Saturday, December 29, 2007

Google ads can be quite telling

One of my Google ads today:

Gastric Bypass Lawyers
Over $6.2 Million in Gastric Bypass Settlements. Free Consultations.

I think we are going to start seeing more and more of these kinds of ads, including billboards, as gastric bypass surgeries increase. There is a LOT that can go wrong, and deaths are unacceptably high. How many fat-acceptance folks out there can say that their doctors have recommended surgery to make them thinner? The procedures are hyped with scare tactics and shaming: You're going to die if you don't do this. You're going to get diabetes. You're going to have a heart attack. You'll never get married if you're fat. You won't have any friends like that. Don't you want to wear nice clothes? Don't you want your children to have a mother when they grow up? Do you really expect your husband to stay faithful?

Once a patient has been frightened and guilt tripped into getting a gastric bypass, they may have a pretty damn good case for not having been properly been presented with the risks and huge changes associated with the procedures. After all, s/he was a doctor, right? So s/he must have known what s/he was talking about, right? And there are many doctors out there who get offended and pissy when faced with well-informed patients who can advocate for themselves. I am lucky enough that my doctor is smart and well-educated, but I've been at the mercy of others in the past who refused to even order tests for problems for which I later tested positive. I'm sorry to any physicians who may be reading this, but there are people who are good at their jobs, and there are people who are incompetent, in any line of work, including medicine.

I am losing track of my point here, but it is basically this: We have this hot new trend of amputating healthy, functioning organs for the sake of losing weight. These operations are complicated, and they have a LOT that can go wrong, horribly so. Skilled, competent surgeons are important for getting it done right, but there aren't enough of them to meet demand, so there are a number of less skilled, inexperienced folks out there cashing in on the demand. It seems to me that the risks involved, however, are totally glossed over, as if people believe that, "Hey, it's better for you to be dead than fat, right? Who cares if a few fatties die from the procedure, as long as I don't have to see as many of them out in public, it's win-win."

That, my friends, is a problem. I don't think someone should be guilted, shamed, or terrorized into getting this surgery. I don't think it should be pushed on someone at ALL. If a person wishes to have it done, and they fully understand the risks involved, then more power to them. But it irks me that bariatric surgery is such big business that it fuels an entire malpractice industry on its own.

The Kitten Whisperers?

Yesterday, we had a wonderful breakthrough with Owl. I went in to spend time with him, pulled his growling, hissing little body onto my lap, and started petting him. Previously, he would grrrrr grrrr ssssssss at us. The growling ceased, and I heard a strange popping noise that evened out into a loud, contented purrrrrrrr! He began rubbing his face on my hands and feet (I was sitting cross-legged), and he eventually rolled over to get belly rubs.

When he was done being social, he climbed down from my lap and went back into the little box I set up for him. The box is on its side, so he has a roof and three walls, and I put in a a big fleece shirt that I'd worn before putting it into the box. The shirt's presence was to help him get accustomed to my scent, and he spends most of his time curled up on or in it.

Before this breakthrough, the little doll would try to make himself as small as possible, tucking his head downward to glare at us. We were certain that the only body parts he was capable of moving were his eyeballs, because he wouldn't move anything else, even when we picked him up! Now he will walk, eat, play, and do all kinds of things in our presence. It was a glorious moment indeed when Owl leaned up to rub his cheeks on my face!

I have a few pictures of his adorableness, and one video to share with you of him getting cuddles from Brian. He spent a lot of yesterday evening lolling about on Brian's chest, getting cuddles and belly rubs.

I do want to say one thing about this. I was really worried that maybe he was not quite right somehow. His proportions are a little odd, and his behavior was really weird. Instead of aggression, he was just a tight ball of fear. We hadn't made a millimeter of progress with him, and yesterday afternoon, I was in my room, thinking about our beloved Teya. I asked her, if she was still with us in spirit, if she would help Owl to trust us and be happy. I don't mean to offend anyone who has different beliefs, but it was not even an hour after that when he completely changed his behavior. When he climbed back into his box after purring at me, I thanked Teya out loud for her help.

Now, on to the pictures and video!
Owl Owl getting love and cuddles
(Click on these pictures if you want to see larger ones)

I did take a couple more videos, but I have not yet uploaded them; my computer has been super-wonky lately, and it was acting freaky while I was trying to get these uploaded. I'll get them in and post them at a later date :)

As to the title of this post, I wrote to Robin (the founder and namesake of the rescue) to tell her the good news, and got this response:
"This is fabulous news! You and Brian are the kitten whisperers!"

Maybe--but, I will give the credit to the unseen helper as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Foster Kitten

Our fosters Ollie, Kukla, and Fran were adopted last weekend. We will miss them, but we wish them well, and I hope they have happy lives with their new families!

Charlotte is very happy at her new home; her mama sends me photos quite often, and she's growing by leaps and bounds. Her sisters, Ptera and Anya, have been adopted permanently into our home, and are no longer considered fosters. They are a daily delight, and I am glad for the decision to keep them.

Because we did not have any more foster kittens, we were offered an 8-week-old kitten named Timmy, who is in need of socialization. Timmy is not aggressive to people, but he is absolutely petrified. When handled, he tries to make himself as small as possible, and will occasionally growl, with a rare hiss here and there. He had siblings that adjusted well, but he just didn't.

I set up the kitten room with lots of boxes lined with blankets. I also wrapped him in the sweatshirt I wore this morning, and he seemed very comforted in it. We're spending time with him, some of it hands-on, some of it just sitting in the same room, letting him be while we read. Time and patience will tell whether or not he learns that we aren't going to eat him.

His nickname is "Owl", and the photos will demonstrate why!

Click on the pics for larger images, if you like:


Bariatric surgery for KIDS? Are you kidding?

Unfortunately, they aren't kidding. There are plans underway to give "free" bariatric surgery to fat kids in the UK.

Never mind that ADULTS who undergo bariatric surgery frequently suffer from nutritional deficiencies. How is a growing child's body supposed to absorb enough vitamins and minerals (and, dare I say it, calories) to develop properly when pieces of their digestive systems have been amputated or modified?

People who have illnesses that create malabsorption, such as celiac disease or Crohn's, frequently suffer from vitamin deficiencies. Why on earth would we want to induce malabsorption in anyone at all, but especially those who aren't yet done growing? I am going to say it out loud: Performing bariatric surgery on children is stupid, arrogant, and abusive. Children have no more ability to consent to a surgery of this nature than they have to consent to sex. It will change their bodies forever. It may kill them. The long term effects are, at best, unknown, and could possibly ruin their bodies permanently.

An adult fat person has the ability to consent to this surgery. Just as they can consent to breast implants, tattoos, body piercings, and a whole host of other things that have the ability to permanently change their bodies and/or lives.

Despite the hysteria, this is NOT a matter of life and death. A fat kid is not going to die before he or she reaches the age of consent (and those who claim otherwise are full of shit). If a child needs surgery to save his or her life, or reconstructive surgery for something like a cleft palate, that is a different matter. Fat is not pathological.

Maybe this is a mean thing to say, but I'm not holding back: If you are a parent, and you have your child undergo bariatric surgery, you are a sick, abusive person who should not be allowed to have children. Yet, it's the fat kids that are taken away from their parents. The epidemic we are facing is not excess fat, it's excess fear. Stop fearing the fat, start treating your fat kids like human beings.

There should be a basic human right to refuse bariatric surgery. I hope to GOD this is stopped before kids get mutilated.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Toilet Trout!

I found this article, which is about a "haunted" house whose ghostly sounds turned out to be coming from ten catfish that were living in the sewer for over a decade! In 1995, the then-owner had a bucket of catfish sitting in the bathroom, waiting to be gutted and cleaned, and two of them jumped out and flushed themselves down the toilet The two fish happened to be male and female, and produced eight lovely offspring in the sewage pond under the house.

Catfish are amazing creatures; they can live in some seriously filthy conditions, and they can take sustenance from the nastiest garbage. Since our digestive systems are not as efficient as theirs, they survived on human waste products, growing to ten pounds (the parents) and five pounds (the kids) apiece!

I am reminded of my fisheries instructor, Dr. Foster, telling us that catfish were called "Toilet Trout", then asking the class why we thought they had that name. We tried the obvious--because they can live in sewage--but were told that it wasn't the reason. None of us got it, so he explained it to us:

Apparently, catfish that have been living in muddy waters will often TASTE muddy and dirty. The way to make them taste better is to put them into clean water, and change that water as frequently as possible over the course of several days. That is a lot of work, obviously, but there is one place in every home that has clean water which is completely changed several times a day: The toilet tank!

