Sunday, April 30, 2006

Still alive..... 

Haven't been hiding.....my computer was in the shop for several days, and I had to get a new hard drive. Need to re-install/restore all kinds of stuff to be properly up and running again. But thought I'd pop in for a bit to inform you that I'm still breathing.

Dan is still job hunting and trying to find out if he's getting laid off on Friday. He had two interviews with a company and was supposed to find out at the end of the week if he had gotten the job, but he found out today that the company has placed a new ad in the newspaper, so he thinks that they decided against hiring him because he was asking for too much money ($15,000 less than he is making now). He has to earn enough to make up for me not being able to work, which kinda puts him in a bind.

I've been busy packing because it's doubtful we'll be able to keep the house, so we're trying to de-clutter to make it presentable enough to sell. I live in an area with the highest rate of foreclosures in the nation, and a ton of homes that are going unsold, so it will be a challenge to get enough out of this house to enable us to move elsewhere. This house is eight years old (we bought it new) and needs some work as we had not planned on moving and hadn't kept up on aesthetics.

I talked to my lawyer about the gruesome functional capacity exam and neuropsych exam reports done for my LTD company. He says I don't have much recourse as "independent medical exams" are built in to every LTD contract. But he does feel I have a case to appeal if I am denied on the basis of these very biased reports as my own doctors maintain that I am disabled.

Must keep this (relatively) short as I need to install some software so Dan can apply for some jobs.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Liar, liar pants on fire??? 

Don't know if I'll be able to get this to post as my computer still crashes repeatedly, but I will give it one more shot.

Today, I read the reports of a functional capacity exam and a neuropych exam that I was forced to do by my long-term disability insurance company. Even though these were described as "independent medical exams", the people who did them were paid by the LTD company, so how can they be truly independent? I checked the background of the people who conducted these tests, and both facilities have a history of providing information that led to this LTD company denying valid claims (which they lost after lengthy legal battles).

The functional capacity exam did say I am only capable of sedentary work, but it also said some things that were flat-out untrue, such as I gave sub-maximal effort on some of the strength tests. I have neuropathy, so my strength can vary. It also said that my reported pain level was exaggerated because I walked out of the facility under my own power (just barely, and I was unable to walk the following day).

They also claimed I could work sitting for at least five and a half hours a day based on sitting for a 40 minute interview, could kneel for up to five and a half hours a day even though my feet went numb during that test, and could walk up to two and a half hours a day even though I was completely unable to do a treadmill test. For every portion of the test I could not finish, the reason was given that I stopped due to physical complaints when the reality was that on a few of them, the examiner stopped me from continuing due to me nearly collapsing. The overall picture in the report was that of someone who wasn't trying hard enough and was lying about her abilities.

The neuropsych exam report was actually worse, which really surprised me. The examiner had read the results of my previous neuropsych test (where I was diagnosed with somatorm disorder which has since been refuted by my current therapist) before she examined me. Is that unethical?

I informed the examiner during the tests that I was extremely fatigued, and indeed, I actually dozed off at a computer at one point, but that was not mentioned, and instead, I was accused having questionable motivation. My responses on some of the tests were apparently inconsistent, and this was interpreted as not making an effort when in fact I was trying my best. The examiner threw out nearly the entire exam as invalid and did not list specific results.

The only thing the examiner decided was valid was the 500 plus question "personality" exam where I had missed a response somewhere on the answer sheet and was off by one on at the last 100 questions or so. This was not noted on the report. Instead, the report concluded that I had somatoform disorder and was possibly manipulating the exam for personal gain!

It really hurts to be essentially called a liar when I was trying my very best on both tests. I can't help it if my grip strength doesn't form a perfect bell curve or if I have moments of alertness followed by moments of fibro fog. They say I am reluctant to acknowledge a psychological basis for my pain and fatigue....well, who wouldn't be reluctant knowing what sort of interpretation is possible??

