Friday, February 27, 2009

Diagnosis: Not Murder, Just Feels Like It

I'm feeling particularly proud of myself today, in a professional kind of way.

I have a patient* who was referred by a health professional a few months ago for frequent intense nausea and occasional vomiting.  They couldn't figure out any treatment other than pretty heavy sedatives (in my opinion), and thought psychological factors could be an issue.

I discovered in my interviews that she had a family history of migraine, so I wondered if this might be some kind of atypical migraine.  Upon discussion with the physician, we couldn't find anything that exactly matched the patient's symptom profile.  However, the physician did take my recommendation and he began prescribing migraine meds for the patient.  They work pretty well when she takes them, so that part is good.  

And then just yesterday, when I was researching some narcolepsy issues for another patient, somehow I came across this syndrome.  That's totally it!  I'll tell you what, you are glad you don't have this.  The interesting thing is, the syndrome profile is just as I "conceptualized" it (improper English, but proper jargon).  Also, even some weird little aspects that the patient said that seemed like they wouldn't really be related, are discussed, such as weather.

So basically, it validates both my conceptualization and treatment and the patient's experience.  It doesn't change the treatment,  but it may make it easier for her to accept it, now that there's a name for it (including treatment focusing on managing anxiety, which no one likes to hear when they have physical symptoms).  Oh, and it also  means that I figured out the diagnosis of something that baffled the physicians.

It even comes with support groups and a website that shows medical trials going on all over the world that is searchable by disorder and by location (the maps tab is pretty darn cool).  I don't think they're doing any near her for this patient, but still, it's pretty cool.  Even though it is mostly corporate and probably eevyil, as far as I can tell.

*Important aspects of this case are made vague and changed to protect confidentiality.  However, the diagnosis is real.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Romance (?)

So I tried reading my first romance novel* in over 20 years.  (The last time was when I was 18 and in another country, and was desperate for something--anything!  In English.)  

I read it (what parts I did read) sitting up holding Limelet through the night so he could sleep (ear infection).  It sounded like it would be an interesting, albeit superfluffy and escapist--kind of thing to read.  International travel! Ghosts! Swords!  Semi-ruined castles!  Sex! Jewelry making!  But the "plot" reminded me of the time I was sick at home for a week and watched some daytime TV.  There was so little going on, and what was going on was so predictable, that I had to skip large sections just to get to the end of it.  The parts that weren't predictable were pretty much silly.   

And the very ending was really conservative (as I'm guessing most romance novels are) in that what started with ghosts and enchantments ended in plain ol' marriage and pregnancy.  Wonder how that sexy ghost will be doing with that kid a year later, when they have to change diapers, be barfed on, get vaccinations and lose sleep.  He'll probably want to return to his 700-year ghostly roaming.

*If you must know, it was this book.


TheLimey's job interview(s) went very well.  He is now among the employed again, although the lucky so-and-so gets (once again) to take some time off (perhaps a week or two) before starting. And this job is actually more what he wants than the one he got laid off from.

As for me I'm trying to finagle a possible tantalizing teaching opportunity for the summer.  I sure hope I can do it, because it would open a lot of doors.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Viral! And Grassroots.

My other blog has gone viral---at least, one page of it .  That's kinda cool.  (The only other page as popular has been the Poxford one, which gets regular referrals from discussion boards each day.)
And by viral I just mean a few hundred views per day, at the height of the craze (last Saturday.)  But for me, that's celebrity! Now new mothers all over the country are making sweatpants into inexpensive, comfy baby carriers, just as I planned!  Muuaaahahahahaha!  
Well, I do like grassroots movements of women helping each other, and whatnot, so that's gratifying.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mythology and Psycho-Socio Culture of Mary Poppins (1964): plus a number of random questions

A client cancelled today, so instead of taking this hour to do the work that's been piling up, I'm going to do some play that's been piling up. In my head. Bugging me to write it out.

