So ‘This is Spinal Tap??!!” (“adventures in damage control medicine and ultimate spin.”)

I really don’t need my body anymore, it’s just causing me problems. I’m really upset that my brain decided to forshadow an “event” and create such a rush of agitation, bewilderment and commotion. I’m sure that neurologists, anesthesiologists, interns, and the like waited like hungry hyaena under faux gum tree cover just outside the Emergency Room at the ‘newly re-designed’ Huntington Memorial Hospital.   Swallowing their baded breath, eager to “figure out my brain mystery” and get a little piece of the ‘disaster pie,’ every kind of medical mortal, a few days ago, was invoked in my honor.

When I felt, what the doctors now call a ‘thunder-clap’ headache, (no it’s not some sort of head swelling associated with a venereal disease, but an uncommon
sudden onset headache),
I was astounded, a bit frightened, and knew at the moment it struck that something was askew. Very badly askew.   This wasn’t just some sort of tension thing, nor was it ‘the worst migraine’ you could ever imagine, it was a lightening bolt to the brain, whom felt as though it had no recourse but to explode.

Holding my head in my hands and falling onto my bed, I told my husband through whispers, “something’s not right.” What an understatement that was.  I could see that, his face was white. He tucked me into our little Mini Cooper and off we went bumping and thumping along the ill-repaired 210 freeway. Once we arrived, the supposedly trained, ‘laymen looking’ triage team scanned my face and looked at me with suspicion. I was sure they were thinking,  “yah, right lady, headache…come to the emergency room…oh sure…you’re sick…riiiiight….ah ha…okay.” I peered at them through my hands and said, “I feel like i’m gonna die..”

Not a migraine, not the mommy!

After sitting in an intentionally uncomfortable chair, (they don’t want fakers to get comfy I would assume), I searched for a flat place to lay down, no dice. For some strange reason there is no place to do this in an E.R. (Which smacks of serious un-coolness as most people with real emergencies don’t want to;  or can’t be, upright for too long!)   The E.R. rats got me in semi-quickly (guess they thought better of their quick visual and sneering assessment when I threw up into one of their ash trays – I was thinking, “There! You see?”  Proven with vomit!

Surprisingly I quickly got a CT scan and then was sent out to wait, non-supine, I might add… to be called in for a lumbar puncture. Wait!? did they say, “lumbar puncture?” isn’t that a fancy way to spin a “SPINAL TAP?” ‘why yes, dear’ i heard my own voice say…There I was, a wikipedia-informed girl with a pounding headache that was making all information foggy, slow and sort of otherworldly.   I definitely heard, “Lumbar Puncture.
‘ My husband looked at me with his handsome dark eyes and grimaced and said, “well, honey, they have to rule out a ‘brain event,’ the CT scan is only 98% accurate, and we want to be 100% accurate.   That’s just great, I thought…you marry a guy whose employment history includes quality control and measurement analysis, and that’s what you get…”the quest for 100% accuracy.”    I should have been happy about his insistence in total quality management and accuracy, but I was so scared of the dreaded “spinal tap” that I would have been happy to roll the dice.

THIS is Spinal Tap!!!

I jauntily stepped toward the wheel chair, helped by a miniature Paula Abdul with a gold tooth and a starbucks cup in her hand,

Paula with Starbucks, not unlike the grimy coffee sucking intake technician in E.R.

and swung my bum into the canvas chair. I rolled to my torture room, where a bespectacled and bearded phlebotomist awaited my fresh blood filled arms. Being quiet and anti-compliant as my body has always been, it’s veins quietly rolled and shrank in horror as the phlebo’s large gauge needle approached it’s endolethium. I knew this wasn’t a good sign, it was obvious my body was not interested in having an I.V. inserted, nor was it happy about the impending lumbar puncture.   I had never had never joined my fellow birthing friends in accepting an epidural as an analgesic to the direct pain of childbirth, though they sang the praises of them.   I had a bad experience with epidural with my first and only one at Andrew’s birth. The tap itself didn’t hurt , but it was the medicine they sent through it was what really caused a strange effect on my body temporarily paralyzing me so that the baby had to be palpated out of me!  read: ‘squeezed’ out of me by nurses and doctors. But with this procedure, they are just drawing out some fluids.  what could be simpler? or less nefarious anyway? i reasoned.

My body was right. What started out routine was quickly seeming barbaric, as the 22 gauge needle went into the epidermis (the doctor gave me the ‘ol…’this is to help you not to feel pain’ routine) – but here’s the dichotomy; which the patient is usually too sick, woozy or plain slow to suss out…and that is that, THE DOCTOR IS STICKING A NEEDLE INTO YOU (WHICH IS PAINFUL RIGHT?) IN ORDER THAT YOU DON’T FEEL PAIN!! Well this conjecture is obvious, but as a person in pain or some sort of intractable position, you just don’t want to bone up to any critical thinking at a time like that.   The needle went into my back with a burn and i let out a quashed yelp.   The doctor was mid-diatribe of a blatant description of what his tools were doing to me during the procedure, and what they would be doing after the invasive procedure.  A larger needle has then entered into the crevice between my L3 and L4 vertebrae and was now ‘SUCKING’ fluid out of me! This wouldn’t sound so bad if it didn’t FEEL SO WRONG!


