Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: Shiver

I've been banging about for a while, very much wanting to find a book to get lost in. The kind of book that sweeps you up, brings you on an adventure and leaves you satisfied, yet kind of sad that it's over. I've tried a bunch and they haven't been bad, some have even been very good, but there has been no real sweeping off my feet. Until last week, when I was poking through the latest releases on Audible and found a little YA book named Shiver. Looked interesting, so I got it and started reading. And was swept off my feet.

Written by
Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam. Grace lives in Minnesota with her parents and it's the kind of fall that promises an early and cold winter. Her backyard comes up against the woods and in those woods, there are wolves. Grace has a thing about the wolves, an inexplicable connection and longing and a strange relationship with a wolf with yellow eyes who often watches her from the edge of the woods. One day, she meets Sam, who also has yellow eyes and they fall in love. Sam is a werewolf - her wolf from the woods - and in this universe, the change to wolf happens when it gets cold and over the years, the wolves get less and less summer, eventually staying wolf. This was Sam's last year as human and after he and Grace meet, he spends several weeks of a very cold autumn fighting hard not to change. But Shiver is not just a love story, it is also a story of friendship - Grace has several friends, relationships that are sketched with a sure hand - belonging, growing up, finding out who you are. staying true to that and about what you're willing to risk not just for love, but to remain you.
Within a very short time of starting the book, I called up a friend and told them that Shiver was what the the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer hoped to be (and you know how I feel about that drivel). The outline of the story is similar - Grace has rather flighty parents who wander off doing their own thing, leaving her to be the responsible one and creating enough room that you can fit in a supernatural boyfriend without them noticing. There's the supernatural boyfriend who can turn into a potentially dangerous animal, the girl's longing to be like him so they can be together, the struggle against other similar creatures less civilized and controlled. And so on. But Shiver is also very different from Twilight.
In this book, we are told that although there is a beast in the boy, the right boy will control the beast. Furthermore that it is not the girl’s role to not be tempting - act responsibly, yes, but a boy who truly loves you will treat you with respect and consideration. In this book, we're told that True Love is about mutuality, partnership and equality, not about the boy controlling the girl. Eventually, Shiver is somewhat less chaste than Twilight, but in an entirely lovely, natural, respectful and non-explicit way.
Unlike the damp and oppressive melancholy of Twilight, Shiver has more than one emotion. It takes us through the exquisite sweetness of first love, the intense joy, the awkward, passionate dance of finding out who you are together and the bittersweet tenderness between two people who are made for each other, but know that their time together is limited. There is melancholy, but it is a sadness that feels real, not unrelenting and rather contrived.
And then there's the writing. Which is beautiful. In many places, it approaches a prose poem, capturing your heart, connecting you to what is happening, both the joy and sadness. There were times when I was completely caught up in the intensity of the moment, biting my nails in the hope that things would turn out right, there were times when it brought me to tears because of the sweetness and beauty of the feelings between Grace and Sam and there were times when it made me cry for other, much sadder reasons. Stiefvater is a phenomenal writer, effortlessly drawing a scene in your mind's eyes so clearly that you're there, right there in the woods with the wolves, leaves dancing in the wind, the cold nipping at your fingertips and the smell of wolf, of pine and of the coming winter in your nose, even though you are sitting in your living room in the middle of summer. I'll have to read this book again so I can pay more attention to the writing and the craft of it and although I've just finished it, I don't think is going to be too long before I read it again. For the writing, but also for the story. Alas, Audible only offers Shiver but I hope eventually to read more of Stiefvater's work.The story is told in alternating voices, between Sam and Grace and is narrated by David LeDoux and Jenna Lamia, both of whom do a wonderful job performing the characters, rather than reading them. However, Lamia wins by a bit more than a nose, embodying Grace with her delivery of lines, modulation of voice, conveying emotion in such a way that it flies straight into your heart. This audio book is that rare thing: the perfect combination of writer and narrator.
Needless to say, I highly recommend that you go get this book. It appears not to be out in regular book form until this weekend, but when it does, go get it. And if you feel inclined at all, get the audio book version - you won't regret it. As for me, I have a vague plan to stock up on copies and hand them out to every person - especially teenage people - who thinks the Twilight series is the height of romance. Just to deprogram them, to show them a story of what love should really be like.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Health Care Reform: The Arrogance of the Healthy

