The Cure May Be Worse Than The Disease

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:12 am

At about one o’ clock yesterday, someone from a bank of IP addys belonging to the City College of Chicago got to my blog by entering the following into a Google search:


Young Lady (I’m presuming here, but it seems a safe bet), might I urge you to reconsider this particular course of action? I know that the Feds have tightened up the bankruptcy laws, but this seems to be a bit of a–well, “scorched earth” approach to solving your problem. How about selling your plasma? Or dealing dope? Do you really need both corneas? Or you could always go the surrogate mother route.

Besides, I’m not sure that the convents let you start off your vow of poverty with an overdraft. 😛


Irony Supplement, Part 12

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:06 am


Our Spring REI catalog arrived about a week ago, and Shawn was leafing through it on Saturday when I happened to spy this over his shoulder.

“Solar powered UV water purifier”. I know that our economy lives and dies by its middlemen, vestigial organs of capitalism that do nothing but get between the producer and consumer to interrupt the smooth flow of commerce and jack up the prices, but this seems to be an example of the middleman at its worst.

“Water purifier”. Well, that’s pretty straightforward; something that purifies water. “UV”; it must use ultraviolet rays to purify the water. Okay, so far so good. “Solar powered”. Ooh, that’s pretty cool. That means draws its energy from the sun—um, wait. Solar powered….ultraviolet rays….

In a perfect world, wouldn’t a “solar powered UV water purifier” consist of nothing but a clear container you fill with water and set out in the sun?


My Review of Hell House

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:28 am

I just finished watching Hell House, a 2001 documentary about a Halloween haunted house describing the tortures of Hell, started by the Trinity Church in Texas and now carried on at evangelical churches throughout the world.

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Wow, what horseshit.

Not the film itself. Hell House has all the earmarks of a great documentary: it covers the subject with a sense of balance, it allows the basic humanity of the topic to show through, it’s compelling and it’s relevant. (Boy howdy, is it relevant.) It’s the concept of the Hell House itself that I have come to loathe.

For about two-thirds of the film I tried my very best to keep an open mind about what I was seeing. I’m no enemy of faith, even if I have no capacity for it myself. And these dedicated true believers are only doing what they think they must to keep people from burning in the eternal lake of fire, etc., etc. The creators of this milieu are trying to relay a point that is obvious to them—that Satan is behind all of the evil, pain and suffering in the world, not just the eerie supernatural stuff shown in fiction. The actors really throw themselves into the roles, too, showing a zeal not often seen in high-school students.


But when the film makes it to the actual implementation of Hell House, the performance itself, impartiality took a nose dive and I began to get really pissed off. Forgive the irony, but oh my God, what a horror show.

Here, with only a few notable exceptions, is a gaggle of fresh-faced, pristine little princes and princesses, still wet behind the ears from their dunk in the Kool Aid, role-playing all the horrible, grotty, real-life things they are told to avoid every day (or at least every Sunday), lest they risk those eternal fires themselves. They shriek in cathartic faux-agony as they put guns to their heads in the presence of jeering classmates, writhe their final paroxysms of agony in an AIDS ward, slash their wrists with box cutters.

And when they’re done, they get return to the light, secure in the knowledge that they can pray all the base, carnal, fetid, icky bad stuff away.

It’s like having your Eucharist and eating it too.


(One of my very favorite scenes from the movie, shot during construction. Someone called for a “pentagram” to be painted on a piece of the set. This is what the budding math-major in charge of the artwork came up with. No doubt whoever drew the symbol knew he’d seen it somewhere before, but just couldn’t quite place it. Oh well, they’re all going to hell anyway, right, Pastor?)

Of course there are some hard-tagged survivors in the bunch as well, and their stories are told in the film in their own words, with frankness and compassion. There is no doubt that faith has had a positive impact in many of their lives. Any system for coping with hardship will attract those in need of succor. As I have said before, religion offers those in need a prefabricated community in which to invest themselves. Those who are dealing with personal strife can often find support they crave in the arms of a church, and this emotional superstructure may actually be enough for some of them. (I have trouble believing that all or even most of the rape victims who find their inner peace solely through their relationship with God aren’t in for a rather unpleasant surprise a few months or years down the road, and as for the “recovering homosexuals”….don’t even get me started.) Whatever works, works.


But I can’t bear the sentiment I have heard more than once with my very own two ears that Jesus Christ (or Allah, or Jehovah, insert your favorite deity here–but usually Jesus) is the only way to achieve true, permanent healing. Pardon me for being blunt here, but fuck that. There are a million paths to inner peace, and cutting oneself off from all available avenues to recovery from whatever ails you only makes the journey more difficult. Belief in a higher power won’t save a depressed person from their depression, an abuse survivor or traumatized veteran from their post-traumatic stress, or a gay person from the fact that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. It may be a step along the way, but that’s it.

If you want to put the argument in a less secular framework, psychological trauma is a terrestrial—not a celestial—issue, and must be dealt with here on Earth, no matter what awaits us after we die.

My resentment came to a boil around the time that we were introduced to the “Suicide Girl” vignette, where young Jessica stumbles home after being drugged and gang-raped during a rave, only to be tormented by a black-cloaked figure who urges her to slit her wrists. “You don’t know how many guys you had tonight, do you Jessica? You don’t remember a single one of them!” The figure follows the sobbing girl as she crumples to her bed. “You should be used to it by now,” it mewls impishly, “remember what your daddy used to do to you when you were a little girl?


At this point I was absolutely beside myself with rage, real rage. I wanted to jump through the screen and throttle the plump, smug little sixteen-year-old beneath the cheap boogeyman costume, assault her, drag her through the mud, rub shit in her hair. Give her some real Hell to contemplate. See if she can whine and caper about in her Devil disguise after that.

Frankly, I was a bit surprised at myself. I don’t get this mad watching documentaries about Neo Nazis. Maybe that’s because, when you watch white separatists gamboling and aping for the camera, you’re watching people dabbling in evil for evil’s sake. But when I watched these simpering brats do their little Pageant of the Damned, I saw no comprehension there. Just a horrible naiveté, masquerading as (other)worldly sophistication, a kind of “I know everything that’s wrong with you and I know just how to fix it” that coated everything they were doing with a layer of sugary slime.

Anyone actually swallowing this simplistic line of reasoning should feel abused, cheated. Like they were led to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and found its boughs laden with Pixy Stix.

Underneath the (by definition) self-righteous histrionics of Hell House is, I feel, a much deeper and more important thread of consciousness running through any number of modern religious movements, particularly those of extremely charismatic Christian sects: the scary (to them) realization that it’s becoming harder and harder to believe in the existence of devils.

