Swine Flu: A Pregnant Woman's Ordeal (NYT)

For anyone who is doubting getting vaccinated, read about a pregnant woman who came down with H1N1. Pregnant women are at higher risk because their immune systems are suppressed to protect the fetus.

"In the four months she was hospitalized, she spent five weeks in a coma, suffered six collapsed lungs and a near-fatal seizure. High-pressure ventilation blew her up like a molten balloon until “she looked like she weighed 400 pounds,” her husband, Bryan, said, and she has stretch marks from her neck to her ankles. Her muscles and lungs are still so weak that she uses a walker.

While hospitalized, she missed seeing her 4-year-old daughter, Hope, learn to swim and start pre-school.

And, most important, she lost her baby (27 weeks)."



Insect Parts and Rodent Hairs

That chocolate bar that you're eating may contain a rodent hair and insect parts, but don't worry because the FDA says it's okay. Read more...


Anticipating H1N1, Government of Canada Sends Body Bags to First Nations Reserves

First Nations leaders expressed outrage when dozens of body bags were delivered to remote northern communities by the Canadian Government in anticipation of H1N1. Health Canada apologized the following day.



Not in my Herd: Part One

So, the media reports that health care workers in NY are upset that they are required to be immunized against both seasonal and swine flu.

I have a suggestion for you, NY health care workers: perhaps you might consider a new line of work. Maybe your local Waldorf school is hiring?

I think that people who refuse vaccinations for themselves or their children for serious infectious disease are, at best, irresponsible and, at worst, criminal.

There are better sources than me for the public health perspectives involved in this issue, e.g. community health vs. individual rights regarding the concept of vaccination and herd immunity.

But what I will say: the onus is on the government to properly--and sensitively--educate the public about the benefits and risks regarding immunization against H1N1 virus. And it's on the people not to be such kneejerk dumbasses.

This means you, NY health care workers!

And here are the recommendations for swine flu vaccination. They change week to week, so consider bookmarking this page.


swine flu plush toy

GiantMicrobes makes stuffed animals that look like common microbes.

Here is their latest: little Swine Flu.



Eugenicist Advising the President?

The previous American Panic Attack post dealt with poisons in our water that adversely affect reproductive health when people are exposed to them. Coincidentally, at around the same time that the story broke, a blogger broke a related story, one that had been hiding in the plain sight for 32 years: A 1,052-page policy manual called “Ecoscience” (link to full text of book) co-authored in 1977 by President Obama’s top science and technology advisor John P. Holdren. (Holdren co-wrote the book with Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich.)

“Ecoscience” proposes tyrannical (and currently illegal) measures to prevent human overpopulation, one of them being “[a]dding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods”.

Another policy advocated in “Ecoscience” is forced abortions (as performed in Communist China). Speaking of China, Chapter 13 of "Ecoscience" starts with the following quote:

“Of all things people are the most precious.”
-- Mao Tse Tung

Ironic in that Mao holds the title of most prolific mass murderer in modern history, it would be like starting a chapter with a quote from Hitler (who acknowleges his debt of gratitude to American eugenics movement in his book "Mein Kampf").

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, "eugenics" was exposed to the world for what it was: a bogus science used as a pretext for wholesale murder. Re-branded as "Ecoscience" the central conceit remains the same: a cadre of elite scientists and technocrats will decide who gets to live and who gets to die, who gets to have kids, and who will be infertile, to save the earth for whoever is still alive once their "Final Solution" is complete.


Hysterical Pregnancy: Endocrine Disruptors in Our Water Supply

In 2008, the NYT reported that "there are traces of sedatives in NY's water. Ibuprofen and naproxen in D.C. Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety drugs in southern California..."

And now it's reporting that there are artificial estrogens in the water that contribute (like Bisephenol in plastics) to hormonal disruption in unborn children and women of reproductive age.

Nick Kristoff writes on June 27: In heavily polluted Lake Apopka, one of the largest lakes in Florida, male alligators developed stunted genitals. In the Potomac watershed near Washington, male smallmouth bass have rapidly transformed into “intersex fish” that display female characteristics. [M]ore than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs.

Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. For example, up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles, although this often self-corrects over time. And up to 1 percent of boys in the United States are now born with hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base rather than the tip.

Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are very widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine — compounded when a woman is on the pill — pass through sewage systems and then through water treatment plants.

These endocrine disruptors have complex effects on the human body, particularly during fetal development of males.

Some are even positing that the decrease in male children is a result of this phenomenon. And there is a big fossil fuel link... no surprise there, I guess.

How does a woman who wants children or who is pregnant even respond to this? Can't drink bottled water, the plastic is full of estrogens. Can't drink tap water, now we learn that it ,too, has estrogens. Paddle to the middle of a lake, lean over and drink? God!...

Visit the Endocrine Disrupters Exchange for even more troubling reportage...


Peak Oil Blues Blog

The Peak Oil Blues Blog: "Exploring Emotional Reactions to Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Economic Collapse"

A one stop shop for your American Panic Attack.


Raw Deal

So I'm reading Bill Marler on the Nestle cookie dough e. coli outbreak. While I agree with his stance on blaming the victim (apparently, Nestle is faulting the parents who let their children eat the raw dough--nice, right?), I'm also wondering who are these freaking people who eat raw dough or let their kids eat raw dough? At my house, my child has to don a Biohazard suit whenever she's near anything raw. Meat, when I allow it to cross my threshold, is cooked to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

What really got me, however, was this post on his blog. His point in listing the numerous food terrorist incidents is to point out how inadequate and inept our current food safety systems are no matter the cause. It's so incredibly infuriating, particularly when you read about the severity of the illness, and most particularly in children.

BUT, what really got me was the food terrorism list in that post. I mean, I'm aware of Alexander Litvinenko and his polonium-laced food. FINE. That kind of thing happens when you're a KGB agent. It's an occupational hazard. But wait...what's this about cyanide-laced grapes from Chile, or a Michigan supermarket employee tainting hundreds of pounds of ground beef with an insecticide. Say what?? Why didn't I hear about that?

When he gets to the botulism modeling at Stanford, I could barely keep reading, because I was totally freaking out. It's things like this that edge me closer than ever to Julianne Moore-at-the-end-of-the-movie-Safe-porcelain-igloo territory.

But really, there's nothing funny about it. And tonight I'm having spaghetti for dinner--again.


Coyotez in the 'Hood

While the nation is focused on the active shooter scenario and the weird DHS booklet that identifies what an active shooter is ("...an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area," just FYI), I'm more worried about the 2009 coyote uprising.

Canis latrans is mad as hell and he's not going to take it. This blog is keeping tabs on this phenomenon and other animal uprisings. In Denver it's been building to a fever pitch all spring. Here's my favorite quote:
"These are coyotes that were born and raised in the 'hood," said Liza Hunholz, an area manager with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Soundtrack by Eazy-E.


X-Ray Specs

Because I have a (relatively mild) form of autoimmune arthritis, I've had a lot of x-rays in my life. I'm very familiar with my skeleton, and sometimes read diagnostic radiology journals online for fun.

This past fall, I took an introductory course in Principles of Epidemiology. We were discussing study design, and the issue of exclusion criteria. In one of our examples, subjects with spondylitis (my particular form of arthritis) were excluded from a study about bladder cancer. My professor asked why people with this condition might be excluded from the study. Of course, my hand shot up immediately because I knew the answer: multiple x-rays. That is, people with spondylitis have an abnormal amount of x-rays in their pelvic and hip region and are at a higher risk for bladder cancer. They don't represent subjects with 'normal' exposure.

After this class it suddenly occurred to me that I was in this higher risk category. I had never really thought about my condition in this way before. To date, while it's been irritating and has had an impact on my life to an extent, it never really made me feel anxious about my overall health prospects because my case is comparatively mild and while there's no cure, it's probably not going to kill me. I'm much more afraid of swine flu, or cancer, or Hanta virus, or water scarcity causing global unrest.

But suddenly I've been much more cognizant of the number of x-rays that I am prescribed. Rheumatologists love to send me to the radiology lab--dentists love to give me the bitewing x-rays--and of course there are mammograms (and while the researchers are arguing about whether women should start at age 40 or 50 for annual screening mammograms, most obgyns follow the recommendations that send patients at age 40).

So I've spent the last week or so reading up on radiation and risk, and found that there are some interesting tools that one can use to calculate your annual radiation dose.

