Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fibromyalgia: My personal history

Is it going to rain? My ankle's kept me up all night. Both of my ankles have a bit of arthritis going on, which I've had since before the fibro hit mein my ankles and wrists--and they were quite weather-predictive. There's a pretty strong family history of arthritis on my mother's side, so I wasn't terribly surprised when it started happening. So far, tests have indicated that it's maybe not rheumatoid arthritis, but the tests aren't always perfect. Time will tell.

Anyway, after turning my life over in my head for a while, I've sort of decided that the fibro really came on strong after my surgery in 2004, leading me to believe the surgery may be the trauma that triggered it. It was the third surgery* in my life, so maybe the other two did a little bit, and #3 was the final straw? I don't know.

All I know is, before surgery #3, which was a fairly major one, I could work a 12+ hour day and be begging for more at the end of the shift. I was a Type A+ personality, perfectionist to the extreme, and strong as hell. I went through the fisheries program at Cobleskill without too much trouble (my height was the only major problem I had; being a foot shorter than most of my classmates put me at a disadvantage), and I could lift, walk, and exercise without trouble. I went to Curves for a while, and I did great there. I took a couple months of karate before moving to NY, and I did okay with that, too.

I went through a period of fatigue about five years ago. Part of it was undermanaged asthma, part of it was severe depression, and part of it was untreated allergies. Once I got those things worked out, I seemed able to function better. Once my relationship woes were resolved, I was a LOT better.

Then, just a few short months after Brian and I moved in together, I felt a twisting pain in my abdomen. It grew progressively worse, and, because I was in Schenectady at the time, I drove myself to the St. Clare's ER, where a CAT scan determined that I had an enormous ovarian cyst that was causing twisting. The cyst encapsulated the entire right ovar, another took over my whole fallopian tube, and a third, smaller one was stuck to the right uterine horn. The pain I was experiencing was the cysts causing torsion, twisting the ovary and fallopian tube. They scheduled me for surgery that day and stuffed me full of Demerol and phenergan. Dr. A. gave me a c-section-type scar because the cyst was big enough to warrant it. Brian took excellent care of me during recovery, even volunteering at my non-profit job so that I wouldn't have to be replaced and be out of a job.

After that, I progressively grew more fatigued, with the widespread body pain of fibromyalgia. I developed ALL the telltale tender points. I cannot stand to have someone touch my upper arms or sides, and if I bump certain areas of my hip, it's excruciating. Brian has to be very careful about where he touches me, especially when he's giving me a massage, because pressure on a tender point will cause me to yelp and jerk away. Even if he's just put a little pressure on it, the pain lingers for a period after he's stopped touching it, like a bruise that lasts for a couple of minutes.

I was once able to sleep adequately. Now, I wake up and it feels like I've actually gotten worse than before I went to bed, like I ran a marathon in my sleep. After I've been awake for a little while, the hit-by-truck feeling eases up a bit, and I actually feel my best starting around 11am or so. Also, if I wake up, feel crappy, and get a drink/go to restroom/check email, then go back to bed for about half an hour, THAT actually helps me feel more rested. A midday nap is also helpful. But a full night of sleep seems to just kick my ass like nothing else.

I also want to note that I was fat for many years before developing fibro. I was skinny up until I was 20 years old, and I was about 23 when I became as fat as I am now. So that's about 7 years of being my current fatness where I was very able, energetic, and strong. Seven years where my doctor didn't tell me to lose weight, because I was healthy by all of the usual parameters. Seven years of working 12-hour shifts like they were nothing. One damned surgery, and my life was changed completely.

When I do finally get some health insurance, I will be asking my doctor to see about testing to determine if I have c-spine stenosis. That can happen if the neck is improperly supported during surgery, and I'd like to at least rule it out. Other than that, doc and I are trying things one by one to see if we can find something that makes a difference. I'm still hanging on to hope that we'll make me at least able to pull an 8-hour shift without agony and lortabs. We'll see.

*The first surgery was to remove my gallbladder, which all of a sudden went acute with no prior attacks. Number two was a breast reduction, from G/H down to a D.

WLS sidebar

I've added a box to my sidebar ------ >

These links contain information about the negative side of bariatric surgery. Many of the online support groups are run by those who profit from WLS, so you don't always get the complete story.

If you've had WLS, and your experience has been unproblematic, and you're happy with your decision, then good for you. Most people in my life that HAVE done it dealt with complications and a lot of pain, with only one person that had a relatively trouble-free outcome. I would personally not get this done on myself, even if it were guaranteed to work without problems; and it certainly is not safe or unproblematic.

If you've had this done, had a good outcome, and somehow think that it makes you better than people who chose not to take the risk, well, you're not. I'm sorry that you had to have your stomach amputated in order to gain some self-acceptance, but that's your problem, not mine. I'll be keeping my stomach, thank you, unless there is a real issue that necessitates its removal (cancer, massive ulcers, that kind of thing). Being fat is NOT a disease, and it's especially not a medical problem that requires amputation of healthy internal organs.

My menagerie

In case anyone was wondering, these are the creatures currently in my household. If you have any questions about them, please let me know--I love talking about them. Also, if you want to see what they look like, I'll be happy to snap a recent photo.

0.1 Baird's rat snake (Elanor)
3.1 yellow rat snake (Julian, Lucius, Marcus, Cornelia)
1.1 Everglades rat snake (Gregor, Claudia)
1.0 Honduran milk snake (Tezcatlipoca)
2.1 ball python (Prowler, Renenet, Jerry)
0.1 Central American boa constrictor (Luna)
1.0 Jurassic milk snake (Hobbes--Cali king/Honduran milk hybrid)
0.1 Chinese smooth green snake (Yu-Mei)
0.0.1 rough green snake (Olive)
0.1 speckled kingsnake (Sophia)
0.1 rubber boa (Hecuba)
0.1 eastern milk snake (Seska)
1.0 Malayan box turtle (Fig)
1.1 diamondback terrapin (Toby, Nate)
0.0.1 house gecko
0.0.2 Argentine horned frog (Blinky, Inky)
1.0 human (Brian)
1.2 domestic shorthair cat (Teya, Morgan, Dom)
1.0 ocicat (Aakhu)
0.0.lots Lobster roach colony (want some? I give them away for free!)

2 Leopard ctenopoma
3 red-tailed chalceus
3 Synodontis eupterus
1 Synodontis angelicus
1 Synodontis alberti
1 Synodontis ocellifer
1 Synodontis longirostris
1 grey leopard/Sultan (L-264) pleco
3 clown botia
5 weather dojo
3 ropefish
3 Neolamprologus brichardi
1 crown jewel cichlid (one-eyed)
1 yellow labidochromis
1 Frontosa (one-eyed)
2 gold gourami
2 opaline gourami
1 festivum cichlid
2 Arulius barb
1 ruby shark
1 spiny eel
1 brown African knife

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some thoughts on the profitabiity of dieting

I'm very skeptical about a lot of things. One of the first questions I ask myself when reading about a subject, especially a medical one, is, "Who financially benefits from this?" About four years ago, I learned that the lower limit for "high" blood pressure had been ratcheted downwards a notch. I was immediately skeptical of this, and did a ton of reading. It turns out, I wasn't the only skeptical one; there were plenty of articles pointing out that, by changing a number, hundreds of thousands of patients were magically created, patients that would be prescribed extremely profitable medication.

It's true that I'm especially wary of the pharmaceutical industry, and with good reason: Just take a look at fen-phen, Vioxx, and other medicines that have been pulled due to the harm they caused the general public. In many cases, the manufacturer's research revealed these problems during testing, but covered them up or fudged the results. This isn't an opinion here, folks, the facts are out there.

So, you'll have to excuse me for looking at the thindustry with a critical eye. Who makes money from fat hysteria?
1. Magazines - What women's magazine doesn't have a weight-loss strategy advertised on every issue's cover? Usually right next to either a thin, airbrushed female model (magazines with sexy men on the cover are generally geared towards gay men) or a rich dessert.

2. The clothing industry - Whether they sell you a new wardrobe after you diet yourself thin, or they're profiting when you regain that weight, the fashion industry in general does NOT like fat women. They express their disdain with limited selection, hideous clothing, and cocaine-addicted skeletal models. Think about it: We're encouraged to "buy clothing a size or two too small" as incentive to diet. So they want us to essentially keep two wardrobes--the one that actually fits, and the one that shames us. Tell me THAT isn't profitable.

