Amy (old posts, page 4)

Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings by Pamela Nagami, M.D.

Bitten is essentially a collection of case studies of bites, stings, and the other indignities that are inflicted on humans by the animals with which we share our world, interspersed with descriptions of the mechanisms and chemistry by which the damage is wrought. Awesome! It is well-written and appropriately gruesome.

Things I learned: snails can kill you; if it's dangerous in the rest of the world it's probably deadly in Australia; Sharon Stone's husband was bitten by a Komodo dragon; lots of things that seem to be healing okay for the first couple of weeks then turn really ugly; American patients often don't return for follow-up care or complete their courses of medication.

Either Nagami or her editor seems excessively fond of "sic": "The child was in a semi-comatose state and only made to give unintelligible answers with difficulty [sic]." What's wrong with that? I do not know.

How about this? "So its bacteria was [sic] then inside the bone." Plural "bacteria" and singular "was", maybe? How pedantic is that? I'm think "sic" should only be used if there may be some confusion about meaning that would be cleared if the reader knew that the quote was left in its original, uncorrected form. Using sic just to prove that you are smarter than the quotee is lame.

The last one is the best: "beautiful 19 month old Rhesus Macaque ... all the paper's [sic] from his vet showing his shots are all up to date. He has never been in a lab, he was born in a private breed does not do well with children." How did they decide to sic the apostrophic error and yet leave, oh, pretty much every other word in the quote unsicced? Why not just sic the whole thing?

The G.I. Diet by Rick Gallop

This book is about how to lose weight by eating foods with a low glycemic index. The book is written clearly, and describes the diet in simple terms with a few recipes and lots of hints and good ideas. If I were going to go on a diet I would go on something like this, except that I love bread far too much to give it up to the extent that the diet requires. I'd rather be fat than give up bread.

I like that the book is written by a Canadian doctor and is clearly for a Canadian audience (there are other editions for other parts of the world); he refers to Canadian brands and discusses the difficulty in getting exercise when it's snowy and miserable half the year.

The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo by Clea Koff

The subtitle pretty much says it all (it would have to, being that long, really) -- this is a memoir by a forensic anthropologist who worked for the UN digging up mass graves of genocide victims in Rwanda and Central Europe to prove that they were, in fact, genocide victims. I read this book because I wanted another perspective on Rwanda, and because I'm interested in forensic anthropology.

It wasn't as sciency as I thought it might be, although there was enough detail to get the job done. The book was more about the author's (I was going to say "Clea's", that's how personal it was) journey through the various missions. She writes about how she feels when she's working and when she isn't, how she deals with the unique stress of digging up people, often children, who have been murdered. She writes about how the work she does changes her view of the world. She's very honest and forthcoming about her feelings and about her mistakes and about how her outlook changes.

She also talks bluntly about the work environments, the management, the teams, the bureaucracy. It made me realize, once again, that no matter how much you love your work, you're going to have to put up with some bullshit from somebody at some point -- no job is great all the time, not even digging rotting bodies out of soggy graves in the burning sun.

Beating Back the Devil: On The Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service by Maryn McKenna

This book is about the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service, which goes out and investigates epidemics wherever they occur in the world. It's structured one-epidemic-per-chapter and pretty much every chapter is interesting. There's a chapter on anthrax, on AIDS, West Nile, smallpox, cholera in a refugee camp in Zaire, TB among a transgender community in Baltimore, and of course, SARS.

McKenna is a good writer and this is a page-turner. I hope she writes more books.

Girls' Own: An Anthology of Canadian Fiction for Young Readers by Sarah Ellis

I thought this was a collection of short stories, but it's actually mostly excerpts from young adult novels with female teenage protagonists. They were all good and made me vaguely interested in reading the full books (but not actually enough to go ahead and read them). The only thing I particularly noticed was that the stories seemed grimmer than the stuff I read when I was a kid; there was one about the Holocaust, one about smallpox in a native family, one about living in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban... Maybe I read stuff like that when I was a kid and it just didn't make an impact -- I was pretty shallow.

