Monday, November 27, 2006

Humans vs human nature 

Several years ago, I participated regularly in a chatroom, one of whose regulars was so well-known for snacking non-stop that when he logged in the 1st comment addressed to him after "hello" was usually "what are you eating?". The subject of dieting came up one day, and this man who probably hadn't gone more than half an hour without eating in 20 years broke into the discussion of how difficult it was to lose weight and keep it off to proclaim "Losing weight is easy-all you have to do is put down your fork." This man who had no idea what hunger was, much less the gut-twisting agony that accompanies prolonged restriction of caloric intake, honestly thought that you could just decide to stop eating and weight-loss would follow.

You're probably puzzled, or even astounded, that anyone could be so stupid, not to mention insensitive... but wait, haven't you ever looked at an obese person and had vaguely disgusted thoughts about how they must lack any shred of self-control to have overeaten to that extent, or observed a fat person eating anything other than a dressing-free salad at a restaurant and seen it as a contemptible failure on their part that they chose regular food over what they "should be" eating as penance for their rotundity? Americans are an alarmingly chubby bunch, and nearly every one of us has dieted and so knows firsthand how difficult it is to not eat when we're ravenous, or to keep munching celery instead of digging into the ice cream, so why do we habitually expect OTHER people to be able to do these things, and do them with such consistency that they never cross over into fatness?

Part of it is hypocrisy, over-eagerness to pass judgment, and cultural programming that we've absorbed but too often don't apply to ourselves, but the lion's share is that we've lost track of what human nature is; we're so caught up in our modern, mechanized lives that we forget that we're ANIMALS, and like all animals have biological programming to maximize our chances of surviving and continuing the species... programming that's almost impossible to overcome no matter what your level of determination and willpower are because THAT'S ITS PURPOSE, to make us do the pro-survival thing whether we want to or not.

We're programmed to eat when we're hungry, to drop everything, think of nothing else, and focus on finding and consuming food until we're full. We're also programmed to eat more than we need to achieve satiety if there's lots of food around, or if there's a wide variety of food available. We're ALSO programmed to have overwhelming preferences for food that's fatty, sweet or salty. None of this is a secret, but the so-called experts still profess to not understand why people who're surrounded by infinite food of infinite variety, including a dazzling array of junk foods that were designed to appeal to our biological cravings for fat, salt and sweet, are choosing to over-indulge in tasty foods and get fat rather than to eat small amounts of not-very-tasty "healthy" foods and be thin. The so-called experts also don't grasp why diets fail, why folks whose lives are a misery because of their weight can't take it off or keep it off, and why even people looking death in the face often can't stick to medically-prescribed diets, whether for weight loss, blood pressure control or whatever; they can't see, or refuse to accept, that the way people would have to eat to achieve the desired results is contrary to human nature, and that we aren't much better at combatting the dictates of our bodies than lower animals are.

A related issue is exercise; why, when we know its importance for weight control, keeping our hearts strong, and 5 dozen other health benefits, do we not work out more, or at all? We've got a double dose of human nature to blame here: 1st, when we don't need food and aren't running from threats, we're programmed to take it easy to conserve energy, and our bodies resist being forced into pointless flailing around even when we're out of shape to the point that our lives are at risk; our biology doesn't take into account the possibility of an existence where lots of physical activity isn't a given. 2nd, we're programmed to recoil from anything that causes discomfort or pain, because the ability to feel those sensations exists specifically to help us avoid injury and death... and exercise is at the very least uncomfortable for those who aren't already fit, and is often outright painful, especially when it includes the sorts of repetitive motions (aka "reps") that are totally unnatural for us to do at any time.

Our powerful internal resistance to pushing forward against pain, especially once it becomes intense, is central to another human-nature issue; addiction. The sad truth is that our bodies contain a potentially-fatal flaw; the ability to become addicted to a wide variety of things, most of which are bad for us and the rest of which BECOME bad when taken to addictive extremes. The addict may try repeatedly to break the addiction, but even when they're losing their health, their homes, their jobs, their families and friends, all their $ and possibly their lives, they all too often can't do it; when denied the object of their addiction, they suffer, and the suffering increases and increases until it's beyond human endurance and they give in to it... just as YOU would do almost ANYTHING to stop feeling that kind of pain, both because you couldn't handle it and because your body would think you're dying and would force you to do whatever it takes to survive (keep that in mind the next time you feel superior to junkies and drunks and such).

There's a gray area here, because there obviously ARE people who can suffer every agony the human body can produce and still lose huge amounts of weight and keep it off, go from being couch potatoes to winning triathlons, and permanently give up drugs and other addictions; ignorant and unsupportive types use this to "prove" to folks who're losing the battle with their pain that everyone can achieve the same things, that it's just a matter of willpower... which is no different than pointing to a famous artist or writer and insisting that we can all be like them if we just TRY hard enough. Just as there's nothing "natural" about artistic or writing ability (paints and paper are NOT part of the natural world we evolved to live in), the ability to ignore or overcome crushing pain is an unnatural one that few possess, and to expect EVERYONE to be able to do it is not only unfair, it's INSANE... and terribly cruel as well.

