's paw stuffed inside a human shoe. As in a sick hoax. But officials remain puzzled by five other feet they have recovered. Those are real. Worried about the housing slump? So are owners of a Florida housing complex. To hopefully combat slow sales, they have started a new project. "Condo owners hope clothing-optional pool will increase sales." I'm not too sure about the appeal of nude swimming and wonder what kind of response this airiness will bring. In a Sherlock Holmes-like mystery, officials really could use the fictional character's deductive skills to help them solve the case of the bloody bumbershoot. The Foxnews.com headline reads, "British detectives hunt Cold War killer who used poison-tipped umbrella as murder weapon." A few weeks ago, another story picked up by the wire services did not help the image of Chicago's far South Suburbs. "Illlinois man orders custom beer can coffin." It's true. The guy lives in a suburb about 20 miles from our place in Tinley Park. But no, we don't know him. Oh, what brand of beer? Pabst Blue Ribbon. Finally, I ask. Why would the following study report be a headline? It's not news that "Poll says most say US on wrong track." Duh. Bummer. As I finished this blog, I noticed my little blue hearing aid had fallen apart. The thin plastic wire that goes into the ear separated from the delta-shaped receiver. And of course, the hearing aid guy is out until Tuesday. So if you call or see me and I seem to be having same old hearing prob, you'll know why. I'll update you on this next week. And of course it is under warrantee. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Letter from St. Paul

Lost? No, not at all. But I have not had time to blog. I am -- and have been for the last six days -- lost in the world of my two little grandsons, trying my best to be SuperBobi (bubbe/bobi is Yiddish for grandmother) up here in Minnesota. My thoughts often travel back to the 1970s when I was the young mom running from one kid to the next and then one more. Like all other young parents, I hoped to surpass the known bounds of good parenting and be the best mom ever. Duh. Didn't work. But even with all my mistakes, I raised three AMAZING children and now get to watch Jessica, the oldest of the three, thriving and struggling, as all young parents do, with her own two little ones. I vividly remember the first time I held Jessica and looked at down at her face. At that moment, I wondered if anyone in the world at any time in human history had ever loved a child as much as I loved her. The well of love overflowed and after a while, I feared there would be none left for any future offspring. Somehow, though, that well always remained full, and as Sarah and then Joshua entered the world, I discovered I love each of them to infinity as well. Indeed, I love each one differently, but endlessly. So too with my grandsons. Now, of course, the challenge of child-rearing is not mine, and when visiting, I love deferring discipline and other key daily decisions to my daughter and son-in-law. We do the same when we're with Murray's son and daughter-in-law and their almost five-year-old little guy. While we can love to the max, Murray and I made the commitment to ourselves that we would not interfere with our children as they raise their own. It's their turn. However, if anyone asks, you can be sure, Bobi Myra always has the answer. Not that it will be right. But there will be an answer. Did anyone ever ask a grandmother a question to which she said, "I don't know?"

Friday, May 30, 2008

Martian Chronicles and, well, quickies

First, the quickies. No, not those kind. To start with, here's my one and only political comment today. SEND HIM AWAY The Rev. Michael Pfleger should be shipped to some distant land where there's no television, no video, no electronic communications of any kind and where he can proselytize all he wants as the virtually self-named messiah. His horrendous spiel about Hillary Clinton in the same church where Jeremiah Wright let loose damaged the credibility of the entire Democratic Party, and I would bet, sent many on the fence over to the GOP side. ON OTHER TOPICS ... Due to popular demand (OK, several requests), I am revisiting a couple of issues mentioned early on. DRUG$ RXploitation continues in the United States, of course, and if you think about it, it's easy to see why. Our country foots the bill for most drug research, extraordinarily expensive television and magazine advertising that probably should be illegal and oh yes, pharmaceutical lobbying. As in, we cannot buy generics in this country for the countless drugs that are available in generics across the border. The pharmaceutical lobbies and their gazillions of dollars spent on wooing lawmakers has kept the cheaper drugs illegal here. But I have had it with RXploitation. To date, our experience with buying prescriptions drugs from Canada has saved us literally THOUSANDS of dollars in the last few months. We use Canadageneric.com which meets all the requirements AARP has set for checking out online RX suppliers across the border. Overall, Canadageneric has the best prices I've found and their service has been as advertised. Think Lipitor, Singulair, Advair and Actonel ... just to name a few generics we've bought. How about Avapro, Plavix and Astelin? All are unbelievably inexpensive in generic form from our neighbors to the North. Cipla, a giant pharmaceutical company in India, supplies many of the generics. To date, I'm very pleased to be out of the RXploitation trap. SOUND OFF/ON For anyone curious about my new hearing aid, Oticon Delta. In three words: I love it. My family loves it. I can understand what used to sound like mumbling. It's much easier for me to keep my voice modulated at a normal level and my little blue Delta has become my electronic friend. If any of you would like more info, just leave a comment or email me at myrasharon@comcast.net. REAL MARTIAN CHRONICLES Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of Starship Enterprise, Next Gen, has landed on Mars. His voice has, that is. Most of you probably kept up somewhat with the Phoenix lander last weekend, a thrilling few hours, and as promised, "seven minutes of terror," followed by huge hurrahs and no doubt lots of tears. Relief after years of planning. However, I did not hear anyone detail the contents of the glass CD-ROM the Planetary Society tucked into the Phoenix lander. That CD contains some of the best science fiction and fact ever written including works by giants including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Ben Bova, E.R. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury ("Martian Chronicles," of course), Carl Sagan, to mention a few of the dozens. In fact, the disc contains "a collection of Mars artwork and classic radio shows" narrated by Stewart. Dozens of nations, hundreds of thousands of signatures and more fill the disc for future explorers from Earth and, well, from who knows where. Interested? The entire CD program notes are at http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/messages/vom_art.html. And if you've never checked out the NASA/JPL website, there are loads of Phoenix photos and even sounds from its trip down through the Martian atmosphere at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/main/index.htmlwww.nasa.gov.jpl. Have a great weekend and ... welcome to June.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New, blue ... yikes, NASA preps for "terror"

