Tuesday, February 07, 2006

About Face: A Real Head-Scratcher

In the age of the internet you get to learn all kinds of weird things you didn't want to know, such as how people actually lived in the 1500s. (Remember "peas porridge in the pot, nine days old?" It is more than a cute nursery rhyme.) For me it is the basis of ALL KINDS of exciting medical discoveries, a depressing one of which I am about to share with you. You know how when you get old your skin gets all wrinkly and saggy? (I'm sure none of you is old enough to know this personally, but you've SEEN pictures of really old people, right?) Well in the good old days we were told this is because you got old. Then later conventional wisdom took over, and it became more a matter of too much sun, a smoking habit, not eating the right omega three vitamins and general "hard living." (All living is hard. Whom do the Conventionally Wise think they're kidding?) Now we generally understand that as we age, our skin loses its elasticity, and, due to a variety of factors such as gravity and too much frowning, your face has no choice but to sag as close to the earth as it can get. While wrinkling in the process. So far so good! Turns out, that is not the full explanation. The full explanation is MUCH WEIRDER. In my opinion. It's as weird as cats and dogs living on thatched roof cottages and losing their footing during a bad rainstorm. Thus it "rains" cats and dogs. No, the true explanation for why your facial skin sags and wrinkles is that YOUR SKELETON IS DISINTEGRATING! True. I read this on reputable website with medical links. How it works is, your body slowly loses skeletal mass, and as it does, the skin no longer has enough structure to hold it up. So it sags into the cavities. (Note to the woman who had a face transplant: I hope you ordered one size too small!) I'm sure you never suspected this, since skeletons are supposed to last not only your entire lifetime, but, theoretically, they are supposed to remain in decent shape until the Resurrection of the Dead! Plus, if skeletons actually deteriorated, how could they be finding missing links such as Piltdown Man? (Oh, wait. He was a hoax. Make that Polyurethane Man.) Makes me wonder if early humanoid-type varieties of ape-persons weren't as small as they appeared to be. Maybe they just disintegrated a few sizes! Perhaps Neanderthal Man originally had the physique of Hulk Hogan or Jerome Bettis. I have to admit I'm kind of grossed out. It's bad enough that our bodies are "80 percent water" to begin with. (Which makes us the equivalent of sentient water balloons, going through life hoping to not get punctured.) I am not one of those people that likes to contemplate how many quarts of blood I'm made up of, or what makes it rush around in my body to feed all the cells, or how many miles of capillaries exist in my arms. I'd rather not think about it! So now this idea that our skeletons are dissolving as we go about our day is just not a comfortable one for me. It makes me want to tread lightly before I lose more bone mass and collapse into Silly Putty. Maybe it's one of those things like those montrous-looking but tiny creatures that exist everywhere around us, even on our skin, but are too small to gross us out. (The Dust Mite is pictured at the top of this article to the left.) Figure, if MY skeleton is slowly dissolving, so is everyone else's! So I'm not going to worry about this any more than I worry about mad cow disease. I figure the vegans are well-qualified to run the earth after I'm reduced to a blithering pile of shrinking bones. That reminds me of my kids' jokes. Now they are four and six, so they don't tell really good jokes. They mostly say nonsense things that I'm supposed to laugh at. Such as, "What do you call a bird on the lawn with X's on its eyes?" (What?) "An X-O Bird!" (hahahahahahahaha!) The 6-year-old is actually joke-savvy enough to know this is NOT a joke, and he tries to explain this to the 4-year-old, who pays no attention whatsover and launches into 20 more equally incomprensible jokes. But here are two jokes from my kids that actually made sense! 6-year-old: "What's black and white and black and white and green?" (What?) "Two skunks fighting over a pickle!" From the 4-year-old: "What do you call bones that fly?" (No idea.) "A hot air skeleton!" Haha! I DID laugh for that one! Have no idea how he could make that up! In fact, he doesn't think it's any funnier than the rest of them. I hope the Hot Air Skeleton doesn't dissolve before it runs out of air.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Might As Well Face It, We're Addicted To Oil

