Sunday, September 30, 2007

Let's talk about sex

Mom, for gods' sake, please don't read this. You will die of embarrassment, and so will I. :P

In my last entry, I wrote:
Last night, I cuddled close to my lovely husband, enjoying his presence. I love to hear him breathing, hear his heart beating, smell his unique scent, and feel his smooth skin and soft hair under my fingers, lips, and cheeks. I nuzzle his neck, arms, hair, and back while touching his hips, legs, and torso with my fingertips. He is warm, cuddly, and does not pull away from me when I press myself against him. He permits me to touch him anywhere, everywhere, anytime; he is completely open to me all of the time, completely mine all of the time. He does not deny me a kiss or a touch, a hug or a smile. We have sex often, without restrictions or conditions attached, in many ways, with both of us enjoying it, neither submitting joylessly to the other.

In that entry, I talked about the joy of not having to sleep alone. Now, I want to talk about sex.

I like sex. Even though idiotic jackasses of long ago tried to say that women aren't capable of sexual fantasy, and they tried to deny our enjoyment of it, I am yet another woman that has the gall to enjoy sex. I know, I know, I should be shot, right?

As long as I can remember, I have been bombarded with the message that sex is a commodity, something that women engage in because they want something in return, not because they like it. Men are little more than animals that will give just about anything for sex, while women hold it in front of them like a carrot on a stick. Sex is to be used to manipulate, to bargain, and to acquire, but it is not to be enjoyed in and of itself if you're a woman. It's a distasteful, miserable act, barely tolerable, but if you want your husband to give you money or let you go out with the girls, you have to grit your teeth and spread your legs.

Then, at an age I will not specify, I found that my body did actually want that dirty stuff! I liked it, and I was appalled that someone would lead another person on, leaving them frustrated, just to manipulate them into something. My first marriage was a disaster, and a huge part of that was my former spouse's icy libido. Since I had grown up with the idea that the man always wants it, and the woman is always denying it, I somehow had the idea that my being a woman who wanted it all the time was a desirable thing. Not so, with the first spouse; we were a complete role-reversal of the sexual stereotypes. I felt betrayed, ugly, and, of course, extremely frustrated. There are only so many times a sex toy is sufficient; I needed a man's warm body pressing against mine; I needed kisses, I needed hugs, I needed to be held and stroked. In other words, I needed someone else.

I suppose that relationship, despite the anguish it put me through, prepared me to appreciate those very basic things. I probably drive him nuts sometimes, but I marvel at being touched, kissed, and admired. I feel a sense of wonder when I touch him, a joy and relief at finding someone who is unconditionally in love with me. I don't think that I will ever be able to take these things for granted because I know what it is like to be in a relationship without them, to beg, plead, and cry to have them and be denied. To have to ask permission (and often be denied) to kiss or be kissed, to touch or be touched. I hope I never again have to live that way, but as long as Brian and I both live, I won't.

A sleep partner is a wonderful thing

Last night, I cuddled close to my lovely husband, enjoying his presence. I love to hear him breathing, hear his heart beating, smell his unique scent, and feel his smooth skin and soft hair under my fingers, lips, and cheeks. I nuzzle his neck, arms, hair, and back while touching his hips, legs, and torso with my fingertips. He is warm, cuddly, and does not pull away from me when I press myself against him. He permits me to touch him anywhere, everywhere, anytime; he is completely open to me all of the time, completely mine all of the time. He does not deny me a kiss or a touch, a hug or a smile. We have sex often, without restrictions or conditions attached, in many ways, with both of us enjoying it, neither submitting joylessly to the other.

I want to comment on the joy of sharing a bed with another human being. Somewhere in our recent history, this became strictly an adult privilege, with children left to face the nights alone. I never understood why our most emotionally vulnerable people are the ones who are abandoned nightly whilst their parents go off to share a bed with one another. Most of these parents are, in fact, unhappy and miserable if they have to spend a night apart from their spouse.

If we look at other cultures, the family tends to sleep together. The modern tendency to separate children from parents and one another is a recent phenomenon that occurs in Western culture. Western parents have been taught that they need to drill independence into their kids from birth, and I truly believe that this has emotionally crippled more of us than we'd like to admit. As for myself, I remember being horrifically lonely when sleeping alone, and when I was a teenager, I probably would have been a happier, more secure person if I could have shared my sleeping space--with the person of my choosing, of course.

If I had grown up in an earlier culture, I would have spent my childhood in a family bed, then married young so I did not have to sleep alone. While there are obvious negatives associated with being a woman in those days, I believe that it is completely unnecessary to sacrifice the good of family closeness. I honestly cannot imagine having grown up in a family bed, and the idea makes me cringe--but I believe that it only makes me cringe because of closeness and touching issues I have that are probably less prevalent in people who grow up with the family bed.

I began dating someone in college who became a very serious significant other, a relationship that lasted about three years. We would often take naps together, and the closeness of that was more gratifying to me than sex would have been. I had never before had the privilege of that type of contact since I was a small child. Curling up with another person for naps is a natural, wonderful activity, and I wish there were a way to not deny young people that joy. I know that most parents fear for their teenagers' chastity, but perhaps permitting the closeness of co-sleeping would make young people feel more emotionally secure and less likely to seek out sex out of a craving for basic human contact.

I don't have the answers here, and these are just my opinions and feelings, the things that result from reflecting upon my happy relationship.

Lady gets trapped in medical scanner

So, a cancer patient got left in a CT machine after the staff forgot about her and went home for the night.

From the article:
After calling out, then screaming for help, she said, she spent several hours trying to free herself from the machine. Finally, she wiggled out from under a heavy blanket and out of the machine. By the time deputies found her, it had been five hours since she was placed inside.

A physician who works at the practice and knew of the incident told The Arizona Daily Star it's not the first time such a thing has happened. "People have been left in the office after hours, when something like that happens — it's the same sort of thing," Dr. Steven Ketchel said. "My guess is she was lying on the table, waiting and waiting and nobody told her she could go home.

What Dr. Steven is saying does not mesh with her experience. It sounds like he's trying to say she was just lying there, all done with her scan, and all she really needed was to realize that she could leave. Yet, she had to wiggle free of the machine itself and a heavy blanket on her (maybe some kind of lead blanket to block off parts that weren't being scanned?)--which tells me that the tech did NOT complete the scan, because she would have had the woman out of the machine and removed the blanket.

I've had a few CT scans, and while they aren't as scary as an MRI, they are pretty weird. I'm wondering how the patient was unable to free herself from it, because it's a fairly large machine. Maybe it was an MRI, and the people in quoted in the article are misinformed? Because it really WOULD take hours to wiggle out of an MRI; you have so little clearance around your body, and having a cumbersome blanket on top of her would make it hard. Plus, I don't think she speaks English, so it's possible that she was mistranslated.

