Friday, November 30, 2007

A quote from Lipitor: Thief of Memory by Duane Graveline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A most beautiful blank book

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

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

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

Book Review: The Fresco, by Sheri S. Tepper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

7 things about me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 24, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wonderful Thanksgiving!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like little girls!

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

But why does it remind me of:

Fun with painting

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

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

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

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

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

"batman room" repainted

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

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

Adam's room - almost done

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

How I came upon the fibromyalgia diagnosis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so, here I am.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What's that smell? It's the Stinking Goddess!

So, I had a new addition to our serpentine family this weekend, when my friend called me up to say that he needed to make room for his Woma python and a couple of other new additions (including some rare variant of tree boa or whatnot). Far be it from me to stand in the way of his $700 snake (boy, they've come down in price...I remember when they were 3x that), I agreed to take on a King rat, a pair of gorgeous snow bullsnakes, and a handful of corns and Jungle corns.

I'll post about the others later, but I wanted to talk about the King rat here, Elaphe carinata, AKA "Stinking Goddess" or "keeled rat snake".

First of all, I want to note that this is an absolutely gorgeous snake. Bright eyes, incredible yellow on black pattern, and strongly keeled scales combine to create a snake that my husband described thusly: "He looks like a toy!" Indeed, he has an almost plastic look about him, but he's a very quick, active creature who does not seem the least bit toy-like when in motion.

The other, very obvious quality of this creature is its odor. It is unlike any other snake I have ever smelled. Most snakes have musk glands by their vent, which they use to squirt foul-smelling stuff onto potential predators. If you're a fox, and you pick up a potentially tasty snake snack, your first instinct when it exudes foul-tasting and -smelling stuff in your mouth and/or on your face is to, of course, drop that sucker. I suppose this would be more useful against mammalian predators, which rely heavily on smell and taste, than on avian ones, who mostly do NOT have strong senses of smell.

Now, I have rat snakes, milk snakes, and a kingsnake, all of whom are capable of shitting and musking all over me when I startle them--or, in the case of a couple of particularly neurotic ones, whenever I pick them up at all. It's disgusting, and it smells pretty bad. It can be hard to wash off, but I manage. Garter snakes are worse, and catching them in the field during herpetology field labs was an unpleasant experience, especially since we had nowhere to wash our hands until we returned to the lab (woe unto us if we were expected to eat lunch in the field). So I'm accustomed to snake musk, and its lovely qualities.

This snake, however, was unlike any other in its strength and quality of stink. It is, indeed, the Goddess of Stinking. Or, in my King's case, the God of Stinking (he's a male; he was shipped to my friend with a female as part of a potential breeding pair, but he ate her, and this is why you keep potentially ophiophagus snakes singly, especially when young). The odor is something along the lines of rotting meat, combined with burning cabbage, with a hint of freshly cut grass, the latter of which does not, strangely enough, improve the smell, but instead serves as an awful reminder of just how bad the rest of it is. You pick up the grassy smell first, thinking, "Hmm, maybe it's not so bad," but before you can finish that thought, the rest of it hits your olfactory senses like a creeping miasma from a sewer in a town full of people with rotting colons and only cabbage to eat.

And then, when you try to wash it off, it doesn't go. It penetrates and sticks to your skin like a dye pack from a bank robbery. I scrubbed, scrubbed some more, and used stronger and stronger soaps. I finally lucked out by using my brand new Scrubbie from Mama V soap--it exfoliated the stink out, and replaced it with the Scrubbie's coconut/cocoa butter scent. But oh dear GOD did I want to cut my hands off at first.

He's just a yearling now--a big one, as snakes go, but he's still got a long ways to grow (no pun intended). He's calm, and fairly handleable, but even without musking me deliberately, he has the odor clinging to him at all times, ready to rub off onto my hands. I have to say, he's lucky he's cute!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A doctor experience: High blood pressure and me

I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd write about a doctor experience.

A few years ago, I was scheduled to have surgery for breast reduction. My breasts had always been enormous; even when I was a twig, they ballooned outward because, for whatever reason, the glands just grew and grew. They maxed out at about an H cup when I was in college. Carrying them around for ten years took its toll on my back and neck, and I had grooves in my shoulders (now gone!) from bra straps.

