Archive for Ease and Disease

Random afflictions

I worked, if not extraordinarily hard, at least hard enough today to push this old body into putting up some resistance; just short of the nine-hour mark I felt like someone had decided to shove a meat thermometer into my shoulder. It didn’t last long — a couple of seconds — but it apparently triggered every conceivable source of pain I have, and a few I didn’t comprehend at all. I’d had this happen once before without side effects, so this event was decidedly more disturbing, and my heart rate picked up markedly, especially after walking around distributing stuff. For a moment I contemplated not actually driving home, lest several systems fail at once, something that’s not good at rest, and even less so at 65 mph.

Symptoms continued to be wildly variable until dinnertime. It wasn’t that I was hungry, exactly, but climbing up on the stool at the breakfast bar got me off my feet for not quite half an hour. Still, I’m a bit woozy, and I still have shoulder pain, though it’s in the other shoulder. I did try one of my more recent mantras: “Outlive Zeke Emanuel.” It helped a little, but not enough.

I expect I’ll be back at work before sunrise: these things never last long — except, of course, for the last one.

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Catheters to the sky

Few organizations can build, build, build like big hospitals, especially big “non-profit” hospitals. Jack Baruth has damned near financed one himself:

The hospital in Upper Arlington that handled my trauma case in 1988 handled my trauma case in 2014. It’s quintupled in size, the original tower where I entertained my visitors now an embarrassing old relic surrounded by monstrous, architecturally-complex structures with the sheen and swagger of Las Vegas casino hotels. The population it serves has remained more or less static since ’88, so why have the buildings multiplied? The same thing hasn’t happened to my local fast-food restaurants or auto-parts stores.

Part of it’s the aging and sickening of the Boomers, but most of it is simply the fact that healthcare costs and profits are soaring in this country at a rate typically reserved for college tuition, and for the same reason: there’s a disconnect between the people who receive the service and the people who pay for it. Healthcare is the new oil boom or gold rush, but the resource we’re mining is a resource called ourselves. There’s no limit to the amount of money you can make.

Unless, of course, you’re a doctor. Doctors and nurses aren’t clocking all this crazy cash. It’s going to massive billion-dollar corporations that provide medical supplies, devices, tests, and all the junk that surrounds you when you enter a hospital. Cotton swabs made in a Mexican factory for fractions of a cent and sold to you like they were solid gold. Drugs that cost pennies to produce and thousands of dollars to buy. Patented tests and procedures that you’ll demand because they offer you a one-percent chance of living longer at the cost of your entire retirement savings. Because what’s the balance sheet of your employer or your insurance provider or even your own family against the prospect of life or death?

Just don’t tell Zeke Emanuel how old you are.

(Semi-amusingly, someone edited Emanuel’s Wikipedia page yesterday to show him as having died yesterday. I’m pretty sure he’s not dead.)

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Who moved my infected cheese?

You know, if they’re going to eat it themselves, it’s no loss to anyone. But just in case:

Investigators in Liechtenstein are probing the theft of 1.3 tonnes of cheese that was set to be destroyed because it contained dangerous bacteria, according to a report from the Swiss news agency ATS.

The country’s food inspection office is concerned the bad cheese will be sold either directly or indirectly, posing a health risk to anyone who consumes it, ATS reported on Tuesday.

And this is seriously bad cheese:

The problem is the “Alp Sücka” cheese was found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes listeriosis, a potentially deadly infection.

Word to all you sückahs in the Alps: steer clear of this Deadly Cheese.

(Via Consumerist.)

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The coldest place you can go

McMurdo Station? Baffin Bay? Nothing so remote. You want chills like you’ve literally never had before, your destination is on La Cienega Boulevard in L.A.:

There, a business called Cryohealthcare promises visitors a cure for inflammatory problems — everything from rheumatoid arthritis to musculoskeletal injuries and autoimmune disorders. The process, overseen by the handsome Germany-born Dr. Jonas Kuehne, costs $65 a treatment and involves stripping to one’s underwear (or naked if you’re a woman); donning a robe, knee-length socks, gloves and a surgical mask; and entering a chamber that resembles a time machine. Aptly so as you are hurled back to the Ice Age, your body engulfed in a terrifying cloud of vapor and the temperature plummeting to -220°F. (The lowest natural temperature ever recorded has been -128.5°F in Antarctica.) Kuehne says such low temperatures stimulate cells to produce proteins called cytokines that fight inflammation. When I emerged 90 seconds later, did I feel great? Maybe at first, but that might have been euphoria about still being alive. I then was invited to do it again, which I agreed to for some inexplicable reason. A few hours later I began to not feel well at all, and for several days the skin on my legs felt a little freezer-burned.

