Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Let Them Eat Fat

I am truly conflicted about KFC’s decision (one step ahead of an FDA crackdown) to substitute a “healthier” soybean oil “blend” instead of their usual trans-fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, or Crisco, to those of you of a certain age).

The healthy eating advocate in me is, while not turning cartwheels just yet (fat is still fat, and there are oils that are better for your heart), a little happier than before the decision. (And feels much better about the occasional piece of Original Flavor I do eat, albeit with as much of the Original Flavor as I can scrape off.)

But the Libertarian in me is stronger. She’s standing on the steps of some public building, with a firm chin and one upthrust hand, clutching a can of Crisco, saying “Let them eat fat!”

And, unfortunately, she’s probably up there alone, while politically-correct types scuttle away to some trans-fat free zone, and a pigeon circles gleefully above her head.

Hey, I’m a big girl, I’ve been out there on my own before.

Yes, I’ve heard all sides of this issue. The nurse who frets about all the young people she sees with artery blockages, the folks who are indignant about what this “epidemic” is doing to the cost of their health insurance, the ones who say that it is the least educated and poorest among us who eat at the fast-food restaurants that use trans-fats and if we just could get to that population and tell them how unhealthy this is, then everything would be fine and we could feel good about ourselves again and fewer people would die of heart disease.

OK, fine. I get it. Bad fat bad; good fat good. Evil Big Government bad for forcing bad fat down the throats of good people who can’t defend themselves.

Come on, now. Didn’t we just fight this fight about cigarettes? Didn’t the tobacco companies just lose billions and billions of dollars to lawsuits from people dying from lung cancer? Didn’t they up their budgets for public service campaigns discouraging those who are underage not to smoke? Isn’t the government still subsidizing tobacco farms?

Hey…wait a minute here…

But can’t you just imagine a scenario where instead of the tobacco companies, Frito-Lay and ConAgra and McDonald’s will be up on the stand, attempting to defend themselves against a wheezing, 200-pound ten-year-old with a pacemaker and twenty-five lawyers?

Believe me, it’s gonna happen, if it’s not already in the works.

All the while the government is subsidizing companies that create genetically-altered foods that will last longer on shelves and fill starving bellies but at a still-unknown cost to our health.

And that was the original intent of Crisco. It was developed supposedly as a cheaper and healthier alternative to butter, back when one, butter was expensive or unavailable during World War II; and two, when the Food Cops decided that butter was Bad. Here was a brand-new type of fat that kept forever in the cupboard, and when used in processed foods, extended their shelf lives.

And we wanted that once, right?

Yes, until we found out that it was clogging our arteries and raising our LDL or HDL or whatever the heck the bad cholesterol was supposed to be.

The people who want Big Government to “do” something about this problem – are they prepared to pay the cost for processed foods with expiration dates? They will cost more to make and ship, and that will all be reflected in the price of the product. Are they willing to go into a fast food restaurant and pay eight dollars for a hamburger that used to be three? And since our economy does not exist in a vacuum, managers of these restaurants will not be able to give their employees raises. And so on.

No, I don’t want to see wheezing 200-pound ten year olds with pacemakers. I don’t want to see people dying of heart diseases.

But I don’t know how anyone can escape the massive media onslaught that’s been going on for YEARS that says that FAT IS BAD FOR YOU and IT’S NOT GOOD TO TAKE YOUR KIDS TO BURGER KING EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

The people who choose to eat fatty food are doing it because they CHOOSE TO. And even though cigarettes are addictive, people who smoke can either CHOOSE to keep smoking or CHOOSE to get help if they want to quit. There’s lots of it out there.

So, the Libertarian with the can of Crisco says, leave them the hell alone.

And if enough people who want to improve their health CHOOSE not to eat at these restaurants or not to eat Doritos, these companies will make less money. And if the companies find out they are losing money because people don’t want to clog their arteries with synthetic crap, then they will CHOOSE to change their recipes accordingly so they won’t lose their market share or go out of business.

Meanwhile, I’ve made my own choice. I’ll have the salad and a grilled chicken breast. Olive oil and vinegar on the side, please.

And if you want the steak with fries, that should be between you and your arteries, and none of Washington’s business.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Homo Erectus

A very long time ago, in a college anthropology class I think, one of my teachers mentioned that the mammalian spine makes a perfect suspension bridge. And that the problems all started when we hominoids started walking upright.

I’d say that’s an understatement.

You could argue that this encompasses all manner of evil that Homo Erectus (and later, Homo Sapiens, although save for Leonardo Da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin I’ve seen little actual evidence that this species is any wiser) has perpetuated upon its brethren since it got up on its back legs and whacked the guy sitting next to him with a big stick.

But for the sake of blog space, I’m only talking about my own suspension bridge. And if it gets cranky at the idea of being a vertical column, it really, really doesn’t like being a horizontal one. This is my second day “up,” after another steroid injection and many, many structures, large and small, are telling me how much they didn’t like lying around doing nothing for four days.

“Cripes, you guys!” I tell them. “I’m moving, already. Enough, all right?”

But they still continue to remind me what a bad idea it had been.

This procedure, which was, according to the nurse, supposed to be “lots easier” than the first one (one injection versus three). But then I found out that it was only “lots easier” for the doctor. After waiting, prepped, on my stomach for, oh, 25 minutes or so (or enough to make my spinal facets knock into each other like so many incredibly painful dominoes), the doctor walked in, bitched at me for changing position (I was starting to black out from the pain, so I’d wriggled out of my blood pressure cuff and oxygen monitor and got on my side), and gave me one quick, deep jab near my sacroiliac, no local, then said, snidely, “Feel better.”

