Friday, February 27, 2009

The End of the Honeymoon as I Know It

I knew this day would come. Eventually. I hoped I wouldn't have to face it for another 6 months or so. Unfortunately, the moment of disenchantment is upon us. 

I have found a reason to be less than enraptured with my Mac. 

I have been trying to install the OSX 10.5.6 software update for the last three days. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the damn thing refuses to install. It freezes at the "configuring installation" step. 

I've googled high and low to no avail. I've followed every Mac support page to the letter. 

Delete update and re-download? Check. 
Download 600+Mb Combo update instead of stand-alone version? Check. 
Bang your head again a brick wall until mush? Check, check, check. 

And yet, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. It just won't budge. 

And to add insult to injury: if this were a PC, I would have known exactly what to do to fix it. 


Save me, whoever remain of my single digit readership! Have any of you found a solution to this catastrophe? 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Sometimes Blue

Seeing as I seem to pretty much suck at posting decent content on a regular basis, I have decided to try borrowing ideas off other more successful blogs. 

At first I thought I'd take ideas or themes they discuss and present my take on them. However, I have the mind of a highly influential 12-year-old, so I will rarely - if ever - veer from the consensus on all issues. If anything, I'd just repeat their ideas verbatim and not even realize that I had no input whatsoever. 

So I thought to myself, what do I enjoy on a daily basis that I could share with others? Aside from posting links I find interesting, of course. Because then I'd just become a very bad version of The Huffington Post, minus the intellectual bits. 

Then, lightbulb moment. I listen to my iPod every day, don't I? And I'm constantly looking for new music, aren't I? So why not recommend songs I like? Sort of like Let Me Like It and Music Ramen, minus the in-depth analysis, consistency, and coolness factors.

I will do this on a trial basis, beginning with Mellow Music Mondays, where I will recommend the kind of depressing music I listen to in the mornings before I've finished my half litre of coffee, and at night as I nod off. Thursdays will be of the Thumpin' kind, which basically means it'll be everything Mondays are not: loud, anthem-y pop and rock to get us into the weekend mood. 

Sometimes I will add my thoughts to the post, sometimes I will not. We'll see how it goes.

Thus, to inaugurate Mellow Music Mondays, kindly turn your attention to Matthew Perryman Jones singing "Feels Like Letting Go":

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ahead of the Pack

About two and a half years ago, Tinkerbell and I were shopping in London one muggy July afternoon. We shared the same July experience every summer since 2002, the first summer my family switched from New York City to London. Although us kids had blue passports (Bloft and Space Cadet are Canadians by birth), my parents remained cursed with the olive green refrigerator-shaped catastrophe they were forced to call their Egyptian passports.

As you can plainly see, the word "Arab" would definitely and embarrassingly trump "Egypt" at JFK's post-9/11 paranoid passport control. My parents were not having it.

Our last NYC visit was the summer of 2001. It was the year I was (in my opinion mis-) diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which explained the sudden and recurring swelling of my left knee throughout 2000-2001. Swelling is an understatement. It was the size of a volleyball on some days. My left shoulder also suffered extreme stiffness and discomfort. I remember it being extremely difficult to wipe. I say misdiagnosed because - knowing what I now know about Familial Mediterranean Fever - I'm pretty sure this was the beginnings of AA Amyloidosis, triggered by my having never taken any preventative Colchicine.

I may be getting too House, M.D. on you here. Basically, we always knew I had FMF. We just never had documented evidence in the form of a genetic test because it hadn't existed. They discovered the gene in 1997 and soon after developed the genetic test for it. In 2001, we only knew of two hospitals which had the technology available: Children's Hospital of New York - Presbyterian and the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London. Since we spent most of our summer in the United States (up until that point at least) anyway, and since most of said time was spent in New York City, it was natural for us to set up appointments with the pediatric rheumatology specialist there (for reference's sake, my doctor at the time was called Lisa Imundo. I don't know if she's still there, but she was awesome).

We were only going to confirm the obvious, and to make sure that the swelling knee and shoulder phenomena were all part of FMF. Two days before the flight, my knee flared up again pretty badly. Bet you can imagine my parents' sheer joy - they had a cripple to contend with all the way to NYC.

Now, everyone with some FMF background knows that the only preventative medication is Colchicine, which is a common drug used to treat gout. We always thought that it was purely a preventative treatment to help stop attacks from getting too bad. Our family mentality is one of toughing it out. Why take medicine your whole life if you can handle a rough couple of days every few months? So I never took it.

It turns out that Colchicine does more than prevent attacks. It prevents the onset of AA Amyloidosis, which causes the abnormal build-up of amyloid proteins in the vital organs, leading to renal failure. As I hadn't taken any Colchicine in all my 14 and a half years, it was high time that some of that crazy behind-the-scenes stuff begin to peek from behind the curtains. Enter swelling knees and shoulders, stage left.

