So…this Christmas Eve thing

I hope you’re all a lot less depressed than I am. This is not a good time of year for me, but maybe you’re still doing fine. Good! Celebrate!

Here’s my Christmas misery.

My father died quietly, in his sleep, on Christmas 28 years ago. You’d think it would stop hurting after 28 years, and no, it doesn’t, and it’s what I think of when I hear the word “Christmas”.

That is not to say that there aren’t good associations, too — I had many years with kids getting deliriously happy at Christmas. Unfortunately, we’re not going to see any of them this year. We’ll all hunkering down in our houses and refusing to see anyone, or to have parties, or to even go outside. The family aspect, the best part of the season, is gone.

Then, I got my Christmas present from my wife. Christmas presents are good, right? Nope, not this one. She signed me up for this thing called Zoe Personal Nutrition, which is all about microbiome analysis and monitoring the effects of your diet on your physiology. The science is appealing. I like contributing to a scientific project as a subject. The reality is a little less thrilling.

Yesterday, I stabbed myself with this continuous glucose monitor that I’ll be wearing for two weeks. That’s not so bad.

Christmas Eve is poop sampling day. I got some gloves and a disposable sheet to spread across the toilet and a scoop and a sealable test tube and a mailer. Oh boy.

Tomorrow I get to stick myself to take blood samples, and all I get to eat is some special muffins for breakfast and lunch. That’s my Christmas feast: prepackaged frozen muffins.

After that, I’ll be scanning and weighing every single thing I eat for the next six months, and Mary is going to be monitoring my diet closely. Doesn’t that sound fun? I tried to tell her she could have saved a lot of money and labor if we just got a pizza for Christmas dinner, but apparently I don’t eat pizzas anymore.

The end result, though, will be Science, I guess. A research team will know all about my microbiome composition, and how my body responds to various factors in my diet, and they’ll tell me all about it, and get a publication or two out of it. I have no idea what I’ll do with the information — giving me a catalog of what species reside in my colon is about as useful as telling me that I’m a Pisces.

Oh, well. Christmas sucks anyway. I’ll probably spend the day hanging out in the lab alone with my spiders.


  1. davidc1 says

    Yeah,the poo on a stick is always great fun.I had mine recently,won’t bother you with the details of how I got my brother to do it.
    Had the results back,everything is fine and they won’t bother us until 2023.

    Sorry about your dad.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Ugh! I’m not looking forward to tomorrow.

    First of all, my father’s equally-right-wing-and-bigoted twin brother is spending the holidays with us. So now I get to listen to racist, jingoistic, Catholic bullshit in stereo. Then my father invited a whole bunch of his friends for dinner, all of whom I either don’t like or don’t know. They’ll spend the evening pontificating about how bad things have gotten since Biden was a elected, that COVID was nothing worth the lockdowns and mask mandates, and that AOC is personally coming to confiscate their guns, burn down their churches, and tax them into destitution to fund a welfare state that will buy the votes from those lazy n-words.

    That many people under one roof is already pure Hell for an introvert like myself, toss in the fascistic politics and it somehow becomes worse that Hell. I guess I’ll be spending Christmas hiding in my room, watching TV, trying to avoid an argument that would get me thrown out of the house.

    What holly, jolly fun. I’d drink Christmas away, but I’ve sworn off booze. I wish cannabis was legal in Wisconsin.

  3. ANB says

    Oh my, Akira! That’s worse than PZ’s Xmas. Waaaay worse.

    I consider myself lucky. I’ll be at work all day, like every other day. (During my “two weeks off.”)

  4. says

    Solidarity, Akira. I had to stop doing lunches with my dad because of that same sort of contaminated cowdung, and it wasn’t even half as bad as what you’re up against. I’m so with you in spirit, hiding in your room.

    PZ: In my experience, grief never goes away; you just learn to dance around it. :candle_emoji: :why_doesnt_wordpress_support_emojis_yet_emoji:

  5. hemidactylus says

    It would be cool to know the phage load of the bacteria in your gut. Not important enough to sacrifice pizza though.

  6. azpaul3 says

    Sorry your christmas experiences, past and future, are less than you would want.

    Regardless, Merry Christmas, Dr. M. May your pooper scooper perform without any issues.

  7. fusilier says

    “they’ll tell me all about it, and get a publication or two out of it. “

    Wlll you be a co-author? If not ….


