Saving Grace

TNT has been pusing their new series “Saving Grace” real hard for the last month or so. They have thrown ad clips in between other shows (Law & Order, for example), and had those annoying lower-right-corner ads during other shows.

They made it sound like another crime drama involving a female investigator, with the twist that she is visited by God, or an angel or something.

So I was not interested, but since there was nothing else on, I watched it last week.

The show is on at 9:00pm – not exactly late – and it is rated TV-MA. The VERY FIRST SCENE is a bad-porn-esque sex scene that is far too revealing for a major network at 9:00pm… especially in a show that has been advertised as a respectable crime drama, during other respectable crime dramas and with a religious overtone.

They spent way too much time demonstrating how disgusting her life is (I believe that was the point), and very little showing us why we should care.
She is only an exceptional investigator insomuch as everybody else she works with are incompetent.

I was generally appalled by lack of thought TNT put into this show. Without the TV-MA rating, and completely unnecessary sex / language, (and a decent plot and believable characters…) this show could be watchable. As it is, I hope TNT gets in some kind of trouble.

So anyway, 9:00pm on Monday rolls around as it often does, and there is nothing on. I decide to give “Saving Grace” another chance…

Within the first 3 minutes she gets tobacco-spit from an angel in a tree who misses the spit bottle (I’m guessing the writers thought this would be funny?), then starts rolling around on the ground with her man-friend, her intentions obvious.

Since they presume to make a self-sustaining show out of the process of “saving” Grace, she is going to have to keep doing things requiring saving – which means that the show will continue to be a complete waste of time.

BTAudio executable downloads

As I discovered recently, these files are not available outside of the dang zip file. Here they are, ready to be dowloaded right to your smartphone / PDA.

These utilities allow you to use a regular Bluetooth headset to listen to mp3, movies, audio, etc. They redirect all sound to the Bluetooth headset. Run BTAudioOn to enable, BTAudioOff to disable. These are stateless applications – they have no way of knowing the current setting, but it doesn’t hurt to run them twice.


All relevant credit goes here:

They just didn’t have the guts to post the binaries for those without a PC to sync.

Harry Potter and the Really Good Book

Just finished reading the last Harry Potter book. It’s good. Real good. Some of things JK Rowling said had me worried… Luckily my fears were unfounded.

I read for a few hours last night, then started this morning at around 11:30am (right after I woke up), and finished around 5:15am. Stopping only for necessaries.

All I can say is that it was a very satisfying read.

I will say no more, for my mother has not yet read the book, and she reads my page.


In general, I have tried not to think about the implications of what happened this week. And generally speaking, I have not had too much sadness.

But then in the mall – during the 5 minutes I was there this afternoon, they played Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.

When certain types of things happen to me, whatever songs I hear during that period tend to bring back memories. For example:

If I listen to certain songs by Sixpence None The Richer, I recall the sounds and feelings of getting my wisedom teeth pulled.

When I listen to the album Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple, I remember driving to work late at night responding to a call, and I was … emotionally troubled.

As much as I like it, I do not dare listen to a recent System of a Down album because of “revelation” I had while listening to it. I am afraid of experiencing that revelation again.

So back to Chasing Cars. This song is kind of sad to begin with – well it was playing at the vets office while I was having my last visit with Banjo.

When I heard it in the mall, the vet’s office came back, and I once again realized that I will never see my fuzzy little buddy again. And it sucked.

On the bright side, I’m 9th in line to get Harry Potter 7 at Waldenbooks in the mall. They are having a release party that sounds like loads of fun. Course it would be awefully nice if I had somebody to go with… but that is another matter altogether.

Banjo has taken his final bow

At around 2:45pm Banjo breathed his last breath. I had to have him put to sleep.

After three days of fluid therapy, his kidneys were unable to filter anything out. This morning the vet discovered that he had gone blind – his retinas had detached. He had also started drooling. Yellow drool.

This time he wasn’t happy to see me, because he couldn’t see me – you could tell he was very disoriented, and his eyes were kind of crooked. He had THE MOST awful smelling breath I dare say I have ever encountered in anything. We’re talking wilting flowers…

He was purring the whole time I was there, but he was largely uninterested in affection.(*)

I brought along a few of his very favorite things. I have some luggage that he would always jump into as soon as it was opened. This did not go over well.

