In which there’s good news.

We flew to DC last Thursday so I could see Amma.

We had a very short layover in Milwaukee, then got to Reagan, walked to the hotel shuttle stand, and waited for the bus. Got to the hotel, went out to eat on a cute little street a few blocks away, and walked back to our hotel around midnight. Only when back in our room after having been in Arlington for hours did I bother to unpack, assemble, fill, and use my ecig device, and then only briefly before going to bed.

The next day, I realized that in all that travel I never once wanted to smoke. I thought about smoking in a vague sort of way when we were waiting at the bus stand; I thought, “A few months ago, I’d be considering smoking now, even though it’s probably not allowed. I’d probably cross the street and stand over there and suck down a cig and hope the shuttle didn’t come until I was done.”

Every previous layover on every previous flight I’ve ever taken, I’ve furiously crunched times in my head and if there was enough, I rushed to smoke. Is there a smoking lounge in this airport? How far is it from my gate? Can I get there and back in time? Will I miss my flight? If not, do I have enough time to get all the way outside, smoke, and get back in through security and still make my connection?

And on arrival, the same thing: where am I meeting my ride? Where’s the smoking area? Do I have enough time to smoke? HOW DO I GET OUT OF THIS PLACE SO I CAN SMOKE?

It was really nice, not giving a shit about smoking! I didn’t even remember that I was a(n ex) smoker during the Milwaukee layover; past me would have been infuriated that it was so short and that I’d been denied the opportunity to try to get a cig in, but current me didn’t even think about it.

Same on the trip home: instead of standing outside, sucking down a few cigs while waiting for the cab back to the airport, I just sat inside the hotel lobby by the doors to the taxi stand, waiting like a normal person. Didn’t think about smoking at all during the two-hour layover, didn’t think about it when we arrived back in MSP, didn’t have to smoke in the parking garage before getting in the truck to drive back to the apartment, didn’t have to smoke when we got home. (Did have a lovely chain-vape later, before finally keeling over from the exhaustion of having been up all night, though.)

Vape

Having never travelled without having to figure out how and where and when to smoke before in my adult life, the experience was really wonderful. No cravings, no anxiety about how and where to get my fix in. No simmering rage at the constant non-smoking announcements and signage one is endlessly subjected to in airports and on airplanes.

Vaping continues to be a fantastic solution for me. I have to admit to being quite surprised at how quickly it has broken all the habits and thought patterns associated with being a smoker. When I leave the house now, I just leave and don’t automatically check my bag for a pack of cigs and a lighter. (I rarely take my mod with me when I go out, unless I’m going to the ecig store for liquid or coils, and only then because it’s fun to vape inside the store itself since it’s allowed.) I have 31 years of smoking habits to overcome, but they just seem to be going away on their own without stress or even effort. I didn’t even think about smoking while we were traveling! I was not annoyed, I did not have a nic fit! Not even a little!

I have yet to go an entire day without vaping at all, since quitting smoking 62 days ago, but while on some days I do start vaping earlier than I ever smoked (I’ve never been a morning smoker; I always did all my smoking from late afternoon on), or I indulge in a few hours of “chain vaping,” on other days I just use it for a few minutes a few times in the evenings. It continues to be much cheaper than smoking, because even though a 30ml bottle of liquid is twenty bucks, it lasts many more days than the same value of cigarettes ever did. My lung health is much, much better. I don’t clear my throat all the time, I don’t have weird snot, and my voice doesn’t sound like that of a smoker, either, which is a cool benefit.

While I suspect that Scott doesn’t like the smell (he’s too nice to say, really), it’s very mild and leaves virtually no permanent odor. I’ve tested this by vaping for a bit, then going out to the corner store and returning with a fresh nose. One gets the impression that there was maybe some weak-ass incense burnt a few days ago, but that’s about it (and as we do burn incense fairly regularly, sometimes I can’t tell if it’s that or the vapor residue). For awhile I had a little bowlful of used coils sitting around, but that did smell bad, so I got rid of them; and I now keep the bottles of liquids in a plastic bag because the combination of their various scents is gross, but in general I see no reason not to vape indoors.

My clothes, hair, skin, pockets, and purse don’t smell like cigarettes, butts, or smoke anymore. It’s great! Added benefit: I’m no longer terrified of catching a cold and ending up in an oxygen tent with a lung infection.

Like I’ve said before, it’s probably not a zero-harm activity, but compared to smoking cigarettes the benefits of vaping are enormous.

That political machine, though.

May 25th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Health | Life | Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I’m feeling annoyed and paranoid about big tobacco and pharma lobbies.