Is there anyone born in this country in the last fifty years who really believes, if they do not live a life prescribed by the dictates of God/The Good Book/some guy in a building down the street, that when they die they will be dragged kicking and screaming underground, to a world of unquenchable fires, searing heat and molten rivers, to be tortured and tormented by horrible imps throughout eternity? Is anyone who has lived in a world of modern technology that superstitious, that primitive any more?

From my own limited personal experience, it seems that most modern believers have a much more robust and choate internal vocabulary for expressing their concept of Heaven than that of Hell. Even though the basic logic of duality would suggest that the existence of one would demand the existence of the other….and the major religions of the world do not seem ready to discard either one. My friends who are contemporary Christians–if they are able to express the concept at all–are more likely to try to find some quasi-psychological elaboration of Hell. It’s a place where all the bad feelings you ever felt come back to you again and again forever. It’s a place where you’re always cold and and alone and in the dark. It’s where you feel your true, ultimate worthlessness outside of the love of God.


Similarly, the expression of Satan’s power on Earth no longer has to do with witches sacrificing babies under the full moon, dragons breathing on the crops to make them wither and die or succubi luring innocent God-fearing men into nocturnal acts of forbidden carnality. In the modern idiom, the Prince of Darkness shows his hand through AIDS, abortion and Dungeons & Dragons; rape, drugs and suicide; through Columbine, Kosovo and the twin towers.

The question that then comes immediately to my mind is: given how mind-bogglingly huge a divide there exists between concepts of “sinful” or “diabolical” behavior as perceived by different communities in different places at different points in history, how can one possibly construct a viable framework of behavioral guidelines, using only the edict, “God wants you to do it this way”?

In which case, why in the world would I take these people’s contemporary interpretation of Hell–much less the behavior that will get me there–at face value, rather than come to the much simpler and more verifiable conclusion that the evil that human beings perpetrate upon one another originate from and are the fault of the human beings committing them?

I see Hell House as a tool for eliciting as primitive, as alligator-brained a response as possible in the viewer, in an attempt to dampen their cognitive functions and obliterate their 21st-century mindset. Wielded with skill, it reduces the susceptible among those exposed to the point where they will make absurdly simple, iconic connections among scores of complex, interconnected webs of problems. War? Satan. Crime? Satan. Disease? Satan. Suicide? Satan. Abortion? Democrats. And Satan.

(In fact, the take on “disease” can be quite telling. Ask one of the folks behind Hell House if ischemic cardiomyopathy is caused by demons, they’d probably laugh. Ask them if AIDS is a torment visited by Satan upon those who have chosen to violate God’s decrees regarding homosexuality, you’d likely get quite a different response. Interesting.)

Sophisticated people of every faith, including none at all, understand the complexity of the world—or more to the point, they understand that they understand very little of the complexity of the world. Only the most primitive thinker believes that they have the answer to everything, or believes they know someone who does.

Look, I don’t hate religion, I don’t hate religious people. But I think I’ve decided that I do hate this particular church for what they have wrought with this horrible, self-serving, perversely masturbatory annual exercise. Religion at its best is a community of people united around a set of common beliefs and goals. Unfortunately, this can also be religion at its worst. In this case, the distinction comes down to tactics. If you can’t convince people to act the way you feel is best for them by setting an example, the proper response is not to try to scare the–ahem–Almighty shit out of them in an attempt to force their compliance. As any grade-school recess monitor would tell you.

It is for this reason that I give Hell House a resounding thumbs-up. I think that anyone who can stomach it should see this movie. To the extent that we are capable, we should be all be more aware of the kinds of weird machinery that rumbles on in the minds of some of our fellow citizens. Particularly if they tend to vote. 😈


The Surfing Habits Of The North American Internet Curmudgeon

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:43 am

It’s no secret—or surprise—that I’ve turned into something of an Internet humbug over the years. I wasn’t in on the whole Net thing from the ground floor, but pretty near. Hint: the first browser I used on a regular basis was NCSA Mosaic.

Since those heady early days, I have seen the Net—and the World Wide Web in particular—transform in a number of ways, most prominently from a loose confederation of outposts into a full-blown commercial theme park. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s certainly plenty of frontier left to explore. (The cool thing about this metaphor in the framework of information networks is that the frontier is in the same place it’s always been, and just as accessible; it just currently resides within a matrix of gift shops, snack bars and “Get Your Picture Taken With Spongebob” photo kiosks. Oh, and dirty book emporiums. 😉 )

But the frontier, with all the potential rewards and risks implied by the term, is still there.

I was taken to task by someone close to me about a week ago for a reply to something her significant other sent me. It was one of those, “Cool Things You Never Knew Your Cell Phone Could Do” email forwards. More specifically, it was this one. I replied with a link to the Snopes article, prefaced by a “*sigh*”. Smartassish of me, perhaps, but I really, truly get sick of these moldy, re-re-re-reconstituted chunklets of Internet lore, and the more of them I get, the less likely I am to be nice about it.

Imagine that a friend told you that Starbucks was giving away free lattes, and you ran down to your neighborhood shop (one of four or five in a ten-block radius, no doubt) only to be told that sorry, Starbucks was not giving out free lattes, that they were not sure from whence this rumor had arisen, but that it wasn’t true, and had in fact not been true the last three times someone had spread the rumor. You’d call your friend and tell them that this unexpected largesse on the part of the Subway of Coffee was a myth, and advise him or her to stop telling people otherwise. The next time someone called you up to tell you about the Big Latte Giveaway, you would tell them that no, Starbucks is not giving away free coffee; don’t bother going down there, tell your friends not to bother going down there.

By the eighth call (or twelfth call [or fourth round of clusters of eight or twelve calls, separated by increments of three to twelve months]), you would be informing the excited bearer of glad tidings that THERE IS NO FUCKING FREE FUCKING COFFEE BEING FUCKING SERVED AT STARFUCKINGBUCKS. This is just human nature; even if the news is new to them, you’re plain sick of hearing it, and it tends to show.

I decided a while ago that I would simply ignore any piece of email sent to me by a friend, family member or coworker that I did not agree with or enjoy; stale Internet humor, political rants, bizarre or distasteful media clips. It costs me nothing to summarily trash them without comment, and a few times I have replied with editorial input have resulted in crossed signals, hurt feelings and worse.

