Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone,

Happy New Year!

May you celebrate the passing of this year tonight in joy and contentment. As you look back over the accomplishments of the last year, its pleasures and failures, be kind to yourself. You are loved, and life is a journey that wanders from path to path at its wildkin leisure. There's no such thing as irreparable.

For your New Year's resolutions, don't make yourself any promises you know will make you somebody you aren't.

What are mine?

-We are going back to vegetarianism, and (relatedly and consequentially) regaining some control over our diets, both in terms of cost and wholesomeness. We've been eating garbage and we know it.

-We are going to get back into the gym routine now that our schedule changes will accomodate it again. It was hard for us last semester, and that reinforced our natural reluctance to go out and sweat indoors.

-I am going to spend more time on hobbies that develop my talents and give me rest and pleasure: bird watching, painting, writing, fiddling with beads, sewing.

-I'm going to stop feeling guilty about my hobbies that are nothing more than social: playing video games and other games, kicking back with the family, watching TV with the hubby. I deserve some pure leisure.

-I'm going to keep showing the people I love that I love them. It's important.

-Later this year, I am going to stop just talking about it and actually attempt to learn a little perfumery. I will finally have to set up a little laboratory and acquire materials: so be it.

-We are going to strive for ever greater financial solvency. This resolution is obligatory for everyone, I know. I'm no exception.

On that last note... Have you seen this site? It's very inspiring and provides very do-able advice.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Drama on the vegan website

Something's happened to VegWeb. Something's happened that's horrid.
A site that was placid once, now is plumb torrid.
Drama has crested, and it's slow to settle,
and it tests my patience much more than my mettle.

Now we have moderators. We have to. The trolls
Have taken to lurking on threads and on polls
Snarling at people with views other than theirs
And if they sense censorship, they start throwing chairs.

One particular oaf just mouthed off something royal.
On a thread about Christmas he proved quite disloyal
To a friend he had consoled through trials and grief*
By calling her attention whore, liar, hypocrite, and time thief.

This was after she chid him for a blistering letter
In which he parodied people who celebrate, saying no better
Were they than hunters, conquistadors, racists, swine
Who create a wake of death. He whined,

"Hark, is that a post about Christmas? What do I hear?
Why aren't you posting about slaughtered reindeer?
For two whole minutes you would like to talk about a subject
Other than kennels and hunts and Michael Vick -- I object!

I think that the post you made's stupid and crappy
Because everyone knows we don't like to be happy.
Talk about suffering, corporate greed, not how everyone in your life bought you a Thneed!
Talk about agony, anorexia, sadness! Think of the animals! Christmas is madness!

Don't talk about food! Don't talk about presents!
Don't talk about parties! Sulk in solitude, peasants!
I shall brew a response so acid and hostile that everyone will flinch...
But wait! An apostle! Another forum troll rises to join with the Grinch!

This forum was once about tofu, cookies, and carrots,
But I heard about vivisection and just couldn't bear it!
I had to tell someone about my anger and hate
And I don't like non-vegans and I couldn't wait

To shoot down the thread that spake love and good cheer
And also ... well, I'd had a couple of beers.
Once upon a time, this community was generous and caring.
We took care of that! Now it's a place for sharing

Pouting and snarls and ill will and sharp disses.
Who cares about veganizing chocolate kisses?
So it's a recipe forum? So what? Who cares?
I bet you approve of extincting brown bears!

I'll cite chapter and verse of all your past posts
Showing how everyone should love ME the most!
Only a stalker could be more complete!
C'mon, don't forgive me! C'mon, let's compete!

Why do we need moderators? Down with censorship!
If you don't like what I write, then just don't read it!
You're not politically correct enough, since you're not vegan,
So go straight to hell, you d*****bag -- oh, I've not yet begun

To fight the mods filter blocking my words. I'm losing my marbles
Because you haz changed my penis to harbls!"
Then, the jerk shut his mouth -- or the mods shut it for him.
That was good. Clearly we had begun to bore him.

Can we talk about food now? Can we talk about cheer?
Can we talk without loathing and seething and fear?
Time will tell us the answer. Until then, we tremble
And observe the fallout, and think about lentils.

*(FYI, his friend wasn't me. I'm still offended on her behalf, but she's nicer than me and forgave him... even apologized for having taken him to task. Grr. You're a better soul than I am, Di.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Toward a sociology of thrill-seeking, drama queening, and horror-movie-liking

A couple days ago I directed you to this article about the "time slowing" sensation that we experience "in" (actually after) crises. Then I saw two horror movies about the end of the world, both of which were shockingly gutsy and fascinating in some respects and both of which featured chickenshit "God did it" endings. These things will intersect here in a minute.

Why do I love (many) horror movies? I am as non-violent and skeptical a person as you are likely to meet. Monsters don't exist for me, except the human kind that I would rather not dwell upon. I don't believe in post-apocalypse; we will either peter on until we peter out, or will do it up right and proper (about which I have my doubts). Survivalism is for ninnies (sorry, you survivalist ninnies whom I love, but this isn't your finest trait. You will never need it, like your appendix.) And I don't like to dwell upon the real, human kind of monster.

I wonder now if it isn't the richness with which my brain records stressful events and crises. If I'm scared in a mediocre movie, does my amygdala get involved and overwrite the experience with the neurological equivalent of "thick description" or "purple prose" with an extra "track" of memory? If so... neato.

I like extreme sports (more than a saftig... er, no, let's call a spade a spade and say "fat" thirtysomething couch potato like me would be expected to do). I like to be challenged. I like to be scared (at least in retrospect).

Is it because I like the richness of the memories I associate with this stuff?

Does this give us insight into why people who have been through traumatic emergencies often turn to religion and think they have heard or felt the voice of (a) God? Do they have uncommon clarity and direction in their memories that seems to spell out what they must do or what the defining moment of their existence is?

Is this why one's wife's sister or best friend so often seems smokin' hot in pop culture? The thrill of risk (I will almost certainly get caught cheating)? Is this why kink culture is delightful? Why young people strive to offend? Why people flame-bait, shoplift for thrills, skydive, run with the bulls?

A flight of fancy, but still... oooOOOOOoooooOOOOOOh!

(And now that I've typed that last exclamation, let me direct your attention to THE BEST CARTOON EVAR: Shin Chan (the FUNimation Entertainment translation rocks)!

One more about Thoughtviper: errata

Bill noticed me looking at him and reminded me that he does not talk goo goo talk to his cats. He talks to them like rational beings. Fair enough!

Please drop by more often, Bill. If I ever give you a smile, that's a down payment on being even for all the joy your blog gives me.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Random stuff for you

First, Bill the Splut is cracking me up on Thoughtviper:

Accidental discovery: Seawater can burn, and is being investigated as a possible replacement for oil.

In completely unrelated news, the Bush administration today announced that Aquaman was behind 9/11, and that the Lost City of Atlantis has WMDs, which could strike America's shores at any time from their mobile Giant Seahorse launchers. Bush said, "We must act before the smoking speargun comes in the shape of a jellyfish cloud!" Several other peaceful democracies have joined him in the Coalition of the Willing, namely Latveria, Genosha, the Phantom Zone, and the underground empire of the Mole Man.

Next... well, I love the song "Calabria 2007" madly, and whilst looking for it for me online, Pat found the video for "Destination Calabria." While the video for "Calabria 2007" is feelthy, there's something madly wrong-hawt about all the band hotties in the other one. Anyway, enjoy the T & A, folks. Yowza.

And finally, because I'm tired and lazy right now... this is a cool article on what happens to your memory when you are frightened, and why time seems to (have) slow(ed) down to a crawl during traumatic events. Also duly pilfered from Thoughtviper.

Love you all! I am blazing around with my hair on fire (not literally, yet) during the holiday season. More writing soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Gemuse-ick!

Good gracious.

You need sound to enjoy this.

I totally filched that from a VegWeb post. Another poster helpfully included this, which I think Brother Dave will enjoy, for no particular reason.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

D to the O to the double G, phoning it in from the LBC

I love Snoop Dogg, don't get me wrong. He's sublimely talented, and his presence as a guest on another person's track is often the kiss of life where its artistic success and acclaim would otherwise sag.

But what the hell is with him lately?

(Note: this is about music, not videos... so you will need sound and a strong stomach.)

I give you his patron cameo on Will-I-Am's "The Donque Song" (a song that could be improved either by leaving out the female "talent" and Snoop's phoned-in performance entirely, or by inserting the barrel-chucking sound from Donque Kong. (Evidently this is how we spell it now.)

And now, I give you something even worse... the "clean" (um... no) version of his inane crapbabble new song, "Sexual Eruption." To make it even less sensical, but not at all clean, the title and most of the lyrics have been amended to "Sensual Seduction."


The seventies are back, folks. But not the good part. Nope, we're all out of funk. Instead, it's the soulless, coked-up bump and grind and explicit tastelessness that ruined the fun for all of us, bringing us an era of shoulderpads and misguided economics.

Okay, I admit "the Donque Song" is kind of catchy....... dammit. (But when you have to computer modulate someone's voice to make their 4 word participation on a song in order to bring them up to a low simmer of suckage, you might just opt to leave them out... and honestly, haven't we heard Snoop's rap before in several chunks? While from a literary standpoint it's darn cool to see almost Skaldic or Old English types of formulaic poetry arise popularly, one does tend to recall Orwell's versificator...)