I feel betrayed. The neuropsych report said I have no objective evidence of illness! I'm sitting here questioning my self-worth even though I know you can't fake a positive lip biopsy, an endoscopy showing gastroparesis, x-rays showing arthritis, bloodwork showing diabetes and bodywide inflammation or an EMG showing neuropathy. What sort of personal gain do they think I would actually derive? Oh, hooray, I want to live on 50 percent or less of my income rather than work a ridiculously easy, lucrative job with incredible benefits and union protection? Oh, hooray, I want to lose my house and move to a climate where the winters are colder and the summers hotter? Oh, hooray, I want to lose every ounce of self-respect by allowing private companies, the federal government and disreputable medical personnel to annihilate my credibility? Sounds to me like I'm not the one who is crazy.

Yeah, I know I shouldn't let them get to me. But being called a liar is my Achilles heel. No way in hell I can pretend it isn't.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Doggie door-less. 

Dan started the yard work today. He thatched the front. When he was done, I heard him rattling around the sliding glass door which leads to the back. I figured he was carrying yard implements through the house (one of the more aggravating things about our house is that the garage doesn't connect to the back yard directly). Then I heard more noise, followed by: "Hey, look what I did!" He was standing there holding the dog door in his hands! It's one of those where the upper part is aluminum and glass and is the height of your sliding glass door, and you attach it with screws to the door frame and secure a new latch to it. He totally dismantled it.

Now, I had mentioned to Dan a few days ago that we'd eventually want to remove the dog door THIS SUMMER if we put the house on the market. I figured it might make the house more attractive to prospective buyers who don't have pets. I had no intention, though, of taking it out right now because I'm not exactly thrilled with the idea of having to let Chip in and out a million times a day several months in a row. But there Dan was with the door sitting in the dining area, trying to figure out how to get the original latch to work. Now the sliding glass door won't close all the way and won't latch shut. And the weather stripping came loose and started to crumble after I tried putting it back in place, so I ended up yanking half of it out. The rest of it is stuck. After the umpteenth time tonight that Chip wanted to be let out only to turn right around and want back in, I attempted to pull the screen door closed because at least that has a working latch. It jammed, and then when I tugged a little too hard on it, it came out of the track, and I couldn't get it lined back up, and I had to take it off completely. Grumble.

I'm already hating this business of moving, and I don't even know yet if we have to move! I asked Dan why he didn't wait a few months to take the door out, and he said that we're moving anyway, so what difference does it make. Argh. No, I don't hate Dan, I just don't like what he did. I guess we don't have to agree on everything.

But I am gonna be ticked if we don't end up moving and we can't put our $200 dog door back in.

Monday, April 17, 2006

This time, it's ME that's crashing.... 

Ack. As hard as i tried not to overdo it while Dan was gone, I still crashed big time today when he got back. Major headache, back ache, exhaustion, muddled mind. It's like the minute I relax I fall apart.

Part of it might be the new medication. The sleep specialist prescribed something called Baclofen, which is a muscle relaxant prescribed for people with MS. The hope was that it would stop my twitches from periodic limb movement disorder. It didn't at first, but now seems to. It also gets rid of the stiffness and tightness I get in my muscles, and as a result, I hurt less, at least I do until it wears off. Unfortunately, it also upsets my stomach, and at the recently increased dose, I'm also experiencing dizziness, incredibly slow thinking and daytime sedation. No vomiting, though, so I'm sticking with it for a three week trial period like I promised I would. I didn't realize that the stuff was actually impairing me, though, until this morning when I got a phone call from someone doing a Neilsen rating survey and I couldn't understand her. At first I though she was just talking too fast. I asked her to repeat something and still could barely comprehend her words. Then it dawned on me that it wasn't the caller talking too fast, it was me thinking too SLOWLY. Yikes. I finally had to mutter to the lady that this was not a good time for me to participate in a survey as she had awakened me, and I hung up. It was already going on 10am, eight and a half hours after I went to bed. I decided I was far too impaired to drive myself to aquacise and lay back down, hoping the bed spins would stop. What really upset me, though, was the thought that in another month or so, a realtor might be calling me at that hour wanting to show the house. How am I gonna manage something like that, especially if Dan has started a new job and I'm stuck by myself waiting for the house to sell? Obviously, I'm gonna have to re-think my meds if I end up in that situation. Finally, the Baclofen wore off about two hours later, just in time for me to get ready to pick Dan up from the airport.

