Tuesday, December 09, 2008



I'm going to Italy! To work on an organic farm!!

I was looking for study abroad programs for spring semester when my aunt told me about this magical place called Spannocchia. I knew I had to apply. And this morning I found out that, three months from now, I will be in Italy working on this beautiful farm in the heart of Tuscany.

I'm so excited right now that surely anything I write will be incoherent. Instead, I'll post up some of what I wrote on my application.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Peppermint Jim

Rather than retype and slightly retool a post I just made regarding the fate of a fourth generation family-owned mint farm near my house, I'm going to redirect you here, to another blog to which I contribute. Peppermint Jim reminded me a lot of Dellis, so you know I pretty much fell in love immediately. I'm sure you will too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Rowan Homestead

... or, How My Life Changed in Mabie, WV.

I have really strong feelings regarding our visit to Dellis Rowan's farm. In his 70s, he still keeps two draft horses, Dick and Dan, and they work for their keep! Dellis and his horses mow the hay that feeds them, and he puts it all up in his barn. Alone, from what I could tell. Here is a man with an incredible life story.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Keeper

For the slightly squeamish or uncouth [or perhaps this is uncouth of me], look away now. For everyone left, I just made a post about my decision to stop using tampons here. If you're wondering what the hell else I'm going to do now that tampons are out of my life, or have ever questioned your use of them, I would suggest reading it. You'll definitely learn something, and might even change the way you think about the subject.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Simpler Times...

In honor of Google's 10th birthday, they are enabling a search page from 2001. It's amazing to think of how much has changed since then, and it's fun to see what results turn up for things we take for granted. It's also kind of depressing. Case in point:

Also, the page is archived from a pre-September 11th world. Nothing comes up. No Department of Homeland Security. When you google "President Bush" you get his old campaign website, complete with depressingly out-of-date slogan: "George W. Bush is running for President of the United States to keep the country prosperous." So much for that.

On a lighter note, there's no youtube, no Perez Hilton, no "The Hills." Facebook was still available only to students at Harvard. Feels like so long ago...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hunting Mushrooms

It rained almost the entire 9 hours we spent in the car driving from East Lansing to Elkins. By "almost" I mean maybe 8.5 out of the 9 hours. When we arrived it was foggy and still raining on and off. It rained the first night as we slept soundly in our dwellings, lulled by the river.

And when we woke up that first morning it looked like... another day of rain. But that was not the case! We ate breakfast out on the porch, trying to ward off the chilly fog with hot black coffee.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

West Virginia, Mountain Mommas

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is "Appalachian Literature and Culture," an "elective pathway" requirement within the RCAH that is being taught by Anita Skeen, a poet and West Virginia native. With the semester barely underway, she offered my class an opportunity to travel to Elkins, West Virginia for a weekend. The point of the trip was to be immersed in Appalachian culture and to get a feel for the place and history of an area we are going to focus on for the next few months. Of course, I couldn't pass it up.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Paying it Forward

Today as I was walking to class I noticed the sky darkening and the temperature dropping. I had neither an umbrella nor a jacket with me, and could see that rain was imminent, but it was too late to grab either at that point. Sure enough, by the time class was out an hour and a half later, it was pouring.

I must have looked really miserable, waiting in the rain for the bus in my t-shirt and jeans, because a girl walked over to me and said "You look really cold and wet," and proceeded to share precious umbrella space with me. It was really touching. There I was, a grumpy senior standing in the cold, winter-is-coming rain, thinking about how I should know by now to always have an umbrella in my backpack, and what looked to be a freshman girl offered me some shelter under her umbrella.

Once I was on the bus, I started thinking about the Hollies song, "Bus Stop."

Bus stop, wet day, she's there I say
Please share my umbrella

But it also got me thinking about the concept of "paying it forward."

Monday, September 01, 2008

Toad Paradise

By our driveway, my house has a basement window. It's small and protected, if you want to call it that, by a metal guard that is probably supposed to keep stuff out of there.

