Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A short one

Ill people are not obligated to be brave, cheerful, or optimistic for the sake of preserving the feelings of well people.

Fat Positive book

A friend of mine has edited a fat-positive anthology of stories about fat men. You can order it here. It is available either as a download or as a paper copy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A brief conversation

My friend: Why is it that ANY time an actress/celebrity gains a tiny bit of weight everyone thinks she's pregnant?

Me: Because that's the only socially acceptable excuse for gaining weight.

My friend: Oy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hateful, stupid bigots

I am utterly disgusted that Prop 8 passed in California.

Look, you wack-jobs, keep your religion to yourselves. You are free to practice your religion. When you force others to follow YOUR version of morality, you are infringing on their freedom of religion.

But, really, I want to address the, "OH GROSS" crowd here more than anything.

Does the idea of two men being in a relationship disgust you? Or two women? Well, you know what? GROW UP AND GET OVER IT. You probably don't want to be reminded that your parents had sex, or your grandparents, but when you look in the mirror at the living proof, you manage to keep THAT information from whirling through your dirty little mind, right? So work on your perceptions a bit so you don't have to imagine things that disturb you.

Additionally, I believe that part of the REASON such things disgust you is because you are wired such that you prefer the opposite sex. And that's okay! You know what? Gay people are often grossed out by the idea of heterosexuals doing it! That's right, what YOU do in bed is repulsive to THEM. You know what they do about it? They don't think about it, and try to avoid situations where they would have to see it (by staying out of your bedrooms! Imagine that! Wouldn't it be cool if you could do the same for them?).

The "sick" people aren't the gay ones. They are the immature brats who squall and wail when asked to share something that they won't even have to give up. "WAAAAH Timmy's wearing red and I should be the only one to wear red NO FAIR WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

Grow up, you babies.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Guest Post: Sizing in Stitchery

This piece is reproduced with permission of the author, who has been a good friend of mine for years. Please note that I know NOTHING about sewing, so I'm taking her word for all of this :)

Most of you know that I frequent estate sales fairly regularly. I do know that some people get depressed at the thought; I figure the things they're leaving behind were things that these people loved, and would have preferred to see them loved by another generation, rather than ending up in the local land-fill.

I don't collect Hummels. I don't collect depression glass, or milk glass, or cigarette lighters. (It's hard enough to walk past a smoke house, much less if I had a couple of hundred old lighters begging to be used...) I collect pre-1900 sewing machines, fountain pens, antique medicine tins, and free-range wads of cat fuzz. I have yet to find the latter at any estate sales, but my collections of the previous three are growing.

Inadvertently, I am gathering a fairly substantial collection of old sewing patterns.

Now I don't know what rock y'all have been hiding under, but in case you were unaware, over the last ten years at least there has been a great deal of complaint over the Sudden Expansion Of Waist Lines. "Sizes haven't changed! People are getting fatter! It's an epidemic! Pandemic! OMG!FATTEEZ are taking over!"

I do not have the Current-Accepted Build. I am finding that as I attempt to find period-correct costuming for the mid- to late Victorian period, or the range between 1850 and 1890. For that period, while I am considerably taller than the accepted norm, my proportionate sizing is not at all unusual. (Well, it wouldn't be if I hadn't gained about fifty pounds.)

In looking for a pattern for a Berlinischer woolwerk handbag, or specifically the instructions for assembling said handbag, I came across a bag of patterns I had picked up for a dime apiece at the same sale I got the parlour-cabinet White.

The White was in the possession of a very elderly woman who had gotten the 1924 machine as a present new and continued to use it until less than a week before her death, though she had a newer one. (Her grandchildren got it for her. She took it out when they were visiting, sewed a couple of buttonholes with it, then put it right back in the closet when they left.)

In addition to that machine, she had patterns that dated from the late 20s up to the 80s. All of them had been used to make a muslin; most of those were included in the individual envelopes.

And, for those of you who do not sew, on the backs of those envelopes were the approximate expected measurements of the wearer.

One of the most common things I see listed on current pattern sites is "I wear an 8! How come I wear a 12 in your pattern?" with the response Sewing patterns are sized smaller than off-the-rack clothing.

The rack-stores, anything from Sears up to Neiman Marcus, say The old sizes were too small for modern women, prompting a complete re-vamp of size numbers to today's current sizing. These are more natural to the size of the modern woman, and should serve her well.

Oh, yeah?

Head yourself out to one of those stores. Take a tape measure with you, and start grabbing Size 8s off the rack. Take down the waist measurement of each, noting the manufacture of each. There is consistency within the individual manufacturer, but not across the manufacturers themselves. The waist size can be anything from 24 inches to 28, keeping in mind that the so-called waist is actually three or four inches below where your natural waist actually is.

Don't believe me? Take a strip of 1/4 inch elastic, and tie it around your middle. Stand up, sit down, dance around the room. The elastic will end up not two inches above your hips, but right about where the short-ribs are. That, ladies and gentlemen (and d0nn13), is your natural waist. What the modern sizing is actually measuring is almost onto the hips.

Then go to your local fabric and crafts store. JoAnns, Hobby Lobby, Wal*Mart, or whatever your equivalent is, and start pulling out patterns. You should be able to get a hold of McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity, and perhaps Vogue or Burda. Note the New And Improved Waist Sizing here? Here is a pointer to Simplicity's version of Standard Sizes By Inches.

Note anything interesting? About, say, how a woman's 18 is virtually the same size as a Plump Girl's? And a size 8? Why, it's the same size as a girl's 14.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I wore a girl's 14 when I was in junior high school. No boobs, no waist, no hips; all the curvature of a yard of pump-water. When I was at Arizona State, I wore an 8 everywhere but the bust. I was a lot taller, and had defined curves.

Apparently, the New And Improved sizing means that once you have hit the age of ten, you are supposed to stay the same size as that ten year old.

This is "healthy"?

Now we drift back toward those patterns. Here, I know. We'll grab one. It's a business-suit type pattern, what would later become known as a Power Suit. The copyright date on it is 1967, and along the back envelope flap, we have the ubiquitous Range Of Sizes.

This pattern is a Misses 16. A larger-than-normal but not grossly obese size.

The measurements for a 16 are 44-1/2" bust, 39" waist, 46" hips.

Not a size twenty-six, but a size sixteen.

My God. If I add about ten inches to the bust, I could fit into a size sixteen!

Okay, let's slide that one back into the box, and pull out another one. This one's for a nice formal dress. It's dated from 1952, and it's a Vogue pattern. Now keeping in mind that Vogue ideally mirrored the haute couture of the day, the pattern in question is definitely fitted. The instructions, in fact, suggest that you try on your muslin wearing the appropriate foundation garments, meaning that it was designed to be worn with a corset. Oh, not one of those ungodly pigeon-breasted S-form jobbies from 1910, but something that would provide firm support from beneath.

Again, we are looking at a size sixteen.

And again, we have measurements of 44" bust, a 36" waist, and 46" hips. Vogue makes it a bit harder to find their sizing, but here, again, is a link.

Neat, huh? Admittedly the Today's Fit is a bit closer to their original, but their Vintage Vogue patterns are all sized with the New And Improved sizing.

Butterick? Same thing, if not a bit worse; their patterns used to run small in the original.

Well, thinks I, sliding that one back in, too. Interesting, hey?

The oldest pattern I have is from 1946. The sizes are still consistent. But never fear! There are sites on the 'web that have original patterns! And I went to look at them.

Sizes - such as we find above - are not widely used until the mid- to late 40s. Prior to that? Waist and/or bust sizes, depending on the garment. Skirt patterns from 1890 - yes, I found some, and no, I'm not buying 'em (at least not yet) - are grouped by size. The smallest I found in a woman's size was a 24 - that was the finished waist band size, which meant that the prudent woman would be corsetted in to a 20" - and went all the way up to a 52.


That's inches, lads, lasses, and d0nn13.

And no, not those are not Maternity Measurements. Maternity was a completely different department - the waist was not bound at all; you wore a Maternity Corset (which was sized according to your hips, and tied almost up by the shoulders, so the baby was held up by the thing) and your gowns were basically prettily printed sacks; the skirt hung from straps over the shoulder, and the blouse hung loosely over it. That was, of course, when you weren't simply in a "Maternity Wrapper", which had an interior lacing, so that even if you were overwrought by your condition, your modesty was still preserved.

Imagine that. They had fat women - and presumeably men, though their shirts were constructed very differently, buying fabric strictly by width and sewing selvage to selvage and gathering at the neckline - during the Civil War! And afterwards!

Okay, let's go back to the patterns. Now we'll start leafing forward. Here, we'll stop in the 1970s (oh my God, please tell me I never wore my hair like that).

Pattern sizes in 1972 are roughly the same as 1967.

My collection is not complete; there is not another pattern until 1979. Here, there is a drastic difference.

On the McCall's pouch, there isn't even a size that permits anybody to have a bust measurement bigger than 40 inches...and that is a dreadfully unfashionable Size twenty.

Waists are six inches smaller than bust, and the hip measurement is five inches larger than the waist. This, then, would be when the style officially dropped waists from the natural waistline down onto the hips. Anybody but me remember the Empire Drop-Waist? Here it is, gals, guys, and d0nn13!

1983 had a resurgance of the high-necked blouses of the 1880s, including the tight waist, modified Gigot sleeve, and ruffles to emphasize the gazongas. Probably the only point in current fashion that I could actually buy something off the rack, though mostly I filled the thing out the way they weren't supposed to be. (And I sure as hell did not need the ruffles.)