You want colder than that, you’ll have to leave California. Oh, and you’d better be already dead:

[T]he body of famed computer coder Hal Finney was flown to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., shortly after he died Aug. 28 of ALS. That night, his fluids were replaced with a proprietary chemical solution called M-22. His body then was chilled to -320°F and placed in an aluminum pod suspended within a 450-liter tank filled with liquid nitrogen. There, Finney will remain in suspended animation, or biostasis, until he can be revived. (Full-body cryopreservation costs $200,000, but one can preserve one’s brain for a mere $80,000.) Exactly how or when that might be achieved is unclear, but according to the Alcor website, the key lies in nanotechnology, by which molecule-sized devices could “recover any preserved person in which the basic brain structures encoding memory and personality remain intact.”

I’m not sure whether I should scoff at any of this or not.

(Via Commonsense & Wonder.)

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Once burned, ice shy

The late Lou Gehrig, an eminently sensible man, would probably not have encouraged people to dump water on their heads for the sake of research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. But being an eminently sensible man, he also wouldn’t have attributed the phenomenon to Beelzebub:

A WorldNetDaily writer can’t fathom why anyone would willingly dump ice water on themselves, so she did some digging and has now concluded that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a satanic ritual.

“I began to think about the IBC,” Selena Owens explains in the piece. “Whose idea was this? Why would people so easily agree to being drenched in icy water? Who participated and who didn’t? Why do people feel obligated to take the challenge if offered to them? What’s the purpose of calling out three other people to take the challenge?”

It gets sillier after that, believe it or not.

Says Lynn:

I don’t even know what to say about this, folks, except that it’s really, really effed up. Someone please go dump a bucket — no, a trash can — full of ice over Selena Owens’ head. Maybe the ritual will reboot her brain.

And since it’s Friday, here’s Rebecca Black on the receiving end:

To the guy who said she should have been wearing white: give it a rest, why doncha?

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More than just a weird trick

Actual subject line from yesterday’s mail: “This Simple Action Poisons Your Organs (On National TV)”.

Inevitably, there’s a questionable link, with this text: “Why Eating Salad Makes You Old.” I rather suspect that I’d be old even if I’d never had a salad in my life. (Last actual salad: last night.)

And the sender, it says, is “Reverse Disease.” Um, what about all that organ poisoning?

There are, say the experts, people who respond to these things. How? Surely they’re dead by now.

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Friends with Benadryl

You may have thought you were up for a visit and maybe even some late-night sexytime, but think again:

Over-the-counter antihistamines, especially diphendyramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), may alleviate your allergies, but temporarily affect your love life. The solution here could be as simple as carefully timing when you take the drug. “Many of these drugs do not last 24 hours and certainly their side effects don’t,” says Allison Dering-Anderson, Pharm.D., a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “Antihistamines should be cleared in eight hours in younger and healthier patients.” Keep in mind that antihistamines are also found in many combination cough-and-cold medicines so read the label. You may be taking antihistamines and lowering your libido without knowing it.

I’d worry about this more, I think, if they’d paid more attention to their spearchucker spellchecker: it’s actually diphenhydramine. (Then again, “chlorpheniramine” is now the officially adopted US spelling for what the rest of the world — including, until about ten minutes ago, me — calls “chlorphenamine.”)