3. The diet industry - This is a no-brainer. What other companies can get away with selling a product that either doesn't work, or fails long-term, thus chaining its customers to their programs for life. Best of all, when diets fail, WW or JC do not take the blame--the customers blame themselves for the failure, which makes them go back and try harder!

4. The athletic industry - We're encouraged to buy a gym membership, which tend to be pretty nasty little contracts that are very difficult to get out of. If we go to the gym, we get nasty glares, rude comments, and snide laughs from the "beautiful people" who don't feel we belong there. So, we become afraid to return to the gym, but are still obligated to pay for the year or two or twenty that the contract specifies. What other industry can get away with forcing people to pay a monthly fee for something that they've been shamed out of using?! Of course, the only place I ever felt comfortable getting exercise is a certain women's-only circular workout center--and they've become so diet-oriented these days that many fat & fit women get disgusted and quit (not to mention the political goals of the founder can be difficult for some to justify supporting with their dollars).

5. Doctors - They're making money by telling us that our adipose tissue is a disease that needs to be cured. We get weight-loss drugs pushed on us, and there are more ads for bariatric surgery every time I turn around. Billboards, spam emails, banner ads on websites, you name it. Bariatric surgery is become a HUGE moneymaker right now, and I'm guessing that its practitioners are trying to cash in on the phenomenon as much as possible before it comes crashing down a la fen-phen or Vioxx. Please note: I am not saying that all doctors are bad people trying to keep us sick for their own profit. There are many, many good doctors out there, mine included--but there are also a lot of hacks out there amputating stomachs when they don't have the experience to do it well, and the complication and death rate for even skilled bariatric surgeons is, in my opinion, unacceptably high.

6. The food industry - Our food supply is controlled by a relatively small number of enormous corporations like ConAgra. Do you think it's a mistake that they put less product in a package, then charge twice as much for it when they slap a "100 calorie pack" label on it? Or when they use cheaper ingredients to make a soy product instead of beef patties, and tell us it's healthy, so we pay more? As a vegetarian (for animal welfare reasons), I'll be honest and say that I like my soy burgers. But, I remember when they used soy protein as filler in school lunch hamburgers to save money. So when I'm paying a lot more money for soy burgers than I would for real dead animal parts, I'm not terribly happy about it. After all, it's cheaper to take the soybeans and make them into a burger than to feed the soybeans to a cow, let the cow process ~10% of it into cowflesh, then make the cow into burgers.

There are many more organizations and people that profit from weight-loss culture, including therapists, thin celebrities, and snake-oil manufacturers. So, you'll have to excuse me if I'm mistrustful of their motives, especially in the face of studies that indicate that being fat is generally not a cause of major illness or premature death.

Allergy free peanuts?! Hooray!

Peanut and tree nut allergies are the most severe of all food allergies, affecting approximately 3 million Americans, and causing 100 -- 150 deaths from anaphylactic shock annually and many more hospitalizations. In industrialized nations, the allergy has been rapidly increasing in children, for causes that are not entirely understood. One study showed that between 1997 and 2002, peanut allergies in children doubled in the United States. Today, an estimated one percent of all children suffer from the allergy.

I developed a peanut allergy a couple of years ago. I didn't figure it out at first--I was having horrible asthma attacks that inhalers were not helping. I would take a Benadryl, and eventually, the attacks would subside. After a few of these in a relatively short period of time, I realized that it was the peanuts. I learned that each exposure makes the next one a little worse, so figuring out before it became life-threatening was very lucky.

I had started off having indigestion after eating peanuts, but didn't really think about it too much. Just when I'd forgotten about the last bout of indigestion, I would eat them again and feel yucky. When I finally sorted out that I was having a much more severe reaction, peanuts were banned from my life--and I haven't had a single asthma attack since, even during allergy season.

So, this article really made me happy. A hypoallergenic peanut? I miss peanut butter. The soy alternatives just don't taste right, and it's a very easy source of protein. I hope that they find a way to grow them inexpensively so that the majority of peanut-based products can be switched over. I'll celebrate with a Butterfinger!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Discrimination against black cats

When we adopted our Dom, Purrfect Companions had this article printed out and posted:
Did you know that black cats have the lowest adoption rate and the highest euthanasia rate?

Whether because of superstition, prejudice, or simply because they blend into the shadows in the back of the cage, black cats are statistically less likely to be adopted than more brightly colored felines.

Most often ignored by many rescues because they are so hard to place, these cats are left waiting in pounds and shelters with hopes of finding a loving home, only to be destroyed once their time is up. Rescues are reluctant to take in black kittens, worried that they will not be placed before they reach adulthood. Once they are over 1yr of age, they are usually left waiting and waiting, taking up much needed foster space etc. Many wait for several months even years.

Many adopters prefer the flashier, more colorful cats, and often overlook these regal looking beauties.

I was stunned by this. Absolutely stunned. I had no idea, and I just wanted to cry. They had several black cats there in cages, including Dom. Most of them were either snoozing or being affectionate through the cage bars. Dom, however, was sitting upright in the exact center of his cage, with an expression on his face that said, "Well, this sucks. I do NOT deserve this."

Indeed he did not, and I could not resist the attitude he exhibited. While he is a rotten little brat, I have never regretted taking him home with us. He's funny, smart, affectionate, and sweet. I love him to bits.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

What good is "health" without happiness?

I'm responding to a wonderful comment someone left in an older entry, because she made me think, and it was too good to keep stashed away in a comment oubliette:

Lavalady said:
I notice that weight loss messages are ostensibly about "health", but very often are about how denying yourself things (like basic acceptance) will lead you to a better place.

Indeed! They seem to focus on what will make you physically healthier (and they're wrong about that anyway!), but seem to have no concern about whether you are happier!

I firmly believe that the quality of one's life should come before everything else, including health. That might seem paradoxical, but if the pursuit of bodily health comes at the expense of the joy of living, then what have you really gained?

And, that doesn't just apply to the fat situation. If I am told that my life depends on an excruciating regimen of medical treatment that will take up the entirety of the remainder of my life, or I could let things happen naturally and live relatively pain-free for the remainder, then the former option will not be my preference in most circumstances.

Strangely, I cannot honestly think of any medical condition that would require a treatment of daily, unending torture, except for the "o" word. Yes, doctor, I'm fat, and okay, you say it's going to kill me. Tell you what, we can make a wager on it. If my being fat kills me, then you get ten bucks. If your medical malpractice of telling me to lose weight for every problem from a sore knee to a gunshot wound ends up killing me, then my family gets every asset you own, plus your stupid fat-hating head on a platter. That's fair, right?

Today at the Farmers Market!

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Click thumbs for full size pics :)

Under-breast rash

My stats tell me that I get quite a few hits via google searches for the dreaded rash under the breasts. I made an entry a while back with some advice for dealing with this problem entitled "Cruel Summer". Go to that entry if you're looking for tips on how to deal with the rashes:

I don't actually get them anymore. I'm going to let y'all in on a little secret here: In 2003, I had breast reduction surgery which took my G/H cup breasts down to diminutive D's. My breasts had always been grossly disproportionate to the rest of me, and they were causing a great deal of back pain. My aureolae were so stretched out of shape that they were roughly 5" in diameter. I had grooves in my shoulders from the weight of the bra straps. Getting this surgery was a very important thing for me, and I am really glad I did it.

I found a very skilled surgeon who did NOT do nipple grafts; instead, he was able to reconstruct my breasts without removing the nipple at all! It's hard for me to describe what he did, so I'm not going to. Even so, I did not have feeling in them for nearly a year after the surgery. There was a chance that sensation would have been permanently lost, and I mourned the loss of an entire erogenous zone when six months had passed with no change.

Anyway, the reason I'm bringing up the subject of mammaries is this: Because so many people are interested in the subject of under-breast rashes, I thought I would share an item that I found while looking at a website. These are bra liners, which absorb moisture and help prevent the under-breast rash! I wish I had known about them pre-surgery, because I would get the worst rashes. I also didn't know that miconazole (athlete's foot and jock-itch medicine) would treat the problem. My doctor certainly didn't offer any suggestions, although I do give him credit for the reduction surgery referral.