My mom and I can't really figure out how they get in and out, but somehow that small area has become a toad hotel. It seems like any time I look, there's at least one toad in there. I don't know if they can squeeze between the siding and the metal to climb out, or if there's a secret tunnel... but however they do it, the toads seem pretty happy to live there.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Living Local

My grandfather lived his entire life here in East Lansing, MI. Maybe not the most glamorous place in the world, but a diverse university town nonetheless. He was born here, grew up in a home on the "main drag" [that now houses students], went to Michigan State University, worked just minutes away from his house, bought cars made in Lansing, contributed to local charities, shopped at a locally-owned grocery store, and didn't like to travel more than a few hours away for anything.

These days, "local" is the buzzword on everyone's lips. Local food, mostly. I was thinking about it today while I ate lunch with a friend at the decidedly non-local Panera Bread Co. [I know, I know. There was a gift card involved!]

Friday, August 29, 2008


I think sunsets are over-photographed. It's easy to understand why that is, but I don't think the beauty of a sunset can ever be truly captured in a picture. One thing I love, though, is the way they change moment to moment. Sometimes what looks like it will be a spectacular solar show fizzles out into gray, or a monochromatic sky can suddenly light up and dazzle you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why I love FARK.

FARK never ceases to amaze and entertain. But it also does a service to people who might not otherwise hear about odd stories in the news. Tonight's gold came with an intriguing tag: The AFA has set up an online form to send Hallmark hate mail for making same sex marriage greeting cards, what a shame it would be if logical people used it to send Hallmark support mail instead.

Naturally, I did just that.

The American Family Association sets forth a rabid argument against what Hallmark is doing. I actually thought it was pretty funny— oh, the fearmongering!! Seems like American families have better things to worry about these days than people getting married, but maybe not. I mean, the housing crisis will fix itself, right?

They write, Hallmark Greeting Cards has announced it will begin selling same-sex wedding cards, even though same-sex marriage is legal in only two states. The purpose, they say, is to satisfy consumer demand. It appears that their purpose is also to push same-sex marriage. Last year Hallmark began offering "coming out" cards - as in "coming out of the closet" -- a euphemism for announcing homosexuality.

So if you're feeling saucy, send Hallmark a letter. In mine, I basically said that I appreciated that the company was promoting tolerance and that it would certainly influence my decision to buy cards from them in the future.

I just don't understand why, in the world we live in today, these kinds of issues are what people are devoting all their time and energy to. But I guess there will always be people brainwashed to the point of irrelevancy. If they want to be on the receiving end of ridicule, well, that's their choice and the lifestyle they've chosen to live. Too bad idiocy isn't illegal in 48 states.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Emerging From a Hole

I know I talk about food a lot here. Not only do I find it a really interesting subject, but it is also something that affects each and every one of us on a daily basis. Food's important any way you look at it.

For what seems like forever, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma has been at the top of my list of books to read. Because of school and other activities, I hadn't gotten around to it until this week, when I have been lucky enough to be at my cottage with lots of time to spare. So I read it. I devoured it, really [pun intended]. Once I started reading it I couldn't put it down, finishing it in just a few days. I LOVED it.

The kind of funny thing is that nothing in the book particularly surprised me. It made me realize how much I have learned in the last year or so about food, and our "modern" food system, as well as the kind of food system I want to be a part of [local!]. Since I'm in that just-finished-it haze, now I have to recommend it to everyone who hasn't yet read it. I figure, if I made it this far without reading it, there are others like me. Granted, I have read a fair number of Pollan's articles, and he was already pretty much one of my heroes. But now, now, it's official.

I just sent an email to the keeper of a blog titled The Daily Coyote. She posted an email from a reader who had concerns with the ways cows are treated as they enter our food chain. I thought The Omnivore's Dilemma would be a good way for that person, as well as all followers of the blog, to be introduced to the very subject s/he was asking about.

"I read with great interest the email from the person who was torn about their relationship to food, meat especially. In the last year or two I have become quite interested in our food system, trying to eat locally and buy produce and meat, as well as milk, eggs, flour... from farmers whom I can talk to and ascertain the origin of everything that I'm eating.