So the doctor-medical nerds in the U.K. were recently all, like, “So vaping, in our opinion, is less dangerous than smoking, and we see no evidence that the candy flavors are causing teens to try vaping or that vaping is a gateway behavior to smoking.”

So I read up, decided that vaping had to be less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and, because I had to quit smoking, I switched.

My subjective opinion is that they are a wonderful alternative to smoking cigarettes. My lungs feel fantastic, comparatively; quitting was effortless; and it’s not all about the nicotine: I use very low-percentage juices. It’s about the activity of “smoking,” which these devices mimic very, very well.

Which is what you need after 30 years of smoking: something to replace the habit.

Since that British news, though, my Twitter feed is stuffed with items like this:

ecigreuters

Over and over. Every day. Once upon a time there was nothing in my feed about ecigs, now it’s shit like this daily. Claims from news services that there’s worry about ecig use, that there’s a spike in teen uptake (?), that people are worried about the health effects. And, most tellingly:

That because of these fears, people are going back to combustible cigarettes.

One has to ask herself: who benefits from people going back to cigarettes?

And she has to answer: Big Tobacco itself, of course, and, more worryingly, the tax funds filled with luxury taxes levied on the sales of tobacco products.

~+~+~
Now, I take European findings with a grain of salt, because they do shit like encourage homeopathy and ban GMOs, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

If ecigs were very dangerous, we’d know because people have been using them for a full decade now.

So we can conclude that if they are dangerous, they’re not immediately so but rather they’re dangerous over time, and any danger discovered is probably going to be related to the e-juice ingredients, and it’s probably still going to be less dangerous than smoking tobacco.

E-juices use food grade ingredients, and the bulk of them are the substances used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers. The only real unknown is the flavorants, which exist in such small percentages it seems unlikely they’d be truly dangerous. Only time and testing will tell.

But, while no, we don’t know that vaping is safe quite yet, we do have evidence it’s less harmful than tobacco, and all this fear-mongering for the love of money? IS PISSING ME OFF. Let’s let the fucking evidence decide. Gawd.


Ecigs have been banned by a number of countries:
Electronic Cigarette History

Total convert here, guys.

May 15th, 2016 | Posted by Mush in Admissions | Gadgets | Health | PSA | Soapbox - (0 Comments)

In which I’ve quit smoking!

I started smoking at 16. I’m 47 now. That’s 31 years.

I was down to smoking less than a pack a day, usually less than half a pack, but my lungs felt dry and tight. I was having difficulty breathing.

Every morning, I decided not to smoke. Every evening I smoked anyway, because the power of habit is massive. I’ve tried keeping my regular behaviors and just ditching the smoking part, but it’s hard. I’ve gotten up, put on my coat, grabbed my ebook, stepped outside and not smoked, just to keep up my normal routine, but it doesn’t really work. Before you know it, you’ve bought yourself a pack of cigarettes.

You need a substitute. And no, not for the nicotine. The gum and the patches are worthless; I’ve tried both. For the smoking.

Luckily, here in the future, we have such a thing! It’s called vaping.

A well-controlled trial has recently been carried out by Dr Grant O’Connell and colleagues working for the vaping manufacturer Fontem Ventures. They asked 15 smokers to give up altogether for five days, 15 to vape only for five days, and another 15 to mix vaping and smoking for five days. They measured the harmful and potentially harmful constituents in the urine, blood and breath of each group, and the results were striking. After five days, the vapers’ carboxyhaemoglobin levels—an indication of how much carbon monoxide they had in their systems—had dropped by 83%, which was an even bigger drop than in the cold-turkey cessation group, whose levels dropped by 75%. Even the dual users had seen a drop of 23%. The amount of carbon monoxide they exhaled had halved in both the vapers and the cessation group. Much the same was true for all the other biomarkers except, of course, for nicotine.

Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016

So I bought a Vuse at the corner gas station. It was a piece of shit and just as sketchy as the first ecig I bought a decade ago and it was so awful it basically drove me back to cigarettes. (The Vuse is by RJ Reynolds. There is speculation that they were specifically designed to drive smokers back to cigarettes. They taste bad and they’re incredibly inconsistent, delivering either burnt-tasting air or a massive hit of lung-scorching, scaldingly hot vapor. Each replacement cartridge costs at least as much as a pack of cigarettes, if not more.) The Vuse would be an acceptable experience only if you were a hard-core smoker locked in an airport or hospital for days with no other way to deal with your discomfort.

Then I bought this sciencey-looking little Pro Tank II for only $20 at the ecig store over on Lake Street, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.