I know how crummy that rash is. Because I didn't know how to treat it, I would put regular lotion on it and cry as the alcohol in the lotion burned. Eventually, I started using a medicated baby powder on it, which helped some, and one day I put on some antibiotic ointment--which did help more than anything else I'd tried. Once I found out the proper product to use, life was great again! The web was not then the behemoth it is today, so I didn't really have access to the information that is available now. How DID we live without the internet back then?!

Iguana Care

A friend asked me for advice on the care of her pet iguana. It occurred to me that most people who get their first iguana don't actually know much about their needs. Iguanas are probably one of the most demanding pet lizards due to their dietary, lighting, and space requirements. There is a lot of really bad information out there, unfortunately, and it's easy to do long-term harm to a pet iguana by giving them the wrong food, lighting, and enclosure.

The first big issue is to understand that iguanas are diurnal (active during the day) and need to be exposed to sunlight for their health. There are special light bulbs that can help give the right spectrum of light, but they should be supplemental to allowing the iguana to bask in natural sunlight, if possible. If they do not get the right kinds of UV radiation (UVA and UVB), they will, over time, develop calcium deficiencies that manifest as misshapen or broken bones, neurological problems, and other problems. So, it's very important to make sure they get that lighting, and they should also be given a vitamin D3 supplement with their diet.

Also, iguanas are vegetarians. Giving them animal-based foods can be hard on their kidneys. However, it can be difficult to give them a varied diet of fresh greens, vegetables, and fruits every day, especially when you're a bit low on cash. It's expensive to keep fresh produce on hand at all times. I have just a few tips for keeping food costs down:

1. Collard greens, a great leafy vegetable for iguanas, keep very well if you chop them up and store them in a container that has a paper towel on the bottom and top. The towel absorbs excess moisture to keep the greens from getting slimy, but allows enough humidity to keep them fresh for a while.

2. Dandelion greens, probably the optimum leafy vegetable, can be grown in your own garden (whether you want to or not, even!) or purchased cheaply at the grocery store. This can keep summer and fall costs down. When using store-bought dandelions, leave them whole and only slice as much off the top of the bunch as you need. Unlike the collards, these do not fare well if they are chopped up ahead of time.

3. Frozen fruits with no sugar added are your friend. I keep at least one kind of frozen fruit on hand for my box turtle. They're cheaper, keep for a long time, and the animals don't mind them at all.

4. If you have fresh fruit that's right on the edge of going bad, freeze it. Grapes, berries, and other small stuff can be frozen whole, while larger stuff can be sliced up first. Bananas, apples, and melon do not freeze very well, but most other stuff is fine.

5. Share with your iggy! If you're having zucchini, set aside a small amount to put in your lizard's salad. Having a peach? Slice off a bit and give it to your friend. Whatever you're cooking, if you're using fresh vegetables or fruit, it can save you time when you share.

6. The grater is your friend. I shred sweet potatoes, parsnips, winter squash, and other hard vegetables to make them easier to eat. It's easier than dicing, and you can keep the bulk of the vegetable whole while you store it (especially with sweet potatoes, a favorite of my box turtle).

I very strongly recommend the book "Iguanas for Dummies" by Melissa Kaplan. She's an awesome lady, and her website has a lot of good information as well. I have linked the book below; if you use this link to purchase it, it will give me a small commission as part of the Amazon Associates program.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Laws of Thermodynamics

We often hear about the "Laws of Thermodynamics" when talking about whether or not diets work. I rarely hear the actual laws quoted by people, so let's review them:
The zeroth law of thermodynamics:
"If two thermodynamic systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third, they are also in thermal equilibrium with each other."

The first law of thermodynamics:
"In any process, the total energy of the universe remains constant."

The second law of thermodynamics:
"There is no process that, operating in a cycle, produces no other effect than the subtraction of a positive amount of heat from a reservoir and the production of an equal amount of work."

The third law of thermodynamics:
"As temperature approaches absolute zero, the entropy of a system approaches a constant. "

There are also proposed fourth, fifth, sixth, and other laws based on other principles, but we will stick to the basics here (bet you never heard of the zeroth, though).

Most people, when they bring up the laws of thermodynamics, are referring to the first law, which is also called the Law of Conservation of Energy. Basically, the conservation of energy states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant, although it may change forms, e.g. friction turns kinetic energy into thermal energy.

When you are learning physics in high school, you test these laws with some simple experiments, usually involving burning a specific quantity of material and seeing how much it heats up a container of water. Or, you might be observing a change in temperature from one object to another as the heat is transferred. Very simple, very simplistic.

Many mechanical engineers will tell you that thermodynamics, even among non-living things, is way the heck more complicated than all that. But, it is also important to remember that changes in energy are only simple to identify in isolated, closed systems. It's very easy to tell that, when your cup of tea cools down, its surroundings become warmer.

However, as is obvious to most people who aren't disingenuously quoting science they aren't familiar with to prove a point that isn't valid, a living organism is much more complicated than that. It isn't simply that we ingest calories and expend them with physical activity like a car does with fuel; it is that we are so very complex that even our brightest minds have not unraveled the biochemical nature of our very being.

In other words, calories in/calories out is a ridiculously simplified idea that in no way actually describes what is actually happening inside the human organism. Never mind that we aren't taking into account the size of a person's mitochondria, the differing ability of each person to digest food, and the plethora of non-human organisms that dwell in every person's body; never mind that they've found that the second law of thermodynamics doesn't seem to hold true for microscopic systems; even if our bodies did operate so simplistically, we simply cannot account for the use of every calorie consumed with simple math because there is no way to monitor each muscle twitch and every degree of heat produced.

It's a moot point; thermodynamics does not really account for life. Part of life is the denial of entropy; to take energy and harness it with some degree of purpose. Without my being alive, the glass of tea on my desk would not simply move itself from one place to another. There would be no physical science reason for it to do so. The will demonstrated by the tiniest forms of life demonstrate the ability to change matter and harness energy toward a purpose that would simply not be possible as a random act of nonliving matter and energy.

Much of our organic design is for the purpose of opposing the forces of physics. Organisms that live on land must expend enormous amounts of resources to defy the pull of gravity. Terrestrial plants build structures out of cellulose in order to remain upright. Aquatic plants, buoyed by their surrounding water, are much more tender; it is easier for you to eat and digest kelp than for you to do the same to woody plants. We need a sturdy skeleton of hard bones to keep us functional on land; fishes' bones are generally fine and delicate, and the majority of organisms in the sea rely only on hydrostatic pressure to keep them from collapsing in on themselves (jellyfish or squid, for example).

We take energy and matter and organize it into specific ways. We grow new tissues, repair damaged parts, and, ultimately, pour a great deal of energy into the race to replicate ourselves before the laws of physics take their toll, a process that is so powerful that those of us who choose not to reproduce must expend enormous effort to counter it. We resist deterioration for as long as we can, our cells working autonomously to keep us going despite some of the worst odds. Life exists in defiance of entropy.

So when I hear someone saying that it's as simple as "finding how many calories your body needs, and only eating that much", you'll have to pardon me while I laugh. Do you even know HOW to measure how many calories you use? Despite the nifty little charts on every elliptical machine, my body does not expend the same amount of calories to do the same activities as yours. There are little mathematical formulas that you plug your height and weight into, and these are notoriously inaccurate. There's a machine that measures how much oxygen and carbon dioxide you are breathing out. Some studies measure metabolism in cell cultures by measuring heat production. There are sensors in development to measure parameters at the cellular level, too.

However, most of the methods that are relatively accurate were not created to measure the metabolism of a multicellular organism. They are for scientists who need to determine how much energy is being used by cell cultures for various reasons. The truth is, there isn't a terribly reliable way to see how many calories you are burning.

Even if we could tell, there are so many other factors involved. For example, you do not necessarily digest everything you eat. If you've ever eaten corn, you know exactly what I am talking about. One person's ability to utilize the food in their bellies efficiently is different from another's. I don't digest fats efficiently because I don't have a gallbladder. If I eat fatty foods, I will be rewarded with the unpleasantness associated with an inability to completely digest the fat, an unpleasantness similar to the effects of eating too much fat while taking Xenical or Alli. A friend has Crohn's disease, which, through damage to her intestines, leaves her ability to absorb nutrients compromised (interestingly, I've known several women with Crohn's, and while one was very thin, the others were on the heavier side of average).