Here is the EPA's calculator:


Here is one from the American Nuclear Society:


And yet another one by the Neighborhood Environmental Watch Network:


Some of the questions they ask to calculate exposure are pretty interesting. I'm not sure, for example, if I live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant or a coal-fired power plant. I never really thought about how living in the Colorado Plateau gives you 63 mrems a year (as opposed to 16 mrems on the Atlantic coast). Having a gas camping lantern gives you 0.2 mrems annually and sharing a bed with someone gives you 1 mrem.

Here's what the American Nuclear Society says about dose:
The average dose per person from all sources is about 360 mrems per year. It is not, however, uncommon for any of us to receive far more than that in a given year (largely due to medical procedures we may undergo). International Standards allow exposure to as much as 5,000 mrems a year for those who work with and around radioactive material.
Because of my x-rays, my dose is twice as much as the norm. But I'm comforted by the fact that it's 4,373.93 rmems less than the allowable annual maximum permissible dose under the (somewhat frighteningly generous) International Standards.


CDC on Twitter

I must have died and gone to alarmists' heaven. You can now receive emergency alerts from the CDC on Twitter.


Climate Change Apocalypse: 'Extremely Frightening and Turbulent'

I never really thought of global warming as a public health issue...until now. Expect many more updates about my new favorite fear.

Thanks to Lydia M. for the warning:

CLIMATE: Warming may be world's biggest health threat -- study (Thursday, May 14, 2009)

Global warming has surpassed infectious disease, poverty and water shortages as the largest threat to public health, according to a new study from climatologists and medical professionals.

While poorer countries will be the first to feel the effects of a changing climate -- such as exacerbated food and water shortages and humanitarian crises of environmental refugees -- the problem will later cause real and lasting damage in wealthier Western nations, said Anthony Costello, a pediatrician at University College London, which conducted the report published today in The Lancet journal.

"Climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation," Costello said. "We are setting up a world for our children and grandchildren that may be extremely frightening and turbulent."

The researchers said disruptions in climate could cause food, water and energy shortages and population shifts, resulting in wars over increasingly scarce resources (Cortez/Morales, Bloomberg, May 14). -- PR


Not a Fan of Watersports: N. fowleri

Sometimes people are like, Kim, why'd you start this blog? And I'm like, because where else can I describe my fear of Naegleria fowleri and how it keeps me out of lakes?

With summer coming up, I thought it was time for a PSA about my least favorite protist. Note that it has all of the features that I love to hate the most--it's rapidly fatal. Cases typically cause death within a week. And most horrible to my ears are these two words: delayed diagnosis.

Luckily, there's a way to avoid this brain-eating amoeba: stay out of fresh water lakes, especially when the weather is hot! And if you do have to wade into such a body of water, don't let it get up your nose, because that's how it gets you!

It's rare, for sure, but I'm not taking any chances:

'Naegleria fowleri, a free-living ameba, is the causal agent of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which is an acute, fulminant, and rapidly fatal CNS infection. PAM develops within several days of exposure to the contaminated water source and typically causes death within 1–2 weeks after admittance to the hospital. Few individuals survive the infection, partly because of its rapid onset and partly because of delayed diagnosis.'


Facts about Viruses - Swine Flu (NYT)

The NYT had a great piece last Tuesday about viruses and Swine Flu. Here's part of it:

"The current outbreak shows how complex and mysterious the evolution of viruses is. Some viruses use DNA, like we do, to encode their genes. Others, like the influenza virus, use single-strand RNA. But viruses all have one thing in common, said Roland Wolkowicz, a molecular virologist at San Diego State University: they all reproduce by disintegrating and then reforming.

A human flu virus, for example, latches onto a cell in the lining of the nose or throat. It manipulates a receptor on the cell so that the cell engulfs it, whereupon the virus’s genes are released from its protein shell. The host cell begins making genes and proteins that spontaneously assemble into new viruses. 'No other entity out there is able to do that,” Dr. Wolkowicz said. “To me, this is what defines a virus.'

The sheer number of viruses on Earth is beyond our ability to imagine. “In a small drop of water there are a billion viruses,” Dr. Wolkowicz said. Virologists have estimated that there are a million trillion trillion viruses in the world’s oceans. A tank of 100 to 200 liters of sea water may hold 100,000 genetically distinct viruses.