Kanger 650mAh Pro Tank II

It screws together. The whole bottom section is a rechargable battery, with a button you push to send power to the coil; the tank is Pyrex and holds e-juice, which is vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol with flavorings and nicotine, and contains a coil, which is what actually heats up and turns the juice into vapor; and then the tip is the part you inhale through. There’s an utterly bewildering variety of these things, but all of them are basically made up of these three components.

An old Fairfield friend saw my interest in ecigs on Facebook, and kindly sent me his unwanted stuff (he’s discovered a favorite brand of tank, and no longer uses any of this):

Vaping stuff

That’s hundreds of dollars of equipment and ten flavors of juices! That he was just going to throw out! A Vaporfi kit, a Nautilus tank, an Aerotank Mega, a Halo Tracer kit, a second Vaporfi tank, and coils!

Now I have tons of everything. Batteries and chargers, tanks, tips. Most of the parts are interchangeable, too, so you can mix and match and make devices that look cool and draw, due to adjustable air flow rings on the nicer tanks, exactly the way you want them to. These are the two I’m into right now:

Vapor

I’m into the 6% blueberry and 3% cocoa flavors right now. (I hate even typing that because it sounds so douchey, but it is what it is! Blueberry! Cocoa! I’m a twat!)

I started with 18% juice, but I don’t think I need it. They tell you that nicotine is incredibly addictive, but I’m perfectly comfortable with 6% and 3% juices. I do have a tank loaded with the 18%, but haven’t used it much in the past two days.

I haven’t gone five days without a single cigarette in years. I’ve gone one, two days without a cigarette, sure; I’ve gone days only smoking one or two. But zero cigarettes? For five days? In a row? No, not in years.

With low-nicotine juice and a device that works well, one can enjoy the activity of ‘smoking’ almost to excess, and yet wake up in the morning feeling better than she has in years. It’s fucking wonderful.

While I doubt vaping is a zero-harm activity (after all, what is), it’s definitely lower harm than smoking cigarettes. It’s almost therapeutic-feeling; inhaling mist into dry, damaged lungs actually feels good. (Turns out that juice uses the same base used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers.) And apparently my carboxyhemoglobin levels have dropped by 83%.

Eighty-three percent.

The devices themselves probably last for quite a long time, being made of Pyrex and stainless steel. You have to replace the coil, the part that heats up, and the juice, but from what I can tell that’s much less expensive than 3.5 packs of cigarettes every week.

There’s a bunch of negative hysteria around e-cigarettes, but it appears to have been deliberately manufactured by pharmaceutical companies involved in nicotine replacement therapies and cigarette companies. The recent FDA regulation binge was brought on by these lobbies, apparently. Of course. Since so much money is generated by the luxury taxes on cigarettes, anything that threatens the market is worrisome… even if it’s a technology that is reducing harm and by extension probably saving lives.

The bulk of the evidence so far leans heavily toward vaping being much safer than cigarettes, and much more effective than NRT in helping people quit smoking.

E-cigarette studies, research and reports
E-cigarettes save lives
UK doctors urge wide promotion of e-cigs to help smokers quit
Smokers Urged to Switch to E-Cigarettes by British Medical Group
Vapers Helping Smokers to Quit

So, the take-away here is that we’re seeing research showing that vaping is much less harmful than smoking, and that if you wish to vape, you need to buy a decent piece of equipment and avoid shitty disposables made by cigarette companies. The vapor, even from low-nicotine juices, is so satisfying that you don’t even want cigarettes. Vaping is credited with helping tens of thousands of smokers quit.

“In the case of addictions, where people find it genuinely very hard to resist temptation, harm reduction surely makes sense,” said Viscount Ridley. And I agree. Being against vaping because it’s not zero-harm is ridiculous. If we expected driving to be zero-harm, we’d never build another car again. But as far as risk management goes, vaping is safer than smoking by orders of magnitude.

Five Inches

December 21st, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Food | Health - (5 Comments)

In which I went on a half-assed diet the Monday after Thanksgiving because I was fucking miserable in my own body.

On Thanksgiving day I did not measure my waist, but I’d measured it awhile before so I knew it was 40 inches.

40 inches! My waist! That’s fucking insane! I’m 5’4″; not even my hips should be 40 inches. But there it was, obesity, as a result of a completely unregulated diet.

tape measure

As you probably know, I fell in love with a boy a few years ago and moved two thousand miles to be with him. He’s awesome and I’m totally glad I did, but, well. He’s male. And he’s 13 years younger than me. He eats whatever the fuck he wants when he wants it, just like I did at his age, and I fell back into the habit of pizza and potatoes and bread and Basmati, because that’s how he eats and it’s nice to eat together.

