Sea Turtle

An interesting bit of cultural relativism: Met a woman who told us that when her baby had a runny nose (babies can’t blow their noses; it’s very hard to get their noses clean), she would put her mouth over his nose and suck out the snot, then spit it out. “It’s my baby and I love him. What is the harm?” Then she told us that when a breastfeeding friend had pain from engorgement, her husband sucked out the milk to relieve the pain. She was careful to emphasize that he spit it out. What interested me was that she saw both acts as being on the same grossness par. I’d expect it would be rare to find an American woman who would be willing to suck out her baby’s snot; but it’s probably not uncommon for men to sample their nursing wives’ breast milk.
Continue reading “Sea Turtle”

Post Written While On Hold (I Hate Our Health Care System)

I need to see a dermatologist about a funny dot of skin under my eye. My doctor tries to expedite a referral. But I have to wait two weeks for it to arrive. The number on the sheet that arrives yields a busy signal every day for a week. I call back my primary and am told that my doctor isn’t authorized to make a referral to a dermatologist and I need to call my insurance and get temporarily assigned a new primary care physician in order to get a working referral. Call my insurance (wade through interminable voice-activated phone tree, which of course does not transmit any of the information I’ve entered over to the worker who ultimately responds), who has no idea what I’m talking about. I give them number of my doctor’s office, he puts me on hold, calls them, I wait on hold for 11th time today. He gets back to me, then says my doctor doesn’t exist. He names a doctor I had two years ago, not my current. Everyone totally confused. Finally it’s (presumably) straightened out. Now I just have to wait another week for a replacement referral sheet and then make the appointment.

Seems like this kind of stuff happens every time I need to do anything in our medical system beyond having my blood pressure taken. And yet people continually refer to our health care system as “the best in the world.” I don’t get it.

Music: Sunny Ade :: Ja Fun Mi


Every now and then you hear some inkling that everything you thought you knew about fluoride in drinking water is wrong. And then some reassuring voice of authority reminds you of all of fluoride’s benefits. But I’m reading this account of how sample communities in rural China living with and without fluoride end up with differing IQ levels.

The study, published in the May 2003 journal Fluoride, found that as fluoride levels in drinking water increased, IQs fell and the incidence of mental retardation and borderline intelligence increased.

What’s more, according to the article, fluoride doesn’t even have the dental benefits it purports to have, especially not when ingested rather than applied topically to the teeth. In fact, it may have harmful non-dental, non-mental health effects as well.

So why is fluoride on track to be even more widely deployed in our water supplies over the next ten years? Conspiracy theorists, start your engines.

Aside: It occurs to me that writer Cory Doctorow and seminal punker Klaus Fluoride may have been separated at birth.

Thanks rinchen.

Update: Tons of great info at the Fluoride Action Network.

Music: Rufus Thomas :: I Think I Made A Boo Boo


Was thumbing though National Geographic’s new swimsuit issue at the grocery store tonight — which is very well done, would like to read it more carefully sometime — and came across a picture that blew my mind. A beach in the 1930s with a sandfly problem. To keep the sunbathers from going elsewhere, they decide to spray. The picture is of an old jalopy of a truck driving along the beach spewing immense clouds of white vapor behind it. A painted sign on the side of the truck says in giant letters:

Powerful insecticide!
Harmless to humans!

Reminds me that when my dad had acne as a teenager in the late 40s, the doctors were blasting his face with radiation weekly, thinking it would vanish his zits. Now he has to be checked yearly for melanoma.

Music: Stereolab :: L’Enfer Des Formes

Ear Wax Express

When I took that motorcycle trip to Canada last June, I came back with a pretty bad ringing in my ears. My motorcycle is pretty quiet and I wear a good helmet and earplugs. But I was using a Suzuki fairing on the BMW, and it set up this weird relationship where there was tons of turbulence in the face mask. It was really loud.

I came back and had the accident a few days later, which distracted me from the fact that the ringing did not subside. Well, it started to subside after a few weeks, but not entirely. There has been a high-pitched buzz/hum going on ever since. It’s been getting less pronounced, but seemed to stop tapering and plateau’d at a certain point. Most noticeable in quiet moments, like bed time and waking up. Lately it’s been surging on strongly for 30-60 second bursts, much stronger in the left ear. Finally decided to see a doctor about it because it became clear it wasn’t going to go away on its own. It’s really depressing when the body doesn’t heal itself. Makes you feel old and not invincible anymore.

Called up and they had me come in for “urgent care.” Uhh… it’s been eight months. It’s not that urgent. But whatever. Explained the whole thing to the doc. He took a look and said he couldn’t see my left eardrum — it was all waxed up! I had noticed that my motorcycle earplugs always came out dirtier than other people’s.

So an assistant came in for an irrigation (ear-igation?). Big 2″ syringe with a soft tip. Warm water. I held a basin under my ear and she plunged three syringefulls through it. Little pieces came out, but nothing major. Then she grabbed a long tweezer and plucked out something the size of a large pencil eraser — dark brown and hairy / fuzzy. I could not believe that thing came out of me. Unbelievable it could have been there all this time.

She said that some people just generate more wax and there’s nothing to be done about it but to irrigate occassionally. We can do it ourselves at home. Cool! Amy loves this kind of stuff, so we’ll get a kick out of it. She was fascinated by the story when I told her later.

Anyway, this doesn’t guarantee a resolution to the problem. I won’t know till bed time whether it attenuates the problem. And I still have to schedule an audiogram for full testing, to determine whether i have tinnitus or not. But this experience was like getting a hair cut and taking a dump all at once. Ecstasy!

By the time we were done I had seven minutes to get back up to campus for a meeting. Rode like the wind, and had the weirdest sensation of air rushing past my left eardrum. Didn’t even realize it hadn’t been there all this time, but I knew it was different.

Speaking of the motorcycle, I ended up with a big black toenail from the crash in June. I’ve been watching it grow out, and I just trimmed off the last of the black part. Now I know how long it takes my toenails to grow.

So busy listening to my own MP3s that I never get around to checking out all the great radio stations built into iTunes. Found this great Dr. Yo station tonight. Wow – one amazing track after another. I could listen to this for days. In fact, I think I will.

Teeth butcher

“Deep cleaning,” my dentist calls it. So deep they only do half the mouth at a time. Had the left side done two weeks ago, and the right side done today. Sawing between the teeth with diamond dust to make more room for floss. Incessant grinding with sinister looking tools. Polishing, scraping, nitty gritty mouth madness. Such a complete and thorough brutalization of the mouth that I walked out of their office with… get this… another Vicodin prescription. God, what’s happening to me? I used to be immortal. Now I’m just broken all over.