The Great Explainers

If you haven’t seen Coupling (the British version; there is no American version as far as I’m concerned), you’re missing out. It may be the best-written sitcom in the history of television. There’s much that’s hilarious, but the best bits may well be the explanations.

The Last Bastion

Around the Web

Worth reading:

I guess we can assume that people who commit such acts are really inhuman. But frankly I think you’re kidding yourself and are abjectly horrified to look in the mirror. African fighters that mutilate children and innocent men and women are different, they aren’t like us. We say that as we embrace Jack Bauer obtaining that vital information in any way possible. We say that as we allow Dick Cheney to walk free and happily laud his role in legalizing torture. You know because when we do it, its different.

Lorax explains why Michele Bachmann is really dangerous. It isn’t the few pieces of legislation she proposes, trust me.

Do you know what one of the actual decisive events of the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt was? The failure of the ГКЧП to arrest Boris Yeltsin when they had the opportunity was very decisive. They fucked themselves on that one. Major Evdokimov, chief of staff of a tank battalion of Tamanskaya motorized infantry division who had orders to guard the White House declared his loyalty to the leadership of the Russian SFSR. Yeltsin climbed one of the tanks and addressed the crowd. It’s my opinion that that kind of thing was a bit more decisive than the words of the Orthodox Church.

Dan takes on a political scientist whose understanding of history appears to be a bit clouded by religion. He does a pretty good job of it too.

Girl becomes Woman. Woman becomes Mother. Girl is no longer Girl, but Earth Mother. Breastfeeding, Sling-Wearing, Earth Mother. Earth Mother has no need to flirt. All is well.

Or is it? Jenny Wadley’s blogging again, and that’s a Good Thing.

The thing is, had it not been my grandmother, I likely would have been appalled. Instead it was just one of those quirks that made her who she was. Her “colored man” drop ins were like a souvenir from growing up in the ’30s and ’40s. That’s how things were then.

I’m always impressed at how long the crew at Skepchick can keep a discussion, even about a contentious subject, on topic and civil. This is one of those threads. Also an impressive demonstration of how a single person can derail a thread.

Rounding out Sci’s first week of the Great Oxytocin Posting of 2009 (oh yes, there will be two weeks of this, hang tight), we’ve gotta do something weird. And luckily for everyone, oxytocin does lend itself to the strange types of studies. Like multi-orgasmic studies. Complete with measurements of anal contraction. You know you wanna volunteer for this one.

Well, I’ll leave that decision up to you, but you do want to read about how they do the studies that tell us things like, “Oxytocin plays a role in orgasm.” Seriously. And remember, “She graphs because she loves.”

An easy way to kill a debate on health care policy is to use the “R” word. We saw this early in the HCR debate with overheated talk of “death panels” and other nonsense. But we ignore the real issue of rationing at our own peril. Those of us who favor real HCR must embrace rationing, coopt it, show our opponents how it is inevitable.

PalMD explains how it actually works now. He’s good at that sort of thing.

Enjoy.

Minnesota Disability Law Center

A couple of friends of mine recently bought a Smart car. A word of warning for those of you considering a similar purchase: You need to build in extra travel time. It isn’t that the Smart is underpowered. It’s simply that if anyone is around as you get into or out of your car, you’re going to be spending some time in conversation.

I’ve seen this in action. While at a wedding reception this summer, I saw my friends pull up in their new car. About five minutes later, I got to wondering where they were. They were still by the car, chatting with a fairly large group of people. About another five minutes passed before they showed up at the reception.

“That was cool!”

The cool part wasn’t that people had been interested in the car. The cool part was that my friend had enough sign language to understand and answer their questions. The large crowd was because, well, the deaf group picnicking near us wasn’t likely to find another Smart owner able to answer their questions any time soon.

It’s kind of a funny story when it’s a car. It’s much less funny when it’s a hospital visit. The woman in the following video is my friend’s aunt and the reason she knows a respectable amount of sign language. She, and the group featured in the video are the reason deaf people visiting Minnesota hospital rooms don’t have to wait for someone like my friend to come along.

Tax ‘Em

The campaign finance report for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine shows that four Minnesota area Catholic Dioceses contributed $6250 to a campaign to reject a law legalizing gay marriage in Maine.

Yes, you read that right.