But I’m not 35! I can’t eat white bread and white rice and pasta and potatoes! (Well, I can, obviously, but not without getting totally fucking fat. Which is what happened. Under the skin of my back is basically a slab of solid fat, from neck to ass. It’s terrible how much fat I’ve packed on this little frame.)

So the Monday after turkey day I went back on the diet I was on 3 years ago when I got so slender: basically, modified vegetarian Atkins. Which means I’m not eating white stuff or refined stuff for the time being, and I’m using an app to track my food intake with the goal of keeping my daily net carbohydrate intake to about 40 grams.

In three weeks, I’ve lost five inches off my waist. Five inches! In three weeks! (I have no idea what I weigh, because we don’t have a scale, but seriously, who gives a fuck what they weigh.)

I feel so much better! Being so fat makes me utterly miserable. My feet and hands swell up and I’m forever exhausted and disinterested and lazy. I had an experience on Thankgsiving weekend when, after getting up from having sat at my desk for a few hours, I found my legs from thighs on down to be so swollen and water-logged that they felt like sausages, and the skin on the bottom of my feet felt like it would split. It was awful.

Not to mention how terrible the hangovers are when your metabolism’s all fucked up. Basically totally incapacitating.

It’s also amazing at how immediately the body responds when you stop feeding it pasta, white rice, potatoes, and white bread at every turn. And no trips to the gym required!

It’s still a diet, in the sense that one must abstain from nomming certain things that taste good (I’m looking at you, Mesa Pizza’s peerless portabello bleu pesto), but it’s so much easier than low-fat calorie-counting. For snacks, I have olives and cheese cubes and walnuts instead of potato chips. Breakfast is eggs with veggies and cheese, or a plate of foule with a hard boiled egg and olive oil. Dinner’s a tuna melt on Jesus bread, or bean & cheese nachos (the number of chips being dependent on my carb count for the day). Heavy cream in one’s coffee is delicious. Very dark chocolate is allowed. Butter on anything you like.

In place of hash browns, I sautée cabbage in butter with salt & pepper. There’s an edible cauliflower “dough” one can use for garlic-cheese “bread” sticks. There’s spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute. You’re never hungry, but you pretty much have to eat at home because restaurant food is — with the exception of, say, burrito or sub sandwich bowls — universally rife with refined carbohydrates.

So, in a couple months I hope to have my waist down to under 30″, and my physical misery vanquished, and my health much improved. (Well, as improved as it can be for a sedentary hedonist, at any rate!)

Being fat sucks. Whenever I get fat, I develop an amazed respect for those persons who are truly grossly obese and still go to work every damned day, and get their laundry done, and raise children. Everything’s so difficult when you’re always tired, always hungry, and too big for comfort. Not to be terribly crass, but when my waist was 40″ around I could barely wipe my own ass: I have no idea how even bigger people manage. My toenails are still dragon talons as I’m waiting for another inch or two to go away before I tend to them; sitting folded in half for even the few minutes it takes to trim and clean one’s toenails is disturbingly uncomfortable when you’re too fat to bend over your own gut.

Furthermore, I feel terrible that a lot of really big people are big because they’re poorer and have to buy the cheaper food, most of which is nothing but low-fat refined carbohydrates, like boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, TV dinners, ramen bowls, and drinks, and also that the government is still endorsing the low-fat diet theory publicly even though it’s been thoroughly debunked by over forty years of study.

At any rate, I got fucking huge, which often happens in new relationships, and it was fun while it lasted, but I’m off white bread and potatoes and I’ll be back to normal by spring. Smooches!

In which I freak out. Seriously. Not even kidding.

I haven’t spent much time in chans or forums because they’re stupid, but even so I’ve seen countless nerds type “kill yourself” at each other, and sometimes it’s hilarious. In IRC it’s practically a tradition to tell chatters to go commit suicide — preferably immediately, by gun, and live via Skype. It’s typical shock-based online shenanigans and it’s funny.

BUT THEN THERE’S MOTHERFUCKING FACEBOOK, AND THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT EVEN KIDDING.

I’ve been ranting forever about the impossibly dumb shit people post about — the anti-vaxxers and the New Age hippies and the holistic practitioners with their weekend retreats and cooking classes or whatever — but after today, I think I really just can’t afford to look at Facebook ever again.

Because today on Facebook, I saw someone I went to university with tell somebody with cancer to do the Gerson “protocol” instead of taking his chemo.

