Friday, December 24, 2010

A review of the iMac. Sort of.

Yesterday I spend just over $2,000 of the credit card company's money on a shiny new 27" iMac.

I did this after work, or what passes for work the week before Christmas. Yes, I am "working" now.

I take the bus to work this time of year - too snowy and cold to cycle with any degree of enjoyment for me, although I see the odd cyclist. And by odd, I mean they are odd. Ottawa winters are not for cycling.

So I took the bus downtown from work to the Apple store, which was full of red shirted genies (that's the plural of genius, right?), one of whom sold me an iMac. I was smart - I asked how much it weighed. He told me 47 pounds. I figured that's not too heavy to lug home on the bus.

It is.

Here's what I can state with confidence about the 27" iMac.

1. The box is quite sturdy.
2. If you lean a bit away from the side carrying it, it won't hit the ground if you are at least 5'6" tall.
3. The handle is strong enough to hold the weight, even if you take it on and off 3 buses and walk 6 blocks with it.
4. It is heavy. 47 pounds, apparently.
5. It is not portable, even with the aforementioned handle.
6. Picking it up in both arms, ignoring the handle, does not improve its portability. It remains an object intended to be stationary. Not stationery - it is not a paper product, although the box is made out of cardboard.

If you're thinking of buying a 27" iMac, I strongly recommend you avoid public transit while it is in its pre-desk phase. Unlike me, you are probably not too cheap to spend $2k on a computer but not $25 on a cab ride. Or $0.50 on a phone call to your Lexus-driving spouse.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy the return of the light, which is the true reason for the season. And don't hit baby Jesus with sticks - Kenny Loggins wouldn't approve. Read this if you don't know why.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Yak Herding

Life can occasionally get bat shit insane. Right now mine is feeling on the verge of bat shit insanity. Let's call it bat shit odd.

Child 2 has some sort of leg pain, which could be complex regional pain syndrome, or not. Basically there's no physical reason for the pain, but he's debilitated by it regardless. This does not make me feel like a good parent.

Child 1 is having panic attacks. Second one this week was at 8am this morning, she called from school. I remained calm and told her to breath slowly. Not sure how she is. Her boyfriend has a tendency to text her at night that he's going to kill himself. If he doesn't stop, he won't need to kill himself. His phone will be so far up his ass he'll have other concerns. Nice kid. But my daughter is not his suicide prevention line.

Spouse is looking a wee mite like he's getting into another manic episode, and is on the "Western medicine only treats symptoms" meme. Pinning him down to find out what's going on in that giant head of his is like, to steal a phrase, nailing jello to a wall. Not happening. Needs to happen.

What is my plan of attack?

1. Spend time with suffering kiddies in highly relaxed way, in hopes it will ease anxiety and alleviate symptoms (pain, panic)
2. Tell spouse he'd better get his ass to his doc or psychiatrist, as he can't stay with us if he descends into madness
3. Failing 1 and 2, move to Ulan Batar and herd yaks.

I'm concerned about option 3, as I don't like smelly animals and I do love me some indoor plumbing. Yet it holds a strange appeal right now.

Maybe I need an option 4. Steal daughter's prescription for benzodiazapans. Drug spouse once I decide if my suspicions of impending mania are correct. Cause denial is going to fail epically, and I'm guessing my yak herding skills would make me unemployed in Mongolia.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flaming ass cups

My son has a hip problem. He's had an MRI and 2 x-rays, but no diagnosis, so naturally my husband took him to accupuncture.

I've done some reading about accupuncture - about its true history, not the myth that it's been practiced in China for 6,000 years therefore must be right. About results of clinical trials looking at how effective it is for various conditions. About the total absence of evidence for meridians or qi or whatever you want to call the hypothesis behind the accupuncture points.

My distillation of this reading is that accupuncture has a powerful placebo effect, and needling can have some beneficial impact on pain perception. But it doesn't have a curative effect. I don't expect it to help with my son's very real and very debilitating hip pain - either time will, or the physicians will diagnose the cause and fix it. I refuse to believe that this debility will be permanent.