About a month before the surgery, I had my family doctor checkup to get his seal of approval for the surgery. At that time, I was suffering from a headache that'd been going on for a couple of weeks (sinus infection), was going through finals at school, and was worried about a sick family member (who died later that year), and nervous as hell about surgery. My doctor came in and told me that my blood pressure was too high, and he didn't want me to have surgery unless I was able to get it down. It was 140/90. He also wanted to write me a scrip for blood pressure medication right then and there--which I most certainly did NOT want, considering the side effects. I was only 28.

I commented that it was usually NOT high, and in fact, was usually excellent. He flipped through my records and pointed out that it was high during two visits to the emergency room. Um, WHAT?

Let's see, the first visit was due to agonizing stabbing pain and unstoppable puking due to, oh, I don't know, my gall bladder being ready to explode. After the ultrasound, the ER doc (who, by the way, was AMAZING, and diagnosed it fifteen seconds after coming in) told me that I was going to have surgery, and I was being admitted right away. Being too drugged to even think about it, I didn't have the agony of anticipation, so I wasn't too nervous. The surgery was scheduled for 3pm the next day (I was admitted at about 4am). They got some blood tests back and rescheduled it for "right the heck now," which was 7:30am.

The second one was an incident where I felt something was trying to claw its way out of my face, and calling my doctor led to him telling me to go to the ER, where they weren't too busy that night, and they gave me some pain meds and antibiotics for a nasty sinus infection. I was weeping from the pain of it, and scared because I'd never felt anything like it before.

So, when I pointed out that high blood pressure is to be expected in cases of severe pain and fear, he flipped back through, noted that I averaged something like 110/70 or some such, and told me that if I were re-tested in three weeks and it was okay, he'd sign off on my surgery.

So, of course, eating disordered behavior kicked in. I switched to eating nothing but vegan fare, with zero salt, and nothing to drink but water. I ate as little as possible, just enough to stave off hunger, and nothing with many calories. Still anxiety-ridden about surgery, and still in pain from my undiagnosed sinus infection, I made sure to dose up on ibuprofen for my headache--which he had blamed on the "high" blood pressure, instead of realizing it was a sinus infection--and taught myself some relaxation skills. Even so, when I went in, it was something like 130/80, which he said was borderline, but improved enough that he'd sign off.

The morning of my surgery, I tested at 107/70 or something ridiculous like that, because the plastic surgeon was being very comforting and reassuring. He was awesome (if you EVER need plastic surgery in the Albany/Schenectady area, let me know, and I'll reveal his name to you), and the anesthesiologist was also very sweet and friendly. He looked and sounded like Woody Allen.

A week or so after my surgery, I had an appointment with my doctor. Finals were over. My surgery was completed. My headache was subjugated by pain medicine from the surgery. After pointing out that my headache did NOT improve with lower blood pressure, he finally diagnosed the sinus infection, gave me antibiotics, and it cleared right up. Imagine that.

Now, if I'd been thin, do you think I would have been excused as having situational anxiety? Do you think I would have had been offered blood pressure medication?

Meanwhile, on most recent trips to my current doc, my readings have been great, just a little elevated when I'm really hurting (123 over something). I'll also note that the office has correctly-sized cuffs, and the one time there wasn't the right size, the nurse apologized and noted in the chart that it was taken with the wrong size cuff (measured at 130/90 with the too-small cuff).

Also noteworthy is that, since I developed fibro, my upper arms are one giant tender zone, and even properly sized blood pressure cuffs are horribly painful; to me, they feel like they have been lined with thumbtacks over their entire surface. You'd think that it would raise the level--and it probably does, which tells me that my normal level is probably on the low side (which would be expected with thyroid problems, I suppose).

Help me keep things going here: Please take some time to check out my shop and see if there's anything you might like:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Etsy update

I have updated my shop with lots of goodies, including a lovely pair of peafowl prints!

