my möbius shirt

November 17th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Photo on 2009-11-17 at 12.18 #2
No matter what I do to it, this shirt is always right-side out. I find this infinitely compelling.
Photo on 2009-11-17 at 12.18 #3
It comes in particularly handy when one is experiencing frequent hot flashes. Just whip it off. And when you cool down again, it’s all ready to go, no fussy inversion to perform. With the handy V-neck, you don’t even have to take off your glasses. (N.B., the most interesting symptom of perimenopause so far seems to be an uncontrollable urge to talk about one’s symptoms constantly, to everyone, whether or not they’re interested, which they’re pretty much not.)

220 Responses to “my möbius shirt”

  1. hairball_of_hope says:

    Cool horizontal stripes too. Mo would approve.

    Welcome to the “other” PMS. The worst aspects of perimenopausal syndrome I’ve encountered are those horrifying brain lapses. Horrifying to me, because my brain is my stock in trade. I hate losing words for things, and only being able to describe things while I frantically try to get the exact term back from the recesses of my brain. Of course, three hours or three days later, the correct word will pop up in a totally unrelated context as if it had been there all along.

    Someone on this blog once described it as losing the nouns, but retaining all the adjectives.

    As the joke goes, I am now at the age where I have two types of PMS, one that makes me want to kill someone, the other that makes me forget who it is I want to kill.

    And remember, those aren’t hot flashes, they are power surges. Added bonus, they will help you keep the thermostat lower during the long winter months.

  2. Acilius says:

    The photos are interesting. I found myself looking from one to the other playing “spot the differences.”

  3. Aunt Soozie says:

    I have that same symptom,
    the talking about it…
    and a sort of absent minded professor thing going on…
    uhm, I mean,
    even more so than my usual.

  4. Ng Yi-Sheng says:

    Oh noes!!! Some of us were hoping you’d suddenly experience a maternal surge and inseminate yourself with little Alisons who’d continue in your ironic tradition, but hélas! C’est déjà trop tard!

    Used to have that eyeglass-T-shirt problem, but then I got LASIK. Such a blessing. 🙂

  5. Calico says:

    Ha, I had a nice hot flash this AM! Such fun! (I’m almost 47 years old, in a week)

    And yes, Hairball, I agree with keeping the temp low(er), esp. while sleeping.

    If we perimenopausal and menopausal women could harness this energy, I think electricity bills could decrease. If only!

  6. mija says:

    As an eye care professional, I find it highly amusing that your glasses are a bit askew in the top photo. But then, VOILA! They are straight in the bottom photo.

    Since I turned 40, I’ve noticed my nouns like to take vacations, too. Sometimes they take their friends the adjectives along. The expletives never leave town…

  7. Aunt Soozie says:

    fuck, no… that shit never happens.

  8. Mona says:

    OMG, there’s no hope for me then… brain has been losing random words for years now and I’m only 40 and not yet into the whole hot flash stuff. Can it really get worse??

  9. Marj says:

    Yes yes yes – the talking-about-it thing! I’m over it now, but it went on for about a year. So did I.

    I’m still losing those %@*£$!! nouns, but sadly I’ve never had a hot flush (UK variant). As someone who’s *always* too cold, that’s the one symptom I’d really appreciate.

  10. 'Ff'lo says:

    UK “hot flush” — thanks, Marj! Learn somethin’ new every day.

  11. Feminista says:

    I think it’s fine to talk about this stuff;women have kept this info to themselves for too long.My mother and grandmothers never talked about “the Pause.” For example,I knew about the power surges,which I’ve never gotten,but it took research in Ourselves Growing Older & other books to find out about perimenopause’s other common symptoms like memory loss,wacked-out moods due to menstrual irregularity and/or heavy flow,and PMS which seems to go on endlessly. The irregularity necessitates carrying some form of menstrual product with you at all times; pads and Instead live in my backpack.

    Of course,there are some benefits to this hormonal roller coaster.**grin**

    This sharing needs to be done in the right setting; I haven’t shared the above with my students or the bus driver. Or the man sitting next to you on the bus.

    Two mid-life women and I talked about the perils of perimenopause at a recent harvest potluck;the one man near us took in the info without so much as a blush… I’m glad to be towards the end of the hormonal hurricane,though one never knows for a year whether one has reached the Pause itself. I last “went with the flow”in March ’09. Only 4 months to go!

    I’m looking forward to what Margaret Mead called “post-menopausal zest.” Who knows what kind of mischief I’ll get into…

  12. Suzanonymous says:

    I hesitate to suggest, in this sleep-deprived modern world: get more sleep, more shut-eye. Sleep researchers have found we’re naturally more diurnal than we think. The key seems to be to shut down the visual cortex. We all evolved on a planet that is dark half the time. What convinced me to try it was the observation about how common it is for people to be feeling sleepy all day and wide awake when they try to get some sleep at night. It’s nutty.

    I’ve been somewhat diurnal for 15 years and I don’t shiver and I don’t get hot flashes (well, there was a period while I had a very noisy neighbor several years ago). I exercise or ride my bike places and sweat but cool down with the help of some wet paper towels pretty quick and that is the sum total of my sweating. That is, my hypothalamus is well-regulated. I think my brain in general is better cared for — I’m much calmer than before.

    I’m nearly 49, Alison’s age. Get as much continuous shut eye as you can cram into your schedule. I’m aiming for 11 hours and 10 minutes tonight — I have a system.

    I must duck for cover as the modern world screams in objection. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

  13. Kate L says:

    I was minding my own business in a room full of students and teachers, when suddenly I WAS ON FIRE! I looked around, and no one else seemed to be uncomfortable. Thus began my introduction to the awe and mystery that is the hot flash. The only continuing sypmtom seems to be my perception of New Jersey as being west of Pennsylvania… should I be concerned by this?

  14. Feminista says:

    Ah sleep,sleep,perhaps to dream…

    Yes,sleep’s very important. I usually get enough,but twice in the past two days I’ve fallen asleep,siting upright,at the keyboard! (At least I didn’t drool a la Mo when she worked at Madwimmin.) Fortunately,this has been at home,and one of my cats joined me. Thus no boss,like Mr. Dithers in the comic strip Blondie,yelled at me.

    I’ve also found the following are practical for prevailing through the perils o’ perimenopause:
    yoga,acupuncture,swimming,supportive friends,massage,humor,orgasms,and chocolate.

  15. Feminista says:

    Er,that should read “sitting” above.

  16. Kate L says:

    Feminista (#15)
    Vocabulary lapses may be one of the deadly warning signs of menopause! Last night, a friend of our same age and I were both trying to think of a word during a telepone conversation. It took us a few minutes. The word? “Caulk”!

  17. Jim L-G says:

    I loved that today’s post was on mathematician, astronomer, and physicist August Ferdinand Möbius’ birthday (Nov. 17, 1790)!

  18. Ian says:

    I’m a slightly reluctant male to enter into this discussion of “the change of life” as it’s always been euphemistically known by women of a certain age of my acquaintance!

    But I was going to post that I went on a ‘school trip’ to Manchester Art Gallery (England) and whilst there, found this amazing Victorian painting of Sappho:

    (Sorry, I don’t know how to do that short URL thingy on here)

    It’s probably very much old hat to the womyn on here, but I’d not seen it before and thought it was an amazing painting, full of power and passion. I couldn’t find a poster in the shop sadly, but I did get a postcard!

    Then reading the above post, it struck me that she was very appropriately dressed for a hot flush! LOL! Although I have a feeling it probably wouldn’t go down too well at the office …

  19. a month and a few days later, i’m ready to post again. flat on my back, maddening abdominal binder on every minute, tracking pain meds, far weaker than a kitten but home with dinah (who nearly lost her mind at my absence, no joke, but she stays close by now and is calm again), i am typing this hunt-and-peck on a small, hotshit netbook that liza cowan found a way to get delivered directly to me in the hospital so with wifi i’ll never be in solitary confinement again.

    in many disheartening respects, my recovery is only now truly commencing. but endurance is one of my skills.

    while i was still in dilaudid land, after being gutted like a fish and cocooned by the sleepless scrutiny of the PCU, the first messages i asked to have read aloud to me over the phone were from y’all here at DTWOF: my pseudo collective, my international mimeograph newsletter, my cyber cadre. your presence loomed large.

    i don’t know how to thank you, for posting about me, alison, for sharing news about me among yourselves, for reading my dictated posts, and overwhelmingly for all the money which is allowing me to eat real food and buy pain meds and have a roof over my feeble head. i have been saved, in the most literal sense, and i wish i could press my hands to yours in personal gratitude.

    in the last few days, liza (who persuaded me to try blogging several years ago) has now coaxed me to try out facebook. which i’m doing warily, with no apparent cool. it has replaced twitter as my short-attention-span daily telegraph for the time being.

    today i spent almost 3 hours on the phone with an employee with social security/ssi getting an application launched. a finance guy at the hospital also jump-started my medicaid request. he has strong confidence it will all come through within a year, probably after an initial rejection and reapplication. if i acquire this safety net, it will be a chief blessing to devolve from this crisis.

    but the blessings are many. another is that the cancer threat from my PCOD and consequent severe hormonal imbalance has now been erased by my living into safe post-menopause — i mean, i’m still having hot flashes and other estrogenic whackamole but my endometrial lining has ceased proliferating or drifting into dysplasia.

    i have read estimates that one out of three lesbians have some form of polycystic ovary syndrome, with attendant insulin resistance and hormone shit. the smart and honest physicians i’ve consulted over the years emphasize most theories about what hornones do are theories only and we are a generation being experimented upon, too often either for easy money from the desperate or to prove some cultural polemic about gender essentialism. i am lucky, lucky to have joined the ranks of survivor: one less disability to wear like marley’s clanking chains around my neck. i wish the same for all of you struggling to find your own path out there.

    a second occult cancer was found in my appendix, which i insisted be removed while i was opened up despite the surgeon arguing with me about the additional expense it would entail, an expense he pointed out i’d never repay. i acted as if i deserved the best care and he gave in. turns out, the secret tumor in my appendix was caught with clean margins right before it would have invaded my colon and/or metastasized elsewhere. being a traitor to my class and assuming the entitlement of all the middle/owning class women who have loved me over the decades just saved me from an early, ugly death.

    i’m paying attention right now, you bet.

    so, i’m back, at least in a limited capacity. love to each and every one of you. and yes, sleep long hours, appreciate your functioning digestive tracts, and keep insisting on respect, not merely sufferance,

  20. ian, just read your comment above — that painting is extraordinary! thanks for bringing it here.

  21. Aunt Soozie says:

    Maggie… good to have you back… and glad you’re back at home!
    I love that painting…. dark and beautiful and perfect outfit for hot flashes…

  22. Renee S. says:

    welcome back, missed you very much!

  23. Renee S. says:

    @ Ian
    thanks for Sappho…carrying her harp.

  24. DeLand DeLakes says:

    In my household, “PMS” is short for “Pre-Manuscript Submission.” My symptoms include pacing, prolonged periods of staring into space, muttering, and that unearthly pallor one gets from spending too much time in front of a glowing rectangle.

  25. Ready2Agitate says:

    Maggie your name (and the GNB address) has been pinned to my bulletin board above my desk for weeks. If you think each time I saw it, I thought of you, yer right. 🙂

    Alison – you make me laugh! (even if I kinda wish we could all see Mo and Lois and Clarice and all the dykes go through “the change” via the strip — yup, change we can believe in, sisters!)

    Speaking of which, I can’t tell you how many women I know in their 60s, 70s, and older who are sharp, energetic, brilliant, commanding (Madeline Albright somehow comes to mind, some of her politics aside). I admire them so, and hope I get to grow old and be like them.

  26. Alex K says:

    I like that the art with which you choose to live is a map.

  27. hairball_of_hope says:


    Welcome back girl, I’m so glad you are still here kicking ass and raising hell.

    Reading your powerful posts and tweets, with the backdrop of the political weasels selling out on universal health care, frequently caused me to yell out loud at the latest tripe from DC lobbyists and politicos. They should read your story, or better yet, live it.

    The old joke is that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. I’ll wager that a politician who supports universal health care not tied to one’s employment is a person who has been chewed up and spat out by the travesty that passes for health insurance and health care in the US.

  28. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Ian (#18)

    Oh, that Sappho is hot… thanks for sharing.

  29. sapphicaepuella says:

    Ian – what information did the gallery give about the Sappho painting? A few years ago, last time I went to visit Sappho there (they had posters available then – I’m looking up at mine as I type!) the card next to this great painting never even mentioned that Sappho was a lesbian. I wrote out a suggestion card suggesting that this was a real shame (not least ‘cos Manchester is such a gay city) but haven’t had chance to go see if they’ve changed the info they give about the painting since …

  30. Ian says:

    Yay! Maggie’s back! With successful surgery! This place just isn’t quite the same without you. I’m glad the surgery seems to have been very successful and that we were able to help you, even if just a bit.