On the other hand, my policy towards mis- or disinformation is to attempt to quash it immediately. There is something really aggravating to me about being sent a forward containing information–information that could easily have been verified online prior to sending–that I plain know is incorrect. (Okay, so maybe this person is not aware that there are Web sites out there dedicated to fact-checking this sort of Net lore; are they perhaps aware of the advent of the search engine? Why is it that normal, intelligent people can use Google a hundred times a day to find interesting movie facts, a new ottoman for the living room or a picture of their own house from space, but when it comes to a piece of questionable information sent by a friend of a friend of a daughter of a coworker’s massage therapist, the impulse to use this indispensible tool for information retrieval never bubbles up to the surface?)

Worse still is the knowledge that this erroneous nugget-O-knowledge has most likely been sent to half a dozen people more gullible than myself, who will then forward it on to a hundred others, and so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes. The Circle of Lies.

Obviously, the mean damage inflicted upon society by a factually questionable forward about cell phone tips and tricks is negligible. But just as often, the erroneous information being passed along is of a more potentially destructive nature. An outdated call for email Christmas cards to a child long-dead of leukemia could cause untold grief to parents trying to recover from their loss. Warnings about rapists luring women out of their houses with recordings of crying babies (a tactic never, ever reported having been used in the physical world) increase people’s stress level unnecessarily, and may stop someone from going to the aid of a genuinely endangered infant. Gang initiations involving driving with your headlights off and killing the first person who flashes their brights at you. Carcinogenic pet foods or fabric softeners. Boffo or hopelessly outdated computer virus alerts. The latest amazing photograph cropped, Photoshopped or just taken completely out of context for maximum impact. Bogus terrorist plots.

This last one really strikes home for me. In October of 2001 I received a forward from a friend of mine about a terrorist plot to strike in malls all over America on Halloween. She had forwarded the message to perhaps two dozen people, including myself. I normally don’t use the “Reply All” function on emails sent to a large group of people unless I am on a close social footing with all of them; however, this time I made an exception. I emailed the Snopes link to the entire group, including the line, “You might want to check this sort of thing out on Snopes before you forward it: might save you some embarrassment later on.” I received a curt reply back from the sender: “I’m not embarrassed. I’m concerned.” I bit my tongue (or in this case my fingers) and refrained from replying, “Oh, okay. Then if you’re ‘concerned’, you might want to check this sort of thing out on Snopes before you forward it because it might save some poor Arab American from being LYNCHED BY A PANIC-STRICKEN MOB because you were too lazy to check your fucking facts.”

Anyway, the real reason I brought up the whole Snopes thing was to illustrate a point. The person who called me out on my email (about fifty lines of text ago) took particular issue with the “*sigh*” portion of my email. She noted that, when she went to the Snopes article in question and clicked the link marked “Click here to e-mail this page to a friend”, the email that was generated did not include a “sigh”, but instead included a nice, friendly little note to the effect of, “I found this article on Snopes.com and thought you might be interested.” The intimation being that I had stripped the friendly, helpful content out of the email generated by the Snopes Web site and replaced it with my own, more sarcastic input.

It took a couple of back-and-forths for me to figure out what she was implying, due to a simple disconnect between her and my way of thinking about navigating the Web. I had not, in fact, modified the content of Snopes’ prefab message after clicking on their “Click here to e-mail this page to a friend” link, because I never clicked on the link. It would never occur to me to click on a specialized link to send the article to someone. I just copied the address of the article up in the address bar of my browser and pasted it into the body of an email message. Using Snopes’ (or any other Web site’s) handy-dandy mail-this-to-a-friend link goes against the grain of my thinking. It means that, in order to send the link to someone, I would have to surrender their email address to the Web site in question, to be retained and used as their privacy policy allows, assuming they don’t violate their own policies all the time. Not, I hasten to assure you, that I have any reason to assume that Snopes does anything of the kind. It’s just easier and safer to take them out of the equation entirely. To do otherwise would be like writing a letter to my mother and taking it to my local Target, handing them a pre-addressed envelope and asking them to put my letter in the envelope and send it to my Mom. Sure, the person behind the counter might just slip the letter into the envelope, seal it and send it on its way. Or they might decide to copy the address on the envelope and send my Mom a Target catalog while they’re at it, reasoning that heck, everybody wants a Target catalog, don’t they? Or, the person might just copy both the addresses on the envelope to send catalogs to, sell the addresses to two dozen direct marketing firms, and scan the contents of the letter for any other information they can use. After all, I was the one who handed my private correspondence over to a commercial enterprise instead of sending it out myself; don’t I more or less deserve whatever side-effects occur as a result? That’s just the way the world works, isn’t it?

To be honest, I’m not sure if the gulf between my philosophy on the subject and that of my aforementioned correspondent has to do with our mutual levels of computer/Internet/marketing knowledge and/or sophistication, mutual levels of paranoia/mental illness/radon gas present in our living spaces, or a combination of the two. (Is that only two? I’ve lost count.) But I would certainly consider it reasonable to assume that many people are simply unaware or unconcerned about the waves of personal information that Doppler away from them as they meander the Web. Some of those people might benefit from a heightened awareness of same. Some will not. It is for the former that I hereby present a short list of the kinds of things I regularly do to protect my privacy and security on the Internet. This is by no means a complete list, either of my own practices or of the span of Internet safety practices as a whole. Some of these are tried and true tactics; others may be based on pure paranoia. You may find something of merit in here, and if you have your own to contribute, by all means, feel free to do so.

  1. The aforementioned tactic of not using site-generated tools for sending links, messages or other forms of communication to people. I don’t like giving the entities who maintain Web sites any more information about myself than I have to. It always kinda irks me to get an email from someone and quickly discover that they couldn’t—or wouldn’t—figure out how to send me a link to a news article/picture of their new puppy/invitation to their birthday party without first giving my contact information to some third party for the privilege. Was the link/photo collage/invite really so incredibly enhanced by the addition of cute border graphics that it made hading over my contact information worthwhile? (And for those of you reading this who have sent me such things: cool your jets. I don’t hate you, I don’t think you’re idiots, I’m not mortally offended, I’m not that big of an asshole. I just don’t super-duper care for it. I’ll get over it.)

    It’s really not that difficult to copy the URL for a specific site out of the address bar and pasting it into a new message in your favorite email program. Some sites, like YouTube, even go out of their way to make it easy for you by making the URL available in a little window marked “URL:” so you don’t have to go allllll the way up to the address bar. Some sites may use frames, that–intentionally or otherwise–obscure the real URL of the document in question. You can easily get around this by right-clicking (Control-clicking, for Macs) somewhere in the area of the information you were hoping to copy the link for. In most browsers, somewhere in the resulting pop-up menu will be a place to deal with the Frames issue, with options like “Open this frame in a new window” or “Bookmark this frame”. Strangely, the new Internet Explorer 7 for the PC does not seem to offer any frames-related options when you right-click. I can’t imagine why; perhaps their design team felt that being able to break up a page into its constituent frames would have a detrimental effect on the overall Web user experience or something.