Apparently your brain immediately senses the loss in cerebral spinal fluid and momentarily turns in your cranium. It’s no longer floating correctly being bathed in cerebral spinal fluid! Your world spins, you want to wretch and there is hot lightening in your back along with a weird sucking ache from where the needle’s collection compartment is being changed quickly so as to draw at least 20cc from you. That’s alot of CSF and your brain can’t make it that fast. I was given oxygen (STAT, is what i heard through my Easy Rider floatation experience, where I heard my voice far far away from me, as I screamed and called for Steve my husband). It actually flashed through my mind that I might now know what torture actually is and how the Abu Gharib prisoners might have heard their own voices as experienced water-boarding!  I had been ‘outside’ of myself for a moment and it was shocking and strange. During my ‘out of body weirdness’ I heard the ER doc in a tight muted but still panic-stricken voice tell the Nurse’s assistant to get me ‘on the heart monitor’ and get me ‘oxygen STAT!’  I was back in my body as soon as they layed me down and gave me oxygen.  I can’t help think  that all of this would have been bearable had Nigel Tufnel been floating around there with me, telling me that ‘you can’t dust vomit,’ or ‘this one goes to eleven.’ with his longish cleft chin and seventies-like feathery- do.

"We've got armadillos in our trousers, it's really quite frightening."

That would have been the virtual WD-40 to the fix I was in, but we all know that reality bites and neither Mr. Tufnal, nor the effervescent, charmingly dim but hugely likable Mr. Derek Smalls couldn’t have soothed me at the time.

Le Show still rocks my boat, but Harry, Derek, or whatever incarnation he is in would have been a welcome distraction.

After resting for the predisignated time, signing oodles of paper, and drinking the prescribed amount of fluids, I was told the L.P. showed no cranial blood, so I wasn’t having a stroke, hemmorage, or an anyeurism.  I was happy.  My brain was happy.  I was put in a wheelchair and released me to the cloistered but cool confines of our Red Mini and into the loving hands of my hugely helpful husband Steve.

When I got home I layed down for an hour or so and felt pretty good, save for the headache!  Nackers! that’s what I started out with!  Well it wasn’t the nefarious sort, that blasted “Thunderclap” species.  I payed no mind.  The addage, ‘no pain no gain’ was somewhere on the tip of my tongue  as I washed a cereal bowl or two, so that the kids had some clean ones to choose from.   Placing the last bowl into my strange looking Ikea dish drainer, my spine started to course with lightening.  The electrical charge went all the way up to my head and my entire back, and  was seizing up quickly.   Even while laying down and not moving, the pain increased until it was unbearable. Soon any whispering wind through the window that caused me to slightly flinch caused the electrical shocks and tightness. I could not move. I spent the night taking ibuprophen hoping that this was just a stage and that the L.P. was in such a sensitive area that this must be one of the stages of ‘getting through it, to get better.” By the next morning, the birds were singing and I woke up with tears meandering down my cheeks.   ‘Back to E.R.” my mother said, who had kindly come to ‘watch me, handle  the house and ‘kid-stuff’ during the day while my husband went to work. Back in the glaringly fluorescent E.R., the gum chewing facebook updating certified technicians rambled about ‘what restaurant to get take-out from.  “Look, I’ll shave my chinstrap if you don’t like Zancou Chicken, one semi-bearded thrity-something male pleaded ‘  The elder of the flock gave a concerned look and sent out a scout apparently to retrieve a wheelchair for me.  I watied a few minutes until ‘chinstrap’ came back and announced that they were going to admit me and do a ‘blood patch.’  Once in the procedure room it was explained to me that the lumbar puncture had breached my dura and the resulting hole had not closed. furthermore, what seemed to be life-giving CSF was leaking out! I wondered if I’d soon be again listening to myself from far away and up above if everything leaked out!? My mind was racing, outstripping logical thought.   Soon I was prepped, shorn and put into one of those ridiculously cheery patterned gowns.  Mine had cherry fruits with small laughing faces on them.  Not a sign of luck.  I laid on the thin operating table ready for the procedure and the door opened once again.  I was staring right into the eyes of the host of “Man-vs.-Food.”

Dr. Ali...Your secret is out, you also host Man vs. Food!