I brought his shoelaces – by far his favorite toy. Once again, he wasn’t interested.

I brought a branch of fake christmas tree. This was a winner. He immediately knew what it was, and in spite of the yellow drool, he happily munched and licked and poked around the branch. From day 1, he has loved chewing on fake Christmas tree branches. The two Christmases we have shared involved a lot of squirting the cat out of the tree… I’m so glad he got to do this once more. He did eventually tire of it and lay down.

I borrowed some brushes (completely forgot how much he loved to be brushed). I groomed that kitty for a good 45 minutes, and he appreciated every minute of it. He was purring, and trying to wave his tail, and kneading the counter.

The doctor used a two step process – first he gives a sedative, then the final shot right to the heart. Banjo didn’t appreciate the sedative shot, but he got over it quickly, and slowly started to relax. After a minute or so he fell alseep. At this point, he was limp, but still breathing.

The doctor came in, and I decided to stay for the final injection. There was really nothing to the last one. Banjo’s breathing had slowed to be almost unnoticeable, and it just stopped. There was no final sigh, there was no twitching or thrashing; Banjo just fell asleep peacefully, and I dare say he looked glad to do so.

What a freaking crappy week I’ve had.

He's not dead yet…

I got my call from the vet today. She said he’s looking well, but he still refuses food, and vomited once, sometime yesterday. She’s not surprised, but was hoping he would be eating before being sent home (or something to that effect).

I did a whole bunch of research yesterday and got my hopes up. From what I read, when a cat’s urine output increases, the chances of the kidneys healing themselves increases considerably. Banjo didn’t stop producing urine until the nausea made him dehydrated.

Unfortunately, I will not know until tomorrow (when they do the first post-treatment blood test) if he is improving. The fact that he still had some nausea increases my concern.

So, it is time to start thinking about euthenasia. Let me tell you, don’t think about it if you don’t have to – it is a rough concept to consider.

When I was in high-school, my girlfriend’s family had a cat that I was quite fond of (Keekers was her name). Her organs started shutting down, and everybody knew her time was coming… Except for me. I tried to argue that they should perform dialysis… In retrospect, I was a fool. Dialysis in pets is prohibitively expensive, and not worth the extra couple days it could provide.

After she was euthanized, the girlfriend was devastated. She was extracting some comfort from the thought that Keekers was in heaven.

But, animals don’t have souls – that feature is exclusive to humans. And of course, lacking the proper understanding of grief (or when to keep my mouth shut), I tell her this. True or not, it wasn’t important.
Thankfully, the pastor at my church – much older and wiser than myself had a good explanation – heaven is the perfect place, and if a pet’s presence there is required to have a perfect existence, then the pet is there.

I continued to believe this was a cop-out answer – not truly backed by scripture, but I had learned my lesson after the damage my original statement caused and changed my tune.

And now, in a sad twist of fate, I am placed in almost the same situation she was. If Banjo dies, how do I come to grips with it?

When people die, I take a very great comfort in the fact that they have moved on to a better place (or at least the hope that they have). To some extent, I see my mourning as selfish – we should celebrate the person’s release into God’s hands. Let our happiness for them overshadow our grief at their loss.

The prospect has thrown me into a bit of spiritual turmoil. If Banjo has no soul, then what actually changes when he dies?
When a human dies, the body is nothing but an empty shell, and the spirit is free, and lives on.
What about a cat? Banjo IS his body. The specific wiring of his brain determines his personality. When he dies, nothing is freed, his consciousness ceases to exist.

Much of what Iam feeling doesn’t jive with my interpretation of life. What I feel is violently opposed to what I know. I hate it.

What a comfort it would be if he had a soul. If he was going to move on to a better place. So much of a comfort that I might silence my inner pharisee and believe it for a while.

Sometime tomorrow I will get news of the blood test from the vet. I don’t know what to expect, but I am hoping for good news. I REALLY want to be overreacting.

When is a cat not just a cat

My cat Banjo has had a rough week, and presently is in critical condition. What follows is the story thus far.

On Saturday of last week, I got back from work and found a number of piles of vomit around the house. I have two cats, and as any person who has had cats for a while knows, cats vomit.