" . . . I think that even someone who wasn't aware of how our industrial food system works, or how local agriculture benefits us as well as animals and the environment, would find it a really good entry into the subject. Pollan clearly illustrates the complexity of it all, and the difficulty we all face in choosing what is right for us and our lives. It is organized in a way that is approachable and riveting.

"Maybe even if you didn't want to post this on the blog, you could at least direct it on to that specific person? Sounds like they are searching for answers and not quite sure where to start."

Friday, August 08, 2008

I See Food

I've been eating a whole lot of fresh, local food this summer, virtually all of it from farmers at the Allen St. Market. I've also taken on the task of photographing the food as I wander through those lovely Wednesdays.

At the East Lansing Art Fair earlier this summer, I finally found a photographer with a new idea: he framed series of photos. Most of them were baseball stadiums and the like, but he had a couple of food pictures. His method of grouping was by color— radishes, cherries and red peppers, for example, framed in red. I loved the effect and haven't let it leave my mind since then. Now if only I could remember his name!

While I liked the idea of color groupings, and also thoroughly enjoyed a break from the easily "attractive" photos that decorate art fairs, I just like the idea of a "produce study." Food is so beautiful, and yet, for most of us, it's something we take for granted and give nary a thought on any given day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Problem with Religion

Here's one of my biggest problems with religion—

People use religion to justify and explain their lives and things they find unsettling. Death? We're going to heaven. Terrorist attacks? God wills it. Having 18 children [as has just been in the news]? "[C]hildren are God’s blessing and husbands and wives should happily welcome every child they are given." Apparently they've forgotten that humans, as any other animal on earth, are reproductive machines. Having 18 children doesn't mean God has blessed you, it just means that you're not using birth control and aren't afraid of the day when the human population tops out at around 10 or 11 billion people and Earth might no longer sustain our lives. As a bonus, the husband's name is Jim Bob.

I was also disturbed after the September 11 attacks to hear people talk to reporters about their experience. There were many accounts of people who missed their train or randomly showed up late to work, thereby saving their lives. Many of them had answers like "It just wasn't my time to go yet" or "God still had a purpose for me." So what, that means that God decided to save a handful of people while giving a big "fuck you!" to the rest of them? That's such a dangerous way of thinking! That kind of flippant justification leads entire populations to war and genocide.

People also use God in other ways. A guy I went to high school with posts his religious ramblings on Facebook, and lists his religious views as "Jesus is Lord." About a year and a half ago he posted a note that I still think about, reference, and show to friends. He titled it "Dating and Singleness," and it's here for your reading pleasure:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Real Food

Can you spot the little green worm I nearly ate for breakfast? [yes, I was eating broccoli for breakfast. Sometimes you just want it!]

I didn't see it either, and it managed to survive a couple days in the fridge as well as being washed. I took a bite and he fell onto my shirt— that's how close I was! And then I started thinking that I'd probably already eaten one. I know that's part of getting local food— no chemicals to kill it— but I still can't get used to it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Man counted calories, watched the pounds go

Yes, that's the title. And yes, apparently, that's newsworthy. Or as Fark always reminds us, "it's not news, it's CNN." Here's the article.

Since when was this kind of thing newsworthy? Granted, with all the "miracle" diet products on the market these days, people do seem to have forgotten how weight gain happens. Eat a box of Twinkies and sit on your ass all day, day after day, and you're going to pack on the pounds.

Prepare to be enlightened:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Some of my favorite flowers growing in our backyard are the purple balloon flowers. Before blooming, the flowers look like little presents, green at first and then swelling nearly to bursting as they take on a violet hue. Sometimes I'm seized with the urge to squeeze one and see if it pops open, the way Impatiens seed pods do. I go through this sequence of thoughts every time I look at them.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Blogger's Manifesto

You might have noticed that I’ve been posting a lot more lately. For a long time, I felt that this space should be devoted to deep thoughts, important things that needed discussion, my brainstorms.