Okay, you have to be a food channel viewer to key into what I’m talking about here. My anesthesiologist was a carbon copy, I mean TWIN of  Adam Richman, the host of “Man-vs.-Food” an  amazingly funny show.   I should have taken this as a sign of good luck but I was shivering with fear and the comfort of a funny celebrity twin doing my procedure was no match for my tenuousness.  I soon found out that the “fix” to my ‘leaking cerebral spinal fluid problem’, was to go in the same way, and then pump in my own blood in hopes of it forming a “patch.”  This did not calm me.   I will admit,  “Man-vs.-Food-twin” was kind, explanatory, sweet, and explained the entire procedure to me. I figured I’d get the meat of the matter, and this answer would either soothe me or sink me.  I asked boldly whether this typically hurts as much as a lumbar pucture.  MVF – twin just grimaced (he looked even more like his long lost t.V. land twin. but sans ketchup, hot sauce or bits of pickle on the corner of his mouth. He offered,  “well, all I can say is that we’re going back into the same area. There!  I had my answer.  As I bared my precious L3 and L4 to him draping my torso over a padded stainless surgical steel tool tray, I squeezed the hand of a nurse that looked alot like my mother. I shivered, tried to stay still, and took a deep breath. I hardly felt the needle!  and MVF (Man-vs.-Food) injected the blood that he had drawn from my arm quietly into my back.

He finished the procedure, put a band aid type patch on my back, took off the surgical masking and came around to talk with me.   Beaded sweat permeated his brow, his side face area and upper lip were soaked. Was he worried? Was he running in circles as the needle was sucking up fluid? maybe he had been doing some Billy Blanks exercises in order to keep his ‘core’ toned, you know you gotta fit those into your everyday life! as Billy says…but my senses were thinking critically. He was nervous.

Over the next few days, at home I once again became an electrical pin cusion and proceeded to partial paralysis. This time in E.R. I was admitted, and MRI’s were ordered. I pictured myself  like a hot dog being stuffed into a cornbread wrap being heated up with magnets. This didn’t help,

Once at the MRI lab I invoked great joy in the  MRI technicians as they realized that the patient they were setting up and sliding into the machine was a latent  clausterphobe!  Imagine getting a patient on a gurney only to pull them out 30 seconds later crying, saying that they ‘just can’t do this’  because they felt like they were being entombed?  That was me.  I never would have known until that moment, but the fear is very real.  My husband expained to me that the MRI was open at the other end! (Stupidly noone had shown me the full architecture of the machine, nor does one have a vantage point when laying on a gurney so as to see that the machine is actually open on the other end).  Nevertheless, my husband  stood at the other end and stroked my forehead and hair until the test was done.  What a cool guy.  he represented a  way out if I absooutely had to get out.  It’s comforting to know that if you ‘freak out,’ for lack of a better term, that someone can rescue you.

The act can be a claustrophobic event.

I spent the next two days doing tests and finally, amazingly…got the one brain MRI that peratained to the original problem and wasn’t just damage control. That MRI unequivocally ruled out any past brain event that might have been the reason for the ‘thunderclap’ / ‘sudden onset headaches’ FINALLY! but…even when you think you’ve got complete honesty and intractibility, you get spin. As great as the hospital staff was (demanor, care, manner, attentiveness, services..) once admitted, every good scenario seems to have it’s caveat. “Your brain is perfect!, the MRI shows a healthy brain!  the attending doctor said.- we, however cannot rule out this as a precursor to an upcoming event in the future, as this was an MRI without contrast.”  But we don’t forsee anything because your veins are all clear! There is no sign of mass or distress!

This is when it’s a good thing to be an optimist, or a non-critical thinker, or even just to be the type of person that ‘spin’ actually works on. I could be called a pessimist, but I think realist is a better description. It could still happen. It could happen to anyone for that matter.   I don’t want it to happen, but I am savvy enough to know that this hospital and it’s doctors were doing ‘damage control’ and ‘making me feel better about my situation. Neverheless they actually did seem to care, which is so rare these days.  To actually have that translated to you, whether you are a consumer, a patient, an employee…it takes a well trained and well selected group of people to translate this through their jobs.

I’m glad this hospital kept ‘spin’ to a min.  I can’t say they didn’t engage in a little bit of it, but they did it to keep me from worrying about something which none of us can control.   Forcing doctors to tell the unequivocal truth is important.   I do understand the semantics used about my MRI.  What can I do about it? what can anyone? Until then, no worries.  I have the choice to put those possiblities in the back of my mind and use them as experiences whose data might need to  access one day in a even life-threatening circumstance.    To the medical industry thanks for the care but don’t spin me…unless you’ve got Nigel, Derek, David and the gang standing down waiting to hang out with me.

Say NO!! to “Uber-processed Foods!!” let’s have a “REAL FOOD REVOLUTION!!”

Ah…the diabetes epidemic, it’s epic and it’s sad.

Why are there so many people with diabetes? 23.6 million people—7.8% of the population!  “Why?” is the million dollar question,  but It’s not too hard to generate a pretty likely hypothesis.  If we look at the basic machinations of business, or, the way our food industry and national economy have changed, and the ever growing number of diabetics in the United States, it’s not hard to see a pattern. Here’s what I see.  The food industry more and more has evolved to produce largely low quality highly processed foods, food companies have answered the distress call from 2 income families strapped for time and have produced quick serve  inexpensive meals and accompaniments at very inexpensive prices.  This is great for busy parents and even singles who come home tired and have to throw a meal together in thirty minutes or less, but… In the process the  ingredients necessary to provide products  largely consist of uber-processed materials.