So, in order to make the fish taste better, fishermen sometimes put a catfish in the toilet tank and leave it there for a few days. Since catfish can survive just about anything (trust me, I had to euthanize a couple big ones at a workplace, nasty work), they just flop a bit when the water flushes out, but can't really jump out since toilet tank lids are very heavy.

Is there a point to this? Not really; I'm just sharing the joys I had being a fisheries student!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Longing for "The Good Old Days"

I've noticed a tendency for people to long for "The Good Old Days" when there were no fat people, and everyone was SO much healthier!

Here is a quote from a comment on Paul Campos' blog:
All Americans survived for hundreds of years with out health insurance and things worked just fine.

Survived? Sure. "Things worked just fine"? What do you mean by "fine", though? Are people really so unimaginative these days that they have no idea just how much they benefit from modern health technology, like vaccines and antibiotics?

We've eradicated smallpox, which killed almost half a billion people in the 20th century alone. In 1977, there were a quarter million crippled polio survivors in the United States.

Many conditions associated with malnutrition have also become very rare in the Western world. They could be eliminated in the entire world, if the geopolitical climate were different; we have the physical resources to do so, but getting them to those who need them has proven very difficult. I'm talking about rickets, scurvy, starvation, and birth defects that can be prevented by folic acid intake.

And, as a side note, I think it is arrogant to fret over what to do about fat people when there are still people in the world who don't have enough to eat.

We've also significantly reduced a number of illnesses that result from unsanitary conditions. Whether it's clean drinking water that won't give you dysentery, cholera, or giardia, or it's having your flesh wound cleaned out properly so it doesn't turn gangrenous, our modern knowledge of sanitation has been an incredible breakthrough for health.

We live in very different times now. We don't even think about many of these diseases that maimed and killed people for those magical hundreds of years without health insurance. Our big, scary diseases (cancer, heart disease) are ones associated with old age--because we are living longer than ever before.

I'd gladly send these folks back to live in the days before sanitation, vaccinations, and adequate food supplies to do "just fine". If dying from diarrhea, starvation, or a now-eliminated virus is "just fine", that is.

Recommended reading:


My sister is awesome. She sent me a box of stuff from Cakes and Candies by Maryellen.

This is the company owned by her best friend, Maryellen, who also made my awesome purple wedding cake, which you can actually see on the page, sans the cake-topper, which was put on after the cake was transported here.

The chocolate she uses is absolutely delicious, and we also ended up with a batch of the best cookies ever. I've already noshed on a chocolate-covered pretzel that she rather innovatively covered in rice krispies. OH MAN. That was a good idea!

There's no way Brian and I could possibly eat all this chocolate, but we fortunately have frequent guests :)

I should have posted about this sooner, but the last week, well, you know. I apologize, sis and Mares.

Keeping on keeping on

We're over a week out from our loss. I suppose we're doing okay. We've planned what to do with the bit of garden where she rests; it involves a planter of catnip (no way no how am I putting that crazy weed in the GROUND to take over my backyard), a small kitty statue, and a weeping cherry tree (if we can afford it).

We are extremely fortunate to have a house now, and doubly so that the gardens in back were wonderfully designed, if a bit neglected. We've got a beautiful, mature lilac that needs just a bit of pruning and guidance, some bridal wreath bushes, happily reproducing azaleas, a healthy stand of daylilies, and an established patch of purple coneflower. I have the basis for a gorgeous cottage garden back there, and I'm eager to get it going in the spring.

Planning her garden has been a positive step for us, but we also have adopted two of our first three foster kittens. Charlotte found a wonderful, loving home with Brian's coworker (so I get lots of pictures!), but Ptera and Anya have their forever home here with us.

Our other three fosters, Ollie, Kukla, and Fran, will be going to the adoption clinic tomorrow afternoon. I am going to miss them, but I wish them well. They are wonderful, loving kittens who adore people and other cats. Being with our older cats gave them important social lessons.

I also cannot be more grateful to Ollie and Fran, who knew better than we did that Teya was failing--in the days before she was hospitalized, they curled up on either side of her, purring. She normally wasn't one to tolerate such things, but she joined them in purr-making, and it was beautiful to see. Only in hindsight did we realize what the little ones were doing, and they have been thanked daily with lots of love and affection.

It has been amazing to both of us how fearless these six kittens were when faced with hostile adult cats who weren't pleased with the invasion of mini-cats. They wanted so badly to be accepted that they would try again later after having been rejected with a hiss or swat. Eventually, they won--our adult cats got accustomed to them, and they can be found playing and sleeping together in various combinations.

Kittens are good for the soul.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Okay, anyone who knows me knows that I despise animal abusers, Mike Huckabee's son included. He apparently admitted to torturing and killing a dog. I think that people who do these things need to be dealt with very harshly.

HOWEVER, was it really necessary to mention that he is Huckabee's "tubbiest" son? Honestly, people, can we stop this whole, "Look, he's FAT, too! See what a bad person he is!" crap?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

SeriousCatsSRSLY: Big eyes, big paws

SeriousCatsSRSLY: Big eyes, big paws

Adorable ocelot picture! This blog is wonderful, filled with cute cute cuteness!

Cool Switchplates!

I ordered some switchplates a little while back to go in my foyer and downstairs bathroom. I finally received them a couple days ago; they are apparently made-to-order, but they are absolutely worth the wait. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the plates I received are high-quality, with screws painted to match the portion of the plate they screw into. The plates themselves are made of metal, with a decoupage technique used to put the image on them. You are able to order them in just about any configuration of outlet, slider switch, GFI, and flip switch, and if the configuration you need isn't present, they'll happily do custom work if you call. If you want switchplates, I very very highly recommend their products.

I purchased these items:
Dragonfly switchplate, one single and one double, for the foyer.

Cat in the bathtub, single, for downstairs bathroom light switch.

Cats in the toilet, single, for downstairs bathroom fan switch.

There are a LOT of really cute designs available, and I was tempted to get more than I did, but I shouldn't have even purchased these (we are way broke). And no, the company isn't paying me to write this; I was just so very happy with the products I received that I wanted to share their site with other people!

Edited to add: Their products are handmade in the USA, and they are a small company. That alone makes me happy to purchase from them. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who expressed their sympathy on the loss of our kitty. We aren't doing great; there's a huge cat-shaped hole in our hearts, and our family has to continue without her, no matter how much it hurts. It's difficult to face, and it's painful to even think of her in the past tense, let alone speak of her in that way.

She was really cool. When Dom would harass Morgan, usually-sedentary Teya would go over and kick his butt. When she was younger, she learned how to flush the toilet, and would stand on the sink, paw holding the lever down, so she could watch the water swirl around. Brian thought something was wrong with his toilet, because he kept hearing it flush, and caught her in the act one day.

She was absolutely devoted to Brian; it took her a long time to warm up to me when I moved in, because she wasn't a fan of non-Brian people. But I spoiled her with lots of grooming, and she eventually decided that I was tolerable. I brushed and combed her, because she had difficulty grooming herself, and I occasionally bathed her, which she grew to enjoy because the warm water felt good, and being clean felt good too. One pass with the brush or comb, and I had instant purr.

She also loved ear rubs, and the last day she was with us, she didn't want to purr until I gently rubbed her ears. I'm glad I knew her ways well enough to bring her that little comfort. She got plenty of hugs and kisses before she left us.

I suppose time will make it less painful, but I don't want memories to fade. I want to keep her here, in my mind and heart.

Again, thank you all for your kindness.


I'm not going to argue about animal testing for medical procedures and drugs. That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion; it just means that right now, that's not the thing I want to talk about.

I am, however, going to angrily condemn the cruel animal tests that the Mars company is currently doing with cocoa. They are force-feeding chocolate products to animals, then vivisecting them to test the effects of the chocolate on the animals.

Look, humans have been consuming cocoa for thousands of years. Some people are sensitive or allergic to it, sure, but for the most part, we are okay with eating it. Their point in this research is to be able to make claims that their chocolate products are healthful. This is yet another symptom of our disordered eating habits, where we have to believe that even our treats are good for us.