Still, though...a 22 inch waist was a four. And a forty-four inch bust was an embarrassment, only to be seen on porn stars.

In the mid-90s, Neiman Marcus had an Italian plus-sized model bring her line of clothes into the Newport store. "Real clothes," she said proudly, "for real women." The garments were beautiful. They were well-made, they were well-designed, and they took into account that not everybody can, or indeed wants to, spend four hours a day on a treadmill and eat a half a cup of vinegar-soaked raisins before every meal.

The complaints were overwhelming. "You're saying that all women are fat," was the most popular whinge. "Real women don't look like that! Real women are proud of how they look! Nobody wants to spend their money on clothes for fat people, we want to look beautiful!" Neiman Marcus stopped carrying her clothes after six months. The line was picked up by Saks, and may well still be there. Including some absolutely delectable wedding and black-tie formal attire.

Neiman Marcus, meanwhile, doesn't even carry anything larger than a 48, and that's for men. And you'd better believe they're slim-fit, too.

Because, after all, in order to have money, you must be anorexic, or damn' near to it.

To use a horribly over-played phrase, "Fascinating."

...the short short version...

The current, common scream seems to be naught but "People are getting fat now! Clothing sizes prove it! You're all too disgusting to be seen, and you can't even buy patterns big enough to cover you!"

Research and factual evidence seems to prove to the contrary.

I'm almost masochistic enough to try and find out how the protesters would change their stories were the physical evidence placed before them?

Copyright sDr 2008
Do not reproduce
without express
permission of
the author

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bootstrap B.S.

For all those who exhort the disadvantaged to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps", I ask that you take your damn bootstraps and shove them up your nose.

If you examine the origins of the phrase, they are rooted in variants of a tall tale (generally the Baron von Munchausen stories) where the protagonist finds himself in over his head, either in quicksand or a body of water, and he saves himself by bending down, taking hold of his bootstraps, and lifting himself up and out of his predicament. In other words, because this is a tall tale, he is doing something that is physically impossible--just like the actions of one Australian folk hero who cuts up mine shafts and sells them as post holes.

Telling someone who is in a disadvantaged state to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" is demeaning and dismissive. It assumes resources not in evidence, and places blame upon the person for their status. I see these assumptions made all the time, and it annoys the hell out of me. Let me share one small anecdote that illustrates why I feel this way:

Client T is a disabled woman in her fifties. Her monthly benefits are so low that she can only afford to live in an area that has high levels of crime. Because she is disabled, small-bodied, and female, she has been the target of robbery at least twice--and was beaten up both times, once very badly. When applying for a program that would help her pay for something she needed, she was asked to submit a photocopy of some paperwork.

It may be difficult to imagine that a photocopy would be a sticking point, but think about this:
- She is disabled, and cannot walk to the nearest place that has a photocopier--even if there were a place close by, which there isn't.

- She does not have a car, as they are expensive, and she is legally blind regardless.

- Take the bus?

- Okay, so how does she know the bus schedule?

- I've heard people say, "Oh she can go online". No, she can't. She's destitute. She doesn't have a computer nor could she afford internet even if she did.

- She can get them at the library, of course, but how does she get to the library? The bus? And thus we have a repeating loop. Yes, she can call the bus office and ask them; my personal experience with doing that was pretty frustrating, though. And she still has to come up with the money for the bus.

- Cabs are RIGHT out. She takes a cab, she doesn't eat that week.

- And, leaving the house can be problematic for her, because she is fearful of and at risk for being robbed and beaten again.

One solution, of course, is for the agency requiring the photocopy to acknowledge that it isn't a completely simple matter for everyone, and to help her in getting that photocopy, either by sending over a social worker with a portable copier (as my friend Nancy does when she helps people do their HEAP applications), or by simply requesting a fax or digital copy from the paperwork's originating agency.

Sometimes, folks, we need to lend a hand to people instead of kicking sand in their faces when they are down. We need to acknowledge that taking care of disadvantaged people is not a waste of resources; it is what makes us human. Survival of the fittest is NOT a human trait; it is beastly and cowardly. It is when we care for one another that we advance and evolve.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Book Review: Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers

I finished Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers today. Now that I'm done with it, I can honestly say that I really wish I'd just looked up the ending on Wikipedia and given up on the damn thing less than halfway through.

I don't like to read book reviews, because so many of them contain spoilers--including, perhaps even especially, the "Editorial Reviews" on (Publishers Weekly, I'm looking at you). However, had I read them in this instance, I would have found that those who praise this book highly are doing so primarily on the rich vocabulary used by the author. They also praise his "well turned phrases". I'm sorry, folks, but knowing big words and being able to design a clever sentence does NOT make a novel worthwhile. If I want to see a bunch of big words and clever sentences, Roget's Thesaurus makes for more interesting reading of the former, while Bartlett's Familiar Quotations provides a more enriching dose of the latter.

Galatea 2.2 could have been a sly, thoughtful take on the meaning of intelligence and awareness. Instead, it is a long-winded self-referential wank of the highest order.

The protagonist/narrator is a novelist by the name of Richard Powers. Yes, that's right, he doesn't have the decency to disguise that it's an autobiography; he really is so full of himself that he thinks that his dreadfully boring mid-life crisis should be inflicted upon the reading public. Woven through the moderately interesting plot of creating an artificial intelligence is Powers' uninteresting life story, complete with failed relationships--starting with disappointed daddy on his deathbed, then dragging us over the coals of his painfully stilted, cold relationship with "C.", and ending with the fact that he couldn't even keep his artificially intelligent machine interested enough not to commit suicide.

Another irritating habit of Powers' is his inability to come up with invented names (or just use the real ones) for many of the characters and places; he instead abbreviates them to A., C., B., and so on. Some drooling sycophants gushed about this, simpering over how clever Powers is for using the old Russian style in this regard. I personally believe that it is distracting and unnecessary. If he's referring to real live people and trying to spare them the notoreity, why not just come up with a different name?

Powers would have benefited from a heavy-handed, strong-willed editor, a firm but kindly psychologist, and a huge kick in the ass. The 50% of this book which details the relationship with C. reads like a therapy journal, and it should never have gone any further than that. Powers obviously had a deep-seated need to write it all out, but it was unseemly for him to take it to the public, let alone pass it off as a "novel".

Also, anyone writing science fiction should get some Theodore Sturgeon under his/her belt to see how it can be written without making the technology eye-rollingly dated five, ten, or more years down the line. Powers probably thought he was impressive with his technical descriptions, but computer science has changed exponentially since 1995. He didn't really allow for that, so the "science fiction" reads more like "been there, done that".

In short, I really wish I hadn't wasted my time with this; it made me feel as if I were a voyeur to Powers as he masturbated to his own image in the mirror. This is no Pygmalion; it is a self-loathing yet self-obsessed Narcissus, except the Echo(s) in this tale drop Powers like a hot potato once they realize he'll never love them more than he does himself.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A little update on my personal life

I've been writing less than I'd like to; I have loads of notes and ideas, but when I have the time to write, I don't have the energy, and vice versa. Hurricane season is always a rough time for people with problems like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and similar issues, as, even up here in New York State, we experience the rapid progression of pressure changes that wreak havoc with joints and sinuses.

Additionally, I've had a very busy month with my business; when I'm not directly involved with a client, I still have to do promotion, taking care of the animals, and fielding requests to adopt unwanted reptiles. We JUST took in a beautiful adult Savannah monitor, and while I'm glad we will have him for presentations, it means I have another cage to build or buy, another type of food to keep on hand, and more poop to scoop (and boy, is it some nasty poop!). We also adopted some blue-tongue skinks, and we'll be working on a breeding project for them, and we've been asked to take in an adult boa constrictor, which I may decide against.

Of course, we're still fostering cats and kittens, and at one point in the past month, we actually had eleven fosters total, including the family of cats and kittens mentioned in this post. I am very happy to say that the situation discussed in that post worked out very well. The head of the rescue bent a few rules so that we could help those cats, and we were able to find homes for all of them! The family did want one of the cats returned to them after her kittens were weaned and she was spayed, which is something we don't usually do, but that particular mama cat really wanted to be with her original family anyway--she was very happy and relieved when I brought her back to her people. One of the kittens turned out to be deaf (as are 60-80% of white cats with blue eyes), and was adopted by a wonderful young woman who has experience living with a deaf cat. Two of the cats were adopted by another friend of mine, and they integrated very nicely into her family. The remaining kittens were adopted by great folks, and it's all worked out very well.

There have been ups and downs, of course. In the past week, both I and the foster coordinator ended up with FIV positive cats in end-stage liver failure. If we hadn't been there for those cats, they probably would have died alone and outside, slowly and painfully; instead, we were there to give them loving hands until the very end. Our boy purred from the moment we met him to the moment he passed, despite the fact that he must have been feeling terrible. We gave him love, and received his love, and that, really, was all he'd wanted in his last moments. I have no regrets about meeting him and being there for him; our time with him was a gift to both him and us.

Finally, we currently have five very crazy, bouncy, purry, adorable kittens. We kept them for an extra few days to make sure they were healthy; I don't like sending them out for adoption right after they're spayed and neutered if I haven't had them in my care before--I'd rather hang on to them and wait to see if they have an upper respiratory infection or some other issues, than send them home with an adopter potentially ill. So, until Saturday, we have some WILD THINGS in the foster room!