People ask, "How could this happen?" Easy answer: Drugs. Maybe marijuana, but I'm guessing prescription opioids. I'll be looking for a followup, and I'll lay money on the tech being on drugs, and I'll also bet it was an MRI machine.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

World Wide Play Day

Today, my best friend Adam came over to hang out. He reminded me that today was World Wide Play Day, and suggested that we go out to a park. So, we packed a lunch (Tofurky cranberry & stuffing slices and cheddar cheese slices with wheat bread for sandwiches, a package of fresh snap peas, a bag of apples, and two fresh homemade lavender and dark chocolate brownies), grabbed a blanket and my camera, and set off for a favorite location of mine: Plotter Kill Nature Reserve.

While we didn't take the portion of the trail that goes past the waterfalls, I did manage a pretty long hike, and Adam was patient with my slower progress, giving me a hand to steady me for steep downward portions. We saw and heard blue jays, chickadees, a downy woodpecker, a gray catbird, and many other species. I introduced him to the carroty scent of Queen Anne's lace and pointed out what poison ivy looks like. I saw no reptiles or amphibians, but I wasn't looking for them.

Five years ago, I would have completed the circuit with no trouble. I actually rescued a kitten in Plotter Kill back then (her name is Akira, and she lives with someone that I worked with at the time), and it was a favorite spot for me to visit with friends. Now, I'm going to take a couple days to recover from the exertion, but it was well worth the effort.

Everyone else is doing it: Guess the weight :)

Okay, so, here's a picture of me.

Let's see if people can figure out my weight based on that photo.

They're getting more shrill every day!

Aww, poor widdle diet industry, are the mean, nasty Americans finally figuring out that you're peddling snake oil? How dare they! You just aren't shaming them enough! After all, there are only 113 comments on this story, most of which are spewing the same tired b.s. rhetoric that you've beaten into the public's tiny little minds. I guess you'll have to fund some more bullshit "studies"!

But wait! Shaming and fearmongering isn't doing it anymore! What are you going to do when people stop buying your crappy supplements? What's going to happen when they figure out that paying you for services that have a 98% failure rate amounts to fraud? I can't wait to see what kind of imaginative horror you try to scare people with in order to bilk them out of more of their money.

Fine, I'll talk about it.

Please note: If you are related to me, you might be upset by this entry. If it's going to piss you off, I'd rather you just not read it.

I was hesitant about writing this in my blog, because of a certain segment of the audience. I've decided, though, that: 1. I am 33 years old, and am not dependent on people who would be upset by this, and 2. I really have nothing to be ashamed of, even though other people may feel differently. So, I'm going to tell this story, and if it's upsetting or shocking, that's not my problem. It's been my problem for over 20 years now, and it's about time I lay the cards on the table.

Let me start by telling the later part of this story, because it reveals just how I viewed my own value, and how young and foolish I was.

I had a friend, I'll call this friend M (not his true initial), who was fairly interesting, and who had experienced a rough life. M actually dated my friend Michelle for a period, but he and I were just friends. One day, I was going to meet M at the mall to see a movie. I think I was 16 at the time, maybe 15, not sure exactly. Anyway, M was broke (per usual), but I knew someone who lived nearby, so I suggested we walk over and see if I could borrow money from this person, F. Now, there was absolutely no reason for me to even want to see F's face, but at the time, I blamed myself for certain things because I really thought I was a worthless piece of crap. F politely chatted for a moment, told us he had nothing to loan, and we went on our way to just hang out and chat, since we couldn't see the movie. F, being a vindictive, spiteful asshole (I'll explain why in a moment), hatched a plan to have his mommy (who came home while we were chatting on F's doorstep--we did NOT enter the house) call my parents and tell them a lie. His mommy did not KNOW this was a lie, but that's neither here nor there. She called up and told my father that M and I had come over to F's house and asked if we could have sex in the house. Not only was I not interested in M in that way, but F's house is the LAST place I would want to do that in.

Didn't matter, though, I was grounded and made to feel like I was a disgusting, worthless whore. I don't remember much of what happened after, except that I was really just wishing I had the guts to hang myself, and I was able to have Monica call F's mother and tell her the real story, and have F's mother call my parents and retract the bullshit. That didn't matter either; my parents thought F's mother was lying or something THAT time, and I was still a dirty whore.

But wait, why would F do such a thing? What had I done to offend him so? Well, this is the part that's going to be a big bomb, because I've only told a few people about this--my past and present husbands, my long-ago significant other Dean, and a female friend that I'm not going to name.

F was pissed off because, even though he had been after me to do so since I was TWELVE YEARS OLD, I would not willingly have sex with him. He got what he wanted once, when I was young, terrified, and unwilling. People can crow all they want about, "If you really don't want it, you'll fight and scream," but unless you've been a frightened pre-teen who's faced with someone who's bigger, stronger, and doesn't accept no for an answer, you do not the fuck know what it is like. My warped little child's mind actually feared getting punished for being found in that situation more than what was going on, and feared being punished if I told anyone. After, I pretended it hadn't happened, and subjugated that experience as much as I could. How to explain that I didn't want F as a friend anymore? How to explain that I hated him? And, of course, F took my lack of acknowledgement of the event as my condoning it after the fact, despite protests before and during, and thereafter hounded me for a repeat, occasionally becoming angry and demanding at my continued refusal. I was careful not to put myself into a position where I was alone with F ever again.

Even so, I felt just as violated by the cruelty he inflicted later, and the irony of being punished for something I didn't do--because I wasn't WILLING to do the very thing I was being punished for, was just overwhelmingly painful and awful. I believed at that moment, and for a long time after, that there really is no justice in the world, and that everything in my life will turn to shit because I don't deserve to be happy or free. It is a primary reason that I live my life in a constant cringe, waiting for some bullshit thing to take away my freedom and happiness. (I also picked up the idea that, it doesn't matter what I do, I'm going to get punished for something whether or not I did it, so I might as well have the enjoyment of committing the crime._ I don't really know how to overcome it, but acknowledging the source is probably a good first step, along with constantly reminding myself that, now that I am an adult, and I am free to go where I please and associate with the people of my choosing, no one can sever me from my social life over some ridiculous, vengeful bullshit.

You can call me a dirty whore if you want, but I'm going to get in my car, go where I want, and spend time with friends. I don't have to hate myself, or think that I am worthless anymore. I can love myself unconditionally, even if I'm fat, disgusting, stupid, or a slut--and anyone who thinks those things of me is free to go and find someone less abhorrent to care about. I've got me, I've got my husband, and I have a lot of friends that know otherwise.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fat/Rape connection

Okay, my mother reads my blog, so I am not going to go into a personal story on this matter. I just don't want to go there.

But, let's look at the study:
Researchers surveyed about 2,500 men and women aged 21 and found 7.5 % had had intercourse against their will before the age of 16.

While the men had no significant weight difference to other men, female victims were much more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) over 25, making them officially overweight.

I have at least a couple problems with this:
1. It seems, at least to me, that it downplays the real psychological (and possibly physical) results of rape. Hey, rape's not serious--oh WAIT! It makes you FAT! Time to take it seriously! Well, at least let's try to figure out how to make the raped women thin; rape prevention isn't really our concern.

2. They are drawing the conclusion that the association is due to overeating. This is sloppy research, because it shows that they haven't looked at the fact that being fat isn't caused by overeating.