Which is literally one person saying to another, “lol go kill yourself fgt,” only it’s not even mildly funny.

If you have the kind of cancer that would have chemo prescribed in the first place, you have a type of cancer that has a record of responding to chemo. (If your cancer historically doesn’t give a fuck about chemo, they’re not gonna recommend it.)

Chemo is demonstrably effective and does save lives. The evidence is literally everywhere, because basically everybody knows someone who has survived cancer through chemotherapy. Fuck yeah, chemo sucks. Fuck yeah, nobody likes it. But we do it when indicated because even though it sucks ass, doing chemo is much more effective against certain kinds of cancer than not doing it. People telling you that 2% bullshit are trying to sell you something.

Juicing, on the other hand, DOES ABSOLUTELY FUCK-ALL FOR CANCER*, and all the other wacky shit in the Gerson ‘protocol,’ like the no-salt diet and the liver injections, is actively fucking dangerous:

Between 1980 and 1986, at least 13 patients treated with Gerson therapy were admitted to San Diego area hospitals with Campylobacter fetus sepsis attributable to the liver injections. None of the patients was cancer-free, and one died of his malignancy within a week. Five were comatose due to low serum sodium levels, presumably as a result of the “no sodium” Gerson dietary regimen. As a result, Gerson personnel modified their techniques for handling raw liver products and biologicals. However, the Gerson approach still has considerable potential for harm. Deaths also have been attributed to the coffee enemas administered at the Tijuana clinic.

…A naturopath who visited the Gerson Clinic in 1983 was able to track 21 patients over a 5-year period (or until death) through annual letters or phone calls. At the 5-year mark, only one was still alive (but not cancer-free); the rest had succumbed to their cancer.

And forty years before that:

In 1947, the NCI reviewed ten cases selected by Dr. Gerson and found his report unconvincing. That same year, a committee appointed by the New York County Medical Society reviewed records of 86 patients, examined ten patients, and found no evidence that the Gerson method had value in treating cancer. An NCI analysis of Dr. Gerson’s book A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases concluded in 1959 that most of the cases failed to meet the criteria (such as histologic verification of cancer) for proper evaluation of a cancer case. A recent review of the Gerson treatment rationale concluded: (a) the “poisons” Gerson claimed to be present in processed foods have never been identified, (b) frequent coffee enemas have never been shown to mobilize and remove poisons from the liver and intestines of cancer patients, (c) there is no evidence that any such poisons are related to the onset of cancer, (d) there is no evidence that a “healing” inflammatory reaction exists that can seek out and kill cancer cells.

These idiots have been torturing human beings (and not curing cancer) for over forty years! And yet it’s the real doctors we hate?

Using woo and pseudo-science to scare people off an effective, proven tool like vaccines is one thing (because you’re likely to be far removed from the real-life results of your stance, alternately known as “other people’s dead babies”), but telling someone diagnosed with cancer to buy a fucking Vitamix? Seriously?! Someone freaked out and terrified and grasping at straws, you’re gonna give them half-assed off-the-cuff advice about shit you know nothing about and are UTTERLY UNQUALIFIED TO DISCUSS? HOW THE FUCK DO YOU EVEN SLEEP AT NIGHT?

I mean, I know. I know. You’re not trolling, you really do believe in this stuff. You’re nice people and you have big hearts and you’ve dutifully internalized everything you’ve been told about “healing” (which is not the same as actual medical science, which is fine… until you’re dealing with actual disease) and you hardly ever truly contemplate the sources of these teachings. You honestly think you’re being helpful and insightful and open-minded and you pride yourselves on being alternative. Shit, a lot of you have undergone various numbers of years of training in these things, and make your livelihoods from selling your services to the worried well.

You’ve bought the conspiracy hook, line, and sinker, and you really do think that “natural healing” modalities are being suppressed by The Man because money. You haven’t stopped to deeply consider that “natural” not only doesn’t mean anything (everything that exists is “natural”), but that even if it did it wouldn’t matter because natural isn’t intrinsically better. Which is why we take aspirin, which is dosage-controlled, uniform, and well-understood, rather than willow tree bark, every example of which will vary wildly in terms of strength and effectiveness. It hasn’t really occurred to you that the vast majority of the time, Reiki and yoga and Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine and herbs and homeopathy and The Secret are fine because they give people a very deep and very needed sense of agency — I myself do Sun Salutes and eat kitcheree and throw I Ching on occasion — but that for actual life-threatening diseases, these approaches universally fail to produce measurable, repeatable results**.

Which means, in a nutshell, that they’re placebo. They don’t work. They don’t work because the Universe is orderly and full of laws, and regular ol’ unenlightened people only get cured when the cures actually work.

