Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Talk Thursday: Progressions

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of progressions is I-IV-V-I, which is a chord progression that means everything to the average musician and virtually nothing to anyone else. At the risk of doing yet another post on music theory, that's the chord progression that rules all other progressions, the one that your entire composition is based on, unless of course you're Schoenberg, and I've never understood Schoenberg. But I think the person who proposed Progressions as a topic was thinking more along the lines of progressions through time, or through life, or at least through something a little more exciting than music theory. (I can hear Professor Hackbarth now: "People, theory is not boring. Acoustics, now that's boring.") So the question bears asking: How did yours truly go from a nonlesbian nonBuddhist music student in Tempe, Arizona to a lesbian Buddhist paralegal unpublished author somewhere in the Dallas Experience? Why, through a series of progressions, naturally. And I bet this will shock and amaze you, but some of them weren't very much fun at all.

Let's start with being a music student. What the hell, it's as good a place to start as any. For me there was no crazed-weasel race to get into the best college possible because it was a foregone conclusion I was going to Arizona State. When they offer you a four-year scholarship because you play a bassoon better than most of the other kids, there's really not a lot to argue about. And I did play a pretty darn good bassoon, if I may say so. But here was the problem. I only played a pretty darn good bassoon. I didn't play a brilliant bassoon. I didn't set the world on fire. I didn't, you know, soar. And it became increasingly obvious over the first two years I was there that pretty good just wasn't going to cut it. Which, incidentally, sucks. Because I really liked music school. I could have cared less if I found a job when I got out. One of our graduates was the lead bassoonist for the Lima Symphony Orchestra in Peru, and that sounded grand, but I'd have settled for directing a junior high school band in Nowhere, Nebraska, too. I finally came up against an insurmountable wall, though; I couldn't pass piano class. When you need four semesters to graduate with a degree in music and you fail the first one twice, that might be God trying to tell you to do something else with your life. You think? Maybe?

My next brilliant idea was to join the Air Force. What the hell, I'd just lost my scholarship and had no way to pay for school; if I joined the men in blue, I'd get to go someplace far, far away (I was aiming for the Middle East, where my sort of boyfriend was unlikely to follow me) for four years, and when I came back I'd have money to finish my degree. I went to see a recruiter, who naturally thought this was a fine idea. My dad, an ex-Air Force man himself, even brought home a bottle of champagne to celebrate; then reality hit and he suddenly found himself explaining to me what a Bad Idea this was. I was not Military Material, which was his polite way of saying I don't suffer fools gladly. In short, my bullshit detector was wound way too high for military life. I would have to find some other way to pay for school.

Well, as it turned out my grandmother had left me some money, and I got a job. This meant I at least had less time for the sort of boyfriend, who wasn't happy about this turn of events and began to actively stalk me. Luckily he would soon quit his job, fail all his classes, lose his student aid money, have his car repossessed and become unable to stalk me, more or less in that order. With him out of the picture I was able to start seeing something much more interesting: Women. Well, one woman in particular. We call her The Ex now, which is strange because she was once the One and Only. I guess all Exes start out like that.

Anyway, The Ex graduated college a year behind me and went to paralegal school in California. I followed her there and we moved in together, where we had a tempestuous relationship for about three years that ended with her dumping me for a bimbo receptionist. (Different rules, same dirty game.) I met Joan about a year later, shortly after a series of disastrous dating experiences had convinced me that I need never attempt it again. Luckily, Joan was straight. Or I thought she was, anyway, so she was safe to hang around with, watch the "X-Files" with, go to the zoo with, move in with--oops.

And then Joan got a job in Dallas and here we are.

Okay, I skipped a few things, like how I ended up going to the same paralegal school as The Ex (though, obviously, at a different time) and the whole once-I-ran-with-a-Lutheran-street-gang thing, but see the progression? Music school (I), the Air Force (IV), dumping the boyfriend (V), meeting the girlfriend (I). Moving to California (I), moving in with the girlfriend (IV), getting dumped by the girlfriend (V), meeting Joan (I). Another series or two of chords and I can get us all the way to Dallas.

