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Month: September 2007

Vacation Notice

Posted on September 29, 2007 in Site News

I’m going to be off in northern Arizona, keeping touch via Twitter messages from my cel phone. I’ll be keeping a diary as I go, but in the meantime you can enjoy the sounds of Bill the Lawyer and Maggs. Be kind.

Will return on 7 October.

Twisted Catholicism in Old Mexico

Posted on September 28, 2007 in Reading Sexuality Strange

From Carlos Fuentes The Buried Mirror:

The Mexican author Fernando Benitez, in a delightful book called Demons in the Convent, recounts many of the “hallucinating fictions” that gave Latin American societies, along with their libertine practices, the corresponding, repressive eroticism. The archibishop of Mexico City in [[Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz|Sor Juana’s]] time, Aguiar y Seijas, so detested women that he would not permit them to be in his presence, and if by accident he ran into one, he would immediately cover his face and hands. His hatred of water (another Spanish Catholic phobia) was equally fervent. His general fury was assited by the fact that he walked on crutches, with which he would strike out when crossed — as the poet [[Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora]], a friend and protector of Sor Juana, discovered when the archbishop broke his glasses and cut his face in a theological dispute. Aguiar also managed to supress cockfights, gambling, novels, and of course, when possible, women.

In a time presided over by such an uncompromising prelate, minor but crusading puritans were quick to act. A certain Father Barcia, towards the end of the seventeenth century, decided to gather up all the women in Mexico City and send them to the Convent of Belen, so they would never again go out or be seen by any man. Not surprisingly, Father Barcia only managed to round up a great number of prostitutes, actresses, and circus performers. But once he had jailed them in the convent, their lovers tried to free them and murder Barcia. The men besieged the convent, and when the women fled, telling the good Father that if this was heaven, they preferred hell, he went mad and tried to commit suicide by inserting suppositories containing holy water into his rectum.

This was also an age dominated by the triple tension of outlawed sex, the ideal of espousing an adult Christ, and the ideal of a virgin motherhood, which drove many Mexican nuns to blindfold themselves in an effort to convey their desire to be dumb and blind, to lick the paving stones of their cells until they formed a cross with saliva, to be flogged by their servant girls, and to smear themselves with their own menstrual blood. Monks and priests, too, says Benitez, liked to be whipped and kicked like [[San Juan de la Cruz]], for in this they saw a compensation for Christ’s suffering on [[Calvary]].

Friday Xenartha Blogging – Lively Sloths

Posted on September 28, 2007 in Xenartha

This information page about two-toed and three-toed sloths should be a pleasant and quiet interlude for your reading pleasure.

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Suicide Risk

Posted on September 27, 2007 in Depression

….may be genetic for certain anti-depressants.

Specific variations in two genes are linked to suicidal thinking that sometimes occurs in people taking the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants, according to a large study led by scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
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Depending on the particular mix inherited, these versions increased the likelihood of such thoughts from 2- to15-fold, the study found. About 1 percent of adult patients were deemed to be at high genetic risk, 41 percent at elevated risk and 58 percent at lower risk.

If confirmed, the findings may hold promise for genetic testing, as more such markers are identified.

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The Pain in the Pills

Posted on September 27, 2007 in Sugar and Fat

A typical diabetes patient takes many medications each day, including two or three different pills to control blood sugar levels, one or two to lower cholesterol, two or more to reduce blood pressure, a daily aspirin to prevent blood clots, plus diet and exercise. As the disease progresses, the drugs increase, often including insulin shots.

“The people who care for patients with a chronic disease like diabetes think about that disease and about preventing long-term complications,” said study author Elbert Huang, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “The people who have a chronic disease think about their immediate lives, which includes the day-to-day costs and inconvenience of a multi-drug regimen. The consequences are often poor compliance, which means long-term complications, which will then require more medications.”

square369A neighbor who no longer lives down the street and was a social worker, once told me not to feel sorry for a diabetic man who failed to pay attention to his blood sugar levels, consequently losing a toe in the bargain. “He didn’t take his pills, so that’s what he gets” her reasoning went. The advent of pills to treat our condition hasn’t led to much understanding of what we go through. Diabetes means you are born to hardship and those who don’t have it dismiss our struggles much too lightly.