So you’re not malicious or even truly stupid, I know that, but I just don’t think I can stand it anymore. It’s not just the political nonsense; I can’t count the number of times some addle-headed creature I’m friends with (usually but not always from Fairfield) has posted some pseudo-scientific jargony bullshit on Facebook and I’ve replied with the appropriate Quackwatch or Snopes or Wikipedia link… and then gone back and deleted it ten minutes later, because these are nice people and their intentions are good and they’d probably be really hurt if I called them gullible addle-headed twats right on their own Facebook walls.

But the truth is that Reiki doesn’t cure anything, homeopathy doesn’t cure anything, and The Secret just make terminally ill people feel guilty for being sick. Making the worried well feel better is something, obviously, but it’s NOT THE SAME AS ACTUAL MEDICAL SCIENCE. We need to develop the discernment that allows us to tell the fucking difference between a healer-prescribed smoothie diet for your psychosomatic fibromyalgia and chemo-fucking-therapy for your actual cancer: The first does nothing, is not detectable, and operates only in the so-called sufferer’s head. The second is measurably effective in the real world. Which is what you need if you’re unenlightened and sick.

Most of the time, believing in bullshit is harmless. Most people, regardless of their Facebook posts, do get their vaccines before international travel, and they do take chemotherapy when they get cancer, so what they “believe” in between times is essentially irrelevant.

But man, these posts! I’m like, HOW DO YOU EITHER NOT KNOW (OR NOT CARE) THAT JOE MERCOLA HAS BEEN SANCTIONED BY THE FDA… MORE THAN ONCE? He sells diagnostic equipment as a breast cancer “cure,” for fuck’s sake! He lives in a multi-million dollar dwelling and repeatedly claims he’s not in it for the money! HE’S TOTALLY A FUCKING QUACK! JUST LIKE OZ AND JOHN OF GOD AND CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP AND EVEN CHOPRA! How do you not know that mercola.com and whale.to and naturalnews.com and acam.org are not news sources but stores, selling snake oil to the ignorant masses?!

Well, you do know. You obviously know, because you’re the ones buying all the pills and capsules and drops and teas and herbs and mushrooms and salves and books and tapes and retreats and seminars and cruises. You people are a multi-billion dollar industry. You’re making Oz and Oprah and Mercola and Chopra filthy fucking rich.

It literally takes only seconds, to vet anyone who’s ever been on Oprah for quackery, using an internet connection and a search engine. Seconds! I’d never even heard of this horrific and crazy Gerson therapy until I read that Facebook post, but I knew in less than 90 seconds that it was bullshit, and unsafe bullshit at that.

Those of you who continue to believe in your ridiculous “vaccine reform” nonsense are doing real damage. Infants are dying of fucking whooping cough now, because you think your feelings and half-assed, biased internet “research” equals real expertise. Well, you’re not fucking experts, you don’t understand most of what you read, and you’re not qualified to think what you think, period. I’m totally unqualified too, WHICH IS WHY I READ ACTUAL EXPERTS RATHER THAN FAME-SEEKING RETARDS LIKE THE ENTERTAINERS ON FUCKING OPRAH. You want to get involved in “vaccine reform”? Go get a BS in molecular biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or microbiology. Until then, shut the fuck up because you literally do not know what you’re talking about, regardless of your feelings. Seriously.

Those of you who tell people who are genuinely sick and suffering to turn their backs on the sum of human scientific and medical knowledge and let some unqualified, credulous woo practitioner direct their treatments ARE DIRECTLY CAUSING HARM by choosing not to vet your own goddamned idiotic beliefs! HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THIS AND FIND WITHIN YOURSELF A DEEP AND URGENT DESIRE TO CORRECT YOUR FAULT?

Yes, yes, karma, blah blah blah. Somebody may be “destined” to logon to Facebook, see a link, and fire their oncologist because they’re “supposed” to die an awful, unmanaged, hideously painful death at the hands of charlatans. What the fuck ever. I’ve read my scripture and damn right it’s my duty to at least try to stop the tide when it gets to the point it’s doing actual damage.

Listen. Any modality that blames the patient for not getting well is not medicine, it’s woo. And all woo does this. Sick? Stressed? Dying of cancer? It’s your fault! You deserve it. We were unable to cure you because there’s something inherently wrong with you, you didn’t try hard enough, you’re not pure. It’s your karma.