  2. I use a wonderful piece of free software called Privoxy. Not for the complete newbie, but a powerful tool for controlling the flow of information to and from your computer over the Web. Out of the box, Privoxy is configured to manage your computer’s Web connections, making granular choices about what information you really want to send and receive, and always giving you the option to override its built-in filters. In addition, you can use it as a standard Host file-type ad blocker, causing connections between your computer and servers that do nothing but send you advertisements and track your passage through the Web to loop back on themselves. Privoxy can even manage your cookies, which are often used to track your movements across the infoscape. (Ever been to Dilbert online? Used Altavista? Been to one or more of over eleven thousand other Web sites? Congratulations: you are a permanent entry in the data banks of DoubleClick, one of the most insidious and pervasive Web user data collectors in the world, based primarily around cookies.) If you take the time to learn to use it, Privoxy is a fantastic tool for protecting yourself online.

  3. My PCs are loaded with a diverse collection of antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall software. I’m far, far less worried about my Macs, and only use OS X’s built-in firewall, Privoxy and a cool little app called GlowWorm that tells me when programs on my computer try to access the Internet–often sending information back to the company that wrote them (known as “phoning home”)–and allowing me to block them if I feel it necessary. There are lots and lots of reasonably priced security software packages out there for the PC. This is not meant to be a review of any of them. I run three different packages on my three PCs, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The more expensive packages will include privacy-protection features as well, that help to control many of the same privacy-related problems that Privoxy handles. Pick one from a major vendor like Symantec, McAfee, Grisoft, Trend Micro….chances are it’ll work well for you, so long as you keep it updated. I also run additional free anti-spyware utilities such as Windows Defender and Ad Aware. Unlike antivirus software, where it’s best to only have one product installed on your computer at a time, having two or three anti-spyware utilities is actually a good idea, since no one of them will effectively screen against everything.

    I get the feeling from some folks that the idea of the threat posed by computer viruses, trojans and other malware just doesn’t resonate with them. As in, “Why should I really care if my computer has some sort of program running on it without my permission? there are hundreds of things going on on my computer that I don’t have any knowledge about or control over. If the computer still works, why would I want to spend fifty to a hundred bucks just to keep this stuff at bay?” The answer is simple enough. If you balk at the thought of people selling pirated DVDs out of your garage; if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of your kids being solicited by sex-toy vendors when you’re not at home; if you would never dream of letting some stranger send junk mail out to people using your home mailing address; If you would be openly suspicious of someone who poked their head through your office window and wrote down everything you typed on your computer keyboard; if the idea of anonymous criminals stashing child pornography in your office filing cabinet makes your skin crawl, then you need to use and maintain computer security software to keep the same things from happening on your PC.

  4. Everyone who uses email and/or a Web browser should have a basic understanding of how Internet addresses work, and how to spot a bogus one. This is crucial to being able to identify “phishing” scams, both in email and on the Web. Here’s a very, very basic tutorial:

    If you bank at Bank of America, the web site address for your bank will look something like this:


    The Account Login section will begin with “https“, the “s” means it’s a secure, encrypted connection.

    If the address looks like




    or something similar, it’s almost certainly a scam. Essentially, there had better be only one actual Web address (the part that ends in “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, “.edu”, etc. In the bogus examples above, the “.ru” and “.cz” mean “a Web site in Russia” and “a Web site in Czechoslovakia”, respectively) in the address you are going to, otherwise it is likely you are being taken somewhere else, somewhere you do not want to go. Even if the link provided in an email looks like it goes to the right place, unless you look at the actual, source-code link embedded in the email, you do not know for a fact that the link goes where you think it does. Take this link, for example:


    Did you click on it? Did it take you to the NRA Web site? It did not. that’s because the actual link embedded in the HTML had nothing to do with what was written in the text of this page. The two are quite different and separate from each other.

    Here is a more in-depth tutorial on identifying and avoiding phishing scams.

    [Funny: just as I was about to publish this post, I got the worst phishing spam I’ve ever seen. Apparently, my Ebay account has been suspended due to suspicious activity. that’s okay, though: all I need to do to get it up and running again is scan my credit card (front and back), my credit card statement, and my driver’s license, attach them all to an email and send it to a suspiciously Ebay-ish kinda sorta looking address. Oh, I’ll get right on that! It’s a damn good thing that the characteristics of email make it about as easy to send fifty thousand of these messages as it is to send one; I’d hate to think of someone trying to eke out a living with a limited number of targets for scams this dumb. On the other hand, no, I guess I could say that I like the thought of that very much.]

  5. In the same vein of general online protection, I use a router on my home network. This tip is no news to the majority of my readers (hi, you two!). To the rest of you: if you have high-speed Internet (cable, DSL) and you don’t already have a router, disconnect your computer from your cable modem, erase the hard drive and start over. It has already been turned into a distributed botnet zombie. (Unless it’s a Mac. In fact, here’s a tip: if you have high-speed Internet at home, don’t currently have a router and don’t know why you would want one, you should do all your computing on a Mac. It’s not that Macs are invulnerable to attack, they’re just much harder for novice hackers to break into.) While the time it takes for hackers to identify and take control of an “exposed” PC has increased over time (from a low point of about four minutes), the likelihood is still quite high that your routerless cable-modem-powered Internet PC is doing someone else’s bidding (see the list of nefarious things your computer might be doing at the end of 3, above).

    In simple terms, a router sits between your DSL/cable modem and the computer(s) on your network. It acts as a single portal through which all your network traffic travels. With a router in place, your computer is—fairly—invisible to the rest of the Internet, which—mostly—only sees the router. This alone can stop a large percentage of the kinds of automated attacks against computers connected to the Internet. It also happens to allow more than one computer to share a single Internet connection, which is handy as well. A modern home-network router is cheap (fifty to a hundred bucks, depending on what features you want), fairly easy to set up (if you aren’t familiar with the concepts behind the use of a router, you’ll need to follow the included instructions to the letter, but those directions have gotten pretty damn idiot-proof over the years) and can be bought at any computer or office-supply store.