I'm sure there are tons of sites addressing Mary Poppins (the film) already, but having watched it about 20 times in the past few weeks (Limelet's new favorite), it's on my mind (especially when awakened during the night). I got a VHS copy at the Starvation Army for $1.99, and it turned out that Limelet loves it, loves it, loves it--especially all the dancing and singing. His absolute favorite part is the 8-minute rooftop dance by the chimney sweeps, which he imitates.

I had planned to FF over any parts that might be inappropriate for a toddler, but it didn't really have any. Well, I didn't like the scene with the boy in the closet, but Limelet didn't seem bothered by it. And you never know--Oklahoma had a lot of violence in it, for example, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks scared him to hysterical tears when the bed "magically" travelled by glowing weird colors). I was a pleasantly surprised that there was little to shield him from.

Anyway, being who I am, I can't help but find weird things about the movie to analyze. This may not be terrifically organized, as parts are still inchoate and I am still thinking about it. So, some immediate thoughts, and some more developed concepts. I haven't read the books (yet), so this only pertains to the film format of the story.

Mary and Bert: Interesting relationship there. What's going on? They know each other from before, but how? Are they dating? Were they dating? Apparently she shows up from time to time, from what they say to each other. There is a scene in which the characters jump through a chalk drawing on the sidewalk, and Mary and Bert take a walk separately from the children. This is the setting for their re-acquaintance via a song-and-dance passage (Jolly Holiday ).

Now, if you listen to the lyrics repeatedly (as I have been obliged to do), you may notice a strange imbalance in the theme of the lyrics they sing to each other. It's more noticeable if you're watching the movie than just reading the lyrics as text. Basically, Bert says "Mary's [third-person] pretty awesome, fun to be around, magical, exciting, and inspires affection in others, so it's like a holiday to spend time with her." Then Mary says, "Bert [second-person], you are more high-status than you appear, and unlike many men, not likely to sexually assault or even sexually pressure a woman, so it's like a holiday to spend time with you." Wow. That is a holiday indeed--not needing to fear your date! What kind of guys does she usually date?! What does this mean about the two guys (possibly brothers) who wrote that song? Was it just their family, or the way the '60s were? Just some thoughts as I watch that bit. Oh, and then after the song has Mary telling Bert that he is non-threatening, he comes back with a list of women with whom he has apparently also visited that penguin bistro--the penguins know who they are. Is he trying to retrieve some kind of stereotypical masculinity here? (If so, that goofy penguin dance doesn't help with any kind of dignity!)

In the scene with Uncle Albert, whose uncle is he, exactly? Mary's? Bert seems pretty familiar with him, too. They must know each other to some extent, I imagine through Mary. If she takes Bert around to see her uncle, then they must be somewhat serious, I'd think. (For 1910, anyway.) BTW, why does her uncle living in London have an American accent?

Speaking of accents, Dick Van Dyke's "cockney" accent here is atrocious, its silliness rivaled only by Keanu Reeves' accent in Dracula. Nevertheless, I have really grown to like DVD's portrayal of Bert.

So, the mythology part. First of all, in my analysis, Bert and Mary are not mere human beings anyway, which explains some thematic inconsistencies. Mary is easy. Now, I've often heard descriptions such as "the no-nonsense nanny." However, this is completely specious. Mary is the all-nonsense nanny. Her behavior is completely at odds with her "proper" appearance and speech. She is a trickster goddess, introducing (necessary) chaos into the too-rigid Banks household. Because although this story is ostensibly the story of the children, it is in fact the story of the redemption of Mr. Banks, told (more or less) from the viewpoint of his children.

Mary Poppins comes in on the East wind because western mythology exoticizes the East. (That's where the mysticism lives!) She stays only until the wind changes, but most importantly, until Mr. Banks changes. She talks to birds and animals, defies natural laws of all sorts (especially gravity), and (my favorite part), states most emphatically when asked to explain herself: "I want to make one thing very clear: I never explain anything!" You can think of Mary Poppins as a trickster character, or as an allegory for loosening up, creativity, and kindness. All especially appropriate for a 1964 film, right?

