Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking for a contraceptive that's convenient — and tasty?

That's how the news story on chewable birth control pills began.

I can't help thinking WHY? What, other than having a new pill, is the fucking advantage of chewable minty freshness? The write up is all about making it easier to take the pill (correctly). The drug’s site references this. "Research has shown that compliance still impacts oral contraceptive failure rates, and anything we can do to make it easier for our patients to maintain a daily regimen is a notable advancement," said Laurent Delli-Bovi, MD, Medical Director, Women's Health Services at Chestnut Hill Family Planning Facility in Boston, Massachusetts.

While I may feel cantankerously skeptical about the worth of a chewable pill, I do know that medication compliance is certainly nothing to be sneered at. For example, a staggering majority of people being treated for Hepatitis C will not complete the entire course of treatment because the side effects are just so horrible. Less treatment means lower chances of clearing and kicking the virus. Similarly, if you miss just a few birth control pills (bcps) in a month, you lose a significant amount of efficacy. Less effective means more chance of preggers. It also means a change in the risk/benefit ratio and when a medication's risks are just barely outweighed by the medication's benefits, it doesn't take much to tip the scales so the drug is too risky to take. Hormonal contraception has plenty of hefty inherent risks to weigh against. In the category of inherent risk, I’m including only the ones that exist even when we don't consider factors like interactions with other medications. Some of just the short term inherent risks of bcps are weight gain, mood changes, loss of libido, and death. (For the full list look under the heading "side effects and possible adverse events" or somesuch, printed in the tiniest font imaginable on the insert which has been folded into an impossibly small but quite dense packet, glued shut, and jammed in with your pills.)

It seems women who choose to use bcps perceive the apparent risks to be outweighed by the apparent benefits, where the big benefit presumably is the increased freedom from and control over one's reproductive cycle and where death should be considered the most obvious and serious immeidate inherent risk. I think, though, that such a comparison of medical risks and benefits is not as integral to the decision of what contraceptive to use as it should be. If it were, the favored option would be condoms. Condoms are not just the best bet in terms of lower inherent risks. They won't give you a stroke or make you fat, and they will keep you not preggers if you use them right. Pills? They'll keep you not preggers if you use them right. Also, condoms have the added attraction of being good for you by limiting exposure to several nasty diseases like HPV, HCV, HIV, plus all the good old fashioned ones. Obviously, if the decision were only or even primarily in terms of health benefits and risks, condoms win. But they don't. Why not? Compliance.

Because condoms are not user friendly and they are not user sexy. A condom is a latex wrapper which requires a certain degree of practice if not skill and a kind of shamelessness which in some contexts can be seen as unappealingly wanton. Using condoms might raise unspoken questions about how much roll is left at the bottom, an issue which for some people could affect The Mood. Condoms can necessitate a higher level of lighting, especially for folks who haven't had tons of experience putting them on. All of these spell out a kind of encounter that is highly incompatible with what seems to be typical, vanilla, het US sexuality.

That pills come in at all should suggest that the issue of compliance isn't just about risk/benefit, side effects, or efficacy. It's not about health related issues. It's about userfriendliness and also usersexiness. We live in a culture where long standing norms mandate that feminine (sexual) availability and desirability to a man universally trump the woman’s health and wellbeing. So in terms of the user friend/sexy aspects of compliance, birth control pills, although they can kill a woman in a couple of ways (or leave her forever dribbling into a drool cup) are a far better contraceptive. I find this revolting. However, it's a choice people are allowed to make, not just the eventual choice of specific contraception, but the decision of how to assess the available options.

In light of this, I can see that it makes sense to improve bcps as a form of hormonal contraception. I can even see that there is some benefit of focusing on increasing compliance in terms of making them more user friendly/sexy since this seems to be an aspect which carries a lot of weight in people's decisions about what to use and how to use it. And still, I can't quite see how making chewable mint flavored pills will make them better in ANY way. Of course being chewable or mint flavored makes them no more effective or less dangerous. Would chewable pills increase patient compliance in terms of user friendliness or user sexiness and thereby at least give more women the full 99% efficacy to weigh against the full set of health hazards associated with pill use? Not really.