Things here have been busy, but not really bad, just lots of stuff going on. I've been neglecting my poor camera, so I don't have any decent pictures of the babies to share. I do have a lot on my mind to write about, and when I've got my head together, I'll put together some decent blog posts for y'all. I hope everyone is doing great out there.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fibromyalgia is usually associated with "tender points", which are specific areas around the body that respond with an inordinate amount of pain when pressure is applied to them. Researchers are beginning to accept that these are not necessarily a good diagnostic criterion, and that the tender points appear to be areas that are particularly sensitive for all people; they are just more so for people with fibromyalgia, who experience a greater level of pain with less pressure than people without the condition.

Even so, since I started to become ill, my upper arms have become so tender that I can hardly bear to even have someone brush against them--and if more pressure than that is applied to them, it is agonizing beyond description. Blood pressure cuffs are torture devices to me, and tourniquets used for blood draws are even worse. I've had people playfully punch my arm, and then get indignant when I start to cry because it hurt so badly. "I didn't hit you THAT hard!" Most don't believe me when I explain that my arms are insanely sensitive, but they do tend to refrain from repeating the gesture when I explain that the pain is probably similar to getting hit in the testicles, and that, if they do it again to me, I'll be happy to demonstrate to them how badly it hurt me.

The arm-punching scenario happened often enough that I now have panic attacks sometimes if someone looks like they are going to touch my upper arm. Usually I move out of their reach, cross my arms, and place a hand on each upper arm for protection, then explain to them why I reacted that way. I've gotten pretty good at anticipating people, so I haven't been hurt in a while by a person, thank goodness.

But the rest of the world isn't foam padded. I'm sure my blood pressure readings (which are usually very good) are higher than what my normal state would be because of the pain, and the anticipation of the pain. Short sleeves with elastic gathers are abhorrent to me. Sometimes ANY fabric touching my arms is intolerable (I wear a lot of sleeveless shirts). I sometimes bump into objects or get jostled in a crowd. There are many days when they hurt and throb even if nothing at all is touching them. It feels like the whole surface of my upper arms are very nasty, very fresh bruises all the time. And when something DOES apply pressure to them, the pain lingers for a short period once the stimulus is gone.

I don't know what mechanism of my illness causes this excruciating arm pain. If I did, maybe I'd have some idea of how to lessen or even eliminate it. This is just one small aspect of the myriad symptoms I deal with on a daily basis, and I thought that elucidating upon this one aspect might give others some insight on just how difficult it can be to face this in addition to the crushing fatigue, widespread body pain, sensitivity to aural and visual stimuli, and all the other things that my brain fog keeps me from enumerating. Not all of them can be managed or reduced with treatment or drugs, and just being alive and conscious is a painful chore some days.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Just a quick one today

Telling someone with fibromyalgia that "everyone has aches and pains" is like telling a hemophiliac "everyone bleeds when they get a cut".

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A day in the life

Today, I had a booking for my small business. I awoke with my alarm, and took a pain pill, resetting my alarm for half an hour later, so I could get up once the pain medicine kicked in. Without it, I have a hard time getting up even to use the restroom, and I usually hold it as long as I can just to avoid the pain of getting up and going.

Half an hour after the first alarm, the second one goes off. I can get up now; it still hurts, but not as much. I pull the clothing I want out of my closet and dresser, but don't put them on right away; clothes are actually painful to me, and I'd rather get some other things done first (I bathe/shower at night, so that my hair will be dry by morning). Using hypoallergenic cosmetics, I put my face in order so I no longer look like a painting from Picasso's Blue Period. I pull on part of my clothing, and go downstairs to pack the rolling rubbermaid bin I need for my gig.

Using a written list, I make sure I haven't forgotten anything important; I've done this many times, but I still need to make sure the brain fog doesn't make me omit a key part of my repertoire. The bending and lifting I have to do for this is causing my lower back to protest, but I keep moving, grabbing a small bit of food on the way out.

I have to load the bin into my car, which I can do--I'm strong--but it hurts. My lower back feels like a knife has twisted in it, and it continues broadcasting pain signals even after I've settled into the driver's seat. Driving is a particular nuisance; the use of my body in this way often gives me leg cramps, a spasming back, neck pain, and a headache. Fortunately, my drive today is less than five minutes, and I arrive at my destination no worse for the drive, for once.

I haul the bin out of the car, along with a couple of bags that had been on the front seat. I try to pick up the bin's handle, but my purse is on that shoulder, and it slides down. Stupidly, I slide my purse back up and try to pick up the handle again, repeating this three or four times before my logic circuits burn through the brain fog and tell me to put the purse on the OTHER shoulder.

Once at my gig, I set up quickly, then use my spare time to read the novel I'd brought along. The time comes, and I perform well, as usual. This is the easy part for me; it comes naturally and easily. After I'm done, I receive applause, and many audience members come up afterwards to personally thank me, and to tell me how much they enjoyed it. I accept their compliments graciously, and then thank them for being there.

I leave some literature with the person who organizes events for that client, then pack up and haul the bin back out to my car. It feels heavier than it was before, even though it's technically lost some mass. My back can't take much more than this, and when I get home, I feel my abdominal muscles giving way this time as I lift the bin back up to the porch. I'm still not done, though; I have to get its contents put away--it's not a task that can be left until later. More bending, kneeling, lifting, and it's done. And so am I.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's about being civil

Even IF it is true that fat is unhealthy... (and it isn't)

Even IF lifestyle is the sole cause of being fat... (and it isn't)

Those are STILL not acceptable reasons for the things people say about and do to fat people.

Christopher Reeves' horse riding lifestyle choices resulted in him becoming a quadriplegic, yet it would have been socially unacceptable to scream insults at him about horses or paralysis. That's because it's asinine to do so. Well, it's also asinine to be nasty to fat people, regardless of their health or lifestyle.

Brief book reviews

Stations of the Tide, by Michael Swanwick. I was irritated with it at first, and while it did become more coherent, I just found it to be a fairly pointless book. The plot was sketchy, the characters were cardboard, and the Christian allegory trite. The idea of a tidal world is very interesting, but it wasn't developed very much; in fact, there were a number of neat little notions here and there, but most of them were briefly touched upon and then forgotten. I didn't hate it, but it's not a book I'd recommend for most people.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Now THIS book is one I'd recommend--and probably give as gifts to people. It consists of four stories, each nested in one another. They are tied together by a common thread, as each is a depiction of rising up against slavery, past, present, and future. The stories each have a character with a birthmark; Mitchell has said that the birthmark indicates that the possessor is the reincarnation of the same soul. There were a number of delightful concepts that led me to fill the book with page flags so I can go back through and write about them later. I have done part of it in a private entry; when I finish, I'll post it so everyone can see it. For now, I will just say that Cloud Atlas is a beautiful, incredible novel that I could NOT put down. I checked it out from the library, but I definitely want a copy of my own so I can flip through it again and again.

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. This is an epic adventure tale, with many characters whose interwoven stories become part of a larger picture as they learn more about one another. The separate lives they had been leading were not as separate as they realized. Essentially, seven people are making a pilgrimage to a dangerous place on a planet that is under attack by barbaric enemies of mankind. There is a deadly foe, The Shrike, that has power over time, and can kill people in an eyeblink, with no one even seeing it arrive or leave. Simmons has a compelling storytelling ability, and it was tough for me to put the book down even when I needed sleep! It ends in a cliffhanger, though, so make sure you can get your hands on the sequel when you're done. I'm making myself wait, because I have a bunch of library books to work through first.

Monday, August 25, 2008

How are you? Don't ask!

My aunt, who is only two years older than I am, has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for an inoperable brain tumor. The treatments are not going to be life-saving; they will, however, lengthen her remaining time and stave off the loss of function for a while. Of course, the treatment has the expected side effects of feeling really sick, hair loss, etcetera.

When the family was informed of her diagnosis, I made the decision to start writing her letters--real, handwritten letters, sent through the mail, which to me are so much more personal and dear than email. I wanted to make sure I said all the things that I wanted to say, but, more importantly, I wanted to give her something to enjoy and look forward to. She knows that I know she's ill, and that she's suffering, and all that, so I ignored those topics altogether, instead focusing in my first few letters on the things I admired about her.

After I had gotten the "have to say this" stuff out of my system, I then focused my writings on good things that were happening here in my world. We both love animals, so I wrote about my foster cats, my own cats, my reptiles, and some of the volunteer work I was doing. I wrote about my garden as spring arrived. I told silly stories about my husband and roommate. I shared experiences with favorite restaurants and recipes, talked about art museum visits, and whatever else was going on that was positive. I made sure to tell her that I was perfectly okay with her not responding, that I figured she would want to spend the bulk of her energy on enjoying her family.

At some point, my mother had a chance to talk to her at a family gathering, and she told my mother that she was really enjoying my letters, especially because they focused on the positive things. So I kept writing, and at some point, I called her to answer a question she'd had about a bird. She commented on how irritating it was that people kept asking her how she was feeling. I told her I absolutely understood--that even though my condition is not as serious as hers, it still makes me feel like crap all the time, and so I never know whether to answer the question, "How are you feeling?" with honesty or not. I'd rather not talk about how I'm feeling, because it's always bad, and if you are always answering honestly in that way, people start to get annoyed with me for never feeling good.