The Diocese of Crookston donated $5,000 to the effort. The Diocese of Winona and the Diocese of La Crosse, WI gave $500 each. New Ulm’s Bishop John Levoir gave $250.

They did this to change the laws in Maine. It’s almost 1,500 miles from St. Paul to Portland, Maine, slightly closer from Winona or La Crosse. Nobody from Minnesota needs to travel to Maine to get married. They can do what a couple of friends of mine did this summer and duck across the border into Iowa.

None of these dioceses’ parishioners are going to be making the trip to Maine to get married. None of their parishioners were in any position to be influenced from the pulpit on how to vote on this issue. No, this is strictly about imposing the churches’ will and their religion on others not otherwise under their jurisdiction by changing the law. There’s nothing about that that isn’t politics.

According to the IRS, the dioceses’ actions are currently legal.

For those wondering about tax violations, the IRS forbids tax exempt organizations from backing a political candidate but “can engage in a limited amount of lobbying (including ballot measures) and advocate for or against issues that are in the political arena. The IRS also has provided guidance regarding the difference between advocating for a candidate and advocating for legislation.”

This needs to change, to become more specific in response to a change in church tactics. What’s going on right now with churches interfering in questions about gay civil marriage isn’t limited in its scope. It isn’t pastors or priests guiding uncertain voters in the pews. It isn’t individual worshipers sending checks. It’s exercising the muscle of national organizations, putting their organizational and fundraising capabilities to use to change the broader American political landscape.

We recognize the influence of money on politics. We do it officially, limiting contributions and requiring that they be disclosed in such a way that the influence of larger entities, like corporations, is also limited. Churches are given exemptions to these and other laws because they are officially held separate from government. That means that government has limited oversight over religion, but that’s only true as long as religion doesn’t exercise undue influence over government.

Between the fight over this vote and the fight over California’s Proposition 8, I think the churches have crossed the line. Tax ‘em.

Veterans Day

Today is the day we celebrate the end of the “War to End All Wars.” It’s the day we commemorate the horrendous loss of life, limb, sanity and simple comfort that war entails. We do it by thanking our soldiers, which I do, but….

Why aren’t we doing more? Why do we allow anyone to turn their health care into a political football? Why do we deny that we are responsible for their PTSD or even that they have it? Why don’t we do a better job of helping their families manage the stresses of deployment? Why don’t we do a better job of protecting the few rights they don’t give up in order to protect us, like the right to worship as they see fit–or not at all–instead of the way their commanders worship, or the right to not face sexual harassment?

Why do we send them to fight in wars that can’t be “won”? Why do we not demand that everyone else share some part of their sacrifice when we do? Why do we spend so long to shape them when we take them out of civilian life and so little time when we tell them to return? Why don’t we contribute more to the education that’s meant to fit them for that civilian life? Why do we let “supporting” our troops become supporting the people who order them around?

Those are the kinds of thanks that matter, and until we start doing those and more than one day out of the year, we’ve got this holiday all wrong. To all the soldiers I know, love and/or am related to, thank you once more and I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer you than these words.

I Love This Place

There’s no place better than the internet to be sick. No, really. The people around here are amazing. I would have had a truly miserable last couple of months without them.

Now, before I go on, let me just note that I might not have survived these months without the help of my husband. But if he doesn’t already know how wonderful he is, I’ve screwed something up badly. This particular post isn’t about him.

Find out what it is about at Quiche Moraine.

Reporting Non-Default Religion

I’ve been reading about the Fort Hood shooting this morning, like most everyone else. There’s lots of bad and misleading information being passed around this close to the confusion, I’m sure. A few things stood out in the reporting, though, most of them having to do with the alleged shooter being Muslim, or more specifically, not Christian.

  1. Major Hasan apparently received a load of flack from fellow soldiers over the last eight years about how his religion has allied him with the enemies of the U.S. We are currently involved in two wars. In both wars, our allies and our enemies share a religion, although the details vary. If we can’t distinguish between the two better than that, we’re in incredibly deep trouble.
  2. Major Hasan was reportedly reprimanded for proselytizing. Considering the current state of our evangelical armed services, this is galling. How much did the unequal treatment contribute to turning fellow soldiers into targets?
  3. Major Hasan reportedly shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” before shooting. This is being treated as evidence of motivation in several venues. This is a ritual phrase. If he had shouted, “Help me, Jesus!” instead, would it be so widely reported? Would anyone think it was a clue to anything aside from a religious person being terribly upset?

