Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Random Fact about Me #5

I really sort of like ironing, in small doses and at reasonably spaced intervals. Every few weeks I set my ironing board up in my living room, put a movie in the dvd player, and iron any recently washed items that might need pressing. It's not hard labor and the results are satisfying and useful: nice, crisp clothes!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Random Fact about Me #4

I eat whatever I want for breakfast, whenever I am so moved (one of the benefits of not having to be at work until after noon), including chocolate cake with fudge sauce or a grilled cheese sandwich. Today I had leftover blueberry crumble. Yesterday I developed a hankering for black beans and rice, so I whipped up a batch, at 9:30 in the morning.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Boob Job

I just had a mammogram--the second of my life. I understand that the procedure is necessary, an important screening tool for a deadly disease, but good god, it's weird! There's something about having your breast tissue pulled away from the wall of your chest and squeezed between slabs of plastic that just somehow makes them not breasts anymore: while you're standing there holding your breath so the technician can x-ray those things on your chest, those things on your chest are well and truly boobs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Shy Bald Buddhist

Just as Mellowlee predicted in the comments to my post about my freak dancing accident, I have bursitis in my hip, a nasty but temporary inflamation of the bursa. What's a bursa, you're asking? Well, it's this little pad of fat that sits over your hip joint and protects the muscles in and around your hip--if the bursa wasn't there, by the time you were 25, the friction of bone against muscle every time you took a step would have sawn every last muscle around that joint right in two, and we'd all be crippled.

Doctors and such don't know why something can upset and inflame a bursa, but sometimes something does. And when a bursa gets upset, it can get REALLY freakin' upset.

Yesterday, after reading a few blogs and commenting here, I went to eat breakfast. I was suffering simultaneously from great hunger and a lack of appetite: my stomach was as empty as a promise from George Bush, but all I felt when I thought of eating most things was mild revulsion. I finally made a bowl of oatmeal but could hardly choke it down. I thought, "What's going on? I don't have food poisoning again. I didn't drink last night, so I'm not hung over. What's wrong?" And at that point I realized that I was nauseated by pain. And I decided that if something hurt badly enough to prevent me from eating, I might want to discuss the matter with a medical professional. So I called my doctor's office, spoke to a nurse who scheduled me an appointment a few hours later, and then I burst into tears.

People whose jobs involve hurting me--massage therapists, orthodontists, etc--have often commented on how remarkably high is my tolerance for pain. Although I was not stoic enough to satisfy my mother, I was still more stoic than most other kids. I am really good at telling myself that although something is so painful it's darn near debilitating, the solution is to just buck up and bear it. Unless a particular pain A) is completely mysterious in origin or B) seems to indicate some acute condition with far-reaching consequences (say, for instance, that I had pain and tingling down my left arm and thought I might be getting ready to have a heart attack) or C), is, to quote "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before" by the Smiths, "enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder," I usually try to live with it, especially if I know it will pass if I just wait long enough.

But there are times when I am forced to relinquish my stoicism and admit that something hurts too much even for me, and that I am scared. There's this book I keep trying to read but have never managed to finish, called The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry–it's all about torture and pain and the way that pain "unmakes" us. (I've never finished it because it just upsets me too much. Reading accounts of other people's pain sometimes bothers me more than experiencing my own pain, because I can do things to manage my own pain, and I know it rather than imagine it. There's a purity to how I experience it that doesn't happen when I read about someone else in pain: when I read about or watch a movie in which someone is in agony, I sort of feel it in my own body, but I feel it outside of my body too. I don't quite know how to explain it. But it's why I can't watch slasher movies and the like.) Being sick, being in pain, brings you right back into your body and reminds you how much your body IS you, not something separate from your consciousness or soul. It's an interesting moment.

This is not at all the post I intended to write. I was mostly just going to say that the doctor figured I had bursitis, and prescribed x-rays, physical therapy and lots of ibuprofen. I was also going to say that I was lucky enough to walk into the physical therapist's office (he's right next door to the doctor) at just the moment when he'd had a cancellation, so he did some diagnostic stuff, then gave me some very simple exercises to help heal the injury, and hooked me up to some machine that stimulated my muscles so they'd expel liquid and regenerate more quickly etc etc–it was uncomfortable but as I say I'm stoic and the one kind of pain I always make myself endure is the therapeutic kind.

And I'm much better today. That's the main thing I was going to say.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hippy Hippy Shake

I used to know this guy who injured himself in what I mockingly termed "a freak standing accident." He was just standing there, then he shifted his weight, and then he both felt and heard a big POP in his hip joint, and then his hip was fucked up for, like, a long time.


Friday night I went to a party featuring lots of alcohol and 80s dance music, one of my favorite combinations. (It was billed as a Bastille Day party, but no one stormed anything and no revolution took place.) I was the first person to start dancing, and as is my wont, I danced with enthusiasm and much tossing of the head and shaking of the hips. (I did not do a solo interpretive dance to "Bohemian Rhapsody," but that was only because they didn't have the song.) But there was a point where I both felt and heard a big POP in my left hip, and then I felt some pain, but I kept dancing, soldiering on as any dedicated dancer would, even though I limped later in the evening.

