Saturday, April 27, 2002

Welcome to fantasy island : Whenever you have a pro-sex education group touting Iran's policies - Iran, where 9 year old girls get sent off to arranged marriages - as a good example of how sex-ed should be handled, you know things are getting a little weird(er). I suppose that if you're going to send 9 year old girls off to marry some perv five times their age who already has two other wives it's in your best interest to make sure they know everything about the birds and the bees there is to know. It may or may not have occurred to these geniuses that here in the US we don't generally expect 9 year old girls to be doing to horizontal mambo, but obviously that's because the US is in the grip of evil conservative Christian religious views whilst Iran is liberal, nonreligious, and free.

"Too many policymakers subscribe to the caricature of adolescents as mere hormone-driven accidents waiting to happen," Waggoner said.

Uhhhh... That's a caricature? Since when?
You are what you eat : Remember how your mother told you that you should eat lots of fish? Well, maybe she didn't, but she should have (link requires free registration) -

In the first study, in the April 10th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Frank B. Hu, from the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues collected dietary data on 84,688 women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. These women were 34 to 59 years of age, and free from CHD at baseline in 1980.

Over 16 years of followup, there were 484 were deaths from CHD and 1029 nonfatal MIs, the researchers found.. Multivariate analysis showed that women who ate fish once per week had a relative risk for CHD of 0.71, for those eating fish two to four times per week the relative risk was 0.69, and for women who ate fish five or more time per week it was 0.66 (p for trend = 0.001), Dr. Hu's team reports.

According to the authors, women who had a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acid also had a lower risk of CHD.

Dr. Hu and colleagues conclude that "this prospective study provides strong evidence for an inverse association between fish and omega-3 fatty acid consumption and risk of CHD in women, particularly CHD death."

So basically the more fish they ate the lower the incidence of Coronary Heart Disease. Given that CHD is what gets an awful lot of us in the end, this is pretty significant.

Dr. Christine M. Albert, from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues analyzed previously collected blood from 94 men for whom sudden death was the first sign of cardiovascular disease. They compared these samples with 184 matched controls.

According to the report, the adjusted relative risk for sudden death was 0.28 among men who had concentrations of long-chain n-3 fatty acid in the third quartile and 0.19 for men in the fourth quartile, compared with men in the lowest quartile.

Dr. Albert and colleagues conclude that "if the observed association is causal, increasing the intake of n-3 fatty acids by eating more fish or by taking supplements is an intervention that could be applied to this segment of the population at low cost and little risk."

Assuming you're not allergic to fish, pretty much no risk.

There was also an Italian study (again, requires free registration) -

Omega-3 fatty acids, or n-3 polyunsaturate fatty acids (PUFA), found in fish oil have been confirmed to reduce cardiovascular (CV) risk and mortality, according to a randomized trial and 2 additional studies published this week.

The GISSI-Prevenzione study was reported April 8 online as a rapid access publication in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association. It involved 11,323 Italian patients with recent myocardial infarction (MI) who were randomized to supplementation with PUFA, vitamin E, both, or neither. Patients who received PUFA had significantly lower all-cause mortality, resulting largely from a 42% reduction in sudden cardiac death at 3 months' follow-up.

"That was a surprise," lead author Roberto Marchioli, MD, from Consorzio Mario Negri Sud in Italy, said in a news release. "The risk of death, and sudden death, is higher in the first months after a heart attack. It is exactly in this period that the effect on sudden death was noted."

Although the mechanism of action of PUFA is still unknown, the benefits appeared to be related to reducing dysrhythmia rather than to changes in cholesterol levels or to anticoagulant effect.

So basically in both women and men Omega-3 Fatty Acids seem to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. In those who have had an MI they seem to reduce the risk of sudden death. That's pretty significant, especially when you take into consideration that for the vast majority of people (again, those who aren't allergic) they are perfectly safe. There is also some preliminary evidence that Omega-3 Fatty Acids may have beneficial psychological effects as well as having a beneficial effect on insulin metabolism, thus potentially delaying the onset of Type II diabetes (both links again requiring free registration).

If you don't like fish or don't want to have fish five or six times a week - personally I like fish well enough, but probably not enough to have it that often - you can get Omega-3 supplements from any good health food store.

Now on to vegetarianism (again, link requires free registration) -

Dietary animal protein appears to play a protective role in the skeletal health of older women, according to a report in the April 1st issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.


"Multiple linear regression analyses adjusted for standard osteoporosis covariates showed a positive association between animal protein consumption, assessed by food frequency questionnaires in 1988-1992, and BMD, measured 4 years later," the investigators report.


Vegetable protein was negatively associated with BMD in both men and women.

"These findings, along with the intriguing observation of a negative association between vegetable protein consumption and BMD, have significant implications for osteoporosis prevention strategies and warrant further investigation in elderly cohorts," Dr. Barrett-Connor and colleagues conclude.

BMD is an acronym for Bone Mass Density.

In other words, being a vegetarian may be bad for your bones.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Death, where is thy sting? : Is capital punishment unconstitutional? A federal judge thinks it might be and has given prosecutors until May 31st to prove it isn't.

So why does he think it might be unconstitutional? Because of the "cruel and unusual" clause? Well, no, instead because death row inmates are being found to be innocent using modern technologies at a rather disturbing rate.

In doing so, he [U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff] said, he would find the federal death penalty law unconstitutional on the grounds that innocent people were being sent to death row ``with a frequency far greater than previously supposed.

I've always been against the death penalty and one of the strongest arguments to me is that the risk of putting an innocent to death is far too high. Even if the judicial system was run well and efficiently that would be the case, but more so because it's not.

Update: Non Sequitur File has an interesting entry on this.
And the 'blog rolls on (again) : For those of you playing at home, a few additions to the "Daily Reads" - Alice In TV Land, Alley Writer Yack, Dr. Weevil, and NoodleFood.

Welcome all to my list o' doom... Bawhahahahaha!
They might be giants : Were you aware that shrinkology was a Jewish plot?

And how incredible that a science - psychology - based on conclusions drawn from the lives of 19th century middle-class Viennese Jews should be used to interpret the behavior of late 20th century Arab leaders!

This guy could seriously use some couch time.

The strangest coincidence is that Bush’s four colleagues — described by Louise Gilman of North Carolina as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — have the same eye movements! And I quote her: “Cheney, the Jackal, war-wolf Wolfowitz, Rambo Rumsfeld and Perle, the prince of darkness.” And having watched them several times in a number of TV films, I have come to realize that they too have that strange fiery glint when they discuss Palestine or Arafat. As for me, I would hate to come across any of them in a dark alley — or even in a well-lit one. The glint that I have seen on TV has already filled my heart with dread.

I'm dreaming of a white July 4th, just like the ones I used to know... : Last night we got two inches of snow. They had expected more but the storm moved further south than predicted. Even two inches would be unusual in a normal year, I frankly don't ever remember seeing snow out here this late in April, but this year we've almost had more snow in April than we had the entire winter!