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Meet the (Chinese) beetles

Jack Baruth tells you the horrible story of Agrilus planipennis:

The Emerald Ash Borer is scheduled to kill eight billion trees in North America in the near future. As a country, we had no defense against it. The predators which hold the EAB under control in China haven’t made it into an iPhone crate yet. Every ash tree in this country and Canada will die. Eight billion trees. Eight billion, most of them mature. The Nature Conservatory says they will plant a billion trees by 2025. Well, for every tree you plant, the Chinese beetle will kill eight. We’re told that the rainforest is disappearing at a staggering rate. It’s something like two or three billion trees a year. In other words, this beetle is kicking the ass of the Global Corporate Rainforest Destroying Bush-Hitler Machine, all by itself.

And yet you’ll never hear about those eight billion trees outside of a special-interest magazine because it’s critical that we not pay too much attention to what we actually suffer as a country by sending all our manufacturing and applied science to a country full of people who, as a rule, view us as uncultured, depraved monkeys. It’s critical that the manufacturing keep leaving this country so the power and the influence shift to the politicians and the major blogs and the thought leaders in Silicon Valley. Once upon a time, the wealthiest county in the United States was Oakland County [Michigan], where the auto executives and the $100,000-a-year blue-collar overtime workers lived. Now it’s #61 on the list. Four of the five wealthiest counties in the nation now directly border Washington, D.C. You see how the power shifts when money stops coming from commerce and starts coming from quantitative easing.

But then, this isn’t necessarily about trees — or commerce:

When the trees crashed down I thought about some other things, some other people. You can love someone and have a relationship with them but the beetles can get in there, they can burrow, they can leave the bark untouched but the damage beneath is enough to kill. Then one day the bark falls off and you realize how long it’s been dead, how long you’ve been ignoring it, how long you’ve been hoping that spring would come and you’d see leaves, knowing in your heart that you would only see branches.

When I moved here I had twelve trees, a pretty fair number for a quarter of an acre. Now I have thirteen, but three of them are standing only because neither saw nor wind in adequate quantity has been provided, and, as Jack says, “Having trees cut down is more expensive than having them planted, by the way, the same way a divorce attorney is more expensive than a justice of the peace.” Yep.

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When sphygs fly

This may mean nothing to you, but I assure you it means something to me:

The Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) has released new guidelines on the management of adult hypertension.

The authors formed nine recommendations which are discussed in detail along with the supporting evidence. Evidence was taken from randomized controlled trials, the gold standard for establishing efficacy and effectiveness. Some of the new major recommendations include:

1. In patients aged ≥ 60 years, initiate pharmacologic treatment in systolic BP ≥ 150mmHg or diastolic BP ≥ 90mmHg and treat to a goal systolic BP < 150mmHg and goal diastolic BP < 90mmHg. (Strong Recommendation–Grade A)

The other recommendations didn’t come so highly, um, recommended. No matter. This is the one that pertains to me, inasmuch as I am indeed aged ≥ 60 years.

This also supports my ongoing hypothesis to the effect that any human-health risk factor supposedly graven in stone will eventually be eroded away and replaced by something else. In this case, the goal has been increased somewhat because the most recent numbers suggest a greater risk with lower blood pressure:

Patients with SBP between 120–129mmHg had a 10% greater risk of renal disease or mortality vs. those with SBP between 130–139mmHg; those with SBP from 140–149mmHg had a 40% greater risk. The lowest risk was seen at 137mmHg and 71mmHg.

Of course, this too is subject to change.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Vergrößerungen

I have no idea why this should be so, but evidently this is so:

Germany is the world’s leader in penis enlargements, with five times as many people in the country undergoing the procedure than anywhere else in the world…Figures released by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery showed Germany performed 2,786 of the 15,000 penis enlargements across the globe in 2013. The second highest country, Venezuela, performed 473.

Then again, the other half of the species, in their search for Teutonic firmness, ordered twenty times as many bewb jobs, and probably got 0.05 percent as much spam suggesting same.

Side note: Twelve Iranian men ordered wangoplasty, the lowest number in the Society’s tally. Write your own joke.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Marginally refillable

You’d think that in this putative era of Medical Marvels we could do better than this:

Got a letter from Walgreens, a form letter out of a computer, but an actual printed-on-paper, delivered-by-snail-mail letter the other day. It’s telling me that one of my prescriptions has expired, and the doctor hasn’t stepped up and authorized any more. All this requesting and authorizing is done with fax machines, so if the doc is going to authorize more drugs for me, he’s going to need the fax number. Well, where is it? It’s not in the letter, it’s not on their website, so I call, fight with the robo-cop answering machine, wade through an armload of protocol with the operator and finally get the fax number. Call the doctor’s office and they tell me they don’t need the fax number, all this prescription s*** is handled electronically now.