Uber-processed:  vacant of much nutritional value.

High in fat,  carbs and / or a high  glycemic index (which means it hardly takes any time for the body to turn the food into sugar, and most of it gets stored as fat) Uber processed means that it can have the likes of High Fructose Corn Syrup or other nefarious sugars, fats, oils, conditioners, bulking agents, coatings, thickeners, gums and colloids contained in it.  Even savory products can contain sugars like HFCS, xyanthan gums, colloids, or even titanium dioxide which is not assimilated by the body and it is just used as a whitening agent.  (did you know that white chocolate is not chocolate at all?  it’s all the other ingredients in chocolate without the cocoa powder but with the addition of titanium dioxide? ) That’s what makes it white!  Betcha don’t eat white chocolate anymore….it’s franken food for sure.

Franken-Food feeds diabetes

Given enough time, Uber pr0cessed food (Franken-food) contributes to diabetes.   One of the major problems is that the food companies have strayed very far from what is considered “real food”.   Why has this happened? It’s all in order to keep the food companies competitive in a struggling economy, or in ANY type of economy to be exact.  Whether it’s cruising along, or sinking under the weight of inflation, food companies will keep re-developing their existing products to keep a profit margin, or just to stay ahead of the competition.  It’s all about the almighty buck. This food matrix has been in progress since our food chain became corporate owned a slow process over many years.   It’s just the business of business with competition at the core.  When business gets tough products are re-formulated with ever cheaper ingredients.   But what about the product that goes on the shelf?  The customer may be Vons and the items sold may be vons syrups, or vons yogurt.  Now the consumer is buying a product that is not exactly the same (that’s okay actually, as long as the product has the same body, taste and the ingredients are exactly what is listed on the packaging), but when real sugar gets substituted with high fructose corn syrup (which acts compeltely different in your bloodstream) or a a natural starch, in a yogurt, is changed to a colloid or a certain type of gelatin in order to hold the body of the product. The consumer can be surprised by the change or not notice it at all.  It’s just business right?  Well in some cases.  Sometimes products are “changed to death”  I call it.  Take the highly regarded “Chips Ahoy.”  No…please!  TAKE THEM!!! really! they suck now!  …But really those cookies have been changed so mightly and so often that in my opinion, they have become the flagship of Franken-Food!, they have  become so processed and different than their original incarnation that I refuse to waste my money on them anymore.  I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE them!  No longer.  They are dry, crumbly, lack luster in taste, color and appeal.  They remind me of a  double walled 250 pound test cardboard box.  Yes, I used to be a buyer…you guessed it…of food ingredients and packaging.

Away we go to the  produce and meat and organic section

I understand what an R&D food lab does to stay ‘relevant’ cost wise, but to me…there are limits.  Or at least there should be.  Someone should tell that to Nabisco. The guys that continue to peddle  “Chips Ahoy” cookies to people too young to know what they are supposed to taste like.  Our food has gone from relatively healthy in the 1950’s …okay it was fatty and fried, but at least it was REAL!!!) on through the 1960’s to the beginning of the “diabetes age” which is currently in full swing and started in the mid 70’s.   I believe that most of the food on American retail grocery shelves can and should be classified as “frankenfood.”  Just start reading ingredients in the grocery store.  Our family made a pledge to cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup and in addition any type of diet sugar.  It has not been easy finding products on the grocery store shelf that lack either of the two!   It seems to me that  the only natural items to be found in the modern day grocery store are in the  produce or meat section.  Even there you have to make sure and find the section that is marked “organic” or “without hormones.”   The organic section, which most markets now have, contain items that are sometimes twice the price of the beautiful franken-veggies, sometimes they even cost three times more.  “Real food” is what the name “organic” should be changed to, it’s much simpler, more true.  But if it was simply called “Real food” do you think that retailers could make the consumer swallow such an increased price?  I don’t think so.  Organic sounds like an uncommon process that takes time and special concern and therefore, well…it’s worth the extra money right? better for you?  special?  Not.  Those are the ugly vegetables that the REAL ones the ones that we should have been eating all along! ,  It’s a shame that we have been duped into throwing away extra money on a selling point, when they are really selling our regular vegetables back to us the way they USED TO BE  before the farming industry decided to help nature produce at the most convenient time and with a prettier color and condition.

Boutique, Schmoo-tique.