Let's also not forget about the natural flora and fauna living within every person's body. You're full of cute little bacteria, and your set of bacteria may be different and more or less efficient than my set of bacteria. You might have a pet tapeworm to feed, or maybe you're nursing a colony of roundworms. It's almost impossible to tell what bacteria you've got and how many, or whether you've got a load of dependents that you didn't expect. You just don't know!

So, when I eat a meal, the different components of that meal are digested and utilized in different ways. Maybe I ate 300 calories, but 25 of it was fat and just went right through customs without so much as a luggage search. One bite of that potato went to Tapey, and about 100 calories of the meal was expended on the panic attack I had when I couldn't find Marcus, my yellow rat snake, who had quite cleverly burrowed so deep into the substrate that I thought he'd escaped.

Finally, I want to say something about fibromyalgia and other physical ailments. There is some research that indicates that sufferers burn much more energy while asleep than non-sufferers. It's like we're stuck in second gear while waiting for a stoplight. Some people have insulin resistance, which affects their ability to utilize carbohydrates--so the body stores them instead of burning them. Others may have thyroid problems; hypothyroidism results in weight gain and slow metabolism, while hyperthyroidism results in the opposite. The hypothalamus, which can change metabolism, can be damaged or abnormal, resulting in a wide range of results including anorexia and weight gain.

So, to put it very succinctly, no, it's NOT that simple.

Help a poor girl out

Some folks know that I recently was laid off. I was injured at my job through no fault of my own, and when I reported it as required, they very quickly laid me off with a lame excuse.

Right now, I'm hurting a lot in the financial arena, and I'm actually considering trying to go on disability because my chronic pain seems to be getting worse, despite trying all of the standard treatments. Most medications don't work on me the way they do on normal people. For example, Benadryl does a fantastic job of calming my allergies, but it does not cause me a bit of drowsiness.

So, I'm trying to be creative about finding ways to keep my head above water. I do a little petsitting when it's available, I clean aquariums occasionally, and I am looking into modeling for non-photographic art.

With this in mind, I also just lowered some of the prices on my photography in my Etsy shop, and I will be adding more pictures if I sell some. If you like animal pictures, just take a peek at the shop and see if there's anything that catches your eye. I also have a couple of drawings in there, but they aren't too good! They're originals, though :)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How to become a famous scientist

Step One: Create a ridiculous hypothesis and treat it as if it were a law set in stone. You're guaranteed success if you somehow include the word "obesity" and plays on people's fear of becoming fat.

Step Two: Don't bother to do any actual scientific work; borrow data from someone else's study.

Step Three: Take the data and manipulate the living hell out of it until it somewhat resembles your goal.

Step Four: Create a computer animation of your twisted data that doesn't actually resemble the hypothesis, but have a voice-over that claims it does. People will just see a bunch of dots and take your word for it as long as you're heavy on the fat scaremongering.

Step Five: Toss out "correlation is not causation", because it doesn't benefit your conclusions. Directly blame fat people for something, and spread it on thick.

Step Six: When someone challenges you, make up some b.s. that counters it. Even if your b.s. directly contradicts the b.s. you used to answer the last question

Step Seven: Profit! Fame! And, as an added bonus, people start shunning their fat friends all because of you, perpetuating fat hatred--that'll teach those fatties to stop eating! You just cured "obesity"! Aren't you awesome?

Some personal stuff

I'm going to do a relatively rare thing here and talk about me.

I got married in May of this year, and we had a pretty good time. I met Brian in 2004, and we have been inseparable ever since. I was initially drawn to his sweet smile, gentle demeanor, and sense of humor. It wasn't until the day after we met that it clicked in my head, "Hey, he's gorgeous!

He put up with me and my 19 snakes, he puts up with my snotty cats (who sometimes pick on his sweet cats), and he does the dishes and laundry. I honestly couldn't ask for more, but he has many other good qualities that are icing on the sweetest cake in the world.

Does he have any non-positive qualities? Sure--he's a klutz! He comes home from work with band-aids on every finger, he stubs his toe at least once a night, and he's accidentally kicked me in the head a couple of times (true!). He also doesn't take hints well, so I have to be very direct when I want something. But, he's agreeable almost to a fault, coos over every boo-boo I incur, and is deliciously fantastic in the bedroom.

He's also thin. Tall and slender, with the body of a runway model (we joke about this a lot), he is a foot taller than I am and a good 50 pounds lighter. We eat the same foods, and he probably eats slightly more food than I do, but our bodies are just metabolically different. And that's okay!

Being fat is CONTAGIOUS! More fearmongering!

[Fat] is contagous
More ludicrous b.s. from the fat researchers: Now they're saying that the 'o' word is contagious! In other words, they now have an excuse to round us up and toss us in fat camps until we starve off the fat.

"They said data on more than 12,000 people suggested the risk was increased by 57% if a friend was [fat], by 40% if a sibling was and 37% if a spouse was.

They argued this showed social factors, such as the body sizes of other people, were important in developing [fatness].

Experts said the New England Journal of Medicine study was not conclusive as other hidden factors could be to blame."

Is there any end to the hysteria and fearmongering? And how do these "scientists" come up with stuff like this and take themselves seriously?

Another fantastic quote from the article:
People come to think that it is OK to be bigger since those around them are bigger
Professor Nicholas Christakis

Yes, how dare people think that it's not a crime to take up space. I don't think there is any more I can add to this. The fat-hate speaks for itself.

(Yes, I do replace the o-word with the f-word, because I find it offensive.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I've been doing some drawing lately. I've never been any good at it, and I'm probably not going to be, but it's fun to pick up the colored pencils and create something. A lot of this work has been self-portraits.

For the fat girls out there, I have a challenge for you: Get out a pencil and blank sheet of paper and draw a sketch of yourself, focusing on the body. I find it's easier to draw my back than my front, because it's less complicated, but whichever view you like is great. Side, back, front, whatever. It doesn't have to be good, detailed, or even realistic. Abstract curves are just fine.

Then, I want you to imagine a thin runway model or emaciated celebrity. Try drawing that person on another sheet of paper. It's hard, isn't it? You want to draw comfortable curves, rounded hips, generous thighs--but drawing someone who is very thin is difficult. Your drawing probably won't look quite as good as the self-portrait.

This isn't to upset the thin folks out there, by the way--it is simply to show that we can perceive ourselves in ways other than mirrors and photographs.


One afternoon, I was driving home from my ex-job, and I decided to take an alternate route. I drove past a business that had an extremely disturbing name:
"Waist Away Women's Fitness Center"

It's a bad pun, and a worse implication. You might as well call it "Anorexia Enablers Women's Emaciation Station". What kind of sick mind thinks that a play on the phrase "waste away" is a positive thing? When have you EVER heard of wasting away to be anything but a sad, miserable thing to happen to anyone?

To me, this is more evidence that the "fitness" industry is really the "disordered eating" industry

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

But Don't You Know That Fat Is Unhealthy?

I have added a nifty button to my sidebar, image courtesy of my best friend, Brian M. For others in the fatosphere, I welcome you to use it--just send me a comment letting me know you've used it so I can go and take a peek! :)

Ad decision

I recently made the decision to put a tiny adsense box in my sidebar. I am currently not working, having been laid off after reporting a work injury (THAT'S a long story), and I'm having trouble finding work that will accommodate my physical limitations. Going on disability is a pretty difficult and lengthy process, but I will be talking to my doctor about its feasibility. I'm also looking into starting a small aquarium maintenance business. I don't need to be wealthy; I just want enough to keep my head above water.

The tiny amount of revenue the ads will generate might help with that. I was going to just have my Etsy store link, but I haven't sold anything out of it yet, so it's not working. I was also pleased with how unobtrusive Google's ads are. I guess they understand that obnoxious, unpleasant ads are repellent to people. I especially hate the "paymybills.com" ads with their horrible graphics and tendency to make my computer vomit!

So, I hope my adsense doesn't offend anyone. I'm very poor right now, and I need all the help I can get.

Otters--and Aliens and Dinosaurs (?!)

By special request from Caitlin, who asked that I write about otters, dinosaurs, and aliens, but the dinosaurs and aliens cannot eat the otters.