Time for a wee rant over at HealthCentral:

"Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, believes putting a dollar value on human lives is the key to health care reform. Placing a value on human life will enable us to ration health care to get the "most bang for your buck" by denying life-extending medication to someone who's terminal because that money is better spent treating someone who is not terminal. It will be more efficient"

You can read the rest here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Random July

We start with a link sent to me by mor. The world-o-meter - if you want to blow your mind by just how quickly changes happening in on this planet.

I love finding people who agree with me. Aside from that, it's a good blog.

What would I do without my friends? Three of whom have been diligent in providing me with thought-provoking and entertaining links this month.

First, LynnM. She started with a real look at Disney princesses (which tickled me to no end, as I find Disney princesses just a little too cheerful). Then she continued with a somewhat related segue of some rather disturbing and unbelievably sexist ads, one for Burger King and the other one from Sprite. Don't click on those at work. Lynn also sent me an intriguing article responding to the FDA panel’s recommendations about opiates and lastly, a dolphin stampede. What I wouldn't give to have been in that boat.

Trevor forward a couple of interesting articles that will qualify as your disability content in this post. Abercrombie and Fitch has an interesting Look Policy and is suffering interesting consequences and an opera singer performs from a wheelchair. And a kid tries the old school version of a personal music player, giving up his iPod for Walkman and writing about his impressions. Absolutely hysterical,and a moment of incredulity at how far we've come.

DavidG sends a new look at art (I'm especially fond of the lion), a clip from a the movie The Little Prince with Bob Fosse - do any of those moves look familiar? A hysterical review of the recent Transformers review and speaking of movies, an award-winning animated short. The things we miss in nature if we don't look closely enough.

And in closing, your – to borrow a phrase - moment of (massive) zen. The second-largest aquarium tank in the world. Ahhhh…

Friday, July 24, 2009

Customer Care

A while back, I read an article - somewhere on HealthCentral? I forget - about doctors in the US requiring their patients to sign an agreement not to rate them on e.g., RateMD before they would treat them and it's been rattling around in my mind for a couple of months. Aside from the blackmail aspect, I couldn't quite figure out what bugs me so much about it, but I think the lightbulb’s finally gone off.

It's the hypocrisy.

In the US, medical care is treated as a commodity, a product to be marketed and sold to those who can pay for the service. If you offer your services as medical professional as a product, patients become consumers of that service, become customers and as such, are entitled to treat your product the way they would any other product bought on the open market. Other products out there have websites dedicated to review and rating of the product, the customer service involved in acquiring the product, etc., so why not healthcare?

You can't have it both ways. You can't call it Holy Healthcare, requiring us all to bow down before your saintly self, meekly accepting your bestowing your knowledge and medical expertise upon us, groveling in gratitude as we leave your office if you are selling said medical expertise. There's a big difference between being paid for what you do and charging what the market will bear, selling your service to those who are willing to pay and refusing care for people who can't. If you do that, you are treating your career/profession/services as a product - an exclusive one at that - and you are no better than any other manufacturer or service professional.

(Of course, it could be argued that regardless of how you offer medical care, you are no better than anyone else, but a discussion of the God complex instilled in doctors in medical school is a post for another day…}

And that's what bugs me. Well, obviously blackmailing your patients into a completely powerless position, muzzling their voice and preventing other people from finding out if you're the kind of doctor they want to see is kind of unethical, isn't it? But in addition and quite frankly, I think it would be a healthy thing for more doctors to be rated by their patients customers - maybe that would improve the bedside manner, the ability to listen and reduce the arrogance levels just a tad. Think customer service, dudes. After all, you are selling yourself, aren't you?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sex and the City: A Rant

Like many other women, I've been a rabid Sex and the City fan. Years ago, it was shown here in Canada on one of the specialty channels Friday night and rerun Saturday night and I would often watch both. I have most of the series on DVD (except for the two-part 6th season and I'm working on that) and have watched them again… well, you get the point. I’ve watched each episode more than once. The series makes me happy. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me think about love, relationships, girlfriends, our place in the world, great clothes and back to laughing. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are aspects of women personified in four terrific characters and at different points in our lives, we can relate more or less to each of the four and sometimes to all of them at the same time. The actors portraying these characters are wonderful, playing incredibly well off each other and I'll stop gushing now and get to the rant.