So, when you go to the “real food” section,  you see labels like:  “Boutique mushrooms” or “heirloom” this or that.  but who can afford to buy the real food?  Yes some of us can, but most of us say why should we?  The process that the American food system has followed has been a sad one powered by the machinations of business and inherent capitalism.  Not that there’s anything wrong with capitalism, it’s what makes America go, and what gives us healthy competition to be better and better, but maybe it’s not right for the food industry.  Making food for ever increasing profit is innately going to fail the health of the people of America.  A failure for the people but a success for business.  Where is the collective conscience of the American Food Industry?  Why have we not see an action group that will first of all admit that “making food for profit” is a tall order that is only destined to fail consumers?  Or advocate for a “real food” / ” meaningful food content standard?” Just as the Mad Cow (Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis scare raised concerns and forged certain controls in the meat industry (whether they worked or not), those ideas of taking control of something in our food industry that was out of control, is beneficial.  It’s time to encourage the food industry to balance the quest for profit with the responsibility they hold as first and foremost providers of nutrients to the masses.   Is there a way to change our system or the supply chain in order to encourage this change?  It is true that business must survive but at the expense of increasing diabetes through offering food items increasingly void of nutrition is irresponsible.   Franken-food has fast become the majority of the food our nation is fed on.   Most of the products on our shelves (major grocery chains that serve most of our country and thus most of the citizens of the united states) have products that contain HFCS (High fructose corn syrup)* some type of color, artificial or added “natural” flavors and colors,preservatives for extensive shelf life among other food agents.

One Franken food leader rises to the top of the ranks

One hundred percent sucrose (Sugar)  got a bad rap back in the late 60’s and it got worse in the late 70’s, the word was out that it was making people gain weight and that calories mattered more than ever.  The real problem was that HFCS was introduced and so was aspartame and they were being formulated into coke and pepsi.  Sure people were using more and more sugar, but the real truth was that Coke and Pepsi’s war was heating up and as they competed and lowered prices to gain customers, they were re-formulating to keep their profit margin and yet offer their drinks in larger and larger serving containers!  The only way to do this was to substitute 100% sucrose for HFCS.  High Fructose Corn Syrup reacts differently in the human body causing the insulin levels to be come abnormal. Our society is drinking an steadily increasing amount of soft drinks such as diet coke since the late fifties and now these products contain aspartame (Diet Coke to this day has aspartame on it’s ingredient statement I just looked about  days ago), or other sweeteners which hold back the calories but have an extreme effect on blood glucose levels (the brain still perceives diet sugar  as sweet in fact tests show it is ‘perceived’ as sweeter and the body’s insulin levels react accordingly.  and reacts as so!). So it seems it  isn’t really the real sugar that is making everyone fat, it is the franken food ingredients such as HFCS and the high glycemic foods in our dirts. sugars….Sugar is in everything from bar-b-que sauce to tomaoto sauce and of course cake mixes and cereal and even in savory sauces you mix with water and pour over your pork chops for dinner. Most of it contains HFCS.  Our country is starving for real food and we are eating ourselves sick, but we are being provided food that is making us sick. We are sick with diabetes and commingling ailments as a result of diabetes.

Refuse to walk down Franken-Food aisles!

In the process our bodies assmililate this sugar (most of which is high glycemic) too quickly and store it as fat.  We can eat less and yes still stay fat or even get fatter on very little food.  Some people say…”Hey!  I hardly eat anything, only diet food when I actually DO eat! and I still gain weight!  Well the problem is what’s in the food.  Oh, and yes exercise can help but even if you get out there everyday, you must rid your body of franken food, which it does not know what to do with but store.   The only way this can change for Americans en masse is for the masses to revolt.  I’m talking about a food revolt.  We need to consciously decide to only buy real food.  Buy the organic (err…REAL fruits and vegetables), and dairy without hormones and additives and finally meats with no hormones or chemicals.  it means foregoing ANY processed foods.  No Uncle Ben’s mix it up mashed potatoes.  It means buying the potatoes that haven’t been sprayed (yes they might look a little uglier), but that’s REAL FOOD! it’s like getting so used to seeing  everyone with nose jobs, chin implants and boob jobs that we forget what REAL PEOPLE look like.  They come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, nose shapes, lengths of chins and there’s a reason for it all…natural selection and personality identification within a group.  Anyway, we must refuse to walk down the aisles with the Coke, Sprite, even the Crystal Light!  (Crystalline Fructose).  We must tell the food industry that they must treat consumers health as gold and that if they want to sell to us, they must make ‘healthy food’ number one in the equation.  They cannot sell us food that fits our price point IF the food is detrimental in ANY WAY to our bodies.  This is why our country is the leader in diabetes.  Body image is impacted as the body grows to abnormal size and a feeling of uselessness, sadness takes over thereby increasing the depression.  As doctors prescribe antidepressants to the depressed individuals, their bodies take on more weight as most medications to treat depression also increase appetite, and if that person is still hooked on franken-foods, the cycle enriches and widens perpetuating it’s self.  Pretty soon the only thing keeping the individual from deep medical depression or worse are the pills themselves that are making them fat.  Who wins? The food industry is staying afloat doing this (selling it’s franken food), and the pharmaceutical industry is having a field day off of the profits of medication for depression.  Never have I seen more commercials for a widening array of depression medication in my life.  This process is not easy to see at the outset but nevertheless this cycle becomes apparent with some reading and watching what is happening in our society.