Yeah, I know, a weather fluke does not a trend make and this says absolutely nothing about global warming. What I find odd, however, is that every time we have an odd hot day - as happened a couple of weeks ago when it was rapidly approaching 90 degrees here - there's always some idiot on the news who just has to mention global warming with a "See, it's happening!" self-satisfied sneer. And yet when there's a fluke snowstorm or two just a couple of weeks later that proves nothing. Or, worse yet, that is in fact also proof - somehow - of global warming.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this : I talked about my sister's 'blog, Hawkspirits, a few days ago and how it is a 'blog dedicated to discussing the goings on in my nephews lives. Well my sister is a rather opinionated sort, it must be a genetic thing, who finds herself sometimes wanting to take a pet peeve or three for a walk around the park. She doesn't want to do it on her own 'blog as that would violate both its spirit and intent, so she's going to do so here whenever she feels the need.

So if you're wondering who this "corvidae" is who's posting about the church, that's who.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Scandal? Church? What a Shock...

I live in the land of Mormon and the favorite religious activity for all us non-Mormons hereabouts is watching the rare public appearances of the President of the Church to see if he will actually fall over at some point, or if the strings holding up his Methuselah-age body will yet again keep him upright. The Mormons certainly have their fair share of scandal and have, over the years, become quite adept at double talk and other political-type activities.

Quick learners, considering it took the Catholic Church centuries to learn the same and they still don't quite seem to have it down pat. But then, the main problem with the Catholic church is that everyone knows the rules they are supposed to play by. The Mormons tend to be a bit more secretive on the finer points of their game plan and, hence, one is never quite certain when they are atually in the midst of a scandal or simply pulling exceptions out of their Quorum behinds. Really, it makes for great entertainment at times.

One fine political move the Mormons have figured out quite well is that, if one wishes to make oneself look good, make someone else look bad. Comparison is always a good tactic when someone else is screwing up. Accordingly, the press hereabouts has been having a ripping grand time with the latest Catholic Church scandal. The evening news anchors (most of whom are owned bodily by the Mormon Church) have, in the past week or so, finally perfected their Solemn Voice And Shocked Intake of Breath act when the Catholic Church comes up. Of course, they had to perfect it quickly, since the Rubbing Hands Together With Glee bit was considered to be in poor taste by many. I have little doubt that speech coaches were called in to instruct the anchors and various news minions on how to properly enunciate the word "Scandal" (yes, with a Capital S). After all, they use the word so very often now, one must be certain to say it with the appropriate Innocent Horror.

It seems to have escaped the Mormons that the Catholic Church cut its teeth on Scandal (again with the Capital S). Just a few days ago, I watched a History Channel special on the Borgias and the one-time head of the family, Pope Alexander. Now I don't customarily rely on the History Channel for historical accuracy in most things--after all, history can be a tad boring and that won't keep the ratings up without a little added spice, now will it? However, one knows that when the name Borgia comes up, no extra spice is needed and Pope Alexander, along with his daughter Lucrezia, ate Scandals far worse than the current one for a midnight snack to tide them over until morning. The idea that the current Scandal (the S key seems to be stuck in Capital mode) is anything out of the ordinary for the Catholic Church is ludicrous. The Mormons, apparently, have simply not been around long enough to realize that. The gods of a thousand universes know the Mormon history books are a bit, shall we say, skewed? If they stuck to their own books, they would likely never even realize there was a Catholic Church.

Mormons aside, however (and wouldn't that be a nice trick for many of us here in Utah?), the Catholics really haven't quite managed to politic themselves out of this mess as well as they usually do. Not to put to fine a point on it, but does anyone have a dictionary that defines the word, "chastity?" If so, perhaps you would be so good as to forward it to Cardinal Law? Or perhaps the Pope himself? Today's Salt Lake Tribune reported:

The American church leaders said they would recommend a special process to defrock any priest who has become "notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors." In cases that are "not notorious," they would leave it up to the local bishop to decide if such a priest is a threat to children and should be defrocked.

"Not Notorious?" Does that mean that as long as the abused person doesn't tell enough people, the priest is okey-dokey in the eyes of the Church? Exactly how many children does a priest have to molest before he is considered a threat to children? Does the term "holy vows" mean nothing to these people, or is sex with children really not considered to be sex at all? As long as one party wasn't willing, it doesn't violate the vows?

Of course, I ask this rather cynically, since I've never noticed the Catholic Church to find it necessary to play by their own rules. Really, though, I did expect better of them during the cover-up. And, as far as Cardinal Law goes, well, in the plagiarized and slightly bastardized words of Henry II in reference to Thomas Beckett: "Will no one rid me of this priest?"

Everything is relative : Yes, boys and girls, it's SWVCTM (Someone Who's Very Close To Me but prefers to remain nameless) time again. Another entry in the ongoing, and hopefully very long, saga. Today's episode opens with a question -

When is being told you've got five years to live good news?

When you thought you only had two.

It's amazing how relative what constitutes "good news" versus "bad news" can be.

Last Wednesday I took SWVCTM to the hospital for a battery of tests. It's kind of odd, the medical community only seems to have two speeds. If you've ever dealt with doctors over some comparatively minor medical problem - say, a reoccurring UTI or something - you know how slowly things can move. Molasses flows quicker and you're convinced that it'll be years before they get all of the test results and get you treated properly even though in reality it only takes months (well, days, but it seems like months). But if you ever deal with them over something really serious, and they know it's serious (which, of course, is the key), you'll be truly amazed at how fast things move. Test-this and appointment-that gets thrown at you so fast and furious you can only barely keep track.

For months I waited, hoped, and prayed for one of her doctors to get a frickin' clue and run a real test to find out what was wrong with her, but nothing happened. Then all in one day they scanned most of her body with half the technologies known to medical science.

You know how they tell you that if you need an MRI it'll take two, maybe three weeks to get scheduled? If they think it's serious you'll be in there the next day, if not that afternoon. I know this, of course, because that's exactly what happened. One of the ER docs she'd seen had talked about possibly getting an MRI through her GP, but had gone on to explain apologetically and at length that it would take weeks to get an appointment and probably another week or two before the results were available. When the Oncologist's office called the MRI was done the next day, the results were available a couple of days later.

The first test on Wednesday was blood. We walked into the Cancer Center, as we'd been instructed, and talked to the secretary. Unfortunately the secretary informed us that the nurse who did the blood tests was gone, she left at 3:30, so we'd have to go to the main test center in the attached hospital. Okay, fine, we'd gotten out the door of the Cancer Center when it finally dawned on me that it wasn't quite 2:30 yet and if the nurse left at 3:30 then... Eh, screw it, we went into the hospital and to the test center. The scary thing is that I've now pretty much got most of the hospital and the Cancer Center layout memorized and knew exactly where to go. Unless you happen to work in one, you never want to be that familiar with any hospital.

Drawing blood didn't take long, of course, and the next stop was Radiology for the CAT scan. We'd been to radiology several times before, of course, so I knew where that was too. We got there, she checked in at the front desk, and we went into the rather large communal waiting room.