Well, screw that. People, you don't have to make sure every item you consume is "healthy" or good for you. It's okay to enjoy a treat once in a while because it TASTES GOOD. And if you're buying chocolate because it is supposed to make you live longer, lower your cholesterol, or for some other reason besides enjoying chocolate, then there is something wrong with you. Stop using food as medicine. Enjoy chocolate because it's chocolate.

And, for god's sake, don't reward companies for this kind of bullshit by buying their products.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rituals of loss

She's gone, on the couch, covered in a cream-colored towel. My favorite towel, soft and thick. Our kitty, his kitty first; our beautiful black cat named Teya, who was only nine years young. Too soon.

Brian's outside, digging her resting place, a spot against the house, by the kitchen; she'll be as close to us as possible.

I awoke around 3:15am, after having slept several hours. I had encouraged Brian to spend the night on the couch with her. She had looked not too bad when we brought her home; a little shaky, but perked up, and she was willing to eat.

I'm moving around the house, searching for the right container. A cardboard box will not do. I find a piece of upholstery fabric from the couch, her favorite place to hang out, and I tuck it under my arm, along with some black felt.

He's running hot water to melt the ground. The stump from a catalpa sapling is in the middle of where he's digging, and it's being stubborn. We'd had to cut it down; it was not thriving, and ants were making it worse. It's too bad; I love catalpa trees.

I came downstairs after waking up and asked how she was. Brian said she'd moaned a lot throughout the night. I sat at my desk so I could drink some water and take a Vicodin. I wish she could have had something like it; I knew she was in pain.

I glide down to the basement, my long skirt swirling around my bare feet. I'd been looking for a certain box, but my eyes settled on another one--a better one. A wicker box that I've had for nine years, with a brass clasp. It's big enough that she won't be cramped, but not too big. The box goes upstairs with me.

He's digging away at the stump. I go outside to check on him, and we come up with the idea to use the kitchen sprayer to get hot water onto the frozen ground instead of trekking buckets in and out. He helps me pop out the screen, and we give that a try. It works.

I sat with her, and I tried gently to give her the medicine, but she's not having it. There was something about the way she's clenching her jaw that just seemed wrong. She'd been sleeping, and I had awakened her. We stroked her and held her feet, her head, her ears. I cried, while Brian just touched her. She started to cry out in deep howls that seem to take every effort, and her breathing was labored, so I called the vet's emergency number. We were instructed to take her to the emergency clinic in Latham, so I gave them a call.

I'm taking time out to sob uncontrollably. We're out of facial tissue, so I'm having to use paper towels. Tip: Bounty paper towels are less scratchy than toilet paper.

He's still digging. It's cold and sleeting a bit. It's 5:30 in the morning.

I threw on some clothing; a favorite skirt, and a sweater over my chemise. I brought him a shirt when I came down. He got his shoes on, and he was getting some things together. I looked at her, and I called him into the room. I told him to turn on the light, which he did. I told him to sit down on the other side of her. He looked at me, and sat down. Her breath was coming in gasps, and she'd stopped crying out. I took hold of her paw, her beautiful front paw, with the wrist shaved from her IV the night before.

I line the wicker basket with wax paper, then with the black felt. I tuck a red towel in, then scoop her up and gently settle her into the basket. It's tearing me to shreds. I fold the ends of the towel over her, then close the lid without latching it.

He's nearly done. He scoops the water out of the hole and pours it downhill a bit. I go outside to check on him, and ask him to come in and see.

We had our hands on her, and we told her we loved her, and that we were sorry, so sorry. I cried and cried. She stopped breathing, and had a couple of convulsions. Her pupils became dilated. We tried to close her eyes, without much success. We stroked her for a while after that, not ready to let go. Never ready.

We open the box, and stroke her fur for the last time, saying goodbye. I'm nearly throwing up with grief. He's so stoic, so strong, and I'm a wreck. I tuck in a packet of food, and he puts a couple pieces of bread in the container. Bread is her favorite thing to steal. I also tuck in a towel anointed with violet oil. The lid closes, and is latched.

We went outside with the box and lowered it into the grave. Brian removed it, wanting to dig just a little deeper. While he shoveled, I went inside to get the bulbs I'd procrastinated about planting. When he was satisfied with the depth, he had to climb in to place the box on the bottom. He refilled the hole slowly, and when he was nearly done, I sprinkled the bulbs over the disrupted soil. He put a layer of soil over them, and I went inside and returned with a partial bag of cypress mulch, which we spread over the ground.

We came inside; I made tea to warm us, and I sent him off to shower. If I was cold, I didn't feel it. If I was hurting physically, I wasn't aware. And I did the only thing I know to soothe my soul: I sat down and began to write. And now, I'm done.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Short opinion on the Dan Savage thing

People change after marriage. Whether it is the natural result of aging, or something happens, they change. If they are physical changes, those are to be expected of human bodies.

I have to say, if my ex had gotten fat instead of becoming mean, we'd still be together. People who complain about a fat spouse can just STFU, if that spouse is still treating them like a human being. I only wish my problems had been so minor.

I am fortunate enough to have a kind, gentle husband now. If I had to choose between him becoming physically unattractive (without him suffering) and becoming a raging asshole, I would pick the former, and still sleep with him, because I love him.

Edit: I see some who are coming from "My Fat Spouse". I'd like to request that Meowser call the Waaaaaaaaaaahmbulance for y'all. I'm sorry that you're such shallow, selfish people that you actually seem to believe that your spouses gained weight just to spite you.

The cost of foodphobia and nutritional obsessions

Most North Americans are accustomed by now to the frequent and excessive declarations by researchers that this or that food is now either deadly poison or an elixir of immortality. You know the routine: This week, coffee's good for you; last week, it was going to give you cancer of the eyelashes, and the previous week, those who didn't indulge were doomed to an agonizing, early demise. Wine, chocolate, tomatoes, broccoli, canola oil, butter, eggs, and many other foods have been the subjects of the unceasing flip-flopping of scientific opinion.

With each new "deadly" or "miraculous" pronouncement, of course, there are millions of obsessive, eating-disordered North Americans changing their diets to accomodate the fresh misinformation that fills every corner of every news outlet. I find it hard to blame them (but not impossible) when "New Study Says Drink Coffee To Live Longer" is a headline positioned higher and larger than, say, a few thousand brown people* dying of genocide and starvation in another country. Aside from the sheer self-absorbed, whiny nature of such prioritizing, it is obvious that people are being trained to fear some foods and revere others. And, after thinking about it, the reasons for this are pretty obvious.

Whenever we are fed another tidbit of food science, no matter how shaky the facts, the big food companies are on the ball, quite ready to cater to this new quirk. Low carb craze? Here's our brand new low carb bread for you to buy! Lycopene is a miracle substance? Let's make commercials reminding people to eat lots of ketchup! Wine has stuff that might be good for you, but wine itself gets you drunk, so, hey, here's some wine in pill form, with all the magic stuff to make you live forever.

Not only do they have these awesome new products to give you wine without the enjoyment of it, bread without actually being bread, and so on, but you'll pay extra for them to add a bit of something (that probably cost them a fraction of a penny per product) or leave out an ingredient. Our national eating disorder is not just big business for diet companies, it's enormously profitable for food manufacturers. Where else can you get away with paying more money to have less stuff put into a container, just so it can be conveniently marked as being a "100 calorie pack"? Give me a break.

We pay more money for special foods (fat free, sugar free, caffeine free, flavor free) that we don't even like to eat, because they taste like shit. They don't satisfy our hunger, so of course many people go and binge afterwards. I'm not going to comment on binge eating making you fat, because that isn't true for every person that binges, BUT the fact that you've spent money on the flavorless garbage, then go ahead and pay MORE money to eat something that actually assuages your hunger, well, that's certainly one hell of a way for the food companies to make a profit.

I wonder if many people have lost their ability to be guided by their palates toward satisfying meals. We get jerked back and forth by "science", suckered into buying the diet foods, and then binge on whatever is handy, which is usually NOT what we wanted in the first place. How would a person go back to a more intuitive way of eating after all that? I suppose the first step would be to ignore and dismiss each new food-related claim that is getting the news spotlight. The next would be to figure out what foods you actually DO like, and which DO satisfy your hunger properly, and then make and eat those foods.

For what it's worth, I have pretty much always rolled my eyes at these food pronouncements, and my spouse and I enjoy filling, home-cooked meals almost every day. Because my dinner is satisfying and delicious, I don't have the urge to go raiding the refrigerator later on. We are familiar with the things that we need in our meals to make them satisfying, such as a good balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and flavor. Fat-free stuff? Worthless--it leaves you hungry!