According to the story, the new chewable mint flavored bcps will address the pressing needs of
A) Women who "don't like swallowing pills"
B) Women who "want to take their birth control with them"
C) Women who "sometimes forget to take their pills"
There is so much wrong here.

Let's start with B. So the chewable pills are easier to take with you? They are no easier to take with you than the nonchewable counterpart pills. Loestrin(fe), the old school nonchewable counterpart of the new pills, comes in a pack that is credit card sized. According to the AP story, the new improved chewable pills come in a credit-card sized dispenser kept inside a velvet pouch. The velvet pouch cannot possibly make that big a difference. If the dispenser is too much, you can pop one or two pills out and stash them all sorts of places (e.g., the bitty front pocket on jeans, in a compact). But you can do this regardless of whether the pill is chewable or not. In fact, the nonchewable might have the advantage here since who wants to chew up some pocket lint with their bcp? Before I got all the way through the article, I remember thinking “it might be nice for when you don’t have access to water or liquid and you need to take your pill within the next two hours or something to avoid feeling ill when you wake up” (that was always an issue for me when I took them…the timing was critical or I’d wake up hurling). Then I got to this part: Women must drink 8 ounces of water with the tablet. The chewables are as fucking portable or not portable as the nonchewable counterparts are. Both still require access to water to take. No advantage here.

And then there's C. This was just insultingly illogical. How the fuck would making the pill chewable make it easier to remember? No advantage here.

That leaves A. It’s for women who don’t like swallowing pills. This at least logical, but it's pretty damned weak. I've had to take some antibiotics which I thought perhaps I should use a fork and knife on, and generally I'm not someone who's got swallowing issues (hey don't go reading into that). But I hadn’t realized that this is, was, or could be a significant issue in compliance with this particular type of pill. Have you ever seen how small the nonchewable bcps are?

While I know there are some people who have problems swallowing pills, I have a hard time believing that this is a major reason why women might not take their bcps correctly. The drug company may as well have just changed the color. So clearly this innovation is just a ploy, and given how seriously shitty for you bcps are, it's a disgusting ploy. It's also a stupid ploy. If compliance in contraception use comes down to how user friendly/sexy it is, then they're gonna need something other than chewable minty freshness. If the drug companies can't get their heads around making safer hormonal contraception, maybe they should at least rethink the whole makes you fat, angry, and unarousable part.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

big ol' sentences

I realize that my last two posts were chock full of them. Needlessly big old sentences happen but they are never a good thing. That's what I get for writing it sporadically over several days, over christmas-time. "It" being singular reference for them because they started out as one post. I split it into two when it became completely unruly. Well it's out there and I'm reluctant to edit such lengthy posts. Thus they will remain, more or less, as they are - plural overstated rambles.

I'm going to try for shorter sentences here. Or at least for parsable sentences here.

Christmas is over. I got some mixed emotions. A sample pack as a matter of fact. The picked through left overs look a little sad sitting there on the coffee table. They don't come wrapped individually in little crinkly brown paper cups. These come loose, knocked around in a beautiful box tied with a silver trimmed blue bow. Unfortunately, some of them seemed to have already gone stale before I opened it. A couple left a nasty aftertaste I can't seem to get rid of no matter how many tums, proton pump inhibitors, or anticholinergics I've tried to wash it away with. Also, it appeared that one or two of them had been smooshed by a finger, curious to see which had the much coveted sweet soft centers. Little did they know this was the nut packed holiday sampler.

On the pro side, I found a website where you can make an elf. A____ and I (and my sister) made one of my division head. This may have been the highlight of my christmas weekend. Currently, I am making myself a holiday sweater. Also this week I discovered "The Office" (US). I'm renting the british version on netflix.

Then comes next week and a return to work.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

pique part 2

I noticed some years back that when you are open about stuff, there are a very large number of folks who take this to mean they have license to throw all sensitivity to the wind in their response. I don’t mean that their response is equally open, if by open we include sincere as a necessary trait. The response is simply insensitive. This isn’t always so bad from anonymous strangers, but it sort of sucks when a friend or someone you respect has that sort of reaction to getting a glimpse at your unclothed inner self. The suckiest part is that often this behavior feels like it was invited if not deserved as a result of having been open in the first place.