  6. I tend to avoid “free” online services like LiveJournal, PhotoBucket and Evite. I don’t have any particular reason to feel that these are disreputable or malicious companies (with the exception of WeatherBug, see below); I just feel like I can find other ways of availing myself of the same services without having to first read an exhaustive “Privacy Policy”. In fact, you’re soaking in one right now. 😉

    Same goes for “free” software like Google Desktop, WeatherBug and Yahoo! Messenger. The mere fact that these products/services–by definition–generate a constant stream of data back and forth between the service provider and the end user, while being offered “free of charge”, gives me pause. These two phenomena are mutually contraindicated; the information being gathered by the service provider during this continuous exchange must be helping to provide the revenue stream needed to keep the business afloat. At the extreme end of the spectrum, you end up with things like the now-infamous Kazaa, a popular file-sharing tool that was found to contain code that could be used to turn every computer running the software into part of a massive, distributed-computing network at a command from the mother ship.

    As far as WeatherBug goes, I learned all that I needed to know about this software by trying to remove it from our housemate’s computer. Any software that tries no less than three times to discourage you from removing it, then tops it off by sending your Web browser to an online form asking you to explain why you decided to remove it anyway, is by any reasonable measure a piece of software you do not want installed on your computer.

  7. Similarly, I avoid signing up for “members only” sections of Web sites whenever possible. A limited number of news/content providers or specialized bulletin boards, sure; it’s a necessary evil. But I don’t subscribe to every neato service I find on the Web, primarily because a) I think my personal information is more valuable than free weather updates on my mobile phone, and b) chances are really good that someone else is offering whatever the good/service is for free, without having to hand over my email address. Super double maxi ditto for online drawings and giveaways.

  8. As a corollary to 6 and 7, I have a special “throwaway” email address I use for all online activity: bulletin boards, online shopping accounts, product registrations, what have you. If ever I feel like this address has been compromised in some way (say, lots and lots of commercial offers start rolling into that address’ Inbox), I delete the addy and create a new one. The truly paranoid will delete the old address and create a new one every few months as a matter of course.

  9. This one’s kind of weird, but I never jump from one Web site to another in the same browser window. There are systems out there that allow computers to track the destination of a visitor as they leave one Web site for another (not just the “exit page“, but the actual address to which the browser travels next). I haven’t been able to dig up enough information to determine whether such systems use cookies (obvious, and easily defeated by 2 and 3 above) or other ways of parsing the http requests coming through their portal (possibly with the help of a Javascript? I’m not smart enough to know and not tenacious enough to find out) to determine where you’re heading. But I suspect these systems would require that the new destination address be entered into the same browser window as the site being departed in order to work. By closing down one browser window before entering another, I can—possibly—reduce the tracking of my online activity even further.

That’s about all I have time to offer up. I keep thinking of new ones every time I look this over, but since chances are really good that you stopped reading about a half-hour ago, I don’t think I’ll bother updating the list further. If you have any input of your own regarding these or other security tactics, I’m 72% ears. The rest is gut and a nonfunctional pancreas. 😉


Updates For The Masses

Filed under: @ 4:21 pm

Because I was too wiped out to remember to put them in yesterday’s entry.

First and foremost, Team Eccentrica is officially registered for the 2007 Seattle 3-Day. I’ll be walking, one of the other diners in our group at The Herbfarm on Saturday is going to be joining me, and a veterinarian that I know through VIN who works in Seattle is interested. Anyone else in? It’s bad craziness, but it’s good fun. The walk is September 7-9.

Also, for those to whom I have not had the chance to speak personally, the diagnosis is relatively benign. The MRI that was done about 10 days ago confirmed that the “lesion” in my liver is a fat deposit (oh great, I really do have a chubby liver), and pending results of further biopsies and more specific pancreatic function tests that will be done this week, the working diagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome.
You want some fun? Go to WebMD and search “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. Better, go to Google and Google “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. As a not very well defined syndrome that affects a great number of people around the world you can pick up some truly fascinating information and treatment options for IBS on the web. This isn’t something like an abscess where cause and treatment are fairly cut and dried. This is more like organized religion where certain believers worship one way, other believers worship another and both parties are convinced that the other side is going to go directly to Hell.

Pretty much the only constants that I’ve found are:
1. You are probably gluten intolerant and have Celiac Sprue even though your biopsies didn’t recognize it.
2. Dairy is bad.
3. You need to eat more fiber, and
4. All your problems can be solved if you only remember to drink a teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar before each meal.

Great, so I’ll be eating no wheat products, drinking no dairy, eating piles of raw vegetable matter that I can’t digest but it’s okay because it’s fiber and fiber is good for IBS, and it doesn’t matter anyway so long as I remember to drink my vinegar. 🙁
Have you ever actually tried to drink straight vinegar? It’s really difficult and allow me a word of advice: DON’T CHOKE ON IT.

Actually I’m fairly upbeat about the whole situation. Having a name to put to the tummy weasels and a (or several) potential courses to follow to solve or at least control the problem, has really helped.
I’d still love a salad though. Oh, and I’m not giving up dairy regardless of what all the web sites say. In my case the tummy weasels seem to like milk and I truly LOATHE soy and rice milk.


A Few Random Neural Firings

Filed under: @ 11:30 am

Courtesy of an extremely late night after an outstanding dinner with remarkably good company at the Herbfarm restaurant in Woodinville. Check it out.
Honestly, no lie. If you ever have the opportunity to get out there for one of their gala dinners, do it in a heartbeat. It’s somewhat pricey, but oh my god is it worth it. Nine courses with the main focus of the meal being Wagyu beef. Wagyu are the breed of cattle that produce Kobe beef, but the beef is not technically Kobe beef unless the Wagyu cattle are raised and slaughtered in Kobe (for those of you of a culinary trivia bent). The beef was stunning, the herbs and vegetables were all fresh and locally produced, I ate, enjoyed, and was hoping for more fish. The wines were all Pacific Northwest varietals (Andrew got a variety of non-alcoholic herbally infused teas and juices that were absolutely delightful) except for the 95 year old Madiera that we all got a tiny taste of just before dessert which I didn’t like that much. I suppose I should have been more impressed by it, but Madiera seems to be like Scotch. You either have a taste for it or you don’t. The service was superb, the decor is, there is no other word for it, eclectic….. All around an entirely desirable and satisfactory way to spend a Saturday evening. And I think the part that I enjoyed the most was that regardless of the nine courses, the portion control and the timing were so perfect that while we were full at the end of the evening, it was more the full of “I’ve just had a satisfying dinner” not the full of “Oh god, I’m stuffed”.

Anyway, back to the random aspect of this post……
Many of you are already subscribers to The Funny Times so many of you will already have seen this, but I thought it worth mentioning anyway.
You go into a store to make a purchase and they ask for your zip code for “demographic purposes”. There’s a store in Burien that not only asks for your zip code but your phone number as well. I’ve always thought that as more than a little invasive of my privacy honestly. I figure if I’m paying for a purchase, so long as my money is good it really should be none of their damn business where I live. Now I also realize that they are trying to define their customer base and provide goods and services that best meet the needs of those customers, but I am, in general, very jealous of my privacy and I resent these tactics.

