Saturday, September 27, 2008

Magazine scammers in town again

The magazine scammers, like migratory creatures, are back in town again. Yesterday, my son summoned me to the door, saying that there was a guy there who was doing a community project and had to meet everyone in the neighborhood. That sounded annoying, but it was too late to hide and pretend we weren't home.

The young man at the door assaulted me with a rapid rush of words. He was a college student, he was in communications, he was taking a public speaking class and had to meet 100 strangers, he was preparing to be a radio DJ, he was in a competition with 200 other young men and women. "It's boys against girls," he said, hastening to add, "No offense." That was the point at which I wanted to punch him. No offense why? Because I'm a "girl" and so boys-against-girls competitions must be offensive to me? But I digress. Our young man had more to say. He needed to win points. He needed to be the first one to collect the most points and then some mysterious benefactors would pay his tuition and books and give him $1,000 *and* a trip to Nassau. He waved a grimy laminated card in my face. I seized my chance. In the brief moment when he stopped talking to let me read the card, I said I'd had experience with his group before and wanted nothing to do with him. Then I went into my house and locked the door.

For a few minutes I fussed and fumed and explained the scam to Mad Scientist. Then it occurred to me to call my neighbor and warn her, and would you believe it--no sooner had we gotten through the "hi, how are you" portion of the conversation, then her doorbell rang and I heard the repulsive young man giving her the exact same spiel. I wanted to shout through the phone that he was scamming, but I didn't want to embarrass my friend. And I knew she'd figure out for herself that he was involved in a scam, which she did.

A few years ago I had a somewhat more disturbing encounter with these people. It was the same situation, a similar spiel, something about winning a trip and his tuition, only this guy was more charming--he was selling magazine subscriptions--and I got to the point where I was studying his brochure of magazines. None of them appealed to me, but this guy was really pressuring me--I was practically hypnotized, I swear-- and I finally picked a magazine, more to get rid of the guy than because it was something I actually wanted to read. The guy explained that the cost of the subscription was something like $15/a year, but that I'd have to pay a "one time processing fee" of $24.

Stop. Hold it right there. A $24 processing fee for a magazine subscription? I became unhypnotized at once. I pointed out to the guy that I could subscribe to this magazine on my own--nay I could subscribe to any magazine--and not pay a processing fee. Then I told him he was part of a scam and I locked myself in my house. The man became angry and knocked on the door and I was frightened enough to herd all the children into the back of the house, away from him, and I almost called the police, but he eventually left on his own.

Beware, people of Charlottesville.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fun with food

Now that my 21-day Oprah detox diet is over, I need a new focus. The diet was a semi-success: I lost five pounds, but my neuroreceptors still can not be trusted around sugar. I am adding foods like fish to my diet, but still avoiding sugar and wheat.

My sister is the queen of health fads, a veritable fount of information about what is the latest trend in eating well. Right now she's into a program led by one Brendan Frazier. It's called Vega, "the Complete Wholefood Health Optimizer." It's almost like she's joined a cult, to hear her go on about this nutritional system which is all about consuming plant-based whole foods. "So you're a vegetarian now?" I asked her.

"No," she replied. "I'm a convenientarian." Meaning she sticks to the plant-based program when it is convenient, but relaxes her standards for parties and restaurants.

My sister is the one who turned me on to goji berries. I find their taste somewhat less than optimal, but she is stronger-willed than I and forces down a shot of goji berry juice every day. Two years ago, she was in town visiting and we went on a quest for goji berry juice. Integral Yoga was fresh out, but we bought some sort of cold fermented tea called Kombucha instead. My sister said it would be a good stepping stone into the world of miracle foods. I turned my car out onto busy Preston Ave, my sister handed me the open bottle of Kombucha, I was aware of an oddly familiar smell and then I experienced a taste so foul I nearly lost control of the car. My sister took the bottle away. "If you can't handle Kombucha, you are not ready for goji berries," she said.

About half an hour later, I realized what the familiar smell was. Did you ever leave a baby bottle of apple juice in your car for about two weeks during a hot summer? That is the scent of Kombucha.

Now my sister has told me to try Yerba Mate, the herbal stimulant of Argentina. I went to Integral Yoga yesterday and studied the Yerba Mate display. I wanted the cheapest option, since I suspected that Yerba Mate, like Kombucha and goji berries, would be somewhat disappointing in the taste department. There aren't really any cheap options, since my sister had warned me a way from the bags and told me I had to drink it loose leaf. My choices were a one-pound sack of Yerba mate leaf, unsmoked, or a half pound of smoked Yerba mate--both the same price. I went with the unsmoked, because smoking is bad. The label makes fantastic claims. If I drink Yerba mate, I will be stimulated. I will experience incredible "mental clarity." I will develop intelligence superior to all others. I will be able to operate power tools with my mind, and I will lose twenty pounds overnight. (Implied.) I will also be drinking twenty-times more antioxidants than are found in other herbally stimulating beverages. Just the thing for exam week.

I tried some last night. I did feel stimulated! My God, the mental clarity!