Oops. I did another post on music theory after all. Well, that's okay. At least it wasn't a post about acoustics. Professor Hackbarth was right; acoustics is really dull.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Completely Forgot To Mention...

...that my boss was on "Nightline"!! Story about debt collectors using aggressive tactics. Here's the link. Look for handsome lawyer in cowboy hat.

Sunday Scorekeeping: Raccoon 2, Jen 0

If you follow me on Twitter (@jenstrikesagain), you already know that I'm having an interesting adventure with that most cute and furry of all backyard pests, the North American raccoon (Procyon lotor). This probably came about because of the feral cats. When we moved into this house some six years ago, we found that a colony of wild cats (about five or six, though I forget the exact number) had already claimed the alley, portions of the yard, the underdeck and the roof of the shed. Being rather fond of cats, even cats that hated me and hissed when I got too close, I started feeding them and became the neighborhood crazy cat lady. However, I also trapped them all, got them to a vet, got them shots, and got them spayed and neutered (I think I scooped up a few of the local non-ferals while I was at it, but thus far none of the neighbors have complained or, in truth, have probably even noticed).

How do I afford this, you ask. Well, if you live in Dallas, there's a couple of organizations that can help you out. One is Feral Friends Community Cat Alliance, and another is Kittico. Both organizations have the same basic idea; feral cats will never be house cats, they don't like people, they have rotten lives on the street getting hit by cars, eaten by dogs, starving and getting diseases, and the best thing we can do for them is make sure they don't make any feral kittens while giving them sufficient food and a safe place to sleep. Makes them better neighbors, too; if not in heat, they won't howl, and if fed, they won't dig through trash. Both organizations work for free, or nearly. In fact the only time I had to actually pay big bucks for neutering a cat was when I scooped up a mom cat, already pregnant, and had to take her to the McKinney SPCA because everybody was full up. That cost me a hundred bucks, not to mention a day's pay. I figure I've singlehandedly prevented about a thousand kittens by now, so it was worth it.

Anyway, my little colony of cats went up as high as twelve at one point, but street cat life is hard and I'm now down to one. I call her Frost. Two or three hangers-on come over from local houses for extra meals once in a while, but for the most part it's me and Frost. Frost always has a dish of food outside and a bowl of water, and it's this that has attracted other backyardigans. This very hot summer I ran through water like, well, water; I think every squirrel in the neighborhood, to say nothing of birds, small rodents and other cats, were drinking from the bowl. And now, just recently, we have this raccoon.

No, not that one; that's just a representative photo. But she does look a little like that. I first suspected I might have a problem when I found the external food bin turned on its side and, uh, opened. The bin opens like a submarine hatch and is hard for me to manage on cold mornings. I couldn't figure out how in hell a cat (or, say, an opossum) could do that with just paws. Course, if you have opposable thumbs, less of a problem, right? Guess what has opposable thumbs. Yeah. See above.

The next day, I found the water fountain knocked over on its side, the water gone, and the water reservoir on the other side of the lawn. Also odd behavior for a cat or an opossum but quite logical for a raccoon, which likes to wash its opposable thumbs before it eats. I don't know why, they just do. I am not a student of raccoon behavior.

So I called Tracy, my time-traveling neo-craftsperson animal trainer friend and champion closet-door opener, and laid out the evidence. She agreed that I probably had a raccoon, and should try to trap it because it might be rabid. Rabies is bad in North Texas this year. I have a trap, so I took it out and baited it with bread soaked in agave nectar. (The correct recipe is marshmallows, but I didn't have any marshmallows. Excuse me for living.) Set the trap, went to bed, waited. The next morning I opened the door and found the trap on its side, the door open, all the bread gone, and the raccoon nowhere to be found. I called Tracy to report this and she said, "Oh, definitely a raccoon. Better luck next time."