Which concerns the movie.

In the past year, I've watched the movie twice, both times somehow without seeing the last 15-20 minutes and both times, I had issues. Having completionist - is too a word – tendencies, it was obviously necessary for me to rent the movie again to could see the ending, but I’ve resisted until it made it to the cheap section in the video store because I was pretty sure I knew how it would end and I hated it. I've finally gotten to the point where I rented it so I could cross it off my list once and for all. So before we get to my quibbles about the ending, let me pick on some of the other things that didn't work (there will be spoilers):

The length of the movie. 145 minutes. Seriously. That's a lot of bloat. Maybe the whole thing would've worked better if they had cut 30 minutes off it.

Charlotte (Kristin Davis) having no storyline to speak of. Davis is a terrific actor, imbuing Charlotte with nuance, humour and heartbreak and seeing her relegated to barely nothing in the movie really stuck in my craw. And that thing with her shitting her pants in Mexico? Not only wasn't funny, it was also a level of mean and humiliating that the series never engaged in.

Jennifer Hudson. I feel like I should elaborate, but there's really nothing else to say. Except I wish she’d get some acting lessons before doing another movie.

Samantha (Kim Cattrall) being reduced to a cartoon character, positively slavering over the naked neighbour (of course, Gilles Marini deserves drooling over which we got the chance to do when he was on last season's Dancing with the Stars where he proved himself to be a natural dancer - if you need a break from the rant, see this, this and this). Somewhat redeemed by the end of the movie, but it doesn’t excuse the previous 120 minutes.

The money. There was always an unspoken agreement between the show and the viewers that although we all knew the clothes were out of the reach of most women's bank account, we all pretended that they weren't, that these women somehow found fabulous designer clothes secondhand or on miraculous sales. It helped you feel as if these women could be your friends, made them relatable, their lifestyle attainable. It was suspension of disbelief, allowing you to easily enter their world, connecting through shared experiences and including the fabulous clothes. In the movie, there's no more suspension of disbelief. In the movie, the women are so obviously rich - not just well off, but rich - and it throws up a barrier to connecting. I am no longer watching four women who could be me and my friends, but four very rich women who live on a completely different level from me, a level I can never attain.

Mr. Big having a name. Granted, they chose a good one, a name that fits, but it's somehow not the same when he's not Big, but John. However, this one is a minor quibble, in large part because he returns to being Big at the end..

And now to the major one. The wedding.

SATC was about friendship between women, not relationships with men. Well, clearly it was about relationships with men, too, but more as plot points than real people. The men were always secondary characters, there to create a response or a situation which would prompt discussion, laughter, bonding and growth in the friendships. SATC was about how men come and go, but friends are the ones who see you through. Girlfriends are your Mr. Right, they are the constant who give you support and love and who are always there for you. I vaguely remember Carrie saying words to that effect in a voiceover after somebody had been dumped yet again and the four women were gathered over food, but can naturally not remember the actual quote… And that's one of the reasons I liked the way the series ended. Sure, despite it being about having your own life instead of being defined by your relationship to man, they all somehow ended up in old-fashioned fairy tale endings with a man, it was still pretty good. Especially because Carrie and Big ended up being together just the way they were. Yes, he did have to come and rescue her in Paris (gack), but after that they were just themselves, living their own lives and their life together on their own terms, reflected in the last sentence of the last voiceover "[b]ut the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous.”. And I liked that. It felt authentic and true to the characters’ development throughout the series.