Hospitals are very odd places, in a sense they're a kind of city unto themselves. Hospital waiting rooms are even odder. Most of the waiting rooms in this particular hospital have a TV in them and almost all of them are playing CNN 24/7. I haven't watched CNN in quite a while, almost long enough to have forgotten why. After the last couple of weeks and having seen hours of CNN, now I remember - it's just not good for my blood pressure.

I joke about my blood pressure but actually it's very low, in fact just this side of dangerously low. I wouldn't normally think to mention that, but, well, I've been spending a lot of time in hospitals lately and doing so causes one to think about such things and occasionally blurt out random little factoids about one's health, or lack thereof, and...

...Shutting up now.

Anyway, almost no one really looks at the TVs in the waiting room. I'm not entirely sure why since what they do spend a lot of time doing in waiting rooms is reading newspapers. There's usually one or two discarded ones in a waiting room and when one person finishes them there's sometimes accidents when ten others pounce simultaneously to claim it. Fortunately if you have to have an accident a hospital is the place to do it.

There are really three kinds of people you see in waiting rooms. The first are those who studiously ignore the fact that there's anyone else in the room. They're the ones you'll find staring at a newspaper or a magazine so hard you have to wonder if they think that by sheer ocular force of will they can absorb the print on the page. The second type are those who want to know everyone who's there and usually want everyone there to know them. These kinds of people can range from the mildly entertaining to the excruciatingly annoying. The last type are kids. Usually, hopefully, they're there because their parents have to be seen for whatever reason.

When we got to the radiology waiting room CNN was playing on the TV as usual and there were a number of people already there. We sat down and it was immediately clear that the woman sitting a chair over from SWVCTM was of the second type, subclass entertaining. She was a middle aged Hispanic woman with a perpetual light smile that hinted at some secret mystical knowledge and the possibility that if you were nice to her she might share it. She said "Hi!" and something else, I don't even remember what, before returning to contemplate her secret mystical knowledge. About ten minutes later a nurse came in holding two sixteen ounce styrofoam cups. SWVCTM had to drink this stuff and from the secret mystical knowledge lady's expression and comments it quickly became clear what the secret mystical knowledge was - anything a nurse gave you to drink in this place was going to make fermented horse urine seem palatable. Poor SWVCTM had to drink down these 32 ounces of chalky goodness as quickly as possible and did so whilst secret mystical knowledge lady cracked jokes about how foul the stuff was and the nurse tried to keep her composure - it apparently being bad form for a nurse to roll around on the waiting room floor laughing her bum off. When done SWVCTM looked up at the nurse and said "You know that lemon flavoring isn't hiding anything.".

The 32 ounces of chalky goodness needed twenty minutes to do its job so we sat and waited. Well, I sat, SWVCTM got up and paced some since that was supposed to speed up the process. Not long after the two cups, a half dozen or so young and semi-burly - if short - men came in and sat down. Collectively they were of the second type, subclass excruciating. They started talking to each other but I couldn't understand a word they said. Not because they were in fact talking in Spanglish, of which I can pick up at least some, but instead because they were talking at a volume sufficient to blow out my eardrums and cause a mild concussion. Well, not really, but it felt like it. CNN was completely drowned out, for which I would have thanked them had there been any chance whatsoever of my quiet voice being heard over the din they were creating. How they could possibly have understood each other, given that for the most part they were all talking simultaneously to each other and several others in the room, is an utter mystery to me. Finally, in desperation, I took my MP3 player out of my purse. Set on 22 (my MP3 player's volume goes from 0 - 22, I have no idea why) I was just barely able to lose myself in Eve6.

Shortly after we'd gone on to Sammy Hagar ("I can't drive 55!" Bwahahahahaha!) a nurse came in and called for some of the young and semi-burly - if short - men, which allowed me to reduce volume to 15 or so. Another quickly followed, asking for SWVCTM. Also around this time a mother and her son walked in and sat down. The mother was around my age, mid-thirties somewhere, and the son looked to be about nine or ten. The mother had timed things just right, an elderly man who'd been reading a paper had also just been called, thus freeing up said paper. The mother pounced on it before anyone else could even move and started reading. Occasionally she mumbled something, I gathered she was a sports fan. The young boy was, unsurprisingly, bored out of his gourd and mostly sat and fidgeted.

Now personally the ill manners many people's children display in public is a pet peeve of mine. But, for whatever reason, one rarely sees this sort of thing in hospitals. In fact most of the kids I've encountered in hospital waiting rooms have been incredibly well behaved and quite sweet. But I quickly had reason to suspect this young man might be an exception.

I had SWVCTM's films - the bone scan and spinal x-rays - with me. One of the nurses at the Cancer Center had entrusted them to me with multiple and strict admonitions that I was to never under any circumstances let them out of my sight. Apparently some hospital departments like to keep these things when they shouldn't. I've no idea why, maybe they take them home to feed to their pets or something. Whatever the reason, I took my duties quite seriously. These things were in a big manilla envelope with "X-RAYS" stenciled on it in large enough letters to be seen from orbit without the assistance of advanced optics - at most someone in the ISS would need a good pair of binocs and I suspect those letters might be readable from there with nothing save the naked eye. I'd set this big manilla envelope on the chair next to me and set my purse on top of them. Woe to anyone who tried to touch those films, though I wished they'd at least given me a sword or something.

The young boy was sitting in the chair next to the chair with the films in it and apparently they were too fascinating to ignore. His hand kept creeping over and I watched this out of the corner of my eye with some mild amusement. Amusement until his hand got too close and it became clear he actually meant to pick the envelope up. I reached over and wiggled my finger at him, indicating that this would not be the wisest move he'd ever made in his young life. He pulled his hand back as though burnt and looked at me with eyes nearly twice as wide as his entire skull.

"Little brat," thought I in a most uncharitable way.

A few minutes later I noticed him twisting and turning his head trying to look at something, what he was trying to look at was my watch. I hit the pause button and looked over at him inquiringly.

"May I please see what time it is, Ma'am?" He asked.

"Certainly," I replied, holding my arm out so he could read my watch.

I felt like a heel for having thought so ill of him. He really shouldn't have been trying to pick up the envelope, but he had no way of knowing it was something important or even for sure whose it was. And, frankly, ten minutes in one of those waiting rooms is enough to bore me to tears, I can't imagine what it must be like for a ten year old whose mother is pretty much ignoring him.

A little while after this SWVCTM returned, looking a bit the worse for wear. First, for the CAT scan she wasn't supposed to eat or drink anything for two to four hours prior. This meant that she hadn't had a pain pill for a while and was overdue. Second, I gather they weren't especially careful about getting her laid down so they could run the scan, nor careful about getting her back up again. One problem with having an arm and shoulder out of commission is that it's difficult to impossible to lay down or get back up again. Inevitably you end up moving the arm and/or shoulder and that causes excruciating pain. Of course if they were careful about it and helped her this would be less of an issue, but they weren't and didn't.

I was wrong about the CAT scan, by the way. I'd assumed it was to check her brain for possible mets, but it wasn't. She told me they'd scanned her abdomen, having read the reports now that makes sense.

