Saturday, July 30, 2011

Driving While Stupid

"Just drive the way you normally do for the first 1500 miles and your car will figure out how you drive and adjust itself accordingly," the salesman said when I bought my Toyota Yaris four years ago. It was an odd instruction. How else was I supposed to drive? Was I supposed to drive normally for 1500 miles and then really schiz it up after that?

This was my first automatic car. The shift includes a third gear snugged into the same slot as "drive." And that's what I drove in for the first 1500 miles: third gear. Sure enough, my car figured out something about me that everyone else has known for years. "She's a little slow," my car whispered to the other cars in the parking lot, tapping itself lightly on the head gasket. "Let's keep it good and sludgy so she doesn't hurt herself."

And that's what my car did. It drove sludgy. It drove like a toboggan in cheese. Or a constipated possum. Or a Volvo. Climbing a hill, it had all the enthusiasm of a seven-year-old at bedtime. I kind of related to it in a personal way, but the whole point of driving a car is to get more pep than you'd have on your own. Plus, it was only getting 32 miles per gallon at best, which seemed wrong for a car the size of a postage-stamp dispenser. Once Dave noticed I'd been driving in third, I asked the mechanic if I could get a second chance to instruct my car how I drive. He pondered, squinted, then revved up his brain by snorking snot back into it, wiped his nose on his sleeve and said, "you know, I think it learns how you drive continuously. Just keep driving the way you normally do, only in drive instead of third."

I should have recognized this for the evasion it was. It was classic postal-handbook. When you work for the post office, you get numerous opportunities to placate customers. "Letters never get truly lost," you say. "It's probably gotten stuck behind the flap of another envelope, and it will shake out eventually and get back in the mail stream and we'll have it back to you, right as rain." As a customer-service gambit, this works because you want to believe it. Your customer wants to believe it. And you'll be far away by the time it becomes clear the letter is in postal purgatory, which is right next to unmatched-sock purgatory and the limbo of unrecalled words. We'll never see that little, what is that, little folded-paper thingy with the stamp in the corner--whatever--dammit--again.

My mechanic had no idea how to make my car forget it had ever met me. I may be able to race it to the top of a hill, but it has a way better memory than I do. I continued to drive it new-normally with no change in its attitude. Finally this year I brought it in for maintenance and mentioned the problem to a whole new guy with a whole different brain and he and his brain thought he could help. It worked. After four years, the car is demonstrating something close to moxie, and gets several more miles per gallon. "What did you do?" I asked.

Well! He unplugged the battery, and plugged it back in. Of course.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Things That Blow Up

It's July, and we're making great headway manufacturing our crack supply for the next year. Our raspberry crop is booming away out there and we can barely stand to divert a single berry from what we've determined is its highest and best use: syrup. The recipe is even simpler now that I ignore portions. The portions, as told to us, are One Part Raspberries to One Part Sugar, which even works in metric. I have trouble getting that much sugar into the jar, though, so I've taken to just filling up my big jars with berries and pouring sugar in until there's no more room. The jars get put in a cupboard for three months, six months, or whenever we get a notion, and then the berry sludge is strained out. The resulting smaller jars of syrup last us until the next season. It is poured on Death By Chocolate ice cream, which is available around the corner, and there's nothing I can make for dessert that's any better. "I could make a cheesecake, or a Boston Cream Pie," I tell Dave, and he gives it a moment's thought, and we both say "or we could get some Death By Chocolate ice cream and pour raspberry syrup over it," and that's usually that. Thus my entire culinary contribution for the whole year has now dwindled to about ten minutes of work in July.

The other day I was checking on the most recent jar of syrup, and it was all sticky. I wiped it down and discovered that it didn't appear to be leaking from the lid. Which made no sense. I got a thimble and put all my reasoning ability into it, and I still couldn't explain it. Could syrup possibly leak from the bottom of an intact glass jar? Move over, Einstein--it was only two or three minutes before I was able to correctly deduce that the source of the leak was the third jar back, after finally noticing that there was raspberry syrup all over the cupboard. That last jar was bubbling and working and jiggling its lid something awful.

