Sunday, October 30, 2005

So would each of the three Americans who read this blog take a minute to call your representatives and ask them not to fund Bush's stupid war by screwing over sick people? Be sure to specify that you oppose cutting Medicaid, as well as Medicare funds. Elderly people have political clout, so it's likely that Congress won't touch the program that provides medical care for old folks. Poor people do not have political clout, so Medicaid is extremely vulnerable.

In other news, I need to get a humidifier, because the heat has kicked on and my entire body is in revolt, and I really, really want to get this one. Does it say something really bad about me that I'm drawn to appliances that are designed for nurseries?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Yes, actually, I did say my name was Rambling Rose

I'm in a random, rambling mood today.

I ate lunch in the student cafeteria today, and someone had left behind today’s Wall Street Journal. I should know better than to read the editorial page of the WSJ, but there it was, and I was bored, so I read a lovely editorial about Wal-mart. Apparently, the editors of the Journal are distressed because, as part of a blatant bid for better public relations, the head of Walmart has called on Congress to raise the minimum wage. The editorial claimed that the minimum wage is bad for workers and that Wal-mart is a monumental boon for poor people, since it offers them wonderful products at cheap prices and since it provides employment for the little people. Folks who oppose Wal-mart, according to the WSJ, really just hate the idea of big business, because there is nothing about Wal-mart’s business practices that can rightly be criticized. Wal-mart should stop worrying about P.R. and concentrate on providing the same excellent service that they always have.

I would link to the editorial, but the Journal hides its content behind a paid subscription, to prevent the mere hoi polloi from getting our hands on it and laughing in their faces.

What’s so distressing about the WSJ Wal-mart editorial is that it comes the day after the New York Times published a story about Walmart’s plans to drive down the costs of benefits by discriminating against sick people. The Times got their hands on a lovely memo that includes a lot of sneaky suggestions for lowering Wal-mart’s health insurance costs, which have gone up on account of everyone’s health insurance costs sky-rocketing. Some of the suggestions are familiar to anyone who has been paying attention: they’ll hire more part-timers, who aren’t eligible for benefits, for instance. But one suggestion is to keep “unhealthy” people from applying for jobs by making sure that every job requires manual labor. An expensive cripple might be able to staff a cash register, but he or she certainly couldn’t get on a ladder to stock shelves. The plan is that Wal-mart will be justified in not hiring sick or disabled people who can’t do jobs that have been designed to be undoable by sick or disabled people.

I’m sure the WSJ just thinks that’s a super-smart business practice.

In other news, I am such a super stereotypical Jew that I not only wondered if thuggish-looking Astros pinch hitter Lance Berkman was Jewish; I also googled him to find out. It turns out that not only is Berkman Jewish, but Brad Ausmus is also an M.O.T., making the Astros perhaps the most Jewish team in baseball. However, I am not a stereotypical enough Jew for that to make a dent in my hatred for them.

Speaking of things Jewish, Salon informs me that the Pope has thrown a party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of it not being cool for Catholics to hate Jews anymore. Yay, I guess. But the article contained this little tid-bit:

He said that in the future, he hoped that theological dialogue as well as everyday contacts between Christians and Jews would offer a "shared witness" to the promotion of human dignity, the sanctity of life, and the need to build a world of justice and peace.

I’m curious about whether the Vatican’s idea of dialogue includes acknowledging that Jews do not believe that fetuses fall in the category “human life.” This is a position on which Judaism is completely clear, and on which the most orthodox and most theologically-radical Jews agree. I suppose I think this is some kind of litmus test about whether they really want equal dialogue or whether this is just about the Vatican being a little sorry for 2000 years of anti-Jewish abuse, and Jews being deeply, deeply grateful that they’re not telling people we drink the blood of Christian babies anymore. I’m not exactly holding my breathe for the Vatican to recognize that there might be any validity to Jewish moral teachings. It’s always seemed to me that they want dialogue strictly on their terms.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Public Service Announcement

Apparently, it's normal for people with dry eyes to feel worst in the morning. Your eyes don't produce as many tears when you sleep, so when you wake up, they feel scratchy and painful. This is particularly a problem if you wake up an hour before your alarm is supposed to go off, and you're too tired to get out of bed and get your eye drops. This morning, this happened to me, and in an attempt to fully wake up and rouse myself to find the stupid drops, I turned on NPR. The first story I heard was an interview with a woman whose son recently died in Iraq. And then I was crying, and I didn't need my eye drops anymore. So if you have dry morning eyes, I recommend listening to the news. It's much cheaper than eye drops.

Maybe that's a possible new GOP slogan: "The Bush Administration: an effective force for ocular lubrication."

In other news, is it just me, or are Houston baseball fans particularly obnoxious? Maybe it's normal, because I don't usually watch baseball games from the very begining, but I was pretty horrified that they booed the White Sox players as they were being introduced. They booed completely fair calls, as if it were the ump's fault that their pitcher threw a ball rather than a strike. They booed good plays by the White Sox, not that there were too many of those last night. I may just be profoundly prejudiced against Texas, as well as against Barbara Bush, who was awfully conspicuous there in the stands, but they seemed to me to display especially crappy sportsmanship. Call me idealistic, but I think you should want your team to win because they play well, not because the other team plays badly or the umpire makes bad calls in your favor.

