December 2010 Archives


There must be magic in African Mango extract, if you believe all you see on the internet.

Of course, believing all you see on the internet is grounds for commitment to psychiatric treatment in some jurisdictions – or at least, it should be.

This is not the first weight loss “marvel” I have seen for sale on the internet. However, it is the first one that claims to be endorsed by Dr. Mehmet Oz. Read more on Magic Mangos from Oz (Dr. Oz that is)…

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I can’t believe that my dear husband, who suffers from “crowd-o-phobia” actually took me shopping on Black Friday.  It just proves that nobody is immune to a good sale.

Pittsburgh, whence comes this Black Friday article, is really no different from anywhere else in these United States. I remember when growing up, my brother of blessed memory and myself were told by our parents that the Friday after Thanksgiving was simply a strange ritual in which Christians had some sort of mob-fever, and if we stood out of downtown Boston and the bigger shopping centers, as a family, probably nobody would get hurt. Now, shopping seems to have a fervor previously reserved only for religion.  I think this year is the first time I ever heard the term “Black Friday” which I think is a perverse one and sounds rather too goth for my taste. Rest assured that people have spent a lot of money on the study of applied psychology of what makes people buy things.  After all, people who sell things for a living have a highly vested interest, even though I have heard of nothing but enormous margins in retail sales, and this article insists they are small. Read more on Shopping And Gifting — A Substitute For Sex?…

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How strange that 46 years later, I should be thinking of a geography teacher in school; one I didn’t particularly like. A “Miss,” a spinster, a maiden lady as polite society said in those days. I remember how my father of blessed memory would explain the pathology of any woman of a certain age who had not married.  I know now how inaccurate his inferences were, but I was convinced even then that I would be in some kind of trouble at some point, because I might not be the kind of person men wanted to marry.

Miss. G. taught us what she said would be one of the most important concepts of our young lives. We were in suburban Boston, and she had migrated up from the South, the Atlanta, Georgia region, with an accent that did not exactly engender trust in nice Massachusetts girls.

She said the most important thing to learn in geography class was not geography. Countries would change quickly, climates would change less quickly, but we had to learn to think. Read more on The Nature Of Definitions…

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Mostly everyone who knows me knows I love performance of “funny” things, had a brief run as a stand-up comic, all of that.  But once when I told one of the nurses who I had been working with that I wanted to learn more about “clowning” — meaning classic clowning, costume, makeup, like at the circus — it was plain from her facial reaction that I had struck terror into her. She stammered, “I hope you are not going to do any of that stuff here. I am really scared of clowns.  I ran away from one when I was little and clowns still make me really uncomfortable.” Of course I told her I would not do anything that could scare her. I have to admit this affliction was unknown to me in the world of psychiatry.  I guess it just isn’t anything anybody would come in and request treatment for, at least not yet.  I suppose they would just avoid circuses.

They call it coulrophobia, and it is allegedly ranked among the top ten most common specific phobias by somebody, although I certainly could not find it in any such list.  I have never seen a patient who came in with this one as the chief complaint, which means people probably see some kind of non-medication prescribing health professional if they see anyone at all.  I mean you can find people on the street or among your friends who are uncomfortable around something — fear of spiders or fear of open spaces. Those are far more likely to be in the top ten.
Read more on Fear of Clowns…

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Okay, so nobody has done whatever kind of research they need to do to figure out why fatty diets work so well at controlling epilepsy.  But it works, and it seems safe, and it seems to be saving lives by inductive reasoning; watching and gathering data.  So let’s do it when and where we can. People have a hard time believing that food can serve as medication. Maybe they would have an easier time believing it if they believed how much fat there is in a brain. One of my earliest comedy bits, when I was just beginning to read about the brain, was trying to convince people that “fathead” was the world’s greatest compliment.

It is generally estimated that about 2/3 of the average human brain is made of fat. Read more on High Fat Diets To Treat Epilepsy…

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I usually avoid the gossip pages — and granted, the Kardashians are celebrities who are famous mostly for having no discernable reason to be famous.  But one of the deepest, darkest secrets revealed in their new book is that one of the sisters (no, I am not going to make the slightest effort to notice which) was seriously concerned about the size of her, uh, derriere, until she became friendly with Jennifer Lopez.