I've had a handful of otter experiences. One of my favorites was at the Australia Zoo, which was Steve Irwin's zoo. They were doing an "otter show", and the keeper was wearing some nice thick Wellies. The otters were a small Asian species called the small-clawed otter. The little monsters were doing their best to chew through the boots, and the keeper was talking about how vicious these cute, adorable animals really were. She told us that a "certain animal expert" at the park was overly dismissive of the wee darlings, boasting about his animal handling prowess. So he picked one up and promptly had his thumb bitten down to the bone. He sheepishly admitted his error as he was sent off to the emergency room for stitches. Of course, we all knew who that person was, and she dropped plenty of hints along the way to be sure.

I also had a customer at an aquarium store come in to tell me that her koi pond had been raided and wiped out by river otters. She had spent a great deal of money on koi, and all of them were otter snacks by the end of the summer. She decided all future pond residents would be feeder goldfish after that!

In 2004, an otter species that existed in the time of the dinosaurs was discovered in some Chinese fossil beds. They're calling it a "beaver-tailed otter", and it was about the size of a housecat. It appears to have eaten aquatic animals and insects. It was found with the fossils of other mammal species, one of whom seems to have fed upon dinosaurs and was about the size of an opossum!

As far as otters and aliens go, I recently read a study about the Eurasian otter adapting its food habits based on alien species being introduced to rivers in Italy. The smallmouth bass, a US native, was introduced to Italian rivers, but it was about 13 years before there was evidence of significant predation of these fish by the otters. At first they thought the otters had a learning curve with catching the fish, but it turned out that the bass needed to be present in large enough numbers for the otters' opportunistic feeding habits to affect them. Otters need a LOT of food, as they have high metabolisms, so they'll eat whatever gives them the maximum food for the minimum effort. As the alien bass started nudging out native species, they became so plentiful that the otters were pretty much stuck eating a lot of bass.

Baking with Apples

By special request from my friend E.L., who is awesome.

There is an absolutely enormous quantity of stuff that I could write about apples. Baking with apples narrows it down somewhat, but not terribly much. So I'll just take a slice of that topic and offer the best of baking with apples that I have rolling around in my brain.

Apples are a great subject for baked goods. They're tasty, they're cheap, and they can be used in a lot of ways. The only real problem I have with apples is the chore of coring, peeling, and slicing them. This is extra difficult when your hands and wrists are in a lot of pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and/or carpal tunnel problems. My difficulties were eliminated with one great little piece of equipment, however:

This is an apple peeler. You stick it to a smooth, clean surface, impale an apple, and turn the crank. It peels, cores, and slices the apple all at once. You're left with a spiral-cut peeled apple. I usually then quarter the apple and use a paring knife to trim away any missed core bits (they're unpleasant to bite into, especially in baked goods). You can also choose to leave the peel on while doing the slicing/coring, or peel the whole apple and leave it whole and uncored. The resulting sliced apple pieces are absolutely perfect for baking, and it takes very little time to get through a lot of apples.

Once you've got your apple slices, you're going to want to do something with them, right? Whether it be pie, crisp, or bread, there is a basic recipe that I use to get the apples ready for use. For every 5 medium apples, I use 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, about 1/2 cup brown sugar*, and the tiniest dash of cloves. If you really want to get spicy, add in some ginger, fresh or ground (don't go overboard--a teaspoon is usually enough). I then use my freshly scrubbed hands to mix the mess together. Using a utensil to mix is just inefficient and annoying, and if you don't like the stuff in your hands, you can toss on some disposable gloves.

After mixing it up, I taste a slice to see if it needs a bit more of this or that. Some apples are less tart, sweet, or flavorful than others, so you can adjust the ingredients to get the flavor you like. If your apples are particularly juicy, add in extra flour to absorb the moisture so you don't have a liquidy mess. Before throwing on the top crust, be it for crisp or pie, dot the apple mix with pats of butter.

Apple selection is relatively important. There is a lot of information online about which varieties are best suited to different purposes, so I won't go into it here. I'll just briefly say that, while it's easier to start with a good baking variety, you don't always get to choose. A lot of my baked apple stuff is for the purpose of using up the last of a bag of apples, and apples that are good for raw eating aren't always ideal for baking. So, be aware of the texture, sweetness, juiciness, and tartness of the apples you are baking, and add extra flour, sugar, or lemon juice to make up for it.

Partnering apples with other fruits is a good way to bring out flavor. Cranberries are my personal favorite apple partner. You can use dried ones, which are fairly inexpensive, or pick up fresh cranberries in season. An awesome thing about fresh cranberries is that they keep for a pretty long time in the freezer, so you can stock up a bit when you find them available. You can also use raisins, especially for very tart apple varieties; they add sweetness and texture. Just be aware that not everyone loves raisins, and they tend to look like little bugs in the pie. Cranberries are much prettier.

The best thing you can do is, start with these basic tips and just run with them. Be creative. Don't be afraid to try new things. If you're in doubt about an idea you have, make a tiny version of a pie or crisp in a small tart tin, using only one apple. Enjoy :)

Invasive Algae threatening trout populations

In the Upper Connecticut River and Vermont's White River, an invasive algae called didymo, aka "rock snot", has been found. If it spreads, it could wipe out wild trout populations. Didymo likes cold water and forms huge mats covering gravel and rocks on stream beds. The algae prevents benthic invertebrates from living there, and these invertebrates are the basis for the diet of young trout.

Didymo spreads really easily because the cells are tiny. They absorb into clothing and footwear and stick to hard surfaces, and can survive eight months or more on gear that is not thoroughly cleaned and dried. Using a 5% detergent solution made of dish soap or laundry detergent and hot water to soak clothing and gear for 30 minutes will kill the algae. Hard surfaces like kayaks and fishing gear should be washed in this solution as well.

New Zealand has a lot of experience with this nasty invasive. They have a great website with more information here: http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/


I learned a nifty tip for lifting heavy, awkward items when I was working at the ex-job. You know those gloves with the little plastic "nubs" all over them? If you wear those while lifting, the friction of the nubs against the object helps keep the item from slipping. This allows you to use your strength and concentration better. I also found that rubber gloves of any kind work really well for this purpose.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ow, my tongue!

So, while I was cleaning catboxes, tidying up a bit, and cuddling lonely kitties at Catt's house last night, Brian was making Boboli pizza for us. I didn't allow mine to cool properly, though, and scorched a large section of my tongue pretty badly. When this happens to me, I immediately cool it down with cold water and ice, but it still hurts for days and days afterwards.

I had a secret weapon in my cupboard this time, however. I've been keeping clove oil on hand in case I need to euthanize a fish. We experimented with clove oil as an anesthetic at the university, and it works very well. If they are left in the clove oil, they go to sleep and pass away peacefully. This is far more humane than the other common practices that include freezing and flushing, both of which are utilized at the Albany aquarium store. While a usual fish anesthetic would work (MS-222, aka Finquel), access to it is limited, and there's some information surfacing that indicates that Finquel may be causing blindness in hatchery workers that have been exposed to a lot of it. Clove oil is still not technically approved for use in hatcheries or other situations, but it probably will be within a few years.

That said, clove oil can also be used to numb pain, such as toothaches, and my experience is that its effects last longer than Orajel or Anbesol. You should NEVER use it full strength; it can cause rashes, tissue damage, and other problems. So, I diluted it--1 drop of clove oil in 2 tablespoons of almond oil (I get almond oil at the Indian grocery). I dipped a cotton swab into the mixture, then gently dabbed a small amount over the burnt area of my tongue. It doesn't taste great, but within seconds, the pain was gone. I reapplied a couple hours later.

Today, when I would normally be unable to eat anything that wasn't cold, I had no trouble eating a hot meal. I didn't need to re-apply the mixture since last night, either.

I do recommend that, if you make up a little batch, it should be discarded and a new batch made for the next time you need some. Almond oil should be refrigerated after opening to prevent it going rancid.

For more information, visit the MedlinePlus page about clove oil.

Please note that this blog entry does not constitute medical advice. I am not a medical professional, and you should talk to a doctor about these things. If you read this, do something to yourself based on what you read, and have a bad reaction, I am not responsible.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Missing the point, or deliberately obtuse?

I've noticed that a number of the negative feedback on the size-acceptance blogs comes from people who challenge our facts, then refuse to do any research or reading when they are presented with the answers.

For example, a commenter in Harriet Brown's blog attempted to counter fat-acceptance with the tired arguments about health and "obesity costs the health care system". When presented with suggestions of books to read, or with links to support the opposite, the commenter flatly refused to acknowledge any of the information contained within.