It reminds me of the time I shared an apartment with two other girls, one of whom was a baker. Late one night there was a terrific explosion, and I pulled my blankets over my head while my roommates scurried out to confront the cannon-wielding intruder, and eventually ventured out myself. (I'm a great first responder as long as I get to go last.) The horror! The entire kitchen and most of the living room were coated in goo, glass, pickle bits, vegetable shrapnel, and what-have-you from floor to ceiling. I was still working on the cannon hypothesis and totally baffled, but my baker roommate was bold enough to taste a fingerful of guts hanging from the ceiling and determine that the culprit was the jar of sourdough in the refrigerator, which had blown up and blown the fridge door open and rained terror on the rest of the apartment. It was as if the Pillsbury Doughboy had  strapped on an explosive vest and declared jihad on the leftovers.

So I'm not usually the first one to figure things out. It takes sharper minds than mine to connect the dots in any situation. Take the current childhood obesity crisis in this country. Turns out that Richard Nixon once concluded the odds of getting re-elected were very low if people had to pay too much for groceries, and he directed that food be kept artificially cheap. That's when the massive price supports for corn began, and to this day we have tons of crappy high-calorie food made out of corn syrup, and it's really, really cheap. So our first lady can encourage us to eat fresh fruit and vegetables all she wants, but for most people they're too damned expensive compared to our subsidized crap. Ultimately they aren't as expensive once you factor out our tax contributions to the corn growers and the diabetes epidemic, but there's no real danger we'll be giving up that subsidy any time soon. Your average consumer will look only as far as the first jar--his grocery bill--and swallow the new narrative that the liberal elites are the ones who don't care about poor people, and nobody will follow the trail of syrup back to the jar in the rear of the cupboard. Even though it's our kids who are blowing up.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Mighty Wind

Hans and Petra, my grandparents
As an Oregonian, I tend to think my state stacks up favorably when compared with the other states, but I did suffer a flicker of envy the other day when I read about Arizona. A giant haboob just flew through there at speeds up to sixty miles per hour, and all we have is elk.

A haboob is a massive dust storm, and Arizona has a lot of them, although of course this one was a real dilly. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and haboobs alike have been overachieving for years now in spite of the sober judgment of dozens of prominent capitalists that there is nothing untoward happening with our climate. So it's a puzzler.

Myself, I put it down to the trend towards obsessive housecleaning. I am not trendy. My preference is to fail to notice dust in the house, which is easier if you don't disturb it and avoid sunbeams, which are rare here anyway. Over time, all surfaces develop a pleasing matte finish, and periodically--say, once a year or so--the whole accumulation can be neatly rolled up like felt. This is not the method preferred by my housemate, who suffers from higher standards. With his method there's never any end to it; you'll never quite get rid of the schmutz in the corners; and you can't tell where the cat has been.

A huge component of house dust is shed skin cells, which pop off the body and onto the coffee table in the hundreds of thousands per day, like an epidermal diaspora. The cosmetics industry has so far ignored the potential of a mixture of dead skin cells and Lemon Pledge as a suitable face spackle, but not for lack of a market. Somebody would buy it. In fact there are no doubt some individuals who are embracing the unparalleled exfoliating properties of a good haboob. If you should see someone standing out naked when the haboobs roll through, he's probably the sort who's already carved away his own nose and injected himself with botulism. You can draw your own conclusions, although none of them support evolution.

Thanks to the proliferation of well-advertised dusting products, people are waging war on dust in the modern era, many of them claiming allergies. Dust allergies, they say, are really allergies to dust mites, which are organisms that like to eat our skin cells and, like tiny polite vultures, are kind enough to wait for them to die and fall off of us. In fact, though, no one is strictly allergic to dust mites, which are actually too large to become airborne where we can inhale them. Instead, they are allergic to dust mite poop. If you were looking for another sort of factoid, you should have visited a different blog.

My own mother was a regular duster. She devoted one day a week to it and was probably glad to do it. Once a week with the bottle of O'Cedar was a cakewalk compared to the Dust Bowl, when the entire state of North Dakota, among others, lost its skin cells. She relates that they had to sweep out the entire house three times a day, with a shovel, due to the local shortage of backhoes. What roiled through the air was valuable stuff, stuff you could grow wheat in if you had a little water, but if you had a little water it wouldn't have roiled through the air. From what I gather, North Dakota may have been flat, but it had really big haboobs, although Mom never put it that way.

So it may have been her early experience that made my mom such a good housekeeper; I certainly have no evidence at hand that there was a genetic component. It would be interesting to see just how long I could go without dusting, if Dave weren't around to inflict tidiness. There is something comforting about the thought of watching the house fill up with my own skin. That might not spin your propeller, but it's about as close as we apatheists get to immortality. Maybe I could live long enough to see it wrinkle on the bookshelf. Maybe I could grow wheat.