The next test on the top ten hit parade was the MRI, so we headed down to the other side of the hospital. This hospital has an MRI and PET group attached at one end. The people who run it aren't actually part of the hospital, though physically attached the hospital it's a separate group/company which can make insurance issues interesting. Along the way I gave her a pain pill (with her shoulder out she's not carrying a purse so I keep them in mine) and we stopped at a drinking fountain so she could take it. Unfortunately it was going to be a good twenty minutes before it hit her system and because her stomach was completely empty it wasn't going to be overly effective. We'd planned to stop in the hospital cafeteria so she could get something to eat, but there just wasn't enough time.

We got to the MRI place and since it's a separate company they had her fill out all of the how can we best fleece you paperwork - always fun, that. And they wanted the films I'd been given to guard with my life. Okay, apparently they needed them to line up the MRI or something, which sounded reasonable, but I made it abundantly clear that I wanted them back as soon as absolutely possible. The woman asking for them seemed almost insulted by this, as if I'd demanded her firstborn and a pile of gold, and wanted to know if I was sure. Yes, hell yes, absolutely yes! So she took them and, much to my surprise, quickly returned with them, explaining that she'd made copies. Amazing what happens when you're assertive, I really should try that more often.

We didn't wait long before they came out to get SWVCTM. I couldn't go back with her, of course, so I sat in the waiting room. In this instance, a particularly boring one. No TV, meaning no CNN, and since it was getting relatively late there was no one else in the waiting room. So out comes the MP3 player. I knew this was going to be a longer wait than most, an MRI is not something that is done quickly. Depending on how much they're scanning it can be anywhere from a forty-five minutes to an hour or so. By the time I'd gotten halfway through the songs on my MP3 player I knew we were well past the hour mark. An hour and a half in I was starting to get nervous. Just short of two hours a nurse comes out and calls my name. The only way she would know my name is if SWVCTM told her and that made me a tad nervous as it meant that SWVCTM needed help - else why come out and get me?

"We had a bit of a problem," the nurse said.


"She needs your help."

Double uh-oh.

"But we got some really great pics!"

Bully for you.

The nurse leads me into the labyrinth and says "She's in there," before walking off.

"There" was a locked door behind which I could hear SWVCTM crying.

Fury rising. What in the hell did they do?

I knocked on the door and let SWVCTM know I was there, a few minutes later she comes out and is most obviously much the worse for wear. We go across the hall to a dressing room. It's obvious SWVCTM is in extreme pain and can't dress herself, which was why they came and got me. It took several minutes before she had things together enough to tell me what had happened.

Imagine your arm and shoulder are in really bad shape (in fact later we found out that among other things the arm is in fact fractured). Now imagine you have to spend nearly two hours trapped inside a huge extremely noisy machine. Now imagine that because there is little room inside said machine you have to keep your already extremely painful arm in a painful position. For nearly two hours. Now imagine that when they take you out of said machine they forget to put the rails down so your excruciatingly sore arm gets jammed between the bed you're laying on and the rail. Now imagine that no one seems to really give a flying crap about any of this. And, finally, imagine that it's a good thing I don't have a gun or I would have shot every damn last one of those unconcerned stupid assed son of a bitches.

In the kneecaps.

Both kneecaps.

Twice each.

I was beyond livid as I helped her dress, and I still am. I didn't dare say anything to anyone, though I desperately wanted to say quite a few things, because I was afraid that if I did I would just blow up. After I'd gotten her dressed we simply walked out without a word. As we passed the front desk I half expected the lady there to say something and if she had I was going to unload. I was looking forward to it, mentally putting my expletives into order for maximum verbal ballistic impact. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point-of-view, no one said anything.

We've had this problem all along, outside of the Cancer Center no one seems to take her pain seriously at all. Not the first ER doctor, not the GP, and not the various testing facilities at either hospital. It infuriates me to no end, how could they be so bloody stupid and blind?

Part of it is SWVCTM's manner. In certain personality traits she's almost masculine. I don't mean physically. I'm what she refers to as a "girl-girl", she's definitely not but she's by no means butch. In appearance she's, well, your average forty-something woman. But her personality traits are somewhat mixed, and in some things she can be almost "macho". One of those ways is when it comes to pain. Stoic doesn't begin to describe it. She's like a boss I had years ago. He had obvious back problems that anyone who knew him could see, but he wouldn't take so much as a aspirin for it and heaven forbid he'd admit that there was a problem. She's not quite that bad, but close. Even when it's obvious to me, because I know her, that she's in extreme pain if someone asks she'll say something like "It hurts a little, yeah...". I half expect that if someone chopped off her arm she'd say "It's naught but a scratch!". Complicating matters and for reasons that wholly escape me, she's often reluctant to bring up things in her medical history that might be relevant and she seems downright embarrassed when I mention them - as if I've just spoken of some sin she committed in the distant past that should remain unmentioned.

As far as I can figure out most of these mental midgets expect that anyone who was in any degree of pain worth mentioning would be screaming like a banshee and babbling their entire medical history like a stoolie confessing his crimes in hopes of a lighter sentence. Instead they get a woman who tells them it's naught but a scratch and doesn't mention much of anything about her medical history so she must not be in any real pain - nothing to worry about here. Of course if these flatline EEG cases had half an ounce of observational powers they might actually notice that she can barely move the arm and it might even occur to them that if someone says that laying down is a problem because of their shoulder and arm then maybe you should bloody-well listen just in case.

Up until now that's been my theory, anyway, that basically these idiots aren't seeing what they expect to see in someone who has serious pain so they don't take it seriously. Only that doesn't fly with the cerebral degenerates running the MRI machine like a torture device. Those worthless pieces of walking crap had her bone scan and spinal x-rays and knew damn well there were some major serious problems in the arm and shoulder and still didn't bother to take the most basic of precautions. What their excuse for their utter inconsiderate stupidity might be, I have no idea. But I don't and won't buy "accidents happen". For one thing there's no excuse for it, for another it's been too consistent.

Anyway, by the time the MRI was done it was seven PM. We went by the Cancer Center but there was no one at the desk so I took her home.

Yesterday (well, soon to be the day before yesterday as it's nearly midnight) I took her back to the Cancer Center. The first stop was downstairs for the radiation consultation. Since she didn't have radiation treatments before - one of the reasons she chose to have the left modified radical mastectomy over the lumpectomy was to avoid them - we'd never been down there. She checked in at the front desk and we sat in the standard waiting room with the standard TV blaring out the standard CNN. They were discussing the aftermath of the train wreck and showing pictures of it. God did that look like a... Well, like a train wreck.

The Cancer Center waiting rooms are different from those in the hospital itself in that nearly everyone you'll see in there is of the first type. Almost everyone is staring at a paper or magazine and almost no one even looks at anyone else. Everyone there is there for deadly serious business and everyone there knows it. Joviality is not something one sees a lot of in Cancer Center waiting rooms.