It also cracks me up that the super-punctual cannon firings of Admiral Boom ("the world takes its time from Greenwich, and Greenwich takes its time from Admiral Boom" or something like that: he symbolizes strict orderedness) next door are so disturbing to the household that its foundations and objects are rattled several times daily. Tellingly, only Mr. Banks seems oblivious to how this affects the household. The three women in the house run to and fro, trying to right everything that is repeatedly set askew by this over-scheduled destruction.

Now Bert, as Mary's supernatural consort, is even more intriguing to me than Mary herself. He is a limnal character, crossing boundaries with impunity. Near the beginning of the film, he even breaks the boundary between audience and film characters by speaking directly to "you" through the screen. Thereafter, he crosses social boundaries of class (interacting with all classes and ages and shaking hands with everyone to give them "luck"). He works at a different job daily, which for a "real" human character would be impractical. What low-income person of 1910 could actually afford the equipment to be a one-man band, chimney sweep, chestnut-seller, and skreever? Those are just jobs symbolic of Bert's multiplicity. He crosses boundaries of reality in creating and jumping through the pavement drawings: other worlds that he himself created. Granted, he gets Mary to "activate" them, as it were, but it looks to me like he's just cajoling her into joining the fun. I feel certain that he could have opened those portals himself, had he wanted to.

In fact, Bert is a gatekeeper. He even seems to have a "station" before the gates of the park (what is that park, anyway? Everyday adult existence, perhaps?) but is never seen entering it himself. He informs us at the beginning of the film about the cyclical nature of existence (something along the lines of, "Can't put my finger on what is in store, but what's to 'appen 'as 'appened before".) Bert exists everywhere, and nowhere: he exists between. When he tells the children about what's up the chimneys, it's very mysterious and fey (even the music):

'Tween pavement and stars
Is the chimney sweep world
When the's 'ardly no day  Nor 'ardly no night
There's things 'alf in shadow And 'alf way in light
That is to say, his rooftop Sweeps' World is a sort of Wood Between the Worlds (for the C.S.-Lewis inclined), a multiverse that simultaneously links and separates realities (households, SES classes, the pavement and the stars, etc.) Thematically, the rooftop world also appears to be a sort of inverted underworld. The children are sucked up the chimney not by literal, physical wind as explained, but because Bert has "put ideas into their heads." We don't see them eating pomegranate seeds on the roof, but we do see them eating apples in the chalk-drawing world. I think this has made them susceptible to being pulled out of the world again, and that the magical trips are a retelling of the Persephone / True Thomas type of myth. That rooftop sweeps' dance? I can't imagine a better enactment of a dance of underworld imps or a fairy ring dance. Bert is clearly their leader: he's the entity who calls the dance and leads it, and he is the one who ends it with a whistle. This puts him in the role of Hades, or the Fairy Queen. (The film therefore inverts the usual gender of the [female] fairy queen and [male] trickster).

Naturally, it is Admiral Boom who spots the dancers and fires at them (strict "order" attempting to subdue "chaos"). Interestingly, he believes them to be attacking "hottentots" (a racial slur, of course). Is it because they are happily and energetically dancing? Is it because they are White guys who are covered in soot (blackface)? Which says something about how society view(s/ed) order and chaos. Of course, the sweeps end up jumping down the chimney into the Banks household and stirring everything up (as it needed to be, for balance). They are sympathetic characters regardless. Upon leaving the house, they even dance with the reluctant constable in the street--the forces of chaos literally playing with law and order. (Hee!)

Anyone else want a shot? Go for it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Can I just say*-- I am seriously annoyed with  

I wanted to edit my current resume to include where I have now worked for a year.  Sounds simple enough, and pretty important.  I never had any problems with Monster before (that is, from 2000-2008) and always found it relatively understandable and intuitive.