Viruses are diverse because they can mutate very fast and can mix genes. They sometimes pick up genes from their hosts, and they can swap genes with other viruses. Some viruses, including flu viruses, carry out a kind of mixing known as reassortment. If two different flu viruses infect the same cell, the new copies of their genes get jumbled up as new viruses are assembled."

Read the whole story:


Some Thoughts about ALS, BFS, and Darcy Wakefield

About three years ago I developed this total irrational fear that I was developing ALS. It wasn't totally out of the blue; a grad school friend/acquaintance of mine, Darcy Wakefield, had died that year at age 35 from ALS. Her death really threw me. She was super-athletic and just kind of low-key and cool and quietly accomplished, the last person you'd expect to have to suffer such a terrible and rare disease. Her son was 2 or 3 when she passed away, and she'd been paralyzed nearly since his birth.

That summer was incredibly hot in LA, and I fainted one night outside a Mexican restaurant and had to be taken to the ER and evaluated for a seizure disorder (it turned out to be just dehydration). I then started having terrible panic episodes, and was positive that I had ALS. I was terrified all the time. My muscles were twitching and I had periods of numbness in my leg where I had trouble walking and climbing stairs. I sought comfort on the AboutBFS online forum (BSF stands for 'benign fasciculation syndrome,' which is, as the name suggests, a benign syndrome in which your muscles contract and twitch--but because of the similar symptomology to ALS, at least in the beginning of the disease, BFS sufferers are all really paranoid about ALS (on the site, they won't even write it out and refer to it as AL* or A*S or 'the disease'). Mind you, there's no real evidence that BFS leads to or is a risk factor for ALS. There is some minor overlap of symptoms, but most of what people with BFS suffer is different in nature than early onset of ALS. It just feels dire.

Anyway, after a few months, my twitching and numbness resided and my doctor figured I might have done some nerve damage exercising which caused the bodily uproar. With rest, and, I admit, a pretty good arsenal of anti-anxiety medication, I recovered and was fine.

For the past couple weeks recently, I've had a return of my twitching, except this time in my eardrums. Tonight I went back and visited AboutBFS and it was pretty much the same old postings, frightened people relatively new to the site delineating their symptoms and asking if it sounded like AL* while old-timers comforted them and said no, it didn't, that ALS was this or that while they had classic BFS symptoms. It is repeated so often it's ritualistic. I wanted to post a comforting email about how once I had managed to control my obsession about having ALS, I got better as my body calmed down and healed.

Since then, I've looked into the statistics of ALS, which has an incidence rate of 2-5 per 100,000 in the US. That's extraordinarily low. Even though the odds are very stacked in their favor, BFS'ers might want to look the disease in the eye (as Darcy did) and just confront what may or may not happen to them and make their choices from there.

I wish that I were more involved with ALS support, like donations or walks, etc. But I admit that I'm not. I do check in from time to time with the BSF folks because I really feel like they are my peeps--American Panic at its most vulnerable and often eloquent. I always try to help them because, despite my sometimes-continued craziness, I think I'm a lot better.

Anyway, without wanting to be maudlin or exploitative of Darcy's death, I do just want to say that I still think about her even though I really only glancingly knew her back in the mid-90's. I know that I probably will not suffer from a motor neurone disease, but being sick that summer made me realize that you can or should never discount what could happen to you. We're not that special. Bad things will, eventually happen to you as they will to everyone. So keep that in mind and live your life.



Swine Flu tracker app for iPhone

This is just what I need. Not really.

Swine flu tracker app for iPhone allows you to panic anywhere.


Breezy, with a Chance of Cytokine Storms...

Cytokine Storm is my new least favorite phrase.

Here's a primer for you:


And please bookmark this site. It's an important one:



holy swine flu, batman!

it's time to break out the face masks!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tests have confirmed that eight New York City schoolchildren had a type A influenza virus, likely swine flu, city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said Saturday.

Samples have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing to see if they are indeed the unusual H1N1 flu strain that has killed up to 68 people in Mexico and may have sickened others, Frieden told a news conference.

"In every single case, illness was mild. Many of the children are feeling better," Frieden said.

"What is concerning about this is that it is likely swine flu and second that it is spreading person to person," Frieden said. He added, "We have seen no increase citywide in flu-like cases."