I wish I could tell you I saw the State of the Union address, but at that hour Hubby and I are completely absorbed in a routine that involves brushing teeth, donning PJs and reading bedtime stories. On top of all that, we have kids, too! So my impression of the president’s State of the Union speech is based purely on hearsay. If I've misunderstood anything I blame it entirely on the CEO of the Sago mine, who was supposed to be transmitting the information to me via tin cans and a string. But the main point came through loud and clear. We Americans are a bunch of staggering, out-of-control oil addicts! The president didn’t mention the part about assaulting other nations to ensure we could continue getting our fix. That’s no doubt due to our “democracy addiction.” In the State of the Union Address the president informed us we are ADDICTED to oil. Thank you, touchy-feely speechwriters, for not just saying we need the stuff to run our cars. I have not heard, at this point, if the president expects us as a nation to quit cold turkey, attempt a 12-step program, or if we're about to be tossed into the earthly gutter to beg foreign countries for euros "to buy a cup of coffee" (while we sneak to the local gas station to fill up our SUVs). The thing is, in order to solve our problem, don't we need to hit "rock bottom?" Or could we get by with an intervention of some kind? Personally I don't care to call it an addiction. I prefer to think of it as a gas guzzling problem. Sure, we like to gas up, but I can switch to my bike anytime! Let's take a look at the main warning signs of addiction and see how we U.S. motorists stack up. I am taking the liberty of answering for the majority of Americans because I didn’t have time to call or poll. I feel I am no more than one or two standard deviations away from being “average” so this is perfectly acceptable. 1) Does it take more gas to make you feel “full” than it used to? Answer: Yes. Especially after we bought our full-sized van. 2) Do you ever use more gas than you intended to? Answer: Definitely! Every time I get stuck in traffic, accelerate to pass Sunday drivers so fast that their wigs blow off, or have to go back to the store yet again for that one critical item such as my son needs Saltines for some classroom topography project. 3) Do you have “blackouts,” or “lose time” after using a lot of gas? Answer: Not sure about the blackouts, unless you’re referring to the time we left the door open all night and then couldn’t start the van the next day. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and another 25 percent driving. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for watching State of the Union speeches or buying solar panels for the roof. 4) Do you ever use gas in the morning to reduce anxiety? Answer: Let’s put it this way, if I didn’t use gas in the morning, I’d be CREATING a lot of anxiety! We’ve got to get everybody to work and school, and it’s just too far to walk unless I’m planning to start a family farm on the front lawn. 5) Do you ever find yourself wishing you could gas up in order to calm yourself? Answer: Whenever that needle slips below a quarter tank I start to worry. Then I tell myself to relax, I can afford to pass the three stations with the expensive brand name gas. Then there’s an unexpected detour and suddenly I’m in full panic mode. 6) Do you ever gas up when taking prescription medications? Answer: Yes. I figure what’s more dangerous, me driving under the influence of penicillin, or me hitch-hiking after taking prescription meds? 7) Have you ever gone to work or school smelling of gasoline? Answer: I’m not 100 percent sure, due to the intoxicating effects of inhaled gasoline, but most likely yes. 8) Do you have a history of relationships with other gasoline users? Answer: There was that boy in ninth grade whose mother drove us everywhere. Beyond that it was bikes. But once I hit the real dating scene it was gas users all the way. 9) Do you find yourself using gasoline to help you sleep? Answer: My sister-in-law swears by the “Driving the Baby Around the Block” method of getting cranky babies to sleep. 10) Do you fill up your gas tank more than the recommended amount? Answer: Only to the nearest dollar. Lately it’s been to the nearest nickel because it’s just too expensive to let any spill over. 11) Do you try to conceal your use, or “edit” stories about using gas? Answer: We DO keep the van in the garage at night, so that would technically be concealment. Also if I ever run out of gas on the highway (especially after passing up a few “expensive stations”) I hope to be able to conceal this from my husband. 12) Do you ever use gasoline alone? Answer: After dropping off the kids, yes. But then I rationalize, saying well you never know, I MAY be pregnant. 13) Do you ever say things you regret while using gasoline? Answer: Sometimes I lose my temper. But never in front of the kids, and I don’t do rude hand gestures. 14) Have you ever slept in your car? Answer: Yes, but I was at the U.B campus where there was NO WAY to get a parking space after 8 a.m. So I’d get there an hour before my class started and yes, sometimes I napped. 15) Is your life increasingly chaotic and turbulent? Answer: On a personal level, no. But every time I read the news I get the feeling the world as a whole is trying to pull a “Thelma and Louise” off the nearest cliff. The other area of the State of the Union speech I wanted to address is our president’s call for a ban on human/animal hybrids. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to meld human DNA with horse DNA? A new race of Centaurs that could gallop to work would surely solve this oil addiction we’re so worried about. Well, it’s hay for thought.