Later that day, I hear this sound coming from the hallway. I run over and see my older cat Banjo wretching. I quickly move him to the kitchen to complete his vomiting, safely clear of the carpet. All that came up was foamy water. Hmm…
Well, I had some sausage that had been sitting around for embarrasingly long that appeared to have been disturbed. I just figured Banjo had gotten into the sausage and had a case of “Garbage Gut”. Well, he did it two more times at least while I was there, and I started doing research.

Cat vomiting can be caused by so many things, ranging from excessive shedding to kidney failure. I decided to give him overnight (most places said over 24-hours of vomiting should warrant a vet call). I got up two times during the night, and both times he was sitting in the same position, facing the same direction. Sunday morning, I decided (after consulting my mother) that I should call the vet and ask him if this deserved an emergency visit.

The area on-call doctor agreed that it would be wise to look into it. Banjo got some x-rays and a thorough prodding (both with much protest). the conclusion: he ate something that wasn’t agreeing with him, and was having bowel pain (based on the gas pockets in his intestines). He was give three shots – one for nausea, one for stomach acid and one for pain. Ironically, the pain killer shot inspired more hissing and growling than I have ever heard from Mr. B. All this for the low-low price of $250.

It seemed to help. After the insult wore off, he perked back up and started drinking and eating again, although he was still cranky (he kept trying to bite me… – I blame narcotic pain meds)

Monday night, around 1:30am I awake (after some very strange dreams) to the huk.. huk.. huk.. and find several yellowish splotches on the carpet, in addition to the fresh ones right in front of Banjo. I take away the food and water, and get out the spray bottle and paper towel to clean up the messes. As far as I know, he didn’t vomit anymore that night. Before showering, I put some water out for them – they were both thirsty. I go into the basement for some socks, and there are a couple fresh puddles of water-vomit. Oi.

The vet looks at the x-rays, checks him over and thinks he probably has some intestinal inflamation, and prescribes two drugs – Reglan (anti-nausea) and Famotidine (antacid). Lovely, I get to give pills. (But hey, this visit was much more reasonable at $55.)

Well, they seem to work – no more vomiting Tuesday. Wednesday he fights his evening pill very hard – unwilling to open his mouth.
I don’t really notice him eating much though, or drinking for that matter. The water dish and cup upstairs are not emptying at nearly the usual rate. Banjo does not sit on my lap like usual. He doesn’t really purr much, and remains disinterested in shoelaces (normally irresistable to him…).

Friday morning I used a new method to give him his pill (holding the head up), and it worked like a charm. Friday night he resisted even this.

After I got the pill in him, I carried him to the bathroom for a drink. He jumps down, and immediately starts vomiting again. Twice. Given that he is taking anti-nausea drugs, this is not cool. The vomit looks like water vomit but was a dark yellow – it looked like urine.

I knew he was going in for another vet visit in the morning, and I doubted sleep would be forthcoming, so I headed in to work to try and make up some of the lost hours and medical fees.

Called the vet, and he decided that we should probably do some bloodwork. Understandably, he fought going into the carrier this time, but not too hard. During the drive there, I could tell something more serious that tummy trouble was wrong. His voice had changed. It sounded flat, pitiful, weak. He smelled different too.

I got nervous.

He had gone from 15.8 lbs to 15.2. After removing him from his carrier, he just layed down, didn’t make eye contact. This again, made me nervous.

I was seeing a different doctor because Dr. Menard was not available. She checks his mouth and finds that he has some gingivitis going on – the discovery of which involved a yelp from Banjo. She takes his blood, and Banjo and I wait for 20-minutes or so.

The doctor comes back in and says “Well, we found what’s causing Banjo’s problems.” She is the sort of person with a chronically happy face – I could not read it, but I knew what was coming.

“His kidneys are failing”

I’m shown an estimated bill for the hospitalization service – $400. She says it’s possible he got into something that damaged his kidneys, and now they can’t catch-up. The hospitalization has a 50-50 chance of working. Now, I have to decide – spend $400 on a 50% likelihood of success or put him down. And I need to decide right now.

During the drive to the vet I considered this situation. I thought I might have to put Banjo down, and it didn’t upset me much – he is just a cat. I wondered (as I sometimes do) if Iam losing my ability to care.

Well, faced with the decision, I found out that I am still human, and I fought very hard not to break down in front of the vet. When she left to let me think about it, I broke down.