Trouble is, I wasn't sure there'd be a next time. If Madame Raccoon could defeat a Havaheart trap, she was pretty smart. Hard to know what I'd come up with next time. Besides, I asked Tracy what to do if I caught her (for some reason that hadn't yet occurred to me) and she said, "You'd call Animal Control and they'd come get her." And then what? "Rabies is really bad this season," she repeated, emphasizing the words really and bad. Getting the hint, I asked if there was any way around the whole Aminal Control solution. She said, "Well, you could take her somewhere else and release her, like a public park or something. But don't get caught. It's illegal." Nice. But it beats killing her, which, you gotta admit, is kind of un-Buddhist-y.

Yesterday, Joan and I went to the State Fair of Texas, probably our first visit of many. Last night about 10:30, when we finally got home, I carefully opened the back door and turned on a flashlight to check out the feral cats' food bowl. Whenever I have to go out there at night I break out the flashlight; there's all manner of creepy crawlies known to hang around the food bowl, and they freak me right the hell out. The last thing I want to do is step on one. Instead of creepy crawlies in the bowl, though, I got a full-face shot of one very startled raccoon. "Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed to this fuzzy critter that doesn't, as far as I know, speak English. "Hi!"

In response, she retreated a way, though not all the way down the porch. This is good. Raccoon wary of human means raccoon probably not rabid. Then Frost, my sole surviving feral, came bounding up the porch for her evening meal. When she saw the raccoon, she hissed and took a swat at it. Raccoon immediately backed up another couple of feet. Very good. Raccoon wary of cats means she knows her place in the universe. And another hint that she's probably not rabid.

I filled the bowl, then called Joan in to check out the raccoon, which had waited patiently under the table for Frost to finish her meal before she ventured in to check out the leftovers. This morning Joan and I had a Discussion about the raccoon. The Discussion pretty much finalized that we're not going to try to trap her again. Much as they're not exactly welcome visitors, this particular one is not getting into the trash (why bother, there's plenty of cat food!), not rabid and in general not bothering anybody. I'm not sure what we'll do if Madame Raccoon shows up next spring with a litter of raccoonlets, but I guess we'll cross that frozen wasteland covered with ice when we come to it. (That's a Texas winter, in case you were wondering.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Talk Thursday: Equinox

In this benighted and far-from-our-agrarian-ancestors society we live in, you might have to go to considerable lengths to find someone who knows what the hey an equinox actually is. For the record, it's not a new dance craze, a third-world nation or a Chinese food (though it is the title of a fascinating album by Jean-Michel Jarre, French composer of all things electronic and totally cool, and yes, for the record, he is the son of Maurice, who composed the soundtrack to Lawrence of Arabia. See? You learn something new every day.)

An equinox, kids, is the day in the calendar year when the day and night are exactly the same length. In autumn, that means the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer. After today, night will start winning the race, at least until December 21 when things turn around again. The equinox is one of the four quarters of the year, the other ones being the spring equinox, the Winter Solstice and the Summer Solstice. The ancients marked these turnings of the calendar and used them to pick the best times to plant and harvest their crops. They also partied like only the ancients can party. Unfortunately, there weren't any video cameras back then so we don't know how hairy things got.

The equinox has certain astronomical and astrological significance, but it's actually most important in a religious context. I know this because, like Christine O'Donnell, I once "dabbled in witchcraft" between running with my Lutheran street gang and hanging with the Buddhists in the Bible Belt. Unlike Christine O'Donnell, though, I actually know what that means. Most importantly, I know that you can't "dabble" in witchcraft. In fact the whole notion is ridiculous. The idea of "dabbling" in witchcraft is like showing up at church on Christmas and Easter and blowing off the whole Christian religion the rest of the year. Oh, wait, people do do that, don’t they?