About 100 students at a school in the New York City borough of Queens became sick last week, prompting the tests, according to local media reports.

A quick throat swab test can tell if a person has influenza but further testing is usually required to determine the strain.

The World Health Organization has declared the swine flu outbreaks in Mexico and the United States a "public health event of international concern," but says more information is needed before raising the pandemic threat level.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed eight people from California and Texas were infected with the H1N1 strain, but all had recovered.


Everyday Preppers

I've long been fascinated by survivalism and all of its subtypes: flu preppers, peak oil preppers, and now economic survivalists. I have to admit, while I'm too lazy to do it myself, there is something very appealing and comforting about the idea of stockpiling food "to last two winters," as they say. Having a flour and grist mill is apparently very important, and there are some fancy ones out there that I've found recommended on prepper sites. It's kind of hard to imagine grinding flour to make -what? bread? matzoh?- during the apocalypse when there's a war of all against all. But I have a feeling that survivalists will be eating well in the fraught future while the rest of survive on cold cans of Spaghetti-o's.

Here's a few favorite sites to get you started:





Pandemic Watch 2009

So the news is that avian flu is mutating into something less virulent--and therefore more able to become pandemic. This might make you reconsider your trip to Egypt this year:


p.s. there is also apparently a board game called Pandemic which I would like to check out.


Ameros for everyone

Someone sent me this video about the Amero conspiracy.

According to these people, the US dollar will soon have no value, and any assets in dollars "will no longer be money, and a whole bunch of us will be instantly destitute." The government will then convert all US, Mexican and Canadian money into Ameros, which they will sell for pennies on the dollar. The government will then bring the military home from Iraq and establish a police state as enraged, destitute Americans take to the streets.

Well, if it brings the troops home, I guess this conspiracy theory isn't all bad...


I liked this video response:



SARS, Mumps and Creepy PSAs

Ever since the Toronto SARS outbreak (a deadly pneumonia-like pandemic that swept the city's hospitals), the people of TO have been generally wary of hospitals. If you get sick here, it's not uncommon to hear someone say: "Whatever you do, don't go to the hospital!" SARS has become part of our cultural fabric; for example, CTV produced a deliciously cheesy movie about the pandemic called Plague City: SARS in Toronto. See trailer:


Oh sure: blame everything on the Yuen Tak Butcher Shop! Truth is, even without SARS, Canada's hospitals, being state-funded, are often grotty and sometimes frightening. (Michael Moore just doesn't get it). So the government is trying to win us back to the medical system, especially basic services like immunization which have fallen to the wayside for a lot of people.

How are they doing this? By frightening the hell out of us! Check out this ad:



Break-Ins: a Hot Trans-Pacific Trend

I live in a rather subdued and safe neighborhood, and the apartment complex is watched at all hours by a group of security guards. In the past three years since I moved back to Seoul, I never worried about open windows--until yesterday, that is.

The first thing I noticed when I confusedly stepped through the unlocked front door was the open box of my forgotten, unused Japanese sauce dishes on the kitchen table. The unfamiliar sight of those dishes was instantly followed by the thunderous realization that something was amiss. Thunderous. Then, half my body still out the door, I saw that all the drawers and boxes I could see were open--at least partly. You never know how many big and small boxes you live with, when they are all stored neatly out of sight. Shoe boxes, plate boxes, photo boxes, jewelry boxes, and even boxed presents and gifts that you lay aside for future use. They were all open, and things were all out. When I calmed down a bit later, I was actually quite impressed with the thoroughness of the burglars, who went through all the drawers and even looked into the few unused perfume boxes in the closet without taking the perfumes.

Thankfully, the several policemen who came to "the crime scene" were very nice and efficient. One of them was a Crime Scene Investigator, and explained to me how the intruders got in, pointing at the bent bar in one of the windows and the shoe marks left on the windowsills and the floor. While the investigation was going on, they did a good job of patiently comforting and reassuring me who was worried beyond description that the intruders might repeat their visit now that they learned this was a one-woman household. They told me where to call for a quick installation of extra-security window locks and even gave me a few alarm bells that I can attach to doors and windows. These alarm bells have sensors so they will scare and deafen intruders, in lieu of Randolph's roaring, when windows are forced open. Later, two young, sprightly police officers came back twice to see how I was doing.