Here is this cat – this funny little man – who the thought of actually losing brought me to tears. Should I put him through it with such odds? I was leaning against it. I called my Mom – she recommended researching the results. As the possibilty of hope crossed my mind, I was able to regain my composure. Yes, I will do research.

After some soul searching (could I live with myself if I didn’t try?), some research (some numbers were ok while others were high, but could have other causes), and some happy rationalization (I’ve already spent so much on him… it would be foolish to give up so quickly) I decided to go for the treatment. I don’t know what I would do without my little man. The thought of losing him is devastating. He may be a cat, but he is also my best friend. For a while, my two cats were my only friends. He got me through the darkest times in my life when I felt hopeless. He is more than “just a cat” to me.

So back to the vet, with a hopeful heart.

Just in case, I decide to have Molly tested as well, since they pretty much share everything. While waiting in the lobby, a girl is finishing up a visit with a kitten who looks just like what I imagine baby Banjo looked like. The vet comes out and tells me he is doing better today. And that I can come back and see him. He gets up and and meows a few times, and even purrs a little. When I got there he just about walks out of the cage to rub up against me. He was so happy to see me. His voice was still a bit off, but it definitely sounded better. One of the techs said that yesterday he wasn’t interested in contact, but was being extremely snuggley today, and he hasn’t been messing with his IV. He really is such a good boy. I tell him every day, but I’m sometimes amazed by how true it is.

Molly’s blood is normal. (Phew)

Banjo’s kidneys have been damaged for unknown reasons (He has Acute Renal Failure). While the doctor suspects poisoning of some kind, I cannot think of anything (besides old sausage) that he could have eaten.
While some of it may be reversible, he will not live as long as he should. Maybe months; maybe years. Also, he will have to be on a special diet, and monitored for signs of further failure (aka vomit checks).

Now that Banjo has been gone from the house for a while, Molly has noticed. It is as if she is calling for him, and expects to see him when she hears noises. If Banjo doesn’t make it, she is going to need a companion. Even though he is only in the hospital, her cries are heart-wrenching. It would seem that Banjo is more than “just a cat” to both of us.

Let's pop some balloons for the fourth of july!!

This is quoted from here:

Children love the glitz and flash of fireworks, but there are safer alternatives, doctors said.

“There are so many ways you can celebrate the Fourth that are safer than fireworks,” Hecker said.

For example, Block recommends replacing sparklers with glow sticks, glow necklaces or novelty flashlights. “Pick something that’s safe versus something that’s dangerous,” she said.

If you live in the right areas of the country, you can enlist kids’ help in catching nature’s alternative to fireworks — a jarful of fireflies, Block said.

And the loud bang of fireworks can be replaced with burst balloons or paper bags, or with safe novelty noisemakers from a party store. Parents with an added dose of patience can also let their kids bang pots and pans from the kitchen, or let them run loose with horns, whistles, bells and cymbals, the experts suggested.

A Fourth of July party for kids can include a number of fun and safe activities, according to Prevent Blindness America. These include:

Letting little ones make decorations with crepe paper, construction paper, stickers and glue.
Planning food-making activities like patriotic pizzas and desserts.
Getting the kids to decorate T-shirts or hats with paint and decals that glow in the dark. By the time nightfall rolls around, their new night-bright clothes will be dry and ready to model.
Finally, there’s no substitute for the real thing, so head to a professional fireworks display. “Take the family as a group to observe it, and let the licensed professionals handle the show,” Block said.

And be sure to warn your children about attending neighbors’ displays, where most injuries occur to bystanders.

Hey, you know what else is dangerous? Bicycles! Do you know how many children have been injured or killed on a bicycle?

There are plenty of safer alternatives to the bicycle. Have then run around with pieces of foam and pretend like they are steering!
Blow a fan at them to simulate the fast speeds!!

On second thought, fan blades are dangerous, and if they run around, somebody could get hurt. Better to sit in a soft chair and don’t touch anything hard that you could hurt yourself on.

“Fireworks caused an estimated 10,800 injuries to be treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2005”

10,800 injuries compared with the millions of people setting them off? I have a feeling the real numbers are far less scary.

We live in a country where people can and should be allowed to do dangerous things. Making it illegal is not the answer. Education is.