I have lice: meditations

Yes, I think daily about shaving my head. No, I haven't done it yet. I'll keep you posted.
Yes, I think daily about shaving my head. No, I haven’t done it yet. I’ll keep you posted.

I have lice. I’m sharing this with you partly because I regard my faithful readers as also being among my closest, most supportive friends. And lice are indeed a headache.

If you’ll pardon the pun. (Sort of.)

Sympathy is in order here.

There is also something of a point to my sharing this really rather unnecessary detail. Not too long go, I had what I regarded as a paranoid fear about this. As it turns out, I wasn’t mistaken. I wasn’t over-reacting. I wasn’t being paranoid. I indeed had lice.

I hate when I’m right and think I’m wrong. It reeks of missed opportunities and might-have-beens. It’s worse than when I think I’m right and turn out to be wrong. I expect that. Being wrong is inevitable.

My failure to realize I was right had something to do with conflicting bodies of evidence in my own mind.

On the one hand, I knew the extremely low probability of my coming into contact with lice, given that I don’t have small children or even any contact with small children and I don’t spend time rubbing my head indiscriminately against other people just to see what will happen. And it’s difficult to get lice from inanimate objects.

On the other hand, there was my suspiciously itchy head and a vague visual flash of a lice shampoo seen most recently in the drug store where I had waited a long time in an upholstered chair for a prescription, my head tilted back with fatigue. That image, coupled with the thought, “This is where people come to buy lice treatment.”

Did I see someone holding lice shampoo in their hand at the checkout line ahead of me? Is that why the image flashed into my mind? Hard to know where these small details come from, or what they mean sometimes.

I erred on the side of probability. Fair enough. Except that the consequences for not paying attention to that little inner nudge that maybe I had beaten the odds were unpleasantly high. My head has been itching for two months now. I am now in a place with fewer effective treatments for it, and getting rid of them once and for all will take effort and a great deal of patience.

The lice infestation station. Complete with clean laundry.
The lice infestation station. Complete with clean laundry.

Also, it’s damn cold. Combing out lice is a lot easier with wet hair, which tends to make things seem colder. Especially when you’re sitting wet in the “shower” lathering up your hair in between pours of hot water over your body from a bucket. (Yes, there is an actual shower head. No, I don’t use it.)

My life now revolves around combing lice out of my hair before they can breed and multiply. This, I see as a state well worth having avoided.

On the other hand, what would the consequences have been of taking my paranoia more seriously if I hadn’t had lice? An unnecessary trip back to the drug store and a comb through the hair with a lice comb. Yes, I was really busy and didn’t have time for another drug store trip. Yes, I still could have done it. I wish I had.

But what if I had taken this approach? When in doubt, gather more information. (Get the lice comb. See if you actually have lice. Then proceed.)

I have another thought about this, as well. My mistakes have not, so far, been very life-threatening. I have had some near-misses, but to a one, they have not resulted in death. This may be obvious, but given how many times I might have died and didn’t, I think I’m doing pretty well for myself.

And that’s really what counts. I am not always right. In fact, I’m wrong a good lot of the time. But when it comes to life-and-death decisions, I’ve come out on top of things. More than once. So maybe it’s okay to be wrong sometimes.

There’s always something more to learn, isn’t there?


A "before" picture. "After" pictures coming soon!
A “before” picture. “After” pictures coming soon!

Here’s a funny story: so my laptop is equipped with a built-in camera. It’s fairly new, since I managed to short out whatever bit of circuitry is responsible for charging the battery in my old one. And, well, I couldn’t live without one in either India or Country X, neither of which necessarily has reliable electricity 24 hours a day. So a battery is kind of important, even if you don’t use your laptop as a “mobile” device.

I have taken pictures with the laptop camera—you can see an example of one above. They are the blurry-looking ones with the crappy lighting. I had noticed the poor quality of the pictures, but I didn’t think too far beyond that.

Then today I saw the little plastic film that had been placed over the lens to protect it during storage and shipping. And it occurred to me that taking photos through a film of plastic might make your photographs a bit blurry and screw up the contrast.

See, these are big and heavy. You don't want one just lying around anywhere. They also count as deadly weapons. So be careful.
See, these are big and heavy. You don’t want one just lying around anywhere. They also count as deadly weapons. So be careful.

Life seems like that to me. Sometimes it’s the big things that go wrong and ruin your life, but more often it’s some stupid little bit of plastic you’d failed to noticed that throws a monkey wrench into everything.

Success may be largely about what you do with the stupid bits of plastics that stand in your way.

“Stay loose,” is the advice I’ve heard recently. Yes, maybe. That might be the right idea. There is probably a place for marching into the store where you bought the laptop and complaining about the poor quality of the photos it is taking. Then they can remove the stupid bit of plastic for you, while you feel slightly foolish.