Eat what you enjoy, and what satisfies you. Ignore the screaming press, and don't cave in to things that say, "Buy our stuff, because it has this awesome thing in it that makes you live like, forever, dude!" Don't fear chocolate, coffee, or other items unless you have a specific problem with those items--obviously we are all different, and some are allergic to things that most people have no trouble eating. Don't buy into the hype :)

* I have, for most of my life, found it incomprehensible that people in the US seem to have absolutely no value for people who are not white. A few thousand die in an earthquake in India? Hey, they're just brown people. No biggie. Genocide in Sudan? Brown people. There's too many of them anyway, right? Thirty thousand children starving to death every single day? So what--they're not white, so their parents had no business breeding in the first place. Perhaps it is easier for people to dismiss them as "other" than to wrap their brains around the horrors in the world, but I don't find that to be a sufficient excuse.

Friday, December 7, 2007

200 POSTS HOORAY!!!!!!!

Welcome to the 200th post of She Dances On The Sand!

As of this writing, I have 20,169 hits to my blog. I can't tell you how amazed I am at the size of that number, and how pleased I am that it ends in 69 (hur hur hur). I never thought that my silly old writings would be of much interest to anyone. I started off babbling about fish, fibromyalgia, and fat. I suppose I haven't changed that much since then.

I have kept a Livejournal for years. It helped me keep track of my daily life, and I have used it many times for reviewing what I've done and when. LJ has been and continues to be a wonderful social medium for me, and the things I write there are mostly informal and personal.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to write more formal items and build my writing skills, so I started a public blog to see what kind of response I would get. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that people enjoy some of the things I write, even when they are personal! I've had a wonderful time doing this, and I hope to continue as long as I have the time and energy. I have had a few periods here and there where I was not feeling well or was too busy to keep up, but I've attempted to be disciplined about posting regularly.

So, here's hoping I make it to 400 in even less time than I made it to 200. Thank you to everyone who has read my blog in the past, and to those of you who are reading this post!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

gimme a head with hair

So, my husband's long, beautiful hair is thinning a bit. His brother has already lost everything on the top of his head, so I know that Brian's genetically disposed toward losing it too.

So far, he's used a product that is supposed to help with the early stages of thinning. However, I think it's begun to not work as well as it once did. Now, when we got together, he had plenty of long, beautiful hair, and I think it's completely unfair of him to lose all that hair. He won't be as attractive. And men with less hair are probably not as healthy, right? Because they're older and stuff.

Well, I will not stand for it. No way. If he doesn't look like he did when we met, then that means he isn't trying hard enough, and therefore he doesn't love me. He'd better go and try Rogaine. If he doesn't, I might have to get my mom to hound him about it, and tell him that if he loved me, he'd try everything to keep his hair.

And what if Rogaine doesn't work? I think there are other options, like implants and transplants. Sure, they're probably painful, but if he cares about me, he will do everything in his power to retain the good looks he had when we met. Right?

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A rustling at the foot of the bed.

She appears, her eyes dark jewels in her white face. She's sturdy, tall, ahead of her siblings in size.


"Come here, then," I reply.


She wends her way across the landscape of blankets, her extra thumbs giving her feet a splayed, hand-like appearance. She's purring loudly, in the staccato way of kittens, a popping sound that will later mature into the deep, sighing rumble of adult cats.

She meets my hand with her cheek. She's marking me with her scent, but it also feels good to her. She delights as my fingers rub the scent gland areas in her face, on the temples, cheeks, and chin. She gets scooped up, nuzzled, and kissed. She looks up at me with her baby face, her big dark eyes, grateful for the affection.

Her gorgeous, fluffy sister clambers onto the bed, approaching me for gentle caresses. As I stroke her long, soft fur, I get a jealous "Meep!" from the little white face, the mouth opening to reveal tiny, pointed baby teeth surrounded by pinkness. I kiss the jealous one's nose, and get a softer "meep" that means, "That's right, your affection belongs to me. Good human."

Her sister doesn't mind; she stretches her long, slender body out and looks content while I stroke and nuzzle the possessive one. Satisfied, she curls up against her sister, giving me a very contented, barely audible "mip". The pair are purring together, fond of each others' company and of mine. The feeling is mutual.

The face that melts my heart:

Ptera's eye
What a beautiful color, no?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

And now, the hard part

The kittens I have been fostering for over a month, these three babies who have shared my life, my home, and even my bed, who have curled up in my arms so many times, who seek me out, meeping for attention, and whose little faces brighten my every day--they are going up for adoption on Saturday.

This is the hard part. Not just that they won't be here anymore. I'll miss them, sure, but the most difficult part for me is the idea that they will be going home with people I don't know. People who might hurt them, declaw them, not give them proper veterinary care, or just not love them. People whom I won't be able to ask for pictures to see what they look like grown up. I hope for the best home for them, but it's hard to tell just meeting a person once.

People fill out an application, but many of them get annoyed with us for having rules, for wanting to make sure these babies get the best possible home. They don't understand how much of our hearts are invested in each and every one, and that it will be torture to think that we've made a mistake screening the adopters.

I knew it would be difficult, but I told myself not to get so attached. Yes, I'm an idiot. I want to see them grow up. I want to know that their lives are good. I want them to be adored and spoiled and happy, but I also want to know for certain that they are adored and spoiled and happy instead of wondering and hoping, and not knowing.

Perhaps it is the effect of my larger anxiety issues. I've always been absolutely tormented by not knowing something. The worst thing a person can do to me is tell me, "We have to talk. But later." I lose my mind when that happens. I think my parents had to keep holiday gifts at relatives' houses because I was SO bad about snooping. I didn't do it to be a pain, mom; it just drove me absolutely up a wall to have things right in front of me and not know what they were.

So now I have to give up my little girls, who are such good girls; loving, cuddly, sweet as pie, and very well behaved (well, okay, Charlotte climbs the Xmas tree and removes the garland, but that's cute). I socialized them, I never denied them a moment's worth of love and affection, I worried sick when they went in for spaying, and I could describe each and every personality quirk about them. For sisters, they are as different from one another as they could possibly be, and I know all of the ways in which they are different.

Charlotte, the sweet, gentle one, with big innocent eyes, who flops like a rubber band if picked up. Anya, the strong, quiet, wary one, with cautious, wise eyes who will curl up tightly in the crook of my arm. Ptera, the whiny, jealous one who can't stand to be in a different room from me; if we are separated by a floor, she cries and cries until called.

They are precious and beautiful, each one, and I am going to miss them so much.

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(click the thumb for a larger photo)
Front: Anya Left: Ptera Right: Charlotte

(Honestly, this really is her only vice)

Anya and Charlotte:
Charlotte and Anya cuddling

Ptera and Dom:
Dom and Ptera

Anya and Ptera:
Anya and Ptera--awwww!

What I've been reading

The last week or so, I've read these:
Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
My thoughts: This is a pretty WTF book. It is about rabies. And then it gets weird. It's in the "oral biography" format, which means that it is a compilation of people's statements. It flows surprisingly well for that format. The story starts out weird and gets more and more surreal as it goes. Do not use alcohol or drugs while reading this book. Or maybe you should. I don't know.

Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk
My thoughts: Oh, Chucky, what a statement on the base selfishness of human beings that isn't even close to being duplicated in the animal world. What people will do, what false realities they will construct, at the barest whiff of coming out on top, or even just an inch ahead. Wow.

Mr. Wrong: Real-Life Stories About the Men We Used to Love by Harriet Brown
My thoughts: This is pretty funny. In a lot of the stories, the women were just as guilty as the men of bad behavior, but that made it more amusing and less "men suck".

The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong by Barry Glassner
My thoughts: Wow, this book is AMAZING. I am going to have to review it. I wish I owned this copy instead of checking it out from the library, because I had to flag it over and over to go back and write stuff down later. He also takes the "obesity epidemic" into the ring and proceeds to kick its ass, but that's a fairly minor part of the book. Much of it deals with our National Eating Disorder, where we believe that food is medicine, and some foods are evil while others are good. He reveals many food obsessions as classist bullshit, and puts to rest common misconceptions of food as deadly poison. I really enjoyed this book.

The Smaller Majority by Piotr Naskrecki
My thoughts: This book is so gorgeous, filled with macro shots of tiny insects, frogs, and other creatures. It describes the world of tiny creatures that most people don't even notice, and it explains why this world, filled with innumerable interdependent webs of life, must be preserved.