    Glad y’all liked the picture of Sappho. I should’ve bought a bunch of postcards to send out to people. Oh well, it’s only a short journey. I’ll get a load next time I’m over there.

  31. Ian says:

    @sapphicaepuella: Our posts just crossed – I don’t really remember seeing more than the name of the artist and the date of the painting. That’s the trouble with galleries – they give most of the attention to the artist and tend to neglect the subject, which would help so much with the appreciation of the painting as a whole. Considering it’s 1877 I think just the choice of Sappho as subject is quite daring for the times, and although her face is lowered demurely, there’s absolutely nothing demure about her eyes.

  32. Antoinette says:

    A belated thanks for the Sappho link, Ian. It made my day.

    As for the ‘pause, I just blew past my 50th birthday in September without a single symptom even peeking over the horizon. My stupid cycle is more regular than it’s ever been. These monthly monkeyshines have been going on since I was 12 and frankly, I’m exhausted. How I wish it would just quit.

  33. Mona says:

    “monkeyshines”, Antoinette?? That’s a new one on me, I’ve heard the monthly visit from the painters and decorators called some things, but never that!

  34. Antoinette says:

    Also known as A Visit from the Cardinal (he wears a red hat, don’tcha know).

    Being the youngest of a family of five gals has probably exposed me to almost every menstrual euphemism.

  35. Acilius says:

    @Jim L-G: I should have known Alison would have had something in mind like that!

    @Maggie: Three cheers!

    @Ian: I think that painting depicts the legend of Sappho and Phaon. That’s a story that seems to go back to the 400s BC. Sappho lived sometime around the year 600, and by the 400s it’s unlikely that anyone knew very much more about her life than we do today. Yet Sappho’s poems continued to be highly regarded, so literary references to Sappho from that time on are laced with stories people made up about their author. One of these stories was about Sappho’s alleged love for a man called Phaon. When Phaon scorned her, the story goes, Sappho jumped to her death from Cape Leucas.

    Then again, there was another story in circulation in the 400s that claimed that Alcaeus, the other great lyric poet on Lesbos in those days, had fallen madly in love with Sappho. When Sappho scorned him, the story goes, Alcaeus jumped to his death from Cape Leucas. There is a fragment by Alcaeus in which he describes Sappho in very flattering terms (“the good Sappho, her hair like violets, her smile honeyed”); doubtless the legend of Alcaeus’ love for Sappho originated with someone who read lines like that, interpreted them as autobiographical confessions of love, and invented a tale to go along with them.

    Quite a few of the stories about the lives of ancient Greek poets seem to have taken shape in just that way, with schoolmasters or other would-be explainers reading a text as autobiography and fabricating a life to go with it. Other stories seem to have begun as the plots of comedies. By the late fourth century, the fifth century Athens where fantastic and obscene comedies were produced was a world as distant from contemporary conditions as was the seventh and sixth century Lesbos where Sappho wrote her poems. Hellenistic schoolmasters read the most preposterous summaries of the plots of Athenian Old Comedy and repeated them as if they were historical documents. One famous example of this concerning Sappho is a tale that she married a man named “Kerkulas of Andros.” “Kerkulas,” literally “tail,” was evidently a slang term for penis in Attic Greek; Andros is the name of an important island, but it sounds like the word “andros,” meaning “of man.” The idea that a woman best known for writing poems that tell of passionate attachments to women would end up married to a husband named “Penis of Man” certainly sounds like a joke the Athenians would have laughed at in the fifth century, and like the sort of thing a Hellenistic schoolmaster might have been witless enough to take seriously.

  36. Diamond says:

    I too have an elderly poster of Sappho and have visited the enormous and inspiring original many times. (Hurrah for free entry to UK art galleries) If the supply of posters has dried up, the gallery can always quote you a price for a photograph:

    And If anyone’s planning a pilgrimage to Manchester on Sappho’s account, please don’t miss the terrific women surrealists exhibition at the same venue until January.

  37. edebede says:

    Now that my menopause is OVER, I find that I want to talk about how horrible it was and how nothing I did made any difference.

  38. those athenians had a serious bug up their ass about the very notion of a woman “who’s indifferent to men”, as alix put it.

  39. dzieger says:

    Off topic, but I thought I’d pass this on (1f someone else has already mentioned this here, I missed it): named Fun Home one of the 100 Best Books of the Decade (#42, to be precise)


  40. C. says:

    Uh, the company that published the Washington Blade and others just imploded.

  41. Kate L says:

    My first mammogram is this Friday, and a big bru-ha-ha has just broken out in the U.S. as to when and how often women should get mammograms. Saint Sappho, I beseech thee for your guidance! Oh, btw, Texas may have passed a state constitutional amendment that bans ALL marriage! ReallY1 Check this CBS News story out…

  42. Ian says:

    Good luck for Friday Kate L! Wouldn’t that be great, if in their reactionary fervour, they had banned all marriage! I can hear Mo cheering as I type this.

    The info on the Manchester Galleries site about the Sappho painting says it’s the Phaon story being depicted but I think we all know that’s not what’s going on. 😉 PS – no poster for sale online but you can buy a decent size print.

  43. dzieger says:

    C.: The good news is, the staff of the Blade is still on the job and will introduce a new, independent publication on Friday (yes, this Friday)

    from the Washington Post:

    “We’re united and determined to make a go of it as an independent company,” Mr. Naff told us Monday. So, the former Blade staffers met to plot the publication’s future yesterday. Mr. Naff told us that there will be a new paper. The intention is to have it hit the streets this Friday. The name will be different from the one they labored for. Our hope is that its mission to inform and enlighten will be the same.

  44. j.b.t. says:

    Welcome back Maggie! 🙂

  45. cybercita says:

    as for me, i’m enjoying the beautiful new sheets i bought after it was clear that i had finally made it to the other side of the red river.

    speaking of this topic, one of my acquaintances, a woman named elissa stein, just wrote a book about menstruation, called flow.

    glad you’re better, maggie.

  46. Acilius says:

    @Maggie: “those athenians had a serious bug up their ass about the very notion of a woman “who’s indifferent to men””: They sure did. About the same size as the bug about women who liked men. They were terrified of them.

  47. Ian says:

    @dzieger: how ironic that someone running a gay newspaper/mag should be called “Naff”. That used to be Brit gay slang for someone who was “straight”. Glad they’re going to make a go of it though.

  48. Acilius says:

    @Ian: I remember when Princess Anne told a group of paparazzi to “naff off.” Google tells me that happened in 1982, when I was, um, well I was younger than I am now, younger by 27 years in fact. Considering that “naff” originated as an acronym for the phrase “not available for fucking,” it made a bit of a stir that someone in her position would use the expression.

  49. Dr. Empirical says:

    Kate (#41): The USPSTF is basically saying that for women under fifty, a positive result on a mammogram is much more likely to be a false positive than it is to actually indicate cancer, and, in their opinion, the stress of getting retests and the pain and potential for complications from biopsy is worse than the risk of having cancer and not detecting it. You can weigh that choice for yourself and make up your own mind.

    Note also that their recommendation only applies to that mythical creature: the “average woman.” If you have additional risk factors such as family history of cancer, unusual past exposure to carcinigens, african genes (black women tend to get more agressive types of breast cancer at younger ages) that would suggest that you are more likely to benefit from earlier or more frequent mammograms.

    Personally, I think it would be better to educate women about the potential for false positives and then trust them not to clutch their pearls and swoon if they receive one than to just discourage false positives by discouraging mammograms, but maybe I have too high an opinion of womens’ strength and intelligence.

  50. Andrew B says:

    Some thoughts about the breast cancer screening controversy. I thought I was replying to Kate L, 41, until I looked again and saw that she was asking for help from Saint Sappho, and I fail to satisfy both parts of that description.

    You can find the US Health and Human Services panel’s “Recommendations and Rationales” here:

    There is also a link back to their home page. Based on that page, the media reports I have seen are misleading. The panel is not positively recommending that women not have mammograms before age 50. They say the evidence is inconclusive, thus it’s a “subjective choice”.

    Like Dr E, I am disturbed that the main harms of mammography that they cite include anxiety and financial cost. Those are not the only potential harms, however. There is a question about the aggressive treatment of one common type of breast cancer, and chemo and radiation treatments can have serious side effects. Look for “ductal carcinoma in situ” in the above document.

    Yesterday’s NY Times cited one argument in favor of early mammography that seems quite misleading to me: early screening results in significantly more years of life gained. But suppose you find and successfully treat cancer in a 49 year old and a 59 year old, then each of them drops dead of a heart attack at age 64. The early screening was associated with 15 years of additional life, while the late screening was associated with only 5 years. But neither outcome was due to the screening. Early screening will produce dramatically more years of additional life because it’s looking at younger people.

    Finally, Dr E, 49, you can’t assume that higher rates of cancer among blacks are due to “african genes”. It’s possible, but “black” is a social classification that is only loosely correlated with genetics. Many non-genetic factors such as environmental contamination or quality of health care could lead to higher rates of more dangerous cancers among blacks.

    Kate and others, I hope this is somewhat useful. Take a look at the link above and draw your own conclusions.

  51. Ready2Agitate says:

    yes Andrew, second to last para – causation vs. correlation – we need to know the data.

    Didn’t read Dr. E.’s post, but institutional/structural racism (which is the system that really does the damage – not personal/individual racism) significantly downwardly effects life expectancy and health outcomes for African Americans, as early as prenatally. Not fair. Not right. Must work to change it.

  52. if a man of certain years has pain in his chest that persists despite a rest or position change, the recommendation is that he go to a doctor or ER immediately and have tests to rule out myocardial infarction — because early detection means lives can be saved. the tests that are run are commmonly a series of three ekgs and sets of cardiac enzymes, separated by intervals, during which time he is kept under medical supervision and given aspirin and, most of the time, something to calm the high anxiety caused by the possibility that he’s having a heart attck.

    i type reports for dozens of these medical visits each week. on an anecdotal basis, i’d guess that far less than half turn up any cardiac involvement. it’s usually musculoskeletal, GI, or just stress. the tests and care administered for these “false positives” are quite expensive, but if any panel anywhere suggested that men worried about having an MI hold off on investigation to every other year, for example, we’d all, me especially, explode in outrage.

    it seems highly suspicious that this set of recommendations have been forth at a time when the whackjob right are claiming health care reform will mean rationing of lifesaving treatment in the basis of saving money and/or government takeover of personal decision=making. the insurance industry is spending every dollar it has to manipulate legislators and the public alike so their gravy train continues — so THEY remain the folks who dictate our health care, albeit covertly, behind the sacred shield of capitalism.

    linking profit to physical well-being is essential to maintaining oppression on all levels. we do have a basic human right to affordable health care, as we have rights to education, a clean water supply, etc. but america’s acceptance of this right is starting at the very bottom, as profound revolutions often do.

    there is plenty to go around if you give up the magical thinking that you’ll become on of the rich. what world do you want most to live in, one where everybody has unquestioned access to basic health care, schools, decent housing, work that doesn’t kill them, and a clean environment, or one in which less than 10% get to live in excess, usually determined by birth?

    and yeah, african ancestry doesn’t necessarily create certain medical predispositions. overwhelmingly the single factor which decides health and life span is class — which operates often through gender and race, but not automatically if determined people alter culture in the direction of liberation.

  53. Marj says:

    Ian (#18) – I LOVE that picture! Someone sent it to me as a bithday card years ago, and I framed it and it hung in my hall for years until I had to pack up and move in with Mother. I never knew its provenance. Thank you.

  54. Julie says:

    I am de-lurking to say how much I love this blog! I have been reading DTWOF since college, some 20 years ago and visiting this site everyday for a couple of years. I am overwhelmed today with gratitude and affection for such an amazing group of people, none of whom I know and yet I do in a way and it makes me very happy. And very grateful.

    And I shall stop lurking and participate with gusto!


  55. brooke says:

    hi allison –
    you probably read this already: the times online 100 best books of the decade..


  56. NLC says:

    Since the Times list for “The 100 Best Books of the Decade” has been mentioned here twice (#39, #55), I’ve just got to ask a question.

    First, I trust that it will be clear that there’s no implied dig at Fun Home; it has richly deserved all the attention and recognition it has received, here and elsewhere.

    But still… Shouldn’t we wonder a bit about a list with this title –in “The Times”, for heaven’s sake– that includes works like Twilight(#90). Or puts The Deathly Hallows at #17 or –god forbid– DaVinci Code at #10. And then tops the list with The Road.

    I might be able to understand listing these books among, say, the “most important”, or –in some technical sense– the “most influencal” of the last of the ten years. And while, I really, really liked The Road, I have to admit to being suspicious of the judgment of someone who would name it “The Best” book of the last decade.