The bastard.

But that’s all behind me now (so to speak). The magic juice hasn’t kicked in yet, but I’ve done my sentence (the only thing saving my sanity through those long, dull days was an unabridged John Irving novel (‘Til I Find You) on CD…it’s quite good, and engrossing once you get into it, but I this has to win a prize for the most frequent usage of the word “penis.”).

And having had my suspension bridge horizontal for four and a half days, I now I have much more respect for the verticality of the human spine.

The problem is that the vertical design hasn’t taken into account the current version of Homo Sapiens’ lifestyle and life span.

Back when you were born as cheap labor, married at fourteen, had a bunch of your own cheap labor and died in your forties, I doubt that too many people suffered from disk problems or indeed back problems of any kind. (Possibly from diseases or from prolonged bed rest, but not much else) Physical labor and good nutrition kept your back muscles strong, and your spine straight and flexible.

Then, through medical miracles like penicillin and mammography, we began living longer. (Not that I’m complaining – I’m grateful for the invention of antibiotics, and if George Washington came back to life, he’d be SO pissed to learn that he’d died of a sore throat that could have been cured with a ten-day course of pills rather than a bunch of leeches.) And because of over-farming, our soil became depleted of nutrients. Then comes the introduction of the office chair, the couch and God save us, the television and the computer, and we no longer worked as hard. Our spine molded into whatever surface we poured it into. We slumped in poorly designed office furniture, we sat on our rumps for hours on end watching reruns of “I Dream of Jeannie” and playing “Pong.” (and boy, am I showing my age).

It’s no wonder that back pain is only beaten out by headaches as the number one reason people go to the doctor. You can sneeze and herniate a disk. (a woman once told me she’d actually done this)

And I don’t know if it’s my age or our current age, but I seem to be noticing Pain Management as a profession sprouting up everywhere – touted by leading doctors in books, clinics in every neighborhood, and this mysterious TV commercial pointing to a web site that will help me control my pain (sponsored by which pharmaceutical company, I wonder).

I don’t doubt that in a few hundred years, our spines will devolve until we can no longer stand upright without support.

And we will call this new species “Homo Viagrus.”

Kind of makes you want to sit up straight, doesn’t it?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Give Up Your Guns And We Might As Well Be Canada

What in the blue blazes of hell is happening to our medical system? Are doctors so greedy for HMO dollars that they keep accepting patients until they are too busy to pay attention to the ones they already have? Or is it the rising malpractice insurance and other overhead that forces them to overbook?

I hope this is somewhat coherent, because right now I’m so mad I could shoot fire out of my eyes.

I’d already made the decision to change my primary care physician. I just wrote the kiss-off letter; it’s going in the mail today. I’ve only been going to him for two years, and in the beginning it was fine. If I had a serious problem and needed to be seen right away, I could get an appointment. If the doctor was too busy, I’d get to see one of his associates. No problem there. Now when I call (and this has been going on for the last few months), I can’t get an appointment on short notice with anyone save for a nurse or my doctor’s assistant, who used to be more thorough but now, because they continue to book more and more patients, she is missing things that I even know should be checked.

I’d put up with this from specialists. Everyone says it takes a long time to get in, and I’ve made my peace with that. But at least I know that I have an appointment. After waiting the two or three months it might take to get in, at least I know that (if I come prepared with questions) that I’m going to get that specialist’s full attention.

Now I’m starting to feel like I’m on an assembly line. Just one more chart, just one more spine, just one more minute you’ll have to wait and I’m sure the doctor will see you sometime before spiders start spinning webs between you and your chair.

Meanwhile, I wait. I wait with ice packs and pain relievers that make me sick, I wait with exercises I can’t do, I wait with sighs from receptionists who can’t do anything about it other than put me on a cancellation list.

The last straw is that now this is happening with my physical therapist. Other doctors put me off, but I know that he can (usually) squeeze me in. Now he can’t even do that. He’s so overbooked that if he sees me at all, it’s only for a quick question or something that requires a quick solution, like a vertebrae out of alignment that he can instantly snap back in.

But I’m not a quick solution. I’m still having back pain from the fall I had last Monday. When I managed to be shoehorned into his day on Thursday, it was only to snap a couple of things back in place. I told him other things weren’t feeling right, but he took off, pulled someplace else, gone to ping-pong around his four other patients that he was seeing at the same time.

And I still had pain.

And I still have pain.

And I’m having another steroid injection on Wednesday, a little lower this time, because when I had my post-shot consultation with the pain guy, that is what he determined was hurting me. So after I have the shot, I can’t go anywhere near my physical therapist for ten days.

And I called this morning to see if he could get in – somewhere – before Wednesday and there was nothing the trusty receptionist could do.

And I think it might be time to tell him we’re through. It would break my heart, but I have to take care of myself and I have to find a medical team that is responsive, that treats me like a person.

My PT once told me, when I claimed that he wasn’t listening to one of my concerns, “The day I stop listening to my patients is the day I hang it up.”

Well, he’s stopped listening. At least to me.

I still have Word open, I still have my stamps and envelopes out, I could still write one more letter.

Damn, I don’t want to have to do that. But if I have to, I will.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Animal Planet

In another century, in another hemisphere, it was considered unforgivable if, when a daughter was presented in marriage to another family’s son, not to provide a dowry. Normally this dowry would consist of, among other possibilities, acres of arable land, a few bolts of really good cloth, a lot of money and an animal or two, or perhaps a herd if the family was very wealthy or if the girl was especially unmarriageable. (eg. was an “old maid” of 25 or had already been knocked up by somebody else.)