The Cat Who Cried for Help: Attitudes, Emotions, and the Psychology of Cats by Nicholas Dodman
Dr. Dodman is a professor of animal behavior. He really knows his stuff, and this book is very basic, with a lot of anecdotes and use of layman's terms. He's got a very good grasp of the cat mind, and he's saved the lives of many cats whose behavior had driven their humans to desperation.

Food is not medicine

One part of the U.S. National Eating Disorder that has always baffled me is the tendency to eat foods we don't like, or that upset our stomachs, just because we believe that these foods are healthy. I personally believe that a varied diet is a generally good idea, not just for health reasons, but for enjoyment of life, but why does that diet have to include things that actually taste bad to us? Things that make our digestive systems complain?

I suppose part of it is rooted in the mealtime conflicts, where children are threatened and cajoled into eating vegetables. Since these children were forced to eat things they actively disliked, they grew up thinking that a little culinary misery is necessary for a healthy diet. After all, if it isn't necessary, then that means mom or grandma didn't have a very good reason for doing what they did, aside from pure sadism, right? Or just not knowing any better, and it's difficult to view your mom that way.

I would wonder, how many people reading this (tell me, I do want to know!) were ordered to "fill your plate!" then ordered to eat the entire plateful practically at gunpoint? I was lucky enough that my mother rightly recognized this as a seed of later food- and eating-related mental issues, so she did not demand that we eat a particular quantity of food, nor insist that we eat particular items of food.* My grandmother, however, did and still does henpeck everyone at a family dinner if they have not piled high and subsequently eaten every bite, and she has never been respectful of my vegetarianism. Since I didn't get this treatment at home, I found it intrusive and offensive, and recognized that I was extremely lucky.

I was especially fortunate in that, because vegetables were not treated as a nasty medicine that must be eaten at all costs, I never viewed them that way. That, coupled with my parents' decent culinary skills, allowed me to enjoy vegetables, from Brussels sprouts to winter squash. I guess I was also a lucky child in that broccoli and Brussels sprouts did not taste bad or bitter to me; many children are sensitive to bitter flavors, making it more cruel when they are forced to eat vegetables that really do taste awful to them. Sadly, many parents do not know or care about this tendency, so by the time a child's taste buds have changed to tolerate broccoli and cabbage, they've been so traumatized by these items that they won't try them in adulthood.

Even so, many adults these days are conditioned to not just believe that it's required to eat food that tastes bad, but they feel guilty for enjoying foods that don't. Food isn't nourishment, it's medicine. You eat tomatoes for their lycopenes. Wine is consumed not for enjoyment, but because it contains reservatrol. Don't you dare enjoy that cup of tea, you're drinking it to get your antioxidants! Same thing for chocolate! And your birthday cake? You need to leave out the flour, butter, eggs, milk, and sugar--even if you aren't diabetic or suffering from celiac disease, because, well, because. Give me a break.

Can we stop this stupidity? If you don't like the way a food tastes, don't eat it. It's okay to have foods that might affect someone else badly--their medical conditions do not have anything to do with you. I'm allergic to peanuts, but millions of people eat them every day without a problem. So eat your peanuts if you can. I also can't eat bell peppers (although I will spare you the description of why), but you go right ahead and enjoy them. Meanwhile, I'll be having a slice of cake while taunting my friend A., who has celiac disease :)

Eat what you like. Don't eat what you don't. Stop using food as medication. Please?

* Please note that later eating issues were absolutely NOT related to food or weight. Seriously.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A quote from Lipitor: Thief of Memory by Duane Graveline

Many questions still exist about the precise mechanism by which cholesterol modulates the formation and function of those magic contact points between brain cells known as synapses, but there is no longer the slightest doubt that it is vital to this role and must be present in sufficient quantity. Not bad press for a substance defined over the past decades as so notorious it can now be used to frighten small children about their eating habits.
-- Lipitor Thief of Memory by Duane Graveline

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to anyone who isn't a medical professional or a biochemistry geek, but it does propose the following points:

- If you are taking Lipitor or another similarly powerful statin, you may be at risk for developing transient global amnesia and other cognitive problems--even if you have been taking it for years with no problems.

- Cholesterol does not seem to be the big problem in the development of artherosclerosis; homocysteine seems to be a more likely culprit, and you can counter it by taking a vitamin B6 supplement.

- Many doctors aren't aware of the memory damage that statins can cause, so it's up to patients to be aware of the possibility.

- The low-fat, low-cholesterol diet espoused by the American Heart Association for decades has likely made artherosclerosis worse, and has probably resulted in people being fatter than they would otherwise be.

Other than that, it's a lot of cell physiology and biochemistry, with a few statistics thrown in. A pretty dry read, but blessedly short at a little over 150 pages.

A most beautiful blank book

I keep a blank book on hand at all times. I have found that, because of my fibromyalgia, I am very forgetful (known as fibrofog), which results in losing many very good ideas unless I write them down immediately. I also use them to take notes while I am reading books so that I can write reviews later, or so I can remember them for later conversations; I learned early in life that I remember things better if I write them down. There's something about that process which cements things in my brain better than anything else.

That said, there is just something delightful about a good blank book. Sure, a spiral-bound notebook can be purchased for 10 cents during "back to school" shopping days, but sometimes you want something special. Maybe it just feels better to believe that my thoughts deserve a beautiful wrapper. Maybe I am annoyed with notebooks that fall apart before they're filled. At any rate, I wanted to review a particularly delightful blank book I received recently.

I received this blank book as a gift from my mother. It is absolutely gorgeous; the purple is opalescent, and the entire cover is richly textured. The flap has a magnet to hold the book closed, and I use the flap to hold my place when I need to pause for a little while. Additionally, this comes with a ribbon to mark your place. The pages are made of high quality, thick paper, and the cover is strong and sturdy. Having such a beautiful, high-quality journal has encouraged me to use it more frequently, and it gives me pleasure just to view it on my nightstand or coffee table. This item conveys a sense of luxury, and, once filled, will be a most welcome sight on a shelf. Paperblanks makes many journal styles, and I will definitely order another of their products when this one is nearly full.

Book Review: The Fresco, by Sheri S. Tepper

The Fresco by Sheri Tepper is a scifi political commentary on modern social and political problems facing us today. With the introduction of an benevolent alien influence, she comes up with inventive and often hilarious ideas on how to combat the treatment of women in fundamentalist Islamic regions, politicos who speak the virtues of pro-life while living very differently, and those who promote "freedom" when they are really looking for the personal freedom to do harm to other people. Even the "lazy" and disaffected are treated with kind regard, given the option to live fulfilling lives if they choose, or if they choose otherwise, to at least not become starving and homeless, and therefore potentially dangerous to society.

The story is beautifully written, with well-designed alien races, and there is none of the scientific jargon that can be cumbersome in many science fiction novels--and which often create strife among hardcore geeks who argue about plausibility. Even so, there is a passing but gentle mention of string physics There are also a couple of amusing but subtle references to Star Wars (page 267*) and Star Trek (page 396*) that elicited a giggle from me.

The characters are quite enjoyable, with the protagonist being impossible to dislike. Their relationships are well-defined, but don't expect any sex in this book at all. While many novels have everybody getting into each others' pants at the first meaningful glance, I feel that the author has been much more realistic about sex in general, especially within the characters' personalities.

One of the issues I had with this book was the constant use of acronyms for certain things. I understand the use of FBI, CIA, and other such acronyms, but there was a continual use of FL for First Lady, SOS for Secretary of State, and SA for spiritual advisor. While I realize that this was done so that the author did not have to apply names to these individuals, thus making the story more timeless, it was kind of irritating and distracting.

Another issue is that I think many people will find the book preachy, especially if their values are different from the author's. I can only recommend that this author's work should not be read if you are opposed to parables. While no book is completely unbiased, this one is considerably unapologetic and bold about promoting compassion and condemning political red tape.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Fresco. It is a good story, with interesting characters and ideas, and it is written very clearly and beautifully. There is a lot of humor as well, especially the way pro-life politicians are dealt with. Additionally, because I am viewing this through my filter of experience, it was noteworthy that there was a lack of fat hatred present in the story.