How about, if you're raped, you're probably more likely than a non-raped person to be on a prescription antidepressant, the side effects of which almost always include WEIGHT GAIN? Now, I just pulled that out of my ass, yet it involved more logic and critical thinking than the lazy bastards who came up with "Omg, raped women are binge eating to cope with their trauma!"

I honestly think that these types of researchers are so hungry for the fat research grants that they'll run roughshod over people with real problems just to make lame associations like this, without actually coming up with something helpful. I suppose, though, that when they're all operating from the false premise of "fat = bad", it's difficult to get them to back up far enough to change the root of the problem. The more of us that are saying it, though, the more likely it'll happen.

I'm fat and I wear Crocs. Deal with it.

You'd think this guy was just kidding, but he's not.

Apparently, Crocs are responsible for people being fat. This is because, according to some guy who makes his money off of "boot camps for brides before weddings", kids "clop along" in Crocs, or shuffle their feet. It makes me wonder if he's ever 1. seen kids walk, or 2. worn a pair of Crocs. I've seen plenty of kids shuffling as they move; hell, I did it, and I remember it being part of an attitude, not because of the shoes I was wearing. If I wanted to run, though, I bloody well ran until the asthma attack happened (before you ask, I was a THIN child and teen--asthma is a disease of the lungs, not the result of adipose tissue). When I was in high school, I was capable of dashing up or down two flights of stairs in high heels.

Now that I'm older, and I've been stricken with this stupid disease, I can't wear the heels anymore. I'm not doing a lot of running. But, I do wear Crocs. I've worn them on hikes, and I've run short distances in them without trouble. In fact, they're much easier for me to wear for those activities than other shoes, because they are light, ergonomic, and fit me very well. Wearing Crocs has pretty much eliminated all plantar fasciitis pain, enabling me to be more active than I otherwise could be. "Athletic" shoes have caused me nothing but foot pain throughout the years; I've spent a great deal of time and money trying out different brands, and while a couple brands were less painful than the rest, none have given me the freedom from pain that Crocs have.

Perhaps the big name athletic shoe companies are feeling a bite in their profits due to the success of Crocs. How about, instead of planting little fitness fascists (like the weenies in this article) to insinuate that shoes are making kids fat, they develop competitive, comfortable products that serve the needs of the customers they are losing? How about recognizing that people want to spend money on shoes that don't hurt their feet, don't fall apart within three months, and are simple to clean and care for? Sorry, large shoe companies, but I've thrown too much money away on your products, only to have them give me blisters, not provide enough shock absorption to prevent knee and ankle pain, and to be unsalvageable if I stepped in something disgusting. Learn from your losses instead of badmouthing your competitors.

Here's quote from Junkfood Science:
Crocs are certified by the U.S. Ergonomics Council and the American Podiatric Medical Association and they’re designed to help with certain foot and circulation problems. Will anti-obesity initiatives be coming after nurses, elderly, cashiers, gardeners, diabetics, and those with foot problems next?

Also, the article included a quote from some doctor:
"I have seen 9-year-olds with type 2 diabetes," Hassink said. "Obesity is an indicator. It tells us about our environment, about our culture. It is the canary in the mine."

What she's not mentioning is that this is most likely due to the fact that prepubescent kids have a natural and temporary insulin resistance that is associated with hormonal changes and growth. This is normal and natural, allowing them to have the energy stores needed for growth and puberty. Remember, puberty? When girls get curvy? Remember when it was okay for women to look like women instead of prepubescent boys? Anyway, this (again, temporary) period of insulin resistance in growing children (remember, too, they're supposed to do that--get bigger as they get older) can lead to overzealous practitioners to label the kid with type 2 diabetes. This would be due to the fact that, in the past, no one really bothered checking for it, so kids sailed through that period of development without anyone knowing a thing.

Now, of course, they put on some fat layers as part of puberty, and everyone PANICS! because OMG ADIPOSE TISSUE OMG OMG! So we had to start testing them to prove that it's a bad thing--and of course, a healthy 9 year old kid is just the right age to start testing as insulin-resistant. Instead of waiting it out to see if it's normal puberty changes, we now have to medicate the hell out of the kid, put them on a treadmill, and enforce a 200 calorie per day diet so they don't become socially unacceptable. Because it's healthy, you know.

I'm so old that I remember when kids were allowed to do kid things, without having a mortal fear of food being programmed into them. We got to play, and physical activity was allowed to be fun. Our day wasn't scheduled from dawn to dusk, leaving plenty of room for creative activity. Reading a book was regarded as an acceptable activity instead of a fattening one. We played outside in the worst possible shoes (thongs, aka flip flops!), or even in BARE FEET. Mom gave us cookies, and we thought of them as a wholesome snack because they were fresh and mom-made. Those cookies gave us the energy to build our bodies, our brains, and our spirits, refreshing exhausted little bodies that had been busy and running around for hours; refreshing needy little hearts with mom-love; refreshing tired little brains with a boost of much-needed calories.

What happened to all that? What happened to childhood being fun? Can't we back things up about twenty years and stop this foolishness? I am SO glad I'm not having children in the paranoid climate we have today.

P.S. I highly recommend Sandy's take on this, as well as Big Fat Blog's.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Interesting quote from David Byrne

I think it’s not surprising that the values and public behaviors of the upper classes became considered more moral, refined, stimulating and well, high class — being the upper class, or wealthy or powerful you would want to give that impression — except for fox hunting? Fox hunting too. We know that hunting fox, peacock and small game became something the nouveau riche adopted too. The morals of the upper classes are probably no better or worse than your average double wide inhabitant, but somehow most people believe that attending the opera and drinking fine wines makes you a better person. It does not. Living in a double wide does not make you a lesser person either, though financial pressures would be more acute.


David Byrne is one of the few non-goth artists I like who is either:
1. alive or
2. still making music

He's BOTH, in fact, which makes him really, really cool. Don't die anytime soon, will you David? You're one of the few artists I listen to without getting depressed. Yeah, I know, the 90's grunge kick I was on was entirely my own fault, but how was I to know half the bands I liked would have their frontmen dying of heroin use and/or its consequences? Why couldn't they have just smoked pot?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wristy business

I have been taking a break lately due to my wrist/elbow acting up. Before I switched to an ergonomic keyboard and Logitech Trackman mouse, I was in an immense amount of pain from repetitive stress on my wrists, elbows, and shoulders. The split keyboard was a godsend, eliminating most of my pain, and later on I got the Trackman, which pretty much made everything right with the world.

That was maybe 10 years ago. Then, I got fibro, and computer use has to be balanced more carefully because of it. Unfortunately, this also means that the right hand needs to be rested and cared for gently, so that means writing and drawing are out during flare-ups. If I have to use a regular mouse and keyboard (like at my last job), I'll be hurting pretty badly within an hour, so it could be worse.

Now, since I walk on my hands instead of my feet, destroying my poor joints with crushing weight, this is obviously the result of my being fat. If I could just pry myself out of the McDonald's booth to which my skin has grafted itself, maybe I wouldn't have these problems. Right? Ha!