  57. Ready2Agitate says:

    Maggie Jochild – back and with a fervor, rousing rabble, just how we like her! 🙂

  58. Ted says:

    What say you all, how about a DTWOF 100 best list. There are some really good books on the Times list and some which are doubtful at best.

    I tried so hard to read the DaVinci code. I love stuff like that but it was uh rather poorly written and I quit after a short read.

    A forum favorite, Sarah Waters, was on the list but no Neal Stephenson who is one of my favorites.

    Anyone got any idea how many books were actually published during the decade?

    Julie, if you haven’t read Fun Home buy it now. After you read it read it again and pay particular attention to all the detail in the drawings, from newspaper headlines to comments on things in the house.

    Maggie, I spent every day for four months at my wife’s side in the hospital. Don’t spend one minute longer in there than you have to. Infection abounds in Hospitals.

  59. Alex K says:

    Hundred greatest books, ten greatest films, seventy-eight greatest cheese recipes. Arbitrary.

    Nice, however, that memoirs of closeted homosexual suicidal undertakers (sub-category: As written by their lesbian daughters) get a look-in.

    Alternative-universe query: If FUN HOME had included cheese recipes, would its ranking have been higher? And who’s doing the screenplay?

    The list reminds me, principally, that I used to buy books; and that some years ago, I grew tired of moving them around.

    **sigh** Impedimenta.

    A stack of books next to my bed, and PORTRAIT OF A LADY, at the top of the stack, is just another sproing in the cat’s progress from floor to counterpane. Isobel Archer, what happens to you and Ralph? More than a month has gone by since I picked you out at a friend’s house and carried you home. Between the interwebs and Radio 4 and THE ECONOMIST and the medical journals, will I ever read for pleasure again, ever find out just how you conquer Britain or, since this is James, how Britain conquers you?

  60. bean says:

    maggie, i’m glad you’re back too. and though i have no reason to believe that the health insurance industry would make any choice based on anything other than their profits, i’m personally choosing, at age 42, to forgo having a mammogram for a while. I have been really resentful about the judgmental attitudes that health professionals have taken towards me for this decision, even though i was not at all convinced that having a mammogram was a wise decision. yesterday, i read this blog post from susan love:
    i now feel more settled in my decision to wait. i assume it is a coincidence that i have come to the same conclusions as the “medical industry” this time. i don’t expect it to happen again. but yes, of course i agree with you that men are treated way differently by the medical industry than women. especially ironic, since women are so deeply affected by heart disease. my own mother died at the very same age i am now (42) from heart disease, probably because she was so alienated from the medical establishment.

  61. Pam I says:

    Manchester is the home of the only suffrragette museum, and the Manchester Art Gallery has commissioned Charlote Newsom, who coincidentally was on Woman’s Hour this morning, to make a photo mosaic portait of Emmeline Pankhurst. She is asking for photos of women who have inspired you, to be incorporated into the montage. Best bit is that the more she gets, the sharper the final image will be. You can upload your favourites – see deadline is 24th December, so a bit of time to troll your own archive. Has anyone sent in the Sappho pic yet I wonder?

  62. Andrew B says:

    I agree with Maggie and others that we should not forget about the insurance industry’s desire to keep costs down when thinking about the mammogram issue. But we also shouldn’t forget that there are plenty of people with a financial interest in mammography and treatment. So financial interests are a wash.

    It’s also worth remembering that the original feminist protest against the breast cancer establishment was in part a protest against over-treatment — unnecessarily painful and disfiguring radical mastectomies when lumpectomies would have had the same outcome. It’s not necessarily feminist to call for more medical intervention in women’s health. Feminism seeks better intervention.

    This may or may not be a feminist issue. Similar concerns have been expressed about prostate cancer screening. See this press release. It will be interesting to see what recommendations will be issued about prostate cancer screening.

  63. The Cat Pimp says:

    The primary menopausal symptom I had was that I suddenly lost 225 pounds of unpleasant fat. He promptly remarried and I got the cats. Another symptom is that the replacements I find don’t want to stick around. Even the 55+ guys think they rate a 30- gal. Too bad I can’t “switch”. I know a number of 50+ dyke newlyweds.

    Anyway, enough pity party. As for mammograms. I have mixed feeelings. I have had one damned scary mammo after another from 40 on. Since I went through M really, really early, the people vets decided I needed monitoring. Not one single slide has just resulted in a note saying everything is OK. All of them required a recheck and there is no breast cancer in my family. We all have fibrocystic breasts and the MDs have terrorized my sister and myself for years.

    But then I had a friend who died before she was 40 from BC.

    who knows?

  64. i want to offer an apology to dr. e here for missing part of the point in his comment #49 about the new mammograms guidelines. i was quick to correct his statement that “african genes” are a risk factor, but equally important is the correct information that black women in this country will have their window of best opportunity to discover the breast cancer more likely to affect THEM negatively shortened by these new guidelines.

    i am taking note of how happy i was to point out a mistake while still glossing over the bigger threat — all in the internal justification of riding fence on the issue of race. FAIL.

    even more embarrassing is that I didn’t figure it out by myself, but instead had to be doused with clarifying cold water this morning by a post at Feministing New Mammogram Guidelines Could Disproportionately Endanger Black Women. i know that dr. e “disagrees with me about most things” (grin) but he’s an integral voice here and deserved more nuanced listening from me. i’ll do better.

  65. hairball_of_hope says:

    Time for me to weigh in on mammograms… I’m in the “high-risk” category. Risk factors… Multiple first-degree relatives with breast cancer, my mother died of metastatic breast cancer in her early 50s. Ashekenazi Jewish origin, grew up in a section of NY where epidemiologists identified clusters of breast cancer in the early 1970s.

    I had my first mammogram at age 35. I’ve got a pile of films that I cart to each and every screening for the radiologists to compare. Every radiologist says my breast tissue is too dense to really see anything. Every palpation by a medical professional comes with the caveat that my breasts are such that it is hard for them to feel anything. I’ve been told that, like my mother, I will probably be the first to find something, because no one knows my breasts and how they feel better than me. (Although I might solicit volunteers to get to know my breasts better… heh.)

    I haven’t had the BRCA genetic screening, but given the prevalence of various cancers in my extended family, there’s likely something that they would find.

    I do the mammograms pretty regularly, and my take on the latest set of recommendations is it’s all about money, not care.

    If a panel of experts says to start screening at 50 instead of 40, that’s all insurance companies will pay for. Even if the panel says high-risk women should start at 40 or 35 or whatever. The only way to get the insurance company to pay for the earlier mammograms is to identify oneself as high-risk, and then the woman will likely find herself uninsurable for various things or paying higher rates for insurance. Unlike credit scores and credit reports, there are no laws governing the collection of insurance data and how they are shared/used, and no rights for consumers to review and challenge the data.

    That’s one of the reasons I have not had the BRCA genetic screening. Also, what would I do with the info if I have one or both of the genetic mutations… Chemically-induced menopause? No. Prophylactic mastectomies? No.

    Another point about mammograms… while there are often low-cost and/or free mammograms offered by various entities (local health dept, charitable orgs, etc.), there is the very cruel reality that there is no low-cost and/or free medical treatment for breast cancer.

    As Maggie points out, class is often a factor in epidemiologic trends. If I were a poor woman who had no access to health care, why would I bother with a free mammogram that might tell me I have a disease, if I can’t get any treatment for it?

    Lastly, I do want to point out that men can get breast cancer too. As uncomfortable as a mammogram can be for women, I can’t even imagine how a man gets himself to one of these overdone-with-pink radiology centers and sits in that waiting room half-undressed in a pink gown with a bunch of women.

  66. hairball_of_hope says:

    One more thought on mammograms and the current screening debate…

    The voiced concern, “Oh, we don’t want to cause worry and anxiety unnecessarily with annual screenings” sounds very patriarchial and over-protective.

    Oh please. I’m an adult, not an imbicile. If I choose not to screen annually, or not to have a mammogram at age 40, that’s MY decision. If I choose to have them annually, I’ll deal with any anxiety a false positive may cause. I WANT CHOICE, NOT DICTATES. If you think false positives are stressful, imagine how stressed you might be if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, and how stressed and angry you might be if it is found at a more advanced stage because you were following these guidelines of fewer and later-in-life mammograms.

  67. i keep trying to get more definitive information about how these guidelines came to be, given the suspicious timing and yes as HoH said insurance companies will no doubt try to use these as justification for not covering screening. and now sibelius had basically said “ignore what they said.”

    well, npr and the rooting beetles of the blogosphere are slowly uncovering what we used to have a free press find out for us, and the plain speakers at Brilliant At Breakfast have put some of it together for us. of the 16 “professionals” who wrote these guidelines (some of whom are not physicians), NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM has any background in oncology. even more sinister, one of them who’s been trotting around defending their guidelines turns out to be “health policy and medical advisor for Kaiser Permanente of Southern California”.

    Kaiser. enough said. read the article for more details.

  68. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    And now we are going to be limited in our apap smears as well. I hate to say it, but I can’t remember the last time anybody got up my twat with a speculum. Maybe next year?

  69. Kate L says:

    bean (#60, It was heart disease that killed my mother as well, over 21 years ago. Today would have been her 88th birthday.

    hairball (#66), others, I got my first mammogram this afternoon, at the tender age of 55. It was digital, and the woman technician was able to show me how my breasts look in the X-ray spectrum. I saw no suspicious lumps. “Overdone in pink” was an understatement about the decor; however, I think if I had one of those boob presses at home, it might improve my bustline!

    Therry and St. Jerome (#69), I saw my first speculum on display in a glass case at the local vet medicine school. I found out later it was meant for a horse! I’m STILL trying to get over that!

  70. Andrew B says:

    The link in my 50, above, is to a now-outdated recommendation from 2002. The current panel is positively recommending that women under 50 not be screened unless they have a family history or specific genetic predisposition. I’m sorry about the mistake and hope I didn’t confuse anybody. The current report can be found here.

  71. Ian says:

    @Marj (#53): Glad to be of help!

  72. Aunt Soozie says:

    Info from my friend who works in the field… even WITH mammograms the majority of tumors are discovered by women themselves… so check your boobies! Monthly… the guidelines for how to feel yourself up have changed so be sure to check out the new information and don’t forget to also look for visual changes.

  73. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Cat Pimp (#64)

    “The primary menopausal symptom I had was that I suddenly lost 225 pounds of unpleasant fat. He promptly remarried and I got the cats.”

    I’d say you got the better end of the bargain.

    As for male companionship, nothing beats a cat. Among the reasons:

    . Doesn’t steal the blanket

    . Doesn’t hog the remote

    . Doesn’t mind if you put your cold feet on him

    . Doesn’t require an endless supply of cheap beer

    . Provides unconditional love and affection

    . Doesn’t ring up all your credit cards with his crap and then assume you will pay them off

    . Doesn’t leave piles of dirty laundry to be done by “the laundry fairy”

    . Doesn’t leave piles of dirty dishes to be done by “the kitchen fairy”

    . Has simple tastes in gifts (“oooh, a wad of paper I can whack!”)

    . Has simple taste in food (“oh boy, chicken-guts-in-glop!”)

    . Fabulous nap partner

    . Loves to snuggle

    . Loves all your gal pals for all the right reasons

  74. Kat says:

    Cat Pimp’s quote is priceless.

    Hairball, I do kind of feel like you making gross generalizations, though. I could compare my male partner point for point (okay, so he DOES steal the blanket, but apparently I do too, so…..), but I won’t. Instead, I’ll say that there’s one major thing that humans (doesn’t have to just be men) have over cats:

    They don’t walk in a litterbox then walk all over the house (including on furniture and beds).

    That’s the one thing that’s holding me back from wanting a kitty.

  75. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kat (#75)

    Yeah, they’re gross generalizations, but you have to admit there are SOME elements of truth in them.

    As for the litterbox thing, I think the average cat is more fastidious about cleaning his/her paws after the litterbox visit than the average human male is about washing his hands after using the loo.