Look, I hate to disabuse anybody of the notion that they can cast spells on their neighbors whenever they want somebody cutting a tree down or some such thing, but being a witch takes work. You better have a firm grip on your own mind before you start messing around with reality. You better have a highly developed sense of ethics, and it's really not a good idea to jump into the religion without at least a little instruction - preferably with another human being who actually knows what he or she is doing. Read a book lately? If you're a witch, you're going to read a lot of them. About witchcraft, sure, but also about stuff like psychology, sociology, history, religion, and all the reasons it's a bad idea to leave a lit candle unattended in an empty room. Casting a spell (witches do cast spells) sounds cool and all, but if you knew it might take you several hours to get the ingredients together, set it up, do the actual spell casting and then clean up afterward, it wouldn't sound nearly as appealing, would it?

In short, it's a lot of work. That's why I quit and became a Buddhist. It's much easier to just sit there. No wonder Christine O'Donnell just dabbled in it. She probably wasn't cut out for anything that required that much thought.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Talk Thursday: It's Not Rocket Science.

It's My First Time handing out a Talk Thursday topic. I hope I have chosen wisely. I got the idea from a neon sign halfway to the pool at oh dark thirty this morning. Rocket Science Salon, or maybe Rocket Science Saloon. Hard to tell. (Does it bear mentioning that I had Cheap Trick's "She's Tight" running through my head at the time? Well, if it does, then I did. Otherwise, forget about it.)

So I had another thrilling encounter with the medical establishment this week. Seems I've picked up an interesting side effect in my continuing experiment with all the pharmacopia of the Western world. It's really not that big of a deal - my hands shake, a little, and my head does this interesting lateral wobble--but my doc was concerned enough about it to pack me off to a Specialist. It might also bear mentioning that Joan met me there, since she sees me doing this lateral head wobble and I don't because I'm kind of, you know, inside my head. She also got totally lost and ended up in the wrong building and finally showed up almost ten minutes late which was kind of funny, actually, because it's a small hospital and -- it's not rocket science. (Come on, you had to know that was going to keep coming up.)

So the Specialist, who by the way was a Rawther Attractive Redhead, had me do some interesting things like draw with my left and right hands, write exciting sentences like "It's a sunny day in California" and hold my hands out away from my body. Much to my surprise, my hand tremor is a lot worse than I thought it was. Well, rather I didn't even think I really had one but it was really obvious after a few of these exercises that I did. I'm not sure why I was so surprised, though. After all, I'd been packed off to a Specialist. They don't do that unless it's Serious. Which, again is Not Rocket Science. Besides, I do have weird reactions to drugs sometimes. I had a doozy of one on my trip to Utah. I'd tell you all about it, but it's kind of not fit for polite company, unfortunately.

After we were done with all this, the Specialist looked up a bunch of stuff in her computer about the medications I was taking. Surprise, surprise; almost all of them either cause tremors or make them worse. But then, just about everything out there I could be taking for my Delicate Condition has the same problem. Some things are better than others, though. She drew me up a chart of tremor positive, tremor negative, and tremor neutral meds. But like the ones I'm already taking, all the other ones out there also have side effects, and it becomes a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I'll bet Paul didn't think that was rocket science either, Peter not being a very sharp guy.

So where does this leave us? Well, going back to see my doc next week, for starters. And trying to hash this out and deciding if we're going to ditch one, add another, do both, do neither, mix things around, make doses bigger, make doses smaller, or just leave things alone. Saying Oh Fuck It and pitching the entire pharmacopia in the nearest trash can is unfortunately not an option. That's not rocket science in the slightest.

I do get tired of it, though; the constant lab experiment of being Jen. Maybe they'll invent something that treats everything at once, doesn't have any side effects (except maybe making you thin and beautiful) and you can take as much as you want without your hair falling out. That would be awesome. Until then, though, I hope they continue funding rocket science. Cheers all.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Shocker: Big Country Rides Again!!