Having had a couple of occasions to think about this kind of situation as it arose between me and others here and there, I've come to the following conclusion. Thinking being open means you're asking for inconsiderate, remote, socially conditioned responses which place a premium on upholding the disclosure ban (to the detriment of supporting a friend, lover, or even just a fellow human being struggling with some totally normal but perhaps distastefully negative aspects of the human condition) is like thinking when a guest is invited over, they are welcome to shit on the host's coffee table if they don’t like the dip, find the curtains tacky, or are allergic to the host’s cat.

Being open is inviting someone into your space. It’s like letting someone into your home. Of course anyone would agree an invitation to come in doesn't even indirectly imply that the guest could or should do something like that once they are in, not if the invite is into someone’s house. (Ok, fine, a guest could logically and feasibly do that I suppose, but you know what I mean.) Why does letting someone in on a less physical level mean a lower standard applies?

The most rotten part is that this gets internalized, even if you disagree with it. So when someone gives you the "too much information" response (in any of it's forms) to what is sincere and possibly quite necessary self expression, you feel bad. You are the one who has violated the social norm and you now can add guilt for that on top of whatever was going on that lead you to "there" or to express "too much information" in the first place.

I wanted to say for my friend and for whoever else has had a run in with the disclosure police that the desire to be open, to express oneself and even to do this in a forum as public as a blog is not deviant. Sure, at times it might be narcissistic. It might be self absorbed and silly. It might come across as boring or whiney. But those feelings are part of the human experience folks. Self absorbed silly shit come with being a person. Keeping your silly self absorbed shit just to yourself is no guarantee that you're going to move past that, if indeed that is your goal. Plus, who said that all literate introspection on one's personal life and personal response to a larger life is shit? Try reading some Yeats. Talk about mixing your political, personal, and even spiritual, and all out there in the open for EVERYONE TO READ!!!! My god, it's like a fucking blog.

Admittedly not everyone's writing resembles the skill or artistry level of a poet. But keep in mind the focus of the criticism lodged against people who give us "too much information" is not "you don't write in rhyming meter". It's "your personal stuff is up where everyone can read it...ewww!" as if no one ever put their personal, trivial, possibly not terribly stylish shit out there, ever. So untrue. This is nothing new. A quick history lesson should make it clear that this impulse to reveal and disclose even the less exciting and/or less pleasant details of a minor and otherwise unimportant life is about as normal as you get.

Before we had words, we some neolithic guy smearing antelopes across a cave wall in ochre and ash mixed with spit and god only knows what else. I wonder if anyone at the time was thinking "Oh-my-god. Thog so needs to get over himself"

A more direct lineage from ancient to modern expression of the mundane can be seen in graffiti. Graffiti by it's definition is not art. Mutating words into tags is not art. Lines about whether boys or girls give better head written in a ring that spirals out from around the toilet paper holder like some kind of sharpie galaxy of profanity is not poetry. Interactive stories, debates, prayers, curses, vows are not literature if they appear on a wall and not in a peer reviewed journal or magazine. But god damn people just feel compelled to put it out there on the fucking wall don’t they?

Graffiti, while it may be debatable in polite circles as a form of art, is without any doubt the best kind of snapshot of the individual embedded in his or her social contexts. It is therefore valuable if you are interested in what I guess I’m stuck calling “the human condition”. The sentiment hasn’t changed for a while now either. Consider the following from "The Walls of Pompeii"*
Marcus loves Spendusa.
Serena hates Isidore.
Thyas, don't love Fortunatus.
Sarra, you're not acting very nicely, leaving me all alone.
Restitutus has deceived many girls many times.
I have screwed many girls here.
When I came here, I screwed. Then I returned home.
Let him who loves, prosper. Let him who loves not, perish. And let him who forbids others to love, perish twice over.
Let him who chastises lovers try to fetter the winds and block the endless flow of water from a spring.
Lovers, like bees, lead a honey-sweet life.
I am amazed, o wall, that you have not collapsed and fallen, since you must bear the tedious stupidities of so many scrawlers.
Shelton, J. As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History Oxford 1988.