Happy birthday, Mary Ann!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Uh-Oh: Not A Poop Post

A few weeks ago I took a trip to Uh-Oh World. Uh-Oh World is where everything is upside down and nothing is as it should be. In Uh-Oh world, W.C. Fields strolls through Disneyland with a sarsaparilla. Michele Bachmann takes up paleontology. The Pope gets caught in public without his homilies. And I don't take a dump for three days.

Not three consecutive days, but still. It's so wrong. This is not the sort of thing that is supposed to happen to me. No matter what I put in the top end, it is supposed to motor on through on schedule. I could eat a sofa and pass it in neat little pillows. Sewer rats set their tiny watches by me.

The first day I didn't drop a deuce was annoying but not, to tell the truth, entirely unprecedented. Sure enough things seemed to be back to rights the next morning, including what we will call the backlog. But something was amiss. There was a sensation of holding back. Specifically, there was an area of tenderness on the west coast of my GI tract in which I suspected some unauthorized malingering material. There was also a fever.

I got Dr. Google right on the line. Dr. Google suggested that I might have developed a diverticulum. A diverticulum is a little pouch in your intestine where you can store shit in case you need it later. This is the sort of idea that seems thrifty and sensible at first, but you follow that line you will end up with nothing but tiny aisles running through your whole house, as it were, and your relatives will be talking about an intervention. It's not good.

The whole beauty of shit is wasted if it doesn't come out where it can be appreciated properly. Without that, it is a noble thought unexpressed, a greeting card lost in the mail.

When I delivered mail, speaking of mail, I was particularly taken with the advertising flyers put out by some outfit hawking probiotics that warned against the dangers of a sluggish digestive tract. It was illustrated. "What does it mean if you have small, round poops?" it queried, showing a drawing of small, round poops. (My friend Carl knew that one. "It means you're a deer," he said.) Other drawings depicted a cross-section of the intestine after proper use of their recommended pill. It was not only pink and shiny but actually spangled with little star-gleams. In contrast, there was another illustration of a man holding what appeared to be the blackened, gnarly skin of a massive python on a stick. This, we were informed, was the actual content removed from a deceased gentleman's intestinal tract. Possibly with the stick. It was alarming. We were further informed that John Wayne was discovered, upon his death, to have been harboring thirty-five pounds of fecal matter, neatly explaining both his peculiar gait and the downside of fame.

Well, when I die, I am hoping for a better legacy than that. I immediately phoned the advice nurse at Kaiser and advised her of my turgid condition, demanding treatment. She was not unsympathetic, but suggested I might wait a few days to see if things resolved. The fever did go away, but it was another two days before the train came rumbling through, car after car after car. The morning commute is back on track, but I am not interested in being a person with diverticulitis, which Dr. Google told me all about. It's not my thing. Except for the possibility of flatulence in the urine. That part sounds sort of interesting.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mouse On The March

Antediluvian cousins: Don in front
I was thinking about my cousin Don the other day, and wondering what he was doing. I was hoping it wasn't the dog-paddle. Don lives in Minot, North Dakota, where the Mouse River has been over-expressing itself of late. It's not a really big river, but it doesn't have to be to cause trouble, because it runs through really flat terrain. Any water that breaches the banks will flow wide and far. There is some variation in elevation in Minot, but a lot of it is caused by moles, and I don't know the town well enough to know if Don's house is built on a molehill.

Obviously it isn't completely flat there, because otherwise there wouldn't be a river. It would just be a sea. That's what used to be in North Dakota, a big inland sea. We know that for a fact because of the work of scientists in the fields of geology and paleontology. Discovering things like the origins of our topography allows us to have topography of our own. Everything we learn builds on everything else we learn and directs what we might learn next, until our knowledge accretes in hills and ridges and uplifts and moraines from which we can see splendidly. It's a beauty and a joy.

Looked at that way, and only that way, the contestants in the last Miss USA pageant are really flat. Each was asked the same simple question: should evolution be taught in our schools? And nearly every aspiring queen had the same answer. Only two betrayed the slightest familiarity with science. They reacted as though the interviewer had farted in church, then regained their poise and merrily allowed that maybe evolution should be taught "too," so that children have a chance to learn "both sides" and decide for themselves what to believe. This is a land of freedom, and every child should have the opportunity to conclude that she is living on a five-thousand-year-old landscape the shape of a dinnerplate under a whirl of spinning stars that have a say in her love life, if that's what she wants to believe. God bless America!