We don’t know what happened with this shooting, or why. It’s going to be some time before we do–to the extent we ever know. In the meantime, beware of people trying to play on your own internalized narratives. Watch out for reporting that creates stories out of stereotypes and xenophobia.

The shooting has stopped. We can afford some uncertainty. We have time to figure out what happened. And we’ve seen enough in the last eight years to know how well it goes when we lay blame and act before we do that.

Post-Op

I’m two days home from spending five hours in the hospital. Everything went well, except for my reaction to the narcotics. My body’s shifting into healing mode, which means I’m about to fall asleep again, but before I do, I thought I’d share some details. It’s a little odd to know so many people are following along at home, but I’ve invited it, so I won’t slam doors shut now.

These are just odds and ends from the planning meeting with the oncologist who did the surgery through the surgery and recovery.

  • Apparently I nod in all the right places. Both the oncologist and the pre-op nurse asked me if I was in medicine. I blame a large vocabulary, Google and PalMD.
  • No religion is never the default. Someone from Abbott Northwestern Hospital called me in advance to confirm that their information on me was current. “And we show ‘Lutheran’ for religion. Correct?” Uh, no. Not a bad guess in Minnesota, but completely wrong.
  • People really think spouses should be there for everything. Twice my husband came to me and said people were telling him he should be there with me when I checked in at 5:30 a.m. Twice I told him that I’d much rather have him be awake and functional when I woke up after the surgery.
  • I still can’t fall asleep on my back, as much as I wanted to nap during pre-op. 5:30?
  • Being in the hospital during a Joint Commission audit results in lots of repeated questions and lots of apologies for the repetition.
  • Writing on the lower abdomen is “close enough” for marking that surgery is supposed to be done on the cervix.
  • After about half a bag of IV, you don’t really care that you couldn’t drink anything that morning.
  • Heated hospital gowns are the best idea ever. Air chamber in the gown + hot air blower hookup = awesome.
  • Operating rooms without functioning thermostats are a much worse idea, but having heated blankets piled on top of you almost makes up for that.
  • I’m much less disturbed by being strapped in and having my arms taped down than I am by the idea of falling off the narrow operating table.
  • It is much more comfortable to undergo a conization under general anesthesia, the brain-wave monitor is going to feel like velcro being pressed into my forehead, the oxygen mask smells like plastic, and I had the most informative nurse anesthetist ever.
  • Anesthesiologists (or at least this one) like propranolol. “She’ll have a nice, slow heartbeat.”
  • The most uncomfortable pre-op moment was having the oxygen sensor put on. If I’d known, I’d have trimmed that fingernail.
  • I still don’t know what kind of anesthesia I had. One of my Facebook friends suggested I ask for propofol (“Michael Jackson gave it a bad name.”). However the nurse anesthetist said there was a shortage of it (“You know. The stuff Michael Jackson was taking.”), so I’d get gas. However, once I was in the OR, the anesthesiologist said they were knocking me out through the IV. So, yeah, no clue.
  • The most painful post-op moment was getting rid of the monitoring pads. At least this time, unlike when I got my appendix out, only one of the five is still outlined on my skin in dark red.
  • Despite having had a very short night of sleep before the surgery (5:30?), I fought the anesthetic pretty hard once I grasped a tiny bit of consciousness.
  • Fentanyl is lovely stuff. At least immediately.
  • Some people apparently think it’s weird to Tweet soon after an operation. This does not mean they don’t want the news right away. I might have had deeper thoughts on that, but I was under the influence of fentanyl.
  • I’m not cut out to be an addict. Either the fentanyl or the Vicodin I had as a follow-up caused nausea, poor temperature regulation, and a truly nasty headache. No more for me, thanks.
  • Tweeting snippets of dialog from the new Ratchet and Clank game will cause some people to assume you’re having a great time on those narcotics.
  • Coming home to a heap of well-wishes is such a lovely thing that it requires its own blog post.
  • I’m waiting for the pathology reports that will tell me how often I need to have Pap smears for the foreseeable future. I’ve already been told that I’ll never be able to stop having them.
  • I’ve also been told that I need to take good care of my immune system, mostly in ways I already do. “Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Modern science can’t quite tell us why those are important yet, but we know they are. Avoid a lot of red meat. Don’t be one of those people who only sleep four hours a night. Do something three to four times a week that you find stress-reducing.” I’d already concluded I needed to find a better way to manage the amount of stress in my life, but I’m still debating what kind of changes will actually do that instead of creating someone else’s perfect stress-free life that I’ll hate and be stressed by.