Dan the Man news: while he was gone, he got one interview, took one test (building a brochure on the computer), got one call back, and dropped off lots of resumes at any possible company that might hire a graphic artist/graphic designer. He did happen upon two places that had openings that hadn't been offically posted yet. He also found out that the cable company is looking for Mac techs. He doesn't know anything technical about computers, but if they're willing to train him, it would be a stable job and valuable knowledge to have. He also gathered up every available publication on homes for sale. He has decided we're definitely moving, while I still believe we could stay here if he finds a suitable job. Problem is, he's convinced he won't find one here and hasn't applied for any of the openings I've pointed out lately. Yeah, I know, finding a job that pays well enough for us to stay here is about as likely as finding a needle in a hay barn, but I REALLLLLLY don't wanna move.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous this past week, and I soooo wanted to get outside and tidy up the yard, but I don't dare. This is pretty ridiculous, but I've been warned not to do any yard work at all, especially while my long-term disability insurance company is still deciding on my claim. Even though I told them I was capable of up to 30 minutes of weed pulling, the company has a history of videotaping claimants whenever they set foot outside their home and using whatever you do as "evidence" that you can work. I don't see how pulling a few dandilions means I can complete a 40 hour workweek, but I'm not taking any chances. So this year, poor Dan is going to have to thatch, mow, fertilize AND weed the yard all by himself. And in case we do need to put the house on the market, he'll also have to do things we don't much care about, like edging and maybe even trimming the bushes out front. We have these "dwarf" burning bushes that are now touching the overhang on the roof. I've never trimmed a plant in my life and haven't the foggiest notion of how to do it.

I did try to do something to earn my keep while Dan was gone. I FINALLY got around to some of that spring cleaning I've been promising to do for over a month. I went through the medicine cabinets, cabinets under the bathroom sinks, and the drawers in the master bath. I tossed out anything expired and anything I used to use on my long hair that can't be used on short hair (old ponytail holders, clips, barrettes, etc.). I actually filled up an entire kitchen bag of stuff to throw out! Guess maybe I should clean out the bathroom cabinets a little more often than once every eight years??? And I wiped everything down while I was at it. In the master bath medicine cabinet, some unknown substance had spilled in there and made a godawful mess. It absolutely would not come off unless I scraped it, and when scraped it, the paint came off too! Ewwww! So now if we need to sell the house, we'll have to re-paint the inside of that cabinet. I also re-arranged the DVDs with the notion that if we need to prep the house to sell, one of the DVD cabinets is gonna get dismantled and the DVDs packed away to reduce clutter. So I picked out the DVDs that would go in the cabinet we will keep in the house. Most of Dan's horror movies and movies that aren't, um, family friendly material are in the "to be packed" pile.

I also did some research during the few moments I could keep the computer running. I looked up mortgage rates, learned about points and whether I should consider paying them, found some recommended companies to do touch up work on the house, read up on tips for prepping a house for sale and printed out checklists for selling, buying another house and moving. I figure even if I don't need this info right away, I might need it a year from now, or maybe sometime after that. Better to have some vague notion ahead of time of how to go about this than to panic because I'm trying to do it all at the last minute.

Other projects I should work on regardless of whether we move are: cleaning out the non-clothing portions of the master bedroom closet (I already sorted through the clothes last fall), wiping down the kitchen cabinets, sorting through all the cleaning products under the kitchen sink, cleaning out the food pantry, sorting through the video tapes and maybe going through the coat closet. If I can get this stuff taken care of before Dan gets laid off, there will be slightly less to do if we do have to sell the house.