    Which leads to some more reasons why a cat is better than a man for companionship:

    . Doesn’t leave the seat up

    . Doesn’t sprinkle when he tinkles

  76. Kate L says:

    The U.S. Senate voted tonight to allow health care reform to come to a vote, beating back a minority Republican attempt to kill health care reform by stalling all Senate business until the pro-health care majority simply gave up. Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada needed a 60-vote “supermajority” in the 100-seat body to stop the Republicans from “filibustering” (taking and keeping the Senate floor 24/7 with all sorts of non-relevant talk). He got it tonight. Health care reform already has majority support, and the Senate bill did not make the concessions on policy (such as on the availability of abortion) that the House bill did. It does provide a form of “public option” (basically, a fledgling national health service that Republicans admit will probably drive private, for-profit health insurers out of business). What all this means is that health care reform is going to pass Congress and be signed into law by a President Obama. This is the culmination of efforts to do so that date back to the Truman administration. Republicans are not taking defeat well. The usual suspects (Fox News Channel and the on-line “Drudge Report”) are already claiming that the last Democratic waiverer (Senator Mary Landreu of Louisiana) was promised anything from $100 million to $300 million for her state if she voted to advance the bill. Yeah, right. Whine on harvest moon, to quote the first President Bush. Conservatives never take defeat well, which is what makes them so much fun to watch! Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate (yeah, we’ve got one of those, too) who drove the progressive Republican woman nominee out of the recent special congressional race in upstate New York, is now “unconceding” the race to the winning Democrat by claiming that his opponent won because ACORN stole the election for him(!) Yeah, I’m just SURE that this inner city organization somehow secretly invaded lilly white upstate New York and bamboozled the unsuspecting locals, who had not elected a Democrat to Congress since the 1870’s. The GOP (the Republicans like to be known as the “Grand Old Party”. Or, maybe it’s “Group of Old People”) are going to provide more hours of entertainment in next year’s congressional races than a crateload of video games!

    Yeah, I’m happy and relieved and gloating. Can you tell? My late father, a proponent of what he happily called socalized medicine, would have loved to have seen this day. This is an historic victory on the scale of (the Democrats) passing social security against Republican opposition in the 1930’s, and (the Democrats) passing Medicare against Republican opposition in the 1960’s.

  77. Ready2Agitate says:

    Yes, good news indeed, despite the concessions progressives are now faced with. However, we can’t poke fun and laugh at the conservative right blustering all bellicose and ranty — they are very well-organized, and each time we find them absurd and hysterical, we end up eating our words later when they win some major legislative, decision-making seats (Bush 43 second term, anyone?). I just think we need to stay in dialogue, if possible, with conservatives about their fears, and remind them that we, too, want a strong economically and medically healthy country, are terrified of the idea of death panels, are not always pro-government, care about making wise decisions, are not socialists bla bla bla.

  78. Jain says:

    Some of us are socialists.

  79. Alex K says:

    @Jain: I’m a physician, and a socialist. No way that I paid for my medical training entirely out of my own pocket. Society invested in medical schools and hospitals and let me learn there. Giving back is an obligation.

  80. Ian says:

    Before we give cats too much credit, have a look at this: (warning, contains gratuitous footage of cute cats purring)

    A scientist has discovered just how cats are able to wind us round their little paws to give them food n’ kitty treats. The sneaky things.

    Alarms have now gone off at CAT HQ that their secret has been discovered and Black (with white paws) Ops have been mobilised to deal with both the scientist and the sleeper agent in his house that gave information to the enemy …

  81. Dr. Empirical says:

    Maggie (65) Thank you. That was indeed the point I was trying to make. It’s difficult to discuss complex issues while simultaneously trying to be brief enough that people will actually read the post. I also left out, for example, the fact that X-radiation from a mammogram is, itself a potential cause of cancer. There really are good arguments for reducing the number of mammograms a woman gets.

    On the other hand (68) the fact that not everyone on the guideline committee is a physician is not a valid reason to suspect their results. Epidemiologists, diagnosticians and methodologists are much more valuable to the process than physicians. An oncologist would have very little to contribute.

    Finally, I work for a big pharmaceutical company, and I would be deeply offended if the motives of any of the various public health initiatives on which I volunteer were questioned based on who my employer is. There are perfectly valid reasons to question the new mammogram recommendations. Let’s stick to those and leave questioning the credentials of those with whom we disagree to Rush and Bill. Thus we demonstrate our moral superiority.

  82. Kate L says:

    Jain (#79). That makes a pair of us, don’t tell! 🙂

  83. Kate L says:

    A.B. … How do we get one of those reversible pull-overs? I think I sense a marketing opportunity for a designer line of Alison Bechdel clothing!

  84. Kat says:

    Back to the topic of Alison’s shirt, I love the idea of a Möbius shirt.

    I have a friend who knitted a Möbius scarf…..wonder what a true Möbius shirt would look like, if it’s even possible?

  85. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Kat (#85)

    A Möbius scarf? Neat idea.

    I’ll leave the definitive answer to the math geeks here, but knowing that a Möbius strip has a half-twist and only one boundary, I’d guess a tube top Möbius shirt would be possible.

    Tube tops just might be the next trend for the perimenopausal crowd. Very easy to doff (although I suppose if one does this in public, it might not go over too well).

    I think the clothes removal thing is a personal choice. I prefer having some clothes on when the hormonal power surge hits, otherwise the sweat just runs right down my torso. If I’m home when the hormones are raging, my shirt of choice is an oversized black T shirt.

  86. NLC says:

    [HOH #85]A Möbius scarf? Neat idea.

    LoveOfMyLife, who is a knitter, actually did this once, but mainly by accident.

    That is, she was starting a knit cap, using one of those “joined-at-the-end” pairs of needles that allow the knitter to knit a continuous loop.

    She had completed the first loop. However she apparently became momentarily distracted (much of her knitting functions as “keeping-your-hands-busy work” during our weekend videofests[*]). What seems to have happened is that, at the beginning of the second, loop she continued along the loop on the “wrong” side.

    So, once the lights came up –and the swearing stopped– she found that she had a two-inch wide band with a single neat twist in the middle.

    (P.S. Note to HOH: As far as the full sweater, rather than “möbius”, aren’t we looking for something like a “Klein Sweater”.)

    [* Likewise, my primary function is as the ball-roller and disentangler of the partial skeins that she brings home from the bottom of friends’ closets. Likewise, a nice bit of “handy-work” while otherwise occupied.]

  87. NLC says:


    Never mind; looks like someone already beat us to it:

  88. hairball_of_hope says:


    Whoa! The Acme Klein Bottle Co. is owned by Clifford Stoll? He of “The Cuckoo’s Egg”?

    Gotta love the “Important Information for Idiots” page, along with the “Unconditional Guarantee (with conditions)”.

    The Klein Stein looks like it might make it onto my wishlist, even though it’s completely impractical for use as a beer stein (how would I clean it?).

  89. Kat says:

    I have to admit to being completely ignorant of the Klein Bottle and its significance…..

    NLC, apparently that’s the danger of circular knitting…..awesome Möbius-ness that might not be so awesome if you’re trying for a sock or something…

  90. Kat says:

    also, I call disentangling partial skeins that have entangled themselves “yarn vomit.” It causes much swearing.

  91. meldyke says:

    Maggie, welcome back, and know that many of us are sending all the healing energy your way that we can.

    Dr. E, thanks for your contributions. I am a health researcher at a public/state academic medical center, and in this mammogram discussion you have voiced much of what I’ve been thinking much more elegantly that I would have. I’ve met some of the USPSTF members, and I know their process and trust it as much as I trust much any other guidelines. Many of us don’t realize how much of our medical care is based on “consensus” (i.e. groupthink) rather than on the evidence (i.e. from groups like USPSTF or Cochrane).

    That said, my best friend is also in treatment now for stage II breast cancer. She’s 36, and was diagnosed at 35. It’s awful. But routine mammography wouldn’t have helped her – she found her own lump, by accident.

    On another note, even though I’m mostly a lurker, I’d like to ask this amazing group for some kind thoughts today (11/23). It’s my birthday, and I’m not enjoying it so much, as my mom died a few months ago, and everything seems so crappy right now. Birthday especially I guess. Many thanks for any blessings you can send into to universe for me.

  92. Feminista says:

    @NLC: The descriptions,especially of the Klein Steins,are a hoot. The latter,according to inventor Cliff,are excellent for mathematicians and chemists who have senses of humor.

    @meldyke: happy birthday.

  93. hairball_of_hope says:


    My heart goes out to you. The first year without a loved one is the hardest. Every holiday, every special day, every event is seemingly marred by this being ‘the first whatever’ day without the loved one to share it with. The next month or so of holidays will be tough.

    But your mom is with you. You carry her in all you do, in all you live.

    Hang in there. It’s a slow slog, but it will get easier with time. Read Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” and you’ll find this is a normal part of the mourning process.

    Hugs from the blogosphere. And Happy Birthday.

  94. hairball_of_hope says:


    All the Acme descriptions were a riot. I think Cliff missed an easy one with his Einstein Klein Stein… a musical mathematician might have asked for Eine Kleine Einstein Klein Stein.

    The Klein Stein goes on my wishlist… I will make a Black and Tan in it if I get one. Guinness in the inner part, Bass Ale in the outer.

  95. Mona says:

    @Meldyke (92) – Happy (belated) birthday….I can only suggest reading some of Adrienne Rich’s amazing poetry….it helped me in that period of mourning when all seems so dark. i would especially reccomend Tracking Poems 1 which talks such sense about how “the worst moment of winter can come in April” and spoke to me so vividly of how just when I was congratulating myself for getting through the day, maybe not even thinking about her who was no longer with me, the grief would hit me out of no-where, sneak up and me and flatten me again. And although at the time, each fresh onslaught of grief felt as raw and savage as the first few hours and days, actually over time, I came to realise that it was getting better and that I was going to get through, changed but intact. I found that poetry and crying alot and talking stuff through with valued friends helped enormously. I have come out of the otherside now but can still remember what it was like and my prayers are with you as you stumble through this dark, difficult year. I wish you well through it.

  96. Alex the Bold says:

    I now have an image of you continuously putting on and taking off your shirt until it turns into just a few threads …

    You know, you could make a flip book out of this.

  97. freyakat says:

    Meldyke: My heart and my thoughts are with you as well. Be easy on yourself if you can, and allow yourself to ride the waves of extreme emotions that will be with you in intense form for a while to come.

    Kay Redfield Jamison’s new book “Nothing Was the Same” might be a useful companion for you right now. Written by someone who is no stranger to emotional extremes, it is the story of Dr. Jamison’s learning to live with the sickness and then death of her husband. This book has been
    helpful to me over the past few weeks.

    Ah, when to the heart of man
    Was it ever less than a treason
    To go with the drift of things,
    To yield with a grace to reason,
    And bow and accept the end
    Of a love or a season?

    — Robert Frost, quoted
    by Kay Jamison (the
    poem was new to me, but
    probably quite familiar
    to many readers of this

  98. meldyke says:

    Thank you to everyone who has sent words of wisdom, hope, and reading recommendations. I’ve had a number of folks in my life suggest “The Year of Magical Thinking” … I’ll ahve to get it and work up the gumption to read something other than diversionary drivel and HP fanfics.

    The love of this community continues to blow me away. Thank you.

  99. C. says:

    The “best of decade” honors keep rolling in for Fun Home… one of the 25 best comics of the 00’s (not hierarchically ranked, for once) by The Onion’s AV Club. (It’s not satire!) Link on my screenname.

  100. meldyke, my 29th birthday came less than 4 months after my mama died. an estranged ex sent me a handmade card in which she’d written the lyrics to a sweet honey in the rock song

    Listen more often to things than to beings
    Listen more often to things than to beings
    ‘Tis the ancestor’s breath when the fire’s voice is heard
    ‘Tis the ancestor’s breath in the voice of the waters.

    it was particularly moving because i had treated her very badly — a chief regret in my life — and we were out of contact at her insistence. but she understood the loss of a mother changed things.

    there’s a reasom why one of the most anguished blues songs ever is “sometimes i feel like a motherless child.” you have to mother yourself now. be as tender with yourself as your mom would be, and bless you for reaching out. grief can be shared, however imperfectly.

  101. freyakat says:

    Hey Meldyke,

    Please be good to yourself: ‘diversionary drivel and HP fanfics’ — if that’s what you want right now that’s what you need, and it’s fine. Drivel it ain’t. Don’t put yourself down.

    We all have different ways of finding comfort and of passing the time when the times are tough. And we want and need different things at different points along the way.

    It’s hard, though…

  102. Saskia says:


    Thinking of you and wishing you peace.

  103. Aunt Soozie says:

    Dear Meldyke,
    Sending you belated birthday wishes and a big dose of positive energy through the keyboard.

    My mom died 17 years ago when I was 31. It’s a hard loss to fully articulate… and now you’re in the club.

    A dear friend who lost her mom before I did said, “I thought I’d never really laugh again”. She and I both found out that you do laugh… and you cry… you live on. It isn’t the same. That kind of loss changes us. But life being what it is… turns out some of those changes are for the better.

    All you can do now is put one foot in front of the other… keep moving… keep breathing… and take in the support of those who love you and of your friends right here.

  104. Feminista says:

    Maggie,thanks for the LOL cats,and glad things are improving.

    Women in El Salvador: Last week and this week I participated in a “virtual conference”over the phone on Salvadoran women’s issues. I participated in two actual solidarity delegations in 2005 and 2007 organized by Voices on the Border,who organized the conference call. During the trips we visited with peace,health and social justice groups in San Salvador and in rural areas,and did homestays in an intentional community comprised of former guieriller@s and refugees from El Salvador’s 9 year civil war.