And now to nap.

The Limits of Resilience

There’s a Facebook meme running around that’s basically, “Describe me in one word.” I put that up recently, and someone answered, “resilient”. While I’m sure it wasn’t his intent, I almost cried.

Resilience was a fairly new field of study when I was getting my degree in psychology, lo, those many years ago, and I was fascinated by it. I would be, of course. It’s the study of how people recover from bad events instead of being irreparably broken by them. At the time, much of the focus was on how some kids from less than ideal backgrounds grow up to be happy and successful. Hence, my fascination.

In case you’re curious, two of the big things that allow kids to survive and thrive whatever their circumstances are problem-solving skills and the presence of even a single adult who is thoroughly in the kid’s court. This plays no small part in my opinions on education and informs my interactions with the few kids in my life. It also limits the number of children I do interact with. But I digress.

In the end, resilience mostly comes down to resources–having them and knowing how and when to use them. I got myself into a bit of trouble this spring by gambling that I had the resources to support me in taking an emotional risk. For various reasons, some of those resources weren’t available to me when things went badly. Between that and the fact that I’d declared some solutions to my problems to be off limits, I boxed myself in. Badly.

I got hurt. Not sleeping for more than a couple hours at a time, running on adrenaline, back against the wall because that’s one direction they can’t come at you from–that kind of hurt. Unsurprisingly, I made myself sick. Slightly more surprisingly, I stayed sick.

Actually, I’d already been sick. Too much time off in the last couple of years for sleeping away the muzzy head and sore throat. Too much time off for migraines. Just a day here and a day there, but enough to eat up all my time off so I didn’t get vacation aside from the occasional long weekend. And after I hurt myself, it was worse.

Being, indeed, at least somewhat resilient, I decided this was a problem that needed fixing and went to the doctor. There’s nothing really wrong with me. Well, I have allergies that are now responding decently to a new antihistamine. The joints in my big toes are screwed up in ways that can probably be compensated for without intrusive intervention, like my knees. I still have a wonky heart valve, but it’s not noticeably worse than it was seven years ago. But all my blood tests are well within normal ranges, and I’m not showing any inflammatory markers that would suggest I picked up the family problems.

Oh, and there’s the problem of the bad Pap smear. And the waiting for the biopsy results. And the figuring out what kind of surgery I’ll be having. All just a little stressful.

So changing my antihistamine hasn’t made me any better. In fact, I’ve been worse. I’ve slept twelve hours in a night before, but never while averaging nine to ten hours of sleep regularly, and I’ve still had trouble keeping my eyes open while “awake.” Not content to let my throat have all the fun, my ears have been hurting too, all without a fever or elevated white cell count. I went on leave from work to formalize the fact that they can’t count on me to be there on any given day. The drugs that are supposed to help keep me from getting migraines haven’t been helping, or at least I’m still getting migraines.

In other words, it’s not been good around here.

That’s what “resilient” was dropped into the middle of, and why I almost cried. I haven’t been feeling my most resilient lately, despite this person nailing one of the ways I usually think of myself.

At the same time, I realized that I am being more resilient than I’m giving myself credit for. Maybe my body isn’t bouncing back, but I am still working on my problems, even if I don’t know how the answers will turn out. We changed my migraine medication to propranolol, which has worked for me before. It may also give my body a rest from some of the stress by blocking the action of adrenaline.

I’m grabbing glimpses of fun where I can find them, saving the energy I do have for a friend’s birthday dinner, another’s baby shower. I’m fighting the work ethic that says that if I can’t do the things I normally do that require concentration, I shouldn’t be doing anything else either. I’m losing the war on feeling guilty about it, but I’m trying.

I’m not ruling out any solutions this time around. Some of them aren’t very appealing, but they’re staying on the table while I think about what they offer and what they demand. In the end, that may be this summer’s big lesson. This is where my limits lie.