Most of us earthlings are affected by the extended global financial crises, and we are suffering from the new economy of no economic policies at all (except for "the-rich-get-richer" policy) in this part of the world as well. I had heard of the increasing number of break-ins in recent news, but I never thought those breaker-inners should redistribute MY wealth--or my lack thereof. And I hardly knew whether to be angry or sorry. When I asked the police about the possiblity of repeated intrusion, I was secretly afraid that the extent of my "wealth" offended the burglars and that they might want to take revenge on me for their wasted labor. I only hope that the few trinkets they bothered to take would remind them that most ordinary people should be spared from their grand masterplan of wealth redistribution.

Economic concerns, however, may be a less immediate issue than personal safety. I have an alarm bell on my bedroom door now. While putting it on the door, I asked myself: Will it keep me safe, let alone my wealth? It's supposed to help, of course. But if I ever hear that alarm bell go off in the middle of the night, it means I'm in the presence of an intruder in my own bedroom. This is a strange idea to entertain. Here I am, trying to use something the use of which I should NEVER EVER benefit from. It seems, in the end, nothing can ever keep us safe. All the same, I also had the extra-security window locks installed ASAP as the police recommended. Am I safe, now? I choose to go with the illusion that I am. At least for now.


Traffic Can Triple Heart Attack Risk

Make sure your vessels are free of plaque before you take a bike ride Angelenos...thank god I perfected FTL travel...it's the only way LA is manageable!


Break-Ins: The hot new job

As our economy continues to unfurl like a evil poisonous flower into the "new economy" of rampant unemployment, packs of wild dogs galumphing through the streets, and the ever more manic "social networking" that may just possibly hook one up with a job some day, BREAK-INS will become a more popular and horrible way of wealth redistribution.

I myself have none of the skills necessary to join in on the break-in phenomenon, except for what I have gleaned from movies and television. I don't think I would be capable of making my way Mission Impossible style through all those invisible red laser lines. If only there were some kind of underground economy version of the Learning Center that offered "Break-In 101."

Our Korean correspondent suffered a break-in just yesterday. She described it as:

"All the drawers and boxes in the apartment were turned upside down when I came home, and there was a serious CSI situation for a while, with the police officers taking shoeprints etc. I just finished cleaning things up. Fortunately I had nothing worth stealing, and didn't lose much. My youngest brother came over to stay here tonight. I can't wait to fall asleep--will update tomorrow."

Hopefully once she has the peace of mind, she can post about it here.

I've suffered two break-ins in my time.

The first was a couple of decades ago in Highland Park.

My girlfriend of the time and me returned to our rented house to discover that everything had (as above) been emptied out onto the floor. All 16 of my CDs had been stolen. They seemed very valuable at the time. They had gone through my non-CD music as well. To my dismay, they had rejected all of it save the Prince stuff. My girlfriend's jewelry was safe. I had thought myself very clever one day when I found a moveable ceiling board and put her jewelry above it. But I never anticipated that it would ever be needed.

The weirdest thing was the discovery of the item that pointed to how they entered the house. All the doors were still locked. Only the tiny bathroom window had been left open. Once I put all my shirts back in the drawers and closet, I discovered that I had acquired a new shirt: a small boy's shirt. He must have climbed through the little window to let the others in. And found a shirt of mine that he had liked better, I suppose. I never figured out which shirt was so alluring.

You would think that I would have learned my lesson: keep all the windows locked.

But who learns lessons?

So some years later, we were living in an apartment on the west side and had lazily slid into the habit of leaving our windows open on hot summer nights.

I woke up one night needing to go to the bathroom. I was naked and I wasn't wearing my glasses. As I entered the hallway, I could see the blurry figure of a male in the living room.

Adrenalin took over and directed me into some primeval and foolish behavior. I rushed toward the figure and literarily ROARED. Yes indeed I made a huge ROAR. Who knew I could ROAR?

Well it must have scared the shit out of the intruder. For instead of stabbing me with the kitchen knifes which were not too far from where he was standing or pulling out a gun and shooting me in the eye, he seemed to instantly leap backwards out the window he had entered. It was an amazing sight, like something out of a heavily CG'd superhero movie.

I kept moving forward driven by an adrenalin wave and looked out the window to see the perp doing a freak-out dash through the parking lot.