So what should you say to a person who is ill, in lieu of "How are you feeling"? Train yourself to ask a different question. Ask if they've seen any good movies lately, read any good books, that kind of thing. Whatever common ground you've had with them before? Now's the time to draw upon it and talk about those topics. And, if the person is actually wanting to discuss their illness, let them guide you to that topic. I know that I sometimes do want to talk about mine, if only to share experiences that might be helpful to others, or when I need a little support, but a most of the time, if I have the energy for socializing, I'd just rather focus on other things, and I'm grateful to folks who allow me to do that.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Fatifesto

I strive toward a world in which:

- People are treated respectfully, regardless of their body shape or size,

- Medical personnel treat a person's actual medical problems and behave as professionals who set aside personal aesthetics when treating and diagnosing a patient,

- The answer to every problem does not involve weight loss,

- A person's body size or shape does not reflect their morality,

- Fat people are not scapegoated for all the world's ills,

- Fat is not an epithet,

- My body's shape or size is regarded as my business and no one else's,

- The life-giving act of eating is not regarded as shameful, weak, or dangerous,

- A fat person can be in public without fearing they will be abused in some way,

- The abuse--physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, or other--of fat people is regarded as morally wrong, with no exceptions or excuses,

- It is acknowledged that no one needs to "do something" about their body's shape or size,

- It is acknowledged that most fat people cannot significantly change their body size or shape, even if it were beneficial to do so,

- Fat people are not subjected to hard-sell, dishonest marketing tactics that shame and scare them into purchasing products and services they do not need, and which do not work,

- A food's merits are based on its nourishing qualities and good flavor, not on how few calories it has,

- Fat people are not discriminated against in the job market.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And now, the hard part, part II

We are currently fostering some mothers with nursing kittens. One of the kittens, a tiny orange tabby named Holly, was rejected by the mothers, and by the time she came to us, she was skeletal. Brian and I did what we could, giving her formula with a syringe, which she lapped up eagerly. Within a day, she recognized us as food-bringers, and would run to us when we came in the room. If we didn't feed her right away, and had to leave the room (such as, refilling the water dish in the room), she would sit at the door and give a tiny mew.

Mother cats often reject a kitten because they know something is wrong, even if we can't tell. When Brian and I went in for her 6pm feeding, she was on her side, listless, with agonal breathing. Not long after, she passed, cradled in his hands. She was such a tiny baby, weighing only half a pound, and adorably sweet. Lots of "ifs" go through my mind, including wondering if we'd have been able to do better if she'd come to us sooner, but I don't think so. I am reflecting on her short life, and thinking of the good we did for her, while she was with us.

If we'd never fostered Holly at all...

...she would never have known a moment's peace from the fleas that covered her body in angry, red bites. She instead had nearly a week of flea-free living, enough for her skin to heal, and for the painful bites to cease.

...her last days would have been with an empty belly. Instead, she was fed to satiation by humans to whom she was so grateful, she came running to them whenever they came into the room.

...she wouldn't have been cuddled and stroked in her last days, because her mother didn't want her. Instead, she was held and cuddled by the humans who filled her belly.

...she would likely have died alone. Instead, she passed in the gentle hands of a human man who loved her dearly.

...she would have died nameless. Instead, she was carefully named with great love and consideration, and there are stories to be told of her short life with us.

...there would have been no one to remember her with love, and give her a shady resting place after her body failed her. Instead, she is immortalized in my foster diary, and she has a grave which will have a namesake bush planted in her honor. She is also near another kitty's resting place, so she is not alone (Teya, we miss you).

Friday, July 25, 2008

God hates McDonald's

So, the religious right is boycotting McDonald's because they are supportive of gay rights.

Not only do I have a problem with people who fight tooth and nail for their "right" to treat an entire demographic as subhuman, I also have a problem with hypocrisy. The catalyst for the current whine-fest is McDonald's being listed as a "Corporate Partner" on the webpage of the NGLCC. You can see this list here:

They are targeting McDonald's, yet there are quite a few other partners listed that are not getting so much attention. One major example that stands out in my mind includes a few pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson. I don't see these bigots going without their Viagra, Zithromax, or Zocor. Or, in the case of Johnson & Johnson, their band-aids, baby shampoo, or Tylenol.

Other companies include airlines (Southwest and American), hotels (Hyatt, Hilton, and Wyndham), credit card companies (American Express, Capital One, and quite a few others), quite a few grocery chains (including Acme, Shop n Save, and Albertson's), realtor Century 21, and that obscure little shipping company, UPS. In fact, it seems that quite a few of the corporate partners are providers of services that most people would be hard pressed to do without.

McDonald's has taken a beating for years over many things, including environmental issues, health concerns, and not disclosing that their fries are not vegetarian. Now that they've done something right, something that promotes justice, I really hope they stand their ground against the bigots. It might even convince me to occasionally patronize them, even if it's just for a pie and iced tea once in a while, and I am going to roll my eyes at the hypocrite fundies who think that boycotting one corporate sponsor of a civil rights group is going to help them in their fight to keep gay people from being treated as human beings.

I watch these people freaking out, as if they are terrified that gay people are going to...what, exactly? Break into their houses and make them engage in gay sex? Wave a rainbow flag in their faces?

No, really, I want to know why people are so terrified. If gay people are allowed to live their lives without being harrassed, discriminated against, or otherwise treated like crap, what are the consequences homophobes are so afraid of? Gays currently are able to do many of those things in certain parts of the US, and it is very clear that they aren't out raping heterosexuals en masse.

Why are they so concerned with something that is none of their business, that doesn't affect them?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Educating with Animals

My favorite assistant (Brian) and I did a reptile show for a daycare's summer camp today. The kids were mostly between 5 and 7 years of age, and there were very few who were afraid of any of the animals. I tell the audience before we begin that, if they don't feel comfortable touching an animal, they may tell us, "No, thank you," and hold up their hands, palms forward, to make sure we understand. I tell them that it isn't fair to them for anyone to make them touch an animal they are afraid of, and that we will not tease them, pester them, or otherwise give them a hard time over it.

Once they realize they have a choice in the matter, the majority of initially fearful children will ask to touch the animal once they have seen some of their peers doing so. It's absolutely rewarding to see a terrified kid become brave and curious, especially when dealing with a snake--an animal that they have been conditioned to fear by their culture. I make sure that all the snakes we use are very even-tempered so they don't make sudden moves to frighten people. I also tend to choose some of our more "cuddly" snakes that enjoy being held--Tez, my Honduran milk snake, will often slide himself into the pocket of his handler and contentedly rest in there for as long as we'll let him.

The most fearful people we encounter are adults. They have had a long time to build their phobia, and, unfortunately, when their phobia is revealed to certain types of people, those types will worsen the phobia by tormenting the fearful person with it. Whether it's attacking them with rubber snakes, making hissing sounds, or just describing unpleasant encounters with snakes, the tormentor delights in freaking out the phobic, so that by the time I get to them, they are desperately afraid that I am going to shove a snake in their faces, chase them around with it, or make them hold it against their will.

We will do none of those things--my preferred method for dealing with phobic people is to allow them to watch me handling the snake, talking to the snake, and demonstrating that it is harmless to me. I tell them the snake's name, since names tend to make them more personable and less scary. I talk about how long the snake has been in captivity, and where it came from. I also explain that almost every one of my ill-tempered snakes (which never go to shows) was abused by a human, and they learned that our species can't be trusted to do anything except cause them suffering. Most people don't even think about a snake being abused, but when they are faced with that notion, are better able to relate to them.

So today's show involved two snakes, two lizards (including Spinner, the legless lizard), Blinky the frog, and our redfoot tortoise. There were two fearful teachers, one of whom was so afraid that he couldn't even look at snakes on television. We had a handful of kids that were initially afraid, but once they saw their classmates touching the animals without fear, they mostly came around and wanted to have that experience too.

I feel it's important in what I do to give young people a familiarity with these animals so that they don't get saddled with an irrational phobia. It's absolutely delightful when they overcome their initial anxiety to reach out to one of these creatures. If what I do in these shows prevents at least one young person from killing snakes on sight out of fear later, I will have done good to the future snakes of the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cat rescue and low income families

Our newest foster kitty is a six-month-old white short-haired kitty named Sunshine. She came from a home where her mom and another female cat are now raising fresh litters of kittens. The family is very poor, and they were not able to purchase cat food for the past few days, so they'd been feeding Sunshine and the rest fish sticks* up until today.

The family had agreed to give up the kittens so they could be fostered, altered, and rehomed, but they don't want to give up their adult momma cats because they are their beloved pets. The solution we are trying to come up with is to have me or someone else foster the moms and kittens until the babies are weaned, then get the moms spayed and returned to their family, along with some education and access to resources in case of future crises. The purpose of fostering them is to keep the moms confined so that they don't get pregnant again, and to make sure everybody is safe and fed for that time period.

Someone in a livejournal community had commented that they didn't understand why the rescue would get the momma cats at Sunshine's former home spayed, then return them to that situation afterwards. I gave her a very long answer, and thought I would share it here.


The goal is to try to find solutions that are agreeable to the family. Otherwise, if their animals are simply taken away, they'll just go and pick up a "free kitten" elsewhere and start the cycle all over again.

Ptera's mom and dad were in a similar home. She and her sisters were removed for fostering (by me--they were my first fosters, and I kept two of them, haha), and L, the coordinator dealing with that neighborhood's poverty-level families with cats, got the parents spayed and neutered so that the family wouldn't end up having more kittens. They received some education and advice, and now they have two loving feline companions that aren't going to increase the unwanted kitten population any more. They also now have access to resources if things get tough again.

The rescue also has a low-cost spay/neuter program for people to get their cats fixed even if they don't have a lot of money. Those who are on public assistance of some kind (medicaid, welfare, food stamps, social security) can get theirs done for free if they provide us with proof of their being on programs or low income. The cost is covered through the rescue by donations and grants. For $70, they get a spay/neuter, a rabies shot, a flea treatment, and a vet exam (where the doc can find other problems that need addressing and make them aware of it). For another $4, they can get the cat wormed. Again, low income families can get it done for free; we do a maximum of four free procedures each clinic, out of a total of 25 cats done that day--and the clinics are done every Sunday. It's a great program.