Ms. Lopez – nickname “J.Lo” — is a celebrity judge on “American Idol” and actually has some talent and has made numerous movies and hit recordings.  She is also reportedly afflicted with an abundant bottom, about which she and the Kardashian person commiserated.

Not that I care if her gluteus maximus is convex or concave, but the story reminded me of a patient who came to me and lamented, “I have a bubble butt.” Read more on Kardashians, J-Lo and Condoleezza — Baby Got Back…

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My husband told me something that I thought was a joke, but he convinced me it was serious.

During “drive-time” he heard an advertisement for a medical marijuana dispensary on the radio.  Among the many conditions it promoted marijuana as helping was eating disorders.

My thoughts went immediately to stoners with the midnight munchies making an emergency run to 7-11 for Cheetos or the late-night drive through at Burger King. Read more on Standardizing and Regulating Medical Marijuana — Who Are We Doing It For?…

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We have chosen collectively, as a society, to use the year-end holidays to mark the passage of our years.  This means that both memories and emotions seem to pour out of the heavens and clobber us all. None of us has had, to my knowledge, a Thanksgiving that looked anything like the Norman Rockwell painting of everyone sitting at the table being fed by a loving grandmother — a reality that has been soundly parodied.

Despite efforts at legislating “political correctness”, there are plenty of people who are not Christian suffering through Christmas — especially those with children who watch television and assimilate its methods. When I was very young and going to a Jewish religious school, the intensity of the group identity made it easy, even though there were several group activities my parents did not let me participate in. They were mostly the Sabbath-oriented ones, as we drove in cars and turned on lights and did other things the very Orthodox, who ran the place, did not do. It was clear even to a very young psyche, that Chanukah was a warm and light-filled time, with special games and special treats and special songs and special joys. Read more on Christmas For Religious Minorities…

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It does not matter what country they were from. The father got into the system when his 19 year old son went stark raving looney bonkers and started destroying the homestead. Luckily it was an apartment in an urban setting, or I don’t think anyone else would have known about it. There was one older child who had already flown the coop, one wife who had died because the strain of leaving the old country had been too much. I had a feeling she had also gotten raped or something, but that was father’s post-traumatic stress disorder if anything. I told him to come back for himself, but I never saw him again. He swore on a stack of bibles that his son did not use drugs.  He said nobody had ever explained to him what was wrong with his son. At least no way he could understand and explain back to me.

For an American the solution would have been a support group, like the Alliance for the Mentally Ill. They lived in a rural area, though, and I did not know if the local chapter had anybody who spoke his language.  There is no way the patient could have handled that – and probably not the father, either. Read more on You Can’t Pick And Choose Which Medicines You Want…

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A senior woman scientist once told me that when she came of age in the 50s, women who wanted to look younger or who wanted softer skin could only choose lanolin compounds.  Lanolin — that stuff on sheep wool that makes your hands feel smooth after you have been — well, petting living sheep if you are the kind of person who gets to do that.

Disney's Minnie Mouse Halloween Package

Minnie Mouse Makeup

There have been lots of advances since then.  I do remember at least once, long ago, being shopping with a woman physician who had an interest in such products. In France, of course. Any docs I know here in the states are usually so submerged in the system, so overworked, that they are lucky if they have time to wash their faces. But back to France.  It was clear to me from her shopping habits that this woman, a distinguished scientific researcher, suspended her level of requirements for “good science” when she bought beauty preparations.

There was a good reason for this. There wasn’t any.

Oh, I had worked with her in medical school putting eye shadow on mice. Now although that may sound a bit bizarre, I must tell you that this was research.

Through a deal which I doubt anyone other than my glamorous professor could have put together, we got a contract to test cosmetics to make sure they were safe before the government would let them be put on the general market. Read more on Putting Beauty Treatments To The Test…

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