Some quotes I enjoyed:
This was a headline from a newspaper: "Texas Woman Bears Nine Children: Fertility Drugs Blamed For Littering"

"...the three predatory races constitute a voting bloc in the Confederation that continues to press for more freedom of action on the part of individual members. Don't you find that predators are those who most often assert absolute rights to personal freedom?"

"Talk about the flag and he gets all choked up. Funny, so many of these guys think the country stands for the flag instead of the other way round. So long as Old Glory's whipping in the breeze, it's okay to deal guns to kids and cheat on your taxes."

"While we do ny deny deity, we do not presume to understand it, plea bargain with it, or tell others what shape it takes. It does make life easier."

* These page numbers refer to the hardcover edition; they may be different from other editions.

Monday, November 26, 2007


I received a phone call this weekend from the founder of the rescue with whom I foster kittens. She had a bit of an emergency situation and needed to find someone to foster three little angels that she'd raised from orphaned, sick mewlings.

They're a bit on the lean side, but they were little bags of bones when Robin found and rescued them. They all nearly died from acute upper respiratory infections. Kukla, who is wicked cute and playful, was on death's door that night; he was doing the "dying cat" thing, lying on his side with a pinched-looking face, and she thought he wasn't even going to make it to her house. He did, and he's a great little kitty!

But enough with the history; I know that you are reading this because you want to have some cuteness to make your day a little brighter, right? So onward with the kitty pics!

First up, we have Fran, a lovely tortie girl:
Fran Fran


Next, Ollie, a male black kitten:
Ollie Ollie
Ollie's got a minor eye infection, but we're terramycin-ing it.

Last, we have Kukla, a lovely ginger boy who is lucky to have survived the first night he was rescued:


This last photo is REALLY cute--I highly recommend clicking on it to see a larger version!

If you would like to help support the rescue, which provides health care for all its rescues in addition to low cost spay/neuter for needy families, they have a number of ways listed on the website. I highly recommend the cookbook (and, come to think of it, I need a new copy for myself, since my mother swiped mine after reading through it during her visit; apparently she liked it a great deal!).

7 things about me

I was tagged to do the 7 things about me thing. I will refrain from tagging others, because I don't want to go through and see who's done it and who hasn't, but I'll participate:

1. I was born with a twisted leg, which was corrected with a cast and some braces.

2. I skipped 3rd grade, then went right into the gifted program afterwards. Since I was one of only a few poor kids in the gifted program, it was pretty hellish due to the social structure.

3. I am mildly germophobic. This is a family trait; my dad and sis are much worse.

4. I get horribly carsick in I'm in a back seat. Sometimes even in the front seat, too, but it depends on the vehicle and who is driving. It's a lot more likely if it's bright out, and the combination of the bright sun hurting my eyes and the carsickness is, along with alcohol, one of my cluster headache triggers.

5. I constantly dream that my grandfather is alive. When he was alive, however, I frequently dreamt of his death.

6. I am very conscious of electrical safety around aquariums after an experience at a former workplace when a light fell into an aquarium that my arm was in. I had an asthma attack, and found that my inhaler was empty. It was a bad day.

7. I love cooking for other people, even when I'm not hungry.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

omg vegans and vegetarians eat stuff that isn't meat! HOW DARE THEY!

Yes, yes, I know I should avoid, but sometimes I find useful stuff in the discussions.

Their pissing and moaning about Tofurky, however, was just idiotic. Poor them, having to live with the knowledge that people are eating meatless meals in their own homes for Thanksgiving! In fact, there are people eating foods that these guys haven't tried, but KNOW are horrible and disgusting, and it's just plain wrong! That, and, omg, sometimes the people eating this disgusting Tofurky stuff are occasionally FAT! That's, like, even worse.

Because, y'know, it's totally their business what I want to eat, and whether or not I'm fat.

This kind of bitching and moaning leads me to believe that such complainers are not totally comfortable with their own choices. Many of those I know who aren't nasty assholes to me about being a vegetarian are people who are conscious about their diet choices, and have come to terms with them.

But, hey, let me answer some of the stupid-ass questions raised:
"If you aren't eating meat, why are you trying to replace it with meat substitute?" This to me seems like something they could figure out with a couple of brain cells, but let me answer it anyway: Because sometimes, people are vegetarian or vegan because they don't want to kill animals. Eating fake meat means they can have the easy, convenient source of protein without the whole animal torture and death bit. Duh.

"Why are people fat if they are vegans?" Because being fat isn't wholly dependent upon diet. Genetics, medications, and other factors come into play. Body fat can be made from all kinds of foods, not just meat and dairy. Also, see above about it being an animal rights thing for some people. Health may or may not be a consideration.

"But tofu tastes bad!" Okay, well, that's an opinion, you see, and not everyone shares that opinion. Besides, Tofurky is made from tofu, but it doesn't taste like tofu. Also, tofu can be prepared well, or it can be prepared poorly. Most people who have eaten my tofu like it.

"zomg lol plants are alive too!" People who bring this up are generally just being deliberately obtuse. If you cannot figure out that a squash is less likely to suffer than a cow, then I really can't help you. Of course, I will dignify this by also mentioning that each cow must eat many times more plants to process them into meat than if someone just eats the damn plants--and this becomes a huge problem when cows are fed grain instead of being allowed to eat grass (incidentally, grass is helped by proper grazing by cattle, so the factory farming process of stuffing them with corn has a bunch of problems that I won't go into here).

"But I totally knew this one vegan who was snotty to me about my diet, and stuff, so how dare anyone be a vegan!" That's nice. I hear this used quite frequently as an excuse for people to be assholes to vegetarians and vegans. How about this: Don't be a dick to someone who hasn't actually done this to you, regardless of your experiences with other people in the past? Why is that such a difficult concept? I'm not responsible for the actions of others. Maybe I should be an ass to you because a meat-eater who wasn't you was trying to sneak sausage into my lunch? Would that be fair? I have come to recognize this excuse for what it is: An excuse for intolerant, asinine behavior that the people would have engaged in regardless of their past experience. I make you uncomfortable, so you want to lash out at me, and this gives you what you believe to be a good rationalization for doing so. Only, it isn't. So stop being an asshole.

"I knew a vegetarian that only ate potato chips and candy!" Okay, and? For one, their dietary choices aren't any of your business. For another, they're someone else, not me, so why does this relate to me at all?

"BUT OMG WE HAVE CANINE TEETH!" Yes, we do. And even if humans are "supposed" to be omnivorous, some of us choose otherwise because of a desire to reduce the suffering of animals. Our teeth really don't have anything to do with it.

"BUT YOU NEED MEAT!" What people really mean by this is, they cannot imagine how THEY would eat without meat in their diet. Because it is incomprehensible to them, someone who does otherwise is frightening and/or disturbing. Remember, though, that just because something seems difficult or impossible to you, it doesn't mean that others find it so.


I suppose I should be less bothered by them, I should be accustomed to it, but sometimes I just get overloaded with annoyance. I did read one book a while back that helped a lot, though--and the recipes in it are very good: Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian's Survival Handbook by Carol J. Adams. Some people are uncomfortable with her suggestion that antagonistic omnivores are likely subconsciously (or consciously, for that matter) conflicted about their meat-eating, and instead of dealing with it, lash out at people who have made the choice to remove themselves from the conflict. However, even if you do not agree with that idea, her suggestion to view antagonists this way is helpful in dealing with their unpleasant treatment of you. She offers excellent advice in dealing with a number of situations, prioritizing respect of others' choices, even if you disagree with them. I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for new vegetarians who are becoming frustrated with the way they are treated.

OH NOES VAL KILMER IS FAT: The fear of aging, and sexualization of, well, everybody.

I recently saw some nasty articles and blog posts about Val Kilmer. Kilmer has always been a favorite of mine, not just for his looks, but for his easy smile and cool demeanor. The first thing I notice in a person is their smile; when I met my now husband, I saw a dazzling, friendly smile--it wasn't until the next day that I realized that he was also a babe.

So, back to Val. He's gained some weight, and apparently goes out IN PUBLIC. Sometimes, he goes out in public WITHOUT A SHIRT ON, with his fat showing! GASP! Since he (so far) cannot be arrested for this, he is instead being lambasted in blogs, news outlets, and celebrity gossip pages. Apparently, people expect celebrities to never age or change in any way, such as gaining weight, developing wrinkles, or losing hair.