And then they went and ruined it with the wedding. The series ends with Carrie and Big clearly set to live happily ever after just the way they are and all of a sudden we have to rewrite it and make it into an old-fashioned fairy tale again. It's contrived, it felt untrue and dishonest and it felt as if whoever wrote the script for the movie had forgotten everything the series was about, creating a standard Hollywood fantasy romance instead of something that felt very real. As if they were writing to formula instead of writing about real women's lives. Sure, in many ways, the movie ends with everyone back to “themselves,” but why throw the wedding in there at all? In the closet scene, Big says “we were perfectly happy before we decided to live happily ever after” (i.e., get married), so why marry at all, even if it is at City Hall in a no-label dress? They were thisclose to being true to the soul of the show and they bloody go and ruin it! ARGH!!

And now they're making a sequel. And I hate that I'll probably watch that, too and probably end up writing a rant about it…

Monday, July 20, 2009

Family Visits

Remember AB? She's been by again and this time, she brought her family - her husband Bjarke and their kids Camilla and Chris. As usual, being with AB felt like home and despite not having seen the kids since 2005

and Bjarke for at least as long, it was like we hadn't been apart for more than a few weeks. They're on their annual vacation, which this year started in the state of New York, then Ontario and us and Saturday, they flew to Vancouver where they'll spend a couple weeks in BC and Alberta. They hadn't been gone for more than a few hours before we missed them terribly again.

Camilla pondering (no doubt to take over the world)

Chris immersed in a book

Morgan Smiley Girl having icecream

and flying upside down

Liam’s hard to catch in a photograph, but this time, I managed to get a couple of good ones when he was sitting with Janne.

And afterwards, Liam bestickered everyone

AB and Camilla doing cooperative Sudoko

The whole family

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Beginners Guide to RA: Alternative Medicine

This week's HealthCentral post is about alternative medicine:

"Have you ever tried acupuncture? Massage therapy? Do you take supplements? Chances are you're not relying exclusively on allopathic - i.e., Western-based - medicine, but are supplementing the care and prescriptions you receive from the medical system with other techniques and treatments. And if you aren't, you've probably thought about it."

The rest is here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Like Glass

Hold out your hand. Now tighten the muscles in your forearm – not a lot, just enough to be aware that it's tensed. Hold it.


This is fibromyalgia pain. Well, one of them anyway. The bloody thing is forever surprising me with new and “interesting” qualities of pain it can invent.

You don't notice it for a while and then, it becomes just an ache. After a couple of days, it's sore and after a week or two, it's not a light tensing anymore, it's a clench and it lets you know all the time how much it hurts. If you have an injury on top of that – like say, your neck and shoulder - double the clench and even if you sit still and meditate and relax things, the minute you start moving again, the injured muscle clenches up as if you’d never had the relief.

And it travels. You can have a couple of days with the main problem being isolated in the affected muscle, but then it starts to ripple to the rest of you, giving you jolts of electricity flashing like lightning through random muscles. Muscles and tendons feel bruised, tender to even the lightest touch. Certain parts prickle with the buzz of irritated nerves and others ache with the fatigue of a clench that's lasted too long, your fingers trembling with the agony of tightened muscles as if holding a certain position, but not doing so voluntarily. Nowhere is comfortable and after a while more of this, even your bones feel like they're on fire.

There are parts of pain like this, of a fibro flare caused by an injury, when they feed upon each other, escalating and nothing helps, painkillers only take the edge off and barely that and only for a little while - 20 minutes or so - there are parts of pain like this where the pain becomes almost non-pain, where it is so loud and so much and when it seems it cannot increase anymore and shifts to a state of supreme sensitivity, a pain that is almost exquisite in its clarity and tone.

And you feel like glass. Like crystal blown by a craftsman to the thinnest, most delicate form. So fragile that the slightest tap will start a crack running through you, all of you and you will shatter.

So you go lie down, taking a really big dose of muscle relaxants, because you know that if you can sleep and sweat and ride the wave of the muscle relaxants, you can get ahead of it and you have a chance. You do fall asleep and it is lovely for about 10 minutes until the pain wakes you again and it's as if you never took the pill in the first place and you ride the wave of the pain until you get up again. 