But lately I’ve found myself reconsidering what a blog truly should be. In order for it to be interesting, not only to the author but to other people as well, it needs to be personal. What does it say about you? How does it relate our lives, through common threads or interest?

What I was missing with my grand concept was what makes the blogs I read [listed to the right] so interesting. I go back to them again and again because they are honest, unassuming, consistently worth reading.

As I wade deeper and deeper into photography, and as I have more and more to say about the world I see through the lenses I’m developing due to school and my experiences, I want to find a way to tie them together. Both photography and writing are important parts of me, and I think they are my strongest assets when it comes to explaining my world view to others.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Elements of a Farmer's Market

One of the things I love most about the Allen St. Farmer's Market is the way it has been designed as a part of the community around it. Not only does it feature local farmers selling only their own produce, local restaurants and "local folks" who make anything from soaps to dessert sauces to t-shirts, but the market was created and is maintained by people who live, for the most part, on the Eastside. Since the Allen Neighborhood Center is a non-profit, finding volunteers is an important part of the mix in order to keep things running smoothly. Volunteers like myself show up each week for the market and make sure that tents are up, signs are out, and everything is where it should be. We then make everyone coming to the market feel welcome, answering any questions and trying to communicate why, exactly, this market is so special. Easier said than done, almost— in my case, I'm there from set-up to tear-down every Wednesday and it is hopefully apparent to people who see my week after week, no matter what time it is, smiling away from my post by the front gate or taking pictures as I wander from tent to tent.

The class I took this spring that had me involved in "pre-season" market activities allowed me to get involved in the market in different ways. One of the things we did was create flags that ring the parking lot on market days, an eye-catching and beautiful sight. It was not just my small class of four who made the flags, however. A lot of people contributed many different talents to make these flags happen.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Teen Pregnancies Up

A new study was just released which claims that teen pregnancies are up for the first time in 15 years: Read It

Allow me to present my theory on this. Bush was elected president in 2000, and since weaseling his way into the White House he has pushed abstinence-only sexual education at home and abroad. In order for schools to receive federal funds, they need to follow lesson plans that barely, if at all, mention preventative measures such as condoms, birth control, or emergency contraception.

I believe I had my first sex ed lesson in third or fourth grade, so I would have been somewhere around 8 or 9 years old.

So here we are, nearly 8 years after Bush took office.

The kids who started their sex ed classes when they were, say, 8 years old, as Bush took office, are now about 16. If teen pregnancies are starting to increase, could it possibly be due to the fact that, thanks to their lovely born-again president, none of them have received reliable information about sex in school?

Just a thought...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Just want to apologize for the ugly awkwardness of this blog over the next couple of days... I promise it will be for the better!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Pure Joy

There's not much my dogs enjoy more than running through rain-soaked grass first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

People Who Are Offended By WALL-E

Apparently certain people have been up in arms over Pixar's new movie, WALL-E, since last November. All I knew about it before seeing it was that it looked adorable. So last Friday I saw it with a couple of friends... and I loved it. As the story goes, mankind has abandoned Earth because it was too polluted and too covered in trash to be inhabitable. The enormous corporation "Buy N Large," who appears to control all of Earth's commerce, builds a giant spaceship to take people away for a "five year cruise" until robots left behind can clean up and allow people to move back home. Seven hundred years later, it appears that only one of the robots, WALL-E, is still in working order. Each day he goes out and compacts little piles of trash, building skyscrapers with the blocks he spits out. The only life form is a cockroach who fills the role of Wall-E's dog. Over the years, Wall-E has developed a personality, collecting interesting knick-knacks and cherishing an old VHS tape of Hello, Dolly! that shows how he yearns for a connection with someone.

All of that is set up in the first half hour of the movie. When flashy, futuristic robots come to Earth in search of life forms, WALL-E falls in love with one and ends up in outer space after climbing onto the rocket ship that will take them back to the mother ship. He had given EVE a plant he found growing, and as we find out, that is not only the first sign of life to return from Earth with the rest of the search mission, but also the first to return in 700 years.