We want real food and we want it now!

It seems to me that saying “NO” to “Uber-processed foods,” “Franken-foods” would be a start.  Let’s just stop walking all the aisles of the store and just circulate in the fruit / vegetable , meat and dairy areas. Let’s buy the ingredients to make our own bread.  We don’t have to give that up, but we can sure make it without dough conditioners right? and preservatives right?  If enough people say NO to uber-processed foods / Frankenfood, the food manufacturers will provide what the people want.  A bonus to saying “NO!” to Franken-Food is that farmers and farm co-0ps will have no reason to use mega-pesticides and dangerous agents in order to have a perfect looking crop, as there will be no demand for those perfect fruits and vegetables, and farm-workers may actually have the benefit of staying healthier as they come into contact less and less with these dangerous chemicals in their workplace.  We are who the food marketers study.  We are the people creating the “trends”  In order to react to the marketplace, they watch our every move.  Remember what WE BUY is what keeps THEM in business.  We have the control.  We the people.  We are the marketplace.  Let’s show them what we want.  We want health,  we want to be rid of diabetes as a society.  We want real food and we want it now.

Chatroulette…It’s dead serious, or is it?

Will anybody talk to me? anyone? anyone? Bueller? Aparently just when we thought we couldn’t get any more desperate to connect, we do. So here’s Chatroulette mind you! I guess it’s better that there’s a person just as eager to connect by accident or through fate to another person instead of a bullet to the brain. I’m sure using it can be as painful as a bullet to the brain at times!  Looks easy enough but I wonder if a tag line like “So lonely you wanna just shoot yourself in the head? then try Chatroulette!” or  “Don’t be stupid just because you don’t have friends… play CHAT roulette instead.”  Or how about,   “Meet random boring non-speaking people who may type a few words to you, or may not want to talk to you at all  based on your looks, and consequently hit the “next” button within the first 2 seconds!”    The most telling tag line would be…”Use our social networking site until the feds take it down citing the nefarious “next button” as a contributing factor to teen depression and low self esteem!”     I smell tons of Chatroulette addictions and legal cases on the horizon.  There could even be an MSNBC nightline story in the works, where they’ll put Shooter Jennings in for Peter Jennings as ‘ol Pete went to the chatroulette lounge in the sky… and Shooter? …well he resonates with the MTV crowd and the YouTuber generation!  It’s natural. He’s playing Coachella right?  Okay then.  Chatroulette  basically is it’s own innate  supply and demand! What could be better?  First the site’s architects used the resonating  desperation and depression and the ever increasing “nature-deficit” of afflicted teens who are locked in dark rooms inavertantly basking in EMF’s from computer screens all day…and then solve that big ‘ol collective hole in their hearts by offering up strange people at the end of some packets of code over an ip address!  to visually classify them!   Nice job, multimedia site wizards!  nice job.   Basically these kids and adults are  hooking up with strange and  loney people who don’t necessarily want to talk to eachother! If your an emotional elitist, you’ll just love the pain that the “next” button inflicts on an eager young loner.   If you are a masochist you’ll just love being “nexted”  and you’ll probably think of really insane things to do during that “first look” from the lucky viewer that happens to pop in on your monitor, order to get the satisfaction of being ‘nexted”   I think this social networking service says loads about the American Psyche. We are bored, friendless, locked in, longing, and yet hopeful still.  We are reaching out but somehow we don’t truly ‘want to connect. If we did, we’d be outside together, talking, walking checking out life – where we could talk, touch, feel and genuinely make good on getting to know someone.  Unfortunately friendships are only formed once both parties decide to ‘keep listening,’ ‘keep giving that person another chance.’ When we decide to make a commitment to ‘see what that person is all about’ is then and only then do we actually make ‘friends.’ Friendship is a process, not a quick look and a “next” or a one line chat.  For those that aren’t in it for ‘friends,’ chatroulette has become a “slow-sift” way to find other pornsters  willing to video chat and show it all.  Somehow I don’t see the benefit in this site, but it will be interesting to see what people ultimately do with it.  Merton’s video where he goofs on random folks on Chatroulette is classic.  His experiment was hilarious.  I had the video posted here but Youtube, who hosted it,  unfortunately had to take it down due to a permissions conflict.  The good news is that I’ve posted an interview with Merton here instead.

Sweet Baby Jesus! That’s a Red roller!

More interesting than ponchos! …. Check out the many species of shopping carts. Living in suburbia, even though the one small gene in my double helix for ‘the desire to connect with all things natural’ cannot be satisfied living in this concrete and carbon dioxide nightmare they call a city. If I can’t classify warblers and spot spotted owls then I’ll settle for shopping carts.

New species? or rare nocturnal breed?

Check out Dave Ingram’s photo documentary on these wild welded artifacts of our consumer world. If you spot an interesting and unclassified specimen be sure to send it to Dave!