You kids aren't gonna believe this. I'm not even sure I believe it, but I've verified it by three independent sources
(source one) (source two) (source three) so it must be true. So here they are, the words I never thought I'd type again: Big Country is back!! The band has some limited tour dates set for January 2011 in London, Newcastle and Liverpool. The tour is to be called "Back in a Big Country" and more dates are expected to be added later on, especially in Scotland. Unless it's spectacularly successful, I expect we can write off a U.S. megatour with a three-night stop in Dallas/Fort Worth, but hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Now, let's deal with the first and most obvious question: No, this ain't your mama Jen's Big Country. We'll have to call this Big Country Mark Three,* seeing as one of the founding members, Stuart Adamson, rudely killed himself about nine years ago. (Yes, it really was that long ago, and no, I'm still not over it. I'm not sure I'll ever be over it. Lying sack of...Well, anyway:) The surviving three original members, drummer Mark Brzezicki, guitarist Bruce Watson, and bassist Tony Butler are all back, and Bruce Watson's son Jamie will also be joining the band on guitar. (Hard to believe Bruce Watson has a grown son. I swear the guy was nineteen years old just last week.)

And the vocalist will be (drum roll, please) Mike Peters of The Alarm, and if there's a more brilliant move in the hiring of a lead vocalist, I ain't seen it yet. (Sorry, Sammy Hagar. I'm sure you were a runner up, though.) Mr. Peters is the throaty guy behind 80s hits "The Stand," "68 Guns" and "Sold Me Down the River", and thankfully he's just listed as a "guest vocalist." The Alarm being quite the awesome ensemble themselves, it would be a shame to break them up permanently. Besides, The Alarm is the middle of its thirtieth anniversary tour. (I'll pause for a second and let that sink in. Thirtieth. Anniversary. Tour. Yeah. Me too.)

Tickets are running 22.50 euro, which is about $40 bucks U.S., and airline tickets from Dallas to London for that week of January are running around $1300. If I play with the dates there and back I can get it down to about a thousand, but there's still the hotel room and meals and all that. So, realistically, I can forget about this one unless by some miracle I get a book contract between now and then. (Hey you. Yes, you in New York City. You know you're thinking about it.) Ironically, this would be the fourth time I've traveled via larga distancia to see Big Country play somewhere. (If Mohammed won't come to the mountain...) I know the third time is a charm, but does the fourth time count for anything? I'd better be careful. Last time I got smooched. Who knows what could happen. Course I'm, um, a little older now.

Hey, by way of countering some idiot pastor in Florida who does not bear mentioning here, today is Buy a Quran Day. If you buy it at Amazon, your purchase will be counted. Belated happy New Year to my Jewish friends and Eid ul-Fitr to my Muslim friends. And for all of us American folk, I wish the flags weren't at half-mast today.

*Purists and those of us with nothing better to do than remember odd and obscure facts will tell you that the Big Country most of us remember is Big Country Mark Two. Big Country Mark One consisted of Stuart Adamson, Bruce Watson, two keyboard players and a clarinetist and existed just long enough to open two dates for Alice Cooper before nosediving out of existence. I am not making this up. Except about the clarinetist, I'm not 100% certain about that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Talk Thursday: The Sock Drawer

A daunting task, if ever there was. Spinning a string of witty banter about, um, the sock drawer. Hoping to make some profound comment or other about the human condition. Hoping to at least sound halfway coherent, if anything. And what's my material? A box made of wood, with runners along the sides, much beloved of cats and, uh, containing socks. Really, a lesser person than me might run screaming.

Luckily for me, my sock drawer also has something else in it: Sex toys. Yep, ya gotta keep 'em somewhere, and that's just where mine have landed. To be honest, I have a less than impressive collection, but the mere fact that I have a collection is, well, worthy of blog material. Plenty of women don't. This is kind of sad. I'm not sure I want to live in a world where not all women have sex toys. (Don LaFontaine: "In a world where women have no sex toys, a new silicone wind is about to blow.") Oo, that was good. I should write it down. Oh, wait, I just did.