I am particularly concerned because I’m at a place about one step in back of this: everything going in and coming out on my behalf is fax, even if it’s that weird-looking electronic fax that’s sent as TIFF files or something, and I have about ten prescriptions to deal with every month.

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Withering staff

Inoperable prostate cancer killed Frank Zappa at 53. Did he get off easy, so to speak?

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The rest is cat videos

“It is estimated most human beings use only 10 percent of the brain’s capacity,” intones Morgan Freeman’s character, a neuroscientist in Luc Besson’s film Lucy. (Characters played by Morgan Freeman always intone. That’s why they hire him in the first place: Morgan Freeman intones better than anyone else.) “Imagine if we could access 100 percent.”

This is, says Christian Jarrett, author of Great Myths of the Brain (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), complete and utter balderdash:

Certainly there is no truth to the idea that we only use 10 percent of our neural matter. Modern brain scans show activity coursing through the entire organ, even when we’re resting. Minor brain damage can have devastating effects — not what you’d expect if we had 90 percent spare capacity. Also, consider the situation when neural tissue representing a limb is rendered redundant by the loss of that limb. Very quickly, neighbouring areas recruit that tissue into new functions, for example to represent other body regions. This shows how readily the brain utilises all available neural tissue.

On the other hand, I think you could make a good case that the act of voting uses only 10 percent of the brain’s capacity, based simply upon the results of recent elections.

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A pittance for you, serf

You may remember this boilerplate, copied from a letter I received from CFI Care (not its real initials) two years ago:

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the individual and small group market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on health care services and activities to improve health care quality (in the large group market, this amount is 85 percent). This is referred to at the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule or the 80/20 rule. If a health insurer does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services and activities to improve health care quality, the insurer must rebate the difference.

I didn’t get anything rebated to me that year, but Brian J. did, and he got some this year, too:

Yeah, I got my $36 check with a letter mandated by law to remind me that Obama’s got my back.

Strangely, the letter from my insurer that said my health insurance was going up $200 a month did not mention the ACA.

I’m sure that’s an oversight.

But of course.

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Turd-world problems

Remember when advertising for constipation remedies was restrained, even vague? Well, forget that crap:

Ad for Dulcolax

Copyranter explains where this came from:

Above is a new ad just pushed out the PR poop chute this week by McCann China. Dulcolax is one of the world’s leading laxative brands, made by $15 billion German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim.

The anthropomorphized “Shits” here are imprisoned in your anus, as you can see. The Shits have eyes. A couple of the Shits have boobs. Child Shits are present. One of the Shits, the one marking the days on the “prison” wall has been up your ass a long time. If you’ve ever had a colonic, you know this is accurate. Dulcolax will not save him.

And Copyranter has a lot more where that came from, so to speak.

Now I’m recalling George Carlin’s “Shoot”:

No one ever uses the word ‘shit’ really literally, y’know? … They have other words for that: doo-doo, ca-ca, poo-poo, and good old Number Two.

I suspect this assessment is dead in the water, and not the cleanest water either.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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No, the other glove

I don’t know about the rest of you, but something like this would definitely affect my singing voice, at least temporarily:

Last Friday … Vice President and General Manager of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans Andy Milovich accepted a challenge to receive an in-game prostate exam while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. The catch? Fierce Fallon’s Facebook Page had to reach 10,000 “Likes” by Thursday at 12:00 PM EST. Supports quickly jumped onboard and blew past the 10K goal shortly after 4:00 PM on Monday afternoon. Milovich is now set to receive the exam during [tonight's] Prostate Cancer Awareness Night. The exam will be administered by Dr. Glenn Gangi of Atlantic Urology Specialists in Conway, SC.

[The] timeline of events will include Milovich on-air with Pelicans Radio Broadcaster Nathan Barnett before and after the exam as well as live video and radio broadcast of Milovich during the exam. The exam and the rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” will be broadcast live during the Pelicans play-by-play broadcast of the game.