The other urge we're biologically designed to not be able to hold out against is the sexual one; much of the sexual behavior we're amazed by, disapprove of or just plain don't understand exists, and resists all efforts to control or eradicate it, because our sexual urges are so powerful that scientists are now starting to suggest that they're stronger even than the survival and food-related instincts... and those urges do NOT incorporate exceptions for such concepts as "married to someone else," "not willing," "below a randomly-chosen age," "dating my friend," "darn, I'm too young," "uh-oh, this is illegal" or "whoops, this is sick." Stop a minute and think how much of our culture deals with trying to force people to act contrary to this intensely powerful part of human nature: We're programmed to try to procreate as soon as we're physically able, but we expect sexually mature people below the age of 18 to "just say no," even though much older folks are routinely unable to. Males are programmed to be sexually drawn to females who show physical signs of sexual maturity, the younger the better because they're stronger and more fertile, but if they pursue girls who are sexually mature but below whatever we've decided is the official age of consent we condemn them as wannabe child molesters. We're programmed to be sexually interested in whoever's around and thus actually available to us, but are outraged when people are found to be sleeping with the lovers of those they're close to, as if this were unthinkable instead of natural. We're stunned when pedophiles and other perverts make enormous effort, and risk social condemnation, to get sexual gratification, although we don't blink when "normal" people jump through hoops of fire to get THEIR desires fulfilled. If we'd just accept the dictates of human nature we could have far less drama and focus our ire exclusively on those who might harm innocents.

The final area of human nature that we expect people to ignore is one of the most ferocious; the drive to nurture our children. So-called experts are always claiming, without proof, that parents should ignore their biological urges and, for example, not comfort a baby when it cries for fear of "spoiling" it; in recent years, a major issue in this category is that parents should "cure" obesity in their children by withholding food from them... and this seems so simple that if they DON'T do it, they must be awful parents. Let's ignore for a minute that all but the tiniest children can get food from many sources other than their folks, and focus on the little ones whose food intake parents CAN control; do we REALLY think that parents can just toss aside their biological drives to provide food for their offspring without a quiver? And what about the reactions of the children thus deprived; do we expect them to be silent and stoic about it? Even if you're not a parent, is there anything that'll make you nuts faster than the sound of a baby or small child crying? That's not an accident; we're programmed to react powerfully to the distress of children, because they're so helpless that they need to be able to grab adult attention quickly. Multiply that by a thousand, and you get the reaction of a parent to the crying of their own child; the pain of their offspring hurts them worse than any pain they can suffer directly. There isn't a # big enough to indicate the agony a parent would endure from hearing their hungry child crying and begging for food constantly for months; how can we expect them to brush that off and not keep breaking the child's diet? We need to stop pretending that this biological programming can be discounted and give parents of obese kids support rather than condemnation.

There aren't any easy answers to these problems, but we can certainly do better than our current "solution" of expecting people to overcome human nature and disparaging them when they inevitably fail.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The things I'm thankful for 

Like everyone else, I'm thankful for the basics: life, health, a solid marriage, loved and liked ones, freedom, the military that keeps us free, a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood, living in a wealthy country, having sufficient $ to never have to worry about missing a meal (or even a new figurine), and those things that we take for granted but that most people in the world don't have; computers, internet access and DSL. I wanted to share some more personal things that I was grateful for this year, especially since it's been a bumpy road dealing with my mother's cancer, so here's a selection of odds and ends that have been giving me happy moments:

My grandmother, who's in her 90's, has regained some of her lost mental functioning: It turns out that elderly people can often get bladder infections that go undetected (because they don't have pain or discomfort from them like younger folks do), and this can cause cognitive deterioration that gets brushed off as age-related dementia... but once the infection is diagnosed and cured, as happened with my grandmother thanks to a family friend who suggested that she be tested (she'd seen the doctor many times during her suspected infection period, and although he's a geriatric SPECIALIST it never occurred to him to check her for it, grrrrrrrrrrr), a miraculous-seeming improvement can occur.

Air conditioning: This summer was unusually hot and humid, and under those conditions I'm unable to eat, sleep or even think straight...I don't know what I'd've done without being able to cool and dry the air in the house at will.

Dreyer's lime popsicles:


Unlike most frozen treats that are super-sweet, these are tart and really lime-y, because they have real lime juice in them... and of course they drop your temperature by about 20 degrees, which made them another valuable asset over the summer.

A certain NON-chain bookstore downtown: They not only have a wildly eclectic selection of books, they have greeting cards from little independent companies that are far cooler than anything Hallmark ever came up with.

eBay: I've gotten some amazing items on there recently, like animatronic critters that had previously been in store displays, an amazing retro-kitsch clock, and a 70's sweater of an unusual style that I'd recently seen and admired in a movie from that decade.

Holiday decorations: I get a big kick out of having a display of some sort for even minor holidays; my family of origin didn't do that, and I'm busily making up for it now.

Cornish game hens: They allow us to have a tasty turkey-ish meal without having to cook all day and without being stuck with leftovers.

Wind chimes: The lovely, ethereal sound of them always makes me happy.

Tech types who make blog doodads: It's no secret that I love to have every novelty geegaw in existence in my sidebar; for each one of those things, 1 or more people took time from their lives to create it, chose to offer it up to all and sundry for free, and in most cases donates their own bandwidth to host it.

The ongoing popularity of animated movies: I'm tireder than I can say of car chases, explosions, bullets, blood and boobies, so it's a real pleasure to watch something cute and funny, or beautiful and magical, instead.

Jack in the Box: They're still making shakes with real ice cream, and withOUT a bunch of air, corn syrup, and whatever it is that Foster's Freeze uses that creates bubbles that'll remain unbroken weeks later; even better, they're currently topping their shakes with whipped cream... pure bliss.

