caro thinks

Physical Things, 2001/07/17:17:22

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New topics today. It's time to keep closer tabs on my food, supplements, exercise, and health, because things have changed and new information is coming into view. And I don't have time to write notecards in longhand right now; I need the advantage of rapid-fire typing of thought fragments that can be sorted later. I'll just keep the journal open as I work on other things.
now in bloom on my patio
Ah, finally, flower buds cover the nightblooming jasmine. I'm growing my specimen as a little tree, which is about 6 feet tall. The hybrid tea rose "Tropicana" has produce one blossom after a few weeks of green growth. It has five buds on the way. Fuchsias "Baby Blue Eyes", "First Love", "Silver Queen", "Golden Marinka", "White Pixie", "Southgate" and, of course, the relentless "Jingle Bells" are all in full bloom among the big silky purple flowers of the tibouchina. Fuchsias "Dark Eyes", "Nici's Findling", "Guinevere", and "Winston Churchill" are about half-covered in blossoms. Gardenia "Radicans" is blooming steadily, "Veitchi" is just beginning a second round. At the moment, Brugmansia x Candida "Plena" has six open blossoms, 4 more to open at nightfall. It looks like bougainvillea "Raspberry Ice" will finally get out from under the mite plague, nice and bushy and starting to get its variegation back.
Objectivists have this weird problem with empiricism. They seem to think that if they haven't observed a phenomenon with their naked eye, it would be irrational to believe that it exists, and anyone who says that it has an effect is irrational. This is why my house guests always give me so much grief about my house rules. They simply do not seem to be able to comprehend that something they can't see and that doesn't bother them could affect my health. The source of an allergic reaction is not only hard to track down, it is usually difficult to remove. The most easily recognized case of such a phenomenon is urushiol, the human-skin-irritant in plants like poison ivy. Once that oil is on you or your tools or your clothing, it's there. You can't see it, it is very difficult to remove, and it remains actively irritating for years unless it is thoroughly cleaned and denatured. This is an extreme case, and one that most people suffer from at least once in their lives; but in my case, there are lots of substances that are like this, and causality plainly requires me to be extra careful. My house could very quickly fill up with cat dander, mold, feathers, and other people's dust mites, and I'd never know why I was sick, where it came from, and what needed to be cleaned. Easier to cut it off at the source. People who have chronic illnesses are generally much more sympathetic and cooperative: they haven't seen the allergens that allegedly ruin my health either, but they know that there are such things in reality. Well people prefer to imagine that I've made it all up, that my precautions are about as useful and necessary as a psychic reading.

I'm trying hard to understand why this disconnection persists, even after seeing me in various states of environmental illness, in people who are allegedly devoted to reality, identity, and causality, and who are always talking about how wonderful science is.
The big news is that the mysterious rash cleared up for a few hours almost without a trace. The rash hit me suddenly right after Liz left, which makes it a month now. The only areas not affected are my face, neck, and chest. My whole body is swollen and the patches of recognizable rash are whitish. It's thoroughly systemic, as evidenced by the fact that the patches are infuriatingly symmetrically distributed. The itch is excrutiating and all-consuming. I feel as though I am one gigantic, oozing scab, and that my highest moral purpose is to scratch the scab completely off. Even the insides of my lungs have a scabby feel. There are some actual scabby patches that bleed, but mostly it's just lumpy swelling. Yesterday, I eschewed the low-waisted tights and the high-waisted top because two of the most hideous patches are right at my waist, and went completely covered. I think this was actually a good thing, because the tight, wet covering may have forced more of the steroids into my skin, as recommended on one of the web pages I read (the web page said to apply steroids and cover with plastic wrap!). When I got home from the gym, most of the signs of the rash were just gone without a trace. That was surprising, since previous trips to the gym had seemed to aggravate the rash; but at those times I think I was only wearing antihistimine gel.