OK. NASA and terror, you're wondering. What's up? Are we in the path of some asteroid? Is the sun ready to go supernova? Myra, what's happening? Well, you can breathe again. Earth is not in peril from space, at least not that astronomers know about. However, rocket scientists, mission specialists and in fact, everyone at NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be holding their collective breath this Sunday when it's time for the Mars Phoenix Lander to set down on what scientists call "Mars' arctic tundra." On Thursday, NASA issued a release stating the "spacecraft (launched last Aug. 4) is closing in on the seven scariest minutes of the mission." Those seven minutes are the time it will take the Phoenix lander, traveling at 12,750 mph, to enter the Martian atmosphere, deploy a strong parachute and use its retrorockets to achieve a safe landing on its three legs after its 422 million mile voyage. The earliest mission controllers will know whether or not the landing is successful is 6:53 p.m. CDST -- remember on Sunday -- a NASA e-mail states. If all goes well -- not a guarantee since far too many Mars missions have failed -- the interplanetary probe will begin digging in the permafrost in the ongoing quest for fossils, any remnants of extra-terrestrial microbial organisms -- as in mini Martians. Of course, many more experimental adventures are on the Phoenix docket. You can join the collective breath-holding starting at 2 p.m. Sunday (CDST) on the NASA channel and online at www.nasa.gov. Ongoing Phoenix landing programming also will get into the mission details and plans. At 5:30 p.m., NASA begins live coverage of the landing itself, yes, in real time. Should be quite a terrific show. Well, at least hopefully it'll be great and not disastrous. NASA scientists, in one of their stellar moments, scheduled the landing to take place after the Indy 500. Now how's that for planning? Meanwhile, there's tons of stuff on Phoenix and more at the NASA website. Back to the headline now for "new, blue." Most people who know me also know I am totally deaf in my left ear and have been since childhood ... from what, no one really knows. But all the nerves in that ear are dead. In fact, when I was a kid, I thought everyone had a good ear and a bad ear, just like most of us are right-handed or lefties. So I thought one ear was simply there to balance our looks since we'd all appear strange with just one ear. OK. That said, as I have gotten older and lost some hearing in my right ear, there have been serious problems with my auditory ability, and after trying two different models of hearing aids, both presenting numerous problems and discomfort, I had given up. A few months ago my family started telling me I really needed to rethink the situation and see if any hearing instrument would work for me. That encouragement, plus the fact that many people were getting irritated with my asking to have things repeated (see below, hearing addendum), sent me on a quest. Long story short. This week I picked up my new, blue hearing aid, an Oticon Delta, with the mike behind the ear in a dainty triangle piece (hence Delta) and a teeny, soft plastic tube that sends sound to the ear. I had my choice of many colors for the little triangle and chose blue, even though the entire gizmo is all but invisible. The instrument is so light and comfortable, I don't feel it unless I'm thinking about it. I can use the phone, cell and landline, and go about my day without paying attention to the little lifesaver. I'm hearing sounds I never knew were there. When the audiologist first handed me the instrument, I put it in and told him there was an annoying buzzing. Turns out that was the sound of his fluorescent lighting. When he stuck me in the soundproof testing room, I couldn't hear the buzz. A day later, I told Murray I heard a strange sound outside. "Oh those are birds chirping," he said. "You just never heard them before." And so on. My children sound great on the phone. TV never sounded better. Murray said my voice is different and he notices a huge difference in communicating with me, though he has always been incredibly patient. There is more, but right now I want to segue into the addendum. TIPS FOR TALKING TO THE HEARING DISABLED. A hearing loss is an INVISIBLE disability. If someone you are with has trouble hearing, please be patient and respectful of her/his challenge. Remember, you wouldn't tell someone with a crutch or in a wheelchair or carrying a white cane to hurry up. You would, no doubt, be very patient. Please think about that the next time you get frustrated when someone doesn't hear you. Second, laughing, making fun of a person who has hearing issues can be very hurtful. Loss of hearing is not funny to the person who is struggling to hear. Never yell at a deaf person. It is humiliating. If the person is not aware you are speaking to her, tap her on the shoulder. And when speaking, make sure the other person can see your mouth. You don't need to exaggerate mouthing words but speak slowly and clearly while facing the hearing disabled. With all that, I hope you have a great weekend. I will have a great time actually hearing. I would love to hear from you via comments or e-mail. AND GO PHOENIX, BABY!!


photo by sarah gross

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About Me

Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.