    Despite the new change in govt.with the election of leftist Mauricio Funes,women situation on all levels is very difficult. Abortion is severely punished,violence against women is common and there are no crisis lines or shelters,and women in the paid workforce,primarily in maquiladoras,are treated very badly.

    Sounds like the U.S. before the second wave of feminism. And yes I know violence against women and children in the U.S. is still a huge problem,but we do have some,however imperfect,safety nets.

  105. Kate L says:

    Meldyke (#92) My sympathies for your loss. My mother will have been gone for 22 years this January. Hard for me to believe. You don’t forget, but eventually you can go forward. You mentioned that you are a health researcher. I was esp. thinking of my mother when I got my first mammogram this past Friday. She was an R.N., and I vividly recall when she came back from a mammogram very concerned because the techician had insisted on reshooting the entire sequence of X-rays. Mom knew that the X-rays themselves were a potential cancer risk. I think that it would be a great advance if ultrasound could be advanced to the point were it could substitute for X-rays in mammography.

  106. Dr. Empirical says:

    Meldyke, my recreational reading has consisted of nothing but diversionary drivel for the past year. I am now an authority on WWII-era superheroes.

    I wish you less pain and more joy.

  107. Ian says:

    Meldyke, the first birthday is always hard. As is the first Christmas. My mum died 6 years ago when I was 29 of secondary cancers which appeared 4 years after breast cancer.

    I don’t have anything to add really, but I’m sending you positive thoughts and good wishes that things will get better for you. I just wanted to echo what other people say, in that it will get easier over time. It’s the one thing that everybody says to you and it can be irritating, but it IS true!

  108. Kat says:

    Meldyke, I’m sending you good thoughts and vibes.

    The song that Maggie referenced continues:

    Those who have died have never never left.
    The dead have a pact with the living.
    They are in the woman’s breast,
    They are in the wailing child
    They are with us in our homes.
    They are with us in the crowd
    The dead have a pact with the living.

    Amazing images.

  109. Kate L says:

    [I originally posted this with two links, and it disappeared. Here it is with just one link… This has been fixed and the duplicate “single-URL” version has been removed. –Mentor]

    Here in Kansas, the Topeka Capital Journal (the most important newspaper in a state where people still read such quaint things) is running a series of articles about professional misconduct allegations against former (conservative Republican) state attorney general Phil Kline and his staff. Kline himself was voted out of office in 2006 when he was defeated by the district attorney of Johnson County, Kansas (suburban Kansas City), a man who switched parties from Republcian to Democrat in order to defeat Kline. But in the four years Kline and his staff had in office, they spent most of their time harassing Dr. George Tiller and his patients, and trying to drive Dr. Tiller out of practice. To quote from one of the Capital-Journal articles: “New details arose in the complaint, which alleges the attorney general’s office staked out a Wichita abortion clinic and recorded license plate numbers, used figures it knew to be misleading to obtain a judge’s approval for records and that (Kline’s chief of staff) Eric Rucker lied during arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court.” And also, quoting now from another Capital-Journal article: “(Two of Kline’s investigators were observed) in a Kinko’s business ‘in full public view copying the private medical files of tens of women’ just hours before Kline’s term as attorney general ended in January 2007. The abortion records were stored in a car trunk for two days (and) some records were stored in a Rubbermaid container in an investigator’s apartment dining room for 40 days.”

    Incredibly, Kline is now the district attorney of Johnson County, where he continues his anti-choice crusade. It turns out that when county elected offices become vacant in Kansas, the leadership of the political party of the last person elected to that office gets to chose who replaces them! Because the man who defeated Kline in the state attorney general’s election had last run for district attorney as a Republican, it was the conservative Johnson County Republican Committe that chose his successor, and they chose Kline!

    Here are the links to the Capital-Journal stories:

  110. Alex K says:

    Ah, meldyke. I’m sorry for you.

    The dreams are bad. The ones in which you see her, she’s back! oh, it’s so wonderful! and then, no… she’s NOT back, she’s dead, it’s only a dream, you realise; and your heart breaks again.

    I understood the idea of ghosts, of haunting, only after experiencing those dreams.

    Thirty years after my grandmother’s death (she helped raise us), twenty after my parents’, they still walk through my dreams, sometimes leaving me calm and assured, sometimes with the wound of their deaths pulled freshly open. But I’m not afraid to sleep, or to dream about them. They’re with me. That’s a good thing.

  111. Kate L says:

    (Mentor) Thanks! 🙂 I could not remember if you saw the the double-link posts that went into hyperspace or not! Late last night, I was here in my office in this little limestone building on the corner of campus composing the post. The first version disappeared because I jumped away from the web page before sending it, so I recomposed it. Then I sent that off, with the two links that sent it into an alternate reality. So, I composed it again! They all basically say the same thing. Thanks again!

  112. Kate L says:

    Alex K (#111) Dreams of a departed loved one. A few months after my mother’s death, I passed my qualifying exams in my doctoral program. I had a VIVID dream in which I was sitting at the end of my mother’s bed; she was in the bed watching me intently. I felt a great inhibition against speaking, but I managed to blurt out, “You know I passed my qualifying exams, don’t you?”. My mother said nothing for a moment, then she said, “I guess so.”. It was as if she was not supposed to talk. I suspect that this dream was wish fulfillment in which I told my mother the good news. But the dream was a LOT more vivid and real than my dreams normally are; a few months after this, I was having lunch with my mother’s brother and his wife. I noticed that the light caught my uncle’s eyes just as they did my mother’s eyes in my dream. As I said, the dream was VIVID.

  113. Alex K says:

    @Kate L (113) — Vivid dreams, visions, prophecies. I’m ready to believe that we make more categories within a reality than truly exist.

    I’m happy, wistfully happy, for you that you had the chance to tell your mother about your success — there are in my life so very many things since their deaths that I hope my grandmother, my parents, see, know, and delight in.

  114. little gator says:

    I’, probably the only one here who calls menses “ants in the bathroom.”

    I knew someone who would get weepy about any little thing when(insert euphemism here). one time her sweetie came home to find her cryign because there were ant in the bathroom. I no longer know her but i still speak of the ants.

    I had all the signs of perimenopause at 28 but no one beleivd me. One doc(I fired him) said that I coudlnt know what hot flashes were cause i was tooyoung ot have them. I’ve had them off and on since I was 23. I finally got a blood tests indicating peri when i was 41.

  115. Ian says:

    At least when “the change” is all over and society “allows” women to be curmudgeonly, you get to write wonderful letters like this to your family:

    Have you seen it? A fantastic laying down of the law to her family over who brings what, how they should behave, etc, and I find myself agreeing with most of it! Then again, I AM a grumpy old man at 35 …

  116. Kat says:

    Ian, thank you, that was awesome!

    Although this whole thing about age allowing women to be curmudgeonly….I’ve been curmudgeonly and grumpy since I was born. When I was 2 my mother asked me when I would be nice. I said that it would be when I was 3. This has happened every year since… birthday’s next week. I’ll be 28. Maybe I’ll be nice when I’m 29.

    Hope all the Americans around here have a fulfilling day tomorrow, whatever you celebrate or keep in mind or whatever.

    The most important thing, of course, is pumpkin pie. 😉

  117. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Ian (#116)

    That T-day letter was great, as were the prior two that Helen wrote. She seems to be in the mold of those feisty and funny straight-talkin’ Texas women… Molly Ivins, Ann Richards, and of course, our own Maggie Jochild.

    I want to be a curmudgeon like Helen when I grow up.

  118. Metaphysical says:

    Off topic: I love this kid.
    Happy tofurkey day.

  119. hairball, your words landed in a particularly needy place today. thanks, buddy.

  120. anon et al says:

    just wondering if I’m the only lonely person out here this thanksgiving day.

  121. anon et al, you most certainly are not. i’d wager loneliness is more common than not — even among folks who are at dinners right now. i’m grateful this year to actually not be missing my family, all dead, and whether it’s opiates or a new sense of anger at how much they fucked up, i’m enjoying the detachment. my empathy to you.

  122. little gator says:

    scuse me. I was 13 first had hot flashes, not 23.

  123. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie, Anon

    Yup, sometimes it’s less lonely celebrating Turkey Day alone than with a bunch of folks who bring along all sorts of emotional baggage.

    In my book, it’s much better to celebrate with friends than biological family… you don’t get to choose who you’re related to.

    Today I celebrated T-day with some old friends and my rental kids. We said the Shehechiyanu blessing, which is normally said at specific Jewish holidays, giving thanks for reaching this season.

    All of us at the table, including the kids, had a rough year and came through. All of the adults and one kid had endured health crises. I also had a job crisis (I landed a new position a month ago, not what I wanted, not enough money, too much BS, but it’s a job that’s good enough for now). Both kids went through the death of a parent.

    But we’re still here, and we’re bound and determined to get through another year and end up in a better place.

    That’s a lot to give thanks for.

    N.B. The Shehechiyanu (transliterated):

    Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-noi E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olom
    She-heh-che-yah-nu Ve-ki-yi-ma-nu Ve-he-gi-a-nu Laz-man Ha-zeh.

    Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

  124. Ian says:

    Obviously in Britain, Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, but I can relate to that feeling at Christmas, Anon et al and Maggie.

    Family issues prevent me from spending it with family and I would spend it with friends but they tend to all head off to their families, so I decided to make it a conscious choice to spend the holidays alone. Actually for the first couple of times, the sheer novelty of not having the air thick with tension was just wonderful. I have odd moments of wanting to have someone a bit special to share it with, but I know that being alone is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Of course, if some of you lived a bit less than 3,000 miles + away I’d invite you round!

    @HOH: Thanks for sharing The Shehechiyanu with us; I feel quite comforted by it, and it was needed today I think. Hooray for the internet!

  125. Jain says:

    Or, with the Reconstructionists,
    Blessed are You, Eternal One our G-d,
    Universal Presence,
    Who keeps us in life always,
    Who supports the unfolding of our uniqueness,
    And who brings us to this very time of blessing.

  126. Calico says:

    #116 – Great letter!
    “I know what I like
    And I like what I know
    It’s getting better in your wardrobe
    Stepping one beyond your show…”

    Meldyke, I hope things will look up for you beyond your sadness, into a new place of light, laughter, and at least a bit o’ fun. Stay strong and know you are not alone.

  127. Calico says:

    #91 – “Yarn Vomit” – I love it!
    Thanks for giving me my first belly laugh of the day.

  128. anon et al says:

    Thanks Maggie, and Hairball, and Ian. I know there’s a lot to be thankful for – and also much to be angry about and to grieve. I’m lucky that I can ‘talk’ to strangers who don’t feel like strangers from the black hole of loneliness. And I’m glad that you’re healthy and able to find a place you can land in detachment, Maggie. And how wonderful that those kids who lost their parents have you in your life, Hairball.

    Life goes on and onward we go.

  129. Kate L says:

    (Kat #117)The most interesting thing about Thanksgiving is that it is NOT a religious holiday. Abraham Lincoln established it as a secular holiday during the American Civil War.

  130. cybercita says:

    @hairball: clifford stoll! i met him in berkeley in the early 80’s. his fiancee brought him to a couple of contra dances, but he couldn’t take the spinning — it made him too dizzy. i loved his book the cuckoo’s egg.

  131. Kate L says:

    Cybercita (#131) Country dancing? Why, you mean square dancin’, dontcha? 🙂 A woman from my fellowship and I used to square dance.

    Over this most holy and sacred non-religious extended weekend in the States, I’ve been reviewing old VCR tapes that have not seen the light of day in at least a decade. Just now, I fast forwarded through one and found an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that I can’t recall having ever seen! It’s a VCR obsolete technology miracle!!! When I get back home from my office and settle down to watch it later tonight, it will be just like Captain Janeway and her crew never went off the air!

  132. kate L, double thrill if it’s an STV episode that has kes the ocampo in it, with ears made to be explored by tongue-tip.

  133. Anonymous says:

    Maggie (#133) Another STV fan! Great!!! Once, I even wrote some STV-related lesbian fiction… privately circulated, of course, because the gods of the Star Trek universe frown on that sort of unauthorized activity. And, check out this street sign!

  134. Kate L says:

    Maggie, the above “anonymous” posting was from me. I’m just getting a little excited here, because I know that ancient VCR tape and a (for me) brand-new Star Trek Voyager episode awaits me at home! And do follow the link I posted above!

  135. Kat says:

    Glad I could help, Calico….

    It’s so interesting that despite Thanksgiving being secular, and rather short on the history that it’s supposed to commemorate, so many people celebrate in the same way….

    I don’t know where I’m going with this, other than maybe wrinkling my nose at group think, or whatever.

    I’m completely serious when I say that the most important thing (to me) is eating pumpkin pie.

    And getting slobbery “besitos” from my cousin’s 3 year old son. It might be the cutest thing ever and I’ll be sad when he’s too old for it.