Anyway, I have a less than impressive collection of sex toys. Most of them are vibrator-like structures, and very few of them even bother to look like the organs they're supposed to represent. Sure, I have a couple of longish ones, including one that's actually too long, but for the most part we're talking four inches in length, an inch and a quarter around, shaped kind of like a lipstick. They vibrate in a nice, quiet, ladylike manner. Once I had one that said, "Welcome to Utah, have a nice day" down the side but I don't for the life of me know what happened to it. Swiped by my ex in the big breakup, I expect. Oh well.

Another one actually does look like what it's purported to represent, except for being bright fuschia and, well, kinda small. It doesn't vibrate, exactly, but it's sort of meant to have the assistance of another person, if ya get mah drift, in order to best do its thing. And do its thing it does - quite well. I also have a few pairs of suction cups that attach to certain bits and then vibrate a little, but frankly they don't do a whole lot for me. The package said, "For novelty use only," and I think in this case it was the truth.

Still, for sheer joyous solo fun, there's absolutely nothing better than my old friend, the Pulsatron. This wonder of modern engineering is an ovoid ball, connected to a wire that runs up like a pair of iPod headphones and plugs into a small control panel. The control panel is the work of genius behind this device. Oh, sure, it comes on at three different speeds, but besides that, it also has some special effects. Like starting out at a very low speed, getting gradually faster, and then suddenly stopping dead. Like pulsing once every couple of seconds, falling still in between. Like starting out at a low speed again, gradually speeding up, then slowing back down to still. And another variety of the pulse that really has to be felt to be described.

In all seriousness, every woman in America should have one of these. Hell, why stop there--spread the power of the Pulsatron all over the world. The only down side would be that, for a while at least, the males of the species would get absolutely no attention whatsoever. Unless, of course, they want to try it out themselves. And why not? Why should the ladies have all the fun, says I? I am an equal opportunity pervert.

Oh, you can buy one here. Or here. Didn't think I'd leave you hanging, did ya? And somebody remind me not to write blog posts like this in a crowded La Madeleine on a Thursday night.

Hey, next week is my topic! I'm open for suggestions. Comment me. Cheers!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Talk Thursday (the following Monday): Priority Mail

Interesting topic for a Talk Thursday. More so in that I spent much of the last several days wishing it were possible to mail human beings from one place to another. Here's the thing - I like going places, but I hate going places. That is, I hate the physical packing of a suitcase, finding a neighbor to watch after the cats, finding the cats so they can be watched over by the neighbor (with apologies to Douglas Adams), the hauling of me, Joan, the suitcase, and assorted accoutrements to the airport, the stuffing myself into an airplane seat, the stuffing Joan in next to me, the dirty looks from whoever has the misfortune of being stuffed in next to us (this last lady actually got up & moved; hey, if it's not a full flight and she'd rather sit next to a whiny four-year-old with a cold than me, well, God be with her) and then the doing it all in reverse on the other end. It would be much easier if we could just hop into an envelope, stick a stamp on our butts and emerge instantaneously on the other end. I keep wishing somebody would invent transporters, but particle physics keeps telling me that while it's technically possible, what it would actually be is not transportation but duplication. And the last thing we need is another one of me running around.

All that said, however, we spent an interesting weekend in Salt Lake City with my folks. Interesting because my folks are always interesting. For one thing, they're nomadic. They just happened to be in Salt Lake City this particular weekend. They have a house there and another one in Arizona but they're most often found at none of the above; Glacier National Park, Boise, North Dakota, Germany on one occasion, California, Las Vegas and various points between. But, this weekend they were in Salt Lake City. My sister and her husband, who also tend toward the nomadic, were there too, and that was pretty cool. We're not very often all in one place.

Salt Lake is the city of my young childhood, and it's changed quite a bit. For one thing, they have Starbucks now. For another thing, they have a baseball team, even if it is minor league. So we took in a game. The Bees vs. the Reno Aces, victory to the Aces. Oh well. I didn't get my baseball fix this past Fourth of July and we got to ride the train there, so it was all pretty cool. Besides, minor league baseball is fun. The players aren't as polished, so they make more mistakes and the games are a lot more unpredictable.