Finally, I pulled information out of the books and links and spoon fed it into the comment thread--and it seemed to be regarded as brand new material by the person. They had no comeback when directly presented with the facts, so they didn't keep pushing the refuted arguments afterwards.

The thing is, it's bloody tiresome to have to re-write the information for every obtuse individual who can't be bothered to read for themselves. Never mind that Kate Harding created this awesome post and linked it to the top of her blog to ward off this type of thing. Or that she directs people to it when they start in on the subject. They just can't be bothered to actually go and read it. So we hear the same crap, over and over, and it's gotten to be aggravating.

Here's the deal: I'm going to direct folks to that link once. If they cannot go and educate themselves on what topics are already discussed to death, that's not my problem--they will be ignored, and comments deleted, because I'm sick of these folks thinking they're being clever by acting deliberately obtuse. No excuse.

Another thing is, I'm tired of people missing the point entirely. When I discussed athleticism's "burden" on the health care system, I was not advocating that people not be athletic. Most people who have half a brain would have figured out that I was trying to make the point that blaming one group or another for "overburdening" the health care system is not just disingenuous, it also hinders real progress in finding solutions to the actual problems in the system. If you decide that fat is the problem, and that diets are going to fix it, you're fooling yourself. I'd like to move the discussion beyond blaming demographic groups for the failings of the health care system. It's not constructive, and it's not even accurate.

In other words, my entry was not an attempt to shift blame onto athletes, it was to point out how EASILY blame is shifted onto another group, depending on one's point of view! I could have picked on illegal immigrants (like most other people do on this topic), or fertility treatment patients (and their scores of multiple preemies), or even old people (they're living too long, darn them!). Silly me, thinking that people ought to be treated like humans who need health care instead of fat, old, athletic, premature leeches on a system--a system that should only be treating the youthful, thin, pretty people, apparently?

So, yes, trolling or baiting comments from the deliberately obtuse or disingenuous will be henceforth ignored and deleted.

The uneasiness of equality

I have come to realize that the size-acceptance blogs are making people uncomfortable with the idea that some doctors expect fat patients to starve themselves before getting treated for real problems. I get responses that don't seem to have anything to do with what I actually said, but were more reflective of defending a preconceived idea of fat = unhealthy.

One thing I'd like to address is the notion that I hate thin people. I don't. I don't think that they are better than I am, but I also don't think that they are worse. It saddens me to think of people who are not naturally thin putting themselves through the psychological and physical trauma of dieting to become that way. I don't believe that people who are naturally thin, though, should try to change that about themselves. My husband is tall and slender. He's also very good-looking. His thinness and good looks, however, are not why I am in love with him. He's the most beautiful person I know, on the inside. I've been attracted to all types of people--fat, thin, conventionally pretty, conventionally ugly. For whatever reason, I don't tend to pick up on these things as much as I pick up on their personality. Looks just aren't really important to me.

Here's another thing: I acknowledge that it is uncomfortable to be in the position of power or superiority, and have the validity of the trait that grants you that position to be challenged. If you've built upon the privilege that comes with being thin, and someone suggests that it's equally as valid to be fat, you stand to lose the things you've gained from that thinness. If your relationship, for example, is based on the person's attraction to your thin body, then you have much to fear if your significant other gets on the "fat is okay too" bandwagon. Suddenly, you have competition that you had completely disregarded.

Also, if you are a thin person who has built status by treating fat people like they are lesser beings, you're going to have a great deal to answer for when they become recognized as equals. Your status is definitely going to change. It's been terribly comfortable being able to claim that your discrimination is based on "health", but as the evidence builds that body size is not an indicator of health, you're apt to become uncomfortable.

I'm reminded of the infamous scene in Indiana Jones, where the massively muscular guy with swords is looming menacingly, whisking those swords around like a scary eggbeater carnival ride. Poor scrawny Indy looks like he's about to get his butt kicked, because the assumption is that the power lies with the muscle-bound dude with the swords. Of course, we all know that Indy whips out his pistol and evens the score. It almost seems unfair, but, hey, the sword guy could have avoided the situation by not picking on someone who appears to be powerless!

And that's the lesson, I suppose. If the idea that fat is not necessarily unhealthy makes you uncomfortable, examine your reasons for feeling that way. Is it because you've been acting superior to fat people, and you'll have to eat crow if the new information is true? Is it because you fear that a fat person will now be competition for jobs and relationships? The easy solution is to find something other than cutting others down to make yourself feel good. Build relationships based on qualities other than physical beauty. In other words, live in a humanitarian fashion, and you will achieve status and happiness by being known for your kind and loving nature. If you base your self-esteem on whom you hate, on being superior to others, then you're bound to become unhappy sooner or later. Step out of the competition and let go of your prejudices. You'll be happier.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Just a little note...

I'm going to leave up the couple of comments on my last entry, made by a teenaged troll who is apparently mounting a crusade against fat acceptance. Further trolling comments, however, will be deleted. If you cannot come up with anything intelligent to say, then don't bother.

The comments were along the lines of, "I'm cooler than you are because you're fat." Nothing intelligent to add to the discussion, just a pathetic attempt at verbal bullying. I hate to think of what her fat schoolmates have to deal with from the mouth of this vicious little creature. But, honey, if you're reading this, the nasty things you say reveal more about you and your character than they do about the folks you're picking on. Grow up.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Costs" of obesity?

Why is it that the fat-haters are railing about how much money fat people cost the health care system (when the evidence for that is shaky at very best), but they're silent on the very real cost of sports-related injuries that have increased a great deal from sixteen years ago?

There was a 33% increase in sports-related injuries in Baby Boomers from 1991 to 1998 (source). Orthopedic surgeons have noted a significant increase in sports-related injuries in children--from 15% to 40% in one doctor's practice. Every year, there are 300,000 mild-to-traumatic brain injuries in children that are classified as sports-related--and 20% of all high school football players sustain brain injuries.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, really. The modern obsession with athleticism is damaging bodies quickly and measurably, and it's affecting people of all ages. While the evidence that fatness (I abhor the term "obesity") has an impact on the cost of health care is specious at best, you won't hear the fat-haters shrilly denouncing the very tangible cost of replacing 16-year-olds' knees, treating football players' head injuries, and, of course, the disability payments and medical costs toward those who chose to engage in high impact athletic activity that damaged their bodies.

It's not that I would begrudge injured athletes care, but when I am hearing that fat people don't deserve medical care because they "choose" unhealth by not starving themselves thin, yet those who engage in activities that cause over a million well-documented injuries per year are actually choosing "health" by doing so, it makes me pretty bitter. I'm doubly so, probably, because I have a debilitating medical condition that is not fat-caused or even fat-related, but many doctors would demand that I starve myself before they are willing to treat my actual problem.

Let's also consider that someone engaging in sports is lauded for their behavior, as if they are contributing something to society by expending energy on activities that really only benefit themselves (or, in the very rare case, some fans, but professional athletes make enough money to pay for their medical costs; it's their job). People who go jogging five miles a day don't benefit society as a whole. They aren't heroes. They're doing it to achieve a personal goal of fitness and/or body shape. Yet, when they sustain injuries as a result of their injuries, no one bats an eyelash at the cost. In fact, a great deal of health resources are expended to get that person back out jogging as soon as possible.

If you're fat, though, it doesn't matter if you volunteer twenty hours a week, build Habitats for Humanity, rescue lost children, and teach illiterate people to read. Your being fat means that you are a drain on society, you're selfish, and you have no value. You don't deserve medical care for conditions that are completely unrelated to being fat.

We have the most awesome priorities, don't we?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Support our troops

I'm sharing this story from a friend's blog. I can't even comment on how this made me feel, and I'm not usually one to be at a loss for words.

One of my friends, a female Iraq War vet, tried to commit suicide last night. She has PTSD so bad that she can't work ... hell, she can't even leave the house. She was hospitalized, for crying out loud ... where the group therapy docs tried to tell her she shouldn't be so angry and should be more of a lady. The men were allowed to be angry all over the place, though.

In a nutshell: since she's female, and women aren't in combat occupational specialties, she does not really have a war-related problem -- according to her VA disability report. She's only "moderately disabled" according to the VA shrink she *fired* ... who said that recovery was highly likely due to a course of treatment that my friend *never got.* Yet, it's in her records as having occurred.