Today, all you need is to be of legal age in your particular state and not be married to anyone else (unless you live in Utah).

And now, because of an organization called Heifer International, you can give a goat to someone in another hemisphere, living in the previous century’s economy, merely by going on-line with a credit card. Or simply call the 800 number in their catalog to buy someone a cow, a pig, a sheep, or a share of a sheep (but not a sheared sheep; they have to do that themselves). Or you can buy a trio of rabbits, a flock of chicks, a llama, or a bunch of honeybees. For five grand, there’s even an “Ark” package, where you can buy some poor family two of pretty much anything you like, including guinea pigs, geese, donkeys, camels or water buffalo.

On the surface, this is a really great concept. For only a few dollars, you could give a poor family in some war-torn country or oppressive dictatorship a chance to improve their lot by buying them a goat or cow that will provide milk, a sheep that will provide wool for garments for their own warmth or which they could sell for income to buy food.

Here are a few of the benefits that Heifer, Internationalclaims have been made possible due to your contribution:

• Christine Makahumure helped mend the wounds from Rwanda’s genocidal civil war when she passed on the gift of a calf to a desperate neighbor. (gee, I thought all it took was billions and billions of dollars in UN aid)

• Carlos Hernandez in Bolivia passed on a lamb to another family in need. (who killed it)

• In 1985, four families in China received 105 rabbits. Since that time, an additional 2 million animals have been passed on. (And how many have escaped and done how much in crop damage or were eaten by hawks or wolves? The food chain is a mother, dude.)

I know, I know, I can just hear Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and Janeane Garofolo and Sting all pleading in my head that this is the right thing to do to save the world.

But before I organize a benefit concert, just a few questions.

1. The fatted calf.

OK, I get the good intention of giving someone an animal that will provide milk or wool, something that help a family a step or two out of abject poverty. That’s a good thing. But consider this quote from the brochure: “When you donate a pig, you give a family a valuable source of protein…” Protein? Hey! Wait just a sheep-shearing minute! They’re going to kill Wilbur??? But..but…everyone’s been telling me that eating meat bad for the global economy! Doesn’t it take more land and energy to produce one gram of animal protein than….? Hey! That’s not helping the planet! After all, their motto is, “ending hunger, caring for the earth. I wonder if Susan knows about this. But no, no, the brochure continues. You misunderstand. The family that is lucky enough to receive your gift of pig will breed them…” So they can KILL more pigs? And are they being treated humanely? Someone call PETA. This can’t be right. Especially that thing that says that I can give a “share” of a pig for $10. What do they get, a pound of bacon or a pork roast or something? I just don’t like the sound of that. And yes, I know, I eat meat, but we’re not talking about me, here. We’re talking about an organization that claims they can save the world from poverty and hunger.

2. How do I know who is getting my water buffalo?

Does it truly go to a family in need, (who will to hook it up to a yoke and let it live out the rest of its good years pulling a plow through some rice paddy) or is it stopped at a border checkpoint and given to some warlord or dictator who will slice it up for dinner? Will my well-intentioned gift of a flock of chicks, a hive of bees, or a share of a cow (can I pick the cut?) end up in Kim Jung Il’s palace? Or worse, dying on some loading dock while the paperwork is shuffled from underling to underling because the country’s government is in chaos?

3. The shoemaker’s son goes barefoot (or at least has holes in his socks).

There are a lot of families living in poverty here in America. It’s pretty embarrassing that we’re doing such a piss-poor job of getting to them first, while we send aid money all around the globe and sacks of rice to Rwanda for the warlords to do with as they wish. But other than two example in the catalog of beehives sent to some poor families in Kentucky and pigs given to enable families in Arkansas to attain greater self-reliance (I have no evidence that these are an actual or theoretical examples), you don’t get to choose where your gift goes. On their web site FAQs, they write that they decide where the need is the greatest. Of course it isn’t very practical to request that camels be sent to Bolivia or sheep to the rainforest, but if I decide that I want to buy a camel for a bombed-out, poverty stricken rural family in Kurdish Iraq…well, I’m probably best off donating to the Red Cross (uh…or not). Granted, upon later scrutiny of their web site, they do say they “contribute” to helping inner-city families form community gardens and helping some poor families start fish or worm farms (worm farms?). But can’t I buy a package, say, the “weed and feed” special (seeds and gardening equipment) or a whole slew of salmon for somebody’s fish farm (excuse me, once more: worm farm?). Not quite as cute as a cuddly sheep or bunny, I’d imagine.

But I guess doing something to help end world hunger is better than nothing. Especially since the UN is doing such a damned pathetic job. But I’m not seeing any celebrity endorsements on this thing quite yet. And gosh darn it, I’m not giving a penny to a charitable cause unless it’s got at least three celebrity endorsements behind it.

Maybe I should send Susan and Tim a catalog.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

And You Dare To Call Us Flightless Birds

Or, My New Career as a Stuntperson

You may have noticed that your trusty penguin has been absent for a couple days. I have been recuperating from several adventures as, apparently, I was attempting to fly.

The first attempt, on Monday morning, was off the end of the treadmill. Ours has this odd design by which you set the time you want to walk, then when it reaches zero, the belt stops. Unfortunately, as my mind apparently was elsewhere (it is still to be determined if this was due to the several medications circulating around my system, or simple dope-headed inattention), the ‘mill stopped before I was ready to. I did not become airborne at this first trial, but in the effort to stop myself from doing so (must have chickened out at the last minute), I pulled a few muscles and that did me no good whatsoever.