You know what, though? Celebrities do not owe it to us to continue to be objects of sexual fantasy. They are mortal and human, and, after they have made their fortunes, there is no reason they cannot enjoy that fortune comfortably, without forcing themselves to starve and engage in grueling exercise to preserve their looks. There is no reason for a nearly 50-year-old man to attempt to look like he did when he was 30, and it is selfish and disgusting for people to be angry with him for aging normally.

Is this born of a fear of aging and death? Is it that people think that, if the rich and famous cannot stave it off, then we certainly cannot? We are unable to face and accept our own decline and demise, holding out hope that medical science will one day prevent them--and we look to those who would have the first access to this technology to pave the way. Fame and fortune, however, do not confer immortality; they do not even significantly prolong life compared to the average person in an industrialized country, but the fearful hold out hope that there's a secret somewhere to living forever. A celebrity who shows chinks in their armor of perfect youthfulness, the way Kilmer has by not subjugating himself to the thin and flawless ideal, is scaring his fans into realizing that they, too, are mortal. How dare he.

Interestingly enough, a corpse is presumably less sexy than a fat person, but do we hear complaints that James Dean has "let himself go" by dying? Perhaps this is because Dean has no ruined the sexual fantasies, his image forever preserved in the youthful state by his early demise. So, while a huge part of this is a fear of death, it is also a fear of aging and decline. Many societies place a high value on their elders, with the qualities of age marking a person as wise and experienced. Ours writes off these things in favor of "youthful energy" and sexual desirability. I don't know whether its the extreme sexual repression that causes us to turn everyone else into a sexual object, but I think it's a huge contributor.

That's a huge issue for fat activism in general, of course: Facing our own mortality and aging, and shutting down the notion that everyone around you has to be sexually desirable. The only person I need to sexually desire is my chosen partner. It is none of my business if Val Kilmer, your mother, or that random guy walking down the street is sexually desirable to me. The fact that so many people in the US believe otherwise needs to change. So you saw a fat person. Big deal, get over it. Not everyone in your view has to be your ideal--not even Val Kilmer!

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens

While reading The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens, I came across a concept that was disturbing to me. "The poor are instruments in religious campaign--an occasion for piety." In other words, it is believed that the poor must exist in order to give more fortunate people the opportunity to espress charity.

Another quote: "[less fortunate people] are the raw material for demonstrations of compassion."

A person or organization whose stated purpose is to help a group of "less fortunates" (the poor, disabled, disenfranchised, oppressed, etc.) depends on the continued existence of those less fortunates. Where does helping end and parasitization begin, however? If someone is "inspired" by the strength and courage of a poor or disabled person, for example, then they have little impetus to contribute toward changing the situation.

The book goes a long way towards demonstrating that Mother Teresa's reputation for helping the poor is ill-deserved, and that she used them as a means toward religious campaigning while giving them very little in the way of actual aid. The sick who came to her hospitals very frequently died of easily treatable problems because the sisters were not permitted to spend money on real medical care, and not allowed to send patients away to a real hospital. The organization took in more than enough money to build state-of-the-art hospitals in India, money donated by people who thought their funds were going to be used to feed, clothe, and medically care for the needy, but in truth, the money did not go toward much of that at all.

The poor and sick were used to guilt people into donating cash, but they were not treated at all. One quote particularly sickened me:
"...lack of good analgesia marks Mother Teresa's approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement." -- Dr. Robin Fox, 17 Sept 1994, The Lancet.

In other words, people were allowed to die of horrific, painful conditions without the benefit of pain management, even though the organization could clearly afford it. In the US, her "hospitals" would have been a litigation nightmare, and the horrors suffered by its victims (I can't bring myself to call them patients) would have earned prison sentences for those in charge. Males and females had their heads shaved to make managing them easier. There was no such thing as antiseptic protocol, and needles were used and re-used past dullness.

This book covered much more than the inhumane treatment of those who were supposed to be helped, but this is the theme that hit me the hardest. It also reminded me to be continually vigilant regarding institutions whose missions are to eliminate or reduce a condition, be it poverty, disability, or, dare I say it, even fatness (don't get me started on diet companies who depend upon the continued failure of their programs to generate repeat business). Yes, many of these organizations do mean well, and many are doing good things for the community, but it would be folly to assume that they do not need oversight. Mother Teresa's abominable actions are a clear indication of that.

I wanted to say, separate from the rest of the book review, I was very turned off in the first few pages. Hitchens starts off in the first paragraph with some fat hate, irrelevant to the subject. He's talking about Jean-Claude Duvalier, who has plenty of other adjectives that can be used to describe him ("mass-murdering", "thieving", "megalomaniacal", and "cruel" work for me), and the worst things he can say about the guy are that he is fat, and, a couple pages later, "bulbous"?! Fat as shorthand for evil is really lazy, man.

I also was put off by his anti-Clinton bias, which is so strong that I started questioning his facts. I understand that people don't like the Clintons, but can we focus on the subject at hand? Fortunately, he stopped that nonsense in the introduction, and did a pretty good job with the rest of the book.

Overall, I was satisfied with the book. Hitchens crammed an incredibly convincing case into under 100 pages, with enough follow-up reading to satisfy a desire for more information. His writing style is clear and concise, and he did a wonderful amount of research. I give this one four stars. It would be five if not for the above to paragraphs' worth of problems I had with the book.

Further reading:
Mother Teresa's House of Illusions: How She Harmed Her Helpers As Well As Those They 'Helped' by Susan Shields Susan shields is a former sister in Mother Teresa's order.

Book Review by Norman Taylor He mentions the "Gift of Love" HIV shelter that was abusive and cruel.

A wonderful Thanksgiving!

We had a small but wonderful Thanksgiving in our household. Our friend came to visit, and we had a lovely vegetarian feast, which I prepared. My parents had visited earlier in the week, and we had a good time hanging out, shopping, and playing with kittens. They brought their shiba inu, Kitsu, who was a good boy.

I've been reading library books and writing in my new diary, so I have plenty of material for blog posts once I am feeling a little less tired. I'm worn out from the visit, Thanksgiving preparations and celebration, and my volunteer stint at the Robin's Nest adoption clinic last night.

Speaking of the adoption clinic, I managed to play with and get to know many of the adoptable kitties in the adoption center, and I want to mention a few of them:

- Severin is a sweet black female who loves to be cuddled and held. She's also very smart, managing to escape from her cage when I didn't latch it properly.

- Foster is a gorgeous creamsicle-colored tabby boy who cries and cries if he doesn't get to come out and play. He's an instigator toward male cats, but was friendly toward the ladies.

- Sampson had to be let out by himself, as he does not like other cats, but he IS a big fan of catnip, and he enjoys cuddling with humans.

- Paint is a shy calico girl who enjoyed watching the other cats play, but didn't want to emerge from her cage.

- Luna the little tortie has been there far too long, which is strange, considering she's beautiful and sweet.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Book Review: The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey Into the Feline Heart by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson: A review

The very first thing I must say about this book, because it is the most important, is that the author is horrifically irresponsible in not just advocating cats living outdoors, but also claiming that it is cruel to not allow them unsupervised access to the outside world. The reasons this is a bad thing are myriad and well-documented, including danger to the cats in the form of cars, predators, incurable diseases for which there are no vaccines, and, most disturbingly, sick and cruel humans who torture and kill cats. Additionally, cats do a number on local wildlife, and in places like the author's home, many native species do not stand a chance against domestic cat predation.

Masson also talks about his cats roaming the neighborhood, entering his neighbors' property and homes, and he has been informed of their unwelcomeness. Neighbors who do not take kindly to trespassing cats are a step away from poisoning the animals or carting them off to an animal control facility, yet this does not seem to faze Masson at all.

I was also quite disgusted with the author's descriptions of his previous cats. One set of cats was dumped somewhere because of the ubiquitous excuse, "We had to move, and couldn't take them with us." If you're planning to move, then don't acquire pets that cannot come with you. It isn't fair to the animals to get attached to you and their home, and then for you to just shove them off to another life. It's a huge, stressful adjustment, and many cats do NOT handle it well. As a rescue volunteer and cat foster parent, I can't tell you how many times this happens--and with a little planning, it could be completely avoided.

The other cats the author had prior to his current set were squished on the road. The author's response to this seems to be nonchalant, as he blithely declares it "natural" to let cats roam outdoors. When that "natural" world involves roads and cars, though, it's just plain irresponsible and stupid to let them out. How do you think kitty felt as he lay dying on the side of the road? How do you think the driver felt after hitting him? Just because you aren't creative and attentive enough to provide enrichment for an indoor cat? That's just fabulous. Oh, and did I mention that mutt cats aren't good enough for Mr. Masson; he's got to buy expensive purebreds--the squished cats were both Abyssinians. Why spend all that money on a cat whose life you are willing to just throw away anyway?

