Sunday, May 27, 2012

More things to STOP. DOING.

So a little while ago I compiled a post of what I call 'pseudo-healthy' behaviors that people need to STOP. DOING. Things that drive me crazy, not so much because they're damaging (though in some cases they are) but rather because they have none of the health benefits they are touted to possess; not to put too fine a point on it, they're either harmful or they don't do a damn thing. In either case, isn't that reason enough to stop? Many times, the people who practice these 'pseudo-healthy' behaviors proselytize, which is something I'm uncomfortable with whether the subject is religion, politics, the joys of a nudist lifestyle or the life-changing power of a raw diet. Without further ado, STOP. DOING. THESE. THINGS. PART. TWO.

1. Eating gluten-free when you don't actually have celiac disease/wheat allergy. It's true, there is such a thing as 'gluten intolerance,' but its prevalence in the US is in the single digits percentage wise which means you probably don't have it. Do you experience REAL, TANGIBLE symptoms when you ingest gluten (found primarily in wheat and rye)? Not vague, hand-wavy symptoms like 'mental clouding' or 'general malaise,' as listed on one oh-god-the-sky-is-falling-everyone-has-gluten-allergy website, but diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating?
Adhering to a truly gluten-free diet may be a godsend for folks with celiac disease--people who have a true immune reaction to the wheat protein--but it's expensive, time consuming, and generally a colossal pain in the ass. Yet, because people will do anything in the name of losing weight (or alternatively, in the name of 'cleansing,' the idiocy of which I have previously covered)--and probably also because Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow have done it--there are thousands of folks on a gluten-free regimen for no good reason. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced this one is Gwyneth's fault--but then I blame her for a lot of things, from the nouns-as-names phenomenon (she named her kid Apple before Mac fanboys were even a thing) to the two hours I will never see again thanks to 'Shakespeare in Love.'

2. Barefoot running. Huffpost gives a pretty good precis of the issue here, but to sum it up: in 2009, a guy published a book about the health benefits of barefoot running, which is exactly what it sounds like. After all, for all the millenia prior to the invention of Nikes, human beings walked and ran without benefit of expensive athletic shoes, right? However, to be fair, Homo erectus didn't run marathons just because it FELT like it, and didn't run on asphalt or sidewalk, and didn't train 50 miles a week like many runners do. But it's NATURAL, the barefoot runners cry. We EVOLVED to run barefoot! To which I say: we also evolved into Homo sapiens, man (sic) the THINKER (though regrettably the name isn't as snicker-inducing as Homo erectus), and as such we developed technology, which includes things like wearing shoes, cooking our food, and at least attempting not to shit in our drinking water. Because running barefoot is great until you get a stress fracture from having inadequate support, or until--much more likely in my neighborhood--you step on part of a broken Mickey's malt liquor 40-oz and end up with DIY stigmata and a staph infection. I'll take the running shoes, thanks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Three Horrible People on Public Transportation

Y'all don't seem to be as psyched about my political posts as about my "people/things I hate" posts, so I figured it's time for another bitchathon. I recently (ie yesterday) went on a long train ride from St. Louis back home, and I was reminded of why I dislike public transportation so much--at least, when I'm riding for long periods of time. It didn't help that the fun of a five-hour train ride was combined with the nerve-shredding irritability of the days before menses. It's not the uncomfortable seats. It's not that trains--and airplanes, and buses--are always approximately fifteen degrees below zero. It's the other people. I know that sounds like a horribly misanthropic thing to say. That's because it is. Here are the people that make me contemplate violence on public transportation.
1. The non-stop talker. I don't expect a plane or train to be perfectly quiet--I realize people are going to talk, and rustle their newspapers, and turn up their iPods to levels that make me fear not only for their hearing but for the structural integrity of their skulls. However, yesterday I was sitting in front of a pair of non-stop talkers. And not even INTERESTING non-stop talkers. I was sitting in front of two members of the local 'observing the obvious' brigade. Actual sample of the conversation:
"Remember at that last stop when all those kids got on with their bikes?"
"I bet there were at least thirty of them."
"Thirty is a lot of kids."
"Yes, thirty is a lot of kids."
"Maybe they're riding the Katy Trail."
"It is pretty country out here."
"It's all the trees."
"I like trees."
I'm not kidding. I was trying to sleep, since I never sleep well the night before traveling, and I couldn't drop off--not because the seat was bending my spine into something between a C and an S, but because the woman behind me was holding forth on the LIKABILITY OF TREES. Which are great, don't get me wrong, but not something you need to talk about for twenty freaking minutes.
A variant of this is the non-stop phone talker, which is somehow more annoying than the in-person version.
2. The aforementioned iPod blasters. If I wanted to listen to Eminem only loud enough to discern the basic cadence of the rap and an occasional 'motherfucker'--oh wait, I wouldn't. Ever. If I wanted to listen to Katy Perry--oh, wait. I wouldn't want to listen to that either. I appreciate your attempt to share your music with the world, but--no, I don't. So for my sake, and the sake of your hearing, turn that shit down.
3. The angry-parent, angry-child cagematch to the death. It's bad enough to have to deal with an angry child in an enclosed space for a prolonged period of time. It's marginally less traumatic than being trapped on a train with a wolverine; at least you could bludgeon the wolverine into submission with your luggage without feeling guilty. It's the angry-parent part of the dyad that really makes me wince. The little kid can't help being tired/hungry/just five years old. When the parent starts throwing around threats and cursing, that's when things have gotten a little too real, and the point at which I contemplate telling the adult to go to time out.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Practice...makes perfect?