So, wondering if I’d done any damage to any vital structures, I called my trusty physical therapist. Linda, the trusty physical therapist’s trusty receptionist, said if I wanted I could come in and hang around and see if the trusty physical therapist could squeeze me in. But I wasn’t about to wait around only to find out he couldn’t squeeze me in, which has happened before. I told her this and she said to call in the morning.

As it happened I had an appointment with my acupuncturist that afternoon. He is also a chiropractor. He is also a very sympathetic listener. Sympathetic all around, actually. If you’ve got a crying kid with a splinter (not that I’ve ever had this, but I’ve been one--oh, about a week ago. Just kidding.), he’s the guy you want on the other end of the tweezers. So he heard my tale of woe, and offered, at no additional charge, an adjustment at the end of my needle session to correct any damage my first attempt to become airborne might have wreaked on my poor beleaguered bod. A couple of blocks, a few magic words, and – poof - my pelvis was gently realigned. Then, walking through his lobby toward the door, with my usual armful of pillows (I bring my own – he only has those round bolstery things that bother my neck and don’t raise my knees high enough when I’m on my back.), I went for my second, and more successful attempt. Keep in mind that I was heading toward the door, to the left of which is one of those unforgiving waiting room chairs, and to the right of which, was one of those even more unforgiving waiting room tables designed to hold magazines and pamphlets describing how wonderful acupuncture is, like you aren’t already sold because you’re coming there already. I guess they are designed for your friends and family, so you can show them how wonderful acupuncture is by the pictures of all the people smiling and riding bicycles and doing yoga.

But I digress.

Something caught somewhere. Or, it was another result of a bunch of those medications doing God-knows-what to the part of my brain that handles coordination. Either way, I went for a short and unfortunately bumpy flight that ended when my left knee hit the carpet, my right arm hit the wall and my head thunked into the place where the wall, door and floor met. Also my right foot got tangled up in something, but I don’t remember what. I remember yelping something, too, but I don’t remember what that was either. Probably close to any of the things that Wilbur Wright might have yelped in the many unsuccessful attempts that ended when his plane kissed the earth.

This caused the acupuncturist to come rushing out, asking if I was all right.

I just lay there, stunned for a moment. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I tried to answer him but couldn’t think of what to say. Was I all right? I couldn’t tell. The situation was just too ridiculous. I guess of all the places to attempt flight, you couldn’t do much better than in a chiropractor’s office, clutching a stack of pillows to your chest. What I do remember thinking was that however I had landed, I was probably not in the best position for my spine. Slowly (and thinking very deliberately, because I was too shaken up to remember the procedure for getting into a neutral position) I rolled onto my back. My foot hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. He helped me back up to standing, and got me into a chair. He said he’d just go stick one more patient with some needles, and then he’d come check me over.

Slowly I began to breathe normally again. He came back, got me into an exam room, realigned my pelvis, then checked me for major trauma like broken bones or concussion or open wounds. Nothing there. And he sent me on my way.

Once safely home, I packed myself in ice (and what penguin doesn’t mind a little ice now and again?), took a couple of Motrin, and just chilled.

Tuesday morning, I was sore. Not so-sore-I-couldn’t-get-out-of-bed sore, but angry enough to warrant a call to one, the PT, and two, my doctor.

The trusty PT’s trusty receptionist said there’d been a cancellation at 11. I gritted my bill and drove the 25 minutes there. Walked as much as my foot could tolerate on his treadmill (holding onto the handrails…I was not ready for a third attempt at flight so soon). Which was about six minutes. Then I collapsed into a chair, and waited for him to get to me. He came over with a cockeyed grin, shaking his head, and asked what I’d done now. (His nickname for me is “Calamity Jane.” It so warms my heart that my misadventures amuse him.) I related the whole tale of woe, and each attempt to become airborne. Including the state of my neck, which was starting to feel stiff. And that I was going to the doctor later that afternoon. Then he said, “Can’t help you, buddy. Too soon after the trauma. Go home, ice up and take ibuprofen. Call me Thursday if you’re still sore. And don’t let the doctor tell you to put heat on that neck. I don’t know why they say that. Use ice for the first couple days.”

Thanks, “buddy.” You could have told me that over the phone and saved me 50 minutes of driving. He did, however, brave the sight of my gone-native calves (you could braid these things, for Christ’s sake) to check my impressively-bruised knee for tendon damage, the foot for fractures.

Finding none, he sent me home to my ice packs. Which I amused myself with, for a while, until it was time to go to the doctor. (Actually, the doctor’s assistant, because of late my doctor has become too busy to see people on short notice. Unless, I’d imagine, if you were bleeding from a sucking chest wound.) Ann, the PA, is nice, and thorough, but if you want an MRI or something expensive, she’ll defer the doctor and that’s a whole separate appointment. So she checked my impressively-bruised knee for tendon damage, the foot for fractures, the spine and neck for any obvious signs of distress.

Finding none, she sent me home to my ice packs. And told me to take ibuprofen. And put heat on my neck. And take some Skelaxin (which I still had from the last time I saw her, which allows me to fly without having my feet leave the ground). And gave me a slip that allowed me to get my foot x-rayed if it continued to be a problem. And said that if the back continued to hurt I’d have to make another appointment with the Doctor and see what he thinks about putting in for an MRI.


So here I am. A little banged up, a lot frosty, and probably will have to go to the PT tomorrow to get a few spinal parts re-aligned, but basically OK. So much for my attempts at flight. I think I’ll remain grounded for a while.

