Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Guinea Pig Children

With Christmas just around the corner, it reminds me of  the toys and games I received for Christmas when I was young.  The 1960’s and early 197o’s were the decades of  “The Misfit Toys.”

I don’t think they had testers back then. If someone invented a toy or game, perhaps the toy manufacturers just packaged it and put it on the shelves. I really think that  if there were toy testers back then, some of them surely would have died. I’m thinking specifically of  my first chemistry set. I can’t find any research on “toy tester deaths.”  I did look. If they would not have perished,  toy testers  would have received brain damage,  an amputated finger, or if not injuries, than stains on their clothing. And on the carpet. And on the couch.  Which piss mothers off to no end. Probably worse than the brain damage. This mother hates glitter. Just thought I would add that because if glitter gets in your eye, you WILL  go blind. For that reason, it is banned in my house.  I know I read that somewhere. You can’t dispute facts. Especially if you make them up.

Anywho,  children got to be “guinea pigs” when the product actually game out.  And of course you know that a “guinea pig”

is a person  is a person who is subjected to experimental or other observational procedures.  Like children of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. That would include me. I very well may have been one of the “Guinea PigChildren.”   I was, after all, hit in the temple by flying clackers.

I loved my Clackers…. until  THE incident. Clackers were popular in the early seventies, when I was about 13-16 years old, perhaps.  Clackers  were  two hard plastic  marbles, (if marbles can be plastic), each about two inches in diameter. They are attached to a ring with a sturdy string. A person  puts their index finger in the ring, allowing the marbles (or balls) to hang below. Through an up-and-down  motion, the two balls swing apart and together, making the clacking noise that give the crazy toy its name. With practice, it is possible to get the marbles swinging so that they “clack” together above and  below the hand.

Clackers were discontinued because children were being injured. I continuously hurt my fingers while honing my clacker craft. Not all children follow rules. They also made an excellent weapon. If you swing them over your head, and let them go, they could fly across the room and either hit or strangle a kid…. Or a poodle. I read that cave men used Clackers. Or bola’s, as the South American gaucho called them. (See, I do research). I heard that if struck too hard, the acrylic balls could shatter, with flying consequences. I became really good at clackers. I could hit them above and below. I was the Crystal Lane Clacker Queen.  Self-imposed title, perhaps, but queen, nontheless.

One day, several of us were “clacking”, and mine flew across the room and knocked over a glass of water that was on the coffee table, which in turn, spilled the water, which then flowed  into my mom’s pack of Salem cigarettes. I guess water-logged cigarettes aren’t easy to light. I tried to get one out of the pack and it just wilted in half. So, I put it back in there. We were done clacking for the day. My sister told on me and off to my room I went. When I came out, my Clackers were gone.  Damn….

 

I really don’t know what the fascination was with Clackers. You didn’t win anything. You didn’t have a high score. But, you could be timed to see how long you could “clack.”  Time clackers, so to speak.  Maybe it was a lesson in eye-hand coordination.

I really think that I could have been a ninja assassin with my clacking skills. But, I preferred to grow up and become a teacher.

Same thing.

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Vertigo and Meniere’s Disease

In 1999, our family went to Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh and rode on a stupid roller coaster called the Steel Phantom.  I was so damn mad at that ride when we got off. I was crying because my neck hurt so badly. I swear we all had whiplash. I found out that the Kennywood people re-vamped it after many complaints. It wasn’t too long after that “Ride of Misery”, that I started having problems with my ear.

One day out of the blue, my right ear started feeling like swimmer’s ear. It felt full. Well, I had been swimming in our pool that afternoon. That night when I rolled over, it felt as if water was leaking out of my ear. I was sure my pillow was soaked. Nothing. It was such a weird feeling. This went on for a few days. It felt like someone jammed cotton in my ear.

I woke up one day and everything was spinning. I mean, around and around and around. It ended up being for 36 hours straight. I had to crawl to the bathroom. I had to crawl down the stairs when everyone was in school or at work. I threw up non-stop. I crawled back to bed. I crawled. The one thing I did realize is that my vaccum cleaner wasn’t doing a very good job. I was up close and personal with my carpet. And the toilet. I think vomiting is just so….sickening. I was about to name my toilet, we became such good friends. It was there for me. Tammy Toilet,

I really never thought I was going to get better. I was just going to be a spinning, vomiting, crawling cry-baby for the rest of my life. The carnival ride of death. I took Dramamine and threw it up. I was a mess. Finally, after 36 long, tortuous hours, I felt a bit better and called  and made an appointment with an ENT in Morgantown. I explained the tortuous event, which he named Vertigo.  Vickie Vertigo. I remembered the Jimmy Stewart movie, Vertigo.  He suffered from acrophobia, a fear of heights. Vertigo can be triggered by looking up or down. My vertigo was triggered because I looked.