Anyway, I have a few things bouncing around in my mind to write about, so when this flare subsides, there'll be stuff! Meanwhile, it's wrist braces and cat therapy for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Let's talk about teeth

Edited to add:
Apparently, some people lack reading comprehension, and proclaimed this article to be "dumb", "irrational", and says that it makes vegetarianism look bad. Aside from the obvious projection going on, let me say this: Nowhere in this blog entry do I tell you that humans are or are not naturally herbivores. Nowhere do I say that you should become a vegetarian. It is simply a humorous way to respond to those pain-in-the-ass people who come up with silly arguments like this. If you take it as anything else, then you're reading way too much into it. If you are upset by this, then click on something else and go on with your day. There is no reason for you to be a dick to me over what you read in this article.

Edit #2: I've gotten a lot of feedback stating that hippos are omnivores. While there are occasional reports of carnivory, cannibalism, and carrion-eating, these reports are few and far between, and it is generally accepted that this is the result of abberant behavior or nutritional stress. During shortages of their preferred grasses, they typically first turn to aquatic vegetation and elephant dung as an alternative. If, during the drought season, they do eat meat, seemingly out of desperation, it can have disastrous consequences in the form of diseases such as anthrax. In zoological parks, they are fed herbivore diets, and this is the absolute healthiest diet for them; it is what their bodies are truly designed to digest. Think about it this way: Rendered meat products have been added to cattle feed for a long time now. This does NOT mean that cows are omnivores, or that it is healthy for them; it just means that most very hungry warm-blooded creatures will eat what's available if the other option is starving. It doesn't mean their bodies are designed for that; it means that they're desperate. Every available resource, including zoos and textbooks, will tell you that a hippo is an herbivore, and I agree with that.

If there's one thing I'm sick of, it's anti-vegetarians howling, "But, see, we have CANINE TEETH, and them's for eating meat!" So, let's talk teeth, and why your pathetic, flat, short little canines are barely worthy of herbivory, let alone killing animals and rending their flesh. I'm going to cover mammals, because it's irrelevant to discuss more distantly related animals, including turtles, whose beaks are the same from carnivore to herbivore to jellyfish-ivore, or carnivorous frogs, whose few teeth are designed to keep prey from escaping their enormous mouths.

First, let's talk about omnivores. Raccoons, pigs, and bears all have sharp, pointed canines that are useful for killing and tearing flesh. You probably have a good idea of what bears' teeth look like, so here are the others.


See the pointy teeth? How they're significantly longer than the rest, and that they are round, for puncturing? They are proportionately much larger and sharper than human canine teeth.

Now, let's have a peek at a chimp's skull. A Chimpanzee is one of our closest cousins. They are omnivorous, eating mostly fruit, with about 5% of their diet (and ranging anywhere from 4 to 10% with seasonal variations) comprised of animal matter. While they eat a lot of insects, especially termites (yum yum!), a major vertebrate prey species for them is the red colobus monkey. So, here's the skull:

(Image from Bone Clones, who is linked from the image)

Note the very large, round, canine teeth. Teeth that, incidentally, are not used to kill prey! They grab their prey (again, usually baby colobus monkeys) and fling them repeatedly against the ground or a tree limb until they are dead. Also, hunting in chimpanzees appears more related to impressing chicks than it does to obtaining protein.

Chimps and humans are the only great apes to eat a significant quantity of animal protein; the rest, including bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans are primarily herbivores, opportunistically eating some insects. The lesser apes (gibbons) are primarily fruit and insect eaters, with some of them taking in tree bark and leaves as well. All of the great AND lesser apes other than humans have large, pointy, rounded canines. Here's a gorilla skull with a human skull for comparison:

Now, they sure don't need those canines for killing termites, but compared to humans, their mouths are positively fierce. But, let's not just pick on our relatives, let's have a look at the very herbivorous even-toed ungulate known as the hippopotamus:

Whoa! Fierce! Rawr! Hippos have long, sharp canines! They are widely considered to be the most dangerous animal in Africa, partly because their 8000-lb bodies can reach land speeds of 18mph (faster than you), and partly because they can bite off your head and shoulders with one angry chomp. They're fiercely territorial, and they use those big nasty teeth to fight, both with one another and with potential predators.

So, there you have it. Canine teeth are present in a number of different mammals for a number of different reasons. For many herbivores, they are used to fight off predators and competitors (and they're great for tearing the flesh of FRUITS!). Most of our closest genetic relatives are omnivorous only to the extent that they eat insects, but I don't see any of these chest-beating meat-eaters clamoring to chow down on a termite colony. Compared to true omnivores and many herbivores, our own canine teeth are quite puny, not well-shaped for hunting or even defense.

So why ARE our canines so small and flat? There are a few theories on this, one of which is that we adapted mouths that could allow us to hold our breath (perhaps to dive for shellfish during a coastal phase of evolution), and to enable sucking (fruit juices, insects and seafood from their shells, that sort of thing). These changes eventually allowed us the ability to speak; if we had big canine teeth like our cousins, we would have difficulty making all the sounds we need for communication.

I'm not telling you to go vegetarian. That's up to you. I am asking that you stop pointing to your puny-ass canines and pretending that they make you a meat-eater. Also, our new house came with a termite problem, so if you're really proud of being an omnivore, this vegetarian homeowner could really use your help!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Brilliant Post: You Don't Have To Be Pretty

You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

What I'm Reading: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash (Bantam Spectra Book)

Oh man. Funny as hell, and so well-written that I felt shamed by my own lame skills! Well, not really, but he's so good. His characters are real, his plot is brilliant, and he invents new slang while not losing the reader, since he smoothly defines the terms as he goes. Even if you aren't into the cyberpunk genre, this novel will appeal to many tastes. Get. It. Now.

Music suggestions

Most of the music I like is either older stuff or non-mainstream. I like Talking Heads and Depeche Mode (I'm getting OLD), but I also like ThouShaltNot and Soil & Eclipse.

I'm going to suggest a handful of tunes (and I'll do so every so often); if you have iTunes, you can listen to samples of them in the iTunes Store, or you can try to find samples on Amazon. So, look these up, give them a listen, and if you like them, drop me a comment to let me know?

"Whispering Trees" by Soil & Eclipse (You may have to look them up as Soil and Eclipse, they are listed both ways on both Amazon and iTunes for separate albums, which is kind of annoying).

"Mandalay Bay" by Blackmore's Night

"Over and Done" by Deine Lakaien

"Cardinal Directions" by ThouShaltNot


Mom's going to yell at me for this

Story of my life:

I'm the one on the right.

My Blogroll

I've added a few folks to my blogroll (and, you should check out Big Fat Delicious, because she's logical, funny, and neat). I am somewhat forgetful these days, so if you want to be added, drop me a comment here so I can do so. I often mean to add people, but get distracted. You know what it's like; I can't look up from my trough of Big Macs long enough to get ANYthing done...oh wait; I don't actually eat those. Er, well, it's usually more like getting my attention directed toward the utter cuteness of this:
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Now, you tell me, how can I get ANYthing done with that in my house?!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dieting and Fat Acceptance

Everyone's talking about whether dieting for weight loss is indicative of a lack of true commitment to the Fat Acceptance/Size Positive movement. I've seen a lot of very good things out there, and I figured I should at least state my position on the subject.