After a little while a nurse comes out and calls for SWVCTM, leading us back to a conference room where we sat at a table. The entire back wall was covered with dozens and dozens of bins for various pamphlets, each set labeled with a different kind of cancer. It was a little depressing to me to see how many there were. On the back of the door was a poster covering the basics of ductal invasive breast cancer and another below it on prostate cancer - probably the two most common that they handle.

The nurse sat down across from us and opened a thick file before starting to throw rapid-fire epidemiological questions at SWVCTM. When was your first period? Where were you born? Have you ever been pregnant? Stuff like that. None of this is for SWVCTM's good, of course, they collect this kind of data by law and it's used in studies. I know it probably shouldn't, but this sort of thing annoys the hell out of me and I have to think there's a better way to collect this data than the common rapid-fire third-degree technique. I also have to wonder why it is every time you see someone new you have to go over your whole life story again. You'd think they could write all of this stuff down just once and then pass it around or something, but no. I suppose that would be too easy. SWVCTM says she half thinks they're afraid you'll lie about something and they really do cross-check what you tell them to see. A tad paranoid, but I'm not sure it'd shock me if it was true.

After the third degree was done the nurse took SWVCTM to be examined and I was relegated back to the waiting room. Some woman on CNN was babbling about abstinence programs. This was ostensibly a news piece, but it wasn't hard to figure out how the bimbo giving the report felt. Her main complaint seemed to be that abstinence programs weren't teaching kids how to have safe sex. Worse yet, they were teaching kids that sometimes safe sex techniques failed - the woman said this as though it were an obvious lie. She kept babbling about how by the time they were eighteen 70% of children had engaged in sex. Ignoring for the moment that I've known several married eighteen year olds and in fact I wasn't much older than eighteen when I married for the first time, I wondered how in the world they got this number and why she thought it so compelling. What, you think that if you ask kids if they've had sex a substantial proportion aren't going to lie like a rug? Adults lie about sex fer god's sake!

See, this is why I don't watch CNN. It's bad for my blood pressure. Not that I have blood pressure problems, mind you...

Just when I'd reached the point where I was either going to have to scream at the bimbo on CNN or pop a blood vessel, the nurse comes out and calls for me. I go back to the conference room where SWVCTM is waiting. I asked her how the exam went and it was clear that she was most impressed. The doctor had been very careful about helping her to lay down and get up and all of that, pretty much the first medical-type person who had.

She had just enough time to tell me this before the doctor walked in and introduced himself. He was a tall guy, balding, a bit heavy set and serious as a myocardial infarction. He sits down and starts explaining what they're going to do to her - nuke her - for how long - every weekday for a month or so - what the results will be - 80% chance of reduction or elimination of the pain - and what the side-effects are - mucks up the skin. All well and good and pretty much as expected - except for the 80% part. He then asks her what pain meds she's on. She tells him and he shakes his head. Uh-uh, ain't good enough, he wants her on a more serious pain med on top of what she's taking and an anti-inflammatory on top of that. This pleased me as it was clear that the pain meds they had her on weren't good enough, even with them she still was having problems and occasionally serious ones. He was also adamant about her using a sling, not something she had been doing much and I'd been complaining about. He answered a couple of questions from her and from I and then asked if she was ready to be nuked (well, he didn't put it that way, but my way sounds better). This was something of a minor surprise, she hadn't expected they would start right away. But the faster they start the sooner she'll be through it and hopefully a lot better off pain-wise.

So they took her away and I was again out in the waiting room. This time I was smart, I got out my MP3 player - I knew there was a reason I hauled that thing around - and stuck the ear buds in before CNN could hook me.

What they did with her is what's called a simulation. Basically they put her on a machine and line things up using all of the various films and data they have on her cancer. Then, once everything is lined up, they tattoo dots that will act as targeting markers later. By using these they can just put her on the machine, line up on the targeting markers, nuke her for eight minutes, and then send her on her way. I gather this machine is busier than a McDonald's drive through at noon. No doubt it's an extremely expensive machine so they have it set up to be as efficient as possible. And, unlike the other medical-type idiots who've acted like she was a ragdoll they could just toss around any which way, these nurses and doctors know how to handle things so as to not put her into excruciating pain.

Once she had her new tattoos and they'd nuked her, we went upstairs to see the Oncologist. This was the part we'd both been dreading. Remember all of those tests they'd run last Wednesday? Well those were to look for possible mets in a major organ which, if present, would mean that the chances of her being around to see my fortieth birthday were slim to none. She was seeing the Oncologist to get the results of those tests and frankly we were both convinced that the news was not going to be good. Considering how often the news has been bad lately, this wasn't entirely without reason.

So we sat in the waiting room and, well, waited. Now one other thing about Cancer Center waiting rooms is that almost invariably SWVCTM is the second youngest one there by a good two or three decades. Which makes me the youngest one there generally by three or four decades - in all the times we've been there I don't honestly remember seeing anyone even close to my age. This time, however, there was someone there younger than I - substantially younger. She a cute little girl maybe eight or nine there with her mother. I fervently hoped, and later found out that it was so, that it was the mother there for treatment and not the little girl as one of them most likely was and that seemed the lesser of two evils. The little girl seemed absolutely fascinated with my hair, which I have the sometimes bad habit of playing with when I'm tense, and we exchanged many a smile which helped pass the time a little.

Finally they came out to get us and took us back to an exam room we've both been in what seems like a thousand times before. The nurse chatted for a while and eventually the doctor came over. He hadn't even gotten the door closed when SWVCTM asked him what the news was - she could hardly be blamed for impatience. Everything was clear, he told her. Neither of us could really believe our ears and wanted him to repeat it. Hell, I wanted to get a tape recording of him saying it, bring it home and make a .wav file of it and put it on an endless loop. Later the nurse gave us copies of all of the reports. Basically they'd found another spinal met - not great news but not overly important in the grand scheme of things considering there was already one they knew about - but nothing else. They'd looked at pretty much every major organ - lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, intestine, uterus, you name it they scanned it - and found nothing out of the ordinary.

The Oncologist then went into what the next steps would be. Basically they have to start giving her what I've come to refer to as the anti-bone-dissolving drug. Without it the cancer will cause her bones to decalcify, which is definitely not a good thing. He told her they'd have to give her that - it's a two hour infusion - every six weeks for the rest of her life.

Christ, the rest of her life. That sounds so odd to me now. If someone says that to me they mean, what, the next forty years or even longer? But what he'd just told her was that basically the odds are she's got five years or so and that was good news. Not only good news, the best possible news. Think about that, how relative things can be. How turned upside down things are when someone telling you that you'll have to take a drug for the rest of your life and they mean the next five years and you're bloody thrilled. Cancer does very weird things to one's perspective.

From there he went on to discuss chemo. The first course of chemo they gave her was basically one of the nastiest there is. She's had as much of that stuff as her body can take, they can't go back to it. So they're going to go with something that's milder - a "second line" drug - but is over a longer course of time. They'll give her a full course of that, stop to run tests and give her body a chance to recover, then start the whole thing again. With luck the chemo will slow the cancer down, shrink the mets, and keep it from spreading to a major organ for as long as absolutely possible.