And here’s an adaptation of a sentiment that has also been around for a while.
Don't like the tedious stupidities? Don't read the wall.
Don't like the drama? Stay off the blog.

You can give someone shit for "going there" or for having disclosed "too much information". But recognize that your response and your need to vocalize it can be seen as being every bit as tedious and irksome as what you’re responding to, and 100% as personal.

Just for shits and giggles, here's the rest of Margaret Cho's "don't go there" bit (from Revolution)

I'm considered a highly inappropriate person. And it makes me a problem dinner guest because at some point during the evening the person seated next to me says, "Okay, uh huh okay, too much information. Yeah, don't go there." I live there. I bought a house there. I will take you there. Because to live as a minority in this country feels like dying of a thousand paper cuts and I ain't going out like that, so I always have to tell the story.

Like I was driving in my car and I saw this woman in front of me and she had a bumper sticker that said, "This car was built with tools, not chopsticks," and it was in this super chinky font that was really like "hi yah!" like that kind of feng shui hong kong fooey font that's really like "aaaieeeaaaiieeaiaai." You know, that kind of font? And I exploded with anger, like I just turned into the Asian Incredible Hulk. I got gigantic and yellow like, "boom boom boom Aaaagh!" And I rolled up next to her and I had nothing prepared. So I just started to scream like, "Aaaagh Aaaaagh Aaaaagh!" I just kept doing it and I kept doing it and I forced her to make a left turn against the red light.

And I felt really good about myself, because I don't want to be the better person. I don't want to rise above it. I don't want to turn the other cheek. I will show you what cheek I'm gonna turn, okay?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

pique part 1

I understand there is a long standing or at least far reaching social custom of self righteously expressing discomfort at disclosure of things less than sunshiney happy great. Oh no, I don’t mean to say that disclosing this sort of thing can be uncomfortable. That much should go without saying. I’m talking about people’s reactions to someone else’s disclosure. There are some folks out there who are so disturbed by disclosure that they will react strongly to someone else's, and even when it occurs in a place where it could have been quite easily ignored. Like in the impersonally distant space afforded by things bloggy. Still, some people are so bothered that they will promote themselves from simple disclosure patrolman to disclosure detective - not just issuing tickets for blatant instances of someone saying too much, being too graphic, too detailed, or getting too personal but going that extra little bit out of their way to apprehend the effusive bastard who has the nerve or lacks the restraint to properly bury his too not happy thoughts and feelings in public.

Think I'm over-reaching? Maybe a wee bit but consider the common type. The particularly flamboyant version of a disclosure cop. The person who, while making the stereotyped head and hand gesture combo, laughs maybe a bit nervously and sneers "OhMyGod....too much information!" and "don't go there!" at you and then goes back to reading his/her celebrity gossip-rag website.

From this hypothetical composite but immediately recognizable example of the familiar social phenomenon of disclosure policing, we can deduce that “going there” is very much socially proscribed. The problem is most of the interesting people live THERE (to paraphrase Ms. Cho). In fact, one of my friends has indeed bought a house THERE. Or rather he inherited the house, but there he is, right firmly THERE in "there-ville". Then what to do about the people who are THERE. The zero disclosure policy translates into all sorts of unpleasant mandates. Keep your head down, avert your eyes, work really hard to not be THERE, and for the love of god if you must suffer at least have the decency to do it in silence and self inflicted isolation. Commit yourself to the Sissyphean task of changing yourself when most of what needs changing is society. And do this so others won't be made uncomfortable by shamelessly displayed evidence of your discontent, deviancy, or disquietude.

Or you could "dare disturb the universe". You could say something now and then. You could share your feelings and thoughts about life, your slice of it and how the bigger view looks from THERE and deal with the disruption this causes. I’m not sure if that’s what Eliot meant when he wrote those lines. I read them that way for me. As if having a sincere and honest reaction, word, or conversation, would be so out there that everything would fall apart.