Still testing the new allergy treatments, but I'm more and more convinced that they are working. Best bet is to head straight for the supplements before the morning shower. My nutrition book says to take 500mg quercetin and 500mg bromelain 20 minutes before meals; since it says quercetin works best with sugar, I add a piece of candy. By the time I get out of the shower my congestion is clearing up. Most remarkable is that the swelling and itching of this mysterious rash fades quite a bit, this morning to the extent that I could barely see where to put the cortizone and antihistimines. But if I don't use them it will slam me. So I guess. Then I cover all my skin with a nice coating of Vaseline petroleum jelly: no allergens in there, and hopefully it provides a vehicle that promotes absorption of the cortizone.

Later, with breakfast, I take all my usual vitamins, plus some extra calcium/magnesium; I've added ginseng as an antihistimine; and green tea extract and grape seed extract, which are supposed to provide long-term immune system support. I was pretty desperate when I ran out with my magazine to buy all this stuff, and I'm not compeltely certain which supplement is the most useful. My doctor had prescribed Flonase to clear my rock-solid head, but it made so little difference that I stopped after the first bottle and got the nutritional supplements instead. These cleared up my month-long congestion in two days flat, and it hasn't been back. That's a pretty good piece of evidence, but still could be coincidence.

Again before dinner, I do the bromelain/quercetin/sugar routine. I tried it without the sugar, since I don't EVER eat sugar on an empty stomach; but the sugar seems to be key. Using the method of difference, I'm leaning toward the bromelain/quercetin/sugar combination as the most efficient source of relief. My luck, they are both highly poisonous. Oh, well; at least, when I die, my last words won't be a nasally, "Quick, get me a tissue!" as I sneeze out my soul for its last out-of-body excursion.

The nutritional supplements seem to work more quickly and more dramatically than my usual chlorpheniramine maleate. I'm wondering if the diphenhydramine, which I only take at night, has been aggravating the rash; I know it aggravates my cough. My nextdoor neighbor Rosey has been commenting that she can hear me. I only take the pseudoephedrine occasionally now, because I wanting to eliminate it as a rash-causing factor.

Lots happened in the last two months that might have brought the rash on. I was attacked by ants, which raises itchy welts. I trimmed and played with the bougainvillea a lot when they replaced the pergola, and I react to the sap. I have a new plant, Brugmansia x candida "Plena", which is poisonous if eaten though it is not reputed to cause contact dermatitis; however, it does cause skin mottling and bruising in the sun if ingested, and my rashes are turning into bruises. Nevertheless, I get no localized reactions to it. I made a diningroom table out of my futon, and the wood isn't finished; I think it's pine. I changed laundry detergents, but I thought Armand Hammer was supposed to be less allergenic than All, not more. I repotted some indoor plants with sphagnum peat moss, which I've now mulched over with orchid bark to prevent it fluffing into the air. I've had several guests in the house but I was pretty strict with them. Those are the only things that I can suspect.

The itching and coughing have been keeping me awake long into the night, which means I sleep late. This isn't good for my allergic symptoms generally, I know, but I don't seem to be able to do anything about it. If I take diphenhydramine to make myself sleepy, it makes the cough drier and more harsh, which only keeps me awake. I've tried working out harder to make myself tired, but I just lie awake extra tired.

Saturday night I tried tequila to see if would help the rash. You never know. I've had good results sometimes when I drank to kill a throat infection. But this time I don't think it helped. Friday night I tried soaking in a warm bath with two cups of baking soda added. I don't think it did any more good than plain water usually does. Friday day I tried spending time in the surf, then not washing the salt water off. That was definitely not a good idea.
According to my theory of propositions, meaning is not in linguistic entities, and so it is not in books.

If this is the case, then artifacts are not in and of themselves pornography. There must be someone who looks at it and interprets it as erotic. There must be someone who eroticizes.

This explains why a piece that might be considered important, sophisticated art by one person is just something to masterbate to, for another. It explains how ordinary objects and events like keys fitting into keyholes and trains going into tunnels can stimulate someone to think about sex.