A new study finds that people like me don’t like taking their pills or going out of their way to exercise or following a diet. The results were discovered when doctors actually took the time to talk to patients and ask what annoyed them. The trouble seems to be that we diabetics don’t often make the connection between our present behavior and complications to come, for example blindness or a major stroke. (The study did not ask about the costs of being overweight and diabetic interestingly enough.) Amputations are often shrugged off. And people would rather drop dead than live with the disease:

Between 12 and 50 percent were willing to give up 8 of 10 years of life in perfect health to avoid life with complications. More surprising, between 10 and 18 percent of patients were willing to give up 8 of 10 years of healthy life to avoid life with treatments.

Now the impetus turns to find less inconviencing treatments. I don’t know how much easier mine could be unless they can produce more effective pills that cover the major medication conditions associated with my diabetes which include high blood pressure and chloresterol. I haven’t given up, but as each year passes, I look upon that former neighbor of mine — the man with the lost toe — more sympathetically. How he envied those who did not have to eat right and check their extremities every day. How I do as well.

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We Didn’t Notice….

Posted on September 26, 2007 in Strange

Oops.

navyswastika.jpg

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Why Intrude?

Posted on September 25, 2007 in Journalists & Pundits Suicide The Orange

square368Here’s a report about a suicide involving two young people from Orange County — one of them a young man in obsessive love and the other the young woman who just wanted to go on with her life. On another blog, I saw mocking remarks to the effect that this article attacked the young woman. I disagree. What I see was an explication of genuine feelings of anger, confusion and grief without blame. This is part of the territory of suicide. The support from her family is described as “much-needed” — as it is. One feels pity for both parties.

I’m not a fan of intrusions into this kind of affair and consequently I see problems in the reportage which invariably surface when a newspaper invades the private life of a victim. The young man in question was obviously mentally ill and the young woman found his reaction to her sharing intimacies with other men (since they were not officially going together) perplexing and maddening. Even though the article avoids blaming her, I have to wonder just why it had to be printed except for its sensationalist value.

May this never happen to you, regardless of which side of the coin you are on. (And may you never commit suicide.)

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A Hunter Hunted Down

Posted on September 25, 2007 in California Watch Creatures Scoundrels

square367A certain organization dedicated to making the tools of violence available to all no matter what the cost in human lives or regional ecologies pressured Republican members of the California legislature to put the squeeze on AHnold. Now R. Judd Hanna, a member of the state Wildlife Commission, has been forced out of his job because he advocated a ban on lead bullets in areas where the California Condor is known to feed.

Hanna, an avid hunter, chided the [[National Rifle Association]] and others who oppose a ban, saying they are ignoring scientific evidence that lead poisoning from bullets is killing and sickening one of the most endangered birds in North America. He believes the NRA pushed for his removal.

“It seems to me that the hunters are not living up to their mantra that hunters are the first line of conservation. They need to be proactive,” said Hanna, 66, a retired real estate developer, former Navy commander, former NRA member and lifelong Republican who said he voted twice for Schwarzenegger.

“This is not about me. It’s about the condor. It’s about the NRA hijacking the system,” he said.

The NRA and some hunting groups oppose a ban, saying that the science linking lead bullets to [[california condor|condor]] casualties is inconclusive, that nonlead bullets cost too much for many hunters, and that government is trying to regulate hunter behavior.

His principle “crime” is that he circulated a sheaf of documents with his annotations to the Wildlife Commission, which members of the commission and evidentally AHnold thought was inappropriate. He has been accused of “not being unbiased” by Republican pawns of the NRA:

Hanna’s packet, which The Times obtained from the commission through the state Public Records Act, contained four articles from respected scientific journals, news clippings, material from the [[Audubon Society]] and other groups, and 40 pages of lead bullet survey results from the Arizona Department of Fish and Game.

The NRA is resisting this using tactics first refined by the tobacco industry and now employed by oil company lackeys who deny that there is any such thing as global warming: they say that the evidence linking lead bullets to condor deaths is “inconclusive”.