The adrenalin was still surging through my now clothed body when the cops arrived. But by then it had turned into feeling very very cold and an inability to stop shaking.

As in the previous incident, there were items left behind. The intruder had made off with my wallet. I was fortunate that he dropped it at the far end of the parking lot, sans money, but still holding IDs, credit cards, etc.

But during his American Panic Attack, he had also left something else behind, something just outside the window -- his SHOES.

I guess one of the things that you learn in Break-In 101 is to enter the sleeping household in your stocking feet. So he had gained my money, but had been forced to go back to the mean streets running like hell in his sock feet. There was some measure of victory in that. And I even felt some pity for him.

I was a little astonished at my own behavior. Couldn't I have just shut and locked the bedroom door and called 911? No, for some reason, my wild untrammeled self felt the need to run at the possibly armed and dangerous intruder and ROAR.

So learn from this. If you're going to fuck with me, wear earplugs.



because apparently there aren't enough common diseases for me to live in fear of...

here are 11 baffling medical conditions.

my personal favorite is cold uritcaria - you break out in welts and bumps when you are exposed to cold temperatures. i occasionally break out in hives for no apparent reason. the next time it happens i'll have to check that i haven't just been in a walk-in freezer or stuck my hand in cold running water. if this is my problem, i may need to knit more sweaters.


Creepy Canadian workplace safety ads

Canada terrifying its workers into workplace safety, with some dark humour along the way. Damn!


The Hysterical Pregnancy: Internet Panic

So last night I went out to eat and ordered steamed greens, topped with a mountain of sweet potatoes. Lots of colorful, vitamin-y food. I get home and start wondering "I wonder how much Folic acid kale has? I bet it's really healthy!" so I Google it. Pretty soon I am linking to all these sites about what (not) to eat during pregnancy. Then I stumble on this site, which theorizes that eating sweet potatoes may cause Vitamin A toxicity and lead to miscarriage.

In fact, according to this site, eating just one sweet potato can cause a TOXIC vitamin overload, your baby will DIE, it's all your fault and if only you had chosen Tater Tots instead of sweet potato fries you would be a truly fulfilled woman. http://prenatal-health.suite101.com/article.cfm/nutrition_for_the_first_trimester and:

Ok, you know what? Our women's studies professors were right. Pregnancy has been over-medicalized and scrutinized in order to take our reproductive power away from us and put it in the hands of the patriarchy. Not much has changed in the last 50 years, except that nowadays the patriarchy uses pink backdrops and hires a lot of female writers. Women's magazines and websites are whipping us into a panic about our relationships, pregnancy and parenthood … so much that we are unable to listen to our own bodies and make reasonable decisions without second-guessing ourselves. We've got to stop the hysteria!


The Marler Blog

If you're interested in outbreaks of food-borne illness and litigation--and WHO ISN'T?--I highly recommend the Marler Blog. Here's a description of the author, attorney William Marler:

Bill has focused his practice on representing individuals, mostly children, in litigation resulting from E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, hepatitis A, and other food-contamination cases, and has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak across the country. He has represented individuals against BJ's Wholesale Club, Chili's, Chi-Chi's, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, and Wendy's, as well as other food companies and restaurants.

It's like a Who's Who list of restaurants NEVER to visit and food brands NEVER to buy. Thanks, Bill!

His blog is super-lively and there are scores of sub-blogs, like the Mad Cow blog; the Listeria blog; the Norovirus blog; and the Cyclospora blog.

Truly, I recommend:



Famished pack of dogs maul German tourist in Italy

I do not want to have my face or any other part of my body "disfigured" by a pack of mistreated animals while I am on vacation. Them poor dogs, too.


On Acute Subdural Hematomas

Acute subdural hematomas are a type of terrible traumatic brain injury. Any time that I've bumped my head in my life, the catastrophizer in me immediately believes that I have a subdural hematoma. This fear began when I hit my head on a can recycler at work a few years ago. Blood running down my face, I sought the advice of a a co-worker who had trained as a paramedic. "How does it look?" I asked anxiously as he rooted around my scalp.

"I think it's just a bump," he replied. "But if you start to have a headache or feel drowsy, you might want to head to the ER. I've seen even slight bumps turn out to be subdural hematomas, and the person's up and walking around and saying they're fine, and 12 hours later they're in a coma or dead."