I blame you, Dogg.

(Actually, I might blame Paula Deen. While never the vanguard of health food or lucidity, she has gone plumb batshit mad and is now regularly deep-frying lard between hits off her hash pipe or whatever else it is that makes her lose battles of wits with Kermit the frog, twist Refrigerator Perry's nipples and worship his manliness, and make out with her son. WTF?! Yes, I'm talking about the Thanksgiving special. Julia Child, at her most drunken and butter-loving, was never quite the incarnation of 1977 that Paula Deen has become. Hell, Graham Kerr in his Galloping Gourmet days was less excessive, and he was about two steps from Mr. Roeper.)

Okay, rant over. But please, no. I don't care if you bring back hipster pants, diagonal stripes, cowboy fringe, or lounge suits. I kind of want the 'fro to come back. And I like funk and disco. But somebody needs to put away the time machine that opens onto the bowels of Hell.

'Tis the Season

At the risk of revealing what a lame sense of humor I have to those of you who aren't already sure... I give you a few delights of the season.

You will need sound and a not-work-safe-safe environment (there are cussy lyrics, but your boss has probably already heard them... unless he or she lives in a cave) for Nine Inch Noels.

Here's a gloriously frightening treat from Office Max: And when I load in our faces from the Deathmarch of Dimes Walkathon, it makes me laugh...because our cheerful sappy grins look really pathological when they are atop impish elf bodies. (These load slowly.)


For those who are in for a little more humbuggery, there's always Office Max's It's insufficiently grumpy, though.

And for that person on your list who haz everything... FLAVOR.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Napoleon complex

On Saturday, we went to SLO to look for migrating Canada geese who had stopped over. We knew to look for migrants because they had passed over us, and we wanted to go bask in their honking, tranquil, rejuvenating presence.

We found them where we expected to (birders + the Internet = easy to find birds). Having piled out of our car at Laguna Lake to stand among what surely must have been the world's loudest few Mallards and a passel of coots, whose green rail feet look absurdly Big Bird reminiscent despite their tiny size, we were surrounded by the beloved "ah-onk!" that we had gone to hear.

We were just standing and loving them (and being a little anxious because people should not allow their hellspawn to throw rocks at wildlife... it's a short road to hellspawn once the rocks come out) when a sweet middle-aged nut came trundling over with his bag of bread. "Buzzard-ducks," he called, sweetly. "Here, buzzard-ducks!"

I have a way with the insane (endearingly and not). I grinned and asked, "the Muscovies?"

"I call them buzzard-ducks," he explained, unnecessarily.

"Because of the fleshy patches on their faces?" I asked, equally unnecessary. To have seen a Muscovy is to understand the name "buzzard-duck."

"Yep. They'll usually come right over. They're not hungry; my wife just fed them a whole loaf of bread."

We smiled and chatted about having come to see the geese. He told us about his favorites, the Chinese geese. He had names for them: Napoleon, his favorite; Gimpy-Goose, the white goose who had taken over the role of pariah; the Crossnecks, who sound the alarm and cross their necks when they see him.

Yep, he was one of us.

He recommended we walk down the shore of the lake and look for Napoleon, a brown Chinese goose. We did so, partially to give him more personal space in which to baby talk the "buzzard-ducks."

We admired geese and ducks. We picked wild anise and crushed it to enjoy its licorice scent. We speculated on which goose might be Napoleon.

It didn't take long. Our friend caught up with us, calling, "Nap-oooooooo-leon!" The Chinese geese on the opposite shore took up a talkative fuss, somewhere between the creaking of a swing set and a science-fictional dinosaur howl. They wanted bread, maybe, but they were trying to talk our friend into bringing it over to them.

"Nap-ooooooooo-leon," he called. Then he explained again what he had told me before. "You see, he comes over even if he isn't hungry. He just comes over to hang out and be together. Every once in a while he starts showing me nest sites; breaks my heart. I mean, the first time, I thought, oh no, uh oh, I can't deal with this."

And Napoleon launched himself on the water, as majestic as a swan, if a swan loosed plaintively monstery cries every few moments. "Aeeeeenk!"

Our friend, just as joyously and enthusiastically, with just as little self-consciousness, responded "yeah!"





When Napoleon had finally put to shore and wandered diffidently down the coast, trailed by opportunistic Canadas (and one cackling minima ssp.), our friend sat on a stump and offered bread. Napoleon came up, creaking softly and elevating his bill skyward, stretching out his long neck. He would lay his face right up near the face of the human, like (I imagine) the Crossnecks would, like I've seen hundreds of geese do to one another.

"Who's my good goosey?" our new friend crooned in a hushed, but still exuberant, approximation of the dinosaur-inspiring goose voice. "Napoleon! You're my good goosey! Yeah!"

It was plainly evident on both the human and the goosey faces that they had found one another and loved one another. The goose wasn't hungry; he nibbled to please his host, but he was there just to emanate love and be close to another soul who adored him unconditionally. The man petted him with barely-touching, kindly strokes of the back of his hand, and Napoleon reveled in the attention, craning his long lovely neck and singing soft "talking" notes. "I think I must remind him of his former owner," the man confided softly to us.

"He loves you," I answered, awed.

"I love him. I would take him home, if I had a pond," he said.

Who could be so heartless as to abandon an imprinted goose? They imprint for life. They mate for life. They are silly and a pain in the ass sometimes, to be sure, but geese have a deep-rooted goodness that astonishes the trenchant observer.

"Haaeeeenk?" Napoleon asked blissfully, softly.

"Yeah!" the man responded, his plain, everyday, middle-aged face radiant. "Napoleon. My good goosey."

Sure, the man is a half-crazy crank with a healthy dose of irreverent animism (and no less am I), but that bird thinks that he hung the moon. I have rarely shared a moment so intimate, so breathtakingly beautiful, and so sweet-- let alone with a stranger.

Thank you, Napoleon. Thank you, mister. (I should have asked your name.)

I've only enjoyed that trust from two wild geese.

One was a fatally injured gosling we "rescued" (there was little we could do but make him comfortable), who was ready to accept kind touch and comfort from any creature. He rewarded us with the same accepting and serene gaze and intimate being-together. We called him Galahad Goose because he was brave and pure, and mourned him sincerely.

The other was Crookey, the crooked-necked goose who visited the little park in Pullman, Washington, where we hung out a lot doing outdoor things. Crookey didn't mind when we showed up empty handed; the grass from our fingers tasted better to him than the grass growing under his bill. He didn't even mind when we petted him, barely brushing his silky feathers, with the backs of our fingers. He came up practically into our laps and hung out with the humans, all trusting eyes and winsome expression.

I worry that we are betraying the wild ducks we feed by currying trust in them, that will be abused by the hellspawn, sporthunters, and douchebags of the world. I don't think I have an option; they tag along with Sir Maxalot and Duckira when we feed them, and those two tame rescuee heavy ducks NEED our care. I also worry about geese like Crookey, who migrated with his flock, when they are so loving and trusting of humans. They are brilliant ambassadors for birdkind, but they endanger their lovely, graceful necks thereby. Napoleon is a park-dwelling non-migrant; he will be partially safe. Galahad was past risk, and all of us knew it.

What a world, where we have to worry about allowing something to trust us.

Is kindness abuse? Oh me, oh my.

Anyway, I hate to bring up a bitter note, but birds are the only animals not protected by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) -- the only federal law designed to protect animals at slaughter. Butterball is the latest horror house in the scandal that you have surely heard directed at KFC or others. 'Tis the season for me to fret about these things; if you would like to do something small but pro-active, please think about taking action to get birds included in the (poorly enforced, crappy, but better than nothing) HMSA.

H & T, I am not ignoring you

If you wrote to me when you asked for the ol' e-mail address, I have yet to receive it. If you never did, fine; if you did send something, forgive me! I have been waiting with baited breath, but I don't have it.

Hugs to you and you and the little one, too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kopi Luwak

Not to stretch this metaphor too far, but it seems that we overdose on critical buzz before we ever trust a product these days. Was it always this way? It seems to me that there was a time when I saw a movie trailer and said "that looks good," without checking what my more trusted sources thought. I would just walk into restaurants without reading reviews. I would try a perfume or body product because I liked the notes listed on the packaging or ad-- or even because I liked the package, or name.

Now, I'm a cynical bastard and I tend to trust harsh criticism from strangers much more than I trust ad copy, gut reactions, or raves from friends and family members with taste that matches only questionably to mine.

I blame the Internets. We are all experts; we dissect topics on which we are only self-declared experts, savage one another's opinions in ways undreamed of in previous decades, and get trenchantly involved in details that are only minutae. We're a society of conceited dilettantes and malevolent cynics, feeding one another's pricklier impulses without ever trying anything new.

We are schizophrenic, now: simultaneous neophobes and conspicuous, obsessive consumers. We churn through experiences at a phenomenal rate, but first, we vet them through the opinions of people who are ultimately strangers and probably no more expert than we are, ourselves.

No wonder rates of autism are on the rise. We are a society of housecats. And it's virulently contagious. Rampant cynicism was so cool when I was in school... now it's considered countercultural to be nice (think emo or twee, and try not to aggro.) Soulless Oscar Wilde imitators hell-bent on offending our peers in ever more sophisticated and cynical ways. Exclusivity has the prerequisite of excluding-- we do not want to like the majority of what we see.