This is good news for libertarians, and bad news for the religious right.
The single most important factor in reducing my symptoms, which are usually worst in my knees, is heavy lifting on the universal leg press. When my symptoms get really bad, I add a low cable pull, where I wrap the cable around my instep, use a small weight, and point my toe ballet-style as I lift. Pushups have made a huge, sudden difference in the condition of my shoulders. Drugs have never done any good so I don't take them.

Just realized today that I've been feeling really good for weeks. No shoulder pain at all. Knees are stiff sometimes after running. The last real attack of sleep-disturbing pain was February. There was some bad neck stiffness a few weeks ago that kept me out of the gym, but I think I did that to myself doing shoulder shrugs at 110 pounds after a long break; took the shrugs back down to 90. I increased my calcium/magnesium dosage by 1000/500 mgs this winter to try to help with allergies, and this may be why my joints are doing better. Now I'm taking about 2500mg per day.

Reason Number Thirteen to Live in La Jolla


It's 2:00pm Tuesday. No clouds, stiff, whirly, fresh breeze. A hummingbird has installed itself for the moment on a bougainvillea branch above my head. The fuchsias are blooming madly in dappled sunlight. It's 73 degrees. Did I mention that it's JULY?

Yesterday I was reminiscing about Baltimore with Gail, who is from New York. We were exchanging stories about what we used to do to keep cool. My mother owned a two-story brick row house in an endless sea of row houses and tar streets. There were some trees in the streets, but it wasn't just being in the city that made it hot. It's just plain hot there. When we first moved there, there was a full kitchen in the basement and one on the top floor. We rented out the top floor as an apartment and lived in the basement and first floor. The kitchen floor was wood, raised one inch off the ground, and covered with linoleum. The other room in the basement, which housed the furnace, oil tank, washing machine, my sister's sewing machine and work area, had some sort of composite stone tile laid directly on the earth. We didn't have any air conditioning--not even a fan. So when 100-degree heat and 100%, unraining humidity of July in Balitimore City threatened to kill me, I'd go into this room, lift my hair off my neck, and flatten my sweaty body against the cold stone floor. I had to move around every few minutes because my body would heat up a girl-shaped portion of the floor. I can remember all this, but it's so hard to remember just how incredibly horrible it was. I grew up there, but somehow, unlike my companions, never got used to the heat. Bob Turk, the local weather man, would always herald the passing of a cloud with great anguish and apologies to his audience. Said I, "Why does he want it to be sunny, when it's over 100 degrees in the shade?" Replied Janice: "Because Bob Turk has a pool."

I prayed for rain and longed for winter; on a gray or stormy day, when everyone else was moping around because human beings aren't supposed to like gray weather, I was bouncing off the walls, so happy to have some relief from the awful yellowness that to me meant miserable heat. I never dreamed that there could be a magical place where the sun could shine, the sky could be blue, and yet my strength and will to live would not be completely sapped.

I occasionally heard that the movie industry is in Southern California because it's sunny all the time, and I found that appalling: how could the actors wear makeup and costumes out in the nasty sunshine? Who would want to live in such a place? And though I've been here for four years now, I wake up every morning after cuddling in a thick quilt all night, surprised that it's perfect again.
Gray and silver cars are being pushed hard this year, and I've begun to see the new models on the road. They're predominantly gray or silver. Gray and silver cars, even when clean, are about the same color as the road, which was one reason I chose a bright sparkly blue when I repainted my silver MR2. So I predict that this year will see a sharp upturn in the number of road accidents, and that the reason given for broadsiding someone's car will be "I didn't see it!" because they really didn't see it. Within three years, a law will be passed requiring all silver passenger vehicles to paste yellow reflective tape all around the body, unless reflective racing stripes have been factory-installed. Racing stripes will come back in vogue, and gray SUV's will be the new life blood of custom van scenery-painting shops.
Hit-and-run meeting with a boy on the beach. The boy was about 10, maybe 12, certainly he had reached the age of reason. He was wearing a wet suit, and was paddling in the water on a boogie board. The water was about up to my waist. There were others in the water, but I was in a large clearing, hunting for sharks. The boy suddenly saw me walking through the waves, and he turned and paddled directly toward me with an eager look on his face. I stopped to see what he wanted; sometimes kids at the beach give me useful information, such as where they just saw a clump of sharks. Without introduction of any kind, in the lilting tones of a child bragging about an accomplishment:

"Those WAVES are 20 feet HIGH!"