The term 'practicing homosexual' has always kind of bothered me. It's an evangelical thing (which I grew up with)--the good-faithish but still misguided attempt to pin 'the problem with homosexuality' (which I hardly need state is not a problem) not on same-sex desires or same-sex fantasies, or even necessarily same-sex romance, but rather on the very concrete act of two women or two men making sweet, sweet love. Because obviously what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms...or hot tubs...or dining room tables (I'm not judging) is the church's business. Because it's not like there are other more pressing humanitarian concerns in the world. AHEM.
But--PRACTICING? It's just bizarre, clunky phrasing. It's a shitty euphemism, not because it doesn't 'cover up' what it's actually referring to--it does--but rather because it draws more attention to itself than simply stating the obvious would. 'Practicing' calls to mind images of schoolkids slaving away at pianos, or of a faithful congregation diligently attending worship. There's debate in the Anglican church, for instance, over whether 'practicing' homosexuals should be allowed to serve as clergy. Also--pro-tip--no one even remotely familiar with LGBT culture has used the word 'homosexual' since about 1970. It's wince-inducing. When I hear it I assume the speaker is either a beehive-haired televangelist or an old-school patriarchal psychoanalyst who was somehow cryogenically frozen in 1955 and has just now been thawed out, tweed jacket, pipe and all ("Bipolar disorder? What's that? No, no, the problem stems from the patient's latent homosexual urges towards his father. And that woman who complains that her office is a sexist environment--she must be sublimating her desire for a baby into aggression in the work force, specifically against her innocent male coworkers. Probably homosexual too, now that I think about it. Now, who hid my Rorschach booklet, and--what do you mean my supervisor is a woman?").

And now onto 'practicing.' I'm a practicing Episcopalian--I go to Mass twice a week, I'm part of the choir, I take communion. There isn't anything to 'practice' with homosexuality, really. I don't go to weekly homo meetups. There is no homosexual Mass (though, to be honest, it'd be hard to get much more fastidious and fancy than a high church Catholic Mass--just saying). Or am I supposed to be practicing like someone practices an instrument? What's the lesbian equivalent of running through scales and arpeggios? And what SORT of instrument? When I played the flute, it took me a while to get my tonguing right. Then I moved on to guitar and it was more a matter of fingering. Huh? Oh, well. You know what they say...practice makes perfect.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey is Crap.

Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the worst books I've read in a long time--and I'm taking into account the combined mind-numbing boredom of Applied Statistics and the SAS Programming Language and the mindless vapidity of Twilight (my mother made me read it. Shut up). 

“His lips part like he’s taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second he looks lost somehow, and the earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new postion.” There are endless, teenage-girl-tinged repetitions of "Holy cow. Holy Shit. Oh, boy." It’s not just that the writing is atrocious (though that’s part of my antipathy, I’m sure). It’s not just that Ana, the main character who replaced Bella Swan in EL James’ little fanfic enterprise, is constantly doing all the same shit—stammering, blushing chastely, getting involved in a relationship with a domineering, hyper-controlling man--that annoyed me in the Twilight series. It’s not just that this is one more in the already vast naïve-little-virgin meets older-experienced-man genre. It’s all of this put together. It’s compounded by the fact that this series is being lauded as ‘mommy porn,’ appealing to women’s sexual tastes and desires, when it is inherently and utterly male-centered.  In the quote above, I’d say the reason the earth shifts on its axis is because in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ the world doesn’t revolve around the main characters’ relationship, or (Heaven forbid!) Ana’s sexual satisfaction. Not to be crude, but the earth shifts because now it revolves around Christian’s dick. 