Actually, according to earsurgery.com, Vertigo is described “as a sudden loss of normal balance or equilibrium. The room may suddenly begin to spin and rotate at high speed. Focusing is difficult, and if the vertigo continues, nausea and vomiting may occur. Vertigo is commonnly caused by acute labyrinthitis (a viral inflammation of the inner ear), benign positional vertigo (a condition due to abnormally floating crystals in the inner ear that stimulate the nerve endings of the inner ear), delayed symptom of head injury, or result of cervical spine problems.”  In a nutshell, I am screwed.

So, back to my visit to the ENT. They put me through some weird tests. They put a balloon in my ears and put water in them, and then blew them up or something. Seriously? Can you imagine the first person they did this to. “Sir, what we are going to do is put this balloon in your ear, and blow it up and then put some water in it.”  They tried to make me dizzy. Thanks alot. I had hearing tests and another where they shut the light and watched my eyes. I don’t know. I guess I should do a google and write the procedures here for you guys to understand, but I’m not feeling it this morning. Anywho, they said my eyes move too much (nystagmus) and that I had Meniere’s Disease.

I had a disease? Hell, a disease sounds contagious. He told me to come back the next time I was having an episode. Sure, I will just have my husband peel me away from the toilet and let him drive me to Morgantown right in the middle of  spinning like a top. This was rotational spinning that would not stop. The ENT told me that Meniere’s Disease is marked by four main symptoms: progressive hearing loss, tinnitus, ear fullness and vertigo. All wrapped up  with a bow on top and given to me. Nice….Oh, and he added, “Stay away from caffeine, salt, and stress. And don’t climb any ladders.”  Funny guy.

So, I went home and did some research. It said that Meniere’s Disease was rare. I joined a forum and found out that it wasn’t rare at all. I made some good friends from Nova Scotia and Saskatoon, Canada and Upper Michigan. People all over the damn place suffered from symptoms of Meniere’s Disease. I started an online group on Yahoo, The Meniere’s Disease Club, which now has over 2,000 members world-wide since 2000. So, no, it isn’t rare. Dizzy is dizzy.

Each person with Meniere’s Disease may have different symptoms. Some lose their hearing over the course of a few months. Some lose it gradually. Some don’t lose much at all. Some people have vertigo attacks daily and can no longer work. It can be a debilitating disorder. I have only had 2 full blown vertigo attacks. I do, however, also have BPPV,  which is short for Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It sometimes starts at night, when I lie down to go to bed. If I roll over, I get dizzy. Basically, BPPV is vertigo induced by head movements. Well, hell, just put me in a whiplash collar and send me on my merry way. Great. It was bearable when I was a stay-at-home mom, but when I have bouts now, I can’t really look down at the kid’s desks, or turn my head. And I veer while walking down the hall.

I noticed that in the grocery stores, my buggy veered to the left. When I drove my car into the garage, I veered to the left. Don’t know why. I veer. I can’t walk a straight line if my life depended on it. I hope I never get pulled over and asked to walk a straight line, because they would be hauling my butt off to jail for DUI. It would have to be DWM, for Driving With Menieres. It is such a stupid disorder.

Another symptom of Meniere’s Disease is tinnitus. William Shatner has tinnitus. “No! JIM!”  Tinnitus is noise in your ear. Mine sounds like a high pitched whine. According to Wikipedia, Tinnitus is usually described “as a ringing noise, but can take the form of a high pitched whining, electric, buzzing, hissing, screaming, humming, tinging or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, “crickets” or “tree frogs” or “locusts “, tunes, songs, beeping, or even a pure steady tone like heard in a hearing test. It has also been described as a “wooshing” sound, as of wind or waves.” I guess mine would be described as the “pure steady tone like heard in a hearing test.” Fun stuff I have.

The only good thing about having Meniere’s is that I can sleep on my right side and not hear a dog barking. Or someone breaking into my apartment.  I also am affected by the change in barometric pressure. My right ear begins to  hurt before it rains. Sometimes my ear hurts so badly, like a pencil is being shoved in my ear slowly. I also feel the sensation of a bug crawling deep  in my ear. I just want to jam a Q-tip in there, and kill it. And you know how your ears pop when you travel into a higher altitude? Well, my right ear won’t pop. It just starts hurting. I think my head will explode when I travel by plane to visit my daughter in France next spring. Again, fun stuff.

So, this is my life. Thank goodness my Meniere’s symptoms are very mild. I make fun of myself, so that helps when I have flare-ups. I haven’t crawled to visit my friend, Tammy the toilet in years.

If you have any of these symptoms, hold on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.  Damn roller coaster. At least when someone calls me a “dizzy blonde,” it really will be the truth.