Metal Mania: I look forward to this program on VH1 Classic, which comes on Friday and Saturday nights for a variable # of hours, all week long; being able to see the metal gods that I worshipped 20-odd years ago again, and see some new (to ME-it's all old stuff) bands too, always gives me a real boost.

With the obvious exception of the improvement to my grandmother's mental acuity, these are pretty small things, objectively speaking; I don't care about plasma TV's and cell phones that do everything but rotate your tires... just give me a little fun stuff and a few snacks to accent my geekish pursuits and I'm happy. But wait, I forgot one of the things I'm most thankful for:

YOU: Without you, there'd be no point in putting my thoughts in writing, much less launching them into cyberspace.

Happy Thanksgiving!! xo

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Beware List, Part 5 

The Beware List is a compilation of my lifetime of observations of how people behave when they're screwing you, about to screw you, or are evil, sociopathic, manipulators, or just clueless depressives and social misfits who'll eventually screw everyone within reach including you, whether because they don't know any better or for the sheer joy of it; to read entries 1-40, see my posts of 5-31-06, 7-6-06, 8-31-06 and 10-6-06. It's a very rare person who can stick it to you without giving ample warning; all you have to do is pay attention and stop brushing off evidence of questionable behavior, and you can thwart them. Therefore, beware of anyone who:

41) Says that no one has the “right” to judge anyone else (unless it’s DEFINITELY a religious belief).

Only people who regularly behave badly and/or are friends with others who do so feel this way; decent people accept that negative judgment SHOULD BE the result if they misbehave, and that in general misbehavers should have judgment passed against them. The utterance of this line usually means that wrongdoing is currently going on, and if the line is aimed at YOU, you are probably their victim; be on the lookout for treachery... and of course harsh judgment from them for your imagined sins, as the no-judgment clause only applies to those on "their team."

42) Says that a friend should be non-judgmental.

Same reason as above; a friend should be held to a HIGHER standard than a stranger, not allowed to behave any which way... and they shouldn't WANT to behave badly, they should be choosing to treat friends AS friends. In addition, note that when someone announces out of the blue, or, worse, when some sort of social upheaval is going on, how a friend "should be," it indicates that they're NOT your friend, NOT a nice person, and in fact are busily doing wrong to you that you'll learn about all too soon.

43) Says that they don’t judge people, and only concern themselves about a person’s misbehavior if the person treats THEM badly.

Same reason as above. In addition, they're LYING, as they DO judge people... wrongly, of course, as they'll judge other evil types to be good and YOU to be bad, but they ARE judging. Also, they're STUPID; an intelligent person is concerned with ALL bad behavior regardless of who the target is. AND; the hidden message here is either that this person has friends whose wrongdoings they're officially discounting, or, more likely, that they know of wrongdoing to YOU by mutual acquaintances, and are telling you that they're going to favor the wrongdoers over the victim, as evil types always do.

44) Feels it necessary to talk to and “hear the side” of someone who has inarguably mistreated you, especially if that person is NOT a friend of theirs.

This is a serious slap in the face, no matter how they attempt to spin it; they'll try to tell you that they're just being fair by allowing the wrongdoer to add insult to injury by providing an audience for their venom, but they're being UNfair to YOU, the victim, which is NEVER ok... and only someone who is evil, a fool or both is eager to accommodate the wrongdoer rather than their prey. This person hates you, and is either joining forces with the mistreater against you or is just making a point of spending time with them in order to hurt you, out of sheer nastiness.

45) Defends, or insists on their “right” to be friends with, someone they KNOW has mistreated you.

Same as above, but worse, since they're openly declaring allegiance to the evil one, and doing so in a way that makes clear that they have no shred of concern for your feelings; their actual message can be condensed into 2 words, and the 2nd word is "you."

46) When you have a fight with a mutual friend, and you’ve told them about it via a message, NEVER gets back to you about it.

At best, this person is NOT a real friend, since they can't be bothered to respond when something bad has happened; more likely, this means that they favor the other combatant over you, or that that person already got to them and they've passed judgment against you because they believe whoever talks to them 1st... either way, don't bother following up and attempting to further pursue a relationship with them.

47) When you have a fight with a mutual friend, is suddenly distant or treats you strangely.

The best case scenario is that they're treating the other person the same way, which means that they're so terrified of confrontation or lacking in moral fiber that they're staying far away from the conflict rather than doing what they SHOULD be; trying to figure out what's up and siding with the injured party if there is one or calling a halt to the hostilities if there isn't. The worst case and more likely scenario is that they've sided against you but are keeping that a secret for reasons that will NOT be to your benefit.

48) When you have a fight with a mutual friend based on inarguable wrongdoing by the other party, announces their intention to not take sides.

If you don't side AGAINST the wrongdoer, you're in effect siding WITH the wrongdoer, and by thus betraying and hurting the victim become an accomplice to the wrongdoing; anyone willing to do this is neither a nice person nor your friend, and will eventually end up openly siding against you.

49) When you have a fight with a mutual friend based on inarguable, non-trivial mistreatment of you by the other party, does ANYTHING other than condemn the other person’s behavior and announce their intention to no longer be friends with someone who acts like that.

Virtuous people reject evil; those who fail to reject evil are NOT virtuous. PERIOD. They might not be evil themselves, they might just be clueless depressives, idiots, or too weak and fearful to openly reject anyone, but if they possess neither loyalty to you nor the ability and inclination to pass accurate judgment and act accordingly they're just as dangerous in the long run as if they WERE evil.