Probably any other fans, would be just as bad if their team were down 2 to 0, so maybe it is just that I have issues with Texas and Barbara fucking Bush.

I won't be able to watch the game tonight, which is a shame, because I really enjoy big sporting events. I think it's an extension of the same principal that makes me love Miss America and the Oscars. I like the kind of T.V. that you watch with friends and beer and pizza. I like events in which you can get invested but that have no real-world implications. It's like election night, but without all the angst about whether the world is going to end if the wrong person gets elected.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

All About My Eyes

On Friday, I had an appointment with the rheumatologist. I was nervous about this, because the old rheumatology fellow, whom I liked a lot, finished up her fellowship, and I was due to get a new primary rheumatologist. Luckily, the new rheumatology fellow seems to be as cool as the old one. Both of them talk to me like I'm a human being, explain what they think is going on and what they can't figure out, do not seem offended when I ask questions or express preferences about my treatment, and generally act like they respect my intelligence and autonomy. This is nice and sadly not all that common. The rheumatology attending is fine, too, so I actually have no complaints on the rheumatology front.

So anyway, the new rheumatologist seems unusually interested in my eyes. I have actually been complaining about my eyes pretty consistently for about a year, but this is the first time anyone paid any attention. Last time I went to the ophthamologist, she mentioned that my eyes were dry and told me to get eye drops, but she seemed unconvinced when I suggested that this could be related to my autoimmune weirdness. The problem, I think, is that she still refuses to believe that what's wrong with me really is autoimmune, even though if I had the kind of brain cancer that causes my symptoms, I would almost certainly be dead by now. But since she still thinks I have brain cancer or syphilis, my dry eyes were not interesting to her. On top of the dry eyes, I've also noticed that I can't read websites or magazine articles that don't have a lot of contrast between the background and font colors and that I'm having trouble focusing or reading small print. I've had a couple of weird instances where my eyes have randomly swollen up. And also, my eye has been doing something weird that I thought of as twitching. Nobody is interested in twitching, because that's just a sign of eye strain, which is a pretty normal symptom of being in grad school. But when the rheumatologist looked at my eyes, they did the twitching thing, and she told me that it wasn't twitching at all, but rather some other kind of eye movement that is cause for concern. (I really should have written down the medical term. I may have to call her and ask before I go to the eye doctor.) So I'm supposed to go back to the eye doctor and tell her that I need to have my tear ducts tested to see if I could have Sjogren's Syndrome, which is when your immune system attacks your moisture-producing glands. This would explain my various eye symptoms, as well as my ongoing stomach problems.

So here's how they test your tear ducts. They stick a piece of paper in your eye, and it's really uncomfortable. This makes you cry. After five minutes, they measure how many tears you produce and see if you're crying as much as is normal for someone who has a piece of paper stuck in her eye.

They honestly could not come up with anything more high tech than that.

They're also going to do another test where they put red dye in my eyes and run a special light over them to check for scratches on my cornea. I don't think I'm going to get an emergency appointment to do this, which is a shame, because it would be pretty awesome to dye my eyes red for Halloween. I've already got a witch costume planned out, and red eyes would make it much, much cooler.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day

I've had a day that was replete with suckitude. It was so bad, in fact, that I am too exhausted by its grimness to adequately explicate all the drama. Suffice it to say that the key source of badness was that my advisor called me at 3:15 this afternoon to say that she needed someone to present a paper at a workshop on Thursday and that she thought I should produce a chapter of my dissertation, which I have researched but not yet started to write, by 5 PM tomorrow. She thought that if I stayed up all night and called in sick to work tomorrow morning, I could certainly get it done on time.

I am not, in fact, staying up all night in a crazed attempt to write a chapter of my dissertation in 24 hours. It took a lot of weasling to get out of it, and I have now confirmed that stress makes my vertigo much, much worse. But I can go to sleep now, which is nice.

Would someone like to lend me a sane advisor? Please?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It turns out that every aspect of my being can be attributed to my wonky immune system...

According to this story from The Economist, researchers now suspect that anorexia may be an autoimmune disorder. Seriously. There's a possibility that bulimia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia may have autoimmune components, as well.

How weird is that? Next thing you know, they'll discover that procrastination, PMS, and not liking raw tomatoes are all caused by overactive immune systems, because clearly my entire personality is a result of my being allergic to my own body.

Edited to add: in further what-the-fuck! news on the autoimmunity/ anorexia link, doctors at a children's hospital in Nebraska have identified a small subset of anorexic children in whom anorexia seems to be an autoimmune disease. The distiguishing feature is that their eating disorder occurs suddenly, soon after they have an infection or flu-type thing. And that's exactly what happened to me. I went to bed with a fever and a cough and came out with full-blown anorexia.


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