There's more I want to say, but I've already too much time on this. Will be glad when I can go back to typing an entry at one sitting without saving repeatedly in case the computer bombs.

Right now, I think I'm the bomb. And not in a good way.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

30 days on minimum wage..... 

Today on Oprah, the guy who did the "Super Size Me" movie talked about when he and his wife tried to live on minimum wage (which is $5.15, I believe) for a month. I missed the first ten minutes of the show, but I did catch the rest and found it extremely interesting. Not only did they prove how difficult it was to make ends meet on minimum wage, they also showed how easy it was for an unforseeable mishap to wipe them out financially.

I'm glad someone is taking this to the mainstream and giving it the exposure it deserves. I remember how difficult it was for me to get by on $5 an hour, and that was 12 years ago! My car was literally falling apart, and I could neither afford to get a new one or fix the one I had. I couldn't rely on public transportation because I worked overnights, and had I not been married to someone with insurance, I would have had no health care coverage whatsoever. As it was, I had no vacation, no holidays, no sick time. When I got bronchitis and lost my voice, causing me to miss three days of work, I was nearly fired. And I wasn't flipping burgers someplace....this was at the biggest talk radio station in the state, where some of the hosts were earning six figures a year!

The "Super Size" guy and his wife both worked for minimum wage for 30 days, and just to make it fair could not use credit cards or health insurance. They also at one point "borrowed" a niece and nephew for a weekend to see how much more difficult it was with kids in the house. I think the wife had to walk to work. Not suprisingly, one job apiece was not enough, so before long, the guy was working 16 hours a day. Both of them got cranky from lack of sleep and from disagreements over spending. It's sad watching a couple arguing over buying pop, candy and bread, but I imagine it happens all the time when you're worried about whether or not you'll be able to pay the rent. And then every low wage earner's nightmare happened....two trips to the ER. They couldn't get in at the free clinic, so they had to do what everyone else without insurance must do. I'm sorry it happened to them, but it did perfectly illustrate just how fine the line is between staying afloat and falling behind. And a serious illness could make a minimum wage earner homeless in no time.

Oprah also profiled several people around the country who lived on minimum wage all the time. Most had no insurance, sick time, child care or a home of their own. Many couldn't afford a vehicle and had to spend hours a day commuting by bus to get to and from their jobs. One woman lived in a homeless shelter because minimum wage was not enough to pay rent on a one-bedroom apartment. And these people weren't teens flipping burgers, either: they were teacher's aides, ambulance drivers, hospital workers, people with college degrees doing very important work. Believe it or not, 30 million people in the US work full time but are still below poverty level. That's just disgusting in one of the richest countries in the world.

Some states, like Hawaii, New York and California, have been forced to raise their minimum wage because the cost of living there is so high. I am shocked the my own state hasn't raised it because rent here costs twice what someone making $5.15 an hour can afford. The wage needs to be raised throughout the US, pronto. We need to contact our elected officials and make this a priority since they seem oblivious to it.

I will start posting about other topics when I get my computer fixed. Right now, I'm having to type every paragraph twice because the computer crashes so frequently. I hope we can schedule a repair sometime next week after Dan gets home.

At least I can afford a computer.....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The debt diet, part 5..... 

Yeah, I know this aired on Oprah several days ago, but between computer problems and serious fatigue, this is really the first chance I've had to comment on it, so please bear with me.

Part five of the "debt diet" started getting down to the nitty gritty, with useful info such as how much of your income you should be spending on what. Also, several viewers chimed in with ways they have found to save money. And there were updates on the three debt-ridden couples, their progress and how much money they could save for retirement if they stayed on their new regimen.

The couple with the highest debt, ironically, found they had the highest potential for savings. One of their various vehicles developed unexpected problems, which put a serious damper on things until they realized that by selling two vehicles, they could buy one more practical vehicle. I don't know why two people need more than one vehicle apiece anyway, but it was a good solution to their problem. Now what happens when two people (Dan and I) share one vehicle and it breaks down? I guess I shouldn't complain because at least we don't have car payments right now.