50) Laughingly describes the wrongdoings of others... especially if some of those others are their friends.

The only proper response to wrongdoing is condemnation; anyone who thinks that evil behavior is funny and cute rather than a cause for serious concern won't hesitate to act evil... with YOU as a possible victim. If they're enjoying the wrongdoings of friends, keep in mind that the old saying about birds of a feather is true; anyone who's buddies with evil types is either evil themselves or weak and being used as a willing pawn by the evil ones to do evil deeds.

Both evil and socially inept people count on your obliviousness to their warning signs, and your unwillingness to call them on their behavior or take action until it's too late, to allow them to trample you and other decent folks; if you can catch them in the early stages of their troublemaking, and have the backbone to do something about it, you can nearly always stop them in their tracks... and there's nothing like the feeling of stepping on a cockroach before it can crawl on you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

They shoot blogs, don't they? 

When you click on the link to a blog you a like, to a BLOGGER you like, and you get a blank page, or are forwarded to a generic search or marketing site, or suddenly it's a different person's blog (usually spam and/or porn), or the top post looks familiar and you realize there hasn't been a new one in weeks, or MONTHS, do you feel like you've been kicked in the stomach? This has happened to me so many times recently that I had to write about it:

One of the dichotomies of the online world is that on the one hand a website can literally outlive its owner, as shown here


while on the other hand even the best-established and longest-running site can vanish in an instant, with a single click. Despite being aware of the latter, it's always a shock to me when a blog disappears; why is it even NECESSARY for blogs to be deleted? Sure, there are times when a blogger's family, co-workers, school officials or whatever find their site and they have to bail out to avoid trouble, but why delete your blog just because you don't feel like blogging anymore? When a painter gives up making art, do they destroy all their paintings? Of course not!! So what is it about blogging that induces people to eliminate all the work they put into their posts and template just because they're bored, or busy, or burned out?

If you're contemplating this inexplicable step, consider the following:

1) You probably have content that your readers will be sad to lose; if you can't give them new stuff, why not at least leave them the old stuff?

2) Chances are, you WILL go back to blogging, and probably sooner rather than later (it's common to see new posts within a week of when a blogger swears off of it forever); when that happens, you'll likely want your old content again, and even if you've backed everything up, which you SHOULD be doing on a regular basis, it'll be a pain trying to reconstruct it all.

3) If you're feeling whatever it is that drives folks to want to remove their work from the blogosphere, and so are still compelled to delete rather than abandon:

a) Don't give up your URL; for some months, at least, it'll still be known by readers and search engines, and if you choose to return to blogging you'll want that to benefit YOU, not the 1st stranger who tried to get that URL.

b) PLEASE don't just leave an empty template or blank page at your URL; take 5 minutes to compose a line or 2 telling your readers what's up (include your email addy if you want people to keep in touch) so no one thinks you DIED.

If you're abandoning rather than deleting, you still owe your readers an explanation; you can update it as events progress, so don't lag about writing it. Also, as you're running for the exit, don't stop and take time out of your life to delete your blogroll; it seems crazy, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen a familiar blog abandoned and they've left everything on it EXCEPT their links... this is another element of blogging psychology that totally eludes me. The list of the blogs that you consider worthy enough to be advertised on your site is a valuable resource to all your visitors, so you should keep it forever; besides, it's a slap in the face to those bloggers to delete them but keep everything else, as if you disliked THEM more than the blog that you no longer care about.

If, instead of giving up blogging, you're leaving an established blog and moving to a new one: Don't make this move lightly, because in most cases your PageRank and readership will both take a beating. Unless you want to lose ALL your readers, you've got to keep the old URL and post the new URL on it; I don't mean keep it for a week, I mean keep it for long enough that even folks who only read you sporadically can find where you've gone... or keep it forever if it's free, why not? Even if you're copying all your old posts to your new blog, but especially if you AREN'T, don't delete the content from the old site; you want to keep its PageRank and search engine hits up for as long as possible, to maximize its ability to send referrals to the new site. And finally; if you're asking people to link to the new blog, be sure and put your blogroll on it... that's only fair.

If you want to do better than just posting your new URL on your old blog and hoping people will use it, you can make the old blog forward people automatically to the new one; a code generator for this exact thing can be found here


That doesn't help with search engines, though; if you have your own domain (on a server running Apache), you can use a "301 Redirect" to alert Google and a few others that the new URL should be substituted in their records for the old one. You can find the code for it here


and detailed info here


If you DON'T have your own domain, if you switch URL's you can kiss your PageRank goodbye... yet another reason why I'll NEVER leave Blogger.

Be VERY careful while you're moving your blog; I've read about several cases where someone somehow got "detached" from their old URL during the process and it got grabbed before they could reclaim it, thus leaving their readers with no way to find them or to even know that they're still blogging, just at another URL. And; don't get so wrapped up in setting up the new site that by the time you're done you're too burned out to post; the point of blogging IS still to post, NOT to have ever-fancier locations.

