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Archive for December, 2009

Unintuitive

There is a well written article on NYT regarding mammogram screening that I want everyone in the world to read.  The author describes the underlying motivation of that poor panel, much excoriated at this point: that statistically, financially, and for the women in question – physically, emotionally – it just doesn’t make sense to screen before age 50.

I’ve tried explaining this to a number of my friends, often to no avail – it’s a tough subject.  The author points out the fact that understanding very large and very small numbers, and even more so, very large and very small probabilities, is not intuitive for many people. Because it is intuitive to me, and also because I have spent the last several years learning to understand those ideas, I have a hard time explaining it to them.

Without even considering the negative effects of frequent and unnecessary exposure to radiation from mammograms (which is a very interesting part of this problem to me), it’s simply not worth it.  There are too many false positives, false negatives – reading the article for the discussion of these concepts alone is worth clicking over.  Can you imagine the emotional and physical toll of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, only to find out you don’t have it?

The problem is more easily explained with colon cancer screening, I’ve found.  Colonoscopies are uncomfortable, embarrassing, and risky.  Perforation of the colon occurs at a rate of about 1 in 1400 to 1 in 1000 – that is, for every 1400  (or less!) people who get a colonoscopy, a hole gets ripped in one of their colons (source below).  This requires surgery, with its inherent risks – you know how you sign a piece of paper that says you could die every time a scalpel or anesthesia is involved?  Yeah.

So the fact that colonoscopies are recommended for everyone over the age of 50?  A little scary.  I would wager that I know at least 500 people in that age group, professionally or personally.  That number will obviously go up as I get older.  And as you are to get one per year?  God, I’m getting scared just thinking about it.  But, 1 in 1000 is considered a low risk – that’s only 0.1%.  It all depends on how it is presented – I interpret the latter as less risky, intuitively, than the former.

Back to mammograms.  It’s tough to say whether I will follow the new screening advice (you know, if it hasn’t changed in 15 – 25 years when it becomes more relevant to me).  It’s hard to weigh the more nebulous risks of exposure to an invisible mutagen, and the possibility of unnecessary treatment against the more tangible (and publicized) demon – breast cancer.  It’s hard for me – for us – to consider “invisible” risks (things that will happen so far in the future that they seem disconnected from their stimuli) in a rational way.

What do you think?  Will you get mammograms before age 50 if you are asymptomatic?

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Panteris, et al. 2009.  Colonoscopy perforation rate, mechanisms and outcome: from diagnostic to therapeutic colonoscopy.  Endoscopy 41, 941 – 951.

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Ephemera

While I’m trying to get back into this (I think I’m out of it more because I’m in personal life limbo than anything else), I’m not going to be quite as discerning about what I post.  Which is to say, today I’m posting an incomplete list of open-ended goals.