Here's my basic statement:
I acknowledge your individual freedom to diet for weight loss, but I do not support or condone your doing so.

Here's the long-winded explanation:
Basically, I view dieting for weight loss (heretofore known as "dieting" for the purposes of brevity in this entry) as an unhealthy, ineffective, destructive thing to do. I think it is the biggest quackery perpetuated on our society, bilking people out of money while giving them no results, results that don't last, or making its practitioners fatter in the long run than they otherwise would have been. In other words, it is at best worthless, and can even be counterproductive to the purpose of becoming thinner.

Dieting is destructive to your body. You are more likely to become sick if you have yo-yo dieted than if you had not lost any weight at all. It is potentially harmful to your mind; many eating disorders are triggered or perpetuated by a desire to lose weight, and it induces fears and phobias about food. The hysteria surrounding the "epidemic" alone is enough to create irrational fear of eating, gaining weight, and self-loathing.

Dieting is especially more harmful to women's bodies and minds; we have fought for women's rights, only to be shackled by social pressure to starve ourselves until we are crazed, miserable, and weakened. As a woman, I am offended by the idea that the size of my body can prevent me from getting a job, adequate health care, and have my needs taken seriously.

I am not going to repeat the mountain of evidence for the above statements; these are readily available at Junk Food Science and other sources. If you are misinformed or willfully uneducated, there is no longer any excuse for it. If you continue to actively shield yourself from becoming informed, rejecting any attempts to abolish your own ignorance, then I am not to blame, and I cannot be held responsible for your unwillingness to learn. I'll be happy to point you in the direction of articles and books, but I cannot parrot the facts and continue to debate the same tired points over and over with the purposefully misinformed.

Do you really think that because a doctor says that fat is unhealthy, that makes it so? How much faith do you have in medicine? This same institution was prescribing heroin, cocaine, and leeches less than a century ago. The history of medicine is fairly sordid, and a great deal of its roots were things that existed only in the imaginations of self-proclaimed doctors. Humors, bloodletting, come on, folks, they just made this shit up from whole cloth! And, while things have certainly improved, we still haven't figured it all out. The public health is not always the primary concern, especially when profits are involved. Yes, maybe thalidomide was a long time ago, but Vioxx was this century, and Fen-Phen was breaking people's hearts in the late 90's.

So, here you have it, the elephant in the room: Dieting for weight loss while being part of the fat acceptance movement shows that either you haven't been paying attention, or you are in denial of the message of the movement. I've heard the statement that dieters in the fat acceptance movement are the same as closeted gays being supportive of gay pride--they just aren't comfortable enough to "come out" and join the rest of this. I think that this is a very faulty analogy. It is more like, those dieting for weight loss are to the fat acceptance movement as gays undergoing counseling to become straight are to the gay pride movement.

It is difficult to believe someone actually takes the movement seriously when they are actively working to purge from themselves the very thing they are claiming to support acceptance of, especially when the methods to purge the "undesirable quality" are known not to actually work. Counseling a gay person to become straight does not change what their biology has determined their orientation to be; they instead intensively train their behavior to mimic that of the straight person. So it is with a fat person, training their bodies to be thin. It takes constant vigilance and work to remain that way, and it is a generally unpleasant and uncomfortable thing to do. To have such a thing as a goal would require a very big payoff for attaining it--social status, not being disowned by family members, finding a marriage partner--these are all possible reasons to pursue unnatural thinness or heterosexuality. Yet, the acceptance movements are working to see to it that people can have those things without going through an agony of forcing themselves into a mold into which their bodies or minds simply do not fit.

Change the system, or change yourself? Which one hurts more? Which one is more possible? I guess that's for you to figure out, but if you're choosing to harm yourself through dieting for weight loss, don't expect me to support you in that.

Modern Day Famine

If you have not read the book "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it's a pretty good read. One part in particular stood out for me, and I wanted to write about it here.

The book is a humorous take on the Apocalypse, and gives us a modern-day view of such things as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of whom is Famine. The "evil" characters have noted that humans are more capable of coming up with horrifyingly evil things to do to one another than the demons could ever dream up. This is counterbalanced by the human ability to demonstrate grace that even Heaven's inhabitants were unable to conjure.

So, Famine, recognizing that the human mind is a powerful tool for destruction, comes up with a way to spread starvation far and wide, even--nay, especially--in the wealthiest nations in the world. All Famine had to do was convince humankind to voluntarily starve itself, to perversely suffer from hunger in the face of plenty*.

We don't need much encouraging, of course--just one little push to make adipose tissue equivalent to a scarlet letter, and we're falling all over ourselves to find new and interesting ways to induce famine in ourselves and our society. While in the book Famine invented a line of "zero calorie foods", in real life, we are constantly seeking a magic bullet that will quell the pangs of hunger while we refuse to nourish ourselves. Drugs, zero/negative-calorie foods, purging, all of these little tricks we use to deny ourselves sustenance without the agony of starving are a modern-day inducement of famine.

Famine, people, is NOT a positive, healthy thing. Remember, famine is part of the Apocalypse! Do you think the Irish were saying, "Thank god we're getting thinner!" when they had the potato famine? Do you think those suffering from droughts in Africa are happy that they're able to stay slim? Your body needs food. Being able to eat and have some adipose tissue is a sign of peace and prosperity. It is a way for us to survive when things aren't going so well.

If you've ever had a relative that lived through the Depression, what do they say when you leave food behind on your plate? They tell you to eat it all, of course, because these people know what it is to truly starve. They know what it is to be thin against their will. We are an astonishingly fortunate generation in that very few of us in developed nations have ever had to go truly hungry because we did not have the resources to eat. It is a slap in the face to those who have suffered these things for us to fret and wring our hands about being too well fed. There is a reason that hunger is an unpleasant feeling--it is a signal to tell your conscious fool self to go and eat something already, because your body needs nourishment!

Recommended reading:

*And to boldly split infinitives. Yeah, get over it.

Cats: Perfection In Companionship

The domestic cat has been a part of human civilization for at least 4000 years, and possibly as long as 9500 years. Their top-notch hunting skills and adaptability to human cohabitation made African wild cats invaluable to ancient societies for the purpose of controlling vermin. These small, fierce, and agile hunters were willing to devour agricultural pests including mice, birds, and insects. They can adapt to and thrive in a variety of climates, including deserts, chilly northern lands, cities, and even on board sailing vessels.

Cats are a fairly efficient companion animal, requiring less food than dogs, being readily litter-trained, and having a great deal of social independence. While I am not going to say that they are better or worse than dogs, I will say that they are different, and they do not require as high a level of social conditioning and interaction as a dog. A pet cat, if treated kindly and well-habituated to human contact, will become well-socialized without a great deal of training and effort on the human's part.

The cat body makes them a particularly pleasurable companion animal. They are large enough to not be terribly fragile, while they are still small enough to be relatively easy to handle, carry, and have on one's lap. They have an attractive appearance, with large, inquisitive, forward-facing eyes, a beautiful form with interesting curves and shapes, large, endearing pointed ears, and, usually, a lovely tail. Most have a soft, thick fur coat that is pleasurable to stroke and nuzzle; those that do not have fur have very warm, soft, suede-like skin that also feels good to our human fingers.