For those who were concerned about the monstrous food poisoning I described in my last post, I'm happy to report that, a week later, my husband and I are getting steadily closer to normal. We got some yogurt with 8 active cultures to repopulate our internal flora, and, although it helped ME a great deal (most notably eliminating my stomach pain), my husband had an unanticipated reaction; the night we ate it, he luckily stayed up working after I went to bed, and fell prey to the most protracted flatulent episode of his life... and that's saying ALOT coming from HIM. He farted about every 5 minutes for an HOUR, and then made the most loving decision of our marriage; he went to bed in his study... I'm still amazed that he didn't try to share the magic. Although he usually falls asleep the instant his head touches the pillow, laying down ramped up the bubble machine, and it kept him awake for 20 minutes; his description of how he'd be nodding off and then fart himself back awake had me howling with laughter... as did his amazement that he didn't die in his sleep from the "toxic cloud."

Did I mention that marriage is GROSS, lol?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Did you know that you can vomit through your NOSE?!! :-O 

As you've probably guessed from the title, this post will contain references to unpleasant excretory functions; if that'll bother you, the short version is that my husband and I got the most hideous food poisoning in the history of Western civilization but are slowly getting better-you can skip the details included below.

Still with me? Gotta hear the icky bits, huh? Don't say I didn't warn ya:

Tuesday evening, in a rare attempt to eat healthy, my husband and I had takeout salads for dinner; afterwards, he went to his study to take a nap, and I... what, do you have to ask? I got back on the computer. Within an hour, I knew something wasn't sitting right; if I could have seen into the future (precognition never happens when you could really use it, does it?), I'd have been in the bathroom frantically sticking my fingers down my throat to try to avoid what followed with a preemptive barf, but all I anticipated at that point was a bout of the runs... whatever the bug was that bit us, it was sure stealthy about it.

Another hour passed, and it felt like it was time to, uh, release the runs, so I headed for the restroom; on the way there, I suddenly felt very hot... and then I was sprinting the last few yards and engaging in the opposite form of high-powered waste release. This is never pleasant, especially for ME because I hate throwing up so much that I'll nearly explode trying to prevent it (I could NEVER be a bulimic), but this time it was worse; I thought at 1st that the straining must be making my eyes water so much that it was causing my nose to run... and then I realized that I was actually VOMITING through my NOSE, not just a stray drop or 2 but a steady flow from both nostrils. I knelt there in front of the toilet frozen with shock, gushing in 3-part harmony and not knowing what to do; I'd never heard that this was even POSSIBLE, and I had no idea how to handle it... all I could come up with was not to sniff or try to breathe through my nose, because if anything from the stomach gets into the lungs it can cause pneumonia. Once what looked like everything I'd eaten for a WEEK had finished pouring forth, I blew my nose until brains nearly came out, swabbed as far up as I could reach (it's a tribute to the resiliency of nasal passages that there seems to have been no lasting harm to them from what they endured, although there was nothing I could do to clean any but the last couple of inches), rinsed out my mouth, and heaved a sigh of relief... it had been grim, but it was done.

Or so I thought.

I trudged back to the family room, got some soda and pretzels to settle my stomach and refill it a little, and went back to work. About 20 minutes later, I started feeling warm again; although I don't think I've ever had to go through more than 1 round of throwing up in my entire life, I instinctively grasped that Round 2 was starting in a few seconds, and scrambled for the bathroom. I don't know what was more of a shock, that I was vomiting again or that I was vomiting through my NOSE again... I sure hope this isn't aging-related (an online search turned up virtually no mention of this phenomenon, so I have no idea what's behind it), because I do NOT want this to be how it works for the rest of my life. Scarily, the force and amount of what was being expelled was even worse than the 1st time; in what will probably stand out as the single greatest incident of dark humor in my entire life, I realized that I probably resembled comedian Larry the Cable Guy in the episode of "Blue Collar TV" where he went to the "gravy spa" and had the "gravy enema," which was what looked like a fire hose stuck up his rear end that was supposed to be pumping gravy into him in such vast quantities that it started spurting out of his mouth in a wide brown stream (even in a skit whose unmistakable purpose was to go for the gross-out laugh they didn't think to have anything coming out of his NOSE, though, sigh).

Once I'd finished retching and cleaning up, I struggled strengthlessly to my feet and began groping my way to the door of my husband's study; my voice was low and hoarse (presumably because my throat was too traumatized to work properly), but I eventually managed to wake him and make clear that he had to get up because I was seriously sick... and once he did, it became obvious that HE was sick too, although nowhere near as sick as I was (despite the fact that he ate all of his salad and I only had half of mine-I must have just gotten more of whatever it was that was contaminated). Our horrific 1st night of joint food poisoning had begun.

We went through endless bouts of barfing and diarrhea, with mine staying far worse than his; I soon got to the point where all I had coming out was the water I was drinking as steadily as I could manage (to prevent becoming dangerously dehydrated)... have you ever had what I guess you'd still have to technically call diarrhea and not been able to see anything in the bowl because you're out of food, out of bile, and are literally just passing water? Even more terrifying was when NOTHING was coming out anymore, my body's fervent efforts notwithstanding; I'd plainly emptied my entire digestive tract, and despite my best efforts could feel myself dehydrating rapidly... if I hadn't managed to drink some water and then nap long enough to absorb part of it (before I woke up and threw the rest up) I'd have had to go to the emergency room and get started on an IV, because I'd become so ill that I could barely move, and was swinging between being so hot that sweat trickled down my sides to being so cold that my nails were blue.