Even though the situations are not ideal for the animals, we have to acknowledge the reality that people are going to make the decision to acquire the pets anyway, and so we come up with realistic solutions, whether it's getting the animals spayed or neutered, removing kittens for fostering and rehoming, or helping them to budget for food and medical care, or find resources like food banks that carry pet foods.

I'll be very honest and say that, if I were in their situation, I would not want to live a catless life. When you're already down and out, the comfort an animal companion can bring is invaluable. The elderly are especially helped by their feline companions, but I also believe that it's valuable for children to be able to grow up with animal companionship, and it's rewarding to be able to give them that opportunity when they wouldn't otherwise have it.

Now, because I know you want to see them, here are some photos of Sunshine, some of them with her near-twin Ptera!
n my lap:
Sunshine on my lap

Getting sniffed by Ptera:
Ptera (standing) and Sunshine

Ptera (standing) and Sunshine

Ptera: This better not be my replacement!
Ptera (left) and Sunshine

* Yes, fish sticks may be pricier than cheap cat food, but you can't buy cat food with food stamps.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


So it's that time of year where I'd love to tell the trees and other plants to go **** themselves, but that's exactly what the problem is. All these plant gametes floating around in the air, stirring my immune system into a frenzy. I am grateful that Benadryl does NOT make me drowsy, because it keeps me somewhat functional--it just quiets down my overexcited immune system so I can go about my day. I need to be able to answer my phone without sounding like Alex Olsen (google it :P) because I've had a LOT of calls for my business lately (go me!).

This is what it's like, sort of:

Me: Excuse me, but this itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing thing is really annoying. Is this really necessary?

My immune system: OH MY GOD yes, there are all these INVADERS and they have to be DEALT WITH!

Me: Yeah, um, about that...seems most OTHER people are able to get along with the same "invaders" without all that nonsense.

MIS: Maybe THEIR immune systems don't know the TRUTH!!!!!!!

Me: Riiiight. Just like the "truth" about peanuts, and how they must be fought to the (as in, my) death?

MIS: You mock me, but if you knew what I knew about peanuts... *looks shifty-eyed*

Me: That's what you said about my thyroid. And my joints.


Me: Okay, okay, chill the **** out already. Here, have a Benadryl.

MIS: Ohhhh *nom nom nom* My favorite! Sleepy now, will be taking a break.

Me: Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for small miracles. Now if I could only train it to react with as much gusto to ACTUAL diseases, like the flu...

MIS: I HEARD THAT! *gets red and angry*

Me: Here, have another Benadryl, and STFU already.

MIS: Ooooh....ZzzzZZzzzZzZZ

Mart Cart, Revisited

There is SO much vitriol directed toward "Mart Carts" (motorized scooters in stores) and their users, especially if those users happen to be fat. I wrote about it here, back in April 2007, but I wanted to revisit the subject, especially now that I have more experience with them, and because I have seen more and more nasty things being said on that topic.

The usual hate-speak is to complain that if the person would "get off their ass and walk", they wouldn't be so fat. That, and referring to the carts as "fat carts", accompanied by outrage at the very existence of those carts. Many of these people seem to think that the carts are an accommodation just for fat people, and complain that fat people are being mollycoddled because stores have them.

First of all, those carts aren't for "fat people", they are for disabled people. And while complainers frequently whine that they "only see fat people" using them, I have to wonder how they got their marvelous psychic skills to determine that those people aren't disabled. Yes, it IS possible for a fat person to be disabled. A fat disabled person can be (and usually is) disabled by conditions that are not caused by their fat--and, in fact, the reduced activity levels caused by the condition may result in weight gain.

Disabled people DO need accommodation, if we are going to allow them some dignity and independence. When they are accommodated, they are able to go out in public and do some things, such as shopping, that they would never be able to do otherwise. This makes those people more visible in the public eye, of course, when they would otherwise be stuck at home doing nothing. Most of our public non-work activities include shopping and dining, so yes, you're going to see a fat disabled person using a cart in a store to do those activities.

Now, the major point I want to make here is that, even though the carts are a benefit to disabled people, and they DO offer a greater level of freedom for disabled people, no one who's used them more than a couple of times would, in their right mind, choose those damn things over walking with a regular shopping cart anyway. They aren't a fun toy; they are a pain in the neck. Those who use them are doing so because, while it is not an ideal way to shop for an abled person, it may be the best available option for a disabled person.

The carts are slow and bulky. When using them, a person's reach is VERY limited--it's hard to get stuff off of top and bottom shelves, it's hard to open freezer cases, and it's hard to put things on the belt at the checkout stand--and god forbid the person should stand up for a second to do ANY of those things, because that's the moment where people will say, "LOOK! She can stand up, she has NO right to use a cart!" The carts are also often dirty and/or smelly, they run out of electricity, and they don't hold very much compared to a regular cart.

Additionally, they can be a challenge to maneuver if the user isn't feeling great. Those are the days when, if the disabled person has a partner to help, a wheelchair can be really helpful. Unfortunately, most store wheelchairs seem to be in disrepair, they're uncomfortable, and they're usually filthy as well.

So if you think that someone is using the cart because they are lazy, I challenge you to give the cart a try yourself. Go through the store without an assistant. Remember that you are NOT permitted to stand up for any reason. You want something off a top shelf? Too bad; you have to ask a store employee for help, or a fellow customer (and hope that neither of those folks sneer at you or makes a snide remark). You aren't allowed to stand up to get something out of a freezer, no matter how damned frustrating it is to have to reach and maneuver the cart so you can open the door, then try to get the door to stay open while you maneuver close enough to get the item you want. If the cart smells, too bad; use it anyway, because it might be the last one left for someone who doesn't have a choice. Give it a try, and then get back to me on how much "fun" it is, how much "easier" it is. We aren't using them because it is easier, we are using them because our bodies don't work right. If you have a problem with that, why don't you get over yourselves and be glad that you have the ability to shop normally, in a store that is clearly designed for able people?

Edited to add: This is not the place for you to post hate-speech, especially personal attacks on people in the FA movement. Also, just because someone can go into a store under their own power does not mean that they can comfortably do all of their shopping that way; the fact is, you don't know ANYTHING about that person's situation, and it's none of your business. If they feel that they are better able to do their business using a mobility aid, then that is entirely their decision. Using a cane, wheelchair, or motorized scooter is not some "fun" thing people do because they are lazy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dealing with fatophobe trolls is like this

I have come up with the following to demonstrate what it is often like for me when people "challenge" the things I say in my blog.

Me: I have discovered that 2+2=4

Them: Wow, you're ignorant. Everybody knows that 3+8=11.

Me: I'm not denying that 3+8=11, but that does not have anything to do with 2+2=4.

Them: Oh my god, you are SO stupid for saying that 6+1=12!

Me: I never said that! All I said was 2+2=4!

Them: There you go again, trying to say that 7+6=147.39!

Me: What the hell are you talking about?! All I said was 2+2=4!

Them: Don't try and change the subject--why don't you just admit that you were wrong when you said that Hawaii was in France?

Me: What?! Are you on crack?!

Them: Oh there you go with ad hominem attacks, the last resort of an ignorant fool who thinks that horses are reptiles!

Me: OMGWTF?!?!?!

Them: Why are you getting so emotional? Maybe if you calmed down, you could think more clearly, and then you'd see that I'm right.

Me: Why don't you fuck off and die so I can have some peace?

Them: What are you doing? Help! This woman is crazy and should be locked up, she's trying to kill me for no reason!

Later, Them: You know, you should have been more polite and tried to educate me about 2+2=4 instead of flying off the handle. You win more flies with honey than vinegar.

Me: *banging head against wall until it mercifully explodes*

Them, smugly: See, she was obviously unstable. I knew it from the beginning.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

That dude with his article on depression being caused by feminism...well, we all know it's a big pile of shit, but this comment got my attention:
No need to wonder why men are running for the borders and dating foreign women and eventually moving to paradise to raise *happy* families with happy women. Even IMBRA, a law promoted by obviously depressed women (aka feminists), cannot stop this trend.

You mean this IMBRA?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

IMBRA, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, is a United States federal statute that requires background checks for those using international marriage agencies. The impetus for its introduction was several high-profile cases (including the Susanna Blackwell case in 1995 and the Anastasia King case in 2000) in which women had been abused and/or murdered by men using these services.

Yep, those god-damned feminazis, it's their jealousy of mail-order brides taking up all the good men that made them want to create a law that banned mail order brides from coming into the USA, and make all such marriages illegal.

Er, what?

You mean the law just requires that these guys get criminal background checks before they become a client of mail-order bride companies? And this is because women were being murdered by abusive husbands whose criminal records would have revealed them as abusers, had those women been able to see the records ahead of time? And because according to a federal court , "the rates of domestic violence against immigrant women are much higher than those of the U.S. population"?

And this was signed into law by known feminazi sympathizer George W. Bush?

Yes, obviously, a feminist's objection to mail-order brides is that they are jealous and can't get a man (isn't that the biggest reason these bitches are angry?), not because they feel it's not in a woman's best interest to be motivated by poverty and fear to ship herself away from her home and family to submit herself to some man who not only couldn't find a local woman who was willing to put up with his shit, but also who will have total control over her, because he holds the key to her green card and visa. And this man will obviously be so well-adjusted that he will let her know that she has the right to not be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused by him--in fact, he will definitely not prefer that she come from a country where women submitting to those things are "traditional values", right? Because he's such a good guy.

