Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Something's Wrong

I have to make an appointment to start another endless round of doctor visits, but this time it's for me. I have to do some reading first, though, since it seems that doctors can't diagnose anything unless you already know what it is that's wrong. You come to them and say "I think I have Dread Disease X" and they run a test for Dread Disease X, but you come to them and say "I've had diarrhea for a year, and my knee hurts" and they say "eat fiber and take some ibuprofen" or send you home with a prescription for Obecalp. * They call these conditions "idiopathic," meaning that you're a freakin' idiot for thinking there's something wrong with you, and you should just go home and quit wasting their precious time. (Yes, I know what "idiopathic" really means, but this is what it implies.)

Anyway, I still haven't diagnosed myself, but my main candidates are fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. If you know any other diseases I might consider, do drop their names in the comments. Here are the symptoms:
  • diarrhea on and off for a year
  • pain that comes and goes, but mostly comes, in my right elbow (radiating up and down my right arm) and my right knee and ankle, to the point that it's too painful to walk (knee) or lift anything heavier than a couple of pounds (elbow)
  • pain worse in morning
  • occasional numbness in right pinkie and ring finger, not caused by nerve damage (this was tested, test showed no nerve blockage or scarring), associated with holding right arm at right angle
  • skin itchiness, worsening in afternoon and evening, not associated with change in laundry products
  • stiffness in morning-- hard to walk when first getting out of bed, feet feel like useless lumps, painful to take first steps of day
  • developed bunions on both feet a couple of years ago, even though I don't wear tight shoes and I'm only in my mid-30's and nobody else in my family has them
  • fatigue; can't climb stairs without needing to rest at the top
  • depression; flat affect
  • near constant muscle aches in shoulder/neck (could be tension from having to practically go to med school before I go pay someone to diagnose me)
  • Orthopedist says there's nothing wrong with my knee or elbow
Any ideas?

* Obecalp is "placebo" spelled backwards. My dad has a funny story about how, in the pre-Viagra days, he successfully cured a man's erectile dysfunction with Obecalp, the pharmacy's name for sugar pills.

Stossel on School Choice

No less a personage than John Stossel is weighing in on the voucher issue!

Monday, October 29, 2007

OBF Endorsement: Referendum 1(Utah School Vouchers)

For the benefit of my three Utah readers, I announce my endorsement of Referendum 1, in favor of school vouchers.

Here are my snappy retorts to the canonical anti-voucher arguments:

  • Vouchers take money away from public schools: First, check your facts: in Utah, vouchers are funded from the state's General Fund, not the Education Fund. Second, yes, the public schools will lose money. Funny how they don't find it worth mentioning that they'll also lose students. It really shows what counts for them, doesn't it? Third, the voucher program can take at most a couple of percent of students from the public schools. Wow, that's a huge reduction in funds.
  • Vouchers are untested: we already have a nice means-based, federally-funded voucher-type program going on in post-secondary education. It's called Pell Grants. Also there's another one, not means-tested, called the GI Bill. Check them out.
  • Teachers at private schools are "unqualified": this is the argument which gets me the most incensed. I have a Master's degree in mathematics and 10 years college teaching experience, but I'm not "qualified" to teach math in a public high school. If I applied, they wouldn't even give me an interview, because I couldn't stand sitting through the political correctness classes that comprised the teaching credential. However, they wouldn't hesitate to give the math classes I would have taught to the P.E. teacher, who has a bachelor's degree in Phys Ed and whose last math class was College Algebra, which he passed with a C-. Which, by the way, he took from me (or someone like me). I could be hired at a private school though; in fact I would probably not have to do anything but ask for a job there. I've never been turned down anywhere I've offered my services as a math teacher, but the public schools would have to turn me down. So what were you saying now, about private school teachers not being "qualified"?
  • Vouchers won't reduce class size: I actually agree with this point (see the point above about the actual size of the voucher program). On the other hand, every year the schools beg the legislature for more money to reduce class sizes, and every year they get it, and class sizes still aren't reduced. When the legislature tried to earmark some of the money for class size reduction, the teacher's unions raised holy hell. Telling, isn't it, about the current system's priorities when it comes to actually reducing class size?
  • Vouchers don't help the very poorest kids to get into the most expensive private schools: DUH. The point is to help the very poorest kids get OUT of the public schools, when the public schools aren't serving them. Also, since when is "it doesn't help everyone" an argument against a government program? I don't get any help from Food Stamps and Social Security. Do you? If not, do you think we should do away with those programs? That there exists food that can't be afforded on Food Stamps (e.g. caviar and the freshest world-class sashimi) isn't an argument against Food Stamps, either. So neither is the existence of schools that can't be covered by vouchers an argument against vouchers.

    Also, there are more costs to public education than people realize. For one, many parents are having to pay for tutors already, to help their kids succeed in the public schools. I know, because they hired me. The parents are picking up the school's slack, but when the students then pass their tests, the schools claim credit. How is that fair to parents, especially poor parents who couldn't afford to hire a tutor and didn't know enough to tutor their kids themselves? How does that show there's nothing wrong with our public schools?