My husband likes to isolate himself when he feels sick, but I was afraid that I'd vomit in my sleep or in a daze and choke to death, or end up comatose from dehydration, or spend hours calling for help and he wouldn't be able to hear me, so we sort of camped out on the bed, on top of the covers (with extra blankets to huddle under, of course) so that we could lunge for the bathroom without getting trapped for too many crucial seconds, and with the lights on (again to facilitate speedy bathroom access), and dozed as best as we could. When we were awake, we talked ramblingly about odd topics that'd probably have seemed deranged to other people... like how when I became president I'd make him call me Your Majesty, and his focus as "First Husband" would be putting computers in underprivileged schools and teaching kids how to use them. When one of us had to run to the restroom, upon return we gave the other person an intricate description of what had been disgorged (as I've often said, marriage is GROSS); when we were too weary to talk and too uncomfortable to sleep, we lay there and held hands.

Although taking pills can bother my stomach a bit even under the best of circumstances, I eventually had to take some Imodium to bring the nonstop peristalsis to a halt; I had to take a 2nd dose a little later, but that one did the trick, luckily, so that the precious water I was still doggedly consuming was only shooting back out in ONE direction. The funny thing was that my husband had bought the Imodium in error, when I made the mistake of letting him sort coupons unattended for 2 minutes and he'd decided that, although neither of us had used an anti-diarrheal in many years, he'd take a coupon for it and buy it... and in the 6 WEEKS since then had managed to consistently "forget" to return it. It's amazing how often his screwups end up being beneficial in unforeseen ways, and it cheered him in his misery to see that it had worked out that way yet again.

Wednesday we did alot of sleeping and water-drinking; we didn't eat much, but nothing much was coming out, either, so it wasn't nearly as bad as the previous night. When I was awake, I was assaulted by the noises coming from my abdomen as my emptied-out and bile-less digestive system tried to readjust to having something in it for more than 30 seconds; it sounded like a demonic being was going nuts in there, and was so loud that it could be heard clearly in the next room. I felt strong enough by late afternoon to wend my way through the various segments of the local health department's system to report the food poisoning; not only did they not have anyone available to take my call, but they never called me back... I'll have a few choice words to say to them on Monday for blowing off the report of what's obviously a bug that's dangerous even to healthy adults, and possibly deadly to old folks and kids.

Thursday I felt better... and so of course did too much trying to catch up, tired myself out and thus felt worse today. I'm still so dehydrated that I have to constantly guzzle water, and haven't been able to eat anything more challenging than soup; my husband is eating more normally, but far less than usual... we're both going to end up a few pounds thinner from all this. We're not quite squared away in the excretory department, either; we've long since stopped vomiting, but he's still having low-key runs, and when the Imodium that I took late Tuesday/early Wednesday petered out today... imagine what a goldfish bowl looks like just after you feed the fish. We're both going to take it VERY easy this weekend, and hopefully that'll get us back to feeling normal; I'm betting that it'll take a while longer to get back to our usual diets, but a week or 2 without eating garbage won't kill us.

And all this because it seemed so virtuous to have salads for dinner; the next time anyone asks why we don't eat healthier, I'm gonna tell them this story.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

2 updates and some food news 

Long-term readers might be puzzled as to why it's been so long since I said anything about my mother (who has stage 3 breast cancer); the main reason is that we had no contact for almost 2 months, which is typical for us and hasn't changed since she was diagnosed. I'd last spoken to her the day before she went to the doctor to get her radiation treatments set up and went back to work (after being off for 6 weeks due to the surgery in which they removed the tumor), and she repeatedly said that she'd call me the next day to give me the news; never one to consider keeping her word to family members to be necessary, and not needing rides for the radiation as she had for the chemo, she blew me off instead... and if I hadn't had to talk to her about a family matter, we STILL wouldn't have spoken. (Why didn't I call her during the preceding months? Because I don't reward people for spitting in my face by running after them-I'm funny that way.)

Anyways: She's been having radiation 5 days a week during the intervening time. Her skin got all burned, and, although this is standard, they didn't have the cream for it available to give to her, and she had to pay for it out of pocket ($85 for a tiny tube) and then fight the HMO protractedly until they admitted that maybe they SHOULD be paying for this absolutely essential item; she's still fighting to get them to pay her back for the 1st tube, weeks later... she's like me x10, though, and she'll force it out of them eventually. Her last treatment was today, so now she's just going to be glopping on the cream and waiting for her skin to recover (it's CRACKED now too), and periodically seeing a doctor to monitor the progress of that issue and the "surgery area"; yes, over 3 months later she's STILL not fully recovered... she still has bruising, swelling, and soreness, and is still wearing the post-surgical support garment (a bra wouldn't hold the breast immobile). When they say that elderly people don't recover from surgery as fast as younger folks, they're not kidding; almost as hard as the slow recovery for my mother, as a woman, is that the breast that was operated on is quite a bit smaller than the other one now, and she can't pad that side until she can wear regular bras again... she's very self-conscious, and is wearing loose layers to try to conceal it. She's not going to have any reconstructive surgery, so the sunken, scarred part of her chest will always look that way; she's going to have to get rid of any shirt that doesn't cover that area completely. When she gets too bummed about being permanently disfigured, I say something like "So I guess you'll have to give up your plans to start a career in pole-dancing?" and she finds that endlessly amusing; we're an odd family.

Thank you, again, to those of you who've been sending my mother your prayers and good thoughts; it's greatly appreciated.

