Sunday, June 22, 2003

I can be happy again. I finally found a site that tells me what the deal is with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

From the Blue Cross of Minnesota site --

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs or serotonin boosters, are thought to work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. Normally, chemicals called neurotransmitters carry signals from one nerve cell to another. These chemicals are constantly being released and taken back up at the ends of nerve cells. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors act on one particular neurotransmitter, serotonin, reducing its re-entry into nerve cells and thus allowing serotonin to build up. Although scientists are not exactly sure how it works, serotonin is involved in the control of moods, as well as other functions such as sleep, body temperature, and appetite for sweets and other carbohydrates. Somehow, drugs that prevent the uptake of serotonin improve the moods of people with serious depression, OCD, and some types of anxiety disorders

Time once again for that fun game, Whining About Email.

Yes, it's true, once again a lengthy amount of time has gone by without hearing from my perenially busy friend slash acquaintance in the Land of Sun and Granola, leading me to once again whimper to myself about how I never hear from her any more, she must not be a real friend, and all of that. It's pretty pitiful, really, and if it were anyone else, I'd advise them to just Knock It Off, already, no friendship that causes you -- well, not pain, exactly, but certainly discomfort -- is worth it unless there are other overriding considerations. Which, I have to admit, there occasionally are, but not that overwhelming, and none at the moment. Times like this, I feel like I'm definitely a C list correspondent. You know -- A list gets responses quickly, B list gets them within a week or so, and C list, just about when everything else is done, and you're feeling charitable. I like my F/A, but -- once again, come on, you know the chorus to this song -- sometimes, I wonder why.

Of course (goes the refrain), I know why. I like knowing smart, capable people, and my F/A is certainly one of them. Makes me feel good to know people like that. Course, it makes me feel stupid at times like this -- like, hey, what am I, chopped liver, that I shouldn't expect responses to emails? And if so, who's doing the chopping? Its a familiar face, can't quite place it.... oh. Yeah. Its me.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Thanks, Eleanor.

Well, the first try at make a pie shell didn’t work. Despite the warning that ‘even though the dough will look like it needs water, it doesn’t’, it did. Took it out of the refrigerator, let it warm up for about two minutes, and it immediately cracked upon application of the rolling pin. Back to the drawing board. But heck, even Mary Poppins said that piecrusts are easily made, so its no great donation of time to have at it again.

An interesting question reported on NPR this morning. The Kansas Attorney General is requiring abortion providers (and, eventually, by extension, gynecologists and obstetricians) to report if they have a client under sixteen. The logic is that anyone needing an abortion must have had sex, and if they had sex under sixteen, it’s likely child abuse. The retort is that if under-sixteens know that they’ll be reported, then they are less likely to have a legal abortion, which the pro-abortionists say would lead to problems of a different sort. Can’t argue with that, but the anti-abortionists say that’s okay, these kids shouldn’t be having sex. They use trigger words such as ‘pedophile’, which I don’t think helps rational discussion, but if its an older-than-16 guy involved, I suppose its true.

What’s disingenuous about the KAGs comments is that he says this will ‘protect young girls’. Hard to see how constraining abortion will do that, unless it’s the legal theory that used to hold you hang a horse thief to deter the other potential horse thieves. Would a rapist be stopped because he thought he might get exposed to scrutiny as a result of an abortion? I doubt it.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

This delightful piece of information is lifted whole and entire -- well, pretty much -- from's customer help number
I spent a good part of the late afternoon searching for a customer service number for It turns out that they do exist, but they're just not on the Amazon site-- which I scoured thoroughly. It turns out that someone else has had the same problem, and posted The Amazon.Com Customer Service Page.

It's amazing that they have a number, but don't put it up on the site. I can only guess that there's a law saying that they have to have customer service, but no rule about making the number known. Regardless of the reason, it's a pretty unbecoming move on their part.