  136. cybercita says:

    @kate, no, i wrote contra dancing, not country dancing, because that’s what it is called. here’s a youtube link so you can see it in action.

  137. Dr. Empirical says:

    Kate, Contra dancing is an evolutionary ancestor of square dancing, sort of. Thousands of people still enjoy it, despite its being as obsolete as a VCR.

    I dated a woman a few years ago who went contra dancing as often as twice a week. We’d go to music festivals and I’d go to the main stage while she hit the dance tent. Sometimes we wouldn’t see each other all day. Not surprisingly, the relationship didn’t last.

  138. cybercita says:

    @dr. empirical, i beg to differ with you. contra dancing is not even remotely obsolete. there are huge contra dance communities all over the world — i recently met a contra dancer from australia — and the dances where i live are always very well attended. we have quite a lot of people in their twenties who come every week, and i don’t think it’s in danger of dying out any time soon.

  139. Dr. Empirical says:

    cybercita: that was the joke! A while back I’d described VCRs as obsolete, and Kate pointed out that she still had one (so do I). She referenced that exchange above (132) and I was referencing back.

    My attempts to go contra dancing with my then-girlfriend were doomed from the start. Not only couldn’t I handle the twirling, but I have pulmonary issues that forced me to sit out every other song.

  140. Alex K says:

    Oddly, perhaps, I see Thanksgiving as not at all a secular holiday.

    To whom are we giving thanks if not to our large imaginary friend in the sky? (Giving thanks to one another is nothing but displacement from the holiday’s original religious nature. Yes it is too. No you stop.)

    Time to head off to Sainsbury’s. The cupboard’s gin : mixers balance is sadly distorted in favour of gin. Bitter lemon, here I come!

  141. Kate L says:

    (cybercita #137; Dr. Empirical #138) OMG, it WAS contra dancing my friend and I went to! I wondered why we never traced out a square…

    Btw, the Jane Way street sign that I linked to a while back is a photo on somebody else’s FLICKR page.

  142. cybercita says:

    @dr, empirical, so sorry i didn’t get your joke. i’ll read more carefully next time. too bad you can’t contra dance. it’s like heaven to me. the fiddle playing and the twirling are seriously therapeutic, like a shot of seratonin. i can actually feel my mood lifting as the music starts!

  143. hairball_of_hope says:

    Off-topic (yeah, right!), but definitely suitable for the geeks, oenophiles, and plaid-covered geologists among us, is this story of a winery in California which literally straddles the San Andreas Fault:

    There must be sartorial distinctions between tectonic geologists and other kinds of rock hounds. Not a speck of plaid to be found according to this description by one of the winery’s owners:

    Meanwhile, the DeRoses have been studying the scientists.

    “Their pants always have zippered pockets,” says Alphonse DeRose. “The khaki pants and the funny hat, and you know it’s a geologist.”

  144. Okay, science whizzes, Liza brought this to my attention and I don’t understand what it means, can you translate? Large scale physical effects of T violation in mesons. Especially this part: “The violation signifies a fundamental asymmetry between the past and future and calls for a major shift in the way we think about time.”

  145. Kate L says:

    (hairball #144) Plaid-covered geologist? Hey, I resemble that remark!

    (Maggie #145) You’ll need a woman physicist to explain whatever that means, but I’ve heard that the reason they can’t get the supercolossal supercollider in Europe running is because the spacetime-destroying properties of a functioning supercollider in the future sends destructive influences back through time that keep shutting the collider down in the present. Wow, talk about cosmic censorship! All I know is, the only future time-line that is worth living in is one that produces a Kathryn Janeway.

  146. Kate L says:

    I just visited one of those on-line dictionaries that provide audio files of how the word you’ve looked up is pronounced. In fact, this on-line dictionary has TWO audio files for many words – one for British english, and one for American english. I tried both just now for the word “exterminate”. The woman who spoke it in British english seemed very cheerful when she said the word “exterminate”. The woman who spoke it in American english seemed very dour, like she just might be contemplating doing it. Blimey! Btw, the reason I looked up “exterminate” was that I was hoping the British english version of the word would be spoken by a Dalek!

  147. Kate L, are you joking about the spacetime thing? Sounds like you’re not. FREAKY.

  148. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie (#145)

    That abdominal binder wasn’t enough torture for you? You are reading high-energy particle physics papers for fun? Oy.

    I downloaded the paper and made it to page 3 before my head hurt and I gave up. But it did remind me of a lecture I attended 30+ years ago, by C.N. Yang. Yang received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work showing violation of parity symmetry.

    Let me back up a bit… particle physicists are really into symmetry, the idea that you can do things forward and backward and end up with what you started out with, sort of like running a film normally and then in reverse.

    When physicists crash various subatomic particles together in a collider, sometimes they find that things don’t work that way, they can’t “run the film in reverse” and end up where they started. That’s called a violation. Depending on what symmetry didn’t get conserved, they’re either looking at violation of parity invariance (P), charge conjugation invariance (C), time reversal invariance (T), or some combination thereof.

    Imagine running a film of Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall normally. Now run it in reverse. If time is symmetrical, Humpty Dumpty is all in one piece after running the film in reverse. If there’s a violation of T, Humpty Dumpty is still in pieces.

    Physicists are also really into finding connections between one force and another and combining the observed phenomena into a unified set of laws and theories. For an everyday example, consider magnetism and electricity. Both were studied and observed as independent forces, until folks figured out they were actually part of the same set of physical phenomena. You can create electricity with a magnet (this is how generators work), and you can create a magnet with electricity (e.g. an electromagnet).

    Back to particles… Yang’s Nobel was for showing violation of P. Cronin and Fitch were awarded the Nobel in Physics for showing violation of CP. Now the search is on to find violation of CPT, the combined big kahuna.

    Vaccaro’s paper attempts to show violation of T independent of CPT violation. She’s using something called Feynman diagrams, which are these squiggly things that Richard Feynman developed to visually display how particles decay into other particles along with their interacting forces, and how they can run forward or backward.

    Vaccaro postulates that a bunch of the T violations blocks most of the possible backward paths, leaving only the forward path of time.

    So why is this a big deal? Big Bang theory, Grand Unification theory, et al. Violation of symmetry means that we have a universe made mostly of matter. If we had equal parts matter and antimatter, they would have annihilated one another, and we’d have a sea of photons and leptons.

    Anyhow, my memory of Dr. Yang’s lecture has nothing to do with his actual talk. I was not a physics major, but I ended up sitting through a lot of departmental lectures because one of my roommates had a crush on a physics professor. She was always trolling for someone to attend the lectures with her so she could ogle the prof while having the security blanket of a fellow undergrad student alongside her. I was masochistic enough to attend many of them with her. She drooled over Dr. Grannis, and I picked up a few grains of particle physics info.

    What I don’t get is why Liza is reading this stuff, unless there’s something about the art gallery business that involves particle physics (although I think the Feynman diagrams might make for some interesting art).

  149. liza says:

    I”m not actually reading it. Makes my head spin. A dear friend’s cousin (both of whom are facebook friends of mine) posted a link on facebook, which I commented on. I’m only interested in time stuff because of sci fi. No more, no less, although I would like to understand what these physicists are discussing. For the record, my future wouldn’t include Janeway, who gives me the heebeejeebees, but would include Capt. Sisko, Quark and Jadzia Dax.

  150. anon et al says:

    (Hairball #149) I’m not a sci-fi gal, and thought I had no head for physics, but, wow, thank you – that was incredibly clear and fascinating! The only thing I didn’t get was the connection to the Big Bang theory. Forgive me if it’s obvious. Could you do one more mini-lecture to tie it together for this slow minded (but riveted) reader?

  151. Dr. Empirical says:

    I’m a biochemist. My range of interest, size-wise, is from structures large enough to be seen with an electron microscope down to medium-sized molecules. Subatomic particles are beyond me.

    Quarks are strange.

  152. Kate L says:

    (liza #150) Janeway also gives me the heebeejeebees, but in a GOOD way! 🙂 A few years ago in Las Vegas, some casino had an animated holographic display of Janeway and her crew on the bridge of their ship. Visitors could actually interact with it as one of the crew members. I think they should put that thing on continual loop in the Smithsonian! Oh, I should add… when I finally sat down and watched the seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I had to admit it was pretty good. In fact, their tribble-related episode is my all-time favorite thing in any of the Star Trek episodes or movies! And Jadzia? She is certainly easy on the eyes! 🙂

  153. hairball_of_hope says:

    @anon (#151)

    Ok, now that I’ve had my coffee, it’s time to tie this in to the Big Bang. I think there’s someone on this blog (NLC?) who has a degree in cosmology, so feel free to step in and correct my simplemindedness and errors.

    Let’s start with the idea of going backward and forward. Think about your fourth grade math class, where you first learned about long division. For example, 60 divided by 12. You did all the chicken-scratching on the paper, and came up with an answer of 5.

    Your teacher likely told you to check your work by multiplying your answer (5) by the divisor (12), to make sure you came out with the original number (60).

    Most math and science works that way. You take your answer, try the reverse process on it, and see if you come out with the original stuff you started with. If you’re a chemist, you combine compounds A and B at room temperature, and end up with C, water, and some heat. You should be able to reverse the reaction by taking C and water, and heating them up. You should end up with A and B.

    Physicists try the same thing by banging subatomic particles together in a collider, hoping to end up with the original particles that were their progenitors during the Big Bang.

    The Big Bang theory is an attempt to describe what happened in the first smidgens of a second during the formation of our Universe. Various folks worked on the question of the formation of the Universe. The person who first proposed the Big Bang theory was a physicist and Roman Catholic priest named Lemaître. Interestingly, unlike Galileo, he was not excommunicated from the Church for finding something other than a Supreme Being controlling things.

    By finding things in conformance with predictions from the Big Bang theory, physicists can validate the theory (or conversely, if they find things not in conformance, they can refute the theory).

    According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe is expanding and cooling. We can measure how fast it is expanding by looking at the Doppler shift of the light from various galaxies. What’s Doppler shift?, you ask.

    Imagine you are listening to the whistle on an approaching train. The sound of the whistle appears to become higher-pitched (increase in frequency, shorter wavelengths) as the train approaches you. The sound of the whistle appears to become lower-pitched (decrease in frequency, longer wavelengths) as the train moves away from you. This is Doppler shift.

    In the case of the galaxies, the observed light shifts toward the longer wavelengths (decrease in frequency), toward the red end of the ROYGBIV spectrum, aka redshift, indicating they are moving away from us and from each other. This conforms to the predictions from the Big Bang theory.

    N.B. ROYGBIV is the mnemonic for remembering the color order of the visible light spectrum, Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet. Infrared is before Red, Ultraviolet is after Violet. Wavelengths at the left side of the ROYGBIV spectrum are longer (lower frequency), wavelengths at the right side of the ROYGBIV spectrum are shorter (higher frequency).

    There are some things that physicists can’t recreate in their colliders, at least with current technology. The first gazillionths of a smidgen of a second during the Big Bang, the energies are so high that we haven’t been able to reproduce those conditions on Earth. Move forward in time during the Big Bang by a few gazillionths of a smidgen of a second, and now we can build a supercollider big enough and powerful enough to reproduce those conditions.

    So now these physicists are whacking particles together in their supercollider, and looking at the debris and energy that spews forth. Imagine crashing a Toyota and a Honda together, and then sifting through the debris to try to figure out what these two cars were made of. That’s what particle physicists do.

    Get the temperature high enough when you crash the Toyota and Honda, and you’ll end up with puddles of PVC plastic. Our physicists would conclude that PVC plastic is one of the fundamental ingredients in Toyotas and Hondas. Get the temperature higher still and there will be puddles of aluminum. Now the physicists have found another fundamental ingredient that makes up the two cars. They won’t be able to figure out that there’s steel in the two cars until they get the temperature even higher during the crash to produce puddles of steel. This is analogous to particle physicists needing bigger and more powerful colliders to see more fundamental particles during the particle collisions.

    In the case of particles, when they get smashed together in the supercollider, what is found in the debris are a mix of matter, antimatter, quarks, and a bunch of energy that’s released. Most of the matter and antimatter annihilate one another, and it’s these reactions that release various quarks, produce other short-lived particles, and high energy X and gamma radiation.

    So what does all this have to do with the violation of T, time invariance?

    Physicists are trying to reproduce the conditions which existed in the first few smidgens of a second after the Big Bang. In effect, they are trying to run the clock backward. They are assuming that time is symmetrical, that what happens going forward in time can be reversed going backward in time. If time is not symmetrical, it puts a big monkey wrench in their calculations and observations.

    Whew, I think I need another cup of coffee before going to the laundromat.