I go there. I live there. And you know what? It turns out my shit is so relatively tiny that the universe CAN handle it. How about that? My friend had been providing “too much information” but now thanks to some custodian of decency out to protect the universe from being shaken to its core by semi-disgruntled musings of a new parent and recently dissertated (heheh) academic, my friend’s blog has swung in the opposite direction. Now posts from the last 6+ months have come down off his blog. This sucks. I don’t like knowing someone got silenced. Also some of the posts were quite funny, despite hints at bleakness here and there. Some of them were informative in terms of elucidating the shit that is an academic job search. But they were too negative for someone or for some set of ones.


Monday, December 18, 2006


Yippie! Grades are in. Papers will soon be shuffled. And I will pray no one comes calling at my office door at the start of next semester with a complaint about not getting the A they are sure they deserved. It's possible. There are a couple of people I think might have a hard time coming to grips with a C despite having consistently done a semester worth of C work or with the full letter grade or more reduction as a result of having bombed the hell out of the end of the semester.

I think next time I'm going to have them put just ID numbers on the essays because I kept worrying that my impressions of them so far might influence my assessment of their end of the semester writing. I'm pretty consistent and reliable in things I measure, but years as a researcher make me nervous about non-blind ratings. I take some reassurance that in the end, the final grades are nicely skewed towards the high side (25% in the A range) and have a distribution that goes all the way down to an F or two.

Friday, December 15, 2006


The semester is wrapping up and I am having a hard time feeling the relief I thought would be here like a nice reward for keeping it together and getting shit done all semester.

I keep anticipating it, any day now....but so far it's not coming. I wonder if that's because Christmas is looming just around the corner. Or maybe the problem is the sense of waiting for something is not an anticipation of relief but something else entirely. There are hints that is the case. When I stop and sit quietly, I can almost feel something looming. Like a movement in the corner of the eye. It's not anything as dramatic as a sense of dread but it does involve a murky sense of something not very pleasant.

Then maybe I need to take some stock of what's up in my life to figure out what's motivating this. There's the chronic christmas-phobia, never to be discounted. On top of this (and possibly partly because?), my health's been not so great the last few weeks. Oh then there are the guys who've been working on the oil burner/boiler in the basement all week, with no heat in the meantime. It could be worse, the weather could be seasonably cold. If our oil burner had to totally meltdown, I guess this was the week for it. On the con side, these guys have been in my basement directly below my apartment for most of the week starting at about 8 AM each day, which has seriously impacted my sleep time. I am NOT an early riser, mostly because I am not an early bedtimer. Last night was the first night all week I even thought I was going to get to bed before 3:00 and as it turned out that was more wishful thinking. The guys working in the basement thing started as a result of my calling my landlord and to bitch him out/convince him to actually DO something about the burner that keeps setting off the alarms (something other than disconnect the alarms). That wasn't an easy conversation and it sure wasn't fun. I can go toe to toe with people like my landlord, but I am always drained afterwards.

And now I have a pile of exams to grade (essays all) in addition to a student who had an end of the semester crisis which has left me wondering if I am turning into the kind of bitch who has the "hey I dealt with it so you should just suck it up and do it too" attitude I hate when I see in other people. I don't think so, I mean I don't think that is the true nature of my reactions to this situation, but thinking about her, the mess she's in, the mess she's made of what was supposed to be a nice less-stress end of the semester, and my reaction to all of it is occupying a great deal of my time. It's not really avoidable as a line of thought either since I still have some administrative crap to deal with as a result of her crisis (missed the inclass test and the essay portions of the final exam), and come Sunday I must assign her a grade whether I've heard from her, the dean's office, or whoever. Witnessing and experiencing this is kicking up nasty thoughts of how people in my program like my faculty and peers view me and my seemingly constant stream of illness.