I scanned the horizon. "What waves?"

"Those out THERE! They're 20 FEET!"

I looked out to the breakers, which were about 5 feet at the most, and back at the boy, who was about 5 feet at the most. The surf report had said they'd be as much as 6 feet today. The look on his face was unmistakable: it was hope.

"Really. Those waves right there?"


I was curious, and even I have a hard time crushing someone's fantasy when the someone is so young. So I decided to start a friendly conversation instead, and crushed him anyway.

"Really? How do you know?" I asked, fully expecting him to answer me, if only by deliriously describing some absurd measurement procedure.

The boy got that far-away look that kids in tv commercials always get when they are repeating clever quips that they don't understand. Then he glanced down into the water, his head falling a little. Much more quietly, lilt-free, slightly pouty, he said,

"They're 20 feet."

And he began paddling toward them as though the encounter hadn't happened. The waves are 20 feet high, and I never saw that woman in my life. What woman?
body building
I read a few weeks ago in a free health publication that there's a new diet being recommended for weight loss, and the diet is supposed to be modeled on the programs followed by professional athletes. The recommendation is 2 weeks of eating lots of calories, and 2 weeks of taking in below-normal amounts.

At first I thought this was insane. That's like a binge-purge cycle, and while some athletes whose weight is regulated (wrestlers, for example) may use this method to make contest limits, it's not good to eat inconsistently.

Now I'm not so sure. I think I might eat like this naturally. For example, I just went through a cycle during which, as I wrote to Tom, I just couldn't eat enough and lay awake wondering whether I should go down and eat just one more thing and then fell asleep planning the next day's meals; and then after about 2 weeks of that, I felt sick of food and just thinking about making dinner made me tired. So I'm going to start keeping records of what I've eaten and how much I've worked out.

Monday (yesterday):
Breakfast: 3 eggs, 2 ounces turkey ham, 1.5 cups strawberries, .5 cup full-fat yogurt, 2 slices of high-protein yellow cake, 3 cups of jasmine green tea.
Lunch: two slices of hi-protein pear hazelnut bread with liverwurst.
Rode to the gym, a faster-than-normal ride, 30 minutes; and weighed in (142 electronic, 145 mechanical). It was leg day. Had to work in with some guys on the leg press, so I started with one set of 315. Three more sets at 405, 495, and 585. The last set was a real strain, because I hadn't completely digested lunch yet: liverwurst is not a good pre-workout meal. One set on the hip adductor at 150, couldn't get a turn in on the abductor, gave up and did one set on the leg curl at 57 positive /78 negative. Then it was class time.
Difficult step class, but the air conditioning was working. A little too much twirling for my knees, plus I'd hyperextended once on the leg press. I'm surprised it doesn't hurt today.
Dinner: I was not hungry when I got back, still full from lunch! So I waited a couple of hours, then concocted a cream of mushroom, chicken, noodle, and pea soup and had a bowl of chocolate pudding.

Breakfast: Two eggs, one ounce turkey ham, 1 cup strawberries, two slices of yellow cake, .25 cup yogurt.
Lunch: Not hungry.
Dinner: Still not hungry, so I'll eat what I feel interested in. I feel interested in fettucini alfredo with imitation crab and a big bitter green salad of arugula, dandelion, parsely, radiccio, avocado, and bacon bits.

Muscles are in some pain but not much. Still, I didn't want to run today. Really, Monday's should be upper body day, Wednesday should be leg day. I just sort of lost my mind when I got to the gym.
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