This is what is happening to veterans of this war, people. Magnetic bumper stickers on cars don't do shit to support the soldiers. They come back broken in ways from which they will never recover ... and some of them get to the point where they can't deal with it anymore.

But our fucking moron of a president thinks we're "winning." All he's doing is destroying the lives of people whom he doesn't care about for his own insane ideas of "right" (which basically means he's the king).

This is *so* upsetting ... words fail me. Trust me, this is the short version of the story ... and I'm so frustrated for my friend, who lives half a country away from me (which makes it hard to just show up and let her know that I care).

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's so clever and TRENDY to make fun of fatties!

I was reading some customer reviews of a book on Amazon.com that caught my interest.  I really get aggravated when people make really great points about a subject, then have to do the trendy thing and tie in "OMG OBEEEESITY" to add some juiciness to what they are saying.  ESPECIALLY when it's completely irrelevant.

Here's the review:
 Religion and Science Don't Mix
By  Abominable Abe
The author's points about embryonic stem cell research and creationism in the public schools are extremely important for anyone who embraces modernity and progress. While a handful of other authors attempt to feebly argue the ridiculous idea that modern science was produced by Christian thinking, Harris explains what should be obvious -- that religion is now, and has always been, a serious impediment to science. People who believe in talking donkeys, resurrections, and virgins appearing on grilled cheese sandwiches don't typically make good scientific rationalists.

But these very people are currently trying to force public schools to teach our children that their ancient creation myth -- a fantastic story for which there is only contradictory evidence -- is a good viable alternative to evolution, a well established scientific explanation of human development for which there is a mountain of supporting evidence. These same folks also wish to impede embryonic stem cell research, which could potentially result in cures and treatments for numerous human diseases and afflictions, simply because their prudery-inspired anti-abortion agenda has forced them into the absurd logical conclusion of contending that a 3-day-old blastocyst in a petrie dish is a full fledged person possessing the same rights as anyone reading this sentence.

Now, these religious opponents of progress will insist until they're blue in the face that they're not against science. But watching them make every attempt to stop the advance of very important science like stem cell research and evolution while at the same time insisting that they support "real science" is like watching an obese man deny that he has a weight problem while he dines on a bucket of fried chicken.

[bold/emphasis mine]
Oh yeah, us fatties, always dippin' into a bucket of fried chicken. You never see a fat person without their feed bag strapped on, chowing down on fried foods covered in mayonnaise, right?

I've been vegetarian for 23 years. There isn't much at a fast food restaurant that fits into my dietary choices; even the fries at McDonald's contain dead animal ingredients. I eat less than my tall, slender husband, and our diet would be generally considered "healthy" by the standards of those who abhor fat. This is not done out of an attempt to be healthy; it's because we really like fruits and vegetables, and because we have strong beliefs about the welfare of animals.

Even so, I remain fat, because fat is not about the food you eat, and I dare anyone who doubts this to eat the same amount I do for a month--I typically eat less than most people because I get full on very little food. Most slender people I know would be starving and miserable on my level of food intake.

But hey, I'd better put that bucket of dead bird down, because I can't admit that I have a problem!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The nobility of suffering

Suffering is not, in and of itself, a noble thing.

In some cases, it can be noble. If it's for the purpose of benefiting others, like the sacrifices made by soldiers, firefighters, and other service organizations, then there is nobility in it. Those who willingly suffer to further a cause, perhaps civil rights activists, are also noble. People who do these things deserve recognition and gratitude for their sacrifices. Also, those whose suffering cannot be prevented deserve sympathy, and they can be counted as brave for their ability to take on life's basic challenges in the face of pain.

On the other hand, there is also pointless suffering, which people seem to think should get the same recognition and gratitude. This includes the self-martyred people who sigh, moan, and complain so that they can get attention, those who put themselves through the grind to have logo clothing and swanky cars, and those whose preventable suffering makes life more difficult for those around them. If you're too stubborn to break a pointless habit that creates more pain for you, you do not deserve a medal for your suffering. If you're too proud to admit that you might need help, and end up just making your health worse because of it, you're not being noble. And if you are suffering a painful condition, but you push yourself to work through the pain so you can buy yourself frivolities, then the frivolities are your reward--you do not have my sympathy or admiration.

Our culture puts a value on suffering for its own sake. Deny yourself food. Deny yourself sex. Wear uncomfortable shoes. Stand for painful hours on a hard floor doing a job that could be done just as well sitting. Stay in an abusive relationship with your spouse, boss, parents, whoever. This venration of misery can be traced back to religion, of course, but I also suspect that many people have forgotten how to be happy, and because of this, they cannot stand to see it in others. Have you ever been smiling or laughing, only to be met with a scowl from a complete stranger? Joy is regarded with suspicion, while despair is regarded as normal and unremarkable.

People get the idea that submitting themselves to hardship and anguish is admirable, and that permitting themselves to feel anything else is shameful. Consequently, they expect to be rewarded for the former, even if their doing so is completely avoidable and unnecessary. How do we break through this mentality and accept that it is okay to be happy? What can we do to promote an ideal of relieving pain and alleviating suffering?

Reflections on my first (and LAST) experience working for a temp agency

One day, out of the blue, I recieved a job offer. With honeyed tongue, she dangled a nice wage, some decent benefits, and "temp to perm", meaning that the company was (supposedly) looking to hire the temporary worker, if that worker was satisfactory. They lauded themselves as good folks who take care of their workers.

On the tail end of this job, I realized that the worker was nothing more than a commodity, a rental unit to be sold to the client. The agency's main interest is in taking care of the client, because that's where the money is. Don't expect the agency to be on your side if there is a conflict or a problem. You'll be the problem, for even bringing it up. Workers who don't put up and shut up lose their value, and if your value drops, they drop you.

The most important thing to remember is that your work hours aren't just bringing you a paycheck; they are bringing the agency money as well. The more hours you work, the more money they get. If you're late to work, they lose money. If you have a doctor's appointment during work hours, they lose money. If you are sick and call in, they lose money. They don't like you cutting into their profits by being a human being. It's pretty safe to say that if you are not in excellent health, it's not worth your while to work for a temp agency. They won't tolerate your being ill or needing to go to the doctor.

Be wary of companies that utilize a lot of temporary help, too. Supervisors who are willing to pay a premium for temporary help are generally types who prefer the idea of "disposable people". They don't like to dirty their hands with dealing with human beings; they'd rather leave that up to the agency. The supervisor where I worked was very much this way. There was a revolving door of temporary laborers; on any given day, there were at least two (out of six) line workers that were temporary. These workers generally changed almost every day, so every morning was a training session before things could get started.

However, even those employed by the company directly were treated as interchangeable cogs in a machine. One employee, who was in the hospital, was threatened with firing if he took more than one day off to be there. Another was told, "Why don't you go home and cry like a baby about it?" when he asked to stop for a bit, because the work he was doing created blisters all over his hands. Workers are told that they can be replaced easily, so they fear being ill, or simply not being liked by the boss, who would arbitrarily decide that perfectly decent employees were irritating because of the way they looked or sounded.

I wish there were a more honorable system out there, that companies had some kind of incentive to hang on to employees that are doing satisfactory work. It seems like there is no loyalty in the workplace anymore, no security. Why shouldn't people expect that they'll not be replaced as long as they're not doing anything wrong? Why do we have this atmosphere of nitpicking the negative--employee files full of piddly mistakes, but never the good things? There is no respect for people, especially from corporations. The moment one downtrodden little man gets his hands on some power, he rarely wields it benevolently; he promptly forgets his roots and proceeds to tread on those in his employ. And it's just that much easier to do when they're a temp worker.

Say NO to temp agency headhunters.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Fat Hate Nation

I was really enjoying Fast Food Nation, until it started in on the fatphobia "omfg obeeeeeeeeeesity epidemic!!!!" bullshit, complete with the flawed statistics that the CDC ended up retracting (omg 300,000 people are KILLED by being fat every year! ... oh wait guys, we were kinda wrong on that, sorry, our bad).

He bought the obesity crap hook line and sinker, and I'm really disappointed in that part of the book. After all, he made REALLY good points right up TO that section, and even after it, but hey, gotta take a stab at the fatties! The E.coli and Salmonella spread by crappy (literally) meatpackers kill people, and that can be actually proven with real science, but you don't see THAT on the news. After all, little kids dying of bacterial infections don't give us a convenient target for hatred!