We won't enjoy something until someone else has taken a chance at digesting it. And that's the excuse for today's loosely connected metaphor.

The civet cat (they're not cats) is an animal with sexual glands in its butt, which excrete a filthy smelling compound long used for a perfume fixative. In large quantities, civet (the gunk, not the critter) smells like ass. In small quantities, well diluted and masked by prettier aromas, it is seductive and lends fixity to fragrances. Sources vary in levels of cruelty, but the animals do not have to be killed to yield their valuable goop.

One of their cousins, also a civet, eats coffee cherries. They don't digest them well, so the coffee cherries just end up intact in their feces.

Collected, cleaned, and processed, the resultant coffee cherries are made into Kopi Luwak, one of the (supposedly) finest and most luxurious coffees in the world.

Are you wincing and telling yourself that you would not drink it? Me too -- for reasons that I find more solid than "critics say it's overrated."

I'm going to try to like things for their own sake for a few days, and see if I can still do it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hail Eris

The Principia Discordia, online.

It's probably not worksafe. It's both joyously silly and joyously serious. And I am more Discordian than anything else.

May I refer you all to the parable of the bitter tea? It consoles me when I am tempted to argue the finer points of things which I cannot agree with even in their grosser forms. It should be required reading before playing on the Internet.

by Rev. Dr. Hypocrates Magoun,
P.P. POEE PRIEST, Okinawa Cabal

When Hypoc was through meditating with St. Gulik, he went there into the kitchen where he busied himself with preparing the feast and in his endeavor, he found that there was some old tea in a pan left standing from the night before, when he had in his weakness forgot about its making and had let it sit steeping for 24 hours.

It was dark and murky and it was Hypoc's intention to use this old tea by diluting it with water.

And again in his weakness, chose without further consideration and plunged into the physical labor of the preparations.

It was then when deeply immersed in the pleasure of that trip, he had a sudden loud clear voice in his head saying,

"it is bitter tea that involves you so."

Hypoc heard the voice, but the struggle inside intensified, and the pattern, previously established with the physical laboring and the muscle messages coordinated and unified or perhaps coded, continued to exert their influence and Hypoc succummed to the pressure and he denied the voice.

And again he plunged into the physical orgy and completed the task.

And Lo as the voice had predicted, the tea was bitter.

Environmental vegetarianism, being green/light green, and carbon dieting

Le wow.

Your car is less wasteful than your metabolism-- provided you feed the latter on animal products. Holy crap. I may have to go back to a responsible diet sooner than later, if I am going to face myself in the mirror. In the dark. 'Cuz Dubya has another way to save energy, and it's monkeying with the damn daylight savings calendar.

As I get older, I find that I am a less and less repentant sinner... but that I am more responsible in other ways.

Rediscovering lost loves

When I was in Peru and suffocating under a wave of My Government Has Gone Bughouse Crazy, Oh Hell, Can I Ever Come Home, I took great solace in a few blogs I randomly found while wandering around the ol' Series of Tubes.

One of these blogs is Thoughtviper. Bill the Splut doesn't know I'm watching him, but he tickles me. He rants. He talks goo-goo talk at his cats. He is hilarious and often embarrassing to sympathize with.

I adore it. It's so I-can-hang-out-with-able. And he's a constant source of random, wonderful links to things entertaining and stupid on the Internet.

I went googling for him, remembering only the name of his older, white cat (Kill Kill) and that he had "Thought" as part of his blog title. Believe it or not, and in spite of whatever lists I got myself on by googling +"kill kill" +thought +blog, I found it again.

I'm not remotely caught up. Oh well. More for me to rediscover. He posted this delightful tidbit and I think you'll get a giggle from it.

This quote had me laughing out loud and annoying Pat while he works on his lesson plan:
To be honest, it's not like I'm a brave man. I'm not. At all. It just, well, it doesn't take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu?


Monday, November 5, 2007

I don't know what to call this one

Horsin' around?
Power steering?
Mr. Ed?
Got Milk?

Anyway, on the way to go and meet Robert and Gabi at Big Sky Cafe for lunch as they returned from their honeymoon camping trip in Big Sur, I saw a horse standing up on 2 feet. I was bewildered until I saw why: he was mounting a cow. Or maybe a steer. I don't really know. But I do know it wasn't a horse.


Just thought you'd all want to know.

Friday, November 2, 2007

All advertisements will be deleted

This is for "Adam," and everyone like him (if they are not indeed bots).

If you post comments on my blog containing ads, I will delete them as soon as I find them. It's not worth your time to post them.

You don't have to go away, but please stop littering.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Science Fiction -- dead or alive?

Interesting dissection of SF magazine sales ongoing at Warren Ellis' blog.

There has been a lot of follow up and discussion. Go see. Very grim from my way of seeing it, but maybe not the way you'll all see it.

Follow ups:

Monster punch

1. Get latex gloves WITHOUT POWDER. Rinse them well. Fill them with liquid that will contrast color with your punch, twist-tie them or rubber-band them closed, and freeze them solid. Peel the hand-shaped cubes out of the gloves.
2. Make a ton of punch, any kind. Make sure it's really cold.
3. Add "hands" to large punchbowl full of punch. Mmm, grossss.


This is an easy recipe, almost a not-recipe. But it's so satisfyingly weird looking and comfort-foody (and not in the least bit good for you).

Cook a lot of celentani (the corkscrewy macaroni things) and elbow macaroni (not too small, the elbows). Stir in as much ricotta as you wish... I tend to use half of the smallish tub (a pint?) for a half box of celentani plus a half bag of elbows... sorry I'm not more precise. Resist the temptation to add anything that adds color. It won't help the look. You may add a little garlic if you like, provided that it's minced fine; OR a very little nutmeg does fine. Not both. You can add a little plain yogurt to add "slip" to the texture if you like, but NOT too much if you want it to set up and look all brainy.

Put this mixture into a cellophane-or-foil-lined bowl about the size of a cranium. Let it rest a moment in the bowl to firm while you heat some marinara sauce.

Take a bigger, flatter serving bowl, nest it over the full cranium bowl so that they are concave-to-concave, and turn out the pasta carefully into the bowl, hoping it retains its shape. Indent down the middle to make "hemispheres" with a suitably long skinny object. THEN remove the foil or plastic.

Spoon the marinara into the bowl so it surrounds the "brains"... but don't go crazy with it. It can spoil the wonderful illusion.

I want to hear your variations on this theme... mine's easy and yummy (believe it or not, it is tasty when very simple).

Dead Ladyfingers

These don't taste like ladyfingers. They're tasty shortbread with a toasted almond and whatever flavor "goo" you choose to use. Yum.

You will be amazed. You know you want to make some. Do eet. DOOOO EEEEET!!! You will be rewarded.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar (I think I went a little light on it… I want to say I only put in ¾ cup but I am not sure)
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream all the above together until well blended, then mix in:

2 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used too much—I think this should be right)
½ teaspoon salt

It will be granular and pretty dry until the butter grabs all the flour.

Put this mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or more, or in the freezer until it is good and cold. The more time you have, the better—it’s easier to work with when it is cold, plus the flour will soak up more of the moisture if it waits a bit.

Preheat oven to 325.

Take one quarter of the dough at a time from the fridge. Break off a heaping teaspoonful and roll it into a “finger” shape. Either make a cylinder and squeeze it to make a “knuckle”, or roll it between relaxed, slightly open fingers to let it form twisted finger shapes. It’s pretty easy. Indent one end for a “stump.” Make them slim and creepy… they will soften and plump while they bake.

Place cookies on a very lightly greased cookie sheet (or you can line it with parchment paper… I lined mine with foil and very lightly oiled the foil). Press a blanched almond on the not-stump end for a “fingernail” and indent it in several places at the “knuckles” with a skewer or non-serrated butter knife.

Bake until golden on the bottom – my recipe says 25 minutes but it lies like a rug.

Let cool 3 minutes, then raise up each almond, squeeze red decorating gel (or I suppose you could use green… or jam!) in the indented “nail bed,” and put the almond back. Goo will squish out around the nail. It looks wonderful. Smear the indentation on the stump end with your gel, too.

I’m thinking pumpkin seed “nails” and green goo would be a whole ‘nother level of gross looking… you could always do a half and half batch.

Enjoy! (This makes two heavily laden cookie sheets full… I think almost 40 cookies.)

Happy birthday, Mrs. President...

Yeah, it's my birthday. I'm old plus eight.

My man knows what I like. And I like nerdcore. Seriously, there's something so liberating and wonderful about wearing my embarrassing closet addictions (Star Wars, video games, comic books, the Muppets, the whole I-don't-wanna-grow-up-I'm-a-Toys-R-Us-Kid forever lifestyle of my generation... not to mention rap music) right on my sleeve. And it's a relief when I am among younger people who have inexplicably learned the pop culture of my own generation, word for word. Good for you, kids. Good for you.

We went to an MC Chris show tonight at SLO Brew or whatever the hell it calls itself. Even though Pat wrote about it on his blog, I also feel the compulsion to pimp for the MC. Love him. Seriously, really, love him.