Which then brings me back to my health, which sort of sucks. As an adolescent and younger adult when I would feel these waves of excitement and anticipation for no specific reason. They were not common but very nice when they occured. Those moments always felt like they held promise and hope, not for anything in particular but just for the potential of many things, futures that were not only immediate and long term, but also of various kinds. I LIKED that feeling. What I've realized recently is that they have mutated. It wasn't sudden. It began after living a few years of my body making a habit of betraying me a bit. Now I think I'm kind of stuck with them. They come on as vague unease at best and something approaching full on anxiety/panic at worst. To have those reassuring, happy moments of awareness of simple potential not only gone but replaced with a fear of insurmountable limits fucking blows.

So what am I waiting for? For the relief or for the fear?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like...


It's 53 degrees out (that's Fahrenheit, not the temperature units everyone else in the world uses). Tomorrow's high is predicted to be 55.

I'd say any fool could see this is officially screwy weather. I can and I am not that knowledgable about the environment or climate. I'd say I know about as much fact as the average person on this issue. And yet to me, what I am witnessing is unnerving and disturbing. The solid month of rain which is swamping Spring and Fall. The violent thunderstorms in the winter, complete with tornado warnings (this is NEW ENGLAND Toto, not Kansas).

I have a deep sense of "this ain't fucking right" that I can't get away from. The smell of thawed earth in December, the sight of buds and blooms on trees in November provoke vague thoughts of melting ice caps and warming oceans, lost habitats and starving animals. Here and there memories of Katrina and the December 26 2004 asian tsunami emerge, calling to mind notions of weather gone very very bad.

Yesterday it was quite warm. Less than today but still not even a little December-y. I was in an outdoorsy store (I followed A___ in) and heard this one presumably outdoorsy kid who worked there saying to another young employee "I just LOVE this weather! I love love love it!" He was sort of dancing and jumping about when he said it. I wanted to throw him a hackysack. Actually I wanted to shove one down his moron throat. How the fuck can you "LOVE LOVE LOVE" this weather? It is FUCKED UP. I can see something like "golly it sure is nice not to have to worry about an ice storm but this is creepy". Or the kind of rejoicing relief a January thaw can bring after weeks of cold. But that ain't this. No. He love love loves that it hasn't even really become winter yet, that the weather is so fucked up our seasons are shifting and mutating, and it's happening often and persistently enough that it's becoming hard for even a skeptic to dismiss as a fluke. So why does this kid love love love that we've fucked up our climate? Because he was up at (insert name of impressive hiking trail in northern/central new england...probably something in New Hampshire) this weekend and it was AwwwwweSome!

Although this kid was anywhere from 5 to 15 years younger than me, it's that sort of attitude that I think of when I think "babyboomer".

Monday, December 11, 2006

almost there

The tests are graded, now it's time to sit back and wait until I have to collect their final essays next week. Right?
Now it's time to answer questions like "OMG, I don't know how I could have done so bad on the test. Is there any way I can still get an A/B/C?" To which the answer (sadly) is often "no". In most of those cases, I kind of want to write back and point out that I gave quite a bit of extra credit. Total, my class had the option of getting up to 14 extra points added onto their final grade, which doesn't include the extra credits I gave here and there on specific assignments. How many of them took the option? No one took all and many took none. I don't point this out when I write back though. What would be the point? Making them feel bad? That's not cool. They're already not getting the grade they want or need, why rub it in that they passed up the opportunity to invest a very little time in what could have been some nice insurance here and there during the semester?

And then there are people like the girl who didn't take a quiz because she had been sick and missed the second week of class. She says she didn't ask for a make up because she assumed I wouldn't let her. WHY??? Why would anyone assume something like that? I wouldn't assume that. I would assume I could at least ASK if I could make it up. And that is why people think I'm a bossy bitch I guess. I'll take that over fucking myself into a failing grade. With her, I was really wanted to write back and say "you know, you'll find plenty of people who are willing to screw you over either through negligence or malice. Don't make their job any easier by screwing over yourself too." I didn't write that either.

Someone should really tell them this isn't high school though.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fatty McFat?