Monday, September 22, 2008

From the So Bad it's Good category

We rented the 1930's Nancy Drew movies: Nancy Drew, Detective, Nancy Drew, Reporter, etc. What a hoot. I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I am a big Nancy Drew fan. I read through the whole series when I was in third grade and even then took ironic pleasure in the descriptions of Nancy's outfits, and the foods she, Bess and George ate in various "lunchrooms" in the environs of River Heights. WWJD? No. My tagline is What would Nancy Drew do?

The movies are bad. They are so bad. Nothing like the books. Nancy pouts and twirls and puts on indignant facial expressions as cops tell her to go back to kindergarten and play with her dolly. The acting is terrible and the plots, which seem almost plausible in the books, are absolutely ridiculous when translated into film. In Nancy Drew, Detective, she grapples with a criminal gang who communicate with each other by sending tiny notes via carrier pigeon. Wouldn't the telephone be more convenient?

Oh, and Ned Nickerson's name is changed (inexplicably) to "Ted." I know, I know, they're both nicknames for "Edward" so what does it matter. It matters because he's Ned Nickerson!

That's all I've got. I'm sorry. School is keeping me too busy to do much thinking about amusing blog entries. Currently reading Giant by Edna Ferber. It's an irritating little book, with all the gushing about Texas and the cliched writing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Summer reading

A quick recap of what I read over the summer: I read a lot of Southern fiction. One book that stands out is Joe by Larry Brown. It's the story of dirt-poor Mississippi people. Grim, but Larry Brown can really write.

Handling Sin by Michael Malone. I had high hopes because it got universal five star reviews at Amazon, but I couldn't even finish it. It's the story of an uptight North Carolina insurance salesman who's sent on a wild and crazy quest by his zany old father. That sounds like it has possibilities, but the book was an endless stream of events that had little meaning other to inject more craziness into the story. I suspect Malone wrote it with the idea that it would be made into a movie. Actually, it would probably make a decent movie, but as a novel, it is not good.

Duel of Eagles by Jeff Long. This is nonfiction about the Alamo and the history leading up to it. I stopped reading about 150 pages in after realizing that every single person in the story was an utter scumbag and I didn't want to read about them anymore. I'm now trying again with Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie and William Barret Travis by William C. Davis. It's somewhat better, but not what you would call a light read.


I read two books about teaching: Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman and I'm Not Complaining, by Ruth Adam. Up the Down Staircase was a huge bestseller in its day, translated into several languages and made into a movie. I wasn't impressed. It touches on serious issues, but in a glib and superficial way. That whole “if I can touch just ONE child it will all be worth it” schtick is just tired. I suppose if I were actually a public high school teacher, I would have found the ridiculous memos from the office funnier.

I'm Not Complaining, on the other hand, is an utterly unsentimental novel about a teacher in a poor industrial town in northern England in the 1930s. I thought it was excellent, probably the best book I read all summer. The narrator's view of her school, the children, the town, is completely unclouded by idealism. She tells it like it is, and that, in our politically correct world, is very refreshing. Also part of the story is her relations with the other teachers. Modern readers might find her harsh. If she thinks her friend is behaving like a slut, she'll come out and say, “I think you're behaving like a trashy little slut.” Even I had a hard time understanding her scorn for the factory owner who tries to make life better for the children by providing parties and food. It's not that she doesn't care, it's just that she knows what she's up against. Highly recommended.

I just finished A Summons to Memphis, elegantly written by Peter Taylor. It's the story of how a family is damaged by being uprooted from Nashville and moving to Memphis, in the 1930s. The author was (perhaps still is) an English professor at the University of Virginia.

Now reading a Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout, in addition to my book about the Alamo.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

neuroreceptors and nursing students

I wrote a few days ago about my new detox diet. A lot of people commented on the vileness of fake cheese. Others were concerned about the presence of soy in a detoxifying diet. Still others wondered if it was wise to accept diet advice from Oprah. I realized that my goal is not detoxifying, so much as retraining my neuroreceptors. Because my neuroreceptors like sugar. They like sugar a lot.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday I auditioned cakes. I did this by baking cakes whose recipes I hadn't tried yet. This was a lot of fun for the whole family. I think I baked six cakes in two weeks. By the end of the experiment my neuroreceptors were not unlike Rush Limbaugh after an oxycontin bender. Is bender the right word? I am not up on the drug culture jargon. At any rate, my neuroreceptors are now in a rehab program imposed by me and facilitated by Oprah. They are doing well and have not had sugar (or wheat, dairy, gluten, meat or alcohol) for neary two weeks.

Speaking of neuroreceptors, yesterday was my first “real” day at the state mental hospital. We are a group of nine students with one instructor who said that first morning, “They have some very exciting patients for all of you.”