But maybe that’s really more stressful. Maybe it’s easier to give it a few weeks—as I did—and see if a solution presents itself quietly, while you’re sitting at the laptop, typing up a blog post and not thinking at all about the poor quality of the photos or what might be causing it.

I don’t know. But a song comes to mind. “You gotta know when to hold ‘em…” You know the one. Maybe that’s what wisdom really is.

Sod Off

Worth watching just for the cinematography. It's cracking.
Worth watching just for the cinematography. It’s cracking.

After chores are done, and I’m so tired I can’t lift my head off the back of my chair, I watch TV. A lot of people do that. It’s interesting to note that in that regard I am a great deal like the rest of the human race. Very comforting, in fact.

I watch an awful lot of shows originally broadcast on the BBC (and a few shows made elsewhere and rebroadcast on the BBC).  I’m not some sort of weird Brit TV snob who believes the UK makes vastly better television shows. It just kind of happened. Mainly, I grew tired of CSI, Law and Order, and Crossing Jordan and moved on to Inspector Lynley, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Wallander, Spiral, Cracker, Taggart, Midsomer Murders and…well, you get the idea.

The US just does not have enough compelling shows in which people try to sort out how dead bodies came to be dead bodies. I’m afraid I was forced to look elsewhere.

Along the way, I have come across a great number of expressions and exclamations that I really wish I could work into casual conversation without sounding like a pompous twit. (Pompous twit among them). A selection of these follows, although I’m sure there are some I missed or forgot.

1) Cracking (even better–right cracking)

2) Brilliant

3) Better put my skates on.

4) Sod off.

5) Cuppatea (All one word. Usually a question.)

6) Muck about

I occasionally wander over to comedy as well. The character of Nessa on Gavin and Stacey is brilliant. She says "cracking" a lot.
I occasionally wander over to comedy as well. The character of Nessa on Gavin and Stacey is brilliant. She says “cracking” a lot.

I’m especially taken with “cracking.” All those velar consonants in a row–it really makes for a nice, emphatic sound, an even better expression than the rather unfortunately out-of-fashion “wicked awesome” or just “wicked.” (No, nothing to do with the musical.) And muck is just one of those words that seems to perfectly match sound and meaning. Muck sounds so very much dirtier than mess, doesn’t it?

Anyway, here’s an example:

Oh, brilliant! I have an appointment in five minutes. I’d better put my skates on. And, you! Stop mucking about! No, you can’t have a cuppatea! In fact, it would be right cracking if you would just sod off!

But I suspect none of my friends would ever speak to me again if I started sounding like that. Would they?

(As an addendum, upon further reflection, I think I’ll just stick to “cracking.” That’s the best of the lot anyway. So don’t mind me if I start throwing cracking into every second sentence. That’s just me, being my usual, cracking self. Well, okay, maybe me just being weird…)

A Magic Mountain Day

roller coasterI know I owe another installment of my Psychotherapy 101 series. I promise I have not forgotten. That is still forthcoming. Never fear.

But today was just too exciting a day not to write about.

I went to the doctor.

Although it may not be an event in your life when you take your clothes off and let a near-stranger feel all of your most vulnerable parts, it is for me. It is a little like the rides at Magic Mountain. It’s an event.

Of course, Magic Mountain is actually fun, and although the doctor who examined me is hot in her own quiet way, getting felt up by her in the way she felt me up is not fun. I mean, I could probably kind of convince myself there was some fun to be had in there, but it would take some doing.

I feel a little queasy just looking at these.
I feel a little queasy just looking at these.

Nonetheless, I have a sense of accomplishment afterward, like jumping off the high dive for the first time. “See, Mom!” I want to shout, “I did it. All by myself.” I’m not really sure who “Mom” would be in this situation. Certainly not my mom, but that is what kids tend to shout, so it’s still what I feel like saying.

It especially feels that way because I had blood drawn, as they tend to do when you go to the doctor, and I am awful about blood. I am even worse about needles. Shots tend to make me nearly faint.

Also, since I am going away, I expected other needles to be involved as well. Fortunately, I am much more up-to-date on all the exotic immunizations–like typhoid–than I had expected. They didn’t have what I really did need (Japanese Encephalitis).

But the anticipation of all of those immunizations meant I entered the examining room sweating and shivering at the same time. Having fasted and gone without my usual morning tea (which has lately stepped up to coffee for reasons I can’t fully explain), I wasn’t my clearest or most coherent.

Getting on the examining table turned out to be its own challenge. It was me against the paper. I’m not sure who won. Probably the paper. But the doc set that right again, so it was all fine.