Seeing the introduction to the movie, a layer of thick smog blanketing abandoned buildings and skyscrapers of compacted trash, sent waves of sickness through my mind and stomach. At the rate we're going, that very well could be a look into our future. The smog and the trash— it's already a problem in many parts of the world. My uncle, who travels to China on business fairly regularly, emailed the family a picture of the midday sun— it looks like a dim lightbulb through the haze [see below].

Not only that, but the way Wal-Mart and other huge corporations are pushing other companies out of business, a world where one corporation owns everything isn't hard to imagine. Phillip Morris, the much-maligned cigarette company, owns Kraft Foods, for god's sake!

So, getting back to the part about how I think the people offended by Wall-E are being a little ridiculous... First of all, it's an animated movie. A children's movie. There are very few, if any, movies aimed at children that don't come complete with a life lesson and a moral at the end. By design, a children's movie teaches some important lesson or idea. There are obstacles to overcome that the hero of the story must endure in order to better him- or herself. That's totally standard for Disney movies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Increasing Oil Production

I find it incredibly funny that Saudia Arabia is going to increase their production of oil from about 9 million barrels of crude per day to 9.7 million. They're also going to invest in some kind of new technology that will allow them to output 12.5 million barrels daily by the end of the year.

They're saying it's to combat the sharp and quick increase in gas prices around the world [read: the United States]. Oil is going for twice what it was a year ago, and people are finally beginning to consider alternative sources of energy as well as more efficient means of transportation. Amtrack is turning record profits as people start choosing to take trains rather than drive. People are also using public tranportation as well as biking places they need to go.

So basically, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia, along with the rest of OPEC no doubt, is saying to himself "Oh shit, you mean people are SERIOUS about driving smaller cars and riding their bikes to work and using less gas?? I never thought this day would come! EVERYBODY PANIC."

While high gas prices will affect many people and families in difficult ways, I think it's the best thing in the long run that ever could have happened to this country.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


If you ever wondered why you should NEVER throw batteries away, well, here's your reason.

My grandfather recently passed away, and in the weeks following, my mother and I have the task of cleaning up and cleaning out his office. His filing system consisted of opening a drawer and dropping in whatever files and records he was holding, as well as the occasional golf ball or odd change. He also kept stacks of magazines, old bills, etc., variously piled on the floor or in filing cabinets. As the acting president of our small family business, he came in each day long enough to open the day's mail and make any calls to overdue accounts or business associates, as needed. Most days, if you blinked, you missed him.

So it makes sense that, after we moved to a new office building 10 or so years ago, anything he brought with him from the old office [and from the days when he worked a full day] might still be in the office, so many years later.

I was sorting through some things on shelves in his office and came across an unopened package of DD batteries, covered with a fine layer of dust. When I picked them up, I was rather horrified to notice that some of the contents of the batteries had managed to escape out of the bottom of the battery. Again, these were unopened and never used [or even touched after being purchased, apparently], so it could be assumed that this happens to all batteries at some point.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Market Daze

I very rarely make posts like this but I suppose that, since I was referred to as "bubbly" today [probably for the first and last time], it's fitting and I can make an exception.

Today was the second Allen St. Farmers Market of the season. I volunteered at the market last fall semester for a class and was entirely smitten with it, and then volunteered at the Allen Neighborhood Center this spring. I decided to continue volunteering there this summer [and for the season], without the parameters of a class. Not limited by a class schedule or other school-related commitments, I told my boss that I would need Wednesdays off and plan to be at the market from set-up at 12:30 until tear-down at 7:00 for the summer.

