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Monday, July 26, 2004

"Enhancing the Experience of Aging"? 

Iffy jokes about being 50 today – in ebay responses, not years.

When I came home from an echocardiogram this afternoon (I absolutely hate it when the technicians get suddenly skittish and tremulously tell me my doctor will have the results "first thing tomorrow morning"), I found an invitation to join AARP waiting for me in my mailbox – I qualify for membership in 16 days....Merde!

Update 7/27/04 7:35am: After linking above to AARP's site, I browsed around it and couldn't find the acronym explained anywhere. That's just the kind of thing that drives a web editor crazy, so I wrote them: "Does your website say *anywhere* what AARP stands for?"

I got this answer:
Thank you for contacting AARP to ask us about our acronym.

Originally, AARP was the acronym for the "American Association of Retired Persons." Because the initials became so recognizable and familiar to so many people over the years, the Board of Directors made the decision in November 1998 to change our name to simply "AARP." This decision was made as part of our efforts to position the Association as the leading organization serving the needs and interests of people 50 and older and to reflect the diversity of the membership.
Merdeux merde!!


Friday, July 23, 2004

Sea-Worthy Sheepdog 

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through channels when I spotted the tail end of Son of Lassie on TCM. The last time I had watched it was when my mother was plunking us in front of the television after grade school everyday so she could nap. (What had she been doing while we were out?)

As a kid, I watched everything Lassie. My grandfather was a professional collie and sheltie breeder through the '50s. (He decided, as a small business owner, to move into poodles during the '60s.) When I was sent off to spend summers with him (I was a "difficult child", after all), I worked with him in the kennels, the infirmary, and his training classes. Even as a child, I thought about the training behind the scenes in Lassie movies and tv shows. Watching Son of Lassie, I'd been especially intrigued by the scenes of Joe and Laddie escaping enemy-held territory in a rowboat.

Yesterday, Sophie and I re-created our own twisted version of the tableau which has been frozen for decades in my head. Imagine the stolen rowboat morphed into a rented recreational kayak, Laddie shrunk down to a 15" shoulder height, and Joe and Laddie both in drag.

I wasn't sure how Sophie would take to water or a kayak, but she's remarkably trusting of her ungainly bipedal companion. During the first part of our 4-mile trip down Sugar Creek near Turkey Run, she hugged up against me. But by the end of the trip, she was out on the very tip of the bow, standing like an intrepid, um, hood ornament.

At one point, she looked back at me and barked. Dimwitted human that I am, I asked, "What? What do you want?" She barked again, with a slight Are-You-Listening?! tone added in. I suddenly recognized it as the same bark she uses when she needs to go out. I nosed up on the bank and waited. She jumped off, took her required break, grabbed a stick that caught her eye, and hopped back aboard looking just a bit pleased with herself.


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Light 'em Up 

I want someone to explain to me why more than 60% of prescription tablets use lactose as a binder.

My reaction to lactose is worsening. It has actually become rather violent: imagine the worst case of food poisoning you've had. But apparently that's fairly normal as people age. In fact, lactose intolerance is normal. I recently googled "'dairy intolerance' + allergy" after having another distressing and socially unacceptable reaction to a newly prescribed drug. Despite what the formidable, government-subsidized dairy industry would have us believe, lactose tolerance in adults is not typical. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine tells us that the label "lactose intolerance" is now being jettisoned in favor of labeling the lactose-tolerant minority as "lactase persistent".

Indeed, recent studies are showing that 75% of adults in the world do not have lactase, the enzyme necessary to process lactose – and when someone's intestines aren't able to process something, everyone in the room knows it in a very primal sense (eww). Evidently the minority of adults who can process lactose are of Northern European extraction. I would think that, in this melting pot country of mine, that's even fewer than 25% of adults, and rapidly falling.

If upscale vitamin companies are formulating tablets free of dairy, gluten, soy, starch, sodium, and yeast, why aren't pharmaceutical companies, who are charging upwards of 10 times more per tablet?

Let me guess. Could it be that lactose is a cheap binding agent? Harrumph. I would like to take every pharmaceutical executive who has ever approved using lactose and gluten and other cheap binders in their products, and lock them for 24 hours in a small room with a dairy-laden banquet. And then light a match.

After all, odds are, at least one of them will be lactose intolerant too.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Teaching Techniques 

Yesterday, I got a tiny pencilled note in the mail from the owner of Glass FX suggesting that I consider teaching a class on sand blasting glass. I had a rather tough time in Glass FX's 2 stained-glass construction courses, but etching designs into glass objects has really sparked my imagination. The process has been an exciting way to combine my skills and experience with freehand drawing, stencil cutting, airbrush painting, and graphic design software. But my reaction to Rich's query was, and still is, "No way am I good enough to teach it yet." Nevertheless, since I believe that you don't really know something until you try to teach it to someone else, I have caught myself imagining how I might arrange such a class. So who knows, Renice's Guide to Sandblasting Glass may be coming to a studio near you.

Once upon a time, I loved teaching studio techniques. I loved seeing students get excited about expressing themselves in new ways, or, even better, about seeing themselves – as well as the world – in new ways.

Last night, after I played 4 or 5 poker hands with Brad's money while he was engaged fixing his nicotine habit (don't worry, I came out pretty much even as I usually do), a few of us looked at paint swatches that Iffy is considering for his house. Kendra pointed out Behr's singularly unimaginative paint names ("Green Gold"? puh-leeze!). I was reminded of one of my color theory units, which I used in art classes for grade schoolers all the way through non-art majors in college. After a couple of units on basic color theory, I would have my students mix a set of "custom" colors, create swatches, and name them.

Across every age group, I'd get a similar reaction to the assignment: "You can't just name colors, Ms Wernette!" I would counter, "Oh yeah? Why not?" "Because they wouldn't be the real names!" "Oh, I see! And what are the real names?" It was always entertaining to watch realization spread across faces – realization, perhaps, that they'd unquestioningly accepted some non-existent source of authority. (Some day, I'll tell you about trying ot teach the same lesson on color names to a reputed genius in mathematics. Ahem.) Finally, my students would have some fun with the assignment. One of my favorites was a 2nd grader who created a series of Toxic Waste Greys, with each name in the series referring to a different type of environmental disaster. He had such a wonderful sense of irony, I was wistful that I wouldn't know him when he grew up.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

Why I Go Where I Go 

I'm hanging out with a laptop at Caffe Paradiso while I'm waiting for my Alexander Technique lesson. I like Paradiso: free WiFi, extension cords, airy space, decent soy mochas, large sparkling San Pellegrinos, and great funky decor in the women's room. I can't think of anything else I want from a coffee shop.

And yeah, women's room decor counts. When I lived in Manhattan, I kept a mental map of places that were ok and then I'd plan my excursions around them. I think most New Yorkers have lists of public restrooms around the city. For me, Banana Republics were always a safe bet – I wonder if they know how often their bathrooms are the impetus for clothing purchases. I know I have some friends who will be disappointed that I patronize the chain, but the truth is... sometimes, style trumps politics.