1.  Bake my own bread regularly

2.  Run at least once a week (preferably in addition to other exercise)

3.  Take more pictures of every day life

4.  Make a household chores schedule and find a way to split them up evenly

5.  Take pictures of my knitting and update my ravelry site

6.  Stop buying food I can cook just as well for cheaper

7.  Be the kind of person who sends holiday letters.  Or any letters.

8.  Take advantage of what my new city has to offer (i.e. play outside a LOT)

9.  Learn to repair minor household things, like leaky faucets

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Bear*: I need a coat.
me: i had to make Husband get a coat.  it’s like 5 in WA.  he is confused about how to survive.
Bear: yeah, this is really hard on us southerners.  like, ok, it was cold. Ok, now its time for it to get back to being in the 50s, like in Georgia after its cold for a few days
me: exactly, right… sustained cold is weird
Bear: yeah.  like I looked at the 10 day forecast – straight 40s and 30s
me: eww
Bear: I know
me: look at this: or, Antarctica
Bear: Is this real?
me: yes.  and terrible.
Bear: are you sure this isn’t like wikiweather or something and you just changed it?
me: i’m not that technologically proficient
Bear: do cars work in that kind of cold?  is there life?
me: a little bit i think, but slower. like when you put goldfish in ice water in 7th grade science
Bear: um, susiebear*…  if an Animal Farm like event ever occurred, you would probably be on some kind of enemy list
me: wha? why? that was a for-a-grade project. totally legitimate.
Bear: yeah, but you see, the animals may have a congress and the rat/goldfish delegations will move to go after you
me: have i ever told you about the only recurring nightmare i’ve ever had, and how it has colored my conception of hell?
Bear: no.  is it that the hamburgler is eating you?  cause that’s a pretty scary dream
me: no, but that is terrifying in its own right.   my dream is this:
i am bad, and i go to hell (like one does). it turns out that hell, for me, is all of the animals i have ever killed, in the name of science or pest control, killing me exactly as I did them, forever and ever ad infinitum.
Bear: ok, yeah, that is kind of like my animal congress, but a little more hardcore
me: yes.  i think that is on my top five list of things I hope don’t happen to me.
Bear: I think mine is funnier because the animals will stand on their hind legs and give speeches in regal accents
me: i do love animal farm.  and anthropomorphization.
Bear: that is a long word
me: it’s not actually a word, but i think it should be
Bear: I second that.
fin.
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*My roommates and I have a bizarre and enduring habit of referring to each other as (Name)bear, or sometimes just Bear.  It is weird, and I love it.

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Home, Sweet Home (part 2)

This is the second installment of a history of my homes.  The first is here.

After moving out of the residential college, I went to my parents’ home ever so briefly, and then moved into a 2000 Nissan Frontier with my friend, Climber.  We embarked on a three month journey around the country, which is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.  Peaked at 20, such a shame.  We spent time in West Virginia (New River Gorge), Philadelphia (this kid we met at the NRG paid us money to move him from his dorm in Philly to….), southern Illinois (there are rocks there.  seriously.), Wyoming (Wild Iris in the Wind Rivers Range), British Columbia (Squamish), California (Yosemite, duh), and Idaho (City of Rocks).  I could spend an eternity talking about this trip, and probably should at some point.  This was the defining experience of my life thus far; it is when I found my confidence, it is when I learned about friendship and adulthood and dumpster diving, it is when I tore the ligaments in my wrist that kept me at UGA for grad school.

I returned to UGA for my senior year (wait! that’s only 3 years!…), and moved into an apartment for the first time, with my good friend Turboslut.  Now, I didn’t yet realize she was a turboslut, and in fact, hadn’t yet coined the term (I maintain that is my neologism, and every time I say it I get a particularly naughty visual likening a woman’s naughty bits to a mariokart driver going over one of those turbo strips…  You’re welcome!).  I spent the first 6 months or so essentially having the apartment to myself, as Turbo was in a serious relationship and spent all her time with her boyfriend.  She would come home occasionally to make a giant mess in the kitchen, and then be gone long enough for the fruit flies to come.  This is, obviously, where I perfect my passive aggressive note leaving abilities.  One gem included a delightful comic strip describing what happens when you leave a stack of cardboard in a thoroughfare, with a stick figure biting it hard on the way to the bathroom.  Once Turbo was single though, the tables turned.  And by that I mean she slept with more men than I currently know.  I frequently came home only to be greeted by a sex scene right out of a porno, her felating some guy on the couch in front of the front door, or sounds resounding from her bedroom that I’ve only ever heard issuing from a Jenna Jameson flick.  It was delightful.  They never even paused to acknowledge how icky they were being as I entered the room.

Shortly after all my close friends had worked out their living situations for the following year, I decided it would be a grand idea to attend grad school at UGA and set about finding a place to call home.  I ended up finding a roommate on Craigslist, and spent a year on the north side of town off Boulevard.  This is a quaint, hipster area with cute ramshackle houses and townies in tight jeans with adorable wild-haired children. I lived in a small shotgun house near the railroad tracks with a girl we’ll call Who Cares.  Which is to say, we never really connected.  We had a couple of heart to hearts about how she was an incorrigible cheater looking for love, and how my boyfriend-at-the-time (let’s call him Fester) may or may not have been good enough for me (the answer, it turns out, was a resounding NOoNononono No).  Highlights of this year included watching my cat, Pumpking, and her dog, Mac, pretend each other did not exist.  Also delightful was the fact that my bed only fit one way in my tiny room, and that was up against a poorly fitted and forever shut door.  Directly on the other side of that door was the living room couch.  This was, in a word, awkward.