He told us a dirty story. He sang his voice into hoarseness. (Yes, he really sounds like that in real life). He bounced and danced and entertained us thoroughly. He encouraged us to sing along, and let us carry the choruses (and the one-liners). He teased us. He made fun of Nickelback. He sang bits of "Free Bird" and "Du Hast." He was amazing.

Great show. Wonderfully great show. The audience never let up on the energy, waving the rap hand, the peace sign, the glow sticks, the bird, whatever he asked us for... and singing along with every word. I thought I was an addict and a fan, but I discovered something about going to concerts for cult phenomena.... the fans are cultish. We cheered and chanted him back onto the stage after his triumphant exit after "Fett's Vette" and he came back, astonished. He blinked at us. "So... what do you want to hear?"

Based on concerts I have seen: if you get the chance to see Ween or MC Chris, go do it. I've seen a lot of wonderful concerts, but when you go to a show, go to be entertained. Take your sense of humor. Take your sense of adventure. Leave your superego at home, and just go play. It's so worth it.

Well done, MC Chris.

Well done, honey. What a great present.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I want to wring some philosophical truth out of this

It seems to me that I could say something totally profound-sounding but unoriginal about the magical way we imagine treats/people/events to be (or are told they will be) and how they really turn out to be, but...

Nicely prepared food really does look delicious (see VegWeb if you want to see gorgeous, enticing food pictures prepared and taken by amateurs... delightful!)

My partner really is adorable. Get your own, but I'm very satisfied with mine.

The moments you psych yourself up for (any occasion you address before the fact as "the perfect [ ]) may not turn out to be the full Disneyfied concept you can build up, but... well, life is pretty magical. A moment in swirling, light snow under a streetlight is a moment surrounded by crystal clear, intense color and dancing light and glitter; wet goldfinches look spectacular clinging even to my grubby, flaccid, half-full thistle sock after a rain; sunsets and sunrises and kittens and clouds and springtime! What's not to love?

I'm reading Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour or whatever it's called. He's essentially dishing on the experience of having to, boo-hoo, work for the Food Network, while receiving a paycheck for doing so. I think they sponsored the book. Oh, woe is me, I'm a sell out, witness the evil of the company and how I bow and kowtow to them! Le sigh... he's a magnificently gifted writer and I assume a great cook, but I hate this particular gripe. I've never learned the value of a dollar, oh agony! Sheesh.

One thing I do adore about the book is the passionate love with which he describes people's everyday foods around the world. And it sort of occurred to me that we rarely rhapsodize about our own quotidian meals... because Doritos and packaged string cheese and whatever else we REALLY eat every day really aren't much in the way of cuisine. Where's the romance?

This article was just serendipitous to that turn of thought:
Ad vs. reality (fast food in ads and real life photos)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Like something from Reader's Digest

What cats know about war.

I'll post something intelligent soon. Work is draining my ability to think under my own power... Three short rate fees on top of minimum earned premiums (if you cancel a policy early, and it is in the contract that they can charge a percentage (up to 100%) of the annual premium no matter what, well, you have to pay) and three and a half workers' compensation audit disputes make for some massive emotional exhaustion. Maybe I sympathize too much. But it's still brutal and difficult sometimes, and this is the stinky end of the insurance stick. So once I get home, I turn into a quivering custard of a person, without drive, ambition, or braaaaaaaiiiiiinnns.

But hey, I made General Tsao's Tofu tonight and I have to say, this was an achievement. Not only did I cook something from scratch, but it was delicious. Go me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: the environment

This is the blunt instrument approach to the topic...

Ten relatively painless things you can do for the environment:

10) Renew, recycle, re-use. Any time you re-use something instead of replacing it, you are doing a world of good. "He who dies with the most toys, wins" is selfish: his descendants lose.

9) Children are the single biggest drain you can produce on the environment. If you're planning your family, plan small and you will make a gentler footprint.

8) Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescents. Your power bills will drop, and they last forever, so it's a win-win situation. And if you balked at the price tag when they first came out, reconsider... they've dropped.

7) If you're female, choose a reusable menstrual cup or washable cloth pads instead of the corporate drain on your household economy that is the commercial feminine hygiene industry. (Your tender naughty bits will be much happier without the chafing paper and plastic, anyway.) Cloth diapers, too. If you wouldn't wear it on your butt all day, why would you do that to a tiny baby?

6) Use re-usable bags rather than "paper or plastic."

5) Choose organic fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans when available and not crazy expensive. They're available and in many cases (but not all) they are measurably more healthy for the consumer.

4) Cut down on emissions by carpooling, traveling less, and biking or walking more.

3) Use less toxic household and toiletry items. Choose ecologically sensitive, biodegradable, or organic options where available.

2) Vote with your wallet and your tummy. Try to get away from fast food. For bonus points, go vegetarian, or better yet, resist factory farming. Not only will you be reading ingredient lists on labels, and probably making choices that include less revolting chemical, petroleum-based, and animal ingredients, but you will be avoiding a major source of pollution. Advanced "carbon dieters" will become locavores, eating only products coming from local sources (I think we used to call it macrobiotics.)

1) Get politically active. Write letters, call your representatives, sign petitions. It takes only an hour or two a week to have a conscience you can feel proud of. Vote for candidates who understand that the future is worth planning for. Press for more sustainable industrial options (fully electric cars, more sustainable fuels, no lead shot, whatever ignites your personal passions).

(I am not anywhere close to perfect... just putting it out there.)

Brother Dave demanded it:

Unless you are actively threatening to buy me dirt if I don't put this up, please disregard this. I really don't need a lot of material goods and I am not begging. :)
My Wish List

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Behind every man...

I was struck by a weird wave of sympathy for a stranger last night.

We were watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares -- the U.S. version -- as we are huge fans of his. (There's something totally engaging and endearing about somebody who cares as much about food, food safety, and decent management as he does: "you could have killed somebody, you donkey!" he screams, turning red in the face. Seriously, if you like Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, watch Ramsay and delight in him.) On this show, he reforms a train wreck of a restaurant, or at least gives it an extraordinary try. He is bracingly acerbic, blunt, and seemingly heartless. (This is because he gives a damn, but it's tough love.)

The owner was a quiet, shy, doormat sort of gent with a sleazeball floor manager and a slightly domineering wife. It's the wife I most sympathized with. Not because I resemble her in character, but because I understand how she got where she was. (Also, she reminds me of the innumerable wives who run their contractor husbands' businesses, doing their books, scheduling their labor, filling in when needed, etc., whom I insure.)

She was involved in the management of the restaurant, helping out, putting sweat, blood, and tears into it alongside her silent workhorse of a husband. She wanted desperately to close the restaurant, cut away the albatross from hubby's neck, and move on. It wasn't successful. She had had it. As a result, she appeared slightly shrewish; in the coda updating us on the restaurant's progress, Ramsay felt it necessary to mention that their marriage was strong and getting better all the time.

Hmm... it never seemed a bit weak to me.

She wanted people to stop taking advantage of her husband. She wanted him to be free of this crushing weight of financial responsibility (surely ruining their credit and finances) and emotional investment. She wanted to get on with their lives. She was done with the whole restaurateur experience and encouraging him... maybe badgering him... to join her in being through with it all.

When I dropped out of school, I felt just like that... it is very hard for me not to nudge Pat toward the path I took. I feel free, lighter, and able to pursue real, tangible goals-- goals like having children, saving for retirement (maybe), getting clear of debt, having fun on weekends and REALLY RELAXING.

There was a happier than expected ending. The sleazeball reformed a little. The hubby asserted himself just a wee little bit. The restaurant tuned up and rallied, and everyone started pulling together. The wife re-invested herself in the experience.

It could also have been a happy ending if they had cut off that malignant bit of dead weight and just walked on. Life's a journey.

I've gone through that "I'm done, this is killing me" thing several times in the past few years. I don't follow politics as once I did, and I am ashamed to say that I only rarely muster out for causes. I no longer engage in entrenched debates online with people of widely differing moral and political orientation. I quit grad school and was shocked to find that I Regret Nothing.

I am reminded of the time when I was 16 and my friend's panty elastic let go all at once while we were shopping at a box-store (you know the ones, they usually end in -mart). She was wearing an A-line skirt and they pooled around her ankles, buttered-side-up. She stepped out of them, gave them a dainty kick under the shelves, and kept walking with a regal expression and her head held high.

Don't forget that other possibilities are out there, and that the choice is yours. Yes, you may turn around out of that tailspin and make it work, and everything will be happily ever after (til next time). Or you can just step out of those tired old things and keep walking, and the world will open new possibilities to you.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lizard Forebrain

When I start foaming at the mouth about scents, flavors, and the experience of the sensorium, I am going to try to do it at my brand new, other mental nest, Lizard Forebrain. That way, this blog will not be swamped in the same kind of weird introspection I am so horribly prone to.

This one was meant to be a home for anecdotes and mumbling about morals and ethics and stuff. I think I want to bring back that separation.

I meant to post at greater length (and earlier!) but things have been off the hizzy, as the bad boys say. Instead I will barrage you with links about what I am going to do with Robert and Pat, the other members of the Rolient Brothers, our screenwriting co-op, this weekend:

Visit the Getty museum.
Go to Tommy Ray's Cafe (owned by Brother Dave's uncle).
Stay in Graciela (Burbank).
Go to Universal Studios.
And if we find time after Universal, we'll go do an initial sniffathon at Memoire Liquide at Fred Sagal Studios.