All three couples started looking for additional sources of income, i.e., coaching jobs, painting houses, landscaping, etc. And one of them had their past three years of tax returns analyzed and discovered errors in their favor totalling hundreds of dollars. They were instructed to put this extra income into a retirement fund, and the financial analysts calculated how much money they could have at retirement if they continued to save up. The totals were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to a million. I have done such calculations in the past on my own retirement fund (to which, sadly, I can no longer contribute), so I knew what potential was there, but these couples were amazed and thrilled with how easy it was to become potentially wealthy.

One of the viewers, who was from New York, was able to accomplish something truly astounding. She and her partner decided to completely eliminate all entertainment expenses and frivolous shopping for an entire YEAR. No movies, no dinner out, no buying clothes. By doing this, they were able to save a whopping $13,000! They wnet to museums on free days for fun, and they walked whenever possible instead of paying for transportation. They lost weight by eating at home and doing all the walking. Now, while I've never come close to spending $1000 a month on entertainment/shopping, I have to admit I'd be hard pressed to give it ALL up. I've been extremely fortunate to receive gift cards from friends and family for holidays and birthdays to music stores, restaurants and movie theatres, so my expenses are wayyyy down from what they used to be, but could I not download a single song for an entire year? Maybe. Could I not eat out at all? Hmmm. That would be very tough indeed. I do admire the viewer, though, for showing that it can be done.

The most valuable information on the show, though, was the formula for calculating how much you should be spending on housing, debt, transportation and savings. It's pretty simple, really: you start with the amount of take home pay you receive per month. Then you allocate 35 percent to housing, 15 percent to transportation (car repairs, insurance, gas, bus, subway, etc.), another 15 percent to debt (monthly payments such as credit cards), 10 percent to savings (don't forget the 401(K) or IRA if they apply), and the remaining 25 percent to "other" (eating out, shopping, etc.). The beauty of the formula is that it works for any amount of income. I decided to check my household budget and see if it fit the formula. I am sorry to report that it does not, at least, not since I had to stop working. With my income reduced to half or less, our housing expenses exceed 35 percent by about 200 dollars, our debt exceeds 15 percent if you include the home equity loan, and our "other" expenses are through the roof. The plus side is that our transportation costs are only a third of what is normally allotted, so that does carry over to absorb some of the "other" category such as medical bills, nutritional supplements and the high cost of gluten-free food. Would you believe that health-related expenses are eating up 12 percent of my income?? And our savings at present is only half what it should be because we also have monthly expenses such as parking and union dues. So it has become rather clear to me that even if Dan is able to avoid getting laid off, keeping this house is going to be a massive challenge.

I've also been able to use this formula to gauge how much of a pay cut Dan can withstand if he gets a job in South Dakota (chances are not great that he'll make the same money there). I've figured out how low he can go without sacrificing the ability to buy a home there. I won't lie: we're gonna have to make some big sacrifices. And all the calculating in the world won't help us if I don't get approved for disability. But I can at least avoid a financial crisis caused by improper budgeting. That makes me feel a bit more empowered.

And that's the beauty of the debt diet: putting you back in charge of your money, at least when possible.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sneaking in between crashes..... 

Still haven't had a chance to get the Mac in the shop. I can get it to run for brief periods of time before it freezes up and refuses to restart. This has been a real pain in the butt as we've been trying to print out resumes for Dan, update medical information for my doctors and other important things, and sometimes it takes several hours and restart attempts to accomplish something that should only take minutes. I have also been bummed about not being able to post here. I use this forum as a means to exercise my brain and to keep from feeling overwhelmed. And lately, there's plenty to overwhelm me. We were gonna have the computer looked at on Saturday, but my family is having a birthday party for my dad, so I guess it will have to wait until I don't know when.