    Now for all you sci-fi buffs and believers in other intelligent life in the universe, consider this: Radio waves travel at the speed of light in the vacuum of space, about 3 x 10 ^8 meters per second. That means that the episodes of “I Love Lucy” broadcast in 1952 are now reaching galaxies that are 57 light-years away. If there are intelligent beings on those galaxies, they are trying to study us by watching the “Vitameatavegamin” and “Lucy in the Candy Factory” episodes. That ought to give you pause when you channel surf tonight. Imagine what intelligent beings in another galaxy would make of the dreck that’s broadcast today. Hell, imagine what intelligent beings on this planet SHOULD make of this dreck. I’d rather read.

  154. Kat says:


    Any interest in turning the discussion back to Alison’s awesome shirt?? I could wrap my head around that one, at least…..


    oh well…..

  155. perhaps alison’s shirt doesn’t actually reverse backward and forward the same each time — perhaps sometimes the fabric alters, so she suddenly discovers she is wearing polyester, and her hair has become a shag, and “all that glitters” is on TV instead of “so you think you can dance”, and ala life on mars she must find her way back through a non-linear system…

  156. Kat says:

    maggie, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEEESSSSSS!!!! You’ve wrecked the one safe topic!!!!!!!

    **runs from room screaming**

  157. Ian says:

    I like to think that AB’s jumper* is really a friendly female chameleon jumper polycotton-based creature that thrives on the thermal energy produced by hot flushes, the said energy enabling it to reverse the patterns and colours on its surface at will. I have long suspected that Mo had one that simply mated with all her other unsuspecting wardrobe of jumpers and they just changed the width and depth of the stripes just often enough to go unsuspected as the same three jumpers. For 20 years.

    Now that Mo is in cartoon limbo, the jumper creature is starved of energy and has manifested itself and snuck out of the vault in search of new energy and is now in the process of taking over AB’s wardrobe to make it all its natural stripy texture.

    Hmmmm. I wouldn’t mind, I HAVE been taking the tablets …

    * jumper = sweater, sueter (en Espanol)

  158. hairball_of_hope says:

    Awright, I’ll take pity on poor Kat’s exploding head.

    Read Katha Pollitt’s latest column on the ubiquitous (and as the marketers would call it, overexposed) Sarah Palin:

    Quoting from the article:

    For her fans she may be a goddess of vitality and truth, but for everyone else she’s the first political female train wreck, the Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan of the Republican Party. We can’t stop looking. Maybe she’ll confuse Iran and Iraq again! And tell about praying on the phone with Rick Warren while taking a shower! Or write another letter in God’s voice about her baby, Trig! Maybe Palin is cosmic payback for all those nasty jokes about Hillary’s pantsuits and thick ankles, and for the mighty cry of borrring! that goes up all over the media whenever a politician–Al Gore?–displays actual knowledge of a complex subject. You wanted hot and relatable? You got it.

  159. hairball_of_hope says:

    In more “Class Trumps Race” news, Tiger Woods has refused to be interviewed by the Florida Highway Patrol for a third time (and the FHP is politely tiptoeing away):

    If that were you, me, or some poor slob of any race/ethnicity, no way the FHP would go away if the wife says, “He’s sleeping now, come back tomorrow.”

    If it were Joe Sixpack, he’d be rousted out of bed, Breathalyzed, and hauled down to the station to give a statement, likely without benefit of counsel.

    I’ll bet the wife whacked the rear window with a golf club BEFORE he hit the hydrant and tree. The whole story smells. But to be fair, no one got hurt, he (or his insurance company) needs to pay for the damaged fire hydrant, and whatever domestic tussle was going on isn’t any of our business.

    But like any celebrity train wreck, it’s fun to watch.

  160. i think tiger was on his way to hike the appalachian trail…

  161. Dr. Empirical says:

    Hairball (154) The nearest galaxy to us is Andromeda, which is roughly 200 million light years away. The inhabitants of that galaxy, if any, will have to wait a while before they can experience the joys of Lucy.

    Some other distances: The nearest star is alpha centauri, a bit over 4 light years away. There are well over a hundred stars within a 57 light-year radius of us, but the chances of there being any Lucy fans orbiting them is pretty slim. Our galaxy is roughly 100,000 light years across at the widest axis, so Lucy is going to remain a local phenomenon, galactically speaking, for some time to come.

    So the good news is, by the time broadcasts of Celebrity Weight Loss Camp reach another galaxy, the human race is likely to be extinct.

  162. Ian says:

    Do they have cable in Alpha Centauri?

  163. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Dr. E (#162)

    Perhaps I should have looked at this T-shirt first:

  164. Mija says:

    h_o_h ~~~

    oooo! thanks for the GREAT gift idea for my astrophysicist in-laws! I can’t wait to explore more of that website for other ideas!

  165. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Mija (#165)

    Before you spend at Thinkgeek, check out the coupons here:

    Shameless plug for Thinkgeek… they are owned by Geeknet, which also owns Sourceforge, Slashdot, and Freshmeat. Sourceforge hosts the largest collection of free and open source software (FOSS) projects on the web.

    You might be able to save a couple of bucks elsewhere, but you are doing FOSS and open source computing a world of good by supporting Thinkgeek. Also, you won’t find a better collection of weird and interesting stuff all in one place, perfect for the nerds on your shopping list.

    I don’t want this post to end up in >= two URL purgatory, so head over to Thinkgeek and type ‘hump dog’ (no quotes) in their search box. I can think of a few people who deserve one of these dogs, but they aren’t worth spending money on. ;).

    While you’re at it, check out the Annoy-A-Tron.

  166. anon et al says:

    (H.o.H.#154) You are one of the best teachers I know. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping this feeble little brain of mine get a glimpse into the ultra cool world that had heretofore seemed out of my reach. I loved it. Must now research more. Just hope I can find other sources that know how to use analogies as well as you do, so that I can make sense of it… Again, my thanks and admiration.

  167. Alex K says:

    AB, yes, I know they’re gone — but this morning, whilst poaching an egg and humming “Single Ladies” to myself (as you do), I wished for a few panels, just a few panels, of the old gang. Janis practicing her moves (the shakey-hand bit to “If you liked it you should have put a ring on it”), Lois as backup dancer, Clarice wandering into the room and joining in, bent-over, fingers pointing…


    And then in close-up the face of Mo, incredulous Mo, watching Sydney do a perfect half-split.

  168. Ready2Agitate says:

    #160 “In more ‘Class Trumps Race’ news, Tiger Woods has refused to be interviewed by the Florida Highway Patrol for a third time (and the FHP is politely tiptoeing away)”

    Uhmmm, errrr, mmmmm, I just can’t get with that. Super-celebrity-dom probably trumps criminal justice. I’m betting superstar white people get away with some pretty awful crime due to their celebrity stardom. Yet if it’s Tiger Woods then it’s “class trumps race”?

    Well, in my world, race trumps – well, a lot. If I had to list the number of things I can do that folks of color cannot I’d be writing for the rest of my life (hmmm, let’s see… today I went to a big box store to return an item for which I had no receipt; I got a cash card in return for my returned merchandise. Tell that to my black women friends – ha!)

    “Class trumps Race” or “Race trumps Class” seems like divide and rule strategy. Keep working class whites angry at blacks and the real power elite can sit back and watch us fight over their crumbs.

    From today’s NYT:
    In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap

  169. Acilius says:

    @R2A: I share your unease. The game of “most aggrieved” never ends well, and has cost humans a lot of blood over the centuries.

    “Keep working class whites angry at blacks and the real power elite can sit back and watch us fight over their crumbs.” While the members of the power elite fight each other over our crumbs. It would be less depressing, really, if the rulers of the USA had more imagination. Which contractor gets to charge American taxpayers $30 a plate for each meal served in a mess hall? That’s their kind of fight.

    In the old days the power elite fought to rule Europe and eastern Asia, nowadays Obama is promising that the day will dawn when America exercises unchallenged imperial suzerainty over Afghanistan. All it will take is 35,000 more troops in country (give or take,) an untold number of Afghans dead, and needless to say hundreds of billions more tax dollars transferred from American wage earners to multinational corporations.

  170. Ready2Agitate says:

    Speaking of imagination, I just saw Ralph Nader on his new book tour for his novel “Only the Super-Rich can Save us.” Nader has his flaws, certainly, but wow – that book is chock full of creative imagination for how our future – our country – our society – could be SOOOO different!

  171. Feminista says:

    @hairball: ThinkGeek is great. I got many laughs perusing the particulars. I wonder if my biochemist brother-in-law would like the beaker mug?

    @Ready: What did Nader have to say?

    All: Heard Amy Goodman speak a week ago (for the third time in 5 years).This time she was quite personal,talking about her late mother,who was quite the feminist role model,teaching community college women’s studies in the 1970s.

    Seems her parents met at the same NY Hebrew Camp where Noam Chomsky met his future wife. When Amy got into public broadcasting,her dad would ask,”So how’s Noam (Hebrew Ch)omsky?” Her reply:”Dad,he’s a linguist. It’s CHOM(as in Chomp)ski.”

  172. Mona says:

    @ R2A (169) – does “trump” mean the same in the US as it does here in the UK? (namely a smelly noise that leaks out of one’s bott. Just wondered…..

  173. Finsbury Parker says:

    @Mona: You are naughty, when was the last time you used to trump in that sense? I think I did in…hmmm…1987? Ian, how about you?

  174. Finsbury Parker says:

    @Mona: Oh dear, terribly sorry! Of course I meant ‘when was the last time you used ‘trump’…’ not ‘used to’.

    Oh dear. We’ve entered Carry On land.

  175. Ian says:

    @Finsbury Parker (175): Well, I’m just about to eat a veg curry served with brown rice. I’ll leave it to your imagination … 😉

    However, I have used the expression fairly recently. To be honest, if I see a tone, I’ll lower it quite frankly, and will occasionally descend into humour lavatorial. Too many Carry On films at an impressionable age (Oooh, Matron!).

  176. Finsbury Parker says:

    @Ian That’s a late one! Are you in the UK? How very decadent.

    I am going to see if I can use trump in its Carry On sense over the next couple of days – my sister’s coming to visit from Paris so that will automatically lower the tone. Trying to think what’s superceded trump – guff?

    Apologies to all for this diversion. I will attempt to stop now.

  177. Acilius says:

    IIRC, John Ciardi’s translation of Dante’s Inferno uses the phrase “the demonic trump” to describe Lucifer’s method of summoning the underdevils to a meeting in Pandemonium. Unfortunately I don’t have that book handy, but I remember sincerely believing 25 years ago that Lucifer was summoning the underdevils by farting. In fact I’m not sure that’s wrong. Is The Inferno fresher in anyone else’s mind?

  178. must make bridge an interesting game for all you brits…

  179. iara says:

    I think we’ve been through this before, but just in case someone missed it, Thinkgeek also sells the utilikilt.

  180. Ready2Agitate says:

    that bridge called my back, Mags? ;-}

  181. Ready2Agitate says:

    Utilikilts trump, uh, bluejeans….

  182. Dr. Empirical says:

    I know the Brit meaning of “trump” from reading Beano.

    Ironically, in the US, “Beano” is a product for preventing trumps.

  183. Calico says:

    Well, well! Looks like we have another sister who has finally come out of the closet – Meredith Baxter from “Family Ties.”
    (Speaking of 80’s shows…)
    : D

  184. --MC says:

    I know the Brit meaning of “guff” from reading Viz. Did you know that pumpernickel, as in the black bread, is German for devil’s fart? It seems to be true:

  185. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Dr E (#183)

    (… Nerd alert …)

    As a biochemist, you probably would have an interest in knowing how Beano works its magic. It is made from an enzyme from the mold Aspergillus niger (literally, black brush). The enzyme, ?-galactosidase, breaks down the complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) in beans, which ostensibly prevents flatulence in the human digestive tract.

    ( … Word maven/Latinate alert …)

    The mold name, Aspergillus niger, derives from the shape of the mold as seen under magnification. It resembles a brush. An aspergillum is the brush used to sprinkle holy water in Roman Catholic rituals.

    (… I now return you to the ongoing erudite discussion of global warming from human intestinal emissions …)

  186. meredith baxter? wow. i associate her with earlier shows, some late 60s sitcom with a guy who i think was her husband in real life, and then wasn’t she the older sister in “family”? with buddy played by christy mcnichol? hmmm…

    i’m resisting going to IMDB. someone else here will.

    i’ll never look at pumpernickel bread the same.

    i wrote 2 chapters on my current scifi novel yesterday and i’m not all present, living in that alternate reality. have to go write some more now, they’re yapping at me.

  187. hairball_of_hope says:

    Damn… that was supposed to be the Greek letter alpha in alpha-galactosidase. Don’t know how it ended up as a question mark. It previewed properly.

    That gives me a chance to add another word maven bit of useless info, along with more useless science geek info …

    The word galactosidase is derived from the Greek word “gala,” which means milk. Galactose is produced when lactose (the naturally-occurring sugar in milk) is broken down by the enzyme lactose into galactose and glucose.

