Health Update: How Many Ways Can My Body Fail?

I saw my old knee surgeon yesterday regarding my right knee pain. It has been getting better since last week, but I thought it prudent to get it checked out anyway. My x-rays revealed that everything is fine. I actually have TWO screws in each knee and they look really cool on an X-ray! My doc thinks that I just bruised the area around the screw and that I should be totally fine in a couple of days. He also said I should probably pay special attention to strengthening the muscles around my knee by doing daily isobaric exercises. Noted. He was kind of tripped out about how long is had been since I'd seen him (7 years) and how “grown up” I'd become. I'm assuming, by “grown up”, he means “old”, because, at 21, I was already technically a grown-up when we met.

Regarding my IBS, things are back to normal. And by normal, I mean, fucked up. The possibility that I have some sort of food allergy seems more likely. I will scrape together $400 and give the hippies a try. I DO plan to ask if the test results ever come out negative for food allergies. I'm not going to call to make an appointment until I get back from SXSW, though. I want to enjoy the free beer and tacos, guilt free and then find out if I'm allergic to gluten or yeast or dairy or some other delicious thing.

I know I've been slacking on the weekend recaps. To those who care, sorry. I have several interesting weekends coming up, though, including Lebowski Fest and a Cartoon Themed birthday party (not to mention, SXSW), so stay tuned!

Happy pooping.

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A Meme To Pass The Time

I'm waiting for a hard drive to format.

1. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
One brother.

2. Do you have a favorite T.V. show?
I have several.

3. What was your first car?
'89 volvo 240DL station wagon. Mom blue.

4. Do you own a Game boy or other portable gaming device?
As a matter of fact, I DO own a Game Boy. I have Tetris and Dr. Mario!

5. Where was your first kiss?
In the woods next to the dance hall at hippie camp during a square dance. How teen movie is that?!

6. What's your favorite season?
Summer.

7. What color is your wallet?
Leopard Print.

8. Do you own a cell phone?
It's the ONLY phone I own.

9. What's the last thing you ate?
I had a Starbuck's breakfast sandwich. First one in ages. Weird thing is, it wasn't as satisfying as I thought it would be. I wonder if my diet ruined me on junk food forever.

10. Have you ever seen a comet?
I saw Haley's comet. For a while in high school, I still fit into the commemorative t-shirt.

11. Can you say the alphabet backwards?
Not quickly.

12. Does it snow where you live?
About once a year. And each time, it's as if it's the first in history.

13. Do you wear socks with sandals?
Absolutely not.

14. Do you wear a hat?
In the winter, to keep my head warm. I don't think I look good in hats.

15. Do you own any yellow articles of clothing?
I have a yellow plaid dress and a yellow shirt with duckies on it. Surprised?

16. Do you subscribe to any magazines?
Someone bought me a subscription to Entertainment Weekly. I still don't know who it was. I suspect my Grandma. She also bought me a subscription to YM in high school.

17. Can you drive a car with a manual transmission?
I can barely drive a car with an automatic transmission.

18. Do you say “Bless you” when somebody sneezes?
Yes. It's the polite thing to do. Although sometime, I don't feel like being polite.

19. Do you own any good luck charms or similar items?
I don't believe in good luck charms.

20. Do you have any houseplants?
I have one. Seamus, my clover. He is the only plant I have ever been able to keep alive. Though I've also decided to try and revive Brugos' jade plant.

21. Do you wear a watch?
I don't even own one.

22. Do you have a credit card?
One, plus a Macy's card and an Old Navy card for the savings.

23. Have you ever seen an Amish person?
Only on TV.

24. Have you ever ridden the train?
Yes. I love the train in Europe. American trains are shitty, slow and dangerous.

25. Ever had dance lessons?
I took ballet and jazz tap when I was a wee one. Neither one helped make me into a graceful adult.

26. How 'bout swim lessons?
Now that I wasn't too bad at. I was on the swim team until high school. I wasn't fast, but I was often complimented on my form.

27. Piano lessons?
Yes. I was mostly terrible at that too, but I did learn to play (most of) Stairway to Heaven. There's no piano translation for the guitar solo.

28. Were you ever in the scouts?
Brownies. It was really boring. We took trips to the mall and made shrunken apple head dolls. I wanted to go camping.

29. Have you ever used power tools?
Yes. They're fun.

30. Have you ever baked a cake?
I LOVE to bake.

31. Have you ever changed a tire?
Once.

32. Ever had a pet with a really cool name?
Since I've named all my pets myself, I would like to think they were all cool names. Bruce and Neil were good names for my ratties.

33. What did you think of this survey?
It was one of the more interesting ones even though there were some hackneyed questions.