Meanwhile the Mouse floods like it's never flooded before, tornadoes strafe the prairies and speculate into New England, islands sink and glaciers die and vintners prospect for land in the Yukon, all of which was accurately foreseen by scientists from the high ridges of their own hard-won education, and nothing can be done about any of it because a small number of powerful people have enough money to buy a controversy where none exists. And when years of deliberate miseducation have flattened out our population, a little stupid can flow wide and far.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

God vs. Ganesh

You know those old pre-Renaissance Christian paintings, with the flat faces cranked into an unnatural position, the way they posed you for your school photograph? And halos like dinner plates? Never cared much for them, but I care even less for Hindu art, which always strikes me as looking like it should have been painted on velvet and sold hanging from a cyclone fence at an intersection. I don't get too worked up about the sacredness of any of it. I figure any currently viable gods are unlikely to look like anything we'd come up with. "When my glory passeth by, I will cover thee with my hand while I pass by; and I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts," the Lord said, and that's vivid enough for me.

That doesn't mean other people don't get all het up about the accuracy of these things. The folks in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho recently installed some public art works including a sculpture of Ganesh, the Hindu god, and the Kootenai County Constitution Party threw a fit about it. It was a false deity, a demon god, and had no place in a land reserved for Christians, which I am told Idaho surely the hell is.

God, the genuine article, is, as we all know, an old bearded white dude in a dress. Ganesh is an elephant-headed fellow with four arms, so there's really no mistaking the two. It seems like there are a lot of Hindu gods and goddesses, but as I understand it, they are all considered aspects of the one God, Brahman (pronounced "Al-lah"), as opposed to the pantheon of irritable wack jobs the ancient Greeks had to contend with. For instance, Ganesh, with  his big old elephant head, might be invoked when one is embarking on a new venture, because he removes obstacles from one's path, but he's still God. It's as if we could worship an auxiliary Jesus operating a front-end loader: it would still be Jesus.

I'm interested in the way gods are envisioned in various times and places. I think people ascribe to them the attributes they would like to have, themselves. They start out assuming God looks just like them, only with improvements. The Christian god is usually depicted as an attractive white man, but bigger and floatier. The Norse god Thor was basically human, but with a really big hammer. Heh heh. If modern American women were consulted, their gods might look just like them, but about five pounds lighter. As far as the Hindu gods are concerned, many of them have more than the usual allocation of arms. So I'm assuming there's something about India that makes you itchy.

For my money, the Greeks had the most realistic ideas about their gods. They were out there smacking each other silly and you were best off just staying out of their way. They sure weren't looking out for you. They also had a surplus of sidekicks demanding respect, many of them inspired ensembles of several critters, including, of course, humans. The sphinx was set up with a lion's body and a snake's tail and wings and a woman's head and I don't know what-all else, but they made sure to get her titties in there, too. Then you have your minotaur and centaur, which you see rarely these days; and the half-man, half-goat items, which we still frequently elect to office.

I've never thought about what my own god would look like, but I have given thought to my own totem pole, ever since I was a kid. These aren't meant to be worshipped, but they include animals important to the artist. You often see ravens or eagles on top, where their outspread wings make an imposing statement; bears and other heroic sorts figure in too. But this is my pole. Clearly, my own personal totem pole would have to be crowned with a salamander head. It would make my totem pole look like a smiling thumb, but there's no help for that. Moving on down, I like marmots a lot, but there's really no improving on the little noodly salamander arms, so I'd have to carve them in too. Bears are cool, but they'd look really silly with the noodly arms, so I'm thinking the main part of the pole might as well be a salamander's midsection, with more noodly legs towards the bottom. At this point finishing it off with anything other than a salamander tail would be gimmicky. There. Perfection. If you can't see the sacred in that, you have my sympathy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

As Long As You're Peeing Anyway

I was in the Convention Center the other day and went to the restroom to pee and there, near my left foot, was a big black spider. The rest of the women in the room were very lucky, although they didn't know it, that it was me in that stall and not my friend Casey. If Casey is startled by a spider, or, frankly, if there's one anywhere within the county lines, she will emit a shriek that could be used to evacuate an entire town. She can't help it. She's like most of the rest of us, only way louder. I've heard this shriek a few times, and it is not possible to hear it without suffering a little urine leakage. So I guess if you're going to find an indoor spider, the restroom is probably not the worst place to be.