If it’s all the same to you.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We Don’t Suck!

It’s great to see the Mets swinging some major lumber again (and no, I couldn’t find a way to phrase that that didn’t sound dirty.) Props to David Wright for (finally) finding the groove, and Carlos Beltran for two big whallops. Whatever Willie said to them between Saturday’s game and last night, I hope it sticks. I hope they stop swinging at rotten pitches and making errors in the field and leaving guys on base and using Steve Trachsel at all. I hope that when Randolph calls for Billy “One Run” Wagner in relief, I hope we have a two-run lead. I hope Glavine can pitch tonight on short rest as well as he pitched in Game 1.

Sadly, though, even if the boys pull it out with their hobbled starting rotation and beat the Cards, Detroit is going to whomp our butts in four (your official Opus prediction here). They’ll take St. Louis in four, too, if fate swings in the other direction.

Even so…go Mets! Even if it’s just to see a World Series played in New York at “that other” stadium.

Meanwhile, I hope Detroit is sitting back not just resting and waiting but letting their momentum die… (and now I’m truly going to hell)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Holiday Gift Guides AC Wouldn't Publish

Maybe by now you’ve seen the Holiday Gift Guides I’ve been writing for Associated Content. (And there are a couple more in the pipeline.) Those are only the ones they agreed to post. Here are a few gift suggestions for some, shall we say, more specialized demographic groups that for some unknown reason AC refused to publish. (Yes, I’m going to hell, but I know I’ll have some company.)

For the Bad Driver

• A gift certificate for additional insurance premiums
• Titanium bumpers
• Non-functional brake pedal for the passenger’s seat
• Pre-printed cards complete with insurance information and “I’m sorry,” written on them
• The book “How To Talk Your Way Out Of A Traffic Ticket”
• A crash helmet
• A bottle of eye drops to make fake tears when the cop pulls him or her over.
• A realistic manikin of a pregnant woman to be strapped into the passenger seat.

For the aspiring Survivor Contestant

• An album of terrible, unflattering pictures of themselves taken first thing in the morning or after a night of partying, to keep them humble when the publicity starts going to their heads.
• A full body waxing so they can spend thirty-eight days on an island wearing nothing but a bandana and bikini bottoms and still look like they just stepped out of a spa.
• A DVD of the movie, “How To Eat Fried Worms.”
• A whole lot of Mylanta
• A complete DVD set of all the past seasons of the show, because it’s apparent from watching these things that the contestants have no clue how to play the game.

For the Hypochondriac

• An industrial-sized crate of Purell
• A Merck Manual
• A case of rubber gloves and surgical masks
• Triple antibiotic ointment and lots of bandages.
• Gift certificates for doctor’s co-pays.

For the Schizophrenic

• Name tags for each of their personalities
• Gift Certificates for The Gap, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Fredrick’s of Hollywood and The Salvation Army, so each of their personas will be able to clothe themselves in the style of their choice.

For the Obsessive/Compulsive

• A giant roll of bubble wrap
• A Magic 8 Ball
• One of those little devices that ticket-takers use at event turnstiles to count the number of people coming into a venue – your obsessive/compulsive will never run out of ways to use this item.

For someone with Alzheimer’s

• A personal GPS device
• An engraved name and address tag
• Sneakers that light up when you walk so you can locate him or her at a distance.

For the Goth

• Every poem, lyric, album, biography every created by or about Kurt Cobain
• Extra-strength makeup and nail polish remover (those dark colors are a bitch to get off)
• A large bottle of Bactracin for the piercing infections

For “Dubya”

• A course in “English as a Second Language”
• A brain

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teabag Philosphy, Part 2

Enough with the Zen messages on my morning teabags. Why not something I can really use? Instead of “God is a tree,” or “You are light,” how about words of wisdom that someone might actually find practical? Such as…

• Warning: the beverage you are about to enjoy might be extremely hot. Don’t sue us if you spill it onto your crotch.
• Don’t go out with your hair wet.
• Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
• You know what would go really well with this? A nice big slice of cheesecake.
• Don’t let your gas tank go below 1/4.
• You talk to your mother with that mouth?
• And while we’re at it, how long as it been since you called her?
• Buy low, sell high.
• When was the last time you washed that bathrobe?
• Hit ‘em where they ain’t.
• If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass.
• Are you sure you want to wear that shirt with those pants? I mean, are you really sure? I mean, do you even own a mirror?
• Go to the bathroom before you leave the house.
• Don’t go to bed mad. Unless you like that sort of thing. And that is none of our business. Unless you are or wish to be in Congress.
• Look twice when you are crossing the street. Three or four times if you live in New York City. And if you live in Boston, don’t even bother. It’s just not worth the risk.
• Did you turn off the stove?
• There’s a reason you have one mouth and two ears.
• Recycle. Especially used tea bags. I wouldn't mind coming back as something really cool, like a keychain that lights up.
• Tie your shoes, unless you want to trip on the stairs and break your neck.
• You look pale. Have you eaten?
• We know you have a lot of hot beverage options, so we’d like to thank you for choosing tea. So next time don’t let us catch you on line for one of those fancy coffees. It won’t be pretty, believe me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Some Much Overdue Recognition

Some of you have noticed that I’ve finally figured out how to make links on this thing, so I’ve added some long overdue links to some fellow bloggers and I hope you take a few minutes to check out their sites.

At Miserable Annals of the Earth, my old buddy Highlander writes (quite well and quite prolifically, I might add) mainly about role playing games and comic books with the occasional firebrand dip into politics. He also has links to his novels and many, many short stories.