Update: March 2014….just wanted you to know that I haven’t had a full blown vertigo attack in years, but have a lot of postitional vertigo. I have found that my salt intake is a big part of whether it gets worse or not…also, I have come to the conclusion that diet plays a big part of mine…I can’t eat a turkey breast sandwich from Subway anymore….I think it may be the salt…Weather and change of seasons or a quick change of barometric pressure seems to give me ear pain…everyone with menieres has different little triggers, you have to experiment to find yours….but I believe diet is the culprit….for me.

Hello, Circadian Dysrhythmia

Benjamin Franklin was a very wise man, but I still curse him twice a year, nontheless. He was credited for coming up with the idea of Daylight Saving Time.  Ben thought that we should go to bed early and rise early so we could be healthy, wealthy and intelligent. I don’t think it works that way.  He thought that more daylight meant saving wax for all the candles. Maybe he was tired of reading his almanac by candlelight.

All I know is that I physically change all the clocks in my house, but my  biological, circadian clock won’t budge. We SPRING forward and FALL behind.  Sure, I gain an hour in the fall, but the time change messes with me for a good week. I am not looking forward to this at all. Sunday marks the end of Daylight Saving Time and the beginning of my moaning and complaining.

If you have ever suffered from jet lag, then perhaps you can understand what a shift in time can do to a person. I am tired. Circadian dyshrythmia. I have lost my rhythm. I become awkward in oh, so many ways.

So, who else can I blame for this? Surely not Arizona, the only state that will not buckle to the pressure to lose and gain time. Arizona has more sunshine than Florida, the Sunny Sunshine state. They don’t need a time shift.

In 1918, the United States adopted  Daylight Saving Time for the duration of  World War I. This allowed  people to spend more time hanging out in daylight, thus saving costs on fuel for lighting. It was abolished, brought back, abolished and then in 2005, Congress enacted the Energy Policy Act, which changed Daylight Saving Time dates again. As of March 2007, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November. It just sucks. Daylight Saving Time stays around now  past Halloween, where some little trick-or-treaters were getting hit by cars at night. Well, that is what reflective tape is for, my little munchkins. Trick or treating during daylight is just wrong. But, no one listens to me.
I would really like to know what the hell is saved? I know that it is a reminder to change the batteries in your smoked detector and Arm &Hammer let’s us know that it is time to change the box of baking soda in your refrigerator, but hey, that is just to strum up some business. The energizer bunny doesn’t suffer from the time shift. I bet more batteries are purchased around this time than at Christmas. Well, maybe not, but it’s a gimmick to change your smoke detector. But, as most of you know, the smoke detector will let you know when it is time. It will freakin beep at 3 minute intervals until you change the damn thing.
  The only thing that was fun about the time change was accidentally sleeping through church when we were small. Oops, Mom and Dad, you forgot to spring forward. Aw, shucks, we missed church. Looks like we can think about God from our warm beds.  I did convince a college roommate that it was against the law to change the clocks before 2a.m. I told her that it was a law enforcement thing. If the police were called to a residence for anything after 11pm and they wrote down the wrong time, it might be a critical mistake, so a law was enacted in West Virginia that stated that all clocks could not be turned back before 2a.m. or a $500 fine would be imposed on anyone who turned their clocks back earlier. She believed me and set her alarm for 2am to set her clock back. She was so easy.
  In the end, I still haven’t found anything that is saved.  All the deer in the United States live in West Virginia and cross the road on my way to work.  Do they suffer from circadian dysrhythmia? I bet they do.  Daylight Deer Time. Will they now operate an hour earlier or hour later?   School children will be standing at the bus stop in the dark, wrapped in reflective tape. Or wait. Won’t it be daylight if we turn back our clocks? That means they are wrapped in reflective tape just because. See, now I am confused about when it will be dark and when it will be light. This just sucks. I don’t need to be anymore confused than I already am.
I guess there is some good to Daylight Saving Time. Raccoons will have more time to pillage through garbage cans.  Robbers can eat breakfast at the home they are robbing.
I really can’t stress how much I hate the time change.
Damn you, Ben Franklin.

I Believe in Mary Worth…I Believe in Mary Worth

When I was young, we held seances whenever we had the chance. It didn’t have to be on or near Halloween. We usually went to Lori’s house, our friend who lived right across the street. She had a small fruit cellar in her basement that was jus the perfect place to light a candle, shut the door, and burn to death. But, we never dropped the candle and we never stopped chanting.

We really had no idea who the hell Mary Worth was, but we believed in her.

Tweens have no brains, they really don’t.  There were usually four of us who held these seances. We would stand in a circle, shut the fruit cellar door, and slowly begin to chant into a mirror,  I can’t remember for sure, but I think Lori put a mirror on one of the shelves, leaning it against the wall.  You had to have a mirror, because Mary Worth was supposed to appear in it.

We would start the chant, always serious, because we knew this would work.