The other huge problem I had with this book is that apparently Masson's publisher is too afraid of him to have an editor read the damn thing before sending it to the printer. He frequently makes a firm, declarative statement, then completely contradicts the statement two pages later. Any decent editor would have spotted these errors immediately and called him on it. On one page, for example, he claims that cats only purr to communicate with other cats: "Cats do not purr by themselves, which would seem to mean that they do not purr for themselves, either, but for us and for each other, and even for other animals they like." I rolled my eyes at this, knowing that there are many documented cases of sick, injured, or frightened cats purring to comfort themselves. Heck, if you want to get anecdotal about it (which is Masson's favorite form of fact-finding), our Morgan will purr furiously in the vet's office because she's so frightened. So, imagine my surprise when he changes his mind three pages later, stating exactly that: "Veterinarians know that cats also purr when they are in distress. The predominant explanation is that they are self-medicating...We can liken it to when we hum or sing a tune to ourselves..." There are other similar contradictions, including one where he claims that catnip's influence is sex-related, then claims on the same page that it is not sex-related. Good grief.

There was also a fundamental lack of real research. There are claims made that are just plain false, such as "Cats rarely attempt to eat [catnip]." I don't know what cats he has been around, but most cats that are affected by catnip (which is about 1/3 of them, not 1/2 as Masson claims, except in Australia, where the gene for catnip appreciation is relatively rare due to a limited gene pool) do eat it. Another misrepresentation of facts occurs on page 70, where he says that, "[the nictitating membrane] is also found in sharks, owls, and polar bears, who use it to prevent snow blindness." Not only does the sentence appear to say that all of these animals use it to prevent snow blindness, but it is very misleading--it would have been better for him to say that fully functional nictitating membranes are found commonly in birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians, but less so in mammals. This is just one small example in a book rife with contradictions and poorly represented facts.

I was very disappointed in the book's structure as well. The "nine emotions", a number selected for cleverness rather than anything resembling reality, are arbitrarily named--and with the very first one, narcissism, the author concludes that it doesn't even apply to cats! If it doesn't apply, then why not replace it with another that was not represented, such as embarrassment or sadness?

The book has some cute pictures, and there are some interesting anecdotes, but I really would not recommend this book for information or facts--or to gain any kind of insight into cats' emotions. Masson's point of view is very limited, as his clan of cats at the time of writing this book were young ones, and it does not seem that he has ever had a cat long enough to observe the change of personality and behavior they experience as they age. If you are looking for a good solid book on cat behavior and evolution, I recommend The Tribe of Tiger by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. If you're looking for something a little more personal, perhaps a book exploring the relationship between cat and human, The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats by Clea Simon is a pretty good read--she describes her cat's journey from kitten to senior and beyond, and explores the relationship between women and cats. Men need not fear this book, however, as it would decently apply to the sensitive, gentle type of men who love cats.

I like little girls!

Anya and Ptera were doing this, being incredibly cute and adorable:
Anya and Ptera--awwww!
They weren't cuddling, though; they were having a tussle. I distracted them from chewing on each other by looming over them with the camera.

But why does it remind me of:

Fun with painting

My parents are going to be visiting from Saturday through Tuesday, so I figured I'd paint the spare bedroom to give them a nice place to stay. Now, before I go into the painting scheme, let me explain this bedroom. When we bought the house, it was painted a bright neon blue with neon lime green trim, and it had Batman decals all over the walls, with a Batman border at the top of one wall, halfway pulled down, and not very well installed.

The border and stickers came off easily, but after two coats of primer, the neon paint still showed a bit. Here's a photo of the original paint job, with Ms. Charlotte, our fluffy foster feline:

Pretty awful, isn't it? What you can't see in the photo is that they stopped painting the walls approximately 2" from the ceiling, so there was a rough top border of white--they didn't even use tape, just stopped painting. Maybe the previous residents were exceptionally short? I don't know--I'm 5'1", and I could reach, so that is probably not the case. Also, in some places, they had tried painting black over the neon green border, but they did not prime or sand it, so it was just a nasty layer of black, streaky brushstrokes with that neon lime showing through quite glaringly.

Now, I'm not a very good painter. I will be absolutely honest about my skills; the pictures you are about to see are not wonderful work, and I haven't yet touched up or fixed any of the mistakes. Also, I managed to spill a crapton of green paint on the carpet; I got a lot of it out with the steam vac, but I need to get some acrylic paint remover next time I go to the home improvement store.

The first thing I did was layer faux Venetian plaster on two of the walls. I used the trowel method, which was really hard on my hands and wrists, but the results were worth it. Also, their "roller method" would be nearly impossible with the thickness of the paint. It's like creamy molasses. I had just enough for two walls, with a small amount saved for touch-ups. I then painted the trim on those walls wine-red, and painted the other two walls red:
"batman room" repainted "batman room" repainted

"batman room" repainted

The darker brown areas are just not yet dry. It's hard to see the texture in these photos, but it's a really neat effect. I think it was worth the effort.

Next, I did a horrifically sloppy job of painting the trim and accents green:
Adam's room - almost done Adam's room - almost done

Adam's room - almost done

I have a LOT of touching up to do on it, and I might even paint over the green, but I do like the color scheme. I put up some red curtains, but they weren't really big enough, so they might either be added to or swapped out entirely.

Doing all of that took me three days, and it wiped out my physical resources. I am feeling quite exhausted, and I am only able to type this because I took extra pain medicine. My hands and wrists are very unhappy with all the troweling I did, and paint rollers are really, really hard on my whole body (it's too bad they were the only way to get the red on the way I wanted it).

Mom and dad will be arriving Saturday night or Sunday morning (they're driving to Schenectady, NY from Quincy, IL), so I'll probably be quiet on here during their stay.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How I came upon the fibromyalgia diagnosis

So, my path to getting diagnosed as having fibromyalgia was kind of strange. I'm going to talk about it.

I'd been having bad back and neck pain for a long time. My breast reduction didn't make it significantly better, and physical therapy didn't do anything. I spent a lot of money I didn't have on PT before we finally agreed to stop throwing good money after bad.

After my surgery in '04, where I had an ovary, fallopian tube, and part of the uterus removed because they were encased in cysts, and the ovary was being torsed (twisted), causing intense, horrific pain, I started feeling achy all over. It wasn't just my joints, as previously (I have some arthritic joints), but it was in my muscles, with lots of fabulous headaches.

One day, I had severe abdominal pain that was as bad as my agony from the ovary incident, and almost as bad as the gallbladder one. Having required emergency surgery in both cases, I had Brian take me to the hospital, where I got tests and pain medicine. They pumped me full of Demerol and phenergan, which eased my agony. I drifted while the tests were done and analyzed. The doctor came back saying that they couldn't find anything wrong except for some scarring on the lungs, which he said could be from rheumatoid arthritis. I was sent home with a pain medication scrip and told to see my doctor.

My doctor put me on a round of prednisone to help with the lung, which he said was "partially collapsed". We talked about the pain, and he had a bunch of x-rays ordered and some blood tests. He finally concluded that I had fibromyalgia, since everything fit the symptoms. I got pain medication for the days when things were bad, and he put me on Cymbalta to help with pain and anxiety.

I resisted this diagnosis because, having known several people with fibro, I didn't want my life to change. I was working on becoming a field biologist, and if the pain I was experiencing continued, it would prevent me from doing that. I was already too tired and pained to do a lot of it. Eventually, though, I accepted the diagnosis, and conceded a few things.

The pain that sent me to the ER? I now recognize that as a bad muscle spasm. I get them from time to time, where they start in the back, and before long, I feel like something is stabbing me in the gut. Now that I know it's in the muscles, I can do some stretches and take a pain pill. Once the pain pill kicks in, the muscles slow down their tightening because it's the pain that makes them get worse and worse. Once it gets bad, it's really hard to tell it's a muscle pain, because it refers pain all around.

It wasn't until I got a different doctor that I finally got a thyroid problem diagnosed, and I'm still in the process of increasing the dose of Levoxyl to the right level. Apparently, with fibro, the TSH test doesn't always work because there's a feedback loop (or something like that) which prevents the TSH levels from getting high.

And so, here I am.