And then you sit around for the remainder of the day, getting through it, wanting the day to end, wanting more than anything to lie down, except you’re kind of nervous, because the last time, it seemed to only make things worse. So you continue with the big painkillers, wrapping yourself in sweaters and shawls to warm up, to sweat, to get ahead of it and you do, maybe a little. But you feel like glass, feel as if you're not quite connected to the world, not because you’re stoned from the painkillers - because with fibro pain, often they don't really work, either in terms of making you goofy or taking the pain away - but because the pain has taken you somewhere just parallel of where normal is.

And by the end of the day, you collapse into bed and miracle of miracles, you have somehow managed to drug yourself sufficiently to fall into sleep, a sleep that lasts until very early in the morning when you take more pills and sleep again. 

By the time the alarm goes off, you awake with enough painkillers in your body that you are still a little buzzed and somehow, the pain is only lurking. And you tiptoe through the morning, your brain smushing like a manatee nerf up against your skull every time you turn your head, a vague nausea making food taste wrong and everything is just too. Too loud, too bright, too strong. You have a pain hangover and pray that the hair of the dog that bit you will not grow into a full-fledged hellhound to have it all start over again.

It’s been a fun week.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Things That Make You Go 'Huh?'

The week’s only half over and already, I've encountered three things that made my wee brain feel like I’d sprained it.

Thing the first. I was watching a commercial the other day and it's enough of rare occasion that it warrants mentioning, as I usually tape - yes, I still use a VCR - programs to watch later so I can fast-forward through commercials as they drive me batty and the odd time when I do watch something live, I usually go do something else in commercials - where was I? Oh yes. It was a commercial about food of some sort and one of the selling points was that it was "fun to eat!" Why must everything always be fun in commercials? Whether it's cleaning, eating or wiping your arse, everything is funfunfun! and really, it's exhausting. Other than that weird candy that bubbles and pops in your mouth, most food really isn't necessarily fun to eat. It may be tasty, yummy, satisfying or delicious (etc.), but fun? Huh?

Thing the second. Earlier this week, I met Andrew for lunch and we went to McDonald's where I watched him eat (because have you seen Super Size Me?). And then I noticed this on the outside of the cup containing his Coke: "BUBBLY FUN! Any second now, your mouth will come alive with a tingling sensation of ice cold refreshment. Enjoy!" Aside from the inane concept of a carbonated drink being "BUBBLY FUN!" (see Thing the First), now said carbonated drink needs advance billing? I need to be alerted to the sensation of drinking? My "mouth will come alive"? Is this a pop trailer? Huh??

Thing the third. For several years, I have been known to express a certain level of confusion about the trend of young males wearing their pants if not around ankles, then in such a way that the crotch of the pants is somewhere near the knee. That is, when you can see the pants, because this is usually accompanied by a t-shirt that could double as a dress (and yes, I'm aware that combined with last week's post about language, I'm officially sounding like an old fogey now). I just don't get it. I also don't get the weird duck walk it seems to create, although after a while, I realized that if only your lower legs are free to move (due to the crotch area limiting movement above the knee), it makes you walk funny. And then there's that weird hitch added to the whole process that confused me completely, until I read in a mystery novel how it was supposed to imitate a limp from a gunshot wound. How very gangsta. Anyway! The other day, my seated view afforded me a visual treat (that’s sarcasm) when a young guy, probably in his early 20s, was next to me at the grocery store. I glanced over and due to him not wearing a T-shirt that could double as a dress - although I wish he had - I could view his pants securely tightened with a belt hanging on his upper thighs, just below his – a-hem - package. Which was completed visible, snugly contained within blue boxer briefs. And that just takes the cake, because normally, even if the pants hanging down low, I would like to believe that they are at least doing the job of pants and covering the twit’s nether regions, but this? This? It gave me an intense desire to bleach my brain so I can rid myself of the image seared into my mind. And yes: Huh???

Monday, July 06, 2009

Suspicion and Control

An FDA panel recently recommended lowering the maximum recommended daily dose of acetaminophen, a measure intended to decrease the number of accidental overdose related liver failure. They also recommended other things, among them to withdraw acetaminophen combination narcotics like Vicodin and Percocet from the market, as one study indicated that most such overdoses involved these types of drugs. Despite an estimated 10% of accidental overdoses leading to death being caused by over-the-counter medications, such as cold and flu meds, the panel did not recommend that these be removed from the market.