SuperFiancee’s The Oral Report is by turns eloquent and humorous as she writes about her family, her community, her job, and also with the occasional firebrand dip into politics. (Hey, how can we avoid such things these days?

AaA is also into role-playing games and has some fascinating and well-articulated opinions about life in “this here United States.” Plus he knows stuff. And really likes apples.

Thanks for your comments and support, guys. Anyone else out there have a blog I don't know about? Now that I know how to link, watch out!

There’s also something else on this page that you might not have seen before. It’s a link to all my stuff from Associated Content, so in case you’ve missed any of my shamelessly self-promoting e-mails, you can check out my latest articles. If any of you are interested in writing for them, it’s not a bad gig…they don’t pay much but it’s a good way to get your toe in the water and get some publication credits. Just go to their home page to register.

It’s been an interesting trip for me, writing these articles. When I took my first course on writing for the web, oh, very many years ago when Marketing types were hot hot hot to get a “web presence” for their companies and figure out how to make lots of money from all those eyeballs, I came away with two basic tenets: write punchy (and that doesn’t mean on three hours of sleep or less or three beers or more), and take whatever you usually write for a magazine, etc. and cut the number of words in half. I don’t remember learning a damned thing about keyword density, getting higher placement in search engines, and the importance of a good headline.

But it’s good to learn new things. Keeps the brain fresh.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Knew How To Hold 'Em...

The game of baseball is full of ironies.

For example, let’s take last night’s Yankees/Tigers game.

Down and presumably out Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers lost 12 games a row prior to the Division Championships. He used to be a Yankee, and couldn’t beat the Yankees to save his life since he got traded. And, at 41, he was the third oldest pitcher ever to start in a post-season game.

And he was up against the one of the Yankee’s most fearsome pitchers, Randy “Big Unit” Johnson.

The Yankees were supposed to be able to call this one in. Even though Johnson had a herniated disk and was playing courtesy of an epidural block, he was still throwing well enough, pain free, for manager Joe Torre to trust him for this critical game.

It was supposed to be a cakewalk, and the Yankees would be able to spray each other with champagne, then hunker down to prepare themselves to face Oakland for the pennant.

But Rogers was on a mission. His mission was to pitch the game of his life. His mission was to show the Yankees what they gave away.

And he shot them down, 6-0. He struck out eight, allowed five hits and one walk. The boys in pinstripes have one of the best defensive lineups in the game, not a single starter batting below .300, and Rogers shut them down and slammed the door.

"He threw the ball awesome. That's not the Kenny I remember," Alex Rodriguez said in a post-game interview. "Give him a lot of credit. He was phenomenal.”

One of the Yankees compared Roger’s performance to that of Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax.

But don’t count the Yankees out yet. They have a team full of veterans and the post-season experience to know how to regroup and, literally, come out swinging.

"We just have to believe how good we are," said outfielder Johnny Damon. "I think we're the best team out there, we just have to show it to ourselves."

And Damon should know a thing or two about coming from behind. When he was with the Red Sox, they were down 0-3 against the Yankees in the World Series and…well, you know what happened next.

Sometimes it just takes one guy to be the catalyst to set the rest of the team on fire.

Another irony if this catalyst would be Damon.

Meanwhile, across town, another improbability is in the making. The Mets, with their starting rotation hobbled by the season-ending injuries of both Orlando “El Duce” Hernandez and Pedro Martinez, find themselves up 2-0 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, even though I’m a Mets fan, I was cringing when it worked out that the Mets would face the Dodgers in the playoffs, because LA has had the Mets’ number all season. All they had to do was throw a lefty pitcher up there and the Mets’ bats went limp.

Now the Mets are down to three decent starters, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and the rookie John Maine. But Manager Willie “Captain Hook” Randolph apparently knows how to work his full-to-bursting bullpen, and isn’t shy about yanking any of his starters if they aren’t getting the job done.

Yes, this is the time of year to grit your teeth, to play your heart out through injuries and bloody socks and whatever. The Red Sox made magic happen, as I mentioned above, and the Diamondbacks, through injuries, went with basically only two starters the whole of their World Series (In another irony, those two pitchers were Randy Johnson and Curt “Bloody Sock” Schilling), but it would be another Miracle Met finish if they could pull this one out of their butts.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Strange National Mottoes and other trivial nonsense

You lucky, lucky people.

I hit the jackpot at the Barnes & Noble purple dot sale yesterday, meaning that I got not one, not two, but three books of trivial knowledge which means that anyone who knows me well is probably cringing right now.

Because I am going to share some of my bounty with you.

These are from the book, “1001 Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Know.”

For instance, did you know these following national mottoes?

Czech Republic: “Truth prevails!” (Excuse me, I’m still laughing.)

Jamaica: “Out of many, one people” (It only seems that way when the ganja takes effect.)

Kenya: “Let’s work together” (So that no other country will ever win a marathon. Ever.)

Luxembourg: “We want to stay what we are” (A tiny little country of little consequence)

Switzerland: “One for all, all for one” (which proves my theory that the Three Musketeers were not French but Swiss…or that someone in the Swiss government really had a thing for Michael York in tights)

Scotland: “No one injures me with impunity.” (Uhh…ok. What about something besides an impunity?)

I don’t know. Perhaps something gets lost in the translation of these mottoes. Here are my suggestions for some other national mottoes: (and I apologize in advance to anyone I might offend)

France: “We give up. Now leave us alone.”

Mexico: “Will the last one to leave please turn out the lights.”

US: For the Red States: Either “These Colors Don’t Run,” or “Bring It On!” For the Blue States: “Don’t Blame Us, We Didn’t Elect Him, And Nobody Else Did Either.”