The next day I had a killer hangover, which was bad enough, but as for my hip--how shall I say this--well, it REALLY FUCKING HURT. Walking was extremely painful, and I did it so ungracefully that I felt I should have a cane in one hand and a tube of Ben-Gay in the other. If I lay on my back or stood perfectly still, the pain lessened somewhat, but I wouldn't say either position was exactly comfortable.

I became convinced I tore a tendon or ligament or some such thing, which really surprises me, because I have danced for 42 years without injury. (And no, I didn't go to the doctor, because I know what doctors tell you to do with injuries like that: they tell you to stay off them. It's like when I broke a rib and went to the emergency room and the doctor said, "Oh, you broke a rib; try not to put any strain on it and it will heal in a month or two." Thanks, Doc!) I finally started icing the whole area and that seemed to help--I still limp today, but I don't look quite so much like an elderly woman with really great fashion sense and good hair. Also I can stand all the way up without wincing. But having injured my hip in a freak dancing accident, I will never again mock someone who injured his hip in a freak standing accident. I guess those little balls and sockets take a lot of pressure, and sometimes, they just give.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Random Fact about Me #3

I am often reluctant to count my chickens even AFTER they've hatched. Let them molt their down, leave off being cute, delicate chicks and become sturdy, stupid, serviceable layers of eggs, and THEN I'll count them. Only then.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wind and Water

My stint as a missionary for the Mormon church in Taiwan was--that's right!--among the most miserable 18 months of my life, but it did clarify a few valuable things for me:

1. The Mormon church is not, as it claims, "the only true and living church on the face of the earth"--more accurately, it's a load of horse shit

2. How to eat a pork chop with chopsticks

3. How to pronounce feng shui

I've been thinking about pronunciation of Chinese words lately, because I just read a book with a lot of references to Chinese places, people and ideas, most of which were romanized in Pinyin, the system used on the Mainland and not the system I learned. I learned to speak Mandarin via the Yale system of Romanization, which was designed by Americans to help other Americans learn to speak Mandarin, and is most effective at that task.

When westerners study oral Chinese, the most important thing they must learn is a consistent system for how to pronoun Chinese words in whatever dialect they are going to speak--written Chinese differs only slightly from place to place (Taiwan and the Mainland might occasionally use different vocabulary words, just as England the US do), but variations in pronunciation can be huge--Mandarin (the official language of the Mainland and Taiwan) sounds very different from Cantonese (which is spoken in Hong Kong).

I don't know much about systems for teaching spoken Cantonese, but as far as Mandarin goes, there are several such systems, and some of them are really goofy, the goofiest being Wade-Giles, the system by which Beijing was rendered Peking and Mao Ze Dong became Mao Tse Tung (or, as I would have rendered it in Yale, Mau Dz Dung) and dofu (which means, remarkbly enough, "soy bean curd") became tofu. Chiang Kai Shek, by the way, is a cantonese romanization, one of the few normalized in American usage--the guy himself spoke Mandarin, and would have said his name something more like Jyang Jye Shr.

But all of that is pretty esoteric and arcane, and not truly central to my project, which is to explain how to pronounce feng shui.

Feng shui, in case you don't know, is a mystical approach to architecture and decorating, and stresses that the elements of a space must be in harmony, or the well being of people who hang out there will be endangered. The character transliterated as feng means wind, and the character transliterated as shui means water.

I can live with all kinds of Mandarin mispronunciations that have been standardized into American usage--I used to say "dofu" instead of "tofu," because I never liked dofu when I thought of it as tofu, but I've quit bothering--it's just too fastidious a distinction for most people, and they don't know what I'm talking about.

But feng shui--oh, the ways people mangle that word drive me nuts! It's not "fung shwee"! It's not "fung shoo-ey"!

In Yale, it is romanized feng shwei, which is clearer I think than feng shui but still not ideal for explaining how to say it. So I'll try something else: The vowel is in "feng" is pretty close to the vowel in "phone"--just say "phone" and end it with a dipthong. The vowel in "shui" is a plain old long A, as in "hay." The consonant group is the same as in "Schwinn."

So the clearest way I can think of to romanize feng shui is fong schway. Say it with me, people: fong schway! And correct anyone you hear who says it wrong!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Random Fact about Me #2

I hate the way an unmade bed makes an entire room look messy, and I make my bed every single morning, very shortly after I get out of it.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Random Fact about Me #1

I HATE thongs, of both the shoe and the underwear ilk. I don't like little straps of leather riding between my toes, and I don't like little straps of fabric riding up my ass. Men defend the thong to me as sexy, and women defend it as the best way to avoid panty lines. Wrong: the best way to avoid panty lines is to forego panties.