Cats typically are pleasant-smelling in and of themselves; their litter habits can generally be trained so that they are not too intrusive to our noses. They make pleasant sounds, rewarding kind treatment with a rumbling purr that soothes humans, even though we do not make that sound ourselves. They sometimes make other vocalizations, which vary from one cat to another, but it is quite rare for them to be as loud and unpleasant-sounding as a barking dog. Some of them walk around our homes, singing to themselves with bright miaowing; my Dom does this, apparently just to hear the sound of his own voice, and I enjoy his musical talents during these sessions.

Cat behavior is the very best part of their companionship. Even a homely feline can bring joy to his humans with his sensitive, loving presence. They seem capable of sensing our feelings, and come to us in our times of sadness to comfort us. They can be loyal, and they often attach themselves to a single person as their One and Only. They are playful, amusing us with their ability to switch from gentle friend to instinctive wild hunter with the flick of a favorite toy. They show us the very best of sensuality, dignity, and patience, serving as role-models for those of us who sometimes set those qualities aside.

Cats are brightly intelligent, highly emotional, and amazingly communicative. With tail, ear, and whisker movements, they are able to express themselves more clearly than most of us manage to with words. They roll their eyes at us, sigh in resignation, frown when confused, and smile when contented. A lashing tail will tell you when they're through playing, and an ear turned to the side is a cat's equivalent to a raised eyebrow--you can practically hear them thinking, "Oh, REALLY now." Their sheer range of emotion rivals our own, and their ability to express it perhaps even surpasses ours.

Most amazing of all is how we can generally turn these little creatures loose in our homes, trusting them to wander about as they please, and, in most cases, not giving a second thought to leaving them to their own devices while we are away. There is an incredible bond of trust, and it is simply inexplicable how both our species and theirs are able to comfortably cohabitate as if it is the most natural thing in the world. Cats and humans somehow learn to interpret one another's languages so naturally and artlessly that it is easy to imagine that we are somehow designed to fit together as two parts in a symbiotic whole. While other creatures have become domesticated, cats are unique in the way they are harmoniously accepted into families as essential members.

Their adaptation to life with our species--and our dependence on them, not just as workers, but as companions--is a testament to their success in evolution. We are quite lucky that they decided we were worth bothering with in the first place. A life without them is hardly worth living!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cats: Perfection In Nature

I regard cats as one of the most perfect specimens of the natural world. I am referring to both wild and domestic species, as the similarities between all cat species are remarkably great; the same essential design is present from the diminutive Pallas cat to the enormous Siberian tiger. Felines have adapted to nearly every habitable terrestrial climate, including frosty Himalayan peaks, arid African deserts, and bustling human cities. They capture our eyes and our imaginations, they inspire our awe, fear, and love, and they reflect our sensuality and intelligence in an uncanny fashion.

Cats have superb senses. They have night vision, and they are very good at spotting moving things. While they do not see much color, this allows them to see a camouflaged animal more readily than we can. Their sense of smell is fourteen times better than ours, which allows them to use odor to demarcate and detect territories, locate mates, and track prey. Their hearing is superb, picking up frequencies higher than even dogs can detect, and distinguishing variances that are as minute as a tenth of a tone. This, coupled with their big, cup-like ears that swivel as much as 180 degrees, allows them to hear the vocalizations of rodents underground or behind walls, pinpoint a sound's origin very accurately and quickly, and hear and recognize the distress cries of their lost young from a distance.

Cat whiskers are probably the most underrated of sense organs they possess. If you find a shed whisker from your cat, hold the thick (root) end tightly between your thumb and finger. With your other hand, brush the fine end of the whisker. Flick it gently, then harder; you will feel the root end's vibration very strongly when you do this. Imagine, then, having dozens of these on your upper lip and cheeks, several on your eyebrows, and a few on your wrists! Don't believe me about the wrists? Check your cat's wrists; they are shorter than the ones on his face, but they work the same way. The wrist whiskers, or carpal vibrissae are especially useful in landing and feeling for prey. The facial vibrissae have a variety of uses; brush the ones above your cat's eyes, and she will blink. The ones on their muzzle are helpful in detecting minute changes in the breeze, determining whether kitty can fit into a crevice, and navigating in the dark. They also use their whiskers to detect signs of life in their prey and find the proper spot on the prey's neck to bite and kill it. They also have an excellent sense of touch. Their paws can detect very slight vibrations, and they can sense temperature changes very well in both their paws and noses. There are many whisker-like hairs scattered throughout their fur to serve a similar purpose as whiskers, called tylotrichs.

Running and jumping with speed and agility that inspires envy in the most fleet-footed human, cats are well-engineered for speed and leaping. They can move quietly, with incredible economy of motion (meaning, they don't bounce up and down as they're walking or running, or use a lot of excess body movement--we're pretty ungainly creatures ourselves, compared to the majority of the rest of the animal world). They have long, strong back legs, a wonderful tail for balance, and incredible flexibility to increase their stride. In fact, it seems that their only flaw in this regard is their lack of endurance; if a cheetah could keep its pace going for longer than 400 yards, they would be a far more successful and prolific creature than they are.

Cat reproduction is another model of evolutionary success; they become pregnant quite readily, have a fairly short gestation period, and are generally able to give birth with few complications. Their young, while born blind and helpless, grow and learn quickly, and, compared to other intelligent mammal species, mature fast. A domestic cat is mature within a year, and a tiger within four. Compare this to a human's sexual maturity at around sixteen years (although they are capable of reproduction earlier), and the elephants' 9-12 years. Additionally, while cats do carry their neonates when moving to a new den, the young are capable of moving around on their own and don't need to be carried all the time like human infants.

The intelligence of felines is well-known; they are clever, adaptable, resourceful, and strong-willed. They are born with a number of instincts, but they also teach their young and learn quickly. They adapt quickly to new situations and changes in their environment. Most species are solitary in nature, and they must learn complex rules of territory and social interaction because of this. Many animals live in groups, and their survival is based upon safety in numbers; a cat must be self-reliant and very cautious and sneaky to survive. Studies have shown that they are capable of problem-solving and forming "learning sets". Cats view their world three-dimensionally, too; they take into account branches, ledges, and other variations in terrain, while we tend to be more two-dimensional. Since we cannot tiptoe along a fence top, it does not register on our mental map, while a cat takes it into consideration in its circuitous route--routes that seem inefficent and roundabout to us are often utilized to avoid others' territory, place one's own territory markers, and investigate one's domain. Indeed, my little Aakhu will patrol the entire house, and if you attempt to distract him while he is making his rounds, you will have a difficult time getting his attention for very long.

The bodies and minds of cats are marvelous and successful; they are often the apex predator of their habitats, and they are capable of taking down large and dangerous prey, including elephants, giraffes, venomous snakes, and, the deadliest of all potential prey animals, human beings. They are adaptable to different climates, terrains, food sources, and human interaction. Their heightened senses predict earthquakes, accurately dectet prey and danger, and allow them to find shelter and water quickly. There is very little about the cat's design that isn't a model of perfection, and it is quite understandable that humans would admire and envy their grace and beauty.