I just don’t know if I can deal. While I do learn a fuckton of (mostly useless!) knowledge looking up every second or third claim I see while scrolling down that Facebook feed, I just don’t know what to do when grown-ass adult human beings are posting Mercola and naturalnews.com claims as if the shit wasn’t all utter garbage, or when people are telling each other NOT to do chemo and let some fucking hippies inject them with liver extract and withhold sodium until they’re in a goddamned coma, or even just when people make claims about welfare fraud or the non-existent gender-based pay gap that I can disprove with a single URL.

I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO IN THIS BRAVE NEW WORLD OF SOCIAL NETWORKING. Do I tell you you’re a total fucking retard? Or do I scroll on by and let all that insular, awful, Dark Age-level “belief” in totally made-up stuff continue to snowball? What’s that old adage about just standing by and letting shit happen because it wasn’t your job to do anything about it?

The following random ER doctor’s blog post sums up my conflict perfectly in a piece about a young woman “treated” with Gerson who is probably dead now:

Most woo is harmless — but that’s because most woo is directed at chronic, ill-defined, or otherwise incurable conditions. Think chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. Wave a magnet at somebody, get them to do a lot of enemas and go on a special diet, and you get to write a book and go on Oprah and collect a lot of money. If the subjects of the “magical thinking medicine” think they are better from the intervention, then so much the better.

“But the really pernicious thing about allowing fantasy medical theories and treatments into the mainstream is that when they gain enough credence among the masses, they will tend to be used in place of real medical treatments that work.

Tons of so-called “alternative medicine” is placebo, and that’s fine. It’s fine because much of what ails us is psychological and we need the time, the attention, the touch, and the feeling of agency we get when we have capsules to take and exercises to do at home — these things help us feel like we’re doing something to combat our “illness.” But woo doesn’t heal actual maladies, people. There’s a huge difference, and I know we’re all smart enough to recognize this.

I got so much more satisfaction visiting a midwife — who scheduled 45-minute appointments, and listened to me and paid attention to me as a whole person — than I ever did seeing a gynecologist. But believe you me, when it turned out I had a fucking prolapsed fibroid cyst coming out of my uterus that was about to get infected and kill me, I went to a surgical gynecologist and not a nutritionist. Because I’m not a total fucking idiot.


* Unless you’re so sick you’re having trouble swallowing; then smoothies can be a good way to get nutrition inside you. But they won’t heal your fucking cancer. Because cancer is CANCER, not fucking scurvy. Of course life-long dietary influences must have a part in cancer-causing, but there is absolutely zero evidence that feeding people sugars is beneficial.
** Yes, I know modern science has and does and will prove that certain ancient modalities do work: the Neti pot, for instance, and Artemisinin. But Ayurved is also responsible for killing people with lead poisoning and traditional Chinese medicine prescribes toxic herbs too, and the wildly divergent dosages from one plant to the next… don’t even get me started. And the majority of treatments offered by either tradition, in terms of measurable results, are entirely indetectable. Which means they don’t actually do anything.

More reading:
Weighing up claims about cures and treatments for long-term conditions

I Don’t Know What to Believe, about evaluating scientific claims


Update: A few days later, someone else in my timeline solicited the medical advice of Facebook on the topic of an iron shot. Apparently she’s chronically anemic and her doctor recommended the shot to, I assume, alleviate this condition. She cancelled the appointment due to her concerns about “toxic” side-effects and is looking into woo iron supplements. Because at least they’re unregulated, arbitrarily dosed, and “natural.” *headdesk*

How to have the best cup of tea ever

March 10th, 2015 | Posted by Mush in Health - (0 Comments)

In which there are instructions!

Step 1: Don’t have mint tea for, like, a few years. Not because you’re against it or anything, but just because you don’t happen to.

Step 2: Move to Minnesota and catch a cold.

Step 3: Wait a week and buy a box of mint tea. Stick it in the cupboard above the sink.

Step 4: Make a mug of mint tea with boiling water. Add a hint of honey. Hold the mug. Breathe the steam. Enjoy the warmth. Drink the tea. Marvel at how insanely wonderful a simple mug of mint tea can be when it’s March in the Midwest and you still have the faintest remnant of a spring cold.

Shitty summer cold

July 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Mush in Health | Work - (0 Comments)

In which there are germs and self-pity.

Last night around eight I started to feel really icky. By ten I was passed out under three blankets on the bed. By twelve-thirty my beloved was force-feeding me Alka Seltzer cold formula. (Orange flavored and nasty. Like angry Gatorade.)

This morning I felt awful and called in sick to work. They were bummed because I was scheduled to close and they’re eternally understaffed, which is apparently deliberate and part of the business ‘model.’ Now my next check will be even shorter than it always is, because I make poverty-level wages. All of this sucks, but most of the other service desk associates have already called in sick on me, and I actually am sick, so I guess it’s a wash.