Last Sunday, Dan and I went to a union meeting. The union is trying to stop the agency from laying off, but there is some disagreement about whether filing an injunction is a good idea. I think they should try. I mean, if they don't try, Dan will lose his job, and if they try and fail, Dan will still lose his job, so I'm all for it just in case they actually succeed. Part of the problem is that the union has a shitty lawyer and they haven't found a good replacement yet. There are several grievances on the table involving past layoffs and the agency moving work to another department, and none of those have been resolved either, so the odds of Dan's job getting saved in the next month aren't good. But the agency miscalculated how many employees were in an other department (not the one all the work is being diverted to) and have laid off fewer in that area than they thought and more in Dan's area than they thought, so there is a small chance the agency will agree to revised numbers. If that happens, Dan will be spared, at least probably until mid-summer. The agency and the union reps are having a meeting tomorrow to hash this out, and then the reps will let us know what happened at a special meeting next Sunday.

On Monday, I went to the osteopath. Apparently, my SI joint is finally staying in place, which is great, but I still have a considerable amount of stiffness in my hips and other muscles despite this and exercise, which is a puzzle and frustrating. So there's not much else the osteopath can do. I think he feels bad because he was hoping I'd be able to walk better than I do. I am to see him in a few weeks to make sure the joint doesn't slip again. I will continue with the physical therapy for one to two months, so I still may see more improvement with the muscles, but I know not to expect miracles.

Tuesday, I went back to the sleep specialist. He wants me to try a muscle relaxant, Baclofen, at bedtime to see if it will stop me from twitching in my sleep. It may make me drowsy, so I will take it in place of Lunesta at first (don't want to sedate myself into a coma, heh heh). I've had bad luck with muscle relaxants so far. Flexeril made me a zombie no matter how small the dose, and Zanaflex actually made my twitching WORSE. I do take Skelaxin sometimes, but it upsets my stomach and doesn't affect the periodic limb movement disorder at all. I will give the Baclofen a try, though, as I figure it can't be worse than Flexeril, Zanaflex or Klonopin.

Dan and I came home from the sleep specialist appointment to find Chip limping. He looked like he was avoiding his left back leg. Fearing that his hip was dislocating, we called the vet and were told to bring Chip in right away. Naturally, once he set foot in the vet's office, he was so excited to see her that he stopped limping. But she checked him over anyway. He didn't have anything obvious in the way of a new injury, so we asked her to take some x-rays because it had been three years since the previous ones used to diagnose his hip dysplasia. I guess when they got Chip on the table, he did start to act like he was in pain then, poor thing. When the x-ray was done, the vet showed it to us alongside the one from three years ago. It was awful! I have no training in reading x-rays, but even I could see the jagged bone spurs that had formed on his hips and the erosion of the socket. The difference between the two films was pretty obvious. I think if that were me, I'd be doing a lot worse than limping! We went back in the exam room and discussed what to do. We decided that the anti-inflammatories were probably not strong enough. The vet said that Ultram, a non-narcotic pain med also prescribed for people, might work better. She said that at this point, it's a matter of quality of life. While we probably can't get rid of all of Chip's pain without doping him up too much, we can at least get rid of enough of it to allow him to get around all right. I suspect that Chip will not get to have a full life span of a springer spaniel. But I hope he can still have a few more good years. We started him on the Ultram on Tuesday night, and he has stopped limping and appears to feel better. I just wish I could get rid of ALL of his pain.

Yesterday, I still hadn't heard anything from my long-term disability insurance company as to whether they had approved my claim or not, and they were overdue on their reservation of rights payment to me for March, so I called them. Naturally, the benefits specialist said they had cut me a check that morning. She did the same thing last month, waiting until I called to pay me. I guess it's better than not getting paid at all. Anyway, they got the neuropsych exam report on March 22 and some other information on March 31st (they didn't bother telling me what it was about), so they still want a few more weeks to make their decision. Tards.