The kneejerk politics of this extremist organization need to be questioned at every turn. Though we face a war chest totalling in the millions of dollars, it behooves us to not give up the struggle. Hanna’s firing demonstrates the fragility of the NRA’s backing on this issue — they’re scared stiff of the implications of having someone who actually educated himself on the issue.

It is ridiculous to expect that members of any commission will come to it without opinions. At the very minimum they will bring core beliefs that will ultimately inform their opinions. If they are minions living in fear of the great gun club, you can expect that they will vote against the condor. The stage may be set for a biased vote against lead bullets restrictions thanks to Hanna’s blackballing, even though he did nothing illegal:

Commission President Richard B. Rogers believes Hanna was removed because he was too overt in his opinions in meetings and in written material he gave other commissioners. “His crime, if it was one, was one of being passionate about the issue and naïve about the appropriate process,” he said.

Rogers said Hanna should not have distributed reports with handwritten notations.

Deputy Atty. Gen. William Cunningham, the commission’s counsel, said Hanna did nothing illegal by circulating the material or notating it.

He said he encourages commissioners to make background material public, including notations.

“To have the public be able to see a commissioner’s written thoughts,” he said, “I would suggest is a good idea.”

Evidentally other members of the commission don’t want their thoughts or their biases revealed for the public eye. The fact that Rogers refers to Hanna’s stand as a “crime” indicates that good old fashioned Republican/McCarthyite thought control is operating in the California state government.

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Seen in a Public School Classroom

Posted on September 24, 2007 in Agnosticism Humor?

You never know what will appear to set off your atheist parent:

cross.jpg

If anyone else had me in view, they’d have surely assumed I’d suffered a small but effective stroke. I was completely frozen and trying to stay that way. Time stopped, looked at me funny, then continued on its way. I knew that if I came to, I’d leap onto a chair and point and squeal “CROSS! CRAWWWWWWSSSSS!!” I’d have no choice: the point-and-shriek is mandated for all encounters with crosses in the by-laws of the Atheist-Vampire Accords of 1294.

Read the whole story at the Meming of Life.

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It Doesn’t Taste Like Vanilla

Posted on September 24, 2007 in Creatures

ratfish.jpg

And you probably wouldn’t want to eat it anyway….

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Delayed Reactions

Posted on September 24, 2007 in PTSD

Viewing pictures of the Iraq War is causing veterans of other wars to experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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Then A Great Silence

Posted on September 23, 2007 in Conservatives Psychosis Stigma Therapy Violence

square366Five months after the [[Virginia_Tech_massacre|Virginia Tech shootings]], you don’t see or hear much about them. One person who tried to do this from the very beginning was Dr. Aradhana “Bela” Sood who had the task of examining just why a quiet, shy man went ballistic without anyone noticing that he was on his way to mass murder. Last week Dr. Sood blasted the state of Virginia for going cheap on its mental health services and described the process she used to unveil the mystery of Cho’s past:

Sood spent three hours sequestered with Cho’s mother, father and sister, a time she used to piece together Cho’s life “from his mother’s pregnancy until the day he died.”

“The person they saw described on television and in the newspapers was not the person they knew,” Sood said, recalling how the discovery of a pocket knife in her son’s dresser drawer was enough to frighten Cho’s mother.

She said she is most often asked why the Cho family did not seem to move to intervene as Cho’s state of mind spiraled downward.

“People ask why they sat back, why they seemed to do nothing.”

But she likened the situation to that of thousands of other families with troubled children who take assurances from good grades, an acceptance to a college, or pending graduation, all the while knowing there are deep problems.

As a parent, “you are constantly walking on eggshells [asking] when are they . . . going to bottom out? You are so grateful that nothing has happened.

“It is like you don’t want to upset the apple cart. You want to leave well enough alone,” Sood said.

Cho called home, as he always did on Sunday nights, the night before the shootings. He expressed no concerns.

Cho’s family, especially his older sister, a brilliant and accomplished student and now a federal government employee, “did everything they could to nurture this young man,” Sood said.