Some feminists are up in arms because it contains *mild* BDSM elements—a little bondage with Christian’s tie here, a light spanking there. Perhaps I’m just part of a jaded generation, but I don’t see any problem per se with getting a little rough, doing some roleplaying or tying up a partner. That’s not inherently anti-woman or anti-feminist. Hickeys are bruises, after all, and who’s never had one of those? Though it’s obviously not the case in this book, there are also plenty of kinky women out there who identify as dominant rather than submissive, and thus would be the ones doing the tying up and spanking. But here’s the caveat: games of dominance and submission are only healthy, fun and sexy as long as everyone involved knows what the rules are (e.g., you can put me in handcuffs and tease me, but if I start to freak out and ask you to take the cuffs off they have to go immediately). In this book, it’s obvious—indeed, it’s repeatedly emphasized—that Ana doesn’t have one lonely goddamn clue what she’s doing, something Christian manipulates to his advantage despite his tortured protestations that he shouldn’t. It’s that whole troubling wolf/lamb, creeper/naïf scenario that got played out in Twilight all over again. Well, quelle surprise. And then this is passed off as pro-female erotica, when not once in the course of the book (or at least the portions I managed to choke down—admittedly, for the purpose of eviscerating it) does the action center on what Ana wants or of her sexual self independent of Christian. It’s better than calling women ‘sluts’ if they have any sexual desires at all—something that should be safely 50 years in the past but is, unfortunately, still with us as Rush Limbaugh recently proved. Still, telling women that pleasing their men should be their greatest desire doesn’t feel like five-million-dollar movie deal material. It feels like the same old, same old.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Word Nerd: Medical Edition

I've written before about my lifetime of logophilia--that is, love of words. I collect unusual or appealing words the way some people do stamps or butterflies. Running across a new word gives me a little zing of satisfaction. My most recent acquisition is stertorous, meaning noisy or labored, particularly when referring to breathing, not to be confused with stentorious, which means loud or booming and is generally used to describe a person's voice. As you can probably imagine, medical school has offered numerous opportunities for vocabulary building.
Ever wondered why it sounds like your physician is speaking a different language? It's because they probably are--most medical terminology has its basis in Latin (and in some cases Greek), because back in the day Latin was the lingua franca of hoity-toity, educated types. Knowing that and knowing some basic Latin root words makes it easier to decipher what the white coats are going on about. So let's say you have diabetes mellitus and you go to your doctor. You get your blood sugar tested while you're there and it's 300. The nurse throws out the word "hyperglycemia." What to the who? Hyper is from a root meaning 'above/more,' (as in words like hyperactive); glyc- is from the Greek glukus, meaning 'sweet,' as in glucose; and emia is a form of 'hemia,' Greek for blood, that is used in making compound words. Hyperglycemia, then, is a twenty dollar word for "You have too much sugar in your blood." Which, being a diabetic and all, you probably knew already. Just knowing 'emia' gives you a jump on lots of disorders. Acidemia? Acidic blood. Hypernatremia? The only thing that's changed is a substitution of 'natr' (Latin for sodium--Na, remember?) for 'glyc', giving us a working definition of "There's too much sodium in your blood."
Another variation on this theme is to construct verbose diagnoses that in effect offer no more information than a list of the symptoms themselves might. For instance, someone who sleeps way too much, but after many rounds of testing is revealed to be otherwise healthy, with no mental or physical health problems accounting for the sleepiness? Idiopathic hypersomnia, with idiopathic being medical jargon for "shit, we don't know," and 'somnia' relating to sleep (we covered 'hyper' before). Does the diagnosis tell you anything you didn't know before? Nope. Does it sound a lot better than "You sleep a lot and we have no freaking clue why?" Yes. Yes it does.