    James 2:24

  8. raven says

    It could be worse.
    A whole lot of people will be getting Covid-19 virus Omicron for Xmas.
    This variant is something else. It’s very quick.
    Omicron is now doubling every 2 to 3 days. They are predicting a peak of 1 million US cases by the end of the year. Which is one week away.
    A few weeks ago, it was Omicron who.

    I just decided that I’m not going many places for a while outside of survival trips.

    NYTimes December 23, 2021
    Omicron is spreading fast.

    The highly transmissible variant is causing near-vertical case growth in multiple U.S. cities, with figures doubling about every two to three days. Officials expect it to break records. The all-time high for average daily cases was 251,232, set in January. By some estimates, the United States could reach one million cases a day, even before the end of the year.

    Happy Holidays this year will be to stay alive, stay healthy, and stay safe.

  9. angoratrilobite says

    I am so sorry that your association with this holiday has been so sad, Mr Myers, so I wish you to have better memories in the future.

    May your future be filled with Joy, Family, Excellent Students and many many adorable SPIDERS!!!

  10. wzrd1 says

    #raven, the god-kingers and other far righties are going on about how gentle the virus is, using NYC as a benchmark (and ignoring the 71% one shot vaccinated or 81% fully vaccinated and the long predicted nearly absent hospitalization rate).
    Well, that and “It’s no worse than the flue”. Something I find odd, as I have no clue what a channel that carries exhaust gases outside has to do with a viral infection.

    @PZ, all of those “benefits” and you had to pay for it? Odd, I remember back when human test subjects were paid… ;)

  11. PaulBC says

    The weirdest way I ever celebrated Christmas Eve was hooking up a family member to a peritoneal dialysis cycler* for the first time. This was actually a good thing, because nobody liked going back to the hospital for hemodialysis. I’ll avoid saying any more except that they’re post-transplant and I never want to go through that again.

    *Fun fact: it was invented by Dean Kamen long before the Segway.

  12. PaulBC says

    Akira@3 Any way out? (e.g., go for a very long walk) It sounds like your normal toxic environment just got a lot worse. I don’t see how you live like this.

  13. CorporalKlinger says

    My dad died 12/13/2003, and it never stopped hurting. No, Christmas, combined with that consumption orgy and forced jolliness, is not a date I look forward to. My thoughts for your Dad, and mine.

  14. CorporalKlinger says


    That’s tough, really, really tough! I wish I could give you something else better than a few words on the internet. Is it possible for you to make a trip into a neighboring state to get some weed? On the other hand, weed consumed in a bad setting is not really nice! Maybe a stupid question, but, could you get away? My best Christmas, me with my dog walking on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, a rucksack full of joints, coffee, Brandy, and sandwiches for me and Arwen. Best Christmas EVER!

  15. festersixohsixonethree says

    Sorry to hear you’re bummed, but glad I’ve got company. You should also be glad you have company in your misery… except that misery is kind of glad crushing.
    But – as required – happy holidays.

  16. Rich Woods says

    @raven, @wzrd1:

    There is now evidence from studies in the UK which support the initial findings from South Africa. The Omicron variant is less likely to produce serious illness requiring hospitalisation because it is shifting to infect the bronchia rather than the lungs. This is also what is making it more transmissible, so the risk to health services being overwhelmed is still there. The symptoms in most people are now more similar to those of the common cold than to ‘traditional’ Covid-19, so expect the usual suspects to stop claiming it’s no worse than the flue and start claiming it’s no worse than a colde.

  17. Walter Solomon says

    Well, I can definitely see the tidings of comfort and joy in this thread. /s

    Anyway, I wish everyone a healthy holiday at the very least. And, PZ, since you’re biologist, a description your gut microbiome must mean a bit more to you than your zodiac sign, right?

    Happy Holidays all the same.

  18. Akira MacKenzie says

    PaulBC @ 13

    Any way out?

    None that I can think of. I suppose I could fake a heart attack or stroke. I’m over 45. It could conceivably work.

  19. hemidactylus says

    For me this is a five day weekend— away from maskless people— reading stuff at leisure. I have some mojo pork ready to heat for tonight. Well my dog might bark for no reason after she scatters kibble everywhere for the ants. Other than that…peaceful.

  20. bachfiend says

    The 14 day glucose monitoring sounds like a great gift. I’m not a diabetic, but I’ve used one twice to see how my high carbohydrate vegetarian diet affects my interstitial glucose level over the 24 hours (adherents of the fad low and very low carbohydrate diets reckon my BSL will shoot up, and then plummet causing me to be hungry, and overeating causing me to put on weight).