Pretty uncannily, my symptoms were a dead ringer for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, too. So really, we'll never know what the hell was going on with my joints. All I know is that since I started taking Colchicine on August 16th, 2001, I've never had a problem with my knee or shoulder. Which is why I think I was just starting to show signs of Amyloidosis, not JRA. Then again, I also spent the better part of three years on a daily mega-dose of penicillin to treat the JRA... Damn it, guess I'll never figure this one out. I remember having to take 11 pills every evening for what felt like forever. Ah, the good old days!

We never did get the actual test done in NYC because of some technical glitch. That did not stop them from literally drawing 12 vials of blood for a medley of other things with random letters and numbers attached. I felt like a goddamn cherub fountain in a French palacial garden.
I ended up getting the test done that winter in London after all, at the Royal Free, with one of the foremost FMF experts, Professor Philip Hawkins. The man is an absolute genius, but was insanely rusty when trying to draw my blood.

Granted, my veins are not the most cooperative type, but I've had my blood drawn often enough to know that they aren't impossible to find. Dr. Hawkins spent the better part of 10 minutes trying to find any vein to draw blood from. He finally just stuck the needle in and wiggled it around until it hit something. Wasn't the most comfortable situation. Even he was in pain. After 5 months of international doctor visitations and almost 15 years of suffering, I finally had my FMF documentation when that needle finally pierced by elusive vein.

Having digressed into my FMF discovery history, I will finally return to my original story.

Now, Tinkerbell has a certain knack for sniffing out trends about a season and a half in advance. That afternoon, as we aimlessly roamed around Selfridges, she decided that she absolutely had to have a pair of Rayban Wayfarers or else she'd just die.

Of course, being the boring classical junkie that I am, I thought she was a total idiot for wanting those. I told he she looked like Om Kalthoum, who was one of Egypt's old-school singing icons. However, Tinkerbell hasn't had a miss since we were kids, and she always tries to get me to join her on her fashion trends experiments. Nevertheless, I insist on debating with her, on saying no, and on grudgedly following in her footsteps much much later after having made a complete fool/hypocrite of myself.

As I am not one to break tradition, this is what I bought myself as a treat the other evening, because they looked wicked:
In future, I will shut the fuck up and do whatever Tinkerbell says, because it is a lot easier than sheepishly showing her my purchases two years too late.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cue Melodramatic Sigh

Ladies and Gents, 'tis the end of an era. Life (read: work) as I know it has changed forever. My twins have departed, embarking on a wild new adventure called running Mammy's company back in Milano. 

They came, they charmed, they conquered. They are sorely missed during lunch, during tedious meetings, and when I need someone to roll my eyes at for whatever reason. 

I haven't said much about the twins on here, although Twin 1, who we will henceforth refer to as Kalashnikov, demanded a "blog" about himself several times. This is why I never wrote about them in any meaningful capacity. I am not told what to do, Mr. So-Called Gentleman! 

As much as I'd like to avoid the inevitable, I do have to say that they were the highlight of every day. We became friends over the little things. A shared love of all things Ralph Lauren. Familial obsessions with golf, including virtual mini-golf competitions on slow days at work. And who could forget office-wide garbage bin basketball competitions? 

They added a much needed spice to the monotone of our days trapped in corporate gloom.

As brothers, they are inseparable. When I first met them I found it endearing that they couldn't pick their lunches off a menu without conferring. 

"Baloo (Twin 2), pesto pasta?"

Sometimes that was substituted with a club or turkey or salmon sandwich. What mattered was that the other brother approved. 

As individuals, they couldn't be further apart. Kalashnikov is fiery, passionate, proud, arrogant, quick-witted, soft-hearted, kind, and a self-proclaimed "gentleman by nature". 

"I have three women in my life; my grandmother, who taught me to be a gentleman. My mother, who taught me to be a man, and my girlfriend, who will never take precedence over the first two."

I would say that I was closer to Kalashnikov, purely because we bonded over a shared exasperation with his (now) ex-girlfriend. I was his occasional confidante, which I admittedly enjoyed because it meant this otherwise private person trusted me. I may not have agreed with the way in which he allowed himself to be manipulated in this relationship, but I understood why and how he could not see it as such. It saddens me that he was hurt, but I am glad he became the wiser for it. 

Baloo is by far the more laid back of the two. He is funny, sweet, genuine, a huggable teddy bear, and a joy. He is just as kind-hearted as his brother, but does not allow his kind-heartedness to be used against him. In that sense he is more worldly than Kalashnikov, who is more worldly in his sociability and demeanor. 

Baloo is the simpler of the two, content with his girlfriend, his football, his palate, and his playstation. He is the family man. Kalashnikov is more restless; he has more to prove to the world. Baloo plays it as it lays. Kalashnikov needs to brush the grass around it meticulously, walk around the perimeter, and possibly contest the lie before playing on. 

Baloo is the Yin to Kalashnikov's Yang. They are complementary opposites producing a great, unique whole. I am privileged to call them friends, and sincerely hope our friendship does not fade with distance. I have great expectations of them, and I know they will not disappoint. 

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