The Rolient Brothers are also starting a short-story writing group; two weeks to write a story on a given topic, and then we can get together and discuss them. Those elements that seem particularly rich to farm for screenplay fun will hopefully be incorporated.

This cycle's topic: serial killers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Playing doctor -- who's on first?

In today's permissive, gross-out movie atmosphere, purportedly focusing more on women's perspectives (although that is an extremely doubtful interpretation of all the "empowering" spank-fantasy Valkyrie-images in films right now), it's a shame nobody has done a movie that really brings home the deadpan hilarity of the Ob/Gyn's office. Okay, so Knocked Up gave it a try... but they mostly missed the ridiculously physical humor that happens every time, and which nobody present is allowed to be the first to laugh at.

My approach is different. I wisecrack wherever I am. It cuts the can't-laugh tension of the exam room. Try it, the next time a medical professional has you in a compromising position. They may not wisecrack back... but they'll laugh.

I had a breast lump right before we went to Peru. I just about died of terror, but my doctors were great. They got me in the next morning for an exam, fine needle aspiration of the lump, a mammogram, and some sonogram imaging. Punchline: it was just a blood clot from a bruise. Gross. But not terrifying.

The whole experience was clothed in a euphoria of terror, but there were some moments of hilarity.

Strongly accented Japanese doctor: "You bwess are weally lumpy!"
Me: "...Oh God."
Doc: "No, the tissue weally lumpy, has nothing to do with lump."
Me: "Um, is that normal?"
Doc: "Is normal, just is weally lumpy."

Me: "Thank you for examining me-- I'm so relieved."
Doc [dismissively]: "Is nothing! Come back if you find lumpy!"
Me: "But I found a lump... that's why I'm here."
Doc [perplexed]: "But that not a lump."

Nurse [helping me wedge myself into a mammogram machine]: "Get right up next to it-- it might hurt, but it shouldn't REALLY hurt."
Me: "Just uncomfortable. And cold."
Nurse : "Sorry about that. You okay?"
Me: "My mom always told me to keep my tits OUT of the wringer."
Nurse: [laughing so hard she doubles over]

The other day, I went for my annual exam. While nothing so dramatic as diagnosing a lump, it was still filled with absurdity.

Doc [leaning forward to listen to my chest]: "Do you have a heart murmur?"
Me: "No! I don't THINK so... If I do, you'll tell me, right?"
Doc: "Shhh. Deep breath."
Me: "Right?!"

Doc: "Okay, I'm just going to do a visual breast exam."
Me: "It's your funeral."
Doc: [laughing]

Doc: "So you want to get rid of the Paragard?"
Me: "Definitely. I'll make an appointment as soon as I..."
Doc: "Pssssh. I'm gonna do it today."
Me: "Today!?"
Doc: "Sure, I'm gonna be in the neighborhood."

Nurse: "You wanna see your Paragard?"
Me: "You know, I do, I really do... is that gross?"
Doc: "I would totally want to see it."
Nurse: "No, it's not gross, it's pretty cool."
Me [looking]: "Neat-o." [saluting] "Thank you for yeoman service, little dude."
Nurse and Doctor: [laughing]

Doc: "Now, you know that as you get older-- NOT that you're OLD-- you are at SLIGHTLY higher risk for diabetes or high blood pressure. But... you'll do fine."

Monday, September 17, 2007

I seem to be boring you...

Where IS everybody?

I hope you're out, having fun, and life is wonderful in your neck of the woods.

What's everyone up to?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An ex-parrot

Here's a really nice eulogy for Alex.

I'm teary: I loved that little gray beast.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Style and the individual

Obviously, our reasons for washing, dressing, smelling, and accessorizing the way we do vary. One of the things that governs our taste and helps us to select the styles we do is a desire to express ourselves.

What we wear can say who we [think we] are.

This is just as true for the greenie wearing second-hand vintage fashions as it is for the avant-garde fashionista, and just as true for little ol' casual-unkempt me as it is for a Prada-wearing cocktail party attendee.

You can't say lifestyle without saying style.

Many blips on my radar lately have connected at or about this not-very-original thought of mine. Discussions about vegan-appropriate housewares, clothes, shoes, and cosmetics (avoiding animal glue, leather, wool, silk, lanolin, bee and insect based colorants and additives, etc. can be a challenge-- and how does one dispose of well meant but not-vegan gifts?) were the tip of the iceberg. When I see one vegan scold another about using leather shoes pre-dating their vegan lifestyle commitment rather than disposing of them (or the other way around!), I have to wonder... how much of this is pure fashion?

My notice of my supervisor's charming vintage clothes, prowled from yard and estate sales, second hand shops, and other unpretentious outlets for such things, also made me think about it. How can a neighbor's hand-me-down, or even Mom's old sweater, say "me"? On the other hand, it says a lot about her: she uses advertising faxes as scratch paper or prints on their reverse, re-uses containers, chooses to bring lunch in resealable, reusable containers with metal tableware rather than using convenience foods, and, too, saves money wherever she can. She is caring, light-green, and a little old fashioned. Why not shop vintage?

Many of my friends have toys, logo-ware, and accessories that proclaim them to be geeks: gaming geeks, movie geeks, convention goers, medieval replica enthusiasts, online comics readers, etc. While I certainly am most of these things (haven't been to a con in a while, as I never seem to get time off and money at the same time!), I hardly indulge in the consumer culture. (Being fat as heck helps me be moderate about my clothing purchases...) But I am dreadfully uncool, or, in the culture of ironic consumption that has been my milieu since the early 90s, un-uncool.

I wear plain colors, with only a few patterned garments. All my pants (and almost all of my bottoms are pants, not skirts) are black, with a few tan, gray, and brown outliers. All my shirts are green, cranberry pink, brown, or gray (or involuntarily acquired, through Mom or through "casual Friday"-- the only day of the week on which I wear a uniform.) I have only a couple pairs of presentable shoes, and they are all black, except one tan pair I wear with the tan pants when I am not wearing a dark enough shirt to justify black ones. I hardly ever wear jewelry, other than a pair of earrings I always forget to match to my clothing choice du jour. I don't change purses often. I do not wear cosmetics. I scrape my hair back into neutral colored scrunchy ponytails four days out of five. Despite my negligent attitude and recidivist purchasing habits, I have evolved a distinctive look, which, while not particularly dressy nor attractive, doesn't aggravate me. I guess that's style.

Scent is where I consciously strive to be individual. I do not like the idea of smelling like anyone else I know, despite my general fondness for many of the scents of my friends. (Sherri, for example, wears Red Door and Shalimar alternately; both are exquisite on her and very much to my taste, but I will not wear them while they are "hers.")

I don't know how I arrived at this point. I used to want to smell like Grandma, and I used to share perfume with Mom. Having been inspired by Beth's post today at PST to think about childhood longings to be like the other grown-ups and adult cravings to be unlike them, I am compelled to, well, write this post and think through all this.

As a kid, I loved Love's Vanilla-- a sexless, confection-sweet spray with an ice cream cone on the metal bottle. My mom loved it too. Perfumes are notoriously difficult for her, because they all mutate into cat-pee on her skin... that one was special, just pure gorgeous vanilla on her and on me too. It vanished, and we wept together. She has never found a vanilla scent to replace it with. I have flirted with numerous vanilla and foody scents, finding them all to be unsatisfactory in the long run, but acceptable for the short run. I can no longer wear what my mom does-- she wears fresh, complex florals with sparkling citrus, and I have been wearing deep, deeper, deepest (never fruity!) foodie scents, like Comptoir Sud Pacifique's L'Amour de Cacao and Pilar and Lucy's The Exact Friction of Stars.

And suddenly, like the thirty-something I am, I find that I have outgrown the scent equivalent of the umbrella-clad fruity girly drink and into the scent equivalent of a good Scotch-- barely foody, not at all sweet, deep and smoky, complex, filled with earthy and evolving aromas.

Hunh. Ain't that a bitch.

Back to the whole individuality thing... There are a few places where one can have a scent designed, which is uniquely one's own, and never to be shared by anyone else. I want this with the fierce intensity of a burning sun! (Mostly because I know what I like and I can never find it, untainted by other things which I do not.)

One is Christopher Brosius Limited "I Hate Perfume". CB is the luminary perfumer who made some of the extraordinary, bizarre single-scent notes from Demeter perfumes, such as Dirt, Green Tomato, or Lobster (I apologize if another perfumer is responsible for any of these Demeter scents). He doesn't like perfumes that don't evoke experiences. Now, after a clean break with Demeter, he makes spare, lean, gorgeous perfumes evoking things like burning maple leaves, icy mittens, or a Mediterranean holiday. These are not metaphors-- they really do smell just like those things. He also designs custom perfumes for customers who desire that service, keeps the formulae on file, and never allows anybody even to try on those personalized scents. Although others can smell them in his studio, they aren't allowed even to try them on. This is both so accessible and so marvelously exclusive that it fascinates me.