The other update is for my previous post; I wasn't expecting to have to say anything else about the topic, but the phone company's behavior has been so outrageous that I feel compelled to comment:

When we left off, I'd been scheduled to receive a phone call from a supervisor, who I intended to regale with the numerous problems I'd encountered with their bug-filled voice-activated system and inept so-called customer service people, especially the one who'd lied to my husband about having arranged for a tech to come and fix our dead phone line (which DID get fixed on Friday via the appointment *I* set up, luckily); it probably won't surprise you much to hear that the promised call never happened. When another business day had passed and still no call, I gritted my teeth and called THEM; it took me nearly half an hour to reach a human being, most of that time on hold but part of it struggling with the voice system, which threw a new curve at me... it claimed that if I said "agent" it'd transfer me to one, but naturally refused to recognize that word any of the 200 times I used it.

The 1st person I spoke to was a well-meaning lady who took down my entire story; she passed me up the ladder to a supervisor (the claim of the last guy I'd spoken to that supervisors aren't available upon request was apparently a lie, as were several other things he told me, it turns out, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr), and she also took my entire story before passing me up the ladder to the next highest level, where ANOTHER nice lady took my entire story and, since even SHE had no power to research much less take action on any of the issues (have you ever heard of such worthless tiers of management?), she put me on hold while she tracked down someone on the next level up, and he... no, this has gotta be a paragraph unto itself:

The "gentleman" at the highest level of management my persistence was able to reach declined to speak to me directly; he made the poor woman who'd found him for me pass messages from him on one line to me on another... what is he, ROYALTY? He'd been given the entire story, and his response to hearing about all I'd been through, all the lies and screw-ups of his employees, all the failures of his system, and the many hours I'd spent on the phone to his company on 2 different days, giving my story in detail to a whole slew of agents, was... I experienced this but I still can't believe it... that I had to write a LETTER with a description of the problems and mail it to the corporate headquarters before any action would be taken. A LETTER. Half the frigging employees of that company have written lengthy depictions of the events I endured in my file, but *I* have to write it down and MAIL it to them? Oh REALLY?!! Not being an idiot, I knew that they'd never admit to having gotten any such letter if it was sent to them, much less instigate an investigation in reference to it; the manager's instructions translated approximately to, "f*ck off."

I didn't expect anything dramatic to result from my lodging complaints, but even the managers at the least customer-friendly corporations have always previously shown some shred of interest in ameliorating the most egregious problems with their staff and computers; this refusal to even speak to me directly much less take action, coupled with the inexcusable BS about a LETTER, constitutes an all-time low for the telecommunications industry.

And now for the good news from the fast-food front; Jack in the Box has introduced an AMAZING new burger called "the House Burger," which the flier we got in the mail didn't even do justice to... it's not like the usual disappointing thing where the beautiful burger in the ad turns out to have half the toppings in real life. This burger is HUGE, not just thick but WIDE; the box it comes in is twice the size of the usual burger box. They give you an unheard-of choice of which ingredients go on it; you start out by deciding if you want just a cheeseburger or a bacon cheeseburger, then you choose the type of cheese (American, cheddar or REAL Swiss) AND what kind of onions you want (red or grilled)... and then they bring in a wheelbarrow full of stuff and make your burger.

The bun's one of those fancy ones; I don't know what to call it... it's vaguely yellowish. The secret sauce AND the meat had little flecks in them, so clearly they're both seasoned with real herbs, which is unusual, especially for the latter. You get 2 slices each of cheese and tomato, and plenty of lettuce. Surprisingly, they put on lots of good-looking bacon, not the couple of scrawny strips you usually get, and, instead of the tiny quarter-sized pickle slices normally found on burgers, they had the big lengthwise slices... which were NOT mushy like fast food pickles generally are. I got the red onion, and there was so much that I pulled off 2/3 of it and gave it to my husband. He was going to some noxious punk show, and commented that it was a bad time to have onion breath; I pointed out that that paled beside what would happen once he started digesting the onions... he was gonna have the entire mosh pit to himself, lol.

Once I'd gotten the remaining onion evenly redistributed, most of the sauce scraped off (it was good, but I don't like too wet of a burger), and all the toppings neatly lined up over the patty and not protruding past it (anal, yes, I know), I gazed down at my enormous burger, trying to figure out how to hold it all together and compress it enough to fit into my mouth; at that point, my husband returned to the room in a cloud of onion, and:

Me: It's so BIG.
Him: I've waited many years to hear you say that to me.
Me: LOL!! That's going in tonight's blog entry.
Him: Uh, ok, lol.

Levity aside, it's a top-notch burger; give it a try sometime when you're REALLY hungry.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Phone company idiots (isn't that redundant?) 

My husband's bunglings (see my previous post) might have seemed bad, but not even he can compete with the degree of fouled-up-ness that a major corporation can create; I try not to do consecutive rants about this sort of thing so that new readers don't think my life is a non-stop mess, but this one was too good not to share:

I live in one of America's biggest cities, and am thus provided with phone service by a huge corporation; today, one of our phone lines died, and my husband called them to arrange for a technician to come and fix the problem. The 1st inkling of trouble was when the woman he talked to insisted that she could give NO clue as to when the tech would be here, not even the DAY... but that of course someone had to be home when he arrived in order for him to handle the problem if it turned out to be an inside wiring issue. That seemed insane, but these big corporations are getting more and more arrogant and contemptuous of customers so I didn't doubt it was true; with the weekend coming up, and plans already made, though, I had to at least know what days and hours the techs work during so I could narrow it down a little, which meant that I had to call them and get that info.