IBS Be-Gone!: Day Thirty

So today is my first day off the probiotics. I weighed myself this morning and discovered that I am 128 pounds, which means I've lost 7 pounds in a month. This is quite significant. I have not been this thin since college. It feels very strange. I guess I really was consuming more sugar than I realised. And I guess sugar really does make you fat. As for the IBS, I don't know if it's gone. Over the course of the month, I ended up having 2 “incidents” wherein I experienced the painful constipation followed by the painful, crampy, inopportune conclusion thereof. This is significant because, prior to starting the probiotics, I was experiencing this sort of thing twice a WEEK.

It's too early to tell exactly how far I've come. I've been reading a book called “The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution” which was put out by the IBS Treatment Center (located, conveniently, in Seattle, WA!). I only finished reading it yesterday and it placed several concerns in my brain about what the actual source of my IBS might be. It lists 3 causes.

1) The bacteria imbalance caused by too many antibiotics (which is the cause that I had suspected, and why I went on the probiotics in the first place).
2) Parasites. (Pretty sure that's not the case).
3) Food allergy. According to the book, it's not just things like gluten and lactose that can cause IBS symptoms. It's ANYTHING. Some of the cases they discussed included a woman who's symptoms were cause ENTIRELY by an allergy to coconut and plums. That's it. Those 2 things. She hardly ever ate coconut proper, but there is coconut oil and coconut derivatives in all kind of packaged foods. As was the case with all the food allergy people, as soon as she eliminated these things from her diet, she was 100% cured.

Having a food allergy would SUCK beyond suck. Especially if it's something like gluten or dairy. I already have to limit what I eat because of my vegetarianism. Going out to eat was kind of impossible during this past month. And I LOVE going out to eat and HATE being a high maintenance diner who must ask about every ingredient in every dish on the menu.

The IBS Treatment Center (and their book) suggests that one get tested for all of the IBS causes. The food allergy test is a blood test. The bacteria and parasite tests are stool tests. I would gladly get these tests to ease my mind if it weren't for one thing: expense. The IBS Treatment Center is sort of an alternative-mediciny type of place. They don't take health insurance (in fact, they seem to have some sort of personal vendetta against insurance companies) and their tests are VERY expensive. They want you to do a package deal with a consultation and follow-ups and tests. A standard package “deal” is $1095!! That is a lot of fucking money. If I forgo the consultations and just go with the tests, the bacteria test STARTS at $142 and the food allergy test STARTS at $310. I suppose I can put it on my credit card, and it would be great to know a certain cause for my problems but I've seen a lot of alternative medicine quacks in my day. My mom has sent me to a lot of them. I've been Reiki'd (aura cleansing, essentially), a practice for which my mom has spend thousands of dollars and to no avail that I can see, yet she still swears by it. I've taken homeopathic sugar pills for colds only to stay sick until I took some fucking Dayquill. I've consumed gallons of Kombucha tea at my mom's insistence, barely able to keep the stuff down (it's rancid) and not feeling any better. Some people, my mother included, might argue that it's my skepticism that makes these things not work. And don't get me wrong, I don't think that Western Medicine in infailable either. But I think a healthy combination of the two is the way to go. Trouble is, the two groups HATE each other. If I went to a Western doctor, he would (as he did before) tell me to keep taking the over-the-counter stuff. There's no cure for IBS and you're basically fucked for life so keep taking the medicine and deal with it. A Naturopath would tell me that said Western doctor is an asshole who is poisoning me for profit and then, apparently, charge me $1000 for THEIR treatment. How do I know how much of what school of thought to buy into? I'm confused and a little frustrated. I'm still tempted to get the food allergy blood test and see what they say. Again, I find myself wondering how people who make even less money than I do deal with things like this.

Anyway, my current plan is to finish out the week, slowly re-introducing yeast and (SMALL, healthy doses of) sugar back into my diet and NOT taking my over-the-counter meds and see what happens. If I'm still having problems, I guess I'll start saving some dough and call the hippies.

But ain't nobody going to touch my aura.

Movie Review: Ghost Rider

Sure, it starts with a crappy teenage actor who is way too pretty to grow up into the grizzled, equine Nic Cage, but after we get through all the business with Johnny Blaze selling his soul to the Deveeeel for a deal you KNOW has a terrible loop hole, “Ghost Rider” turns into the most glorious ham-flavored camp-fest in comic book adaptation history. In short, this movie is awesome. I fell in love with it at precisely the moment that Nic prepared to jump about 10 18-wheelers with Ozzy's “Crazy Train” blaring throughout the stadium. Why “Crazy Train”? Because, clearly, Johnny Blaze is craaaaaazy (train). But what the stadium full of blood-lusting rednecks doesn't know is that he CAN'T die. The Deveeel won't let him. One of these days, Peter “Mephistopheles” Fonda, is gonna call on his contractually obligated little dare devil to do some biness. Deveeel Biness. And knowing Satan, it's probably going to be when you're getting ready to reconcile with your estranged first love, who also happens to be a giant wino. And of course it's going to involve turning your head into a flaming skull. Isn't that just like Satan?