I just read a story on the NYC transfat ban. I recall a similar measure was considered in Chicago. My reaction to these ordinances is best described as sort of perplexed and a little scornful. I guess as a smoker, I can't help seeing the bans on things like artery clogging fat as a little bit of a double standard. It says "hey, we understand it's hard to take accountability for your own shitty dietary choices." But cigarettes? Yes, smoking's been banned in some places, but there's always a big old dose of blame on the tobacco consumer. The transfat bans and discussions which go with them do not place a similar blame on the fat-munchers. Regardless of whether I think stipulating when, how, and where people can consume things that are legal and arugably their own (bad) choice to consume, the way the issue of personal accountability is partitioned between smokers and poor eaters really rubs me the wrong way.

Take this quote from NYC Mayor Bloomberg, for example:
"Nobody wants to take away your french fries and hamburgers — I love those things, too," he said recently. "But if you can make them with something that is less damaging to your health, we should do that."

When was the last time you heard that kind of apologetic language about smokers and smoking from antismoking advocates? The common reasoning which seems to support the double standard of blame/accountability is that the negative effects of the substances contained in cigarettes smoke, unlike those in an artery clogging McMeal, are not easily contained to just one person. If you smoke in public, you are exposing others to your nasty carcinogen laced fumes which are both unpleasant and constitute a physical irritant for many people. Further, if you smoke in public you are making it very hard for people who have chosen to quit to maintain a tobacco free state.

Another argument in the various tobacco free public health campaigns and policies is that we all pay for other people's smoking habits. Even if someone were to confine her nasty health destroying tobacco habit to the privacy of her home and car, she puts herself into a higher health risk category through tobacco use. Google "health insurance" "health care costs" and "smoking". There's been plenty of interest in calculating what tobacco addiction costs not just the individuals who smoke but society. It seems to be common wisdom at this point that all of us, smokers or not, pay for individuals' tobacco addiction and use in terms of increased health care costs. Those health care costs mean higher premiums and copays for those of us lucky enough to be insured and higher taxes for the working uninsured. These claims, true or not, seem to be a significant factor in the stigmatization of smokers.

However, let's not forget that cigarettes contain a highly addictive substance. As far as I know, there haven't been any widely released studies on the physically addictive properties of fat ("fat addiction" is a totally separate thing from eating disorders, and I'm disregarding the stuff about general fat or carb addictions which are, at best, hypotheses). So if you eat this shit habitually, you are choosing to put yourself at increased risk for a variety of physical ailments and you are creating a public health nuisance that could be quite legitimately considered nearly if not exactly as bad as that caused by smoking - if we applied the same reasoning to both smoking and eating high trans fat diets. For example, the "shared cost" argument which supports a culture of stigmatization of smokers can easily be applied to people who consistently make poor dietary choices. Obesity and malnutrition resulting from overconsumption of transfats are associated with lifelong substandard physical conditions which, much like smoking, put the afflicted/consumer at risk for a greater number of diseases.

So who the hell is Bloomberg to say "no one wants to take away your fries"? Someone wants to take away cigarettes, to the point where a smoker could lose his job for smoking during his non-work time, based on the theory that even if smokers can keep their fumes to themselves, they can't keep the cost created by their legal substance addiction to themselves.

I do recognize that restaurants make it hard to make health conscious choices regarding their menus. A restaurant chain that has a lot of locations locally, Friendly's, will not provide calorie information to customers, even type 1 diabetic customers who would simply like to know how much insulin to give for the presumably responsible oriental chicken salad. I know this because I was with someone who once asked, then looked it up when he was given an uninformative answer. "We change our menu so often that we can't keep up with the nutritional information on every item" was the reason given for their providing no nutritional information. Ok, so how about they give the info for at least those things that have been on their menu for YEARS? Nope. I do think that shit like that is something public health officials can and should regulate. This issue is addressed in the NYC diet regulations recently passed, but it is poorly addressed.
(from the AP report)
Some [restaurants] that chose to inform customers about calorie content will have to list the information right on the menu. The rule would generally apply to fast-food restaurants and other major chains.