Other favorite medical words include:
Anosognosia- Part of both the psychiatrist's and the neurologist's vocabulary, this word refers to a patient's unawareness of their illness. Examples would include a schizophrenic who is convinced the world really IS out to get him and thus disregards efforts to get him to take medicine/obtain further treatment (why should he be treated, after all, if he's not sick?). In neurology, a patient might be paralyzed on the right side of her body but insist that she has no deficit or difficulty in moving.

Borborygmi- a borderline-onomatopoeic word for that rumbling sound that results from gas and fluid moving around in your intestines. Cool, no?

Coryza- a word that basically encompasses the symptoms of a head cold, with a runny, stuffy, inflamed nose. Love that y-z combination: this would be a great Scrabble word.

Echolalia- a word from the field of psychiatry (though sometimes found in neurology as well). A patient with echolalia--usually schizophrenic--repeats the words he or she hears, just like  your annoying little brother did when you were growing up. For example: "How are you today?" "Are you today? Are you today? Are you today?" When a patient copies the movements of others, it's called echopraxia. Keep in mind, though, that patients aren't doing this to be annoying or to make fun of anyone; it's just a bizarre symptom of their disease.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Why I didn't respond to your personal ad...

Dear person who isn't actually reading anything from me, as I didn't respond to your online personal:
You may be asking yourself why, in fact, your personal failed to garner a response from me. After all, you may be thinking, aren't you witty (as those Douglas Adams and Monty Python quotes scattered liberally throughout your profile suggest)? Did I somehow miss the photograph of you in a bikini, offering your raw sexiness to the world? Did I overlook your...unorthodox prose stylings? No, no, I noticed all of that--some of it to my own everlasting regret.
So, you might be asking--in fact, based on your profile, I'm almost certain you're asking-- WASSUP? Well, here is what is colloquially known as 'sup:

1. Your wholesale slaughter of the beautiful triumvirate to which (medicine aside) I have dedicated my life: grammar, spelling and punctuation. Of course, there are variations on this theme. Maybe you never learned the conventions of standard English--little things like properly using homonyms, or what commas and periods are for, or...spelling. I'm talking to you, Ms. "Most people discribe me as pretty easygoing, I like to fish and ride my motorcycle, maeby on our first date you could ride on the back of my hog and we could get some beer's, its pretty empressive I love it and hopfully youll love it too." Holy run-on sentence, Batman-- someone get this woman some periods and teach her how to use them. Never mind 'hopfully'--in reference to our beers, I suppose? Which leads us to the question: the beer's WHAT? What belongs to the beer? Note: I am not so cruel as to actually take a post from someone's profile verbatim and plaster it here for edification/bitching/mocking purposes. That would make me an ass. What's mentioned here is a composite of many posts and many people.

2. Your profile picture, which is a face shot because it has to be but mostly a picture of your body-glittered, heavily-tanned, halter-top-clad DDD breasts--and overall profile, for that matter--lead me to believe you may be, ah, a 'working girl.' Now, I have no problem with sex workers. I have friends who work/have worked in the sex industry. One of my all-time favorite saints, the kick-ass first apostle Mary of Magdala, is the patron saint of prostitutes (even though she WASN'T ONE--which is a topic for an entirely different blog post). This isn't about slut-shaming or the Madonna/whore dichotomy or sex-negative culture. This is about the fact that I'm looking for a long term relationship, and something about your profile--maybe the "I love to give full body massages :)"--is sending me a "professional" vibe. And I don't want to show up for our first date and be expected to pay for any more than coffee. If you know what I mean.

3. You sent me a message inquiring about a date, and you are not a woman. In one case, a gentleman asked me if I "only like girls--you look pretty and sound like you'd be fun to hang out with." Thank you for the compliments, sir; the photos I put up were heavily doctored (just kidding...maybe), but I am INCREDIBLY fun to hang out with. If this weren't a dating site, I'd say we should hang out. However, your question about 'only liking girls'--and the fact that one of your profile pictures appears to be of a bulge in your boxers (what, did you have your teacup poodle hiding in there?)--leads me to believe that you're hoping this hanging out might occur in bed, naked. Which leads me to my main point: I put my listing up in 'Women looking for women' for a reason. I am what, complex sociological and anthropological questions aside, is commonly called a 'woman': that's how I identify. Another way I identify is as a lesbian, which means I like to hang out with, talk to, develop romantic/emotional relationships with, and, yes, have mind-blowingly passionate sex with other women. Not dudes with teacup poodles in their pants.