The one piece of bad news he had to give - bad news, but not unexpected - was that the humerus is fractured. Basically the cancer had eaten away at the bone to the point where there was little structural integrity and it just cracked. The problem is that it cannot heal as things are, it won't begin to heal unless and until the radiation and chemo has caused the cancer to retreat some. Even when that happens the bone will still be weak so there's a chance they need to put a metal rod in so it doesn't break entirely. He really didn't like the idea, adding surgery on top of radiation and chemo is a major bad idea as your ability to heal goes to near zero, but he wasn't sure if they'd have a choice. He wants her to see an Orthopedic surgeon to get another opinion on what needs to be done.

SWVCTM hasn't been to work since the first bone met was discovered, of course. There would be little point since she can't do much of anything and is on serious painkillers besides. The HR beancounter knows the basics of what's going on but neither SWVCTM nor I have really seemed to have been able to get the severity of this across. Said HR beancounter keeps saying things like "I hope you have a quick recovery!" and such. A nice thought, to be sure, but one does not recover from something like this, period, and it's important that Ms. Beancounter understand this. For disability to kick in and all Ms. Beancounter has all kinds of forms and such that must be filled out by the doctor so SWVCTM brought these along and handed them to the Oncologist. The Oncologist said he'd fill them out and fax them right then, but SWVCTM told them that wasn't really necessary as they didn't need them until Friday. The Oncologist looked very sheepish and said "But I'll forget!" which was oddly and endearingly cute. So we sat and waited whilst he filled out all of the forms, faxed them, and then handed them back. I glanced at what he'd written and had to smile. Basically, in very nice terms, he'd said "She's sick, she isn't going to get better, so leave her the hell alone!". Hopefully Ms. Beancounter will now get the point.

After all that was done we had to stop and get the chemo and other treatments scheduled. It occurred to SWVCTM that there's one thing she'd forgotten to ask - would this chemo treatment cause her to lose her hair?

That might seem like a minor thing and maybe in the grand scheme of things it is. But in another way it isn't. Prior to the breast cancer being discovered SWVCTM was one of the few women I know with hair as long as mine. It was a point of pride with her and, having very long hair myself, I can understand how she felt about it. Losing the breast she could deal with. Knowing that there was a chance the cancer would kill her she could deal with. But when, a bit after the first chemo treatment, her hair started falling out and she had to get it cut off, that sent her into a spiral of depression for a while. It's that way for a lot of women - perhaps men as well, I don't know - kind of the final indignity, the straw that breaks the camel's back. Emotionally it's something that can be very difficult to take and I dreaded the thought of her having to go through that again and go back to the wig.

But, it turns out, she won't have to. This particular chemo treatment doesn't usually cause hair to fall out - the final good news for the day.

So for now I'll be taking her to the Cancer Center for radiation treatments every weekday for another month. Next Thursday they'll start chemo and the anti-bone-dissolving drug. She's on better pain killers now and can, for a change, actually sleep through the night. The people at the Cancer Center know how to treat her so she doesn't end up in excruciating pain and I don't end up thinking about committing mayhem. And, chances are, she's got longer to live than she thought and even if that doesn't mean as much time as one would hope she'll take what she can get.

A note for those who've written kind notes and comments about these posts and SWVCTM's plight. I should be responding to every one, thanking you for your nice thoughts, but sometimes I've been a bit remiss in that. My apologies. Lately I've been up and down a lot emotionally and as often as not I just don't know what to say. It has taken me this long to even start to adjust to all of this. I am adjusting, or at least I think I am, and I'll try and do better.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Your tax dollars at work : This just amazes me -

Elmo of Sesame Street testifies before a House Committee hearing on Capital Hill Tuesday, April 23 in Washington. Elmo, a popular puppet from the television series, was testifying in favor of school music education.

First, did anyone happen to ask him about the connection between certain Sesame Street characters and OBL? What did he know about Bert's support of Islamofascism and when did he know it?

Second, who in the world cares what a puppet has to say about anything? What's next, Mickey Mouse talking about how ummm... Mickey Mouse the tax laws are? Captian Kangaroo on how to improve the courts? Wile E. Coyote on the results of violence? Buzz Lightyear on space technology?

I know these various Senate and Congressional hearings are a pathetic joke, of course, but it still annoys the hell out of me that every time you turn around some self important celebrity is sitting before a bunch of self important congresscritters talking about some subject he or she knows little or nothing about.

Remember Ted Danson giving testimony on oceanography and the environment? What a minute, they're listening to Ted Danson?!? Ted Danson, fer chrissakes? I'm sorry, but I wouldn't listen to Ted Danson's advice on how to tie my shoes let alone much of anything else. I'm sure he's a great guy and all, but since when is he an expert on oceanography?

The reason they get these celebrities up there, of course, are that they're "names" and thus appeal to the cult of celebrity - all of those millions out there in the great unwashed who if Oprah says it believe it must be true. That, and all of those congresscritters like to fall all over themselves to shake hands with whoever happens to be famous at the moment. I would say that we should expect better of our congresscritters, but that would be silly of me. But we should demand more of our congresscritters. The issues of the day are too important, the people's business should be handled better and shouldn't be an excuse for hauling whatever celebrity they can shanghai up there to turn things into a media circus.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Global warming? : I have my own little mini-zoo here that currently consists of two rats, three gerbils, five rabbits, two cats, three fish, and various and sundry plant type creatures. Sounds nuts? Well, it is, though in actuality it's a much smaller population than I have at times cared for.

The lagomorphs (that's rabbits to you non-bunny people, although actually Lagomorpha refers to rabbits, hares, and pikas) live in a big room in the front of the house. Well, one of the fronts of the house. Since we live on a corner the house kind of has two fronts. The only thing is that what looks like the real front of the house isn't. Why? Because there's no parking there. The "real" front of the house looks like it isn't, which tends to confuse visitors and sometimes is a good thing - Jehovah's Witnesses and other such urban type pests rarely figure out which is the real front of the house and thus which door they should knock on if they want someone to actually answer. They just kind of stand on the corner looking very confused for a while, not that they don't look confused most of the time anyway. You see it's a big huge old Victorian that was ancient long before I was ever born and has a big fancy porch and entrance on what is a semi-major artery in this godforsaken city, but that's mostly locked and ignored because one parks on the other side and thus it's easier to use the non-fancy entrance. But since Jehovah's Witnesses and such types don't park, they ride bikes or some such, they don't generally get this. They just kind of stand there, it's really almost pathetic. I presume eventually a police car comes by, calls an ambulance, they take them to the hospital where they get pink slipped for their own good, but I don't really know that for sure. There are just some things a wise person does not enquire about.