The Blue Jay and the Box Turtle

In a forest by a river, a blue jay and a box turtle met and became friends. The blue jay could look around from the treetops and report on any gossip in the area, while the box turtle had a good sense of smell and strong front legs and claws to dig up choice morsels to share with the blue jay.

Because the box turtle sometimes needed to get the blue jay's attention when the jay was high up in a tree, they developed a semaphore system so that they could ask simple, short questions without either of them having to leave their immediate location. The box turtle used this system more frequently, because the blue jay could simply fly down to wherever the turtle was to talk.

Well, one day, the blue jay gets a question flashed at him from the turtle. He wasn't at the treetop; he was on a lower branch, so he begins to berate the turtle. "I hate it when you use the semaphores when I'm not at the top of the tree!"

The turtle was very confused by this. "What did you want me to do, scream from down here? I thought that would be less polite than using the signals."

The jay hopped angrily from one foot to another, fluffing out his feathers self-importantly. "I am really tired of using the semaphores. If you need to talk to me, the least you could do is come up and speak to me in person!"

If the turtle had eyebrows, one would have been raised at that moment. "How do you expect me to do that, exactly? You do realize that I am a BOX TURTLE, and therefore I do not have wings? And I can't climb like a fox or bear!"

"Well I don't know. I am just sick and tired of using those semaphores!" The bluejay fluttered off in a squawking huff, shitting as he went to express his displeasure.

The turtle sat at the bottom of the tree, aggravated, and muttered, "Why should I dig up grubs for him, if he's just going to be like that?"

"Hey hey whatcha doin?!" said a chirpy voice. Box turtle looked up to see a dear treefrog friend, who had just awakened as the sun was setting. The little gray frog blended perfectly with the bark of the tree, but hopped around, eyeing the air for flying insects.

"Hey, frog. Blue jay's been kind of a jerk to me today."

"Yeah? HEY LOOK A LACEWING!" The frog flicked out his tongue and swallowed a bright yellow insect. "Tangy!"

"Yeah, he thinks that, if I want to talk to him, I should come up into the tree instead of using semaphores."

"I don't really deal with those semaphore things; they aren't too visible at night," the frog replied, snatching a silent-winged moth with lightning speed. "So I can understand how he feels."

"Er, right, but we are using them during the day, so that isn't really a problem," the turtle said, sniffing at the ground and digging up a fat earthworm. "I'm not too hungry, you want this?"

"Ohhh!" The frog slurped it down voraciously, stuffing the worm into his mouth with his forelegs. "I guess that makes sense; when females communicate with us, they don't use voices, which makes it hard--only our males can talk."

"Yeah, that is a totally different situation. He seems to think I can just climb right up into the tree and talk to him instead."

"Well, it is not fair for him to expect you to climb all the way up there, but can't you just meet him halfway? That's what I'd do." The frog clambered over the tree's trunk, snatching up ants and eating them like popcorn. "Not as tangy as lacewings, but close! That formic acid is delish."

"Halfway? You're a treefrog, you CAN meet him halfway. I'm a turtle. I don't have wings. I don't have sticky toe pads. I don't have agile limbs like a fox."

"Right, but don't you think that you'd eventually be able to do it if you practiced?"

"How is practice going to change the very nature of what I am?"

"I don't know. I'm sure there has to be a way to work it out. I gotta go, I hear a bunch of flies across that glen; I bet they're chewing on something delicious and dead! Bye!" The frog hopped onto the turtle's shell for a quick hug, and bounced away.

The box turtle withdrew into her shell and tightly closed it up, annoyed with the entire world. A couple of hours later, she felt something nudge her. Cautiously peeking out, she saw her best friend in the world, a handsome fox, with flowing tail, wide grin, and crafty eyes. "You okay, turtle?" he asked.

"No, Blue Jay is making me really mad." She told the fox her experience with blue jay, and what the treefrog had said. He licked her nose sympathetically.

"I know I can climb trees, but I also know that some cannot climb trees. By the way, there is some really tasty looking fruit up that tree over there. You want me to climb up and get you some?"

The turtle nearly cried with relief at having someone as understanding as the fox. "Yes. And next time you see Blue Jay, would you eat him for me?"

The fox laughed. "I'll see what I can do. For now, why don't you dig up some worms for us, and I'll go get that fruit, and then we can take a nap together.

"That would be great, Fox. I am so lucky to have a friend like you."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

News tidbits

Hey y'all, I am going to continue the "Fat is a symptom" series soon; I went through a few days of not feeling too great after hauling up the AC from the basement. Apparently, this person who could carry 120lbs without thinking about it much has a problem now with 50lbs. I CAN do it, but I pay for it later.

I knew that it might flatten me, but I was really getting sick from the heat, so I figured some muscle soreness would be better than nausea and dehydration. I am quite happy with my decision.

Our kitty situation is pretty good. We had Cyrene and her three kittens; the kittens are all adopted, and we're just waiting for room to open up at the adoption center for Cyrene. She is beautiful and very loving to people. Unfortunately, we've got a lot of cats at the center right now that really don't like other cats. Since one of them, Silver, looks like Cyrene, we are waiting until he is adopted before we stick her in the center.

Silver, by the way, is one hell of a great cat. When I was staffing the adoption clinic last week, he climbed up into my arms, wrapped his front legs around my neck in a hug, and proceeded to lick and nibble my earlobes. The other volunteer told us to get a room! He purred so loudly that it tickled my neck. He is beautiful, cuddly, and would definitely have come home with me that night if we didn't have any cats at home!

We also have Ziggy as a foster; she is a mama that raised her own kittens, then nursed someone else's, and came here to dry out. We're one of the very few foster homes willing to take in adult cats, so we were happy to give Ziggy some space.

Other than that, I've been reading a lot, trying to stay cool, and spending time with my wonderful spouse. I'd love to hear what you folks have been up to, and how you've been keeping cool, if you're in a place that's suffering a heat wave like we are here!

Friday, June 6, 2008

For the love of snakes

A few days ago, a gentleman in Texas had his beautiful boa contrictor stolen from his car. After searching high and low, and offering a reward for her return, he received an anonymous phone call that led him to her destroyed body. She had been bludgeoned with rocks, then torn in half.

I'd imagine that whoever swiped her had no idea what they were stealing when they grabbed the bag from the seat of the man's car. He'd left the window open as he went into the Circle K to get a coffee. Less than two minutes passed betweent the time he parked and the time he came back to his vehicle. It was probably some stupid piece of shit looking for guns, money, or drugs. Instead, the thief opens a bag containing an 8-foot-long albino boa constrictor. I suppose for a non-snake-lover, that is probably shocking.

However, no matter how much you fear snakes, the entitlement a person feels to kill someone else's beloved pet simply because they didn't know what they were getting into when they ROBBED that someone's car, is really galling. They had choices they could have made at that point--they could have closed the bag and dropped it somewhere, snake intact. They could have anonymously left it on the doorstep of a pet store. Instead, they CHOSE to torture and kill it, for no reason except perhaps their own fear, or their own amusement.

I know that many people do not understand that some of us really love and have relationships with our snakes. Maybe you're afraid of them, and you don't like them, but we do not feel the same way you do. We have invested time, and love, and care into making these animals a part of our lives. We know their individual quirks, their personalities (yes, they DO have personalities), and the physical things that make them different from others of their kind. I look into Julian's yellow eyes, and watch his black tongue flicking, and I feel warm and fuzzy inside. I watch someone hold Tez, my Honduran milk snake, and they soften from anxiety to delight, as they enjoy his gentle movements over their arms, and they realize that they have overcome some of their deepest fears. I have seen Gregor go from terrified face-biter to simply wary and mildly trusting, after he learned that we, unlike his previous owners, meant him no harm.

They do have personalities. We DO love them. Even if you can't imagine that, at least respect it--snakes don't deserve abuse and destruction any more than other, more "charismatic" pets, and their owners don't deserve to suffer their loss, no matter how weird or creepy you think liking snakes is.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fat is a symptom, not a disease, Part Five: Ovarian cysts

When I went to university just after high school, I met a very nice young woman who had a very rounded abdomen that looked like a near-term pregnancy. I lost touch for a while, but a couple years later, I saw her, and her belly was nearly flat. Still young, and not yet introduced to FA, I asked her about her weight loss. She told me that a volleyball-sized ovarian cyst had been removed from her body.

I was absolutely stunned. It was the first I'd heard of such a thing, and it horrified me to know that her cyst had gone undetected for so long--that she had spent so much time and effort trying to lose weight, when it wasn't weight that could be lost without surgical intervention.

Of course, not to be spared any of life's most wonderful experiences, four years ago, my own body decided to produce several cysts, one of them quite large, necessitating the removal of an entire ovary, the fallopian tube next to it, and a chunk of uterus, all of which had been engulfed in the cysts and could not be salvaged. It was an emergency surgery, due to the cysts being previously undiagnosed, and growing to a point where they suddenly caused acute, unceasing abdominal pain that landed me in the ER.

Ovarian cysts often go undetected because the women who have them are blown off as lazy overeaters. Instructed by doctors to "diet and exercise", patients can become frustrated and stop bothering to get medical care. The cysts continue to inflate--they fill with fluid, and can reach some mind-boggling proportions. A Texas woman had a 156-lb cyst removed in 1994. That pales in comparison to the world record, a 328-lb cyst removed from yet another Texas woman (what's in the water there?!) in the early 1900s, but a 156-lb cyst, as well as a 93-pounder and 66-pounder, are still problematic.