    And finally, everyone (even most of the pro-voucher people) seem to be ignoring the fact that if the number of students with $3000 to spend on private education is increased, more private schools can be formed, especially private schools that coincidentally cost $3000 or less. Here's a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: Say 10 students in Tooele get a $3000 voucher. That's not too much of a stretch, since the median income in Tooele is low enough that $3000 vouchers would be merited. 10 students at $3000 each is $30,000. Hire a teacher to do a one-room schoolhouse type deal, buy a whiteboard and some Singapore Math books, and rent an office room. I figure that you could do all this for an additional $50 a month per student. Poor families could afford that. However, poor families can't afford to send their kids to free public or charter schools in Salt Lake, even if they could get past the district bureaucracy (public) or 1000-student waiting list (charter), because of the expense of gas to drive from Tooele to Salt Lake.

    So don't come crying to me that poor people can't afford a private school education, because there are plenty of public school educations they can't afford either.
If I were Empress Of The Universe? I would create charter schools. So this is a second-best solution for me. But second-best is better than nothing.

I want one to go with my free Tibet

A site to check out: . If you're a Randian type, or you just want to get that perspective on stuff (especially Utah's school voucher issue), go there. These guys have very intelligent, fact- and values-based pro-voucher arguments. A lot of people I've talked to are actually pro-voucher at heart but they aren't hearing any logical arguments against vouchers. If you're one of those, FreeCapitalist is where you'll find what you're looking for.

Sorry, though, they're not giving away free capitalists.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thoughts on Getting Around Minimum Wage Laws

In my wildest dreams, I am a graduate student in Economics at George Mason University, and I write my thesis in microeconomics on the craft business.

My basic idea is that the craft business is a way to (legally) get around minimum wage laws. People whose time is not productive enough to make minimum wage, for whatever reason-- maybe the time they have in which to be employed comes in too-small chunks or at odd hours, maybe they are splitting their time between working and tending children, maybe they are disabled and can't sustain a regular job-- these people go disproportionately into making and selling crafts, and they make very little money doing it. My argument is that no matter how vociferously they claim this is due to skinflint neighbors, evil box stores, or Chinese imports, they are in fact working and getting paid according to their reduced productivity-- and it's all totally legal in the United States.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Quest For The Non-Dairy Creamer

Alternatively titled, "Why does my non-dairy creamer have milk allergy warnings?"

I wanted to make some hot chocolate mix for my kids. The recipes online call for powdered milk and non-dairy creamer. For powdered milk I can substitute Vance's Dari-Free, but for creamer? I tried substituting more Vance's Dari-Free, but it's coming out watery and just not, well, creamy. Unfortunately, I couldn't use non-dairy creamer, because it's not actually non-dairy.

Casein is the milk protein to which people with milk allergy are allergic. So how do they get away with calling it "non-dairy creamer" when it has an allergy warning that says "CONTAINS: MILK"? What part of "sodium CASEINate" don't they understand? How do they get away with this? Grrrr....

So I went on a quest for a truly non-dairy non-dairy creamer. Now if there's anyone on earth who understands this need to know whether there's the minutest amount of milk protein in something, it's the Jews. So on the advice of my Jewish aunt I turned to one of the world's premier hechshers, that of the Orthodox Union. Their Webbe Rebbe (hehe, cute!) sent me a very long list of brands of pareve non-dairy creamers. However, I couldn't find them near me. But I did find one that wasn't on their list, Oxygen Poliva, on Amazon. It comes from Israel and is pareve, and it was eligible for Super Saver Shipping, so I bought it (along with some other things that, ahem, the children shouldn't see for the next couple of months). It should be shipping out soon. I also ordered some powdered soy milk, to try with this vegan recipe (scroll down the page) in case that doesn't work. If my family doesn't like the soy taste, I can always give it away to the family down the street that also has 2 autistic kids and is trying a GFCF (gluten-free casein-free) diet. I'll just put it in a fancy jar and tie a bow around it, and voila! instant Christmas gift.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Aspies Shrugged

I'm finally getting around to reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. (Geez, it's taken me long enough, it's only been around, what, 50 years?) I'm only about 400 pages into it, and I'm thinking this isn't a philosophy book so much as a novel about a world where Aspies are idolized. If Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden had lived in our age, they would have had IEP's and been dragged to the child psychiatrist for meds. On the other hand, I'm starting to think that was rather Rand's point.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


At Baron's War I attempted to singlehandedly carry a 5 gallon jug of water, simplemindedly thinking that since water weighs around 8 pounds a gallon, and I regularly carry 50 or more pounds of childflesh up stairs, I ought to be able to carry a 5 gallon jug of water. Sadly, I pulled something in my elbow, and had to rely on Little D to carry water for me for the rest of the campout.

Well, that was at the end of July, and my elbow still hurts. In fact I'm getting numbness and tingling in my pinkie and ring fingers too, and the pain's spreading to my wrist and shoulder. So I went to the orthopedist, who thinks I may have damaged my ulnar nerve.

Today I was subjected to a rather painful test to see the extent of the damage. Basically they strapped electrodes to my arm and shocked them with progressively stronger shocks to see if the nerves would transmit them. It felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing my arm with a very sharp pencil.

The test results will help the doc decide whether to operate or not. I'm not afraid of pain-- you are talking about a woman who's had two unmedicated childbirths, the second by choice-- but I'm not too thrilled at the prospect that this damage might have to be repaired by surgery. What I'm afraid of is that having to go in for surgery is really going to set off my Aspies, so at the same time they're melting down I'll have a diminished capacity to handle them. Heck, Bagel threw a fit this morning when we stopped by the bank on the way to daycare, because we don't usually do that. How upset is he going to be when Mom comes home with a bandaged arm, and she isn't cooking dinner or carrying him up the stairs?

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