How We Can Save The Planet by Mayer Hillman

Mayer Hillman is a smart guy, and he wrote this book about global warming. He starts by explaining global warming, and why it's a real and major problem facing the world. He presents it as a moral concern, that it is up to us to make major changes to our lifestyle in order the save the planet for the next generation. That we must.

He proposes a method by which this would be done, basically that we determine an acceptable amount of carbon monoxide we can allow into the atmosphere, divide that by the number of people on the planet, and then through one means or another enforce that limit, equally on every citizen of the globe. No special exceptions for countries and very few for individuals.

Hillman earnestly declares that the only solution to the problem of global warming is to limit the amount of carbon people are entitled to generate (he goes through numerous alternatives, and explains why he believes they are insufficient). Several times in the book he says that there is no choice in the matter, the only other alternatives are to prevent the developing world from developing or to just allow global warming to happen, and those are not acceptable alternatives.

Perhaps I'm cynical, but I'm pretty sure that last is exactly what is going to happen; time and again in history humans have seen shit coming down the pipe and done nothing. People are too selfish, too lazy, and too obsessed with economic "progress" and with status to make the huge and immediate changes that would be needed to prevent the coming disaster. I would love to be wrong.

My lifestyle is pretty low-impact (we don't have a car and I do most of my daily living on foot, we live in a multi-family dwelling, and we don't consume a great deal of stuff, relatively speaking) but Hillman's book has driven it home to me that the exorbitant number of flights I take pretty much blows that all away. Since Delphine was born we have been to Saskatchewan, New York, Florida, Las Vegas, and Saskatchewan again, and we're going to Florida again in February. That's twelve flights in less than two years: fucking ridiculous. I have to cut down, which gives me this horrible fear that I will only ever be going to Saskatchewan from now on. Argh.

Approaching 2005

It's New Year's Eve. Blake and I invited a few people over, casual-like, but for one reason or another no-one is coming, so it's just the two of us. Delphine went to bed at 6:30 and we tidied up (I hate to start the new year with a messy house) and now we're watching Firefly and eating party food leftover from Christmas: stilton and crackers, chips and dip, peanuts, soda and gingerbread. I hope to be able to stay awake until midnight, although I don't expect I'll have a drink since I am once again in post-ovulatory limbo.

2004 was good to me, I must say. Nothing much happened; a trip to Florida, a trip to Las Vegas, a trip to Saskatchewan (I travel too much) and not really much else other than day-to-day life, with choir and visits to and from Morgan and Baba and Zaide, and baby things.

In 2005 I am going to:

  • have a baby
  • work (for money)
  • go back to eating healthy, and maybe even healthier than that
  • paint the kitchen
  • do some yoga
  • knit
  • pollute less
  • take Delphine swimming more

I'm looking forward to it; I think 2005 will be good to me too.


I just got my period. My first period since July 2002.

And it's appalling. It's revolting. It's disgusting. Why do we put up with this shit? It's like Nature herself is conspiring to oppress and humiliate women.

And to add insult to injury when I picked up my Keeper I realized that in the last two years it has degraded (it's natural rubber) so I'm stuck using the huge pads left over from after Delphine's birth until the drugstore opens and I can buy some tampons.


I hope y'all are reading the book list because that's the only part of this site that's getting any attention these days.

Winter is setting in. We got a gorgeous snowfall the other day, the kind with really fluffy flakes and no wind, so the snow heaps up on the branches and telephone wires and makes everything all pretty. It melted by the end of the day so I have no pictures, but I made a point of stopping and enjoying it and remembering it so I have a picture in my head, at least. Sorry, y'all are going to have to imagine it based on my inept narrative.