Fierce Fallon, nine years old, does not have prostate cancer. (She has brain cancer, which I am inclined to think is worse; she’s currently undergoing chemotherapy.) Ganging up on cancer of any variety, I suggest, has a strong, maybe even visceral, appeal. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to see this on television.

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Of course you can eat that

One of a series of Public Lecture Podcasts from the University of Bath is titled “Say it with poison”:

In this lecture, Mr Russell Bowes, a freelance garden historian, will be sharing mysterious tales of how people have died in the garden, and how you can protect yourself against herbaceous murderers.

Of all things veddy, veddy British, this sounds like one of the veddiest.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Ottawa Five-O

Turning 50 was no big deal for me: I’d just bought this house, and while the move was a pain in many asses, it was a one-time thing. Then again, I’m not a Canadian woman:

In the spring, my doctor handed me an envelope decorated with a cluster of bright balloons and the words “Happy Birthday!”

Alas, this deceptively cheerful package concealed the usual tips on diet and exercise, plus requisition forms for all the annual medical tests I’d be getting from now on.

The mammogram is bad enough. I got my first one before having my doubts about the procedure confirmed, and now I’m stuck in the “Ontario Breast Screening Program” because “free” “health” “care.”

But now I also have to get blood work for cholesterol (how 1970s!), glucose and a bunch of other things, plus an ECG.

The worst part: I need to send little swabs of poo through the mail. (Although it could be worse: it could be my job to open those envelopes. And a special shout-out to my Facebook friend for sharing her “float a Chinet dessert plate in the toilet” trick.)

It’s all part of the splendor and pageantry of turning 50.

For what it’s worth, I had my first colorectal screening in my late forties, and I didn’t have to send anyone any poo. Downside: I had to write a check with four digits before the decimal point, which was worse.

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Count your McNuggets before they’re lunch

Trust me, I do not want to know how many calories sit on the plate before me, so I am not a likely candidate to test this prototype:

Here’s how it works: the device that [Matt] Webster and his team are working on analyzes fat content, water content and weight. With that data, Webster says, it can reasonably estimate the amount of calories someone will be consuming.

Engineers aren’t using solid foods yet. They’re still working with mixtures, but the goal is to develop a product that can scan a sandwich and tell someone exactly what he or she is eating.

Fortunately, this contraption seems a long way off. (Video below the jump.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s easier than it looks

Thoughts on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby by Warren Meyer:

It seems that a huge number of Americans, even nominally intelligent ones, cannot parse the difference between banning an activity and some third party simply refusing to pay for you to engage in that activity. This really does not seem to be a complicated distinction, but yesterday I watched something like 40% of America fail to make it. How is it possible to make any progress on liberty and individual rights if people’s thinking is so sloppy?

It’s not. Although in some cases, based on my own observations, it’s less “thinking” than simple reflex.

I am minded of Justice Scalia’s concurrence in NEA v. Finley, 1998:

“Those who wish to create indecent and disrespectful art are as unconstrained now as they were before the enactment of this statute. Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to epater les bourgeois; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it.”

Some people didn’t comprehend that either.

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Don’t go home with the armadillo

In days of old, when knights were bold, et cetera, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, justifying warehousing its sufferers as far away from the rest of the world as possible. This, of course, was wrong:

The illness can now readily be cured through a sustained course of antibiotics, yet the basic nature of the microbial culprit, a waxy, rod-shaped character called Mycobacterium leprae, is still being sketched out. New research suggests that the leprosy parasite is a paradox encapsulated — at once rugged and feeble, exacting and inept.

One research group recently proposed that leprosy may be the oldest infectious disease to go specifically for human beings, with origins dating back millions of years, certainly suggesting a pathogen of formidable persistence.

Yet scientists have also found that the leprosy bacillus is remarkably poor at migrating between human hosts. It dies quickly outside the body — a couple of hours on a lab slide, and that’s it — and about 95 percent of people appear immune to it.

One less thing to worry about — for nineteen of you, anyway.