Anyway, I survived it. Furthermore, I managed to more or less coherently ask the questions I needed to ask despite being caffeine deprived and terrified and get the paperwork filled out for the Country X officials.

So it’s been a good day.

Staying warm is really expensive. I may have to sell a kidney to get one of these.
Staying warm is really expensive. I may have to sell a kidney to get one of these.

Then, afterwards, I stopped at a sporting goods store to check out things that people who live in sunny climes like myself don’t typically have unless they ski (and I don’t): like waterproof rain jackets, long underwear, and wool socks that don’t make you want to tear your feet off they itch so much.

I had a small heart attack after looking at the prices and left. More on that later.

But, really, if you have suggestions on where to buy those things cheaply, let me know. I do remember from living in a cold climate that being cold and wet because you can’t afford the proper clothing sucks. It is infinitely better to be broke in a warm region than a cold one. I remember that very clearly.

Me and Andy Goldsworthy: The Night I Did Not Pee on Mrs. Counsillor Nugent’s Floor

Andy deserves one of these with his name on it.
Andy deserves one of these with his name on it.

Andy Goldsworthy is my homeboy.

Not really. But we go way back.

I credit him with helping me keep my head on straight for a night and offering a few hours of exceptional bladder control.

I should start at the beginning.

I had a job in college. A couple of them. They kept me in chalk pastels and coffee for a few years. I thank the federal government, my friends who let me have refills that weren’t really refills, and Mrs. Counsillor Nugent* for that.

Mrs. Counsillor Nugent, who is indeed one of the most frightening and intimidating librarians to ever exist, took a liking to me. I think. That liking involved keeping me on summers to conduct inventory.

During which time I also engaged in such rewarding and stimulating pastimes as photocopying my feet. I am deeply sorry, Mrs. Counsillor Nugent. I know I let you down. I was 19 and an idiot. I’m sure you know nothing about that. Being an idiot, I mean. Although we were all 19 once, weren’t we?

But I have no doubt that you never, ever photocopied your feet on a public copy machine.

The real "Mrs. Counsillor Nugent" looked more like Hyacinth Bucket. But she smiled less.
The real “Mrs. Counsillor Nugent” looked more like Hyacinth Bucket. But she smiled less.

Her liking extended so far as to promote me to “night guard.” I know. It’s quite evident from my posts that I am a terrifically scary, intimidating person perfectly capable of fending off desperate library users wanting to illicitly check out reference books.

But there you have it. I was the night guard my last year or two of college. (It all gets a bit fuzzy now. That is entirely about coffee and idiocy. I was never much of a drinker.)

That involved a raise. Thank you again, Mrs. Counsillor Nugent. I swear to you that I used the extra 35 cents an hour well. Mostly for coffee. Which fueled my writing. Which allowed me to finish my thesis. Which allowed me to graduate.

Thank you.

I also shelved books, which I have quite a knack for, having done it for most of my teenage years. And which I continue to do in public libraries. Just out of habit. But I try not to let it get out of hand. Just, you know, the odd 20 or 30 out of order on the shelf. Or lying around nearby. I’ve never spent more than 20 minutes doing it. I’ve got everything under control

As “night guard,” I locked up as well. That, I suppose, was the guard part.

Andy and I date back to the night I locked myself up along with the books.

It’s a little hard to describe how it all happened but, if you need to, imagine me with very little sleep, a key left ever so handily in a drawer at the circulation desk, and metal grille gates. Not anywhere close to the key.

Thus, for one of my last acts of idiocy, I spent a night in the library in a space about 6 foot square with nothing but the As and Bs of the reference department. Mostly Bs.

If you know anything about the Library of Congress system, then you know that that is the area where you will find general works, philosophy, and religion. Imagine spending the night with nothing but dictionaries of religious terms.

It was hell.

Thank you, Andy. We almost made it.
Thank you, Andy. We almost made it.

And I had to pee. For about 7 hours. Like a proverbial racehorse.

You do not pee on Mrs. Counsillor Nugent’s floor. Not unless you are about to die. And then it’s okay because you’re too dead for her to kill like a dirty cockroach in the kitchen.

Since I thought I would probably live to see the light of day, I spent most of the night focused on not peeing.

And that’s where Andy came in. A great, big, beautifully designed books of his artwork was displayed in the As and Bs of the reference section. There was no particular reason for that. I just lucked out.

Andy kept me going until about five am. The housekeeper came at six.

But I did not pee on the floor.

I promise you, Mrs. Counsillor Nugent. I peed, but I did not pee on your floor.

*Not her real name. I’ve stolen the name from “Keeping up Appearances.” It seemed to suit her.