So let me get this straight… according to the article, approximately 56,000 people are seen in emergency rooms with acute liver damage related to accidental overdose. That's a lot of people. On the other hand, as a percentage of the entire US population of approximately 350 million - and please correct me if my math is wrong, because it's entirely likely it is, as math makes my brain hurt - it represents .016%. Hmmm. The number of fatalities is estimated to be 450. Hmmm…

So instead of educating people about what their medication contains, what acetaminophen can do to your liver and in general empowering them to be responsible in medication use, we're going to pull pain meds that enable people to live their life. But we're not going to pull acetaminophen itself, despite over-the-counter meds like Tylenol not coming with the kind of educational package that happens - or should happen - when a doctor writes a prescription for Vicodin or Percocet. We’re also not going to pull cold and flu meds, which is a good thing, isn't it, because "[m]anufacturers could have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in sales if combination drugs were pulled from the market. Total sales of all acetaminophen drugs reached $2.6 billion last year, with 80 percent of the market made up of over-the-counter, according to IMS Health, a health care analysis firm."

How much of this decision of what to pull and what not to pull do you think was if not based, then certainly influenced by, that consideration? Because pharmaceutical companies are a force to be reckoned with, but the very small percentage of people taking Vicodin or Percocet for really big pain is not.

"But addiction!" you say. Well, you probably don't, but somewhere out there, the stereotype of pain patients automatically becoming addicted to narcotics is increasingly influencing decision-making. Because now, people who have chronic pain and are being seen by pain specialist or a pain clinic will be required to sign treatment agreements. By signing such a document, you agree to take the medication exactly as prescribed, agree to random drug testing (no, I'm not kidding), use only one pharmacy and agree to the doctor and pharmacist exchanging information about you (what kind of information?) and a whole bunch of other things. As well, should you do anything that goes against this agreement - like e.g., take less medication than prescribed for a day or two - you will fail the drug test, be terminated from the program and no other doctor will prescribe opiates for you.

WTF??? Most people who are prescribed narcotics for severe chronic pain do not develop an addiction. Yes, some do, but most do not. As I’ve mentioned before, you do become dependent on the drugs in the way that without them, you couldn't live your life and be a productive member of society, but if you look at it that way, I guess a diabetic is addicted to the insulin, too. However, I'm pretty sure diabetics don't have to sign treatment agreements, because needing insulin is not suspicious. And maybe it's because blood sugar levels can be verified in a blood test, but pain levels has to rely on subjective reports of the person in pain and we all know how much credence the medical profession usually gives to patient experience, but regardless of all of that, this? This is some of the most offensive crap I've heard in a while.

So because a small number of people on narcotics get addicted, we are going to treat everyone who need the big painkillers for chronic pain as suspect, subjecting them to random drug trials as if they were criminals on parole. This reminds me of when Mike Harris (a pox upon his name) and his conservative party got elected to govern Ontario based on an election platform with a major focus on popular stereotype that every welfare recipient is out to milk the system. Once elected, they reduced welfare rates significantly, to such a point that nobody can live on it. I heard from a reliable source that the amount of fraud in the Ontario social assistance program ranges from 5 to 12%, which apparently is the amount of fraud that can be expected in any system, not just the welfare system. Of course, nowhere was it mentioned that 88 to 95% of people receiving assistance do so because there is a genuine need. And that's one of the things that bugs the snot out of me, this focus on where the system is abused or doesn't work, because they never flip it, do they? They never look at how many people are able to live happy productive lives because of a responsible use of narcotics. And what's going to happen to those people now? How well do you think those treatment agreements will work in real life? So you have to call your doctor for approval every time you need a bit more or a bit less medication - how often do you think the doctor is available? And what happens if you get food poisoning and throw it all up? Or any of the other examples in that article. If you have too much medication in the system, it's assumed that you're an addict and if you don't have enough medication in your system, it's assumed that you're selling it to somebody else.