And so it began. The worst part about a subdural hematoma is that it can have a fairly slow onset, so the person might seem fine initially after the injury. While acute hematomas are most common with severe injury or trauma, this isn't always the case, as my paramedic friend pointed out. Even a slight fall can damage the veins and cause a rupture. And finally, acute hematomas have a very high mortality rate. All of this equals my worst nightmare.

Today, when I read the news about the actress Natasha Richardson, it brought my hematoma fears front and center. The story as it's unfolding is: she was skiing on a beginner's slope, she fell, it didn't seem very serious and she seemed fine for an hour or so until she began to complain of a headache. Now, she's in critical condition.

While I'm not sure we're talking acute subdural hematoma, I'm guessing. And of course I'm wishing her well.


Stocks are Up, Prions Still Misfolded

There was a news report just released that iron contributes to prion-disease-associated neurotoxicity. I have no doubt this insight will be discussed at length at the forthcoming PRION 2009 conference. Who wants to go with me? It's in Greece this year and it costs this inscrutable amount which I'm willing to pay: 380,00 €



North Korean Rocket Launch?

A space rocket launch, or a missile experiment? This is a repetition of an old story, but it is also a new story each time. Of course, the US and ROK had to conduct the biggest ever mock-war joint military operation just a few inches off the coast of North Korea with all kinds of man-of-wars and state-of-the-art mass killing machines, while N.K is playing with the space rocket/missile threat. As the super conservative, super neoliberal South Korean government makes North Korea increasingly hostile to everyone and everything, tension is building up; and even South Koreans who are normally quite accumstomed to this kind of "face off" are getting antsy. The media constantly talk about how N.K.'s new & advanced rockets may be able to fly across the Pacific and reach the US west coast. As if, really.



Thank You, President Obama

For finally doing something about food safety!

Read about it on my new favorite blog:



Beware of Public Restroom Soap

From The Associated Press:

Mar 13th, 2009 | MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Department of Transportation is keeping the Interstate 10 welcome center in Baldwin County closed until it gets test results on a suspicious substance found in a soap dispenser. Department spokesman Tony Harris said Friday the department is waiting on tests as a precaution.

The center was closed Monday because of an unusual odor in the men's restroom and because the liquid soap in a dispenser in that bathroom had an unusual color.

The center's attendants saw doctors as a precaution, but Harris said no problems were found.

The center averages 840 vehicles stopping each day.

Lucky for me, I don't travel to Alabama, and while I do wash my hands after using the bathroom, I don't use that nasty, nuclear pink restroom soap. I try not to touch anything with my bare hands. I probably use a dozen of those scratchy paper towels per trip - one to open the stall door, one to turn on the faucet, one to get more paper towels, etc. I feel bad that I'm wasting so much paper, but I guess my personal hygiene and protection ranks above my love for the planet.

I knew it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

I'm Disappointed in Switzerland

I've been considering relocating to an "uncooperative tax haven" but now that Switzerland's caved, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Austria and Luxembourg have all thrown in the towel as well.

Looks like it'll have to be Monaco:



Solid security

For starters, here is a strange little number that someone sent me. It's funny that something from so long ago that is supposed to be happy and gay seems now so imbued with foreboding (the haunting screech of the horn section) and outright creepiness.


On to emergency preparedness. I am wondering who this colouring activity is being given to:

"If an emergency happens in your community, it may take emergency workers
some time to reach you. You should be prepared to take care of yourself and
your family for a minimum of 72 hours."

I feel dumb going to buy 3 days of water at Sobey's. I think if I had kids, I'd feel different. But maybe it doesn't make me a survivalist to think about these things. Look at how prepared Canadians are: http://safecanada.ca/link_e.asp?category=4&topic=186.

Panic Attack: Think Global, Act Local

Who told me to relaunch the blog? Dr. Home Air, that's who. He's the expert behind my $5 home radon test. And what is radon? According to the EPA, radon is:

'a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You can't see radon. And you can't smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home.'
Colorless, odorless, and responsible for thousands of deaths from lung cancer each year. Now you're speaking my language!

With the world economy in freefall, 2009 is proving to be the most panic-inducing year yet. So what can you do about it? For starters, test for radon. It may not prevent the collapse of world markets, but at least you'll know where you stand at home:


Blog Archive