Zhaba Zhournal
Monday, April 26, 2004 
Why I love local news 
The teaser of the local NBC station's "Billy Joel Can't Drive" story:
"Rock legend Billy Joel has a minor injury after his car drove into a small beige home in Long Island."
"A small beige home"? I don't think I've ever seen a car-crashes-into-house story that specified the color of the house before. Would he not have crashed into it if it were red, or blue, or purple? And don't all houses, regardless of race, creed, or color, have a right not to be driven into?

[ at 1:07 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

South Philly 
Oh, you gotta love South Philly politics. Where else would a newspaper article with the title "Don't assume Vince Fumo is a crook" be considered an endorsement? And then turned into a flyer and stuck under people's doors to encourage them to vote for the guy?

[ at 12:04 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, April 19, 2004 
Spellchecking amusement 
Okay, I get very easily amused after I've been copyediting all day; but I do find this funny: when Microsoft Word's spellchecker encounters Christina Aguilera, the suggested replacement is "Uglier."

[ at 3:33 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, April 15, 2004 
Can you hear me now? 
You know, one of the best things about the ubiquity of cell phones is that telephone companies have stopped calling all the time trying to get you to change your long-distance service. (My response was always something along the lines of "I don't care how much I'm paying, I don't make many long-distance calls and I'd rather pay whatever I'm paying than go through the hassle of changing services." Two cents less a minute after 9 p.m. if I answer all your questions and fill out all your forms and tell my current service I'm not using them any more and answering all their questions? Um, no thanks. I'm willing to pay just about anything if people will leave me the hell alone about it.)

My parents have a rental property at the Jersey shore, and they don't want to pay the phone bills for all the tenants all summer, so they didn't sign up for long distance service when they bought the house. It took the telephone companies months to accept that they really didn't want long distance. "But we'll give you this rate!" "But we don't want it." "But we'll offer you this deal!" "But we don't want it." "But it's such a good price!" "But we don't want it." "Are you sure?" "Yes." "Are you really, really sure?" "Yes." "Are you really, really, really sure...?" Man, you'd think we were trying to explain that we didn't want oxygen.

[ at 9:53 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, April 12, 2004 
Word of the day 
More from the medical book:

The scientific/medical/technical term for swearing—a symptom in only 10–30% of people with Tourette's disorder, incidentally—is "coprolalia." (Which, I think, is basically a fancy New Latin–derived way to say "talking shit.")

[ at 3:55 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, April 08, 2004 
Actually scary medical fact of the day 
Okay, this one is actually scary:
"The biggest risk factor [for Down syndrome] is maternal age (1 in 1500 offspring of 16-year-old mothers and 1 in 25 offspring of 45-year-old mothers)."
I'm saying "scary" because there are an awful lot of people putting off having children until their late thirties or early forties, and then apparently expecting everything to work out hunky-dory as if they were still rabbit-fertile teenagers, and it's just not a good idea, okay? (Intentionally waiting until that age isn't, anyway. Don't plan on it. You can't schedule reproduction and the workings of genetics like a board meeting or a conference call.)

[ at 5:37 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Medical mnemonic of the day 
The "five Fs" of cholecystitis (cholesterol gallstones): "fat, forty, fertile, female, and flatulent." Man, I'd hate to have that on my chart. (It also sounds like the beginning of a really, really bad personal ad.)

[ at 4:36 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

More from the medical book 
In response to the question "What causes acute pancreatitis?":
More than 80% of cases are due to alcohol or gallstones. Other causes include hypertriglyceridemia, viral infections (mumps, coxsackie virus), trauma, hypercalcemia, peptic ulcer disease, medications (steroids, azathioprine), and, of course, scorpion bites.
"Of course scorpion bites"? It seems kind of a random and prosaic thing to toss off at the end of a list of clinically precise disease and medication names. And it makes it sound like scorpions are everywhere, the way the alcohol and the steroids are. ("What could have caused the acute pancreatitis in this person who lives in Alaska?" "Well, check inside his snow boots for scorpions!")

(Okay, I'm easily amused at this point.)

(And anyway, scorpions don't bite; they sting.)

[ at 2:52 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Mystery medical phrase of the day 
In a list of signs of Addison's disease: "hyperpigmentation (only if the pituitary is functioning because of proopiomelanocortin—a common pimp on the wards)." Um, a what? On the where? I assume there's some medical meaning of the word "pimp" here (although I can't find it in a dictionary), but yikes, it sure sounds weird.

(Even weirder than the word "proopiomelanocortin," which appears to be a pituitary prohormone related to weight regulation. Phoenix Pharmaceuticals will tell you all about it, if you can actually figure out what they're saying, which I can't.)

[ at 1:02 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Medical directive of the day 
I'm working on one of those oh-so-enjoyable medical books again. Medical directive of the day: for treating burns, "removal of all clothes and other smoldering items on the body." Yes, I would hope you'd remove the smoldering items on the body.

[ at 11:33 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, April 07, 2004 
You're not being served 
Last night on ABC News: a segment on pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control on religious grounds. And not just morning-after pills, which can, depending on circumstances and your definition, be counted as abortifacients. We're also talking about the plain old Pill here:
The Food and Drug Administration and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have defined pregnancy as beginning at the moment a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterine wall. But many conservatives believe pregnancy—and therefore life—begins at the moment of fertilization, up to a week before implantation. Since the pill, the so-called morning-after pill, and other hormonal contraceptives can take effect after fertilization, they see these medications as ending human life.
Okay. Fine. Be that way. I'm not going to bother to argue about it. But this is the part that steams me:
CVS [the pharmacy that this particular story is about] says its policy is to dispense legally prescribed therapies to customers as quickly as possible, but it will not force pharmacists to do things that would violate their religious beliefs.
This is the "slippery slope" part. You start from there, and where do you go next? What do you set the precedent for? "Hm, your last name looks Jewish. You need to convert and be saved before I can help you." "You want AZT? Well, God sent AIDS to kill you people, so you'd better just go home and get busy dying." Once you start, where do you stop?

(And can I point out that people take birth control pills for other reasons than birth control? I take them because otherwise I have The Periods From Hell, with anemia-inducing blood loss and crippling cramps. Don't you dare tell me I can't take medicine to prevent that, instead of having to check into a hospital and get an IV drip to rehydrate after puking my guts out for three days. Okay?)

[ at 10:06 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, April 01, 2004 
April fooling 
In honor, or something, of April Fools' Day:

National Geographic presents famous hoaxes in history, from classics like 1957's Swiss spaghetti harvest to last month's near-ban of dihydrogen monoxide.

The BBC, on the other hand, presents current news stories that sound like hoaxes but aren't. At least I think they aren't. That would be a bit too meta-fool-ical.

[ at 12:32 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Yes, that's me.


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