You know the sort of music they play in a drama or suspense movie to indicate that doom is approaching? Take a moment to imagine a few bars of that in your head.

The geniuses at the phone company have switched to a voice-recognition system to handle incoming calls; I have yet to get through a session with one of these frigging things without problems (unlike using buttons, which is faster and produces perfectly understood signals), so I have a low opinion of these sorts of systems from the get-go... but this one was the worst yet. I tried several times to enter my phone #, but it never let me get in more than 6 of the 10 digits. It wouldn't give me a menu of options for how to proceed at each juncture without 1st trying a bunch of times to make me describe what I wanted verbally, guessing incorrectly what I meant, asking me if it was right, and making me say "no"; there's no way to push a button to get out of the voice system or request a menu, and needless to say their goal is to prevent you from being able to talk to their agents if possible, so I was TRAPPED. When it finally claimed to be transferring me to a human being, a loud metallic tone came on the line and continued until I gave up and hung up several minutes later... and then had to call back. The 2nd time, it picked up the call, started the recorded message, and gave me a DIFFERENT loud metallic tone that went on until I hung up. The 3rd time, I slogged determinedly through, giving answers and pressing buttons almost at random because of course there were never any options offered that matched my inquiry... and then, miraculously, I reached a PERSON.

He told me that they could, and in fact were supposed to, give a 4-hour window on a specific day as the time frame in which the tech guy would show up; I was happy to hear it, but very much less than thrilled that the original employee had either been a moron or lied. An attempt to find out when my appointment window was failed, so I was transferred to the tech department... and another branch of the voice system, which I spent an additional 10 minutes struggling through until it decided that I was trying to SET an appointment, and, with no way to backtrack, I had to hang up and call back AGAIN.

This time, I was out of patience; to every question it asked, I responded "I need to talk to a human being"... and this did in fact connect me to a person far quicker than anything else had. I explained what had happened so far, and made it clear that I wanted to be transferred to an AGENT in tech support, NOT to their voice system; to give the service guy who was helping me at that point credit, he stayed on the line with me until it was confirmed that I'd reached a person rather than the system or another tone. In response to my question about the time and day I could expect the tech guy to come, I was told that... brace yourself... there was NO appointment set up for my household. He re-checked it, and discovered that there wasn't even a record of any contact between my home and his department that day; he also told me that they would NEVER tell a customer that there was no time frame or even day that they could guarantee that their arrival would be on. He had no explanation for the conversation my husband had had earlier, but he determined somehow that there was a short in the dead line, and tried resetting it, which he said sometimes helped; that didn't fix it, but I figured he knew his stuff well enough that he'd be able to set an appointment for a repair guy in the proper way, so we did that-let's just hope it's an OUTside wiring problem and thus free.

Naturally, I was dismayed at the thought that we could've been waiting for DAYS, with someone always having to be home, for a non-existent appointment to happen, only to discover when we finally called back to complain that there never WAS an appointment and they never just show up at unplanned days and times in any case; I asked to speak to someone who could track down what had happened, so I was transferred back to customer service (a true oxymoron if there ever was one) again. The tech guy had suggested that maybe some confused agent had done who knows what that they THOUGHT was setting an appointment but wasn't, but didn't have access to that area of the system to check it out; this was the 1st thing I asked the latest service guy to do, but he couldn't find any record of it, and in fact announced triumphantly that there was no record of any calls from my house, or of my account being accessed, before my own 1st call about an hour before... as if to imply that perhaps I was making it all up and he'd just "proved" it.

It was clear that it was time to converse with a supervisor, and my request to be connected to one led to the grimmest aspect of this whole debacle, in my mind; unlike every other company in the country, they do NOT have supervisors available to get on the line with customers... if you want to speak to one, you have to sign up for a callback within a certain time range on whatever the next available day is. I DID sign up, believe me, and whoever's unfortunate enough to get assigned to me is going to get a VERY detailed description of the train wreck their staff and computers created from what should've been a simple call to schedule a repair; don't worry, I'm not going to vent my ire on an innocent person, but they're responsible for finding and correcting problems, and as much as I'm paying them they're damned-sure gonna fix the bugs I experienced in their system, record my complaints about how difficult it is to use it, and find out what the truth is behind the phone call my husband had where he was misinformed, possibly lied to, and all record of it vanished.

Although as usual I'm the one required to spend hours dealing with corporate nitwits, my husband will be sharing the joy this time; since our interior phone-related wiring is massively intertwined with our network, which only he can deal with, he's going to have to hang out for 4 hours waiting for the repair guy so that if the latter needs to get to that section of the wiring he can safely detach and then reattach the component parts... although if the repair guy DOES need to come in the house, it'll disprove my husband's assertion that the problem CAN'T be inside because if it was the short on the line would be affecting the DSL, which it isn't.

Never a dull moment; just cross your fingers for me that this gets handled quickly, so that we don't have to limp along without that phone line until Monday... and that if we do that the short doesn't start affecting the DSL, because if we have to spend a weekend competing for the use of one dialup line one of us is gonna end up buried in coffee cans in the back yard.

I'll leave you with something amusing, albeit in a scary way:

I saw an auction for a Sesame Street brand pair of overalls for an infant boy


They have a raccoon face on them, and under that it says "racoon," just like that with the 2nd "c" missing; yes, a piece of clothing licensed by the TV show dedicated to educating small children about things like spelling has a misspelled word embroidered on it, lol!!

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