Recommended reading:
The Tribe of Tiger
This book describes the evolution of cats and gives remarkable insight into their behavior and biology. It has a lot of anecdotes, and some readers did not like its focus on wild species, but I really liked it.

The Secret Life of Tigers
This is one of the best books available for learning about the natural history of tigers.

Becoming a Tiger: How Baby Animals Learn to Live in the Wild
Becoming a Tiger is about how animals develop into adults; it is about more than just tigers, but it's good reading nonetheless.

(I also welcome your suggestions for books)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You don't say?

From the "No Shit, Sherlock" files:
It's genetic after all.

"this natural variation gave the chubbier flies an evolutionary advantage; they could hoard more fat on the same amount of food as their skinnier counterparts, allowing them to survive times of famine."

They actually had to state the purpose of adipose tissue in this article, because people have forgotten that it has a purpose.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm not a conformist hiker, sorry!

I went for a nature hike the other day; my photos of the creatures we saw were posted right afterwards. I wanted to mention how I was a bad, terrible hiker, and I don't know how to go for a walk in the woods.

You see, unlike the perky middle-adged dude with his pair of walking sticks, spiffy hiking boots, and snappy little hat, I was clad in an ankle-length skirt, a t-shirt, and crocs. Shame on me! Everybody knows you don't wear a SKIRT to hike in the woods, right? And, no, I don't want to hear it about my crocs, and you know who you are.

But, see, we get down to the stream, and I was able to hike up my skirt (tucking the hem into the waist) so it didn't get wet. I had no socks to soak. My crocs were waterproof, and had good traction on the rocks for the most part. I was able to wade with my feet fairly well protected, without getting my clothing soaked, and when I was done, I shook the crocs dry, dried my feet on the lower half of my skirt, and walked comfortably back to our trail origin. My feet and shoes were dry and undamaged, and the skirt dried very quickly on the way back.

When I was younger, we (my mom, sister, and I) would go for long hikes down Mill Creek, wearing our oldest, crappiest sneakers. The worst part was the squelching of our sodden feet on the walk back to our house (it wasn't far, but it was up a hill); the combination of sand and wet shoes giving us painful blisters for even a brief period. The shoes were usually completely ruined, so we would try to save them for the next trip. They would dry out and become misshapen and horribly uncomfortable by the next excursion, giving us blisters on the walk DOWN the next time. Furthermore, sneakers would get waterlogged and heavy during these hikes, while the crocs were light as a feather and would float if I happened to slip out of them (which I didn't).

I almost always wear skirts these days, if I have a choice. I find them more comfortable than pants, and pants are typically binding and painful for me to wear. Crocs, while not very attractive, are one of the few brands of shoe that is wide enough for my feet (I generally need an extra-wide), and they are better than any other brand for reducing or eliminating my foot pain. They're also very affordable. If you don't want to see me wearing them, then you're more than welcome to buy me shoes that 1. fit, 2. are not painful to wear and 3. aren't made of dead animals. Good luck with that.

Book recommendations: Eugene Linden's The Octopus and the Orangutan

The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity

This is one of my favorite animal books of all time. Eugene Linden has written a number of books about animal intelligence, and this was the first one of his I read. It describes how animals display intelligence in a number of ways, including tool use. Orangutans, for example, will often use a tool exactly how it is supposed to be used, while chimpanzees will use it for every purpose except the one for which it is intended! A captive octopus will often waste away and even die if not challenged enough, and their caretakers have to constantly dream up new food puzzles to keep them occupied.

My favorite story involves penguins who surprised their human neighbors with an activity that I won't describe, because it's too good for me to ruin it for you!

If you can find it at the library (the Schenectady library has a copy), or if you feel like ordering it, it's definitely worth your while to read. Linden's style is very easy; every book of his that I've read seems to fly past quickly. He's funny, compassionate, and breaks animal behavior down to a layman's level very well. If you have read this book, and you're interested in others by Linden, this is also very good:
The Parrot's Lament : And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
The Parrot's Lament is more descriptive of the emotional lives of animals, and how their feelings are demonstrated through intelligent behavior. After reading this, I came to realize that it's very difficult for humans to give pet parrots the emotional, social, and intellectual stimulation needed to be truly happy. I was also impressed at the trust and love displayed by animals in various circumstances. Again, it is also very easy to read, and while the scientific information is very easy for a novice to understand, it is not too simple to be enjoyed by a knowledgeable person.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Ban the Grays!

Today, I'd like to talk about gray hair, and its implications for our society.

It is well-known that people with gray hair are more likely to die than people who do not have gray hair. Gray-haired people are more likely to die of heart-attacks and cancer than other people. They are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts than other people. A person with gray hair is less likely to survive a cold or flu virus than other people, and more likely to break a hip than other people.

There are also social implications for people with gray hair. Those who are not gray-haired are often unwilling to date gray-haired people, and often express disgust at the idea of two gray-haired people having sex. They have a harder time finding a new job than other people, and they are often not welcome at popular dance clubs. Adding to our social burden is the fact that we are experiencing an epidemic of gray hair that has never before existed in the world. There are now significantly more gray-haired people than there were even twenty years ago, and there's no end in sight to the growth of their numbers.

There are some obvious solutions here. First, it should be determined whether the person is tolerant of hair dye. If we can make insurance companies cover the cost of hair dye, it will make that person's hair no longer gray. Sure, it grows back, but that's why doctors need to keep a close eye on patients' roots and get them to dye their hair regularly.

For those who aren't tolerant of the chemicals in hair dye, depiliation may be an answer. Shaving can remove gray hair as it crops up, and for stubborn cases, whole-head electrolysis might be necessary. It's painful, but absolutely necessary in the face of an epidemic. While female gray-hairs may experience shame at the loss of hair, they need to be reminded that this is for their own good, and that there are always wigs. Insurance should NOT, however, pay for wigs, because they are not necessary for health purposes, and if we go around handing out wigs to these people, they'll think that it's okay to get gray hair; after all, hey, free wig!

These solutions are temporary, of course, until more research is done into the mechanisms by which hair goes gray, leading perhaps to medications to prevent gray hair. If we can find triggers that occur in early childhood, we can possibly lace baby formula with the necessary building blocks to prevent gray hair from growing in the future. Also, since it is commonly recognized that stress causes gray hair, those who engage in stressful activities should be denied health insurance and have their pay docked so that everyone else isn't funding their bad behavior. We should give out rewards to people who are living stress-free lives, and punish those who are not.

Makes sense to me!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Recurring dreams

I believe that dreams can reflect our deepest fears and greatest hopes, especially when they happen over and over. I have two dreams that recur constantly, although one of them has changed in the past few years.

The first one centers around my maternal grandfather. Before he passed away, I had nightmares at least twice a week of him dying. These went on for probably ten years before he died, and they were awful. After his death, though, they changed. I now have at least one dream per week that he is alive. I argue with myself, saying that I know what happened, I saw him, and my subconscious mind replies that I was just dreaming that, or that it was a hoax. I feel very uneasy about it, but am happy that things are okay now. Waking up from that one is disconcerting, and brings back the grief again. I'm happy to say that they're occurring less frequently now, but I still get them from time to time.