Here’s dave’s link (so that you too can become a stainless steel virtuoso).

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NCLB: Our Children… Left Behind and basically handed to recruiters for the military? Be outraged!

NCLB is more than Under-funded and Under-planned, it’s Under-handed.

Here’s my list of nefarious things about NCLB and…WE CAN AND SHOULD PROTEST THIS first one ASAP!!!….

(at the end of this entire post..there is an amazing video on this subject, don’t forget to view it)…

#1 NCLB gives military recruiters the names, social security numbers  and addresses of your children!!!! (once they they become juniors in high school!!! – boys and girls alike).  You must opt-out of this process, but the problem is that neither of these two facts are publicized, so our kids sixteen and older are ripe targets for recruiters.  They are then allowed to call your homes, talk to your young adults (teens), and visit them on the school campus without your knowledge…unless of course you opt out.

Here’s the part of NCLB that puts this process in motion:

NCLB  Section 9528

  • Requires that school districts release the names, addresses and telephone numbers of juniors and seniors to military recruiters upon request unless an Opt-Out form is signed and returned.
  • In LAUSD the Opt-Out form must be returned to the local school by OCTOBER 27th, 2007.  All others check with your school district.

ASVAB – a way to get around the “Opt-Outs”

  • The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a voluntary military placement exam used as a general aptitude test for career options.
  • IT IS A MILITARY RECRUITING TOOL and was given in 75% of LAUSD schools in 2005.
  • Schools are guilt of violating family confidentiality by giving military recruiters access to private information gathered from students via the ASVAB testing information (including social security numbers)
  • Military recruiters use the ASVAB to ignore the Opt-Out process.
  • The ASVAB skirts parental rights by giving incomplete information to parents about it, and by releasing private information to military recruiters without parental consent.
  • The only way to ensure student privacy is to use other aptitude diagnostic tools instead of the military entrance exam.
  • It’s voluntary, don’t take the ASVAB.  If you choose to take it request Option 8 that means scores will not be released to military recruiters.


  • The Pentagon has been collecting a centralized data base without Congressional authorization of over 700 pieces of information on millions of youth between 16 to 25 years of age.

Act to Protect Your Privacy from Military Recruiters!!

You may be harassed at home by military recruiters because your name, address and phone number will be given to them by your school — unless you tell your school to not give out the information. To exercise your legal right to have this information kept private, you should notify your school office as soon as possible. Some school districts may provide their own forms for this, but they must obey your request no matter how you submit it. You can write your own letter or use the one below. (I was told at our school that they will not consider a handwritten note from a parent, that we MUST use one of the official forms.  Use a letter or form for each individual student and keep a copy. It is not required by law, but we recommend having a parent or guardian also sign.

Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 (No Child Left Behind) mandates that school districts must provide
the contact information (names, addresses and telephone numbers) of juniors and seniors to the military upon request unless an Opt Out form
is signed and returned to the school.

Students must Opt Out every year.

here is the link to the paperwork that must be turned in to The Pentagon allowing you as a parent to “opt-out” your student from potential recruitment, which NCLB gives them the right to do.



More information on NCLB in general:

#1 NCLB does not FIX anything!  It is making our students, teachers and administrators suffer.

NCLB has good intentions: It aims to improve teacher quality, provide school choice for families, and hold schools accountable for academic achievement. It does this last bit by measuring kids’ performance in grades 3-11 and in a very unfair and odd way.

Additionally, results must be reported in such a way that demographic groups are reported separately. This way, a school can’t make progress with some groups, while leaving others behind. This disaggregated data reveals the performance by ethnic identification, income level, and disability status. It has the capacity to shed light on the dark corners of discrimination that has been historically reinforced by our multi-tiered school system.
In fact it creates problems:

One the  biggest problems with NCLB is that it stipulates 100% compliance by the year 2014. That is to say that every group of students in every school is responsible for performing at grade level by then, and in every year between now and then, they are to make what is known as “adequate yearly progress,” commonly referred to as AYP. This means that they must meet the linear target between where they are now, and grade level proficiency. The thing is: every school, in every district, is being held to the same standard. They are all expected to reach that common standard by 2014.

It’s a great idea, but the supports necessary in order for schools to reach that performance level are not in place!  If a school has been performing at grade level all along, they’re golden. If a school is serving a community that has historically been underperforming, they are in big trouble, because every year that they haven’t made AYP-which increases proportionally the further they are from grade level performance to begin with-the greater the gains they must make each year.

So, if a school which has been lacking the resources and supports in order to demonstrate proficiency misses the AYP target one year, it must not only meet that target the following year, but also hit the next target on the linear path to proficiency, as if they had never gotten off track. This is nearly impossible. It’  The problems in a school not meeting AYP are always varied, complex,  and sometimes ethereal. And what happens if a school doesn’t make AYP by 2014? (I mean really, once you’ve missed it one or two years, the chances of catching up are quite slim.) Well, there is no plan for that. Your school gets redesigned- but the kids are the same, and so are all the unsolvedand unaddressed problems that made the school unsuccessful in the first place, are still there!