My friend is a calm, competent, multi-tasking wonder of a woman with freakish self-control, but she is undone by spiders. Her husband, early on in our friendship, demonstrated The Shriek for us by bringing in a dangling spider and passing it briefly in front of her face. He wanted us to see what he had to contend with. It was impressive. Scared the silk right out of the poor spider, who bobbed along the ground like underwear with sprung elastic. The shriek was followed by a thunking sound. That was the sound of months of our lives being sheared off.

A lot of people have a problem with spiders. I don't. I think they're interesting and most of them are beautiful, and as long as they're not in bed with me I'm happy to leave them be. I do have a little problem with snakes. Not prepared-for snakes, which are handsome and silky, but snakes with insufficient signage. A properly announced snake is a delight. I react strongly to sudden snakes, however, and also feel that they do not belong in the water or in trees.

One day on my mail route years ago I stepped in the epicenter of a nest of baby garter snakes, a hundred of them, and they all slithered out at once on every possible radius. All I could see was movement, movement totally inappropriate for a solid patch of ground, as though I had stepped in a black hole. In case you want to know what it feels like to step in a black hole, well, it's zero to intestinal-flu in point-five seconds, followed by a generalized internal liquefaction. Aftershocks of the willies continue regular as malaria for--well, I'll have to get back to you as to when they stop.

The reactions to spiders and snakes are probably hard-wired into us at this point in our evolution. The parasympathetic nervous system comes into play and floods us with adrenaline to prepare us for either fight or flight, or, as the case may be, just standing there leaking urine.  It was originally developed to help us deal with tigers. We use it to this day in preparing for a bout of public speaking, in case there's a tiger.

As it turns out, the spider at the Convention Center was glazed right into the tile floor of the restroom. It wasn't real at all. Ha ha, you wacky city employees! What an artistic sense of humor you have! You are truly the civic dickens, you are! I do think the ceramic toilet rat was a bit much.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Family Reunion

I came upon a glory the other day, a sight to behold--made me all trembly. And it's a good thing Dave wasn't there for it, or he might have keeled over dead, and not in a good way. I saw five billion murres in one place. He's in favor of murres but thinks they are best in small and manageable numbers, such as One.

My murres were massed on several rocky outposts in the Pacific Ocean, jammed in together, which is what they do when they're brooding. I have many similarities with my cliff-roosting cousins, but there are divergences. For instance, no one wants to be around me when I'm brooding.

Also, murres are good at flying, whereas I'm only good in the gravity-assisted direction and for a very short time. They are also good swimmers, and I am not. No one taught me when I was very young, which is the time to do it. Dave learned at an early age, himself. He says it was easy. The hardest part was getting out of the burlap sack. Murres learn very young. They are punted or fall off the cliff and we don't hear from the bad swimmers again. They are excellent divers; they can be underwater for a couple minutes, where they are said to be very maneuverable. I am also. Once I quit struggling, I expect you could tow me just about anywhere.

Murres gather on cliff tops to breed and lay eggs. The eggs are very pointy so that they will spin in place like a dreidel instead of rolling off the cliffs. And this is important because the murres do not bother with nests. According to the biologists responsible for murre egg monitoring, the female murre turns around and takes a good look at her egg when she lays it, so that she can recognize it among the other thousands of eggs on the cliff later. Supposedly each egg has a slightly different pattern and is thus recognizable, but really they all look the same--they look like shit-spattered rock, which is surprisingly handy for camouflage. One egg is pretty much like another, and that too is apt, because one murre is pretty much like another. I'm not sure it matters much who's incubating what. Any way you look at it, you're getting a murre out of it, and you shouldn't be looking for anything else. This keeps them emotionally stable too, when bald eagles come flying patriotically in to eat an egg. All the murres flap and holler for a while but after a certain point they all go away and hope for the best, and the eagle makes her selection, and Gladys and Ethel can duke it out later for the remaining egg. "That's my egg," Gladys says, and Ethel says "suit yourself," and goes off somewhere to get a little reading done. Once all the kids have fallen off the cliff, the girls molt and stick around for an extra month, maybe form a book club, and they don't rejoin their mates and young out at sea until their 'do grows out.