The number, by the way, is (800) 201-7575.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I would imagine that architecture is something that everyone thinks they can do. They'd be wrong. Architecture is an art based on a combination of science and philosphy. When it comes together correctly, you get something that will withstand the elements and may even lift your spirits. When it doesn't -- well, it'll probably still withstand the elements, but it won't lift the spirit. You might get something like the new middle school that came up in our area -- a massive, heavy structure, looks like it could be converted into a prison without too much effort, and inside, very dark walls, lots of stone textures, a main lobby with an Italian Fascist aura. Add a site placement that hides the main entrance (around the corner, not visible from the road), no signage, and an uninspired parking lot (two places where the main traffic flow feeds directly into a DO NOT ENTER) and what you get is a site that squandered the opportunity. It'll last through an earthquake, though....unfortunately.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I rarely have much sympathy for doctors. I know a couple, and I like them -- they're accomplished and smart - but as a rule, the profession can't count me in it's corner. When they complain about malpractice costs, I grudgingly agree that they’ve got a point, and it isn't fair, and ought to be fixed, but they're certainly in a much better position to handle that problem than the vast majority of patients are to handle their own medical costs; if we can only fix one problem, I know which one I'd choose. And when I hear them talking about practices where you have to pay a fee just so they will turn their golden gaze upon you -- well, then I start even lower in the sympathy scale. I've no use for doctors who 'just want to practice medicine their way, darn it'... and oh yes. earn more for doing so. Practice their own way, free of insurance and HMO bozos, certainly; make more money at it, too, sounds like a shakedown. Of course, the answer is 'if you don't like it, don't go to them', and presented with the problem, that's likely what I'd do.

Finding out that doctors and their offices don't talk to each other, but expect that the person being treated will take care of any interoffice communication, is a great example of what drives me nuts about the profession. This week, I found that my mother, who had a chest xray done at facility A, at the behest of a doctor at facility B, and with the (thank you, HMOs) approval of her primary doc at facility C, has to get the physical film of the xray from facility D, where it was sent by facility A to be read and stored, so that another doctor, at facility E, can decide if she needs an outpatient procedure, which would be done at facility F, and which would require that the film be physically transported there in order for it to be done.

No problem in getting a 79 year old woman to handle this, right?

And medicine is the caring profession. Imagine if it weren't.


Sunday, June 08, 2003

Lately, I've been wondering how to build a stoop. Or a stoep, if you're Dutch.

Our house has a small to middling sized stoop in front of the main door, and a short flight of stairs comes down from it to meet a flagstone walkway. The stoop and stairs are bounded by a rusty iron railing, and on the house side of the steps are two plantable areas -- plantable only for things that don't require any water, as the overhang of the house's second story does an excellent job of keeping that area bone dry in all but the most furious of storms. Even the most recent set of storms in our area have left those spots dry, so that we've given up with the thought of planting something.

As a number of the bricks in the steps are showing the signs of wear, to the point where I recently got to play handyman with much more QuikCrete than a professional would have used to lay a whole row of brick, and this just to set one back in place, we're starting to think about having the whole thing replaced. Replaced by what, is the question. We'd like to junk the steps and put in either pressed concrete that has been imprinted (and colored?) to look like brick, or with slabs of stone that will match the flagstone walk. The iron railing would be replaced by some kind of plastic equivilent; it would have to be very high quality, even as I think high quality plastic? Surely that isn't an oxymoron?

That leaves the plantable areas. We're tending to think of making them (there are two, one above and two feet to the side of the other) into some kind of rock garden, with lighting put into the sides to illuminate the steps when the door's overhead light is switched on. For a while, I wanted to make them into a small waterfall, but gave up on that idea when I realized that it would of necessity involve plumbing, electricity, and masonry. Can you spell cost overrun?

Underlying all of this, though, is the stoop. How do you make one? I'm guessing that the square U (the fourth wall being the house foundation) is just concrete in a form until it hardens, possibly with some reinforcing iron rods. But how is the top, the part that forms the platform, put into place? My guess is, pretty simply, given that thousands of homes have one.

But I don't know how. Yet, anyway.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Well, it appears that maybe I don't know what invagination is, but then again, maybe I do.

Don't recall where I came across the word, but wherever it was, it was so deeply mired in anatomical gobbledegook that I was clueless not only about what it was, but even if it was a verb, noun, or act of congress. Then I noticed what word was in the middle, and thought 'Could it mean some kind of pouching or something like that?', and promptly started looking down a series of references in Google, none of which helped me even get an image. Then I came across a reference to intussusception at, and -- even though I can't say it without a running jump -- I know what that word means, kind of a pouch fold in the intestines -- so, maybe I do.

I enjoy anatomical words and medical articles. I just don't always understand them.