Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Our small press Web page is up!

While I've been working hard on my end of the book (and other things!), my partner Dorothy has been working equally hard on getting the Web page set up, and now she has some pages up and ready to look at.

If you're interested in the intersection of science and CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), you'd be very welcome to browse our site: Helarctos Press.

We're working like crazy to get our first book, on massage research literacy (how to read a medical research article), finished and delivered, in and around the process of my graduation. Some representative sample pages are accessible from this page, if you'd like to see my writing :).

Although I didn't plan for everything to converge as it is (finishing the book, finishing my dissertation, finishing the sun bear slides), it's been an exhilarating ride!

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Lung balls

Here's my new vocabulary for the day: plombage. I actually learned that world in the course of doing a Google search on: tuberculosis lung "plastic balls".

What inspired that search was that I was visiting an older friend of mine today, who grew up in the South in the 1930s and 40s. She told us that she had had tuberculosis (TB) when she was born, which she got from her mother, who later died of the disease. I'll give away the punchline here by telling that my friend went on to live a happy, productive, and active life, despite having had the disease early in life, and despite the treatment she told about--the plombage.

Back in those days, treatments for TB were limited, and she was sent to a sanatorium to live for a while. According to this page I found when I came home afterward, the drugs she remembered--streptomycin ("a big needle, like this [hands a foot apart], every day!") and PAS--were discovered in 1944 and 1946 respectively. But before they had those drugs, they didn't have much else they could do about TB--it is an especially stubborn bacterium--so they tried lots of different things, some more extreme than others.

One of the things they tried experimentally was removing the diseased part of her lung, and filling the space with 24 small clear plastic spheres. She showed me a sample; it's about .75" (1.91 cm) in diameter, and very light. They put 24 of those in the space, and sewed her chest back up. (I tried to find a picture of the balls themselves in Google Images, but no luck.)

Apparently, the treatment made some people worse, and they had to open them up and remove the balls. My friend was luckier--like I said, she went on to recover and live (and still does) a very full, active energetic life, with home, family, friends, a career, and world travel.

But nowadays, very few people remember the bad old days of TB, and when she goes for an X-ray, she always causes a bit of a stir. The 24 plastic balls are still there in her lungs, and they show up as perfect circles on the X-ray. Every once in a while, she'll meet a doctor who knows of this, but most don't--and it amuses her to surprise them like that.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

So I married Martha Stewart

Very light posting lately, but I'm making good progress on my dissertation, the book, and the sun bear slides--so I hope to come up for air soon.

Yesterday, while I was working on the data chapter of the dissertation, I had Animal Planet on in the background. They had a series called "The Little Zoo That Could", about Alabama's Gulf Coast Zoo, which was rebuilding after 3 hurricanes.

At one point, food for the big carnivores ran tight in the wake of a chicken shortage, but there was a happy ending--someone came through with a lot of beef hearts, and (in typical Animal Planet style) saved the day.

But they did the coolest (heh!) thing with those hearts--they took the blood that came off of them, cut them with water (perhaps half and half; I missed the proportions), and froze them into "bloodsicles". Not only was it a treat for the big cats, it was an enrichment activity that kept them engaged as well! (A non-trivial problem for zoos, actually, and one which all the keepers I've ever known take very seriously.)

So naturally, I was inspired to do the same for our small carnivores (our little cat society), and that's when I learned another limit of Mr. Raven's. Apparently, since he does most of the housework, he feels that he should have the deciding vote on whether the cats get to drag melting bloodsicles all over the house--go figure!

As a scientist, I say that we can't know that they'd actually drag them all over the house until we try the experiment, but as I want Mr. Raven to be happy, I'm willing to concede this one.

However, I'm going to insist that our next place not have carpets--and then, cat enrichment is back on the table.

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