Contrary to initial speculations, Cho received good care for his mental illness during his high school years. “Cho’s family, teachers and doctors struggled to understand his quiet ways, diagnosed a form of mutism, prescribed medications and reacted with alarm to Cho’s dark writings. He made remarkable progress, Sood said.” This standard of care disintegrated, as it all too often does, when Cho turned 18 and matriculated at [[Virginia Tech]]. One could call this period — which is common to many young adults who are expected to make their way in the world without insurance for a few years — the Pit. You can’t pay for the psychiatrists you need to monitor you or the medicines you need to stay well. It becomes a cruel joke when people say “Well, it’s all your fault because you didn’t take your meds” as if your meds were handed out to you for free.

Not only did Cho struggle unshielded with his disease, but counselors at Virginia Tech ignored findings that he was destabilizing:

“Erring on the side of caution instead of making basic overtures in trying to get information,” counselors and administrators too strictly interpreted privacy laws and chose to withhold information from Cho’s family and from among one another, Sood said.

There was no push for information about Cho beyond the little that he chose to present, she said.

“You can become hostage to the information [a patient] is giving you,” Sood said, contrasting Cho’s college experience to his high school years.

She likened the failure of Virginia Tech counselors and other clinicians to pursue information about Cho to a doctor who limits a diagnosis of a patient to simply asking, “How do you feel?”

Cho felt like hell but nobody did anything. Readers of this blog may recall the time I suffered an especially scary episode while in college:

I developed the belief that the world wasn’t real, that I could predict the next thing someone would say. Now I suspect that my brain had neatly bifurcated so that one part lagged behind the other. When I sought help at the school counseling center, the therapist did not even for a moment suspect psychosis but suggested that I get more to eat.

Like me Cho sought help for his condition at his school counseling center. That the Virginia Tech counseling center never called Cho, never invited him for a follow-up appointment does not surprise me. It was almost as if they were trying to ensure a necessary attrition at the college, created by students dropping out. So Cho was going it alone when two events upset his already upset life:

First came a rejection letter from a publisher, dashing Cho’s distorted view of himself as a budding, creative author. He had shifted his major to English from business information technology, which was better-suited to his cognitive skills.

“This is a young man with a really inadequate personality. He has this niche area,” Sood said. “But he sees this won’t come to fruition” because of the rejection.

From that point late in his sophomore year, Cho began to regress. In the fall of 2005, his junior year, Cho began showing behaviors that were the first signals of a new obsession with death and culture-bashing.

Cho’s conduct was quasi-threatening; he took pictures of classmates; he refused to cooperate and became more isolated. Unlike in high school, where Cho had written approvingly of the [[Columbine_High_School_massacre|Columbine killings]], no one followed up on the signals despite many opportunities and recognitions of Cho’s decline.

Then came the second episode, ironically one that was designed to usher in a system of help.

Cho had made bothersome contacts with female students in December 2005 and in an offhanded way threatened suicide. “I might as well kill myself,” he told a student.

Cho was taken into custody and underwent a commitment hearing that found him mentally ill and a danger to himself.

Sood believes that the brief hearing, during which Cho was barely audible, crushed any perception harbored by Cho that society would accept him.

Cho’s life story gives lie to the conservative insistance that he was at fault because he did not take his meds. Those of us who have suffered through episodes know, first, that when you are in mental illness, the thought that medications might help you through the rough spots either does not occur to you or seems dangerous to your ability to concentrate; and, second, that even if you want to take the meds, the cost of seeing a psychiatrist plus the cost of many of the medications which may be the right ones for you can be prohibitive. So you tough it out. And if you believe that no one cares about you, you may be driven towards violence — either towards your self or towards others.

Cho was a product of a conservative’s world where nobody cares for the mentally ill. His is an extreme case where 21 other people happened to die. Sure there were calls for mental health care reform, for mandatory incarceration in asylums, but five months later I have not seen a single conservative call for mental health reform. So far, things continue as they have gone. There was a hue and cry, villifications of the shooter, and then the great silence. The Right cares nothing about us, but the Middle and, maybe, the Left cannot be counted on either. Not until the mass of people can be made to understand and care about the situation of those who suffer from mental illness.

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