The second one is more awful to me. I am constantly dreaming that my parents are coming here, kidnapping me, and dragging me back to their house, away from Brian. I try to contact Brian, but my phone doesn't have his number programmed, and I can't for the life of me remember the number. I try to email, but can't find his email address or remember it. I am told that I should know better than to think I deserve him, and that I need to realize that my place is with them, not with some guy.

This dream happens at least once a week. One of my greatest fears is to be torn away from Brian and deprived of my adult freedoms. I love him very dearly, and I feel very fortunate to have him in my life. I know that he is loyal to me, and that he needs me just as much as I need him, so it would take an outside force to divide us.

I also have a fear of losing my independence. I hated being a child and teenager, not being able to do what I wanted when I wanted, being under someone else's control. When my life became my own, I was happier than ever before. I like being able to use the telephone when I like, being able to visit friends anytime they ask, and the freedom to have company in my own home. When I was younger, and didn't have this freedom, my friends would frequently become pissed off at me, and I'd lose their friendship. The dreams are reflecting a deep, subconscious fear of going back to that state, even though it could not reasonably happen.

These things don't really crop up in my waking life, fortunately, but the nightmares sometimes stay with me all day, a miasma of anxiety and dread that I can't shake. I wonder sometimes if the sleep disordered nature of fibromyalgia keeps my mind too close to the surface of consciousness, where what should have been forgotten within five minutes of waking is still running in a loop through my head. I wake from these with cramped, tight muscles, my lower back in a hard spasm that doesn't go away for hours unless I treat it* and have Brian massage it out.

I wonder, is a huge part of my muscle pain from clenching up during nightmares? If so, I need to find something that will make them stop, or make me sleep deeply enough that the shut-off between brain and muscles actually works. It goes both ways, too; sometimes I wake up with the sleep paralysis still switched on, and I go into a panic attack, other times I'm thrashing and twitching like a dreaming puppy.

* This is the ONLY thing that Flexeril has ever been able to do for me--release spasms. It doesn't make me sleep like it does other people.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mind Over Matter--Wishful Thinking

"Mind over matter" is a concept that permeates our culture, facilitated by televangelists, charlatans, and movie producers, among others. A good special effects team can make just about anything happen, including talking frogs, flying brooms, and moving castles. Miracles are claimed by overgroomed TV ministers, who make their living squeezing money out of elderly people who are desperate for a glimmer of hope as they near the end of their lives. Salespeople of all types promise impossible results from mediocre products, their sales technique being more important than selling quality merchandise.

So, is it any wonder that those of us who are ill, or who are fat, are constantly reminded that all we have to do is want something badly enough, and it will come to us? And that our perceived flaws are entirely the result of our own failure to just wish or pray hard enough?

Having a chronic pain condition, I have done a lot of searching for answers. I want to live a normal life. I want to get better. I want to be able to do the things I loved doing before I got sick. It's amazing, though, the idiotic comments I get:
"Maybe if you didn't dwell on it so much, you would start to get better."

"It's all in your head!"

"Think positive, a good outlook can make things SO much better!"

"You have to WANT to get better."

Other sufferers of this illness are nodding their heads at those quotes. They've heard them all before, because there are a lot of very naive people out there who want very badly to believe that health is something entirely under their control. If you do all the right things, and have the right mindset, you won't get sick. You won't die. And, if you DO, at least you'll have some accountability for it. Nothing's more frustrating, after all, than a bad situation for which you can't find someone to blame, even if it's yourself.

Mental illness is even worse for this sort of thing, since people seem to regard depression as "a bad mood", and schizophrenia (among other conditions) as not knowing how to behave in public. After all, if you accept that the lady talking to herself and rocking back and forth in the bus station is not at fault for her condition, you may be obligated to do something to help, or at least contribute to helping her. That's messy, and expensive, so we just assume she's done something to bring it upon herself, or that she probably deserved it anyway, and she gets to continue rocking and muttering while everyone scurries around her as quickly as possible, holding their breath as long as they can.

So it is with fat, where a crushing force of blame is laid squarely on larger folk for taking up more space than some people think they ought to have a right to take up. Your volume is not only unacceptable, and everyone else's business, but it's also regarded as a moral failure, a sinful rebellion against proper thinking, so to speak. It seems to be believed that a person's metabolism will go faster if that person would only want it badly enough, that they wish hard enough to burn their fat away.

Many of the diet books out there do natter on about state of mind, being in "the zone", and thinking yourself thin. But, while willpower IS necessary to deprive oneself of adequate nutrition for years on end, it seems that the fat-haters out there actually think it's as easy as rubbing a magic lamp and asking a genie to give us a new, more socially acceptable body.

I shouldn't have to say this, and it bothers me that I have to say this, but "Mind Over Matter" is just a phrase. Religious beliefs aside, you are no more going to melt fat with thin thoughts than you are going to bend a teaspoon with metal twisty thoughts. I'm not going to stop being ill by not acknowledging my illness. People don't stop being depressed by ignoring the depression. Life doesn't work that way. These nutters go on and on about "The Laws of Physics", then conveniently pretend that thought has the direct power to overcome those laws. Come ON already.

Mind Over Matter, to me, means the ability to figure out the workings of the world. I can't will myself into the air and fly like Superman, but people went and designed airplanes. I can't wish my pain away, but medicines can help soften it a bit. The key is, however, as we figure out these things, we need to be responsible about the application of our knowledge and technology. We are an arrogant species, and we often think we have it all figured out, until the unforeseen consequences blow up in our faces. We created automobiles to move us faster, and now we have pollution and car accidents on a scale that the original creators could not have even dreamed. We create new drugs to modify our bodies' chemical workings, then become horrified when the medicines, as they heal one bodily process, destroy another one.

And now, we're rushing into putting little kids on low fat diets, with those in charge of such things saying, "We can't wait for scientific evidence that this is a good idea, we have to act now." We're marginalizing people based on their volume, shaming them for being fat, without considering the harm done not only to the marginalized, but to society as a whole--we are damaging our very humanity, doing a terrible injustice so shameful to acknowledge that expiation will be a long time in coming, if ever.

So let's toss the wishful thinking crap out on its ear, okay? Let's replace "Mind Over Matter" and the blame game with empathy, compassion, helping others in need, and seeing people as people, not as "fatties" or any other crude subcategory designed for the glorification of one person's ego via another person's misery. Yes, yes, now I need to be nailed to a piece of wood or set on fire or something, right? Thought so.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Nature Preserve

I went with friends today to a nature preserve. We saw a lot of creatures, and here are some of their photos:

Free Image Hosting at

(Click the photo to go to the gallery)

Enjoy :)


Claudia would like to remind everyone to take time to stop and lick the flowers:

Sunday, September 2, 2007


I've added some items to my shop; specifically, I'm showing the very nice matting on the photos. The two fish are in standard sizes that can be popped into a ready-made frame. Check them out, and if you think you know someone who would like them, pass along the link? :)