Today was a fabulous day. It frosted last night and thunderstorms have been predicted each day for the past couple days, but today was clear, sunny and probably 70 degrees. Set-up only took an hour, and then I helped the East Lansing Food Co-op [where I also volunteer] set up their tent. As the market got underway I took a seat by one of the entrances as a greeter. The day flew by. There was a steady stream of people all day, some attending for the first time, some with babies, some with dogs, some I knew from previous markets. You just couldn't ask for a nicer day, and everyone was all smiles. You can buy everything from herbs to milk, flowers to brownies, and people came with cotton bags and woven baskets to carry their purchases home. Many people walk or bike from their homes or work, picking up ingredients for dinner that night.

I love the conversations you have with strangers. There's just something so intimate about a market, especially this little one, that you feel like you know the people around you already. You say "hello" as they come in and "see you next week!" as they leave. It doesn't matter that you don't know their names or where they work or anything about them. You know enough.

Ramblings About the Media, Whores, and Voting

VH1 just aired a multi-part show about the sexual revolution, covering everything from "free love" to homo-hysteria to the onset of the AIDS epidemic. For the most part it seemed informative and thoughtful.

Immediately following? The Maxim Hot 100. The intro described the chosen 100 women as "sexy and talented" or something like that. It's hosted by the Pussycat Dolls [a Barbie band]. Number 97 is Kim Kardashian, one of many party girls famous for being famous, or as Maxim.com tells it, "A sex tape with R&B star Ray J catapulted this stunner from daughter of O.J. lawyer Robert Kardashian to front and center of the blogosphere."

Granted, a network like VH1 couldn't care less about the irony of running these two shows back-to-back. They're in it for the ratings, like anyone else. But at the same time, if you're going to make an investment into a socially-aware program, it seems like you might want to cushion it with other shows containing pertinent themes. Did the average viewer tonight notice the dichotomy between these shows, or just pop another bag of popcorn and settle in for a night of easy viewing?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dumb Journalism

I have a big problem with the main story I awoke to find featured on CNN's homepage today. Read it first: The high price of going 'organic'

Obviously, given the food rant I posted just yesterday, you can tell that I am a proponent of organic food, natural ingredients, and sustainable food systems. So maybe I should preface this by saying that I might be biased. But I believe that I have a good reason for that bias.

The subtitle to the article is The push for 'green' products may have peaked - due in part to the fact that they're so much more expensive than mass-market alternatives. I read the news and my eyes are open, so I am well-aware of the economic state most of our country is in right now. Foreclosure rates are at an all-time high, people are losing their jobs, and our dear President Bush came up with the very clever Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 which will be worth about $600 to everyone who receives it. So how does this relate to food, you might ask?

The article states that many people are "getting turned off by the organic hype for three reasons: price, skepticism, and confusion."

The benefits of organic food, and I do mean truly organic food that is produced sustainably, are many. But maybe I should start from the beginning.

What does sustainable agriculture mean?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our Suspicious Lives

Most of us probably consider ourselves to be fine, upstanding citizens. Maybe we are. We live our lives out in the open, just trying to make an honest living and go about our day-to-day business. But more and more I am aware of a seedy side to the honest, industrious American dream. The products we come into contact with on a day to day basis, everything from our breakfast cereal to our facewash to our lunch to that after-dinner snack, goes through its life cycle as covertly as possible, hoping not to get noticed by alert or informed consumers. We spend our modern lives surrounded by junk.

Take an unassuming package of cookies I was recently given after donating blood. "Grandma's Homestyle Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookies," to be exact. Frito-Lay bought Grandma's Cookies in 1980 and boasts that "today, Grandma's Cookies is the most popular cookie brand sold in convenience stores and vending machines in the US." What a selling point!

As I was perusing the Frito-Lay website, I noticed a section under "For Your Health" entitled "Ingredient Concerns." Under that subheading I noticed a "Products Not Containing MSG" list. As you might know, MSG or monosodium glutamate is a chemical best-known for its use in cheap Chinese food. It's marketed as a "flavor enhancer" and is now included in many of the processed foods we encounter every day. Basically, it tricks your brain into thinking something tastes good when it doesn't. It also causes reactions in some small amount of people, but is classified as safe by the FDA [which is not exactly the shining standard for regulation, but that's another post]. "Why do Frito-Lay snacks contain MSG? Monosodium glutamate (MSG), found naturally in many foods, is merely a flavor enhancer. Only very small amounts of MSG are necessary to enhance the spices and seasonings used in flavored Frito-Lay snacks. Extensive consumer testing indicates that consumers prefer the taste of chips with MSG." Duh, because it's tricking their brains into preferring it! I wonder if those people were told what MSG is and what it does before they took those surveys.