I have been giving out the zip code and telephone number of the mobile home where we lived in Pullman. 15 years ago. That doesn’t, in any real sense, exist anymore.
Until I saw this article in March’s Funny Times. The author was also railing about this particular trend in consumer tracking and came up with what I think is a beautiful solution. He gives out the zip code 99692. Which is the zip code of a, by definition, remote fishing villiage on the westernmost tip of the westernmost of the Aleutian Islands off Alaska. Now if that doesn’t put a glitch in their demographic tracking, I don’t know what will. I love it.


Oh, For Shame….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:21 pm

From my referrer logs this morning:

Around quarter of twelve, someone from the Washington, DC area got to my blog by searching Yahoo! for….

“Enema cam”

Uncle Andrew dot Net will be down for a couple of hours whilst I scrub out my server with Lysol. 😮

They Love My Freedoms

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:40 am

Imagine my relief when I tested my URL and discovered that Uncle Andrew Dot Net is available for viewing by surfers in China! Sadly, my friend’s Web site for his Alpaca ranch is blocked. What exactly do you do with them Alpacas to get China’s knickers in a twist, Dude? 😀

Go test your favorite site(s) today!


Stand By….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:18 pm

Gotta be honest, Folks: between work and Margaret’s recent medical stuff I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep lately, and just about the last thing I want to do in my spare time is entertain you people. 😛 So I’m probably going to take a few more days off, unless something just leaps out and grabs my muse by the short hairs and twists. I haven’t abandoned you; I just don’t care about you very much right now. 😀 I’m going to eat, sleep, pet my wife and my cat, and play video games. I’ll get back to this stuff as soon as I feel more into it….probably right about the time I start working out regularly again. Wish me luck on both counts.


My Letter to Senator Adam Kline

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:34 pm

If you don’t live ’round these parts, you are not likely to be aware of the kerfuffle regarding Senator Adam Kline’s (D-WA) recent email exchange with a local off-road vehicle organization over his co-sponsorship of Senate Bill 5544 (PDF). The bill would enact further restrictions and penalties for the unlawful or irresponsible use of off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes and ATVs.

When asked why he was co-sponsoring, such a restrictive bill, he replied,

I signed on because I have been annoyed, endangered, and angered one too many times by people riding motorized dirt-bikes and other off-road vehicles that have no damn business anywhere. To me, this bill is narrow–it doesn’t include those “personal watercraft,” seemingly jet-powered little missiles whose only apparent purpose is to risk death and dismemberment for boaters and swimmers, for the amusement of spoiled drunk teenagers.

Yes, I am sure there is the occasional responsible person who rides one of these machines on land or water. And yes, like every human being I have been pleasantly surprized to find my stereotypes broken. But why, why, why, do folks insist on motorized “sports”? Those two words are an oxymoron. There is nothing sporting–athletic, physically demanding–about riding any machine anywhere. And it’s a damned annoyance to folks who see the outdoors as a place to go for quiet and solitude and self-exploration. I would be happy to ban the use of the internal combustion engine off-road, by anyone without a handicapped sticker, subject to a stiff fine. Maybe we could call this an anti-obesity measure.

Please circulate this to all motorized sports enthusiasts, so they can remember never to vote for me.

Adam Kline.

The Senator has been taking a lot of flack in the court of public opinion (and local talk radio in particular) over what was considered a snide response, and in some ways I have to agree with the sentiment. I couldn’t resist sending him a brief note:

From: Andrew
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 8:55 AM
To: Kline, Sen. Adam
Subject: “That” email

Senator Kline,

While I might tend to question the strategic value of your decision to send the now-infamous email to the WOHVA, I do not in any way question the validity of the opinions contained therein. I agree with you down to the very core of my being, and appreciate that you had the resolve–if perhaps not the political sense in the heat of the moment–to make those feelings known. Good on ya. 😉



To my delight, I received a response this morning:

From: “Kline, Sen. Adam”
Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2007 18:29:48 -0800
To: Andrew
Conversation: “That” email
Subject: RE: “That” email

Aw shucks.

No, this wasn’t just a rash reaction–though it was perhaps that. It was also to let these folks know, especially the few elders or more reasonable folks among them, that it’s not all right to have your fun at the expense of others. There’s something more to civility than simply good table manners. It’s a willingness to forego one’s immediate pleasure in honor of one’s neighbors, the others in one’s community. It requires that one have a sense of community to begin with, and that’s the problem. The erosion of that sense of community is, I feel, the root cause of so many social problems–noise pollution being among the lesser ones.

Thanks for your note.

Adam Kline

I couldn’t agree more. I have often opined—here and elsewhere—that the citizens of our fine state who are most vociferous about defending their “rights” are very often the people who want the freedom to infringe on the rights of others. They protest the tyranny of red-light cameras because they want to be free to run them. They vote to repeal the taxes that fund our state’s mass transit system, taking buses off the roads and ferries off our waterways and dumping more and more cars onto our overcrowded freeways, just because they’d never be caught dead riding a bus. They rail against the most basic gun-control laws because they fear being charged with a crime if their kid’s friend blows his head off with one of their unsecured pistols.

And they move out to the country in droves to escape the crushing regulation and burdensome taxation of the city limits. You know; infrastructure, rules, social compacts, stuff like that. To which I say great, have at, be my guest, mazel tov, for you I’m happy. If you are sanguine with your two-hour commute because it grants you the elbow room you feel you need, who am I to take issue? You are welcome to your peace and solitude along the outskirts. Personally, I prefer my peace and solitude a trifle more, well, peaceful.

Which is exactly why I live in the suburbs: the combination of relative proximity to one’s neighbors, the wounded-but-not-yet-dead concept of the social contract, and a robust police presence combine to help keep everyone conscientious in a way that you don’t often find out in the “pioneer spirit” atmosphere of the tooliedingles. I’m perfectly happy with our quarter-acre near the airport; no amount of trees and deer wandering through my yard would make up for the hunters, the garbage dumpers and refrigerator abandoners, the dirt bikes and the “secret” meth labs of the back country. And if you try very, very hard, you can almost convince yourself that the engine roar of 747s is just the soothing rumble of the ocean. Which, in my opinion, still beats all hell out of the plaintive insectile squall of a team of tricked-out Honda TRX450Rs as they tear through your back yard.