    Folks who are lactose-intolerant can use a product called Lactaid to break down the lactose into galactose and glucose.

    Also derived from the Greek word gala is the English word galaxy, most likely because the first galaxy that astronomers saw was our own, the Milky Way. The English term “Milky Way” is a direct translation of the Latin “via lactea.”

    (… goes back to her medicine cabinet, in search of better living through chemistry …)

  188. Kat says:

    Looks like Maggie was right about Tiger Woods hiking the proverbial Appalachian Trail…..he apologized for some undisclosed transgression today…

  189. Calico says:

    #187 – Hi Maggie – I hope you are feeling much better and on the road to recovery.

    Looking back, I can see I had a mild crush on Meredith, even before I came out in 1988.
    (My first TV crush? Lindsay Wagner as The Bionic Woman).

    Meredith played the hippie Mom in FT, and Michael J. Fox was the Reaganite/GOP teen son. Haha, good times.

  190. ok, i went to wikipedia and my memory for TV trivia was validated, which i’m not sure to be proud about. she WAS in Family, won two Emmys there, and the earlier show with David Birney was Bridget Loves Bernie. i watched it and liked it, although i’m guessing now it was pretty awful.

    i was far too upset about how reagan was destroying america to find any humor in the basic premise of Family Ties.

    my daughter was utterly enthralled with The Bionic Woman. but during the mid 70s, all my female action heroes were in real life.

    HoH, now when i think of a “gala affair” i’m going to imagine it flowing with breast milk.

  191. Dr. Empirical says:

    Margaret Dumont: “This is a gala day for you!”

    Groucho: “Well a gal a day is is enough for me. I don’t think I could handle any more.”

  192. Renee S. says:

    First TV crush? hmmmm, it was Ann Francis as Honey West.

    Later, not surprisingly, I had another crush a few years later for Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. oh, and honorable mention goes to Linda Henning who played Betty Jo on Petticoat Junction.

    And, yes, Meredith Baxter. I never missed an episode of Bridget loves Bernie.

  193. Dr. Empirical says:

    Jan Smithers as Bailey Quarters. WKRP in Cincinnati.

    The Diana Rigg crush didn’t come until years later.

  194. LondonBoy says:

    I don’t know if I’m adding additional information to this thread or not, but I notice that Joan Vaccaro (the author of the physics paper Maggie references above) is a trans woman. It’s good to see representatives of the trans community becoming more visible in the scientific community.

  195. cybercita says:

    maggie, i remember bridget loves bernie. he was jewish, she was not. i seem to remember that his family owned a deli and in one episode she was recruited to work behind the counter preparing food. she did something unspeakable to a corned beef sandwich, like put butter on it or something.

  196. oh my, YES YES YES to honey west (at age nine i knew to conceal my real feelings for her), diana rogg, and bailey quarters, had somehow forgotten about her but she was wonderful.

    and the bridget loves bernie plot outline also jogged my memory. i guess it was furthering social awareness for the time. i clearly didn’t learn from it, however: the first time i went into the NY Deli in market street in SF, fresh from tejas, i ordered corned beef on white bread with mayo. the gay man behind the counter yelled at me and refused to serve me anything. i set about educating myself in earnest after that.

    dr e, you get extra points not just for a hilarious and appropriate use of a term being bandied about but also for working in a marx brothers reference — always a winner.

  197. Ian says:

    Hmmmm, I normally have chutney (Branston Pickle) with corned beef, although I have occasionally been known to stoop to coleslaw, which is a surprisingly good combination. I’m sure you all wanted to know my condiment preferences!

    My first TV crush, somewhat ironically, was Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman! At age 3 FFS. Definitely a baby gay in training. My first crush on a man had to be Guy Pearce, star of Memento and LA Confidential, when he was appearing in an Australian soap shown on the BBC.

  198. hairball_of_hope says:

    Barbara Eden in “I Dream of Jeanie” (I’m showing my age).

    FYI, the Greek word gala is pronounced with a short “a” sound, like “gah-laah”. Iara or Acillius could probably explain the pronounciation better. Gala is a good pun in print, but not orthoepically (Is that a real word? Formed from orthoepic, also Greek in origin.)

  199. Liza says:

    My first TV crush was Roy Rogers. Go figure.

  200. Mona says:

    ah…first tv crush? well I’m with Ian on this one – wonder woman made me go hot at a very young age! LOL, ah happy days!

  201. iara says:

    Yes hoh – you are right about gala, it is two short “a”s. The “g” is really the letter gamma which is pronounced like a “w” or a “y” (as in yiddish) – at least in modern greek, where, by the way, the word remains unchanged (most other greek words have changed significantly).
    Ok, and now that you got me started…. You mention the word “galaxy” and “milky way”… but your readers may ask – why milk? Oh, ok, it sort of looks milky, but there is also a myth about how the name came about:
    Hera was tricked into nursing the baby Hercules, whom Hermes had sneaked into Olympus and placed at her breast while she slept. (You may recall that Hercules was Alkmene’s baby by Zeus–Hera’s husband–and that Hera had previously tried to kill Hercules by placing snakes in his cradle, which the superhero-baby killed, no problem). Hercules bit her breast and she woke up, furious. She yanked it out of his mouth (ouch) and the milk went flying all over the sky.

  202. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Iara (#202)

    So that’s how the Milky Way got its name? Ouch. Talk about biting the teat that feeds you. (Groan.)

    Thanks for the modern Greek pronunciation of gala. My limited understanding of Greek goes from classical Greek, to koine Greek, to NY diner Greek. Somehow, I managed to make my coffee preferences understood to the guy behind the counter (“Ochi gala!”) despite using an ancient pronounciation of gala.

    In other breast news, the US Senate just passed the first piece of health reform legislation, which would guarantee women could receive mammograms and other preventive health screenings without having to make a copayment.

    I haven’t read the legislation yet, not sure if it says anything about the frequency of the health screenings.

  203. Dr. Empirical says:

    I just interviewed someone to be my new administrative assistant.

    When did I become The Man?

  204. Khatgrrl says:

    Did I miss it or did no one mention yesterday’s NY Senate vote on Marriage equality? I had been hopeful that the vote would have been closer. Well at least now we know who we have to talk to.

  205. Acilius says:

    @h-o-h #203: “despite using an ancient pronounciation of gala.” The first time I went to Greece I didn’t speak a word of Modern Greek, but I’d spent several years studying ancient Greek. So, as Greeks for some unaccountable reason insisted on speaking their own language to me, I finally resorted to answering them in ancient Greek. That resulted in lots of squinting and tugging of earlobes.

    “Prophema erasmiaki?” (“Erasmian pronunciation?”) asked some people. “Katharevousa?” asked others. Katharevousa was a largely artificial variety of Greek in official use until the overthrow of the military dictatorship of “the colonels” in 1974; when people thought I was using Katharevousa 15 years later, they thought I was a fascist of some kind. It was a good time to be a big guy, believe me; several people were quite prepared to punch me in the nose when they thought I was producing Katharevousa. So I labored to make it clear that I was an American student of classics, a dumb foreigner, not a fascist.

  206. Khatgrrl says:

    First TV crush I actually realized was Jo from The Facts of Life.

  207. iara says:

    @Acilius #206: That’s so funny! Your Greek must be really good to be mistaken for someone speaking katharevousa or “erasmiaki prophora.”!

    Katharevousa is a made-up language, an attempt to purify Greek (“katharo” means “clean”). The military dictatorship supported this, but it did not invent it. I was in school during said dictatorship, so I had to do all my homework in katharevousa – it was horrible! Still, it’s weird how a language can get under your skin. Some great novels are written in katharevousa, and after a while, you get used to it, especially in the hands of a great writer. Also, when I think geometry, the proof is still in katharevousa – it is just the language I think in when I think math.

    Ancient Greek is very different from any of the variants of modern Greek, including katharevousa – sort of like Spanish vs Latin. The pronunciation, the grammar, the words themselves, and even significant aspects of the syntax have changed radically. A modern Greek speaker cannot understand ancient Greek any more than an English speaker can understand German. Greek changed dramatically during the rise of the Roman Empire. In fact, koine (the language of the New Testament) might be already a little closer to modern Greek than to classical Greek – even though it is 2000 years old.

  208. Kate L says:

    (Dr. Empirical)#162. Proxima Centauri is the nearest star in the Alpha Centauri system. It is a red dwarf, while Alpha Centauri A is G-class, much like our own sun, and Alpha Centauri B is K-class (a little cooler and dimmer than our sun).

    (Calico)#184) Meredith Baxter belongs to the Sacred Sisterhood of Sappho? I knew it! I KNEW it! Back in the 80’s, I had this recurring fantasy that she and I were women geologists out in the field together, examining each other’s outcrops…

    My mammography results are in. Normal, if a tad on the small side. Did they HAVE to add that last part???

  209. Ian says:

    That’s great news Kate L! You must feel very relieved. I’m glad you’re ok.

  210. Dr. Empirical says:

    You are of course correct, Kate. Once again, I am guilty of oversimplifying.

  211. Kat says:

    Didn’t ever really have tv crushes, but one of my first movie crushes was Wednesday Addams (played by Christina Ricci) when I was about 12….

    Hilariously, Boyfriend’s first movie crush? Wednesday Addams.

  212. Mona says:

    @ Kate (209) – NO! do they really comment on the size of your breasts in the mammogram report????!!! You poor thing, that is just rude! LOL – can’t imagine what they will say about my almost-non-existent ones, probably refuse to try in the first place! Mammogram is something I am NOT looking forward to, maybe if i add stretching them somehow to my morning routine it will help…..(So pleased your results were normal though – well done!)

  213. Pam I says:

    @ Kate L – I’ve been having mammograms every 3 years since the age of 40 – it’s just very ordinary, it happens to every woman in the UK with our terrifying socialised medicine. The letter arrives, you say, is that three years already, then pop along to the caravan tucked into a corner of the local hospital. Slight anxiety for a couple of weeks, then the next letter comes saying all OK. Routine. So far, for me. My little sister had a mastectomy at 42 so my risk profile is higher, so I err on the side of taking the risk from the x-rays vs doing the screening.

    Of course it’s not as glib as I make it – but at least here there is no question of who pays, I would not want to be faced with that extra layer of anxiety.

  214. liza says:

    Acillius, I love your blog.

  215. Kat says:

    Kate L
    Wait, they comment on the size in a mammogram report?? That seems really really horrible to me. Booo on them.
    So glad to hear that all’s well and normal.

  216. Acilius says:

    @Iara 208: I don’t know how good my ancient Greek was back then, I think it was just very peculiar because it was based on reading I’d done in a handful of authors.

    @Liza 215: Thank you! I’m glad to know you’re reading it. I hope you comment there some time.

    And you have a fine blog, too. That post about the world’s largest photograph (as of 1904) particularly fascinates me.

  217. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Iara (#208)

    Something I recently learned about ancient Greek was that for a time it was written boustrophedon, alternating right-to-left, then left-to-right, like an ox plowing a field (which is where the word boustrophedon comes from).

    I had always thought that ancient Greek was written right-to-left, just like Phoenician. Greek and the Semitic languages (Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, etc.) are all derived from Phoenician (the names of the Phoenician letters are the same as the Hebrew names, and clearly obvious in the Greek names; aleph, beth, gimmel, daleth became alpha, beta, gamma, delta).

    A waiter in my local Greek diner was writing something in Greek right-to-left, and I commented on it. He told me about the boustrophedon Greek writing which eventually turned into left-to-right writing.

    Useless info: There are no vowels in Phoenician. Greek gave us vowels, which are still missing in the Semitic languages. Vowels are indicated in Hebrew and Arabic by diacritical marks under the consonant letters.

    (… goes back to plowing her carpet with the vacuum cleaner, boustrophedon-style …)

  218. NLC says:


    To follow up on this a bit, almost all of the alphabetic scripts (which ultimately go back to the Phoenician script) were originally commonly written boustrophedonically. Eventually scripts like Greek ended up left-to-right and the semitic scripts ended up right-to-left, but –early on– there are lots of examples of all such scripts going either way, before they finally “settled down”.

    For example, the earliest known example of writing in Hebrew (the so-called Izbet Sartah Abecedary) is written left-to-right[*].

    In many cases the direction of the text seemed to be decided by how the text looked in the place where it was used. For example, if you’re near a museum that contains such things check out the images on the ancient Greek pottery, etc. It was common to add small labels to indicate who the people were. In these cases it’s not uncommon for the names to be written either way, the direction apparently being decided by which way it “fit” better.

    [* To be precise, the example mentioned above was actually written in “paleo-hebrew”, the script that preceded the “square” script that we commonly recognize as Hebrew today. By the time the square script showed up the direction was pretty much settled. Also the phrase “earliest known” here means “earliest know when I was more up-to-date on this stuff”; details may have changed since then….)

  219. Acilius says:

    Word for the day: “boustrophedonically.” I love it!