The other that I can think of is Memoire Liquide (website still under construction-- for the metatextual connection, go here or here.) The developers are Robin Coe Hutshing and her sister Jennifer Coe Bakewell, who have deliberately created a deconstructed fragrance counter experience where clients go through the experience of selecting scents they prefer or find evocative or meaningful, and building a personal fragrance with the aid of a perfumer. Memoire Liquide also keeps the recipes on file for future reference and purchase, although I am less clear on whether they share them with other consumers. I want, want, want to do this. Pat has promised me a field trip to go fragrance-constructing there for this Christmas... sometime a little in advance of the holiday. I'm crazy excited!

I can think of many combinations of fragrances that I think I would adore. Here are a few I-wish-I-had-handy-right-now combinations:

--Fresh cut ginger, gardenia, and lemon. (c'mon, why must white florals always be creamy and night-time-ish? I want a spicy daytime scent without a lot of cloves.)
--Boozy, pure vanilla without any florals or musks added-- not baked goods, but reminiscent of the extract. (For Mom.)
--Vetiver and fresh cut rosemary. (This could be perfume Prozac. I want this to exist.)
--Stargazer lilies and violet leaves. (Those heady spice-bomb flowers and that fresh greenness would be dynamite goddess power when I really needed a knockout date scent.)

But what I think I will try to recreate this Christmas is the scent of summertime on the Central Coast of California, where I live. Ripe, true-to-life strawberries must be the soul of the scent, and there must be oaky smoke to represent the oak barbecue that happens every day here. Watermelon. Orange blossoms. Lemons. Black pepper. Star jasmine. The sweet dry salty rooty dust smell of vetiver, maybe. Certainly hay. Green leaves. Tomato plants. Moss. Maybe a touch of seaweed or tar. Something to mimic the sweetness of whatever dry herb it is that perfumes the wind over our sere, drought-scorched hills. (I'll skip the fart smell of freshly harvested broccoli, but it, too, is the perfume of my home.) It is the aroma that seems to power my windchimes, creeping into my sky-blue bedroom in the same puffs that stir the bells and send my curtain dancing on a lazy summer Sunday, while I nap with my head on Pat's warm shoulder: the scent of happiness. I would love to bottle an analogue of it to amuse myself with in winter.

Wish me luck.

What would YOU bottle?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Thursday night

On Thursday nights, Pete's on Avila Pier has an open mic night. It seems to have been more or less permanently colonized by a young woman named Audrey, whose lovely whiskey voice and shamelessly self-revelatory lyrics compete weekly with the joy-inducing shouts of the sea lions stationed on the pier supports directly under the restaurant. There is little more delightful in the world than being one of a handful of regulars enjoying the catch of the day, bathed in salt air, listening to Audrey pouring her heart out and the heckling sea lions, with the surf crashing around you, the overcast gray sky silhouetting the prehistoric-looking pelicans, and your friends smiling across the table. Also, Pete's makes really good salsa.

Two young men, with the unsteady and wide-red-eyed look of the intensely stoned, came up to the order window of the shack and ordered some fish and chips (wonderful) and some fish tacos (incredible). Then they came over to us on a wavering beeline.

The crazier looking of them leaned over my end of the table. I resisted picking up my purse. Dammit, my passport was in it... it would be a pain to replace. But I didn't want to be rude.

"We're gonna be having a bonfire right over there later," he yelled over Audrey and sea lion barks and surf. He pointed over my head. I nodded, because I was not turning my back on him and my purse and he was actually close enough to touch me, which seemed undesirable. Robert and Pat looked at the bonfire location and said, "Nice."

"Y'all are welcome to come. Come to the bonfire. We're gonna be having a bonfire right over there, right over there, later. It's gonna be right over there." He jabbed his finger at it. I think he was unsettled by my not looking. Wanting him to go away so Audrey could be heard, I leaned my chair back out of his reach and glanced over my shoulder, not bothering to find the bonfire-to-be.

"Great, thanks."

"Yeah, we'll probably be just hanging out, having some snacks, reading some Scriptures," he yelled. He had lost his inside voice (along with his personal hygiene and whatever internal gyroscope keeps people from wobbling.)

I smiled. "Cool."

"Y'all are welcome to come."

Me, Pat: "Thank you."

Robert: "Well, maybe we will-- we have one more place to go tonight, before they close."

The lunatic's eyes opened even wider. I glanced at his companion, who was smiling, but not with the self-consciousness I had anticipated. He was even closer to me. His smile seemed to be stuck. His eyes weren't focused. He was like a Pat Sajak zombie. I winced; I'm sure it looked encouraging, because the one without an inside voice started yelling again. (So did a quorum of the sea lions below.)

"I'm Ian!" He stuck a dirty hand in Pat's face.

Pat shook his hand and said, "Good to meet you."

Ian waited, rocking forward and back. I thought about meth-heads.

Audrey wailed about nature, responsibility, loving a grandmother even beyond death. The sea lions asked their fellows to please get the hell off of them: they're pretty rude with what would be elbows if they had elbows, which is why their call sounds like "ow, ow, ow."

Pat finally took pity. "Pat."

Robert pre-emptively gave his name and stuck out his hand. "Robert." Ian shook it. His beginning-to-remind-me-of-Ford-Prefect smiling friend mumbled, "do you live around here?" to me but I affected not to hear. I put down my plastic fork and shook Ian's hand: dry, burning hot, hopefully desperation is not communicable. "Linda."

Ian wobbled back two paces. I looked expectantly at Ford. He said, "Hi, I'm Evan."

"Hi, Evan, nice to meet you." I said.

Robert said, "Evan."

Pat said, "Hi."

The fish tacos and fish & chips were done. Insanity fuel. The cook shoved it out onto the ledge of the shack and closed the window, not because he was scared of the men, but because that's just what they do when it's cold outside.

Ian yelled, "So we're having a bonfire over there in a few minutes, actually we're about to start, in just a few minutes. Y'all are welcome to come."

"Great, thank you!" Robert said.

I was starting to fight the giggles. "Great!"

They wobbled off to get their food. "See you there," Ian shouted at us. Evan didn't stop smiling when he ate. Like a shark, I thought. The sea lions moaned and barked.

We ate and chatted with Audrey between songs, getting the stories behind her striking and smart lyrics. I was getting cold. We got up to go to our other destination, Robert closing his portable lawn chair and putting it into its backpack, Pat and I trying to help the embarrassed staff stack our plastic chairs (they wouldn't let us, and they wanted all of us, the evangelists, the Wiccan singer, and we three doubting Thomases, to go away and let them close up the shop.)

A battered pickup truck zoomed by us, headed from the pier parking lot toward land. "See you there, it's about to start," Ian yelled from the driver's seat, leaning over the grinning Evan. We waved.

"Enjoy the red Kool-Aid," I said, but really, not loud enough for them to hear. I didn't want to antagonize. The cook snorted and stacked chairs.

And then we went to have wonderful coffee at a new coffee shop, and talk about Warren Ellis and dragons fucking cars.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What's that smell?

I am pleased to announce that I am going to be a regular guest poster at Perfume Smellin' Things. Every third Tuesday, you will be able to find my featured guest post right there in black & white. (The rest of the time, you will have to be content with Columbina, her wickedly amusing Mr. Columbina, the charming Tom, and the other guest posters... so don't wait 'til a rainy Tuesday to visit. They're delightful.)

My review of Andy Tauer's delicious, unreleased fragrance L'Eau d'Epices, currently being tinkered with by Andy, will be the first to appear there. His other fragrances, particularly Lonestar Memories, are controversial and seem to be love-or-hate things with no room to kinda-like. I am keen to try Lonestar Memories because evidently it is a fierce thing of smoke, dust, leather, and tar: eau de highway. Excitingly different, though I might not be the right person to wear such a thing.

I will be acquiring even more fragrance samples, now that I can justify spending money on my odd passion for scents to myself... it's a legitimate hobby now, don'tcha know? (Those of you who see me regularly will soon be aware that I will smell weird-- okay, even weirder than usual-- in my spare time.)

As of now... well, I cannot recommend Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company highly enough. It comes with quite a price tag, which is normally enough to send me whimpering, but in this case, I might bite the bullet and go for it. It is unisex, austere, and reminiscent of the outdoors. A warm, rooty, earthy freshness of vetiver softened by candied grapefruit, iris, ylang, cardamom, and the teensiest touch of patchouli ever. (I can't even smell the patchouli.) This scent does not trail after or emanate from the wearer. Instead, it seems to surround him, barely detectable except for brief, beautiful, strangely salty hints. Try a sample if you are curious; it might delight you the way it does me.

Yes, a sample. You can try small samples of fragrances from many perfume shops -- I rather like Luckyscent. Or visit the holy grail of sample and decant shops, The Perfumed Court. But beware... that way lies addiction.

Edit: If you are apt to be captivated by sniffing things, but don't know where to start, read this post at Perfume Posse... even if you don't go smell them all (and goodness knows I have not) it's a delicious post.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lovely lightning storm

My mom loves weather and made me go look at this link. If you want to feast your eyes on some lovely lightning photos, almost absent of rain, and to see the region I'm living in (by night, lit by lightning), go look.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

GURPS Heroes, redux

Here there be supervillains.

I'm playing a game of GURPS with my brother and friends here, loosely based on the wonderful TV series Heroes. Excitingly, they have just met some potential supervillains.

Couldn't resist a little cartoonery. Observant readers who share the same pop cultural resources will know from what some of these images are derived (partially traced, partially mutated).