There are only about a million things to love about Nic Cage's performance: Teetotaler Blaze's relaxing martini glasses full of jelly beans (“Come on, man. You know alcohol gives me nightmares”). His love for shows about and starring monkeys (“Hey man, turn the monkey show back on”). His dressing room warm-ups sountracked by the Carpenters. Every ridiculous line is delivered with an unparalleled understanding of how to pull off the world's cheesiest dialog and still maintain a certain level of dignity. My companions and I haven't laughed so hard in a movie theatre in a very long time. But we weren't laughing AT Ghost Rider. We were laughing WITH Ghost Rider. I am now convinced that Cage has found his calling. Forget Oscar fodder about alcoholics. This is what he was born to do.

But Cage couldn't have done it alone. He was ably backed by Wes Bentley as Blackheart, the rebellious son of Satan, and Sam Elliott, who has the most impressive facial hair ever captured on celluloid. Peter Fonda phones it in somewhat. But a Peter Fonda phoning it in is still better than many actors who give it their all. (Isn't that right, Ben Afleck?)

To give you a better understanding of what you're in for, allow me to describe one of my favorite moments.

Johnny Blaze is the son and protege of Barton Blaze, who died in a tragic stunt accident which may or may not have been orchestrated by the Deveeeel. As Johnny prepares to jump his motorcycle over the spinning blades of several helicopters, his friend naturally asks him why the crazy with the certain death jumping over helicopters. We flash back to Barton Blaze saying how one day he'd reaaaaally like to jump over the spinning blades of ONE helicopter. Tragically, he never got the chance. Back in the present, a ruminative Johnny Blaze explains to his friend, in his Elvis-esque brogue, “My dad thought it'd be cool.” And then he jumps in his motorcycle!

I'm not saying “Ghost Rider” is the next “Citizen Kane”. But for a movie about a guy with a flaming skull for a head who fights evil, it's pretty incredible.

Weekend Recap

FRIDAY

I packed my bag full of booze and Brugos and I met Ben at the Oak Tree Cinema to see Ghost Rider. About 10 minutes in, I realized that this was the greatest bad comic book movie ever made. It was truly glorious. Actors were hamming it up right and left and, at the center of it all, was Nicolas Cage. Brugos and I are both now convinced that he is am incredible actor. It takes a tremendous amount of talent to be able to pull of hammy lines like that and be engaging. I was also very impressed with Wes Bentley who proved that he's not just a bag-obsessed dramatic actor but camp it up with the best of them. (The best being Nic Cage. God damn. He was awesome.)

Ben wasn't quite so enamored with the whole thing. But, by the end, most of the theatre was laughing along which was great because it meant that mine and Brugos' constant cackling wasn't as annoying to others as we'd feared. We weren't making fun. We were genuinely enjoying the shit out of Ghost Rider. I'm excited to write my review for the work blog.

After the movie, we wandered over to the Mandarin Gate for some karaoke. We were met by Elyse. The place was pretty crowded and we were surprised to see a few hipsters in attendance. One of them sounded like Cat Power, if Cat Power sang fun songs. I felt a bit off but everyone insisted that I sounded OK. Still, I couldn't really hear myself and I was getting kind of frustrated. We left around midnight but I never did get the post-Ghost Rider high back, we Brugos and I just went home after dropping Elyse off.

SATURDAY
We spent all day getting the house in order and got SO much done. It was really nice to be so productive. After picking up some food from Taste of India, we had Andy and John over for poker. Brugos won both games. We finished the evening with some very intense Catan which we were all pretty close to winning. John pulled it out in the end.

SUNDAY
We did a little more clean up and then decided we needed to get out of the house. We were going to play some tennis, but I realised I didn't have any sneakers. I had gotten rid of my last pair because they hurt and I hadn't replaced them. Brugos suggested a trip to the mall, which I am always quick to nay say. In the end, he convinced me that we could get in and out fast and then play some tennis. So we hit the Payless at Northgate and it was, indeed, very fast. Best of all, they were having a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale on ANYTHING in the store. So I ended up with a pair of sneakers and boots for $40 and Brugos got some dress shoes and hiking boots.

We got to the tennis court around 3:30. It was raining a little bit but we managed to get about 45 minutes of play in before the wind and exhaustion got the better of us. I hadn't played tennis in about 10 years so I was, naturally, terrible. But it was very fun and I improved quite a bit during the short time we were out there. I look forward to playing more once the weather improves.