Where do flaming ass cups fit into this? Well, his second accupuncturist - the first one's in China - applied flaming cups to his ass. I think the idea behind cupping is that it draws toxins out. Yeah, in the same way a hickey does - it doesn't, it causes bruising. So I am now doubly skeptical of this particular mode of treatment, as my opinion is that applying flaming cups to a 14 year old boy's bare butt is closer to pedophelia than medicine. Git yer flamin' cups off my kid's ass, quack!

Flaming ass cups would be an awesome name for a band.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

...and another thing that irritates me about religion

I'm an atheist. This means I don't believe in any of the gods humankind has proposed to explain the world. None of 'em.

In all honesty, I'm trying to be all liberal and accomodating about religion, but really I think if you're religious, you aren't thinking hard enough. I think I'm right, and if you disagree, well, you must be wrong. One of my favourite bloggers, slacktivist, is religious. But his non-religious thinking is brilliant (mostly), and I love reading his blog. It's helped me understand that you can be religious, and think profoundly about your religion, and not be a bigot, and be a most excellent person. But I still think religion has some major issues and not enough religious people are willing to discuss them.

My point? I do have one. I just can't segue into it nicely. I dislike the conservatism of religion. I dislike the misogyny that goes along with that conservatism. The current pope, Benedict, has said it's sinful to rape kids and to ordain women, and they are in the same level of sin. Being ignorant of the finer points of Catholic dogma, I don't know if he really means they are equally wrong, but he did make it clear both are seriously bad.

So he runs an institution that says women can't have employment equity. That this is wrong, a sin, and a big one. Yet the church gets charitable status, so we are, with our tax dollars, supporting an institution that says it doesn't have to follow the law. This is wrong. If an organization wants to apply for tax-exempt status, it should be required to follow all laws. If it does not wish to follow these laws, it should have to file tax returns and pay tax, if there is income after expenses, on that income.

Our wimpy politicians are afraid of insulting religion. Asking people who claim to be moral authorities to follow the law doesn't seem insulting to me. Failing to do so? I'm insulted. Enough that it makes me suspicious of all religous people. Even though I'm trying to be tolerant.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts about colons

There are 2 kinds of colons. That I know of. One is a punctuation mark, and the other one ends in an orifice that kind of ressembles a punctuation mark.

This post is about the latter type of colon. Specifically, about the delights of ensuring your colon remains cancer-free.

I have a family history of colon cancer, on both sides. We've been diligent at getting screened, and the only person to die of colon cancer was 91 at the time - as they generally stop screening around age 80 on the theory that a colon cancer starting then won't have time to kill you before something else does, this should in no way reflect on said relative,s screening diligence. Although I have no idea if they screened or not!

Few things induce the ick more than the thought of a long anal probe. Really - admit it - you have to think for at least 2 minutes before you can come up with something that doesn't involve eating horrible things on Fear Factor. Maybe getting uncontrollable diarhea while in a toilet-free zone. That would be pretty bad.

So I'd like to blog my experience with said long anal probe. Because it wasn't that bad. Maybe I was expecting far worse, based on a couple of episodes of House, which as we all know is 100% medically accurate at all times.

The prep starts a couple of days in advance, with some dietary restrictions. I think it was seeds and nuts - they don't want them clogging the instrument. Neither do I. I'd like any probing to be as, um, smooth as possible. So I avoided seeds and nuts.

The next step is having a tiny breakfast before 8am the day before the procedure. This is your last solid food, and, for me far more sinister, your last hit of caffeine. So I got up early and had my normal bowl of cereal and 2 lovely cups of coffee. Fresh ground beans, French press coffeemaker - the usual.

Then I got to drink my first of 2 doses of Peco-Salex. I may be spelling that wrong. It's a fizzy orange drink, made from some powder. It draws liquid into the colon, thus inducing frequent bowel movements. So you can't go anywhere that is toilet-free, unless the scenario above with uncontrolled diarhea actually appealed to you. In that case, you don't need a colon inspection, you need psychiatric help. Good luck with that.

So the frequent liquid BM is actually not that bad. I mean, there is a finite quantity of crap in your colon, and even if you are a politician, it doesn't impact the shit in your head.