So, that aside, here I am on Frito-Lay's website looking at a list of products that don't contain any MSG and wondering which ones do. By the way, Frito-Lay refers to itself as a "leader in the convenient food industry," as if apples were somehow not convenient.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Animal Accidents

Once again, I haven't posted in a long time.

It's not that I don't have things to say, it's that I have too many.

I come up with ideas for posts and usually start composing them in my head, when I'm on my way to class or before I fall asleep or things like that. But then I forget about them, lose the start, and the idea is lost somewhere in my brain. Even when I carry a little pocket notebook with me, I forget to write it down. I guess that's just how things go.

Yesterday I saw one of the most disturbing and unsettling sights of my life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Being Sick

I am one of those people who eat predominantly healthy foods and gets regular exercise. I also have the benefit of youth I suppose, but then again, I'm surrounded daily by 45,000 other college students who are all little carriers of doom and missed classes. I don't get sick very often, but for the last couple of days I've been sick.

This won't turn into a recitation of symptoms [or an "organ recital" as my grandmother refers to it]. Rather, I would like to comment briefly on our medical system these days. We're constantly bombarded by commercials and advertisements for various medicines, prescription or otherwise. People can google their symptoms and "diagnose" themselves, then find the "perfect" drug for whatever ails them, all without a doctor. On the one hand, it's incredibly empowering and has probably saved lives. On the other hand, we think we can be our own doctors. I'll admit, when I woke up this morning with a painfully sore throat, the first thing I did was whip out my laptop and google "strep throat symptoms" and "tonsillitis." Then I made an appointment with the university health clinic, called my mom, and took my dad up on an offer for homemade chicken noodle soup.

I drank green tea with honey until my appointment, then dutifully recited my symptoms to the nurse and was poked and prodded by various instruments by the doctor. He took swabs to test for strep and the flu, said I was a little congested, and prescribed me pseudoephedrine, a decongestant. I was honestly a little surprised to be getting a prescription at all, because I am hardly having trouble breathing due to excessive snot migration or anything of the sort, nor is it interfering with my social life. [Is that too graphic? Apologies.] In fact, I think this is the least congested I have ever been while sick— the common cold is much worse.

I think that the prescription was symptomatic more of the expectations of patients rather than my symptoms. People go to the doctor and expect to get medicine to make them better. I understand that, partly, but I also have read about superbugs and drug-resistant strains of common afflictions. An MSNBC article from 2004 reports, "Flesh-eating bacteria cases, fatal pneumonia and life-threatening heart infections suddenly are popping up around the country, striking healthy people and stunning their doctors. The cause? Staph, a bacteria better known for causing skin boils easily treated with standard antibiotic pills. No more, say infectious disease experts, who increasingly are seeing these “super bugs” — strains of Staphylococcus aureus unfazed by the entire penicillin family and other first-line drugs."

That's scary. Among other things, such as shared close quarters, the article cites "overuse of antibiotics, which tends to kill weak bacteria and help hardier ones develop resistance."

Waterboarding isn't Torture?

This just in:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey told the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to discuss whether the "waterboarding" interrogation method amounts to torture. During his first testimony since his November confirmation, Mukasey testified that it wouldn't "be appropriate for me to pass definitive judgment on the technique's legality."

Sen. Edward Kennedy pointed out that -- because Mukasey has acknowledged his opposition to torture -- his refusal to pass judgment on waterboarding is "like saying you're opposed to stealing but not quite sure that bank robbery qualifies."

At one point the Massachusetts Democrat posed a blunt question to Mukasey: "Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?"

The attorney general responded, "I would feel that it was."