Went to the rheumatologist today. He never got the reports of the tests the long-term disability insurance company had me do, so I'm going to have to call and request that they be sent. Um, did I mention the LTD guys were tards? Anyway, I told the doc about Social Security's denial, my adventures with meds, and my reactions to the functional capacity exam (still recovering) and the neuropsych. Told him I might be moving and asked if there were any rheumatologists in Sioux Falls. He said there were, but they were so backlogged that it takes six months to get an appointment with them! Ack! He said I should make an appointment as soon as I am sure that I am moving.

Speaking of maybe moving, Dan is going to Sioux Falls next week. He'll be gone from April 11-17 so he can job hunt. His parents are paying for the plane ticket. I will attempt to hold down the fort at home. It's always rough on me when Dan's out of town because I have to drive myself everywhere, do my own errands and do more around the house. But if Dan gets a job in South Dakota before our house sells, he'll go out there ahead of me and I'll have to deal with realtors and movers and maybe hiring someone to clean plus a billion other things all by myself, so I guess I should practice being responsible now.

Well, it has taken me almost two hours to get this typed because I kept losing the internet connection and had to save it as a draft seven times. So I can't guarantee when I will get to post again.

Guess I will go downstairs and listen to Johnny Cash on my five-disc music CD player, which I have had for 15 years and has never failed to work. Hmph.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

V for "Very Little Chance I'll Get This Posted Before the Computer Crashes".... 

Yes, the derned machine started crashing again shortly after my last post. Sigh. My new guess is that maybe it's not the modem but instead the disk drive that's malfunctioning?? Because it has started making noises like it's trying to shut off no matter what I happen to be doing. Last night, the Johnny Cash CD I was listening to stalled, and then I couldn't get the disk drive to open, like it was holding Mr. Cash hostage! Three restarts later and I was finally able to remove the disk. Then tonight, I decided to not use the drive at all, and the machine crashed while I was online. Grumble. I'm gonna have to call up the Apple Store again and ask them to take a look. I'm 90 percent sure now it's a malfunction of the machine and not anything I'm doing wrong. I just wish I actually had some time to drop the tower off. I have three appointments on Monday and appointments every single day after that.

Anyway, before I lose my connection again (and before my memory fades too much), I want to mention a movie I saw tonight: "V for Vendetta". I had a gift certificate to the theatre (birthday present) to spend, and that was the film I chose. I don't normally go much for action movies or material based on comics that I'm not familiar with, but I read some reviews and some friends' blogs about it and decided the plot sounded interesting enough to keep me entertained, so I went for it. Dan and a friend accompanied me.

The movie is based upon a graphic novel written about England during Margaret Thatcher's time in office. It is set in England of the future, but it's not so distant a future that one cannot relate to the political issues raised. In fact, it would be easy to mistake England of the future for the US of the present (or at least that we're headed that direction). In this England, curfews and surveillance rule, and deviation of religion, political belief and sexuality are given zero tolerance. Here we meet Evvie, who is confronted when she is outdoors past curfew.

Evvie is rescued by a masked man, a man with a message for England: he wants the people to rise up and meet him in a year to resist the conservative regime that calls itself a government. The man, who goes by "V", is literate, witty, and may or may not be a terrorist. While some of the lead characters in movies based on comics claim or are implied to be complicated, this guy truly is. He is so articulate that he can almost distract you with words while committing base and vile acts. It's a tossup at times in this movie whether he is gallant or disgusting, heroic or misguided, noble or pathetic. I never thought I could actually mesmerized by a figure wearing a goofy mask and dressed like an insane Zorro. You don't just listen to him because he's brandishing knives, you listen to him because he has something worthwhile to say.

Evvie is the classic example of a woman at the wrong place at the wrong time, yet she is not a helpless victim, at least not when she is given a way out and decides not to take it. It's difficult to say which is the bigger factor in her failure to reveal the identity of "V": her fear and loathing of her government, or her fascination with "V" and his cause. One thing, however, is clear; her final action in the film is her own choice.

"V for Vendetta" shouts the question: who is a terrorist? And it does not shy away from the fact that there is no easy answer to this question. And that history will repeat itself, as many times as necessary.

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