Anyway, the rabbits live in a big room in one of the fronts of the house. When I say they live in the room, I mean they live in it as in they pretty much own it. They have a cage, but they pretty much only go in there to eat rabbit pellets. Their water is in a big bowl that they share with the cats and there is another bowl on a big mat that is filled with various greens at least twice a day. There are, of course, also a number of litter boxes for their use. Otherwise the room has the normal furniture-type stuff along with a TV/VCR/DVD/N64 and such. The entrances are blocked off such that the cats can get in and out relatively easily but the rabbits can't. Well, actually they could pretty easily but they don't know that. You see cats have binocular vision like we do, they can thus judge distances and such as we can and they know they can leap over a four foot high barrier without even trying. Rabbits have monocular vision, which means they can't judge distances for diddly. They could jump over the bins blocking the doorways, I've seen them make higher jumps than that, but since they can't really tell how high they are they've never figured that out. That monocular vision thing has its advantages, it means the rabbits have a huge field-of-view, but it has its downside too. You figure this out pretty quickly when you notice that a rabbit's primary mode of locomotion often involves going as fast as they can - which for a rabbit is pretty darn fast - until they hit something and then switch directions and do it all over again.

My mentioning of the cats and rabbits together might sound odd. After all, rabbits are prey animals and cats are hunters. Make no mistake about it, if the cats were hungry enough it would be rabbit stew for dinner in a heartbeat. Though rabbits are somewhat outside of a cat's normal prey-size range, they can and will go after a rabbit if sufficiently motivated - indeed I saw several semi-wild bunnies go to the great beyond with feline help when I was a kid. But our cats have never known a hungry day in their feline fur-covered-garbage-disposal lives and going after the rabbits would entail far too much work. You might think that the rabbits, being prey animals with virtually no offensive weaponry to speak of, would be afraid of the much bigger cats with their sharpened claws and needle teeth, but you'd be wrong. For the most part they like the cats, even going as far as to groom them as they would another rabbit. They are infinitely fascinated by cat tails, which occasionally is a problem as they'll sometimes try and take a chomp just to see if that long thing really is part of the cat. The head bunny is a black female french lop who weighs in at around eight pounds and is still growing. Occasionally she will decide that she doesn't want one of the cats around for whatever bunny reasons she might have and will start going after them. It's really kind of funny to see, she makes these little grunting noises and makes these little leaps at them. It's like one of those little yappy dogs, all sound and fury with nothing to back it up. The cat usually gets the hint, gives her a "You have to be kidding me!" look, and exits the room. This is the genius of how we've set up the room, if the cat couldn't leave he'd probably retaliate in kind and while an eight pound bunny can't do diddly to a cat, a twelve pound cat can most definitely do a lot of damage to a bunny. But since that would entail far too much work and they can leave, they do.

Now yesterday we had electricians in here ripping the place to hell and back. This being an old Victorian the electrical wiring was probably put in by Thomas Edison or something. We have power-hungry electronic gizmos up the ying-yang and the wiring was insufficient to feed all of these power-hungry electronic gizmos so they came in to put a couple of more feeds in. When the electrician was in here a couple of weeks ago (or was it months ago?) to discuss what was needed I carefully explained to him that I use my computer for a lot of various and sundry things and if they were going to have to turn off the power I needed to know ahead of time. No, he assured me, they wouldn't need to turn off the power and my computer wouldn't be effected. What he didn't tell me, of course, was that they were going to run the wires through the wall directly behind my computer and thus my desk would have to be pulled out by about ten feet and I wouldn't be able to get at my computer all day even though there would be plenty of power to run it if I could get at it.

Aside from being computerless (blogging withdrawal sux) for the day and having two strange men wandering in and out of my house all day it was actually quite a lot less painful than I expected. Well, except for when one of them moved the big honkin' air conditioner that is waiting to be put in the window and set it right down on a network cable, thus giving me a heart attack (surprisingly the network cable survived this just fine). They were both quite nice and, contrary to my usual experience with construction-type dudes, wanted to explain everything they were doing. That was probably my fault as I'd previously explained to the electrician that prior to becoming a housewife I used to run a semiconductor plant and prior to that I was an electrical engineer. I explained all of this too him so that he would hopefully take my suggestions about where and what current to put the various feeds he was installing seriously rather than just doing whatever he might think should be done. Given my previous occupation I do know a little something about how to calculate how much power I need where, but it has been my experience that construction-type dudes tend to ignore whatever the resident says and do whatever they think should be done, especially if said resident is a woman. Somewhat to my surprise, they took my offered credentials quite seriously and wanted to explain everything to me as though it would make perfect sense. No, no, no, if you want to know how to design and program ATE gear or manufacture multi-junction high voltage ultra-low leakage diodes or high current zener transient suppressors, well I'm the one to ask. But once you start talking about nomex-this and junctionbox-that, forget it. All I know is that I need fifteen amps here and twenty amps there. Being able to calculate inductive reactance or design an automated high voltage Ir tester does not make one an electrician. But, instead of trying to explain the difference between "electrical engineer" and "electrician" and not wanting to appear the idiot I was, I spent much of the day smiling sweetly and nodding like I had the faintest idea what they were talking about while nomex-this and junctionbox-that whizzed over my head and bounced around the room for a while. I occasionally blurted out "GFI" just to make it sound like I knew something - oddly that seemed to work.

Knowing that the electricians were coming yesterday I got up quite early and moved the bunnies into the bathroom then commenced to cleaning their room from top to bottom. The bunnies needed to be out of the way since loud noises and strange men tend to bother them and when there are going to be strange men wandering around one's house and creating huge messes one wants said house to be especially clean. Don't ask me why, it's a housewife thing. It doesn't matter how clean you keep your place, nor does it matter that construction-type dudes probably wouldn't notice if it was a disaster area, when strangers are going to be in your house you do the white tornado thingy yet again, and again, and again.

So when I went to bed last night, my face sore from smiling sweetly and still periodically blurting out "GFI!", the bunny-room that's kinda-sorta in the front of the house was especially pristine with nary a speck on its floor. Which, odd as it might seem, is the entire point of my telling you all of the above.

I got up at five AM this morning. A bit late for me, but the events of the last month or so have screwed up my already screwed up sleep cycle - sleep is a design flaw, dontchaknow - even more than usual. I glance into the bunny room that's kinda-sorta at the front of the house - one of my first duties in the morning being to feed the feline fur-covered-garbage-disposals and the lagomorphs, and what do I see? Remember those pictures of Jenin? My kinda-sorta front room was in far worse shape.

There's an old sectional in the front room that faces the TV/VCR/DVD/N64. It has seen far better days - like around October 12th, 1860 or so. Someone, I'm betting it was the head bun, just decided they were going to open up one of the armrests. When I got there they had eviscerated it and the littlest bunny was actually up inside the thing digging out more stuffing. There was a pile of whatever in the world kind of foam stuff they use in those things in front of the couch that was about two feet high and growing, and the couch armrest, in fact most of that whole side of the couch, looked like a deflated balloon. The bunnies, of course, thought all of this was great fun and were only too happy to show me their handiwork. You know how kids will jump into piles of raked leaves? Well the buns had come up with their own version.

We came aboutthisclose to having hasenpfeffer for breakfast.

So I spent my first hour of the morning trying to stuff enough stuffing back into the couch to stop it from looking so pathetic - a task that I was not overly successful at - and cleaning up the endless mess my wonderful buns had created for me. All the while one of the cats sat watching and I am convinced he had something to do with it - likely he gave them the idea in the first place. All the while I'm doing this the bunnies are trying to make clean up as difficult at possible as to them this was all one big game and they clearly had no idea how close to the stewpot they had come.