We would start with a whisper. “I believe in Mary Worth……I believe in Mary Worth….” I think that’s  all we said. But, we said it over and over and over again, because that’s what you had to do if you wanted to bring her back.  Those were the rules.  I think that anywhere between the third and thirteenth chant, Mary Worth was supposed to appear in the mirror, looking all vengeful and malicious.

So, who was Mary Worth, you ask?  Well, hell, I don’t know. So, I looked her up for your reading enjoyment. There  are many different stories about Mary Worth. Some call her Bloody Mary.  One account is that Mary was wrongly accused of killing her children. She went mad and commited suicide.

I honestly can not remember if we even knew the circumstances of  “our” Mary. We just enjoyed scaring each other and occasionally  getting locked in the fruit cellar. Lori’s mom would also at times don a  mask and slowly open the door to scare us.

So, this Halloween, whatever you do, don’t repeat that phrase while standing in front of a mirror.

Unless of course, you want Mary Worth to appear, wondering who the hell  you are.

Let’s Bring Back Houdini

I have always been fascinated with seances. I think it had to do with my brand new Ouji board I received as a present one year for Christmas. Everyone had Ouji boards. In case you have been living in a box, an Ouji board is a board marked with letters and numbers, and other symbols so you can communicate directly with the dead. It has a moveable piece that players put the tips of their fingers on, letting the spirits guide them to the answers they have questions to.    I always wanted to bring back Houdini. Harry Houdini was the famous magician who died doing one of his magic tricks.

According to Wikipedia, Houdini spent years trying to debunk mediums and psychics. He didn’t believe that anyone could have powers of that nature.  He would often go to seances incognito and then jump up to show the people attending  how things were faked.

Before Houdini died, he and his wife, Bess, agreed that if Houdini’s spirit came back after death, he would say “Rosabelle believe” as a secret codeword to prove that it was actually him. This was a phrase from a play that his wife  performed in when the couple first met. His wife held yearly séances  for ten years after Houdini’s death, but “Houdini”‘s spirit never appeared. Bummer.

So, of course, in 1977, I thought I could bring him back. In college, I lived in a house with 4 sorority sisters. We had a lot of ceremonial candles lying about. I can’t tell you how many seances I had in that house. We would light candles, drink, and then conjure up Houdini’s spirit. I remember one specific time when my boyfriend (later husband) kept telling me to be careful. I was wearing a sweater with a cowl collar and was leaning into my candle as I was laughing while chanting, “Harry Houdini, we are calling on you to come visit us this Halloween eve……”  We would drink a little more and conjure up people and I would always have someone hiding in the kitchen to creep into the room at exactly the right moment. It was just another excuse to have a party.

The best seance I had included a little trick I learned from living in a house with uneven floorboards under the carpeting. If I stepped directly on one place in the living room, the nearby lamp would flicker on and off. I guess the lamp cord was sitting on the long board. Or the light wasn’t screwed in all the way. Regardless, it was something I could use, perhaps. Hmmmmm. That gave me an idea.

I gathered my friends and their friends in a little circle after a few rounds of drinks and had them stand, holding hands with the person next to them so there would be no shenanigans. I lit my ceremonial candles and shut off all of the lights, except for that lamp. I changed the bulb earlier to a 20 watt bulb, so it wasn’t too bright. I opened up the living room window a bit to increase the creep factor. I loved it when it was a bit windy.  I started conjuring up Harry Houdini. I called to him several times before I said, “If you are here with us, please give us a sign…and I would slowly shift my weight to one side on that uneven board under the carpet. The light flickered. A couple people nervously laughed. “Is that you, Harry Houdini?” Slowly shift my weight to make the light flicker on, then off. I was starting to freak people out after a few minutes of my questioning.

“Harry Houdini, are you standing in this room right now? If you are, turn the light on and then off. Wow, this  is just too perfect. Someone was getting scared, but was still suspect. “Vickie, are you doing this?”  Haha. The people on both my sides answered in unison, “She’s not. She is holding my hand.”  I decided to get to business.

“Harry Houdini, are you holding hands with someone in this circle? If you are, give us a sign.” The light went off.  Someone screamed. It was a guy! A guy who screamed like a girl. I wanted to crack up laughing, but I was just beginning. “Harry Houdini, if you are holding hands with someone, gently squeeze their hand. I KNEW one of the 9 would squeeze someone’s hand. Everyone started screaming, which meant, more than one person decided to be a funny guy. I then started shifting my weight back and forth and the light was going crazy and people were screaming. It was a fantastic evening. It also helped that people were intoxicated.

I then announced. “Someone has broken the chain. He has left the room.”  I never told anyone what I did. I had three more “drinking seances” after that.

I’d like to think that the famous escape artist paid a visit to us during one of those seances. Even if he didn’t, I hope  he was having a good laugh watching from above.

Did I mention that he died on Halloween?

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