While supplies last, every order until Dec. 24th will receive a free postcard print (5x7). You never know which one you might get, so it'll be a surprise :)

I also wanted to link to Mama V's Soap*. She had the booth next to mine at the craft festival this weekend, and I had to buy one of her oatmeal scrubbies. They are awesome! I had itchy feet that night from wearing nylons, and the scrubbie made them feel so much better. It also made my skin all smooth and silky.

* No, this is NOT the same Mama V of the eating disorder blog. I knew someone would be wondering.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Oh shut UP already

I am so tired of these whiny assholes complaining that, "I saw a fat person in an electric wheelchair, and that is no fair, they should walk!"

Okay you morons, look:
- It is possible to be disabled AND fat

- No, being fat isn't a disability, you're right. Therefore, they must have some type of disability that isn't being fat. Sometimes, you can't see disabilities. If you weren't stupid, you'd know that.

- Yes, there are fat people in the world. Some of them go out in public. Some of the disabled ones go out in public, too. You don't want to look at them? Too bad; everyone has a right to be in public as long as they are a law-abiding citizen.

- Maybe we don't like to look at you, either, but we're not suggesting that you never go out in public.

- The medical conditions of other people are none of your business.

- The body size of other people is also none of your business.

- If you're that jealous about not being able to ride in the wheelchair, come over and I'll break your legs for you, okay? Or, hey, no one's stopping you from hopping into one at the grocery store. They don't make you show your medical records or anything.

- Walking around a store instead of riding in a scooter will not make a fat person thin. Parking at the back of a parking lot will also not make a fat person thin.

- Both of those things MAY, however, prevent that person from being able to go out in public and do their errands. And that's what this is really about, isn't it? You want the disabled fat to shut themselves in, never to be seen. It upsets you that they even exist.

- Too bad. We are here, and some of us will try to live as normal a life as possible, even when we are in pain, exhausted, bloated by our meds, or dizzy. That might mean we'll use mobility aids. Grow the fuck up and get over it.


I haven't been posting lately. Instead of staying inside with the blinds down like a good little fatty, sparing the fragile eyesight of fat-haters, I've been BUSY!

I have been volunteering with a local cat rescue. I participated in their craft fair ("Holiday Furry Frenzy"! Cute!) and have been fostering kittens. Kittens have attracted guests, so I've entertained company many days this past week, spending a lot of time cooking, making tea, baking things for guests to have with tea, and enjoying life (how dare I).

I also had seven more snakes land in my lap this weekend. Long story, to be told later, with pictures.

But, the best reason for this post is, KITTENS! Kittens are good for the soul. They're entertaining, endearing, warm, purry, furry, appreciative of love, and, most of all, in need of help. I was more than happy to open my home to these fuzzy, cute passers-through, and they have provided many photo ops! So, onward with the pictures!

Ptera with her extra toeses:


Ptera on her back

Charlotte, fluffy and cuuuute and sweet as pie:

(she's such a little princess)

Anya on top of Charlotte; Charlotte tends to let everybody pile on. Anya doesn't have many pics because she is the super active one, and she is a blur most of the time:
Charlotte and Anya

My beautiful, wonderful, cat-loving, sweet, cuddly, uber-hawt husband with all three:
Brian and the kittens

A man who loves cats is a man worth keeping.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Update on me

I've been very busy lately, and not feeling terribly great.

I've had a hard time actually wanting to eat anything these days. I manage to get just enough to stop the hunger pangs; I seem to get full very quickly, on a very small amount of food. And no, for the trolls out there, I am not eating McDonald's. I never eat there, as they don't even have vegetarian fries--I do occasionally get an unsweetened iced tea via the drive thru, because they are one of the last bastions of freshly brewed iced tea. I love iced tea, but the from-concentrate nasty crap that most restaurants have switched to is just intolerable. And, I know the southerners are going to burn me at the stake for this, but I don't like sweetened tea. I feel it ruins the taste of the tea. I just adore the flavor of black tea, and we brew gallons and gallons of iced tea here at home, in addition to cups of hot tea in the winter to warm our hands and lips.

I'm finding that a balance of protein with a bit of bread is the best way to satisfy my hunger without being too much of a chore to eat; a soy burger on a bun with a bit of ketchup fills me up--almost too much--and gives me enough nourishment that I'm not hungry later. I've never been able to eat large amounts of food, but my appetite has just disappeared lately.