    Actually didn’t happen.

    I’ve recently gone vegan, and I’m tempted to try it again to see if there’s any difference. I think my carbohydrate intake would have increased (although I’m also eating more nuts too, which are high in fat).

  21. says

    Dear Prof. Myers – I am glad to hear you are (somewhat involuntarily?) paying attention to your health. We all value your very significant contributions to the secular, humanist, rational world and hope you remain in excellent health for a long time. Also, your spiders are relying on you. However, some of those ‘commercial’ by-mail health evaluations have drawbacks. One is, what is left of the HIPAA laws may be violated and parties you don’t approve of may get a huge amount of your personal and health info. (others have already echoed this sentiment: in some ways, what a crappy gift) Still we hope for a better new year for all.

  22. says

    Dear Akira – relatives are often an emotional burden we’ve faced over the years, too. Your burden seems exceptionally heavily weighted to the ‘right’ which is really wrong. Sad. (years ago there was a joke about the ‘john birch polka’ where you would swing your partner as far the the right as you could) I hope you find peace and solace hiding in whatever you do. We do hope you have a new year that is much brighter. Also, know that your contributions here are appreciated.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    My dad died of cancer a month before Christmas 1983. So fuck Christmas forever, it is poisoned.
    Also, please look after your health. Otherwise you will die of an aneurism a week after retirement.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    About colon bacteria and human development.
    It has been revealed (in a Science article 3-4 years ago) that infant chronic malnutrition results in a failure of the intestinal organisms to diversify, and this absence of diversity enhance the negative outcomes with various developmental problems.
    I speculate, but humans have co-evolved with the microbiota for so long that some bacteria metabolite molecules that cross the gut lining may have become important for early development.
    So you need the gut biota to be diverse, at least during childhood.

  25. blf says

    In a previous post (Yes! Grades done!), our host poopyhead mentioned “watching the The Muppet Christmas Carol with my [Trophey W]ife on Xmas eve”. I realised that — perhaps unbelievably — I’d never ever seen that. So after a small amount of research (e.g., checking opinions), I immediately acquired it, and have now done the poopyhead-ish thing, “watch[ed] the The Muppet Christmas Carol [with the mildly deranged penguin] on Xmas eve”.

    Wow ! It even kept the mildly deranged one engrossed (which allowed me to dr(hic!)ink most of the port unmolested (hic!))… Thanks, poopyhead, for the suggestion !

  26. says

    I feel the angst. I’m marooned overseas by Covid and have been since the pandemic started so I won’t be s[ending Christmas with my family. I won’t be sharing it with my 4 year old grandson i haven’t seen since he was 6 months old. His attention span on a video call is next to zero. so all that lovely bonding is absent. Both my parents died several years ago. I miss them and even more so at this time of year. Its going to be a quiet Christmas for me to just my wife and her kids. I waited till I was double vaxxed before trying to get on a flight to see my son but the end of January was the earliest I could book. Now I’m returning to a state where the government has decide to let Covid rip and I have to find a booster shot before I go because Covid cases are rising faster than ever. At the moment I will be allowed in without having to quarantine but in tend to do so at my son’s home in his backyard bedsit. I dread it if they bring back quarantine in an overpriced “quarantine” hotel where you have less rights than a prisoner and is a major hotspot for catching Covid. Still I’ve survived so far and have something to look foreword to so its not all bad. Have a good Christmas I’m sure Mary is good company even if her present gives you the shits.

  27. ealloc says

    When you’re lost in the snow in Morris, and it’s Christmas time too
    And your gravity fails, and negativity don’t pull you through
    Just don’t put on any airs when you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue
    They got some hungry virus there and it’ll really make a mess outta you

    Now if you see my wife, please tell her thanks a lot
    I cannot move, my fingers they are all in a knot
    I don’t have the strength to get up and take another shot
    And my best friend, the doctor, he won’t even tell me what it is I’ve got

  28. gijoel says

    @Akira That really sucks man. I stopped talking to my mother years ago as I got sick of her verbal (and sometimes) physical abuse. Xmas with the extended family often ended with a shouting match or a brawl, and she was always at the center of it. I’m so glad I don’t have to put up with that shit anymore.

    Stay sane and stay healthy dude.

  29. Akira MacKenzie says

    They all left about an hour ago. I had to step outside a few times to get some air and decompress, especially when matters of race and politics came up, but no incidents or arguments.

    I’m going to spend the rest of the night watching holiday-themed MST3K and Rifftrax episodes.