A woman carrying around a large ovarian cyst may experience disabling pain, and she may have her activity levels severely curtailed. With a reduction in activity, her metabolism may slow down, causing her to gain weight on top of having the weight of the cyst. By the time she finds a doctor willing to treat her actual problem (instead of berating her for being fat), she may have developed additional health problems related to being sedentary.

No amount of diet and exercise is going to make the cyst disappear. The rest of the body may lose mass, but the cyst will not shrink. There are generally only a couple of options for treatment; one is surgical removal of the cysts, and the other is hormone treatment in the form of birth control pills. Generally, most cysts will go away on their own once a woman starts taking birth control pills. Of course, weight gain is also a symptom of taking oral contraceptives; it would be great if fatophobes would understand that sometimes gaining weight on a medication is better than not having the therapeutic effects of the medication.

So the next time you see a woman that you think is OMGFAT, and you think it's somehow your business to get upset about that, consider the fact that the above is just one of many medical conditions that can make a person appear to be fat, and it is often one that goes untreated far too long because too much attention is paid to making people thin instead of making them healthy. You might also consider that she is on a medication that is keeping her healthy, and being fat is a side effect of that medication. Asking a woman about the status of her reproductive system, though a favorite hobby of aunts and mothers-in-law, is generally considered to be a gauche thing to do, so the best thing to do is assume that her health and reproductive system are private matters between her, her physician, and possibly her significant other, no matter how badly your screwed-up, bigoted aesthetic sense is upset by the sight of her.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fat is a symptom, not a disease, Part Four: Drug side effects

Many pharmaceuticals have weight gain as a well-documented side effect. The weight gain can be due to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, lowering metabolic rates, causing hyperinsulimia (especially in anticonvulsants like neurontin and depakote), and many other biochemical effects that are not easy to put into layman's terms. To put it simply, these drugs work because they have a specific chemical effect, but they often react with other biochemical processes in ways that are either not anticipated, or are considered to be less important than the intended therapeutic effect.

To put it simply, a living animal is not a laboratory calorimeter, where calories in and calories out are a simple function. We are infinitely complex, and adding a molecule to the living system can help some problems, but modern medical science is not yet fine-tuned enough to successfully target one tiny process. Our SSRIs and other antidepressants are often like taking a blunderbuss to a rifle range--you will probably hit the target, but you'll hit a lot of other stuff too.

That's what progress is all about, though. A hundred years ago, you probably would have died if you had an acute gallbladder, while today a doctor plucks the quivering organ from our innards with a watchmaker's precision, making a cholecystectomy a very simple and survivable surgery, with smaller and smaller scars as tools and techniques sharpen. When I was a teen, I waited anxiously at a hospital in Milwaukee, five hours from home, for my grandfather's quadruple bypass to be completed. Today, he probably would have had stents neatly slipped into his blocked arteries, with only a pinprick on the surface of his skin to show for it.

Before we had antidepressants and other mental health drugs, we had some of the most inexcusably abusive quackery inflicted upon the mentally ill. Historically, mentally ill people were often just dumped in prisons and jails (and guess what--we're still doing it; ask any social worker). Some were treated to cruel, sometimes deadly exorcisms. Women were presumed "hysterical" and went to doctors for vaginal "massage" to induce orgasm as a treatment. Lobotomies became all the rage in the late 1940s, with frontal lobes scrambled with an ice pick through the eye socket. Asylums were often notorious for their squalid, cruel conditions, with many exposed by family members who were horrified at their relatives' treatment.

In the 1950s, the advent of psychotropic drugs was the first ray of hope for mentally ill people. I feel that we're finally seeing the tail end of the birthing pains of psychopharmaceuticals, with more solid research and standards being applied. The system is obviously not yet perfect, but important lessons have been learned, with our ancestors' brave--albeit not always informed--foray into citizenry as research subjects.

So, today, instead of a schizophrenic being shackled into a cold cell, at the mercy of potentially abusive captors, that person may be able to function normally with the help of a drug such as Risperdal. They may be able to work, have a family, and enjoy their lives. If the drug that enables them to function also causes them to gain weight, I question those who wring their hands over the weight gain. Surely the fact that they can live their lives independently is a pretty good trade-off for the potential stigma associated with the weight gain? And, if it is indeed the stigma the hand-wringers are concerned about, what is preventing them from working toward a better world, one where a fat person is not subjected to social stigma? Is their aesthetic sense so deeply rooted that they can't stand to see a happy person who happens to have a body shape that is not attractive to them?

Some of the best-selling drugs today are antidepressants, especially the SSRIs. They have helped millions of people become reacquainted with life, to poke their heads out of the steep-walled pit that is depression. Anxiety, another condition treated by SSRI, can be so disabling that its sufferers sometimes cannot even leave their homes. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would be so upset over the associated weight gain, when the drugs often make a person feel as if his or her life is worth living again. I'm tired of hearing the fatophobes shrieking about it, trying their damnedest to drag down those who have finally been able to stand up again, just because their bodies are different.

So tell me, fat-haters, are you really so shallow and juvenile that you would rather see someone institutionalized than fat? Hanging themselves instead of fat? I've really begun to wonder if the fat-hate is not just about fat, but about an excuse to be misanthropic to anyone who is socially vulnerable. After all, the mentally ill you used as a punching bag in ages past have now become functional fat people, so whom are you going to punch in their place? My suggestion to you is to find out why you need a punching bag at all, and then fix it, rather than continuing to delude yourself into thinking your victims deserve your abuse. Maybe you could even try one of the above drugs--it might even be good for you to see what it's like to gain weight without changing your eating or exercise habits.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Interesting passage from a book

"Vagina Ecologist."
She repeated it.
"You mean a gynecologist."
"Yes and no. Gavin prefers to break it into the root words to capture a meaning he feels is lost. The ecology of the vagina, the vagina as environment, rather than just negative space."

-- Jonathan Lethem, As She Climbed Across the Table

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Feminism and the Draft

Note to trolls: The obscene and threatening comments flooding in from the post on reddit will NOT be approved. I suppose you think it's clever to try to make a woman afraid of you, or to try to hurt a person with words, but your presence here is not welcome. Also, a two year old blog post? Are you seriously that hard up for recipients of your bullying and hate? I truly fear for the emotional and physical safety of the women in your lives.
This will probably offend people who think terms like "feminazi" are reasonable and proper. And that's okay with me.

Opponents of feminism often bring up the subject of the draft--if women want equality so badly, then why aren't we asking to be included in the draft? After all, how fair is it that men have to be forced into combat, while women are excluded by default?

My answer to this is actually very simple: When women are represented in a realistic proportion in government, instead of being a token minority in a good ol' boys' club, we can talk about the draft. Until then, it is unconscionable to forcibly send women off to fight men's wars. The fact that women are not adequately represented in proportion to our demographics tells me that leveling the playing field in a negative fashion is not yet a fair thing to do. Additionally, I truly feel that, if our elected government were 50% women and 50% men (and, this would still give men an edge over the demographics--the population is about 49% male and 51% female), we probably would not even be doing this Iraq nonsense.

The fact is, only 16% of all convicted felons in State courts (in the USA) are women. A disproportionate amount of crime--especially violent crime--is committed by men. Yes, men are also crime victims, but they are most often victims of other men. For whatever reason, women aren't usually the ones responsible for rape, abuse, and murder, and they are quite a bit more often the victims of many of those crimes.

So, until women are making an equal wage, not disproportionately abused, raped, beaten, or murdered, and not disproportionately treated like sex objects, and adequately represented in all three branches of federal government, and in state governments, I don't want to hear whiny ass anti-feminists complaining about the draft. Sorry boys, but you just seem a bit too eager to send us off to die for your bullshit, and that is most definitely not okay.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fat is a symptom, not a disease, Part Three: The 300-lb malnourished woman

All right, before I start talking about fat, I want to talk about a little economic conundrum. So bear with me; it's relevant.

So, there's this island. We'll call it, say, Nes, for the sake of expediency, but its name isn't important. Now, the island's dwellers survive by getting regular shipments of supplies. Because of unknown circumstances, these shipments are always exactly the same--the contents never change, although the frequency can alter according to the islander's needs. Within each shipment, there is a particular necessity that comes in red boxes. No matter what, the shipping company can only send six of these red boxes per shipment. Now, that's okay, because that's all the islanders need in proportion to the other stuff they get, so nobody's got a problem with this.

However, the shipments start arriving with less than six boxes. They have the same amount of everything else, but they show up missing some of those red boxes. They complain to the shipper, who responds by saying that the shipments leave their port with all six boxes. "Okay, but we really need more red boxes," the islanders say. "Then you're going to just have to order another entire shipment to get the boxes in it," the shipper responds. They don't have many options, so the islanders increase the frequency of their shipments. They get half as much of the red-boxed stuff as they need, which means they have twice the amount of other stuff--an amount they cannot use.

Well, what would you expect these islanders to do, exactly? Throw away the extra stuff? Or store it, in case the shipments are short on those items at a later time? So they store it, and store it, until the warehouses are crammed full, and everyone has an attic crammed with it. And then, they have to build docks and floating warehouses to store it all, because they don't want to throw it away.

Along comes a guy, however, who says, "I think I know exactly what your problem is..." He points out that, for the time being, they can slow down their other shipments, and order just the red boxes from another source. However, that's a short term solution--the real problem is that, en route to the island, pirates are attacking the ships and robbing them of the red boxes. They don't take all of them--if they did, then the shipments might stop entirely until the pirates are dealt with--but they take about half. The real solution is to eliminate the pirates so that regular shipments can go through unmolested.