Today is Saturday. Delphine is at Baba and Zeyda's sleeping over because last night was Blake's company Christmas party. It was at Five Doors North, which is just a few blocks away from here. I got all dressed up in a new low-cut lacy black top -- very foxy -- and my same tired old ballgown skirt that I pull out for every event ever. I was way overdressed -- most other people were in jeans -- but I am grown-up enough that I don't care. I don't have anything else to dress up for this year.

We are hosting a party here, next week, but I don't think I want to wear my foxy top -- it's kind of tight. Okay for standing up or hiding behind a table, but when I sit it shows all my rolls so it's not good for sitting on an easy chair. I think I will wear brown pants and my new pink v-neck sweater. (My mother told me to buy new clothes for Christmas and she would pay, so now I have two pairs of pants and three sweaters that fit. What a treat! I look like I have lost forty pounds!)

Today I have choir practice at 10:00 because tomorrow is the concert: Messiah with the orchestra playing period instruments. We have done Messiah a couple of times since I have been with the choir, so we're really good at it note-wise which frees us up to do interesting things with tempo and expression and stuff. Jurgen is really excited. We've already sold out the concert -- Messiah is our cash cow, the piece we do when we need money to do a piece with a big orchestra that isn't going to attract much of an audience, which I think would effectively describe the other two concerts we are doing this year. Tomorrow's concert should be particularly profitable since we only have a small orchestra.

I am still full from dinner last night. The food was served tapas style, which is the new trend. Everyone gets a little plate and they bring the food to the table on big platters. I do not like this trend. First, there was no menu so we had no idea what to expect and it was impossible to pace yourself. I filled up on pasta and rice (the second course) because I thought that was all there was; all three starch dishes had meat in them so I didn't figure there would be a meat course, but I was wrong.

Second, it was very wasteful. Each platter from our table (of twelve people) was sent back to the kitchen at least a third full. Either they throw it out, which would suck, or they repackage it and give it to someone else, which would suck more. The only non-sucking option is that they give it to Second Harvest or some similar feeding-the-foodless-type organization.

Third, the people in the middle of the table spend half their dinner passing heavy platters back and forth, and you have to bother them every time you want to try something different. Finally, I just don't do well with family-style service; when there is food in front of me, especially tasty food, I eat it, even when I am full. It is why I am so fat. So I ate way way way too much last night; I was easily keeping pace with the pregnant woman beside me. Although it was really very tasty.

Oh, and I also had two amaretto sours, which the kind waitress brought for me after I flailed around trying to think of a fun fruity girly drink. I can never remember what cocktails to order, but amaretto sours are going to be my go-to drink from now on -- sweet, sour, bitter, and girly but not too girly. Sadly I might be a little bit pregnant -- I am in that post-ovulatory-pre-menstrual limbo -- so I hope if I am I didn't do any damage. It was kind of stupid, in retrospect; no-one knows how much and when you can safely drink when you are knocked up so I should have abstained altogether. I hope I didn't screw up.

Links for Morgan

Morgan was saying she needs more stuff to check on the Internet, so here are some sites I think you all should read if you don't already:

Mimi Smartypants adopted a baby girl a year ago. Her baby is a couple of months older than Delphine. (When she first, um, got Nora it totally blew my mind that Mimi had an eight-month-old, and I only had a six-month-old, but I had a been a mother for six months and Mimi had only just started. I think I was jealous, and rightly so because it only starts to get good at eight months. All babies should start at eight months -- maybe I will send my next one to an orphanage for the first eight months. Or to Sascha and Leontine.) Mimi is very funny, especially the one where Nora feeds the cat.

Dooce has an eight-month-old named Leta who is much more of a handful than Delphine ever was, and also a very amusing constipation problem and a slightly less amusing (but only slightly) mental illness problem.

Okay, that's only two, but someone lost all my bookmarks so I'm groping blindly around the Internet at the moment. If I think of any more I'll post them, or you could just look at the list of journals over on the right, but I haven't updated that for ages and I can't guarantee any of them will be funny or interesting.