What is bad is hunger. We aren't used to hunger. OK, I'm not. Except in the gee I'm hungry let me get food kind of way. But hunger in the I can't eat until 2:00pm tomorrow is outside my experience, and I don't like it. This is coming from someone who frequently forgets to eat. Substitute a worse or better ability to tolerate hunger based on your own fasting experience, assuming you have any.

The second dose is not a big deal. You're pretty much empty. It's insurance for the gastro enterologist, who has no interest in, um, muddying their view with a poorly cleaned colon. I have no interest in a muddy view - I want a nice clean effective scope, so I was keen on following the instructions to the letter, so as to avoid a repeat procedure.

The next morning I woke up hungry. Wah, wah, millions of kids are used to that, but I'm a spoiled first world middle class type, so I am not. At least not waking up hungry and then not being able to eat. Spousal unit drove me to the clinic, I brought a book which had far too many food references (avoid Donna Leon if you're fasting), and eventually got to put on that delightful gown I'm sure was designed by Armani. Then a nurse stuck an IV into my hand - clearly highly experienced, it was not as painful as the ones I got when having my first child. The sedatives were lovely.

I was wheeled into the room with a monitor, doctor and nurse/aide of some sort. I wasn't about to start interviewing them. The monitor was positioned so I could watch, and I did. The drowsiness from the sedative lifted immediately upon insertion of the probe. But it didn't hurt, it's just that I could feel it. I felt full. But there was no pain, not even any real discomfort, it didn't last very long, and I was complemented twice on the quality of my "prep".

Oh, and if all you need to do is fecal occult blood testing, I used the technique where you collect the sample from the toilet paper. Googling techniques for stool samples is an, um, interesting insight into the ingenuity of humanity.

To sum up: colon cleansing makes you hungry, colon scoping is more boring than anything else, and the internet is full of odd ideas.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bicycle gear

I've been cycling to work since I last blogged. It's been great.

Cycling involves a fair bit of delusion. I pretend I am saving money by riding in. True, I am no longer paying bus fare, and we are down to 1 car.

But that ignores a key part of the equation. Bike gear. There is an astonishing array of items cyclists can spend money on. I've been restrained since mother's day, when I caved in and bought clipless pedals and shoes. They are amazing.

Now I have a dilemma. For my birthday I got a new to me bicycle, picked up cheap at a garage sale, that I tested by riding in today. I wasn't sure what I was hoping - that it would be so much better I could justify spending money on it? That it would be so much worse I could let my daughter use it? It turns out to be a very decent little commuter bike, surprisingly fast, with great brakes and the noisiest gearing I've ever used.

So here is the dilemma. To make the bike suit me, it needs a new seat ($23), new pedals ($44), new tires ($46) and of course a spare tube ($3). Not a huge amount of money. But the bike itself cost $85, which is an amazing deal for a mid range Bianchi, but spending nearly double fixing it up when it's virtually unridden seems frivolous.

I also thought about the gear I have.

3 pairs of cycling shoes, ranging in age from 2 months to 20 years.
2 cycling jackets
1 pair of cycling shorts
Many t-shirts
4 panniers - maybe 6
Several lights, bells, reflectors not including those already on bicycles
2 pairs cycling tights, both over 20 years old and in excellent shape if you ignore the hole
Helmet - only 1, the old ones get tossed

I haven't got cycling jerseys or other cycle-specific tops - really, how much lycra can a middle aged woman wear? And I am considering getting baggier shorts, the lycra ones, while comfortable, are, well, lycra. Tight shorts with a padded butt may not be my best look. Although I like to think I speed by so quickly no-one can tell.

Like I said, cycling involves delusion.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring cycling

Spring is really early this year. Really early - normally, our highs are still below freezing until well into March, but it's been above freezing every single day since February 26th.

That means the snow has melted, and it's rained so the dog poo of winter has washed away. Time for cycling!

When I last saw my bicycle, it had brand new slick tires and tubes to match - all set to go. And go we did.

First, the good things about the ride. It was sunny. There was minimal traffic, including other cyclists. No dog walkers. Few runners. Not that I mind either - but the paths can get crowded, and a small minority of dog walkers have trouble with the leash concept.