Gotta Love Them Search Engines

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:51 am

On the fourth of this month, someone from the Princeton, New Jersey area got to my blog by entering the following into a Google search:

“latex mask” AND “carpool lane”

Once again, I am flummoxed. What the hell was this person trying to find? A list of rules and regulations regarding the wearing of Halloween masks while driving in the HOV lane? A compilation of recent news stories about bands of carpooling convenience-store robbers? Something even more bizarre that I can’t manage to fabricate at quarter to four in the morning? This isn’t mere insomnia talking, folks: I have the IIS log entry to prove it.

*Sigh* Sometimes I think I’m happier getting hits from the porn-seekers: that modus operandi I can at least comprehend.



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:44 am

I just had to post this picture, because I pestered the creator mercilessly (through his brother) for a copy. But in order to do it justice I must first tell you just a bit about Jason.

Jason is our housemate’s brother, one of four, if—in the words of Chairman Kaga—my memory serves me correctly. They’re all weirdos to one extent or another, with Shawn and Jason competing fiercely for the title of Reigning Fruitcake. Some days it’s Shawn, some days it’s Jason. This time it’s Jason.

He works as a tattoo artist in Vermont, basically a pay-the-bills thing for his other, more—um, well, not exactly “serious” work, but his passion, at any rate. Jason primarily does illustration work, stuff that is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. He’s collaborated with Shawn on a number of projects, most currently a graphic novel series about a race war between two groups of fairies. His style lends quite well to the overall funny/creepy tone of the story.

Anywho, a couple of months ago, Shawn was talking to his brother on the phone and asked him what he’d been up to lately. A friend of Jason’s asked him to give her a tattoo for her birthday. When he asked her what sort of design she wanted, she replied, “Oh, just do anything you like! I trust you.”

“So what’d you give her?” Shawn asked, wincing.

According to Shawn, his brother kind of hemmed and hawed. “Oooohhhhh, wellll, ummm, a…..cupcake takin’ a bath.”


Mustilidae gastris: Or, My Winter with The Tummy Weasels

Filed under: @ 6:03 pm

‘Round about the end of November I started having episodes of what my GP refers to as “epigastric pain”. Heartburn, gas, nausea, the standard trappings of a dandy gastrointestinal upset.
I was under a lot of stress, in my job when am I not under a lot of stress? I just figured that with the holiday treats that were all around, the stress, the long hours, and my exposure to a constant stream of the general public, that I’d managed to come up with some sort of crud.
So I did all the natural crud repellant things. I took Pepcid, I ate bland food, I slept on my right side (helps reduce gastric reflux), I ate slower, I tried not to eat within an hour of bedtime and so forth. Pepcid is a standard H2 receptor antagonist drug. To translate that into people English, Pepcid blocks histamine production by the parietal cells (acid producing cells of the gastric lining), thus decreasing gastric acid production. When I found the Pepcid unsatisfactory I switched to Prilosec. Prilosec is a proton pump inhibitor. It doesn’t reduce gastric acid production, it STOPS gastric acid production.
The Prilosec worked……sorta. I took it for two weeks, a standard course, and when I was still having GI distress after two weeks I, like the good little instruction reading consumer that I am, went to see my GP.

She poked, and she prodded, and she asked about the hours that I was working, how much stress I had been dealing with, and how much caffeine and ibuprofen I’d been ingesting. She prescribed me a 30 day course of Nexium. I’m not even sure what Nexium does, I don’t use it for my patients. Then she told me that if I was still having problems after a month that I’d need some diagnostic testing.
Well that was enough to make me sit up and take notice.

Most of you probably know that I have a double curve scoliosis. My spine is curved in two places. I spent a lot of time in my pre-teen and teenage years stripped to my skivvies being radiographed, poked, prodded, and corseted by a parade of pediatric orthopedic specialists and one cold handed unibrow in particular.
It has left me, ironically, with an overwhelming mistrust, disgust, and horror of the medical profession in general. In specific there are MDs whom I actually quite like, my GP included. She treats me like a doctor and I treat her like a doctor and we get along quite well. It’s the unknown practitioner, especially those who are responsible for doing anything more involved than ordering me to have my blood drawn, that give me the grue.

My pointless idiotic insurance plan wouldn’t cover the Nexium because, as they put it I hadn’t “demonstrated a lack of response to a formulary alternative” which basically translates into “it’s too expensive, try something cheaper”. So I was back to taking Prilosec. LOTS of Prilosec. And with careful management of what and when I ate, I did okay for the rest of December and into January. After the month was up I made a recheck appointment with my GP and stopped taking the Prilosec.

Which was a bad idea.
The tummy weasels returned with a vengance at about 2 a.m. one Tuesday. I called in sick to work, took Mylanta and went back to bed. I spent the rest of the day sitting upright watching The Lord of The Rings and ingesting little other than Mylanta, rice, pudding, and white meat chicken. I am most heartily sick of white foods.

At my recheck appointment my GP, who is also mightily frustrated with my pointless idiotic insurance plan, told me that in order to get coverage for the Nexium that she wanted me to take I had to demonstrate lack of response to Prilosec. Not just any old OTC Prilosec, no, the insurance wants me to take prescription Prilosec regardless of the fact that I’d been taking the exact same thing for the prior 6 weeks and not getting any better at all.
So my GP wrote me a prescription for the pharmacy version of Prilosec and scheduled me for a series of upper GI barium x-rays.

Barium is a thick radio-opaque paste that one swallows. With a sequential series of radiographs one can outline the entire GI tract and potentially pinpoint ulcerations, strictures etc. I use it to find gastrointestinal foreign bodies in my patients. Doing an upper GI series properly requires that the upper GI tract be empty so you can’t eat or anything for at least 8 hours prior. On any other day that would have been annoying but not a serious concern.

Early in the morning of the day my upper GI series was scheduled I woke up with a migraine. I get them sometimes, stress will trigger them sometimes, and usually when I wake up with demons dancing in my head I take one of my migraine pills, chug a Coke, and go back to sleep.
Except I couldn’t eat or drink anything.
Later that morning I was delivered, pale, nauseous, and sweating to the radiology department where the fluorescent lights proceded to pound the hell out of my head. Did you know that under the right circumstances you can actually FEEL the waves of light from a fluorescent tube? I submit that one extremely good way to not be nervous about having a medical procedure done is to have little pointy hobgoblins hammering railroad spikes through your right temple.
And after the radiologist told me I could take one of my migraine pills, which I very promptly did, and the demons calmed down a little bit I have to admit that what I could see of the x-ray series was pretty cool. They were using a digital x-ray which not only decreases the radiation required, but also allows computer manipulation of the image. Pretty neat, but there wasn’t anything that I could translate as abnormal.