Canada: “So what if you have to wait six months for a bypass. We don’t have guns.”

Cuba: “Everyone is equal.” (Except some are more equal than others)

Nicaragua: “What happens in Nicaragua stays in Nicaragua…or we’ll hunt you down and kill you.”

And did you know that:
People who live in Lexington, Kentucky are called Lexingtonians

People who live in Ann Arbor, Michigan are called Ann Arborites

People who live in Syracuse, New York are called Syracusians (I lived there four years and had no clue…well I had no clue about a lot of other things, too….)

People who live in Dallas, Texas are called Dallasites. (sounds like a mineral)

People who live in Markham, Illinois are called Markham People (which points to the astoundiung lack of creativity in this town)

(and People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones)

Who comes up with these names? I also know a few local monikers:

People from Saugerties are called Saugertesians. (which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact many of the town’s residents are descendants of Italian stoneworkers who came over to build a reservoir)

People from Poughkeepsie are just confused. Most of them can’t even spell where they’re from let alone come up with what they should be called.

People from Albany are called Albanians (wait a minute…)

People from Fishkill are called Evil Animal Killers by PETA about every ten years or so…

People from Coxsackie are called something I can’t publish on the web.

Back later with more things you didn’t think you wanted to know…..

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Not Even Crayola Has Enough Colors For All These Ribbons

By now, we all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We know about pink ribbons and mammograms (get one, ladies, please).

While this is a very important cause, and I’d never make light of it, did you know that October shares its media space with a veritable cornucopia of other causes?

Other diseases and health concerns are clamoring for your attention. Lupus, Psoriasis, Eczema, Dyslexia, and Downs’ Syndrome want your notice and probably a little research money from you as well. (I wonder what the ribbon for National Eczema Month looks like, and if you wear it, will you itch?) Backing these up are National Talk about Prescriptions Month, National Ergonomics Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, National Physical Therapy Month (I’m thankful for its existence about every two weeks or so) and to keep it all straight, October is also National Medical Librarians Month and National Statistics Month (wonder if they keep statistics on which causes are assigned to which months).

And with a grudging nod from the AMA, October is National Chiropractic Month.

And did you know that October is National Dental Hygiene Month? Probably to get kids ready for the dental disaster of Halloween. And we are very concerned about children in October. It’s also Children’s Health Month, Window Covering Safety Month (so that children won’t strangle themselves in curtain pulls), Booster Seat Safety Month, National Safety Helmet Month, National Eat Better/Eat Together Month and Family Sexuality Awareness Month.

It’s a month for other important and overlooked life-or-death safety issues as well. October is National Crime Prevention Month, National Fire Prevention Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and, believe it or not, National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Have you updated your virus protection and changed the batteries in your smoke alarm yet?

Be kind to animals - it’s National Pet Wellness Month and Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Prepare for winter because it’s National Fall Car Care Month.

But October isn’t all about scary diseases and serious causes. Summer’s over, school has begun, winter’s just around the corner and you just have to have fun, damn it. That’s probably why October is National Pizza Month and National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, as well as National Seafood, Pasta, Apple, Mushroom and (finally) Dessert Month. Work off those calories celebrating National Rollerskating Month. If you enjoy a quieter hobby, there’s National Book Month (every month is National Book Month in my house), National Stamp Collecting Month, National Art and Humanities Month, National Art and Framing Month and if you want to research your family tree, it’s National Family History Month. If you feel truly sinful about all that pizza and dessert, it’s also National Clergy Appreciation Month and National Christian Higher Education Month.

And I don’t know who lobbied Washington to get this (probably someone who didn’t have much else to do…or recognized the need for a whole lot of TP in Washington), but it’s also National Toilet Paper Month. Like most of us weren’t aware of it already.

If you’re not exhausted already but still haven’t decided on a cause to put your effort behind this month, it’s National Make A Difference Day, so pretty much anything you want to offer would be appreciated.

And if there’s something you truly want to get off your chest (and out of your closet), October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…


Check out my recently published content on AC:
The Smart Babe's Guide to Post-Season Baseball

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm Sorry, All Right?

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in the Jewish religion. You’re supposed to fast all day and think about all the things you did wrong all year. While I’m not Jewish, I was born to it, and my husband and his family are Jewish, and my extended family is Jewish, so a bit of it is in my blood, I suppose. But as far as atonement is concerned, Catholics have the balance about right, with the confession thing. Unitarians go crazy with it – they feel guilty all the time. But the Catholics…just go once a week and get it over with—yeah, that’s about right.

Many years ago, I worked for a Jewish couple who ran an executive recruitment agency out of their very lovely home overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir in Woodstock (they have since moved to Seattle). As the wife was gradually moving away from the business and toward her studies to become a rabbi, I worked more regularly for the husband.

And each Yom Kippur, he would come out to my desk and say, “Whatever I did wrong this year, I’m sorry.”

Excuse me, but Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. That was NOT good enough, by far. I want instances. I want dates, and specifics. I want to know that you know why you should be sorry for what you did.

And I’m sorry I never told him so. There. There is the first of my apologies. And since I have not atoned in a very many years…well, ever…then I better start getting my list together now. I only have until sundown to finish.

And then we’re supposed to eat chicken soup, or something.