Bah. Tough cookies... I needed models. =)

Friday, August 24, 2007

The insurance company's share of the blame

I don't think I ever updated to say that yes, you can too pay for commercial policies on our website.

I was given misinformation by our website help hotline. Also by CSRs in our customer service and monthly billing departments. The latest and greatest misinformation is the idea that you can't pay commercial policies online. Before that, it was bad instructions that I faithfully passed to my exasperated customer. I did raise some of heaven and earth and yes, there will be training sessions.

Is it still partially his fault? Oh yes. He keeps doing something he knows is wrong because he is aware he doesn't know how to do it right, and trusts that it will fix itself.

By now, the company has spent more in payroll to fix these errors than they are making on one of his misapplied bills... and more of my own effort and consciousness have been invested than I like.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Nature vs. Culture

It strikes me that one of the many reasons that science fiction is not, as a genre, booming with good and original works that are of memorable excellence at the moment might be that our assumptions about people have matured.

The wonderful and caustic Thomas Disch writes interestingly about the immaturity of science fiction-- not only audiences, but themes. Well, I know I read more of it when I was a teen, although arguably that was because I still had all the great classics before me... and I know there is a lot of SF that I find laughable, even endearingly embarrassing, now. Like a high school photo. It's true: late Heinlein's post-sexual-revolution fantasias, Dick's paranoid Freudianism, and even Herbert's grotesque wish-fulfillment rise-to-power narratives are juvenile in their essentials.

Any of the glorious war-vs.-the-aliens books, well, glorify war... you will note that our volunteer military pitches its glorifications to youthful potential recruits. Only in SF, the sinister alienness, the us-or-them dimensions of a war, are far more incontrovertible and indisputable than in the messy single planet upon which we find ourselves, where our enemies are potentially brothers. It is a clean universe of glory in a Manichean opposition of light vs. dark (sometimes literally... yes, I'm looking at you, Star Wars.)

It strikes me that the over-and-doneness I ascribe to the nature vs. culture debate in the preceding post (where I followed that up with a long rant about culture... I suppose I should have clarified first) may affect how we create and receive sf.

If nature is anthropogenic, which is a (much more current) viewpoint I will support and defend, prying apart nature and culture is impossible. And that makes it difficult to have absolutes, particularly absolute human or inhuman nature, without involving religion.* Absolute evil must be mystic, not biological; aliens become sympathetic; our nice neat Manichean black and white goes away and we are left with messy, depressing warfare.

Is the slow, ongoing fall of sf a result of battle fatigue, shame and guilt, and a feeling that instead of a hundred page book of how to whoop 'em, we should be reading a six hundred page history of negotiations? Could it be that there IS a sphere of resistance to the sound-byting that has fragmented and polarized our nightly news?

Dunno. I got up early, what can I say?

(*I'm going to say that if you write a story about an alien who is raised by loving humans in every kindness, he will be -- MUST BE -- human; I don't think I can say the same of a story about a hand-raised demon. See where I'm going with "religion" here?)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

William Richardson on Logo/HRC Presidential Debate

I usually try not to get my politics from the Daily Show, not because I think there's something wrong with their politics, really, but because I try to be a little more responsible than that.

(Also, I hate crowd noises and yelling, and the soundscape of the show really bugs me, despite my enjoyment of its humor. Furthermore, one of their Moments of Zen so scarred me that I would not turn on Comedy Central for literally about two years, for fear of seeing it again.)

However, the hubs is an addict so it generally provides an irritable-making backdrop for my getting ready for work in the morning. I should be listening to windchimes and falling water, with the way work's been. But no. Crowds and yelling.

Anyway... this morning's repeat of yesterday's show, featuring a real boner by William Richardson from the Logo/HRC debate in one of its segments, got me thinking. First the quote:

Melissa Etheridge (WTF? But pretty speaking voice, OMG): "Do you think homosexuality is a choice or is it biological?"

William Richardson (bluntly and decisively): "It's a choice."
Now... obviously that was a dumb answer, at least politically unsavvy to an extreme. If nothing else, know your surroundings, and know your audience. I would have admired his brass balls, if he had any, but a later press release claimed that jet lag made it impossible for him to understand the question. Not too ballsy, no.

However, biological homosexuality is one of those irritant concepts for me, one that makes me secrete the intellectual nacre that hopefully will form pearls of wisdom, or at least something interesting and not too noxious. I think it's poorly proven, I think it's insulting to the community (although the community may not agree with me), and I think it's absurdly "nature vs. culture."

The obvious starting point for a more savvy answer to that question, at least for me, would be, "That's a false dichotomy."

So, without further ado...

That's a false dichotomy. You cannot place nature and culture into tension in this day and age... that debate has been exploded for many decades.

The notion of homosexuality is a cultural one. Cultural ideas have their times and places of context. For instance, the people of some cultures switch what we Americans would think of as their sexual preference with their life cycles... in some places in Melanesia, boys traditionally, ritually fellate adult men to develop their own adulthood, for instance. Also, definitions are fraught with lots of cultural spin. For instance, in present-day Brazil, the person doing the penetrating is conceptually "straight" and the receiver is "gay." What we think of in the U. S. as an absolute (and one that hypertrophically defines the sense of self... "gay" becomes the very first adjective selected to self-describe someone who is "out") is actually a collection of related notions artificially constrained by cultural expectation.

The same is true of the notion of biology. We think of "science" as a great force in defining what we "know." Frankly, we don't "know" beans... almost all studies of humans, particularly human behavior, even more particularly behavior about which humans are emotional and self-conscious, are way too problematic to take for granted. We cannot isolate cause and effect neatly, as we can in a lab. Take the bizarre notions surrounding food and health... Let me cite one particularly dramatic example from Marion Nestle's What to Eat:

The idea that eating soy might prevent heart disease or any other condition is based on wonderfully reductive logic:

  • Asians have low rates of heart disease (or menopausal or other health problems)
  • Asians eat soybeans.
  • Soybeans contain proteins, fiber, and isoflavones.
  • Soy proteins, fiber, or isoflavones must be responsible for the good health of Asians. (p. 135)
In short, those claims on your soyfood packages are kinda bunk. Sure, they MIGHT be right, but it would be almost by accident if they were. The same is true of corporate-sponsored studies that state that, say, milk consumption helps you lose weight... only they are even fishier, since they are concocted with cupidity and malice and fostered to raise consumption of a product proven to be harmful in DIRECT ways. Let's not get into dairy right now, though.

Just ... well, once phrenology would have told us that People Of Color Have Different Cognitive Capacity Than Whites. We know better. Phrenology was then considered science; now it's not. None of us want to go back to that time (at least none of us that I am willing to speak with.) Why would we want to go to a time with a "gay gene?" What's wrong with just being who we are, members of our society with different sexual and social preferences and quirks, without an identity "tag" that shouldn't necessarily be the business of casual acquaintances supposedly determining us for a whole suite of cultural predispositions and tastes in everything from foods (quiche, anyone?) to movies (the Wizard of Oz comes to mind) to not-necessarily-relevant political identities (not to be reductive, but what does abortion really have to do with gay rights, aside from aggregation in the same party?)... And why would we want to see ourselves as lacking in volition or choice (particularly with the rugged American individualism equating choice with patriotism... which is uniquely destructive when corporately steered, but that's another rant entirely.)

Biology is funny that way; it's a convenient way of saying what we believe using arguments we can construct with the (sometimes comically erroneous) authority of "science."

So, no, it is not biological, at least not convincingly so. And it is not necessarily the product of one's will, free of cultural externalities, pressures, and notions, i.e. "choice." What we are looking at is a cultural cluster of ideas adding up to "homosexuality" bisected by a cultural construction of "science" -- biology, in this case -- and complicated by a highly charged political and cultural concept of "freedom" -- i.e., "choice."

Stupid question, but frustratingly slippery and emotionally tangled by people wanting to blame their social tensions on a single, immutable (except by eugenics, which, again, only the horrible among us want) "biological" trigger. I find the notions of A.D.D., chronic biological dependencies, and clinical depression just as mistaken and just as alarming as underpinnings of political debate. Let's move on.

My share of the blame

I wrote The Letter I Wish I Had Sent Instead the other day, so you may know the situation from that... or from me bitching about the client, if you have talked to me in person. He's so mean he's brought me to tears twice, and the first time I talked to him I almost quit my job just so I wouldn't have to deal with him again.

However... having spent about 6 hours of my workday on untangling this (for the fourth time now)...

I have been giving him misinformation.

Every month I have faithfully called and gotten detailed instructions from the corporate customer service reps, monthly billing reps, and even the e-payment helpline on how he should proceed to pay his bill. Every month I have told him, and he has ignored me and done it any old way. (His line? "I trust you to fix it." Folks, don't do something consistently, stubbornly, knowingly wrong and trust someone to fix it... if I were a lesser person I would have swept it under the rug til he cancelled, got mad, and went elsewhere. Lots of people, faced with the kind of abuse he dishes out on the phone or email, would have done just that.)

Every month they have given me those instructions. But in April (when he started having these problems), when I took over commercial services for our agency (thus bringing zero experience to the table), they changed the website so that no commercial policies could be paid online, period.


They did not inform the commercial customer services reps, nor the retail manager.

They did not inform our monthly billing reps.

They did not inform their own customer service reps on the helpline.