So the radiology appointment transmogrified into a referral to a gastroenterologist which rapidly transmogrified into an appointment for an upper GI endoscopy.
And there it was again. That annoying, completely irrational disgust and horror at the idea of medical procedures. I realize that no one actually relishes the idea of medical procedures, but in my case it is irrational to the point of pathology. I perform these types of procedures routinely at work and understand, probably better than the support staff that were trying to be professional and soothing to me, what happens during an upper GI endoscopy. And it didn’t make a damn bit of difference.
They dropped an IV catheter into me (have I mentioned that humans and needles really gross me out? I can’t even watch Andrew inject his insulin without getting all weak in the knees) and wheeled me into the endoscopy room where I proceeded to be grouchy and shake like a leaf. That is until the procedure nurse took pity on me and said “you look a little bit nervous Hon, let me give you a little Versed.” And I immediately became REALLY INTERESTED in a little spot on the ceiling tiles. I remember my gastroenterologist coming in and trying to talk to me about the blood chemistries that they had run the week before, but since there were two of her I really couldn’t figure out which one of her was talking to me or what she was trying to say.
That is the last coherent thing I remember for the next 2 1/2 hours.
I will also submit that a really good way to not be nervous about having a medical procedure done is to be stoned out of your gourd. A combination of IV Versed and Fentanyl is a goooooood thing.
Surprisingly the upper GI endoscopy was dead normal. Endoscopic biopsies were taken to rule out celiac sprue and helicobacter infection, the biopsies were unremarkable.

So the endoscopy appointment transmogrified into an appointment for an abdominal ultrasound which happened the next week. I also do abdominal ultrasounds as part of my every day career and have a fairly good idea of what I’m seeing on the screen, so when the ultrasound tech was prodding me in the liver with the probe and a spot came up that was brighter than the surrounding tissue I asked “What’s that there?”. She, being a radiology technician not a radiologist, and as such unable give me any interpretation of what she was seeing, said “Oh, it’s just part of your liver.” To which I, with great restraint, did not reply “Yeah, I know it’s part of my liver genius, why is it so dense?!” There really isn’t any point in antagonizing someone who has tacit license to poke you in the liver with an ultrasound probe and who can’t tell you anything anyway.
When I send radiographs or ultrasound images to my radiologist I usually get a report back the next day. The ultrasound technician told me that the radiology report should be with my gastroenterologist in 2-3 days. That was on Wednesday. So on Friday I was calling my gastroenterologist’s office every two hours or so leaving messages for her assistant asking what the hell the radiologist had to say about my liver. She didn’t call me back.
That is to say, she didn’t call me back until the following Monday when I was working a relief shift at a clinic that belongs to one of my vet school buddies and had a semi-full day complete with surgery. THEN she called me back. And told me that the radiologist had found what they were calling a “2 x 5 cm hyperechoic lesion in the left lobe of the liver”.

You want to have a really bad day at work? Have someone call you and tell you that they’ve found something nonspecifically bad in your liver and you’ll go all to pieces. Melinda, fortunately, is a very understanding sort and was willing to let me blow off the rest of the day and just go the hell home. Which is really probably a good thing because I wasn’t going to be of much use to her for the rest of the day. I still don’t know how I managed to drive home without hitting anything. Every so often I’d wake up and realize that I hadn’t the faintest idea where I was and yet somehow I managed to get home. I give full credit to my car for her directional sense. SOMEone’s autopilot was working and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t mine.

They scheduled me for a CT scan two days later to further define the “lesion”. I couldn’t talk my gastroenterologist into, or rather, she talked me out of, doing biopsies of my liver at the same time as the CT scan. It’s remarkably frustrating being in this position. I know how I would handle my case if I were my own patient and given my druthers I’d be much more aggressive about diagnostics than my gastroenterologist is being. I would have done exploratory surgery and biopsies last week. I should have been comforted by the fact that my gastroenterologist told me that she didn’t want to biopsy my liver unless it was absolutely necessary, but I was not.
You want to have a really bad week? Sit around waiting for an appointment for further diagnostic testing on a nonspecific something bad on your liver and then wait and sit around for the results of those diagnostic tests.
I did manage to keep myself busy, God knows. I usually reserve bathtub cleaning for every other presidental administration and I consider mildew on the shower curtain God’s way of telling you that you need to buy a new shower curtain. Our bathtub and shower curtain are now *spotless*. I also managed to get rhododendron bushes, my rosemary, and three lavender plants pruned as well as all of my backyard rhododendrons fertilized. I don’t have to worry about the municipal yard waste pickup going unused this week at least.
The CT report indicated that the “lesion” was probably a fat deposit, but the radiologist couldn’t be certain and recommended an MRI to be sure. My gastroenterologist has plumbed the depths of my frustrations and has basically told me to chill out. Chilling out is remarkably difficult.

So there it sits. The tummy weasels are sometimes better and sometimes worse. I keep a bottle of Mylanta on my side of the bed and a second one at work. My blood chemistries are essentially normal and several thousand dollars worth of diagnostic testing has told me little other than I probably have a chubby liver. I have managed to thoroughly freak out in some really remarkable ways and have discovered that, if nothing else, I am not a very patient patient. Breaking my leg would have been easier. At least it would have been considerably more straightforward.
Weirdly the “fat deposit in the liver” diagnosis has been moderately soothing. Still not sure why I’ve been sick on and off for four months, but if they haven’t found something bad yet they probably aren’t going to. The next step is the MRI and some more sophisticated blood testing for pancreatic function.

That is, if they can catch me first.


From The “Unclear on the Concept” Department….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:37 pm


Shot this outside the building that houses my chiropractor’s office.

Um, look, Sir or Madam: I think it might be necessary to bring something to your attention. While I like most folks are all for accommodating the needs of those who may have some physical trouble with standard civil and commercial facilities, there is also a presumption that goes along with these exceptional accommodations.

In the specialized arena of parking, the term “handicapped” (or “physically challenged” or “differently abled”, whichever you prefer) includes the tacit assumption that the challenge(s) faced by the driver in question apply primarily to his/her activities after exiting the vehicle.

If your personal circumstances dictate that you cannot readily negotiate an extra-wide, easily accessed parking space with generous wiggle room on either side, you are not simply a handicapped driver. You are, in addition, a bad driver. As such, you should not be attempting to park—or drive—anywhere.

On the other hand, it is possible that you are perfectly capable of parking your vehicle in the manner normally prescribed by law and polite convention, but chose not to do so. In this case, in addition to being a handicapped driver, chances are excellent that you are, in fact, a jerk.

Given my limited background in this particular situation, I would not presume to guess which of these scenarios, or even one unimagined above, might be applicable here. I just thought it made an interesting tableau. 😉

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