But now if I go to my resume, it gives me the option to edit every single section there except job experience.  Oh, I can click on an individual job experience and edit that, but I can't add any new ones or otherwise edit the section. Whereas all the other sections have a link to add more items. Just not the job experience section. Kind of an important one.

So I complain about it to my husband, and he says to try using Firefox (we use Safari at my office), because he had some possibly related problems the other day with Explorer which using Firefox solved.  I downloaded FF, and in some ways it was even worse (had to find a really roundabout way to even sign in).  However, I eventually got to the resume editing page, but no dice.  Same thing.  No way to add a work  experience.  This was true whether I  viewed it in profile view or in the resume view.

Clicking on "help" just brings up a pre-packaged crappy pop-up window of useless crap that tells you what kind of things you should put in each section, just in case you're a moron who probably shouldn't be applying for any jobs anyway.  No user help forums, no help-contact-us section, not even anything that says "Warning! Overload! Your checkered job history has led to too many job fields.  Delete some before you try to put any more in there."  

But I can't find that anyone else anywhere in Internetland is having a similar problem, so  maybe it's just me.  How hard is it to find a super-obvious link?  Not hard at all, unless it's not there.

*[rhetorical question--I know I can say]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

8 Thoughts on Race, Sex, Babies, and Fertility

I have seen so much online discussion about the woman with the octuplets [or "octopluts" as I wanted to spell it for a few insane moments] that I figure my two cents won't change much in the dogpile.  I don't even really have a coherent argument of any sort.  Maybe I wish I did.  

1. I think there is an overindulgence in passing judgment on this woman (and I'm not not excluding myself here), to the extent that it seems pretty clear that she is not even seen as an individual ("wow! what a wacko! anyway, pass the cereal") but as a larger-than-life symbol of What-All's Wrong With This Society.
1. Having produced one kid myself, I think she is probably nuts for having 14.  Heck, I think I may be nuts for considering a second one myself!
2. Having produced a kid myself, I don't know how I would feel about having to "reduce" embryos.  I am pro-choice, but luckily for me have never been in a situation where I've been faced with that choice myself.
3. I read today that at least part of the backlash against this woman is because she is a woman of color.  (How can I have not known that until just now?)  Certainly this is likely to play into a lot of standard social-stereotypical fears.  Perhaps this explains the mythic (as opposed to individual) status she seems to embody for so many.  After all, giant White families are just plain humorous, right?
4. I can't help but feeling sympathetic to a lot of her motives, even as I read how she thinks this family will make up for her childhood of loneliness, or something along those lines.
5. I can't help but feeling some outrage at whoever thought that fertility treatments were okay for someone who already has produced 6 kids.  However,  we don't (yet) live in a society where the number of our children is limited, so who am I to decide what the number should be? Yeah, I think this is probably too much for her, or for most people even in ideal situations.  But what I'm saying is, I'm not the decider.  (As it were).  I don't get to make choices about someone else's body, except those of my own child, and even those are limited in some ways.
6.  It would be great, even ideal, if every child in the world could have two parents, but that's not the case. I also don't get to decide that for anyone else, and I don't even want to try.
7. Okay, now I'm going to go see some actual images.  I haven't seen many yet--mostly just text.
8.  Weird, she talks about "projecting my own wants and needs onto my child" like it's something she heard in therapy and then kind of misinterpreted as something kind of positive. She doesn't seem to be really hearing herself say it.   Of course, right after I gave birth to just one kid I was pretty mood-swingy, so who knows how she's feeling.  Also, I had to stop at the part where she said "I wanted to do the very best I could as an incubator for these babies..."

Well, I guess my overall reaction now is: Tempest in a teapot. This is not a fad, or even becoming worrisomely common.  I think the really interesting part is how we are reacting to this woman and to her situation.