So here goes:

• I’m sorry that I didn’t kill Bin Laden when I had the chance.
• I’m sorry that my current hairstyle, long and unkempt with three inches of gray roots, has not yet become a fad.
• I’m really sorry about that whole global warming thing.
• And Al Gore’s beard.
• I’m sorry that I’ve never won Lotto.
• I’m sorry that Pluto is no longer a planet.
• I’m sorry that I couldn’t do more this year to add to Barnes & Noble’s profits.
• And Starbucks’.
• I’m sorry that “Bridges of Madison County” ever made it into print.
• I’m sorry that Paris Hilton has not yet fallen down some elevator shaft.
• I’m sorry for that last uncharitable thought.
• Not really, though.
• I’m sorry that William Shatner was ever allowed to sing.
• I’m sorry for every guy in a red shirt who ever beamed down with the Enterprise crew.
• I’m sorry for Astroturf.
• And the designated hitter rule.
• And the Atlanta Braves’ “tomahawk chop” chant.
• I’m sorry for Donald Trump’s hair.
• I’m sorry the Red Sox didn’t make it into the post season.
• I’m sorry for not rock rappelling down the side of a cliff face when I had the chance.
• I’m sorry I’ve forgotten about 95% of the French I learned in school.
• I’m sorry that somebody thought I needed to learn Calculus.
• I’m sorry that I ever drank that purple stuff in the punch bowl.
• I’m sorry for that whole reality TV concept (except for Survivor and American Idol, of course)
• I’m sorry that people think it matters if Tom Cruise is or isn’t gay. (Anyone want to place a bet? Anyone?)
• I’m sorry for Vanilla Ice.
• I’m sorry that Robert Downey, Jr. will be playing Iron Man in the movie.
• I’m sorry that Sean Connery can’t play Bond forever.
• I’m sorry Ted Turner colorized all those old movies.
• What was he thinking?
• What was Jane Fonda thinking?
• I’m sorry Bill Gates never lived up to his potential.
• I’m sorry for that ball that went between Bill Buckner’s legs.
• But not really, now that I’m more of a Mets fan.
• I’m sorry that most of our elected officials are schmucks.
• But then again, we voted for them.

Well, I guess that’s enough to see me through the next…oh, 45 years or so.

The sun is going down. Pass the matzoh balls, will you?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

One Damned Expensive Ring

(Warning: This blog is about baseball. For those not interested in baseball, go do the crossword puzzle or watch a football game or whatever non-baseball fans do this time of year, because frankly, I’m not sure what that is.)


So the dust is settling over infields across North America and in a couple of days the season will be over and the wacky world of division championships will begin. And both New York teams will be – most likely – going into the post-season without two of their key pitchers.

The Mets’ Pedro Martinez is a mystery to me. Here is a man who wears his emotions on the sleeve of his jersey (a good quality in my lexicon of male behavior, normally), and yet he can play almost half a season with an injured shoulder and either not know it or not tell anyone about it. We heard all about his calf muscle woes, and he took time off for that and rehabilitated. But the shoulder - something that could have been caught early, iced down and shot full of cortisone (if required) then surgically repaired in the off-season - has now become a full-blown rotator cuff tear and will keep him out of not only the post season but the first half of next year as well.

Randy Johnson is a different story. Well, not really so different. As I recall (and you Yankee fans will have to help me out because I follow the Mets more closely), he’d been on and off the rotation a couple of times for back spasms throughout this season. And I don’t know exactly how they treat that in the futuristic world of professional sports medicine, but I imagine they’d iced him down, given him cold laser therapy, given him chiropractic treatments and massage, and plain old stretching and strengthening exercises or whatever they needed to do to patch him up and prop him back on the mound. And now it turns out – days before the end of the season – that he’s got a herniated disk, and thanks to an epidural injection, he’s a “possibility” for the post-season.

Now, excuse me, guys. I’ve been hanging around a physical therapy clinic for the past year and a half, and I’m a damned good eavesdropper (if I do say so myself). And I have a herniated disk. I also know that it’s possible to have a herniated disk and never know about it until you do something (say, twist in an awkward way or put too much stress on your spine) that causes it to press on a nerve. Then you have pain. And you get treatment – proper treatment – lest you continue on with your bad habits and rupture the damned thing. And then you really have a problem. You don’t get shot full of an epidural anaesthetic and then go pitch five or six innings of 90 mph fastballs, for Christ’s sake.

Yes, I know. That’s how you win the World Series. I saw Curt Schilling’s bloody sock. They’ll probably put it in Cooperstown along with those obnoxious rally monkeys, unless it’s already there. I know about the guy who went through almost half of a big football game with a broken leg. Even though I’m a girl and didn’t participate in a team sport outside of gymnasium intramurals, I know about adrenaline. I know about playing through pain.

But what they’re doing with Randy Johnson – and a lot of other big leaguers – is how you end a career. Because if that disk ruptures, even with the best surgeons and physical therapists, his pitching days are done. OK, Randy’s getting up there, maybe he doesn’t have another season left in him. But for a guy who has pitched lights-out for so many splendid years, is this any way to have him finish?

And more and more these days, this kind of treatment is becoming the rule. Screw his future, do what you can to get the job done, win the big game. More and more, I’ve seen pitchers - younger and younger pitchers - throw stuff that puts their limbs at such precarious angles I wonder why they’re not on the chiropractor’s table after every start – and maybe they are. Keep this up for eight, nine, ten years and your back will be shot, too.

And people bitch about how much these guys get paid. It’s not for the present. It’s for their future, when they’ll need surgery and physical therapy and Vicoden and OxyContin. Then for the bail money they’ll need when drive around doped up and hit someone. Then the rehab for when they have the tearful press release that they’re addicted to painkillers.

OK, enough with the cynicism. Enjoy the games. May the team with the best trainers win!