We also saw a play, Saturday's Voyeur. If you're anywhere near SLC and you speak Utah politics, you will probably want to see it. I didn't catch a lot of the in-jokes, but since many of them were national news, I picked up on the rest. It's a weird place, SLC. Even weirder than Texas. No, really. I am not making this up.

Major high point: Driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Silver Fork Lodge to have the world's best sourdough flapjacks. Major disappointment: Not getting to see JulieAnne because she was busy with family stuff. Oh well. Maybe next time.

And then it was time to repack the suitcase, stick another stamp on myself and mail myself home again, home again. And here we are. The cats are fine and even still speaking to us. Will wonders never cease.

Still, I'd kill for a transporter. Beam me up, Scotty!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weird Wednesday: A Cure For Brain Cancer

There's a lot of weirdness going around this Wednesday. To begin with, we have some whack job taking over the Discovery Channel offices because the channel encourage human breeding. Here's a link to his rant--apparently MySpace took his page down, so if you were trying to use the earlier link, sorry about that. We also had a psycho-stalker ex-girlfriend get herself stuck and actually die while trying to break into her former boyfriend's house by way of the chimney. I mean, there's no end to the possible jokes here, but I'll stick to "If Santa can do it, I can do it." But the weirdest by far is this one: A brilliant batch of masters of the obvious have just published an article in the Journal of the AMA, announcing that if you have bits of you lopped off, your risk of dying of cancer in your missing bits drops to zero. I mean, it's hard to imagine how we ever managed twenty thousand years of civilization without knowing that.

Seriously, look at the article. (Oh, sure, you can look it up on CNN or U.S. News and World Report, but let's just be hardcore and look at the real thing, shall we?) Honest to God, there it is, right under "Results": " No breast cancers were diagnosed in the 247 women with risk-reducing mastectomy compared with 98 women of 1372 diagnosed with breast cancer who did not have risk-reducing mastectomy." In short, if you don't have breasts, you can't get breast cancer. Wow. I mean, I'm just in awe.

All joking aside, though, "This is the first study to show that this risk-reducing surgery can extend the life of women," says Virginia Kaklamani, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study. Which is more than a little upsetting to yours truly. Women who carry a "mutant" version of a gene called BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 are much more likely to get breast or ovarian cancer than women who don't. That's a statistical probability. But just because one has an increased risk of getting cancer, does that mean one should have the offending bit removed? And when? Should we DNA-screen every infant and start with the double mastectomies when they're six months old? Or wait until they're twelve? Is twenty-four okay, or has the "mutant gene" already started to wreak havoc by then? When is it the least traumatic to have a body part chopped off? Would you rather lose your leg at five or fifty?

To make this even more tricky, the "mutant" genes tend to be carried by Jewish women of Eastern European origin at a rate 10 times higher than in the rest of the population. "Me of IA" nailed it when he or she commented on the U.S. News & World Report forum,

"Voluntary" sterilization. Implementation is based on a woman's submission to the authority of the medical doctor (and his appeal to her fear of death). 'Jewish women with Eastern European roots should get tested.' If testing is recommended to them, is sterilization encouraged? Sterilize the Jews?!?!?! Holy mother of god! They're mutilating and sterilizing women, and openly admitting the genetic motive! If that's not whitewashed genocide, nothing is.

Thank you, Me of IA. That's exactly what I was thinking.

I gotta wonder if doctors would be quite so quick to recommend this same "risk-reducing surgery" to their male patients with a high risk of testicular cancer. Not an issue, right? You don't need balls to live, do you? And what's a little sack of tissue hanging from your scrotum when compared with extending the lives of men? Good God, DNA screen the dudes and start chopping at age twelve. Better safe than sorry and all that.

Come to think of it, I just thought of a cure for brain cancer. Let's start with Virginia Kaklamani. Oh, whoops. Too late.