I want to take that section of the book and just black it out. I know that it's trendy to blather on about the obeeeeeeeeesity epidemic, but that doesn't mean it's accurate. I really would like to send the author a copy of Paul Campos' "The Diet Myth".

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A few of my favorite things

I write so much about the things that make me sad or angry, and I have come to realize that those who don't know me well might draw the (incorrect) conclusion that I am not a very happy person. This is absolutely not true--I am absolutely joyful. Despite having fibromyalgia, which keeps me in a perpetual state of pain, my life has never been better than it is now. Here are a few things that bring me joy:

1. My husband. Brian is a gentle, kind person who is just as in love with me as I am with him. We both feel lucky to have found one another, and we click so perfectly that I often wonder if I'm dreaming. He is vegetarian, animal-loving, shy, a lot sexy, long-haired, geeky, silly, highly intelligent, and has great handyman skills. AND he washes dishes. Most importantly, though, our chemistry is great. We have a great sex life because we're into each other and have similar libidos.

2. My creatures. Our four cats are the best companions in the world. They each have different personalities, and they're very in tune with us. If I'm upset, Morgan and Aakhu come to me and try to make it better. My reptiles are also a source of joy for me; bringing up the little ones from babies, and rescuing the others--it's been very rewarding. While Gregor still occasionally bites me, Julian has grown up to be sweet, gentle, and everybody's favorite. My friends can't wait for me to die so they can inherit him, haha.

3. Nature. I became a biologist for a reason--I find the natural world fascinating and rewarding. I especially enjoy birdwatching, but I also like looking for woodland wildflowers, doing stream surveys, and finding strange and wonderful things washed up on the beach.

4. The ocean. I have always felt drawn to the ocean. Every time I visit the coast and get my feet a little wet, I feel renewed. The smell, the birds, the feel of the sand, and the sound of the water--it all feels like home to me, for some reason.

5. Cake. Yes, I love cake. That's why I have the cupcake blog listed under my favorites :)

6. Mangoes. Sweet, delicious, and exotic. What's not to love?

7. Frozen grapes on a hot summer day. They're sweeter when frozen, I swear. And they cool me off faster than anything else.

8. Aquariums.

9. Having purple hair. I tell people that purple IS my natural color; I just was born with the wrong hair color. A purple-haired girl trapped in a brown-haired girl's body. I now have a job that permits purple hair, and I couldn't be happier!

10. Art. Brian and I have a pretty decent collection of framed art, because he frames pictures for a living. I pick up locally produced art at festivals and farmers' markets, and he will frame them and surprise me with them later. Mermaids and fish are a fairly common theme for art in this household. Liza Phoenix is a favorite artist.

Take your kid's pain seriously!

This blog post really bothers me:
"Mommy, I Need a Wheelchair"

I really think that they should be listening to the kid and taking her seriously, instead of trying to deny her relief from her pain. Their experiment with giving her a wheelchair at the mall ended up with a very happy child that got up and used her legs when she was feeling up to doing so, but was able to rest and enjoy her outing when she wasn't feeling good. It sounds like she is more concerned with what other people think than with her daughter's comfort.

All she has to do is give it a try, and see if her fears about the girl "giving up" are grounded or not. Otherwise, the kid will give up after a few more years of her pain being disregarded by her parents and doctors. Start listening and giving her comfort NOW so that she does not hate you for it later, or so that she does not sink into depression. Chronic pain is very stressful, and it can lead to other health problems if it is left untreated.

I myself CAN walk, but if I'm hurting badly, or if I know that I'm not going to be able to complete the outing without considerable effort and strain, I will opt for wheels so that I can focus on something other than making it through the day without collapsing. Shopping, visiting a museum, and enjoying a festival are ALL much more rewarding for me if I'm not blinded by the red haze of agony and fatigue. Thank god I am an adult and can speak up and make decisions for myself. If I had to go through this as a child, with my pain being invalidated by those who are supposed to be caring for me, I would be crushingly depressed and perpetually angry. It would make me feel as if I were unimportant, a burden, worthless.

I wish I could do something for that child to make her doctors and family make her pain a priority over the "OMG STIGMA" they are afraid of. Being in a wheelchair, and limiting certain activities (as one doctor suggested she do) is not going to make a person give up. It's simply a reasonable recognition of physical limitations--limitations that can be made up for in other ways. If she's not doing long distance running, then get her involved with a low-impact activity.

Children don't need to engage in hard-core exercise as it is--there's been a significant increase in sports injuries in young children because kids are being pushed too hard to perform at elite athletic levels. Do we really need to expect the same of a child with cerebral palsy who suffers from chronic pain? Activity does not have to involve distance running in order to be physically beneficial--this goes for all ages. Mild-to-moderate exercise is sufficient for health purposes. Gardening, average speed walking, swimming, yoga, and tai chi are enough to keep you healthy without doing damage to your joints. And for someone with chronic pain, it's better to not aggravate sensitive muscles with strenuous exercise.

I am also of the belief that exercise doesn't need to be mindless and boring. Birdwatching combines nature, science, and walking--from a gentle hike through easy trails, to serious hiking with some climbing involved, depending on the venue. Gardening is good exercise, and it is productive and educational. Nature walks down a local stream are also great--my family would often do these, encountering snakes, fish, frogs, turtles, and lots of different plant life. Going to interactive museums and places with "kid zones" are great ways to combine fun and exercise as well. I truly believe that the best way to keep kids active (and reasonably active, not insanely athletic) is to make it interesting.

In a nutshell, I really think the little girl should get her wheelchair, and her folks can then sort out some guidelines and plans for keeping her active when she is feeling up to it. Do it, before her pain causes her any more harm than it already has.

Too fat for adoption

I read about the woman who was denied adoption because of her weight. Junkfood Science and Kate Harding covered the subject beautifully, but here are my thoughts anyway:

I was horrified at the story of the woman who was "too fat to adopt". I have PCOS. Because of this, I am short an ovary (it had to be removed three years ago because it was encased in a huge cyst), a fallopian tube, and a chunk of uterus (both removed along with the ovary three years ago).

My husband's friend also has PCOS, and somehow managed to beat the odds and conceive three times--and she REALLY wanted children. She has one daughter and had two miscarriages.

Because of the PCOS, she gained a lot of weight very quickly. She tried really hard to lose it, but, as you probably know, it's next to impossible with insulin resistance to lose weight. I would guess that she is at least as large as the woman in the news story. Guess what? She's a great mother, and her weight does not prevent her from giving her daughter a happy, healthy upbringing.

I am sure that Kylie Lannigan would not be refused IVF if she offered up her money to a fertility doctor. I suppose these fat-haters would prefer she put her body and feelings at risk with IVF than be permitted to adopt? Not only are the hormones and the rest of the process really hard on the body, but it's awful to have failed attempts at IVF. Many women mourn every failure as a miscarriage (which it is). It's also possible that she would end up with multiple viable fetuses and have to make the choice to terminate a few or try to carry too many babies to term. All of this, plus going broke trying to make a baby with your own genes--is it worth it, if there are adoptable children available, and you are willing to choose adoption over IVF?

She could give an EXISTING child a loving home, spending her monetary resources on clothing, toys, food, and other kid stuff, instead of blowing it on expensive, risky, and often unsuccessful medical procedures. I guess the adoption folks would rather advance their agenda of discrimination, though, than actually find loving homes for the children that need them.

Now, if you look at biological parents, my husband's parents are not thin people. They would fall into the category of "overweight" or beyond, yet they managed to raise three happy, healthy, well-adjusted children to adulthood. Brian and his sister are both naturally thin, while his brother is naturally stocky. I've never thought about a person's size as a factor in their ability to parent children.

How about we focus resources on making sure that truly abused children get the interventions they need? Or that needy families get support so that they can give their children the best possible start in life? Whose boneheaded idea was it to waste resources on persecuting fat people who are or would be perfectly good parents?

For the record, I am incredibly fortunate that I have no desire to have children. My husband and I are both just not interested in them, and I got thoroughly burned out on childcare, being the oldest cousin on both sides of the family. Years of forced babysitting (without pay) was enough of raising kids for me! I'm also just not into hairless apes. I'm into scaly creatures, furry felines, and slimy sea life :)