When we got home, we cooked up some dinner and then put in Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst. Neither of us knew very much about the story, but the documentary was amazing. Not only was it a fantastic story, but they had SO much actual footage of the events, and all of the tapes that the S.L.A. sent, that you really felt like you were watching the events unfold as they happened. They also interviewed the 2 members who were in prison during the kidnapping. I also had a revelation, during the movie. I didn't realize that Cecil B. Demented is basically the Patty Hearst story re-told with radical filmmakers. Cecil has been my favorite Waters movie since it was released, but now I can enjoy it on a whole new level. Waters is a genius. I also now understand why so many college kids identified with Hearst and elevated her as a hero. I wish I'd sought to learn about this story years ago.

Brad arrived just as the movie was ending, and we broke out the Catan board. We played a rousing game and finished in time to watch a TiVod BSG. I must admit that I feel like this last episode of BSG kind of jumped the space shark a little. Come on, guys. Blowing Chief and Callie out into space and catching them in a Raptor? Because apparently people CAN survive for up to a minute in space with no suit. And does a hull breach really sound like a wind storm is going on outside? I didn't think space was all that windy. But what do I know? And every year on his anniversary, Adama has to put up with the bitchy ghost of his ex-wife? The only good thing about this episode was the Lee finally got to give a rousing speech that didn't sound whiny or insolent. Otherwise, it was pretty weak.

Chinese New Year Meme!

From MarkTapioKines

1. What supermarket do you usually buy your groceries at?
Whatever's handy/affordable. Usually QFC, but I like to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and go crazy with the pre-made foods.

2. How many times do you go out for lunch per week?
Usually once during the weekdays and once over the weekend.

3. How often do you eat at a Chinese restaurant?
Maybe once a month. As Sherwood said, there isn't a lot of great Chinese food in this town. I heart Wok and Grill though.

4. How many alcoholic beverages do you consume per week?
10-12.

5. Do you believe that Al Gore actually won the Florida electoral vote in the 2000 Presidential race?
Not as such, but there was definitely something funny going on.

6. What brand(s) of underwear do you wear?
Whatever is on sale in whatever store I happen to be in though I have a lot from Macy's (formerly the Bon Marche) and Old Navy.

7. Other than underwear, cite three name brands (in any field of commerce) that you would say you “trust” in, as a consumer:
Sony, Amy's, Starbuck's.

8. If you could have free movie tickets for the rest of your life or free CDs and legal MP3 downloads for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Definitely the movie tickets. They are profoundly overpriced. Music is not so much anymore.

9. If you could get a 25% raise but have to stay at your current job position (if you have one) for the next two years, or get a 0% raise but get promoted to doing something really cool and satisfying at the same company, which would you take?
Like Mark, I would take the raise. I think I am already doing the most satisfying job at my company.

10. What's the name of your bank?
Wells Fargo. I don't love them but I'm too lazy to switch.

11. Are you saving any money for the long-term future?
I have a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA as well as an investment account. IRAs don't net you a LOT of retirement money because you can only contribute $4000/per year (in total) to them and you definitely want to invest them in a mid-low risk mutual fund instead of a volatile stock so they grow pretty slowly. My investment account is slightly higher risk and so I've gotten some return on that. However, without a 401(k) and with the prospect of no social security, I think our generation are going to be in a bad way when we retire. Maybe I should grow a kid to take care of me.

12. What beverage do you like best with a hearty Chinese dinner?
The house tea or a glass of red wine.

13. Speaking of dinner, would you rather eat super tasty food in a restaurant with zero atmosphere (fluorescent lights, vinyl tables) or eat mediocre, forgettable food in a restaurant filled with rich ambiance (dark, candlelit, warm and cozy)?
Absolutely the tasty food. Atmosphere is NICE but the whole reason to go out is to eat delicious food that you can't make/wouldn't have thought to make at home.

14. Have you ever hated the service so much at a restaurant that you purposefully left no tip?
I think once, but I usually just tip small on bad service. (10-15%). 20% is for adequate service and more than 20% is for exceptionally good service.

15. What's your favorite Chinese movie? (Include movies from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.)
Story of Ricky

16. What's your favorite Chinese dish?
Moo shoo vegetable.

17. Have you ever dated a Chinese person?
I have not.

18. Were you a fan of the series “Six Feet Under”?
I tried watching it a couple of times. It never sucked me in.

19. Where do you get your hair cut and how much does it usually cost?
I used to go to Vain, but they gradually raised their prices until I couldn't afford it anymore. Now I go to Zero Zero and pay what I paid when I first started going to Vain ($35 including tip).

20. Do you believe your life will be better in ten years than it is now?
Hard to say. A lot can happen in 10 years. I think it will probably be very different. Hopefully, I will be making more money. I will probably have more health problems. I do look forward to the future, but I am very much enjoying the present.

His Potter Ain't Harry

I’m sorry, Elyse and Ben, but I HAVE to post this.

If you want to see Daniel Radcliffe’s bare ass carry on: Continue reading