In other news, my husband and I decided to become foster parents--to three beautiful kittens. We're fostering for Robin's Nest, a local cat rescue that also does spay/neuter programs for needy families. Our little girls came out of a poverty situation, where their mother had become pregnant in a household that could not afford health care for their cats. The parents have both been fixed. The girls came to us at 8 weeks old, covered in fleas, and absolutely adorable. They're FELV/FIV negative, vaccinated, wormed, and treated for fleas and ticks. They will be spayed before they are adopted out, which will be done when they are 4 lbs each. Robin's Nest spays or neuters EVERY cat before adoption.

I am also volunteering at their adoption center, cleaning cages, socializing cats, assisting with blood draws and vaccinations, and helping with adoptions. They are a very positive organization, with extremely experienced and knowledgeable folks in charge of things. If anyone is inexperienced, there are several wonderful people who make great mentors. I signed up to help with fundraising, too, and I'll be renting a booth in the craft fair this weekend, where I will sell photography. I've also donated the remainder of my wedding favor spoons, which will be packaged with the Robin's Nest Cookbook to encourage sales.

Of course, you're all saying, "That's great, Rio, but enough talk about the kitties, WE WANT PICTURES!" Ask, my friends, and you shall receive! I have many photos and videos of the little darlings.

The long-haired one is Charlotte (the sweet one), the white one is Ptera (she's got extra thumbs!), and the short-haired buff colored one is Anya (the wild one). Enjoy the photos and videos!

Click on the thumbnails for larger pics:

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Fatophobe's Dilemma

I recently wrote about my difficulty reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.

I had a hard time getting through this book, mainly because early on, the author plunges into fat fearmongering (fatmongering?). He even brings up the "omg type II diabetes in children!" That particular topic really irks me; it's complicated, but, essentially, there aren't more kids with Type II diabetes, necessarily, it's that nobody was actually looking for it until recently. Now that they ARE testing kids for it, they're finding insulin resistance (and therefore high blood glucose levels) in kids undergoing a growth spurt.

Why? Okay, basically, growth hormone induces insulin resistance, so when kids have a lot of growth hormone going through their systems--and this is especially strong right at puberty--they are going to have a higher blood sugar level than they did prior to the growth spurt. Now, with the "omg kids are fat" scares out there, they're testing as many kids as possible (especially if they aren't skinny) for fasting blood glucose. And, as you can guess, when the kid hits a growth spurt or hits puberty, suddenly his levels are higher than before. Instead of saying, "Hey, this kid is having a growth spurt," the child becomes a patient--one that conveniently needs expensive monitoring and medication--for the rest of his life. Oh, and, there's no telling what effect it will have, long-term, to be dicking around with these kids' biochemistry. I guess we'll find out, right?

So, anyway, that's not the least of this book's obsession with yucky fat people, but it's one of the problems I encountered early on. It's interesting, by the way, that he places an immense amount of mistrust in the corporate food chain, but doesn't even blink when spouting off medical statistics that were likely funded by the pharmaceutical food chain. But I digress.

There are a LOT of good points in this book. Modern corporate farming is unsustainable, almost irreparably damaging to the land, and not giving us much variety in our diets. It's true that most of the North American food chain begins with genetically modified, petroleum-fertilized, monocultured corn. It's true that the meat in North American grocery stores has mostly come from animals that were fed lots of antibiotics, garbage (literally), and hormones, and that they suffered immensely (although, Eric Schlosser did a better job of describing the factory farmed animal point of view in Fast Food Nation).

It's also true that the Organic movement has become a few rules shy of the same industrial farming that it was intended to improve upon. Once it went corporate, "organic" is too often about doing the very least you can do in order to legally use the label--in other words, industrial farming techniques are tweaked just enough to get that label, without sacrificing the "efficiency" of factory farms or industrial crops.