From there, I moved into Fester’s house (he and his roommates were vacating the place), with three close friends Caro, Monty, and Clorox.  The house was on one of the seedier, townier sides of our downtown area, in close proximity to bars and shops and food galore.  This was the year of the great depression, as I found myself with a very bad, terrible, no good advisor after my first year of grad school, and a very bad, terrible, no good boyfriend to boot.  I remember the night Monty moved in – she was sleeping on a mattress in the living room that night – and Fester was out with all his friends.  He stumbled home – to the wrong home, as he had moved days before – to our front porch, and yelled for me until I came down.  He then proceeded to puke all over me and our front porch, and raise hell, and make an ass of himself, and scare me half to death, before I could locate his (noisy, boisterous, douchebaggy) friends to take him home.  This was after I found out he’d been cheating on me, among other things.  So, obviously, I waited 6 more months to break up with him.  I can only plead Stockholm syndrome at this point, for both the boyfriend and the advisor.  The latter relationship culminated in me getting a clipboard thrown at my head, after which I got a new advisor.  Anyways, despite all that, I did have some fun that year – I was finally of drinking age, and I spent a good bit of time exercising that right (I never had to worry about getting a ride home! It was so easy!).  When I wasn’t getting soused downtown, we roomies spent much time harassing drunken tailgaters from our porch (candy corn projectiles!), listing to Clorox’s stories of the rampant gay experimentation occurring in the nearby fraternity, and helping Caro sand down her art projects, including this one: Sally the Nekkid Lamp Lady .  This was the year my kitty cat died of cancer, a few days after somehow catching a bird from the porch of our second floor apartment and depositing it by my usual seat.  It was also the year I snapped out of a lot of crap (grad school, bad boyfriend, not exercising) and started playing frisbee.

Rather than stay in that house with my darling Caro, I skedaddled to an apartment in the Boulevard area with my other favorite, Swilson.  I was not in love with our apartment, but I was very glad to live anywhere with her.  I adopted a parking lot kitten, only to find out he was a malnourished three year old later on.  Dragon eventually became Swilson’s, as I was far too busy that year to be a proper cat owner.  I played frisbee like a fiend, and consciously implanted myself into the frisbee community, constantly going to parties and whatnot.  The previous several years had left me without a decent community of people, after I stopped climbing and dated Fester for waaaay too long.  I spent very little time at the apartment, between traveling to tournaments every weekend and sleeping on friends’ couches after having too many drinks (I won’t drive for hours and hours after even one or two).  The first half of the year, I pretended I was an undergrad, phoning it in at work and partying most nights and weekends.  Then, I started dating husband, and it was wonderful.  But – I spent even less time at the apartment, because he was a night owl and had nothing to do there.  I slept at his downtown loft so often that it gets its own paragraph…

Husband’s apartment was located a couple floors above a bar that was known for its loud dance music and underage clientelle.  You could feel the bass all night, but it didn’t bother us too much.  His apartment was a loft – basically a single huge room with a very high ceiling.  Four boys lived there, knew each other through playing poker.  The bedrooms were literally little boxes attached to the walls, the size of a bed and perhaps 4 feet tall.  You got to them using ladders.  They had a poker table like you would see at a casino, two couches, and perhaps 6 televisions.  The televisions were like bizarro nesting dolls – they had at least one each of a 17″, 27″, 37″, 47″, and 57″.  They had every video game thingy known to man.  It was a bachelor pad to the nth degree.  I actually really enjoyed hanging out there – lots of good natured shit giving, restaurant food, Planet Earth in HD, cave dwelling.  It was probably the closest I will ever come to being a fly on the wall in a metaphorical boys’ locker room.  Educational, to say the least – they really aren’t talking about boobs or sex most of the time, whatdya know…

I’m stopping there, because it’s gotten too long again.

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