Just between you and me, a lot of field biologists haven't dated in a while, and are inclined to idolize their mothers. It's possible murres are carefully memorizing their own eggs, but I submit that any time something drops out of your butt, you're liable to turn around and have a look. I've given this whole issue a good half-hour of binocular time, and these ridges are coated--coated, I say--with identical birds. I believe if any one of them sees an unsat egg, he or she is going to sit on it. If it cheers up a biologist to believe that it's their very own, so be it. This looks less like a paragon of motherhood than a cocktail party with unsupervised children up past their bedtime. They find a big rocky promontory, they shit all over it, drop eggs on it, and then punt the little buggers over the edge when they achieve fluff. Then they get a new haircut and lounge around for a month and no one even talks about the kids.

Murres are also known for preening each other, although it is unclear if they know they are doing this, or think they're taking care of their own hygiene and can't tell each other apart. Both sexes are identical. The description in the field guide is "black head with white underpants," or "underparts," depending on your trifocals.  Scientists insist that when they fly to their roosts on the rocky cliffs, they unerringly find their own eggs, and it is true that landing is a chaotic affair; they sort of fold up and drop in wherever they want to, without bothering to see if someone else is already at that spot. There's a lot of flapping and shoving and eventually everyone settles down until someone else bombs in. This is the evolutionary reason they have developed webbed feet: to avoid head punctures.

Murres are large members of the Auk family, named after their entire vocabulary. There was a larger one, but it is extinct, and the wise murre reins in her aspirations.

This particular platoon of murres is lucky enough to have its rock right in the sea, so that the punted chicks, which cannot fly, have a high likelihood of making it to the water. Other colonies nest on cliffs just inland and the chicks have to bump along a bouldery beach for quite a distance before reaching the sea and a ticket to adulthood, a path strewn with predators and tragedy. This is an evolutionary method that goes at least as far back as the 1950s, when our parents sent us out to play in traffic, assuring that children who do reach maturity are those genetically blessed with insane luck.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hormones: A Personal History

I've heard it said that an idle mind is the Devil's workshop. I don't know about that, but I do know that hormones are the Devil's nuclear arsenal. They start out small, edging into the game with spitwads and paintball. "Let's see about some hair," hormones begin, installing shrubbery here and there. That seems to go well, so they experiment with acne. "This will go away in a few years," hormones say, snickering. Hormones get a huge kick out of themselves. If it looks like they're going to run out of territory to plant pimples on, they manufacture a giant ass.

Once the landscape has had a chance to settle in for a while, they get into human outreach. At first they just take ordinary people close to you--mothers, fathers, people who had previously been kind and nurturing and lovable--and turn them into complete idiots. Eventually they make virtually everyone you know profoundly irritating. By the time thirty or forty years have rolled around, they are capable of taking a person who had previously been quite companionable and making him walk into a room--a room you had planned to be in, yourself--and make little cheerful whistly noises to the point where any reasonable person would want to rip his lips off. Throw in the  humming, and the incessant inquiries into your well-being, and there's not a jury in the world that would convict you, either.

Just about the time that life sweetens up a bit and the acne has consolidated into one or two recurring volcanic outposts in the center of your forehead, hormones put on the old thinking cap and work on new projects. "You know what would be fun," hormones say, "would be if we just started building big condos here in the abdomen. We can set up a few new arteries for the infrastructure and just have at it, what do you say?" And just like that, there you are with a whole sorority of fibroid tumors under development. "Where do you want one? Here? We've got room for one more if we shove it right up against the bladder." Hormones have no concept of zoning. They are total Republicans. No offense.

Then hormones begin zipping around the system like a spooked cat. The room of contentment? Boring. They zip to the Room of Righteous Indignation. Double back on the Trail of Tears to the Den of Unfocused Rage, rumpling up the carpet and sending knick-knacks of affection flying off the shelves. It's a rough time. They do not plan to leave without trashing the place. Some women have such difficulties with that last little party that they keep letting new hormones in just to mollify the bunch. I guess it works, although researchers warn that, over time, this increases the risk of death. Of course, they're not counting homicides.

I did not choose that route, opting instead to go without sleep for a few years and see what happened. And finally hormones made their exit, dangling for a while from a thicket of new chin-hairs before dropping off. They get your face all stretched out that way, but Lordy, it's nice and quiet.