Wikipedia yielded up this gem:

Leprosy was once believed to be highly contagious and was treated with mercury — all of which applied to syphilis, which was first described in 1530. It is possible that many early cases thought to be leprosy could actually have been syphilis. Effective treatment first appeared in the late 1940s.

This, though, is the bit that worries me:

Armadillos are now a reservoir for the disease, and in coastal marsh habitats where population densities of the animal can be high, 20 percent or more of the armadillos are thought to be infected with M. leprae and capable of passing it on to susceptible people. Of the 200 cases of leprosy diagnosed annually in the United States, most are thought to stem from contact with armadillos, although the precise route of transmission remains unclear.

I can only hope that it’s not the same route of transmission one usually finds with syphilis.

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The glucose is clear

There are basically two treatments for Type 2 diabetes: a whole lot of tablets, or shots plus a whole lot of tablets. It’s about time something new came along:

Los Angeles billionaire-inventor Alfred Mann’s almost decade-long quest to develop an inhalable form of insulin for diabetics won approval Friday from U.S. regulators.

His company, MannKind Corp. of Valencia, got the OK on Friday to sell the drug called Afrezza, although regulators warned the product shouldn’t be used by those diabetics with asthma or a serious lung disease.

The Food and Drug Administration said it cleared Afrezza for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The drug is a powder that is inhaled. It would be most often used to help control blood-sugar levels at mealtime, a quick puff replacing an injection before a meal.

Individuals who don’t much care for injections — commonly referred to as “everybody” — will be delighted to hear this, at least until the price is revealed.

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You can’t make me eat this

Nobody, and I mean nobody, makes a face like an eleven-year-old girl:

Laney in a hospital bed

Poor Laney. It apparently was several hours after her appendix went south, late Sunday or early Monday, that she actually noticed it. (High threshold of pain, or at least of admitting pain, runs in the family.) And by then, of course, the miserable little worm had already spewed garbage all over her insides, turning a simple surgical procedure into a potential Major Sepsis Emergency.

Painkillers and antibiotics have been brought to bear. Her dad (who is, you may remember, my son) quoted the surgeon as saying she was doing “inappropriately well,” given how bad she looked when she got there. And she was apparently well enough Thursday to stick something up on Pinterest. Friday brought solid food and, as you can see, grimaces. Barring catastrophe, she’ll survive quite nicely, but she won’t get out until today or tomorrow.

Update: As of now, she’s out.

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Meanwhile at the Water Works

One of my two Laws of Travel, which I’m pretty sure I swiped from Caskie Stinnett, is “Never assume there’s another toilet nearby.” Which can be troublesome, since for some of us, there’s no more embarrassing question than “Um, could I use your bathroom?”

I hate using the restroom in the homes of other people! I know it can be a solstice, a place of peace, and secrecy for them. Not to mention, they may figure out that I actually use the restroom. I mean, yeah, it’s a fact, but for some reason asking permission to use a person’s bathroom is forever ingrained in my head as a fearful and embarrassing action. I may be sitting on your couch clenching every kegel muscle in my body and cursing myself for drinking that can of soda, but it takes a great amount of trust to use your restroom.

I haven’t quite gotten to this point yet, though I’ve had to cut back on my liquid consumption during road trips, having discovered in recent years that the rate of bladder fill and the rate of gasoline usage seldom coincide.

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Die, nard, with a vengeance

Not even brass weighs this much:

A West Michigan man is hoping to get an embarrassing condition taken care of — with help from the public.

Dan Maurer, 39, has a nearly 100-pound, enlarged scrotum, which he wants removed.

“When I go out, people do look. They try to be polite, you can see when something’s not right,” he said.

Especially, you know, if it keeps you from walking.

Dan’s only hope is a doctor in California who will perform surgery to remove the growth.

Presumably that would be this guy. Dan’s hoping to crowdsource some funding; he’s raised about a third of the twenty grand the surgery will cost.

(Fark headline on this story: “Man with enormous sack really not happy about it.”)

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As if some day their Prince might come

“Wonderful,” sniffed McGehee. “Designer metatarsals.”