I was glad I stuck it out to the latter half of the book, where the author visits an extremely sustainable farm that produces a variety of foods without the need for pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or even animal suffering. I will say that this section makes the book well worth reading, and it would be great if he'd write a follow-up (without the fat-hate!) discussing how to implement such techniques across the nation. It's farming, the way it once was, and the way so many people have forgotten, as they suck the corporate teat and become addicted to the chemical "blessings" contained therein. Working with the nature of plants and animals, instead of regarding their biology as something to be conquered and worked around. Harnessing their ecology instead of tightly micromanaging their every life's moment. It's a beautiful thing, I'll admit.

The last part of the book was kind of, well, ridiculous and macho. I was very put off by his exploration of vegetarianism, which seemed to last for about half a day, where he read Animal Liberation and responded angrily to parts of it that suggested that animals might have the ability to suffer. He eventually decided that animals evolved to be our livestock in order to take advantage of our ability to culture them and ensure the continuation of their species. In fact, throughout the book, he assigns a consciousness to evolution, going so far as to claim that corn took advantage of human beings. This tells me that he really doesn't have a firm grasp of evolution, and I disagree that success for a species' continuation is a good enough reason for the enslavement and torture of its individuals. The question he failed to ask here is whether or not he would endure suffering in order to continue on the family name, if he knew for a fact that his offspring, and his offspring's offspring, and those thereafter, forevermore, would have lives of unabated pain and suffering.

He quoted someone (but did not name the person) thusly: "The pig has a stronger interest than anyone in the demand for bacon." Perhaps "The pig" as a species--but a species does not have a consciousness. It does not suffer. It is simply a construct that we have created to help us define a group of living organisms--and it is not even as rigid a construct as some people believe. The edges of a species can blur with its range (like North American rat snakes, hoo boy), and a species can change over time, dividing into multiple species (as with African cichlids), or dying out (mammoths, passenger pigeons). To assign a species some sort of will and consciousness is a human fancy, an anthropomorphizing of a concept that serves only to rationalize the author's desire to eat animals without having to be concerned for the way that animal lived and died.

So, in that regard, he is remarkably shallow, and I was put off by his later implication that vegetarians who avoid the guilt of eating meat are less spiritually aware than those who face that guilt and live with it, like we're some kind of naive little children who are putting the responsibility on other people by our choice not to bear the burden ourselves. He seemed to think that, with his one day of being a "vegetarian", he suddenly knew what it was like. There were tedious complaints that being a vegetarian alienates a person, making them a difficult guest, and practically anti-social, since vegetarians reject what "helped make us what we are in a physical as well as social sense."

You see, because cavemen gathered together around a fire to cook and divide the meat, those who don't participate in this ritual are hacking away at the fabric of society. Or something. And that we might as well give up sex, since, due to modern technology, we can live without eating meat and reproduce without having sex (because, you know, having consentual adult sex is a form of pleasure that causes all KINDS of animal suffering--which could be prevented, by the way, if the cats would just stop staring; it's their own fault they suffer!).

Anyway, I digress yet again. The last part of the book describes the author's foray into mushroom hunting and wild pig shooting. Wild mushrooms are all kinds of wonderful, and while they are difficult to obtain, I won't begrudge the author's enjoyment of them. However, I take exception to his notion that hunting anything with a gun (especially today's fancy-pants guns) makes him a primal manly man. Sorry, dude, but you're 100% modern techno-hunter. Get over it. It also doesn't mean you're "off the grid", because the gun was probably made in China or someplace like that, and your ammunition came from a cardboard box. You certainly weren't out there in a loincloth, so all that hunting gear had to come from somewhere.

I'm not making a statement that hunting is evil or anything like that; I'm just saying that going out and shooting your own food does NOT mean you haven't tossed money (and probably a lot of it) at a corporation somewhere. I fully acknowledge that, because we've introduced pest species (like the wild pigs in the south and in Northern California) and eliminated apex predators, there is a need for it. So don't get on my ass about that.

To sum all this up, there were a few parts of this book that were worthwhile. There was a lot of it that was navel-gazing bullshit that made me roll my eyes. There was also a lot of it that pissed me off, either because of the fatphobia or because of the anti-vegetarian stance. I would recommend that, if you read this, check it out from the library instead of wasting your money on it.