Actually, I don't have a problem working with psych patients. What concerns me is that we are to spend the bulk of our time interacting therapeutically with our patients, in other words, talking to them, and of all the things I am bad at, the thing I am worst at of all is talking to people I don't know. Especially talking to them about deep and personal things. Back in my first semester, I was doing some sort of assigned assessment on my patient and I needed to find out how many times a day he brushed his teeth. I couldn't imagine asking such an intrusive question of anyone and I pulled aside one of my classmates and asked her how she had gotten this information out of her patient. She said, “I asked him, 'How many times a day do your brush your teeth?'” So simple,yet so difficult for me.

Still, the day was not without its funny sides. When we got to the unit where I will be working, a patient noticed us right away and started yelling, “Where's my girl nursing student? You girl nursing students, if one of you gets me, you meet me on the Barbour Mall!” Then he pounded on the windows of the nursing station with his fists—the nursing stations are all locked offices—and screamed, “I WANT ONE OF THOSE GIRL NURSING STUDENTS. YOU SEND MY GIRL NURSING STUDENT TO MEET ME IN THE BARBOUR MALL!” (The patients attend group therapy in various “malls.”) Our instructor observed that the patients seemed very excited to have nursing students on the unit.

And so the day went. I think my psych experience will be interesting, and possibly somewhat rewarding, but like most introverts, I become completely drained after prolonged interaction with other people so I anticipate being totally exhausted at the end of each clinical day. My overall first impression of Western State Hospital is of a place where the staff are sincerely trying to help the patients get well.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Back to N school

Nursing school started two weeks ago. My life has returned to the school year routine. I will live quietly and virtuously. I will be unable to think of the future beyond tomorrow, or the end of the week, at the most. I will perform only the most essential household chores. At the end of September, after the first test is over, I will feel a surge of confidence and think that maybe I can get through this after all. Toward the end of October, I will burst into tears, throw my textbooks into a corner and watch 14 straight episodes of Trailer Park Boys. By the end of November, I will be almost too exhausted to function.

Last week we took the big math test on which you have to get 90% or get kicked out of nursing school. We do this test every semester. I got a 100% and I'm glad I don't have to worry about it until next semester.

I'll be going to Western State once a week for my psych clinical. We had a tour last week and were told, rather ominously, "If your patient tells you to meet him by the pines, don't go." I will be on a locked unit, so chances are we won't have access to the pines. We were all given keys so we can get in and out of the units, and my group had to have special swipe cards made as well. My psych center ID photo is better than my license photo and a lot better than my passport photo.

Then I'll be at Martha Jefferson Hospital one day a week on a cardiac floor. We spent the last two weeks familiarizing ourselves with their computer charting system. I've done all my other clinicals at UVA. This will be my first week there with a real patient to take care of. I hope I don't see anyone I know. Martha Jefferson is the hospital where the People One Knows go. I rarely see anyone I know at UVA, as far as patients go.

Then there's lecture two days a week as well, plus one day for writing up all the clinical preparation.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In which we discuss fake cheese

What is the raison d'etre of fake cheese? Last Sunday, I started a new detoxifying diet. Oprah's detoxifying diet! It is meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free, and alcohol-free, for maximum suffering.
Q: But Patience, isn't it foolish to start a meat-free, dairy-and-egg-free, gluten-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, high-suffering diet when the new semester of nursing school has just started?

A: Yes! But when have I not done something simply because it was stupid?

I had to make a special trip to Whole Foods to procure gluten-free, meat-free products, dairy-free products. One food I needed was soy cheese, only I couldn't find soy cheese at Whole Foods, which is odd, because you'd think Whole Foods would be the soy cheese Mecca. What I did find was “Gluten-free Cheddar-flavored rice slices.” Fast forward to lunch in which I cooked myself a tofu burger and topped it with a cheddar-flavored rice slice, which, as soon as it started to melt, smelled so bad I gagged. To actually eat something that foul was unthinkable, although I took a tiny bite for research purposes and learned that it tastes as bad as it smells.

Which brings me to my question about the very existence of fake cheese. People become vegans for a variety of reasons, but all of them can be placed into one of two categories, as far as cheese is concerned:

     1.People who love cheese
  1. People who are indifferent to, or dislike cheese.

Would cheese lovers be satisfied with a product as disgusting as cheddar-flavored rice slices? Because there is no way this “food” could ever, in a million years, pass for cheese. No true cheese lover would find it acceptable. True cheese lovers are serious about cheese. My brother told me an amusing anecdote about how his wife, while at a fancy grocery store in NY, witnessed a couple who were tasting the cheeses and discussing the cheeses, and deliberating over the cheeses with great solemnity and it turns out they didn't even need to buy any cheese until the following week. In other words, they went out and researched cheese, giving themselves a full week to make a decision. What do you think these people would think of Cheddar-flavored Rice Slices?

As for the people who don't feel that cheese is an important part of their lives, why would they bother with fake cheese anyway, if they never felt much desire to eat real cheese, especially since it tastes so bad? For the extra calories? For that popular toxic rotting garbage smell? The only purpose I can see for fake cheese is to deceive unsuspecting people like me, who are either Vegan novices, or are starting strange detoxifying Oprah diets. Because I can't imagine anyone ever taking a second bite of a cheddar-flavored rice slice.
I wonder what the French do when they go Vegan.