And it's making me really grateful that I live where I do because although there are restrictions on and supervision of narcotics, the Canadian system - at least where I live - assumes to a greater extent that you are an adult, reasonable, rational and responsible person who, after receiving proper education by your doctor, will take your medications in a reasonable and responsible manner. My prescription of codeine is labelled "take as needed". And I do - some days, I hardly need any, other days (like the last three weeks where I've been nursing this damn neck injury), I take more. Of course, if I suddenly started coming back to my doctor every month for a new prescription of 100 tablets without changes in my health instead of as I do now every 4-5 months, I might get flagged as potential drug seeking. But I am presumed responsible until proven otherwise, not the other way around.

And the saddest thing of all is what Karen Lee Richards said in her piece about treatment agreements: "[b]ecause there are so many people out there who do abuse drugs and who have become experts at cheating the system, those of us who need stronger medications to control our very real pain, are forced to abide by these highly regulated restrictions in order to receive the treatment we need" and there's a real sense that this is just what you have to do. But these are not just "highly regulated restrictions," these are invasions of privacy and a level of suspicion and control unheard-of in the general population, but targeted on you because you have chronic pain. That is your only infraction. And you're supposed to just accept that and find it reasonable. Because if you want the meds that’ll enable you to live, you have no choice.

I say again… WTF???

Friday, July 03, 2009

Habits, Tics and Verbal Twitches

People have habits, both in behaviour and in speech (yes, more about words today). Adolescents – and an unfortunate amount of young adults – say like way more often than necessary. Overhearing conversations on the street or in foodcourts where a third of the words is like can drive a person to distraction and dangerously close to performing a language intervention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about grabbing the girl – because it’s almost always a girl – giving her a good shake and a gift certificate to a dictionary.

When I first moved to Toronto, it took me a long time to learn that when people of the North American persuasion said “hi, how are you?” they didn’t actually want to know how I was, causing me to overshare the details of my health and well-being for longer that I'm comfortable remembering. Only if the exchange goes like this

X: Hi, how are you?
Me: I’m fine thanks, how are you?
X: Doing well. How are you?

do they really want to know how I’m doing. It’s very confusing. But I think this one’s pretty universal to North America.

Nations also have habits. Tics, even. For Canadians, it’s apologizing. It’s ubiquitous to the point of being pandemical (is that a word? It is now). Wherever you go, you will hear the phrase "I'm sorry" an awful lot and it is so ingrained that if you bump into someone, the bumper and bumpee will both blurt out “I’m sorry”. I imagine it has a lot to do with the reputation of Canadians as being terribly polite.

In Denmark, it's all about the thank you. I was reminded of this the other day when a friend in not so many words told me to quit expressing gratitude quite so much, but it is as ingrained in me as the I'm sorry has become. In the old country, if someone invites you to dinner, you would naturally say thank you if this is done by telephone or call to give your RSVP if the invitation is in writing.

As an aside, can I just have a rant for a moment? It's about the RSVP. It appears to be a foreign concept on this side of the pond. Or rather, responding to the request. It can be noted on anything from an invitation to a children's birthday party, a regular party (obviously, more informal) and all the way up to a wedding and people will blithely ignore calling you to let you know if they're coming, leaving you up the creek in terms of loot bags, party snacks and/or wedding favours and if they do say there'll come, but develop some reason not to, they won't call you to let you know that, either. Drives me ‘round the bend.

Where was I? Right. The Danish person in question has just thanked their friend for the invitation to dinner. Then you show up on the designated day, carrying flowers or bottle of wine and thank the host again. After dinner, you thank them for delightful meal, when you leave, you say thank you for a lovely evening and then you call the next day and thank them all over again. This is probably as confusing for immigrants to Denmark as the how are yous was for me.

Your thoughts? Any regional verbal twitches you want to share?

Thursday, July 02, 2009


This week's HealthCentral post ponders philosophically:

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you
- Lewis B. Smedes

I used to think of myself as a brain in a jar, my body some other being that I had nothing to do with. Who I was could be found in my personality and my intellect, but not in my physical being. It was how I had learned to cope with a body that from childhood had been highly committed to sending me messages of pain, a body that couldn't more often than it could. So I made it irrelevant to how I defined myself, separated me from it and although I did my best to ignore my body altogether, the truth is, I hated it."

The rest is here.