So what should be done?  While it is true that some data indicate some things that are useful, but testing is not the silver bullet, and we are killing our kids with it, and there is no excitement in the curriculum and no spark to interest the children in learning.  (What happened to the ‘wonder of learning?)  Isn’t it more important to plant the seeds of curiosity, organization and critical thinking?  This cannot be done with a mundane one size fits all curriculum where teachers have no ability to make their message maleable! and creative!   We need to provide low-performing school communities with the enrichment opportunities that are known to correlate with what are  thought to be the cause for later high academic achievement.   We need to make teaching a harder job to get, and a more attractive professional choice.

We need to recognize this as the keystone issue that it is: the fundamental reform of our schools is not the work only for teachers and administrators, this is a civil rights issue.  These are our children, we have a right to give our children a public education.  We pay our hard earned tax dollars into the state and federal coffers in order to fund a fair and just curriculum.  There are items here which should be an outrage.   This is a community development issue, and a global economy issue.  The fight to end NCLB requires the commitment of everyone in every sector in our society.  Let’s take our children’s education back.  Childhood is a journey, NOT A RACE!!!!

#2 NCLB is underfunded

This destructive program is imposed and enforced by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation, which has made federal funding for public education contingent on the states holding teachers and schools accountable for “achievement” as measured by student performance on standardized math and reading tests, with the putative intention of narrowing and eventually (by 2014) totally eliminating the “achievement gap” between students in affluent suburban schools and students in innercity schools. The law stipulates punitive measures for schools that don’t measure up. These schools, invariably already cash and resource starved, must use some of their federal Title I funding to pay for private after-school tutoring programs

#3 NCLB is underplanned

#4 NCLB turns schools into starving wolves punishing chronically ill children as truants as their continued absence dilutes the AYP and state monies.  Schools are quick  to litigate against students’  parents until either the family leaves the school or  complies with inordinate and almost insurmountable compliance process in order to avoid truant status,  per the California state attendance rules and the definition of  “truancy.”

#5 NCLB turns kids in to wonderful test takers and strategizers!  Not critical thinkers!  (there are classes on ‘test taking strategies!)

#6 NCLB schools are indirectly encouraged to cease funding ART, MUSIC and even PHYSICAL EDUCATION, in order to reapportion funds to accounts that support raising test scores and providing  for remedial options for children who are not making progress toward the school’s goal.    Monies are thought to be better directed toward the goal of   Making AYP and hence getting closer to “100% proficiency,”  therefore they opt to take from art, music and P.E. in order to assure better test scores in the basics and make sure they don’t miss achievement of the AYP.    (Usually Physical education is not taken out of the curriculum but minimal benchmark changes  are made with less or lower cost equipment.)**

#7 NCLB slaps so much work on kids in order to ensure that they test high and contribute to the school’s AYP, that the stress is detrimental. We experienced 12-13 pages of homework every night, where my son (who was an “A” student at the time and still is), would work from after school, through dinner and even after bedtime in order to complete all of the tasks assigned to him. Sometimes sneaking a flashlight in his bed to finish his assignments.!  This was common with other students also.

#8 NCLB creates a “one size fits all” curriculum by grade, higher achievers must wait and do busy work while students slower to grasp concepts struggle to understand curriculum. Higher achievers are not challenged. On the flip-side “mentally challenged” or “special education” students are given the same curriculum as the standard students and mandated to reach the same goals!

#9 NCLB Makes teachers statisticians. There is no intuitive teaching aspect to working with children. There is no personal touch, in fact, teachers cannot even touch students. No pat on the back or handshake unless those occurrences are mandated by curriculum and are necessary to a learning module.  There is only speed-tests, test taking strategies and rubrics.  It is now well known that students can be classified by ‘learning style’ for example: tactile, verbal, viusal, and any combination therof. The problem is that even with this knowlege, there is very little flexibility in the NCLB curriculum that allows the teacher to reach individual students via these concepts.

#10 NCLB makes time ‘of the essence’ as each student must have scores that contribute to and help the school reach their AYP. (Adequate Yearly Progress), or they will become a liability to the school. Each school must achieve AYP every year and each and every student must be deemed 100% “proficient by 2014

#11 NCLB places a “monetary value” on a student’s capacity to attend school consistently.  (If a student’s cost to attendance ratio is skewed by illness, therefor necessary absence, the school will try to rid themselves of the ‘liability! . See my older post ! This is happening to me, (my son and my family)!!!

DDRF Haiti Relief Fund event

How it looked in pictures…

Card mailer for DDRF Haiti Relief Fest. Background: The art of Haiti artist: "jean Paul."

Band: Lights on Fire

Band: Afterclap

Organizers: Elizabeth Olguin and her mother, Pomona Superintendent Richard Martinez, Madeleine Le and an organizer

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