Five years later, it’s a thing:

“It didn’t help that my feet were a huge size eight, which meant shoes looked ungainly, and my second and third toes were longer than my big toes. I would squeeze my feet into shoes two sizes smaller, so my toes were always sore and covered in corns. I knew I was making my feet look even worse, but I couldn’t bear to wear big, ugly shoes. Because I work in the beauty industry, I spend all day looking at people’s feet, which made me even more unhappy with my own.”

So Paulina, 30, hit upon a drastic solution: so-called “Cinderella surgery”, a range of controversial new cosmetic procedures that alter the shape and size of a woman’s feet to improve their appearance.

Paulina being British, she’d wear a size 10 over here, which doesn’t strike me as huge. (Then again, my daughter wears a 10, so perhaps I’ve had time to adjust, and besides, most quotidian footwear is offered in at least 5 through 10 inclusive.)

The British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society would like you to know that they don’t endorse this sort of thing for “purely cosmetic reasons.” And I can’t imagine any shoes so utterly wonderful that you’d pay a price far exceeding any reasonable shoe price — Paulina said she forked over £4500 — to be able to wear them.

Which, come to think of it, makes the “Cinderella” name kind of silly; she was the one who actually could wear the slipper proffered by the Prince. Then again, if it really fit, why did it slip off her foot when she was making her midnight escape?

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It’s lousy, but at least it’s expensive

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the sickest of them all? You’ve already heard this:

The United States health care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the 11 nations studied in this report — Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity.

So perhaps we should emulate our neighbors to the north? Not so fast:

[T]he second-worst system is Canada’s while the third-worst is France’s. Since Canada is the OECD country that most closely resembles ours culturally and from a lifestyle standpoint, I think that’s a significant finding, suggesting that even if we were to adopt, say, a single-payer system that would be merely the beginning of the reforms that would be needed here if we truly want to have the best of class healthcare system to which we aspire.

It won’t be enough to change who writes the checks. Under the circumstances we might want to consider figuring out what we’re doing wrong and what policies would foster the other changes we’d need to make.

Do we in fact aspire to “best of class”?

Something worth remembering about the Canadian system:

First, the Canadian system didn’t start off as a federal system and still isn’t a federal system. It’s a provincial system. Second, as a JAMA study I’ve mentioned from time to time points out, administrative costs in the Canadian system aren’t as low as some Americans seem to think they are. About 15% IIRC. That’s better than here but it doesn’t provide the savings it would take to cover everybody under a single-payer system without paying a considerable amount more than we do now.

As close as we came to a “provincial” system in the States was, um, Romneycare up in Massachusetts. It cost a godawful sum of money, to be sure; but it didn’t assume that what’s necessary in New England is also what’s necessary in New Mexico or North Dakota, one of the fundamental flaws of just about any Federal program you can name.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Plenty of nothing, and then some

I have always been a skeptic about homeopathy. Wait, scratch that. “Skeptic” suggests serious consideration followed by grave doubt. I, by contrast, offer sarcasm:

A 30C preparation is a dilution to the 10-60 level, which means that there is one molecule of the compound for every 1060 molecules of water. To test this yourself, dump a teaspoon of the stuff into Lake Itasca, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and then wait for it to show up in New Orleans.

On the upside, such absurdly small concentrations mean that, well, if the stuff has been adulterated, how would you know?

Apparently it’s something like this:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knocked the stuffing out of homeopathic drug company Terra-Medica [in March], when the regulatory agency announced that a number of its “natural” remedies contained actual drugs.

According to Wired UK, the FDA found that 56 lots of the company’s drugs contained the antibiotic penicillin and its derivatives. But Terra-Medica’s product information clearly states that their remedies are antibiotic-free. This is problematic because a number of people are allergic to penicillin, and the concentrations found in the products are high enough to spark a reaction.

Moreover, Wired UK points out that homeopathy is based on the idea that medicinal products should only be present at extremely low or undetectable levels because these concentrations can prompt the body to “heal itself.” This is largely how homeopathic products manage to evade most of the FDA’s oversight because, in theory, these drugs don’t contain active ingredients (the FDA currently checks the drugs for ingredient purity and packaging accuracy, not effectiveness).

So if I’m reading this correctly, these batches of homeopathic remedies were considered defective because they actually worked. Got it.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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The pounding of the heart

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