So, that brings me to our malnourished 300-pound woman. We'll call her Myra. Myra is a big woman, and she is very hungry, all the time. She also has skin problems, her hair's falling out, and she feels tired and sick a lot of the time. Lots of doctors have told her to stop being such a fatty mcfatty moo cow. Stop eating so much, exercise more! But the hunger is unbearable, and her fatigue is crushing. Myra gets sick and tired of her doctors having no real help to offer her, so she does her own research and finds some doctors that have compassion and the ability to see and hear patients, due to NOT having their heads rammed up their rectums.

Myra and her medical team finally figure out that she has severe auto-immune problems, including some nasty food allergies. Basically, when she eats gluten, her digestive system becomes so inflamed that it cannot properly absorb many of the nutrients she eats--but does allow the calories to be taken in and stored. Because she is low on vitamins and minerals, her brain sends out FEED ME signals that drown out pretty much any semblance of sanity she has. So she eats more--and the calories get absorbed and stored, while the vitamins and minerals pass right on through her ravaged system.

And, the previous solution to this has been, don't eat so much. For someone who is literally starved--not of calories, but of other nutrients--this is a cruel thing to prescribe.

So Myra, now that she has sorted out her food allergies (and hypothyroidism at the same time; autoimmune stuff is harsh), she takes a megadose of certain vitamins to "catch up" until her body has recovered enough to get enough of those things from the food she eats. She's finally recovering, and, surprisingly to her, the stored calories are now being utilized as her body balances itself and goes down to her natural setpoint--through no effort of calorie restriction at all.

I haven't even gone into the biochemical feedback loop that creates even greater cravings (inflammation -> adrenalin -> hunger), but there is quite a bit going on that most of us don't even realize or think about. It's awfully easy to point fingers at someone for eating "too much" or being too sedentary, but unless you have lived inside that person's body, you have no idea what their situation is like. Mistreating someone for being hungry, fat, or sedentary is arrogant and ignorant--and it doesn't do anyone any good. If you truly want to help people be healthier (not "lose weight", but "be healthier"), you should advocate for better education about things like hypothyroidism, celiac disease, and other things that can create situations like Myra's. If you're not interested, however, then learn to mind your own business regarding other people's health and bodies.

Fat is a symptom, not a disease, Part Two: Hypothyroidism

About five years ago, I started developing severe symptoms consistent with hypothyroidism: crushing fatigue, widespread pain, weight gain, and other issues. I'd had them to some degree for several years before that, but for the first time in my life, the symptoms were interfering with my ability to work.

My doctor at the time, we'll call him Dr. H, did blood tests, and he told me that my thyroid levels were "normal". With every other thing ruled out, and some other things ruled in, he finally concluded that I had fibromyalgia, and got me started on some medications that were supposed to help. These medications helped the pain and depression somewhat, but I was still exhausted most of the time.

A few months later, I asked him to do another thyroid test. He told me that it was a good idea, since the standards for "normal" had been changed, and that my previous test, while "normal" at the time, now was outside of that range. The phlebotomist took a few vials, and I heard back a couple of weeks later that my levels were "normal". Now, at the time, I had not done my homework. I was still not fully aware of the extent to which I had to advocate for myself with doctors. Too trusting and naive, I didn't actually get told what the numerical results of my test were, only that they were fine.

Fast forward to a year ago, when I changed my primary doctor to someone I'd met through work, a very intelligent man who was very knowledgeable about hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia. Dr. D was of the opinion that, even if the test results appear to be normal, when a patient exhibits symptoms of hypothyroidism, it may be beneficial to treat for it anyway. He said that about half of the people in such circumstances show improvement with the thyroid medication.

Additionally, my previous doctor only tested for TSH, the chemical your brain sends to your thyroid to tell it to make the thyroid hormone. Basically, if you aren't making enough thyroid hormone, the pituitary gland keeps pumping out TSH, which reaches a high level because it's the equivalent of the pituitary gland screaming at the thyroid to step up production. So a high level of TSH will show that the thyroid's not responding enough to shut up the pituitary gland. In my opinion, that's a bit like determining if someone is deaf by whether or not their spouse is screaming at them to be heard. Maybe you can draw some conclusions from it, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything if the spouse isn't shouting.

In many people, the TSH test will not show hypothyroidism; people with fibro especially seem to be harder to test because of a biochemical feedback loop (and no, I don't know where my source for this is; I had it in a newsletter or something) that results in a normal-appearing TSH level. So, to see if there's enough thyroid hormone being produced, the most accurate way is (and don't be shocked here) to test for the actual level of thyroid hormone. Now, to me, that seems kind of common-sensical, but I guess it's more expensive to do the full testing.

The long and short of it is that, once Dr. D did the full panel of tests, it showed that I was, in fact, not producing enough thyroid hormone. He had already started me on the medication, however, preferring to begin treatment immediately instead of waiting. It can take a long time to get up to the proper dose, because you start very small and work upward toward the dose that works for you, so he didn't want to make me suffer any longer than necessary.

It has only been in the past couple of months that I've finally been up to the right amount of medication. My energy levels have noticeably increased--I can actually feel that my metabolism has revved up a bit. I feel cheated, though--I could have been feeling like this four years ago if my last doctor had been doing his job and using his brain. I don't know how much the years of hypothyroidism have actually damaged my body, and if I'm going to recover somewhat from that, it could take a very long time.

Left unchecked, hypothyroidism can damage the heart, kidneys, and mental state, and can cause osteoporosis and anemia, among many other problems. Because of the metabolic effects, it causes weight gain, and makes weight loss, even through intense dieting and exercise, nearly impossible. Hypothyroidism is NOT difficult to test for--and is fairly simple and inexpensive to treat. As such, there is NO excuse for anyone with the condition to remain untested and untreated; anyone exhibiting symptoms should be taken seriously by a doctor, instead of being treated like they are not worthy of medical assistance until they lose weight.

Educate yourself on the symptoms, and don't accept no for an answer if a doctor doesn't want to do the tests. Make sure you know what tests are being run, and if they aren't the full panel, ask why--insist that it be done. Don't accept a qualitative answer like "normal"--get numbers, and compare them to the latest medical literature. If your literature shows a result different from your doctor's qualitative answer (outside the normal range, when the doctor's said you're normal), find out why your doctor's opinion is different. If you find that you're not getting straight answers or considerate treatment, get another doctor. Remember, it's YOUR body, YOU have to live in it. It does not belong to your doctor, and you don't have to accept your doctor's word as gospel.

I sincerely hope that my experience can help others get the treatment they need.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fat is a symptom, not a disease, Part One: Medical Malpractice on a Victorian Scale

One of the most irresponsible things about the "obesity epidemic" is that weight gain and fat tissue is often treated as a disease instead of as a symptom. As such, fat patients are instructed to lose weight, sometimes by way of surgery, without any exploration as to how or why they are fat, and whether they are actually experiencing health problems as a result of it.

In the next few entries, I will discuss some of the conditions that result in weight gain, including my personal experiences with those conditions, and how medical personnel seem to have a blind spot regarding those conditions. I will also explore some hypotheses regarding why those blind spots exist, and what can be done to get past them.

It is my belief that many of the health problems attributed to fat may actually be the result of overlooked and untreated issues--issues which, as they continue to be untreated, can result in even greater weight gain. As the frustrated patient continues to be told "lose weight" in lieu of actual medical treatment, they may lose confidence in the medical establishment, not only refusing to go to the doctor when they really need to, but becoming depressed as a result of being essentially told that they are not worth the trouble of medical care due to their being fat.

This entrenched, dogmatic system of medical malpractice, seemingly based more on "common knowledge" than science, needs to be attacked, denounced, and demolished. It needs to be relegated to the status of quackery, where it belongs on the same shelf as "humours", phrenology, and hysteria--all obsolete ideas that, when in vogue, caused immense suffering and death, and often justified maltreatment of other people. Humour-balancing, often in the form of bloodletting, caused a great deal of physical damage. Hysteria diagnoses allowed men to treat women as fragile children, resulting in "treatments" that would be viewed today as sexual assault and false imprisonment. Phrenology, though less damaging, was still a quackery used to make value judgements based solely on a person's physical characteristics.

Today, the quackery of the obesity epidemic is resulting in the same abusive, damaging treatments that humour-balancing and hysteria treatment did long ago. We're given dubious medications that kill us (Fen-phen), encouraged to undergo inexcusably dangerous surgery, and treated to verbal abuse and shaming for the "crime" of taking up too much space--verbal abuse that is lauded as necessary and even beneficial. We're told that we deserve to be sick and/or dead because we are fat. We're told that we have ourselves to "blame" for any and all health, emotional, or social difficulties we have, regardless of their cause, because we are fat. Most obscene, however, is that we are promised that, if we stop being fat, all of our problems--health, social, emotional, and otherwise--will go away. We're told that, until we stop being fat, we aren't worthy of medical care, common courtesy, or even a single bite of food.

Fat is NOT the cause of all these problems. Often, a fat person's emotional and social problems are the result of unwarranted maltreatment by others. Often, a fat person's health problems are not the RESULT of their fat, but the CAUSE of it. It's a pretty damn big cultural meme we're fighting against here, but when so many people are so abominably ignorant, it doesn't make their misconceptions true by consensus. So that's what I'm here to do: Tell my stories, and hopefully change a few minds.

Next up: Part Two: Hypothyroidism