Now, a couple of mediocre things. I didn't wear warm enough gloves, and my hands froze to the point that it hurt when they warmed up. Chalk that up to idiocy - it's still below freezing at sunrise. This I know. Yet I grabbed thin gloves meant for the SUV driver, not the cyclist. One section of the path had a fair bit of snow, which my lovely new tires handled quite nicely. One had ice and slush, which I cautiously rode/hopped over - you know, you're on your bike, but pushing with a foot instead of pedaling. They actually had a "road under water" sign up - very cool, as it's pretty much a bike-only road. And, last but definitely not least, a good 4km of the bike path is under construction, so I had to ride on the road. A very nice road, but at this time of year the sides of the roads are covered in gravel and winter ick, so you need to ride closer to traffic than normal.

And, to end, a few more good things! I saw a street sweeper, so the road ick will soon be gone. My back tire held up well, despite being wobbly - I think the tube is bulging. And my helmet doesn't hurt the sore spot on my head where I bashed it when I fainted on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to the ride home - it's going up to 16!

I'm very happy I rode in. It is so awesome to be on a bicycle. There is nothing else like it. For me, it's the closest I get to flying, and who hasn't dreamed of flying?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Captain obvious paging idiocy, come in, idiocy

I was reading one of my favourite blogs – White Coat Underground – and found myself reading not one, but two long comment threads.

I don’t normally read long comment threads. Life is short. My eyeballs are old. And most comment threads just aren’t that interesting. But these ones were.

Pal MD’s post was in response to Isis the Scientist’s post and subsequent comments. She was replying to an e-mail sent to her by a female math grad student, who was creeped out by her advisor’s ogling. Isis mentioned, as part of the post, that in her student days she had been raped by a creep who she had refused to date. Horrible. I know too many women who’ve been raped.

The comments were mainly of the thanks for sharing, here’s my story, or here’s advice for the grad student form, but some were comments along the lines of hey, the advisor is complementing her, what’s the big deal, and women should take responsibility for protecting themselves.

Well, um, that’s where captain obvious hit me on the head. I’d never recognized how much of our culture focuses on the victim. I know that blame the victim is rampant in rape cases. But it extends beyond that, to blame the victim for failing to stop the attack, not just inciting it. So when the conversation steered in the direction of stating that rapists are responsible for rape, I found myself shocked that I had never thought of that. A d’uh moment indeed – of course rapists are responsible for rape.

So thank you to the commentors on those threads, who played captain obvious to my ignorance. Reducing the incidence of rape is not solely the responsibility of women. If we continue to believe and perpetuate the myth that women are even somewhat responsible for being raped, we give rapists an out, an excuse, a reason to avoid empathy and thought, an excuse for not controlling their violence or sexuality. To state that men can’t control themselves is insulting to men who can and do control their urges. And to state that women need to change, and not the culture that blames the victim and excuses the men, is not just insulting but dangerous, as it normalizes rape. Rape is an aberration.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Ottawa's amazingly wonderful Rideau Canal is open for skating - FINALLY. Global warming must skip the canal. Which would make it global except for the bit in Ottawa that Sarah really likes.

I was skating along this morning, as the sun was rising, remembering skating as a kid. My skating is, like most of my physical activities, good enough to enjoy but on the uncoordinated side. I learned to skate in Toronto, at an outdoor rink that, remembering Toronto, was probably open about 4 days a year. My parents held my hands. Then we moved to Thunder Bay, where the rink was closed about 4 days a year. We lived across the street from a large park that had 3 skating rinks - 2 with full boards for hockey, and a smaller one for those of us unable to skate and carry a stick at the same time.

We used to skate every day until our feet froze, then come in and my mom would make hot chocolate while we cried as our feet warmed up.

Then we moved to Ottawa, and got to experience the joy of skating in a straight line in the open air for miles. Can't stop or turn? The canal is the place for you. Don't like crowds? The canal before 9am or after dark is a wide open underpopulated space.

OK, so the surface isn't exactly Zamboni-smooth, but it's pretty good. I think I like skating for the same reason I like biking - you can go pretty fast on your own power for a long time, and don't need to be very good at it to go faster than you can run.

I've been out twice in the 2 days since the full length has been opened. Tomorrow's forecast? Rain. Fuck global warming. Ah well, at least I have the memory of a great skate.