My throat itches. My sinuses hurt. My body aches. I’ve decimated a box of Kleenex. UGH, SNOT. Weirdly enough, my sense of smell is annoyingly strong and everything stinks. I thought I was going to have a fit when the grounds were mowed this morning and the scent of fuel wafted in through the open windows.

It’s beautiful outside. Green and mild and fantastic. Really gorgeous. And I have a malady better suited to October! I’m a huge baby and I want my money back.

I’m tired but can’t sleep. I’m hungry but feel too wiped out to cook. There are pans in the sink that need to be washed but the idea of standing there for 15 minutes makes me woozy. I want a mug of tea but there’s no milk. Somebody shoot me: I’m clearly made of stupid complaints.

My beloved came home on his lunch hour to check on me, and I only have a cold. He’s awesome.

I guess I’ll go try to read on the couch for awhile. Ugh. COLDS.

In which it’s the time of year known as ‘omfg i HATE the dread!!!’.

About once a year or so, usually around this time, give or take a few weeks, my panic and anxiety gets really rough and I get so incredibly miserable I finally consider going into the family clinic and begging for enough pills to get my crazy ass back on an even keel.

I never do it, though, because all the bullshit goes back into remission right after I consider saying uncle, and then I pretty much forget about it until the next year. I mean, I’ll have an occasional isolated day of The Dread here and there, but nothing I feel compelled to medicate. And, to be completely honest, one of the ‘features’ of my little condition is that it makes me utterly paranoid of pills even though my mind knows perfectly well that meds are cleaner, safer, and better-regulated than all the street drugs I did back in the day.

Yes, my anxiety has made me afraid of pills. Fucking fuck.

Anyway, so this is historically the worst month of the year for panic and anxiety and I’ve been having attacks of varying degrees of fucking awful pretty much daily for a month or so. On top of that, I just naturally happened to choose this month to move two thousand miles, so there’s an added level of disassociation and stress.

This is not the normal kind of move, where you put your shit into your car and escort it yourself by driving it to your new home. This is a move where I’m putting my things into the care of UPS and hoping they’ll deliver my life semi-intact to my new apartment.

My new apartment which just happens to be a security building, so the stuff can’t even be delivered. LDBF will have to go pick it all up somewhere.

So it’s panic season, plus moving with its attendant stress of quitting of jobs and bands. There’s also the pre-menopausal acne, which is insult to injury, and on top of all that I woke up this morning with what I think is a stye in my right eye. And I got fat this winter, eating all the white things I know better than to eat. (Sometimes, you just want to order a fucking pizza. (Where “sometimes” equals “like once a week or so.”))

Seriously. I’m, like, the least pretty girl on the planet. Which causes LDBF to tell me I’m the prettiest girl on the planet about every twenty minutes or so. He’s amazing about The Dread, too, listening carefully and saying wonderful safe supportive things and threatening to hug me for a whole month.

There’s been a lot of other support, too, for all my bitching, which I think is in part keeping me from having a total meltdown. Someone I don’t even really know has offered to drop moving boxes off at the house this weekend; the sun is shining; my newsroom co-workers are going out for a beer with me the Friday after next; my brother has a truck for getting boxes to UPS. I’ll get through it, but mostly I’d rather curl up in bed than pack boxes or haul crap to the growing Goodwill pile in the basement.

Honestly, I just want to be moved, past tense. Moving sucks. And on that note, I’m going to figure out how to pack my file box, once I remove the things too important to ship such as my passport and father’s POA paperwork. Ciao.

Crown. Tiara. Whatever.

July 11th, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Health - (1 Comments)

In which there’s a little sculpture of a tooth!

I had my crown installed today. It was a short and pleasant appointment. It’s just like a tooth, except it’s not a tooth. (The crown, not the appointment.)

My temp crown

This is a picture of my temporary crown, which spent two weeks in my mouf. I made them give it to me because, well, it’s basically a custom sculpture of a tooth. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Root canal.

May 10th, 2012 | Posted by Mush in Health - (1 Comments)

In which I had a dental appointment today.

Okay, so, all I wanted to do was pee the entire second hour I was in the chair. Really badly. But I couldn’t, because I was getting a fucking root canal.

1. Two and a half hours at the dentist.

2. DENTAL. Motherfucking. DAM.

3. Temporary filling: same texture as wet toilet paper.

4. My face hurts.

Moral of the story is that you should pee twice before any kind of long procedure you might embark upon after drinking coffee.