So I've been trying to discreetly explain to this guy why he's an idiot (he still is: if something didn't work ... hell, if it didn't work TWICE and you have been told it will never work, QUIT DOING IT!!!) while he's been loudly telling me that I and everyone I work with are idiots... and we're both right, kind of.

I've been doing my due diligence, but it hasn't been helping.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Go see Stardust

It's really good. Loads of fun, and many belly laughs for me. Slow starter, so don't start wondering if ducks has gone off her rocker... it may start at Labyrinth, but it makes its way to Princess Bride.

Also, try Larabars. Don't order them online, the cost is ridiculous. If you have access to a health foodie friendly store (not the one in the previous post, please) or Trader Joe's, give it a shot. Yum, so good.

Hmm. Good things come in threes. Ah... I will write more about it later, but Andy Tauer's L'Eau des Epices is fucking glorious.

The letter I wish I'd sent instead

Dear Worst Customer I Have,

In response to your e-mail today, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate a hostile, paranoid three page e-mail telling me how stupid I am, along with my agency, parent company, and presumably your bank of choice. Not much.

Thank you so much for sending it in three bitter installments because you could not figure out how to send all 11 attachments in one message. I might have succeeded in forgetting you existed, without those handy little pop-up windows bearing your name and snarling salutations. Great reminder.

Once again, just as I told you last month, the month before, and the month before that, I am sorry you managed to fuck up your billing again. As I explained last month, the month before, and the month before that, you are doing it wrong. Quit doing that, and your billing will be fine. Hell, even a chicken can learn to associate rewards with a task done right... here's a hint: peck the red button.

I sent you detailed troubleshooting each time, and last month, I made you a how-to file complete with color illustrations ganked from screenshots of the e-payment screens with large, red arrows. Did you receive them? I know you are dissatisfied with the way the website works, but it has not magically changed in the last month, the month before, or the month before that one. Sorry, but the way things work does not change just because we don't want to do them correctly. Be aware that if you stand outside and throw handfuls of money into the air (ten minutes before midnight the day the bill is due), it won't get credited to your account, either.

Please schedule an appointment every month to pay your bill in our office and on time. (We do close at 5:30, so you may have to pay more than 10 minutes before the movements of Yellow Face In The Sky makes the due date go away.) We will be happy to hand you a receipt that will actually mean something, unlike the confirmation notice which I have explained several times has no bearing on whether the money can actually be applied to your account.

If this experience has done nothing else for us, it has helped us get to know one another. It is unfortunate that I am in your business' target demographic; I would love to shop at your spacious, well-appointed health food store, but you are such a tool I find it morally imperative to avoid your shop. I would not, after all, want to give you hard-earned dollars to misapply to your monthly premiums. I'll do the reprehensibly un-green thing of driving to the one in the nearby excuse for a college town instead, or order online... "shop local" be damned.

Neither do I promote your shop via word-of-mouth, which would really give your foot traffic a boost... at least in nepotistic, cliquey, small-town-feel central-coastal California.

Curse you for choosing our agency to serve your insurance needs, and stop wasting my time. If you have questions or concerns, promptly drink paint and set fire to yourself.



Sunday, August 5, 2007

Old Twentieth

Joe Haldeman is one of my favorite writers, hands-down. The Forever War is one of the finest books I have ever read. Go find a copy, and read it.

I just devoured Old Twentieth, and I am astonished by it. It's magnificent.

But it is very odd, also. The pace is not uniform, although it does increase its intensity. It wriggles with the surprising, chaotic, awkward twists and turns of lived experience, reduced down to a plot line. It is suspenseful, follows a single thread of plot... and still refuses to be tidy.

In many ways, OT may be better than TFW. (If you have ever discussed the latter with me, you will know how dazzled you should be by that statement.) That may be my personal bias, as cyberpunkish questions about learning, maturity, and sentience are a big part of my own writing and thinking at the moment and they form some of the central themes of this book.

I'm not going to do a full review. To do so might spoil it. I am going to tell you that if you like futurist fiction, reveries on mortality and melancholia, gritty war writing, and psychological science fiction, and particularly if you have ever been interested in cyberpunk concerns with nuances of sentience, you might want to pick this one up.

Traditional medicine

One of the most tempting trends that keeps coming around is traditional medicine, as in herbal/holistic/etc., as opposed to "standard" "Western" medicine. At least, it's tempting for me. I am a big believer that proper nutrition and holistic care of the body makes for a much healthier person than medicating every point of physical, emotional, or mental difference... or even illness.

When there are scares about things like anti-bacterial cleaning products, antibiotics just toughening up pathogens, building up resistances to life-saving drugs, and so on, I lean even harder in this direction.

The fact of the matter is that your body is a machine that obeys the law of "garbage in, garbage out." If you eat animal fat, your arteries are likelier to clog. If you don't eat enough fiber, you will get diverticulitis (earlier). If you eat a lot of carcinogens, you're likelier even than the rest of us to get cancer. Eat fats, get obese. Eat sugars, get diabetes. Drink alcohol, get arrested. Everything in moderation ... and moderation doesn't mean "'til I don't wanna anymore," it means, "in the quantity and proportion necessary to my maintenance." Do I do it right? Oh, God, no. I try, but no. And I don't try hard enough.

But here's the thing. There is no such thing as magic. Homeopathic medicine is probably less effective for the treatment of illness than is Western medicine... although it arguably has a place in both therapeutic and maintenance regimens.

For instance, I am a big believer in oatmeal. Oatmeal is pretty neat... it's a low-fat high-fiber whole grain, so if you eat it it cleans you up and out. It's a demulcent so it helps upset tummies and esophagi. It's very soothing on the skin and if made into a poultice it can dry out a nasty wound (poison oak, spider bite, etc.) I've attributed a brown recluse bite healing to an oatmeal poultice and I would apply one again today, were a brown recluse to test my faith.


If you are sick, go to the doctor. If they give you medicine, take it. Do not take half doses of it because "my system isn't used to it." Do not quit taking it halfway into a prescription because "I feel better." Do not self-medicate with quackeries.

Here's the deal about traditional medicine, the honest to goodness raw deal.

If you go to another country, say a poor, third-world country like, oh, say, Peru, you will indeed find people ill unto dying with the same kinds of diseases we have here: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. (You will also find them ill with special, poverty-exacerbated illnesses like goiter, cholera, tapeworms, and so on. Also of purely social causes, like sepsis or bleeding to death after at-home illegal abortion attempts, or relatively unexplained infant mortality.)

You might go up to them and ask them how they are doing. "Better, much better," they say. Almost any sick person round the world will tell you they are feeling better at any given moment. But let's say you believe it. "What are you doing for it?" you ask.

"Well, I am on a special diet... five fruits and vegetables, liquidated in the blender, and I drink that twice a day. Instead of breakfast, instead of lunch. And I am drinking a tea made of the leaves of a special plant."

"Really? And it's working?"

"Oh yes! My sister was sick with the same condition, and she did this, and it went away, by the grace of God she no longer has any illness..."

We want to believe. Somebody who is sick wants to believe, too, that what they are doing is efficacious to remedy their conditions. You're not being lied to, you are being preached to by starry-eyed hopefuls. And yes, some of these treatments have some basis, sure, but they're not the "magic bullet" that will cure you of your bad habits and/or diseases. A half a cup of oatmeal won't cure you of a daily diet of beef fat, Doritos and Twinkies. A ginkgo biloba gelcap won't cure you of carelessness. Even when we get all scientistic about it... the antioxidants in that cup of green tea won't cover the damage caused by the sucralose and aspartame in the bottle (and maybe not by the exudates from the plastic.)

In many cases, Western medical facilities of diagnosis are available... What a fucking shame that Western medicine is not also available to treat what is diagnosed. The realities of the Third World is that this is where factory seconds are sent to die. Factory seconded condoms from the First World. Medicines that have been discontinued due to obsolescence or safety concerns. Medicines that were factory seconded... or past their expiration dates. Most often, these things are being doled out in single-dosage portions by the wives of the people who open Farmacias and Boticas... diligent and hard-working women whose spouses might even have attended an undisclosed amount of medical or pharmaceutical schooling... but who are never on premises.

They do diagnoses, too.


Sometimes with questions, sometimes with a glance, sometimes according to the client's wishes, sometimes with a sacrificed guinea pig and colored smoke.

Stop flinching, it's traditional.

Of course people treat their illnesses anyway, in any way they can. Drink the special tea, drink the smoothies, pray. All of it helps, because it sure beats doing nothing... and nothing is all you (or your clinic, or sometimes your whole country) can afford unless it's tea and fruit, well, you go with the tea and fruit. And prayer is generally free.

Traveling optimists carry the news. "I met a man in the Third World who was dying of cancer, and he drank a tea made of this leaf... it cured him!"

You left out other parts of the equation. In the absence of Western medicine, he ate a special diet, drank a special tea, and prayed a lot. Did the prayer cure him, O optimists of traditional medicine? Or was it the tea?

If the doctors who diagnosed the sufferer had the means to treat him, you'd better believe it wouldn't be with maca and horny goat weed and garlic capsules and fish oil. And if he were offered affordable, standard Western medicine, your friend would be in a hospital bed faster than you could say "snake oil."

Just a word of caution that I promised to a friend about a month ago... and written at this long-delayed juncture very poorly.