My Spam Fans

Some program called Askimet protects my blog from spam everyday, but it keeps my spam messages for a period of time so that I can review them before they are deleted.

Most of the spam messages are very flattering. I am, according to my spam messages, a wonderful writer, providing great content, and use a great blog design. (Never mind that the design of it is off-the-shelf, free, and provided by WordPress.) Oh, and original.

I guess my need for positive self-esteem and flattery oozes through every pixel of my page. Or, it’s universal.

Someone named bbom particularly loves me. He writes in almost daily. Saying things like, “it was nice to read your blog. the thoughts are very well laid out and it was refreshing to read. i was able to find the information that i was looking for. thanks.”  Or, “it helped me with knowledge so i really believe you will do much better in the future i appreciate everything you have added to my knowledge base. thanks”

Bbom needs some work on capitalization rules, but I’ll excuse it. Because he clearly just loves me so much. I could use the ego-stroking. Especially given the box of dirt I’m carrying.

I did get a comment in Russian a while ago that said something demeaning about my being a gay man. Or maybe a prostitute.  (Thanks, Googletranslate!) But generally spammers are incredibly nice. Generic, as you can see from bbom’s comments above. But nice.

So I feel a little guilty laughing at their errors. But not so much I won’t share them with you. Someone calling himself levitra said this, “Hi there it’s me, I am also visiting this web page daily, this website is really good and the users are in fact sharing fastidious thoughts.” I guess he mistook the topic for OCD. Or maybe he just thought I was a Martha Stewart wanna-be offering advice on how to set your table beautifully this Father’s Day.

This one is almost as fun, “I like this web blog its a master peace ! .” Aside from the double punctuation (maybe cocktail dresses kohls just couldn’t decide), I’m flattered at the way she thinks I’m really doing good in the world. You know, inspiring peace like that.

But my favorite spam fans are the ones offering products I don’t need. Aside from Levitra and Cialis, which I continue to be unable to fathom a use for, I’ve also been offered roofing services. In the UK. Apparently, the roof I don’t own can be improved substantially if I just move it across the pond a bit. Next, I need a hook-up with some international movers.

And I’m starting to seriously ponder advice about improving my seo ratings. Evidently, I’m supposed to include at least one internal link in my posts, and the title within the first paragraph, the web address, and the last line of the post. But maybe that’s just the power of propoganda. Keep reading it and…?

Still, my most-viewed post of all time does only one of those things: Repeat the title in the web address. (Since all of them do).

This is, incidentally, my 200th post. So thanks to all the real people out there who continue to make fastidious comments. Доброго времени суток!Хотите заказать одежду на выгодных условиях? Тогда читайте новость (With a little luck, maybe we can do some shopping together.) Or maybe just given bbom a hand with his homework.

Spam comments. Yep. That’s for you, SEO. Love you, too.

A Desperate Cry for Help: The Ridge Gourds

I have decided this blog has been far too serious for far too long.

It is time to leave aside the human mind, questions of good and evil, or any thought of how to live a better.

It is time to talk about ridge gourds.

This is a ridge gourd. In the area of my home I like to think of as "the study." Some people would call this "the livingroom" but that usually implies guests. I never have guests.
This is a ridge gourd. In the area of my home I like to think of as “the study.” Some people would call this “the livingroom” but that usually implies guests. I never have guests.

I am fond of ridge gourds. They have lovely quality that reminds me of cucumbers, where they really don’t taste like anything. Which means they could be made to taste like whatever you want.

I have no idea how to cook a ridge gourd. But living in the 21st century, I have been industrious and resourceful this morning. I googled it. And found this recipe for beerakaya curry. Apparently, in Andhra Pradesh, ridge gourds are known as beerakaya.

It claims to require only 15 minutes of preparation time. It also calls for 5-6 chilis. So it must be good.

Fauzia makes it look damn good, doesn't she?
Fauzia makes it look damn good, doesn’t she?

I also found this recipe for ridge gourd curry (torai), because that is what ridge gourd is called in much of the rest of India–or maybe just North India. I have no clue actually. But this recipe calls for coconut milk. Which I don’t have.

But coconut milk is the closest thing left to manna from heaven in this sinful, modern age. So I’m considering it. You know, since it’s the 21st century. And we have grocery stores. (Oh, just like last century.)

So what’s the problem? A fear of commitment. If I am going to offer up my dear, darling ridge gourds up to the whims and wiles of an online recipe, I’d like some reassurance that they will be in good hands.

After all, they are the only ridge gourds I have. So if you have ever prepared ridge gourd, or your mother has, or your auntie has, can you provide some tips? Pointers? Things to steer clear of?

I and the ridge gourds would be very grateful.