Not the greatest way to start one's morning.

So what does all of this have to do with global warming? Not diddly, actually, save that by the time I had completed my task my serum caffeine level had fallen dangerously low. As I've mentioned previously, as far as I'm concerned the triumvirate that makes up the true elixir of the gods is Diet Pepsi Twist, Diet Doctor Pepper, and Pepsi One. Besides being the components of the true elixir of the gods, these are my source for that most necessary of morning nutrients - caffeine. The only problem was, there wasn't any of the above in the house. There was, however, plenty in the car. So I grabbed my keys and went to the car.

What did I see when I got outdoors? Snow on the car! Snow! At the end of April! When we'd hardly seen a flake the entire winter! When only a week ago it was ninety degrees! Snow!

Upon seeing this and to no one in particular I screamed "Global warming my ass!".

Presuming the neighbors weren't already convinced of it - which they almost certainly were - everyone now knows that I am quite insane.
Healthy for whom? : Three Boston law firms just got a great payday. They sued some manufacturers of bulk vitamins that are added to foods because they claim local consumers had to pay higher prices for said foods due to apparent price fixing. Said bulk vitamin manufactures finally settled.

Now, let's see... The law firms will get US$3.9 million. Local charities will get US$15.7 million. And the local consumers who were supposedly harmed by this action will get? Diddly-squat. Well, no, that's not exactly true, is it? The US$19.6 million will have to come from somewhere, won't it? And where do you suppose it will come from? Could it be... ummm, consumers via increased prices? Why yes, I suppose it could. So while the law firms are, I'm sure, happy, and the charities are, I'm sure, happy, the consumers who supposedly got screwed by price fixing are going to again get screwed to pay the money taken from these companies to atone for the price fixing.

Wow, what a deal for consumers.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Things I should have thought of, but didn't : Sometimes you read or hear something that seems so obvious you want to slap your forehead and say "Duh, why didn't I think of that?" Take this line from Mona Charen -

Some of this is simple Jew hatred. Some is a sinister response to guilt. Since the Holocaust happened on European soil, how cleansing to believe that the Jews are now the guilty parties, which is why the Nazi analogy crops up with nauseating regularity vis a vis the Israelis, probably more often than it is invoked against anyone else (except perhaps for America in Vietnam).

This is such an obvious psychological dynamic, why didn't I think of it?

Like a lot of people, I've been wondering why in god's name most of Europe seems to be completely insane on this issue. The ultimate non-violent expression of this insanity to date came from the Nobel Peace Prize committee, which apparently decided that it was perfectly okay for a recipient of said prize to incite terrorism, support terrorists, import arms for terrorist purposes, and pay off the survivors of terrorist nutjobs (thus giving the terrorists even more incentive), but it was unconscionable that a recipient of said prize not to have quit a government that decided to try and defend itself against said terrorist. How in god's name does that make any sense?

There are a lot of possible explanations for this kind of insanity, of course, and many or even most of them are perhaps part of the truth. But they've all seemed somehow incomplete to me, there was something missing. I suspect the missing component is guilt.

Guilt is often a rather odd thing. One would think that if, for instance, one felt guilty about the Holocaust - either because of sins of omission or commission - the natural response would be an intense desire to ensure that such a thing never happened again. But human nature is such that often the response will be the near opposite. You don't blame yourself and thus strongly desire not to make the same mistake again, you blame whomever it is you see as making you feel guilty.

Rightly or wrongly, we Americans don't feel guilty about the Holocaust. While it could be argued that we could have and should have done more or started earlier, it didn't happen here, it happened "over there". More importantly from our point-of-view, we, along with our allies, spent an unimaginable amount of blood and treasure to put an end to the regime behind it - we weren't a part of it and we did something to stop it. We Americans feel guilty about a lot of things and engage in an awful lot of navel-gazing on those subjects, but the Holocaust is not on that list.

I have to imagine - and conversations I've had with some European friends certainly backs up the notion - that a lot of Europeans do feel guilty about the Holocaust. Certainly there are a number of European countries besides Germany that have every reason to feel guilty about it. Some of them participated directly or indirectly in it, others simply sat by and watched it happen.

To many Americans, Israel is in part a sign of one of our successes. But to many of those who feel guilty about what happened she is an annoying reminder of their own failure that they wish would just go away. If they can paint Israel as being as bad as, or even better, worse than their own failure was, so much the better. It assuages the guilt. To paint Israel in the worst light possible serves a noble purpose in their minds. For Israel to simply "go away", well that might even be better. Israel is a "shitty little country" in part because she is a shitty little reminder of what worthless pieces of shit some of these European countries turned into for a while.

This dynamic explains a lot, I think, and fills in a big and otherwise inexplicable hole in my understanding of how and why much of Europe seems totally insane on this issue.

And now onto Thomas Sowell -

Virtually every necessity of life is spoken of as something to which people have a "right" -- meaning that it should be paid for by the taxpayers. In other words, nothing that you really need should require your own effort. Presumably the only point of working would be to get frivolous amenities.

This rather obvious point fills in another hole in my understanding.

I've never quite gotten why so many leftists have such an intense dislike of anyone they perceive as being "rich". There are a lot of explanations, of course, just as there are for Europe's apparent insanity when it comes to Israel, but there always seemed to be a missing piece.

It isn't just the bizarre notion that everyone is entitled to their fair share simply because they exist and thus anyone having more than their fair share must be depriving someone else, it goes beyond that. If having more than your fair share is wrong, then the work that got you more than your fair share must also be wrong. Working hard is wrong because... Because it gets you more than your fair share!

It's all so logical, in a circular kind of way, and I suspect this insight of Sowell's hints at the source.

Let's say I see the world as being one big pie to be divvied up. It's all just kind of "out there" just waiting for each individual to get their part of the pie. Being a "fair-minded" and "progressive" sort, I believe that everyone should get an equal part of the pie. I don't want to have to work hard to get what I believe should be my fair share. But the world is so messed up that if I don't work hard I don't get my fair share. I see my next door neighbor, let's call her Jane, working her butt off and she gets more than her fair share - I know this because she has more than I do. That's just not... Well that's just not fair! Everyone, as a right, should be entitled to their fair share!

In this world view work isn't what generates the pieces of the pie, it's simply what gets you whatever piece of the pie you can grab. The problem with this world view, of course, is that if no one works there is no pie to divvy up, but that little detail always seems to escape these people. It's so obvious that it never occurred to me before that someone could be unaware of it, that someone could believe that there would be a "fair share" to have without work, but that is clearly the case. It explains some of the hostility in a way I'd never thought of. If you believe that it's all just "out there" for the taking and someone is taking more and thus depriving you of your rightful part, well it makes sense in a way that it doesn't if you're aware that it isn't all just "out there" but instead someone has to work to create it.

Now the only question is whether the people who believe that they should have their "fair share" without having to do anything are simply ignorant, stupid, insane, or all of the above.