Breaking that down: It's not mandatory to provide nutrional information, and those restaurants where the info is voluntarily provided will essentially be punished for making the information available to health conscious diners. I don't blame the restaurant chains for not wanting to spend the extra printing costs for menus which include page after page of nutritional info. A reasonable alternative would be a highly visible notice on the menu which says "nutritional information is available on request" or an insert/table topper/tray liner with the info on it. I wonder if such options were considered or if the members of the NYC public health board made their menu only decisions after having seen the shocking scene in Super Size Me where a chain routinely hid the nutritional info posted in the restaurant.

It would be a simple and no more authoritarian solution than banning transfat to mandate and enforce nutrional information availability while making it less costly or difficult for restaurants to comply. But this puts the responsibility on the restaurant goers, and that brings me back to my initial point. While possibly too much blame and stigma is put on smokers, I think too little is put on the people who eat themselves and us into a national health crisis. I am a little divided on all the antismoking policies, and I certainly think the stigma is excessive. But what bothers me the most is the selective and extreme application of the notion of responsibility which translates into a motto of: Smoke yourself to death, shame on you. Eat yourself to death, shame on someone else.

Monday, December 04, 2006


While the peace and quite is nice, I think too sedating. I rarely work with music on since I can't help but process the lyrics, in fact I think with the whole can't get the music out of my head thing lately, I just can't help but (overly) process the entire audio. I've NEVER been someone who is good at tuning out acoustic stimuli. So I need to have acoustic stimuli I at least LIKE. My favorite ambient acoustic stimuli include (but aren't limited to) sounds from the street heard on waking in a friend's attic bedroom on an early June morning junior year of high school, island (numerous tracks), carnival just after a short rain storm around dusk, wind over late july trees, theater just before the curtain goes up, distant church bells (although any bell tower works church bells have the potency of at least someone's belief other than my own), small waves against the side of a wooden boat, and percolating coffee.

Most of those are calming sounds. Right now I need more stim - hence music.

As soon as this song with the er, sorta screechy kid and frenetic acoustic passes, maybe there'll be something fun to listen to.


Today was not the last day of class but it was the last lecture. I was so set. And then I got sick. Presumably it' s a stomach virus although no one else I know is sick. I'm happy no one else I know is sick but it does bother me that I am. See I was trying this new "pretend I'm all healthy and shit" attitude. It was supposed to make me all healthy and shit. Instead I'm all gurgly and unwell of stomach and I have a fever. (Sure sounds like a virus, huh?)

The only other, um, person who is sick is the cat. With him being old and somewhat poor of kitty health, the notion of a not super well kitty is nothing new. What's new is that he recently started a routine where he meows, goes to his cat box, meows some more, gets in his box, and then just sits there. If it wasn't sad and a somewhat alarming behavior, it would be cute to look over and see him sitting in his box like he's waiting for it to take off, pull out, or set sail (it's a big box). But this is not a good or cute thing. Not at all.

It looks so pretty out. The cat and I are chilling at home while my guy teaches my lecture for me. The cat is crashed out on the rocking chair in front of an open window. My neighbor is playing her harp - I can't hear the melody but every now and then a note or two come through. The wind, which looks and feels like a breeze from the window, is whistling quietly as it blows down the chimney. If it weren't for sick, this would be sort of nice. Less nice is huddling over an illconceived second cup of coffee, wondering if it would make me feel worse to have food or a cigarette. The seemingly obvious answer is "cigarette" however I've found when I'm feeling this intestinally fucked, food isn't always as friendly as you'd think it would be.

But it sure is pretty out.

Friday, December 01, 2006

home stretch

One more week of classes. I am quite pleased about this. Teaching was great and I do look forward to doing it again. I guess I'd better since I have two lab sections in the spring. But labs are small, meet once a week, have no written assignments, have a set of premade lesson plans, and I've done them several times before. Teaching as an instructor leaves little to no time for anything else, and with dissertation pressure bearing down on me and loans piling up, I'd like to get the hell done sometime soon. I am also looking forward to taking a little bit of a break before diving back in. One more week, then a grading frenzy, and then break.

I'm planning on dying my hair cherry red in celebration. At least parts of it, my hair that is.