Archive for June 16th, 2009
I had neck surgery two weeks ago and I’ll be wearing a cervical collar for another four weeks. My cervical collar restricts my neck movements quite a bit. Many people are surprised that it is nonetheless legal for me to drive a car even while my neck motion is so restricted. It’s not legal to drive while wearing a cervical collar in every state, although in Missouri and many other states, it is legal.
Not that I’m comfortable driving a car without the ability to rotate my neck freely. I’ve only done it twice during the past two weeks, and it was on low-traffic roads during off-peak driving periods. For the most part, I now get around by exploiting a public transportation monthly pass. Using public transportation has slowed me down quite a bit, but I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m learning the routes much better than I ever did before, and I’m seeing that it’s possible to get a lot done without a car, even in St. Louis, because we have a fair number of bus routes in the city, along with several light rail lines.
What I’ve repeatedly noticed is that you can’t just get anywhere you want. Now can you get where you want when you want to. You need to check the schedule and work with the system. Sometimes, the buses are not exactly on time. If you’re not careful, you’ll just miss a bus and then you’ll need to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. If you don’t think ahead, you’ll get rained on because you forgot to bring your umbrella. Sometimes, the places you want to go are not exactly on the bus route, and you might have to walk a mile after getting off the bus. If you have something that you need to bring along, you can’t put it in the trunk because there is no trunk. You either carry it with you or you don’t bring it at all. I find that I’m really becoming much more empathetic about other folks who must use public transportation. Yesterday, I because really frustrated when I saw a woman barely miss the bus.
What if you need to take your kids somewhere and you don’t have a car? Well, you use public transportation. Last week I saw a woman with five young children pile them all onto the bus. They were all quiet and well-behaved as their mother carefully put six bus fares in the fare box.
There’s also quite a few characters on public buses. Today, I sat next to a man who was selling pirated DVDs to fellow passengers. One woman told him that she didn’t need a DVD, so he told her that he sold cosmetics too. His entire inventory of DVDs and cosmetics was in a paper bag that he carried along with him.
It’s inspiring to see how often people in public buses help each other out, helping each other with the doors or with each other’s bags, or calling out to the bus driver if someone needs a little extra help. There’s other kinds of characters too. Some of them don’t smell so good. Others talk to themselves rapidly. Some of them are extremely friendly and willing to give lots of encouragement to a stranger with a neck brace. Others sit quietly and still others look notably confused. Many people strike up animated and entertaining conversations with fellow passengers, oftentimes with people they don’t know. Many of the passengers are overweight, and it’s tempting to see how they will fit themselves into the smallish seats between two equally large passengers.
Taking a bus is much different than driving a car. When you take a bus, you don’t have to worry about your car. You don’t have to worry about maintaining it or parking it or keeping it from being stolen. You don’t have to worry about getting distracted and running over a young child in a crosswalk.
What I most notice about taking the bus, however, is that the rhythm of life changes. I can’t have what I want exactly what I want it anymore. I can’t just get downtown in 12 minutes on a whim. Rather, it will take 10 minutes to get to the bus stop, another 20 or 30 minutes to catch a bus up to the light rail stop, and another 10 or 15 minutes to get downtown on the light rail. It really does take about four times as long for me to travel one way to my place of employment (that’s about twice as long as it takes to ride a bike there– I’ve been told that a bill to ride a bike again in about a month or two).
Some might think that it would be extremely frustrating to not get where you want when you want to get there, but I’m finding that these moments are golden opportunities to think about important things and not important things, and to enjoy being out in the world with a lot of decent people who don’t have fancy cars or fancy houses. There’s not a lot of bus passengers trying to impress each other with what they own because on the bus most people don’t own much. You can see it for the way they dress and you can see it from how they talk. You won’t hear people bragging about taking a trip to some fancy vacation spot. There’s nobody trying to impress anyone else with his BMW. You won’t hear people confusing who they are with what they own.
It’s all so refreshing, relaxing, therapeutic, normal.
It’s homeopathic awareness week! Neurologica wants to take full advantage:
According to the British Homeopathic Association . . . June 14-21 is Homeopathy Awareness Week. I would like to do my part to increase awareness of homeopathy. . . I am all in favor of homeopathic awareness. The scientific community should use this week to make the public acutely aware of the fact that homeopathy is, put simply, utter rubbish.
Neurologica has put together a detailed account of the world’s most over-embellished version of the placebo effect. Consider the homeopathic advocates’ arguments for why homeopathic drugs can’t be tested:
Many homeopaths have argued that homeopathy cannot be subjected to the same type of studies as are conventional drugs. This is because each patient, from a homeopathic perspective, is unique, and cannot be lumped into a single category. Whereas conventional medicine can compare treatments of 1000 diabetics with two different medications, homeopaths cannot produce large numbers of patients with the same totality of illness requiring the exact same treatment. In making this argument, that of untestability, such homeopaths are securing their position in the halls of pseudoscience, for if their is one single quality which separates scientific theories from nonscientific ones, it is falsifiability. If homeopathic remedies cannot be tested, then they can never be grounded in science.
Neurologica’s article is well written and well documented. I agree entirely.
As a parent, I have participated in many discussions regarding the medication of kids for a variety of reasons. I have friends who have kids with serious problems for whom medication has been a godsend, allowing them to function with relative normalcy. Kids who were unable to participate in a typical classroom for one behavioral issue or another.
We’ve also had many discussions about the problem of over-medicating children, and how some schools push for difficult children to receive behavioral meds, whether they truly need them or not. How some of those adult medications should perhaps not be so quickly prescribed for children. We’ve talked about education reform, changes in teaching methods and school culture and administrative philosophies that would allow for wider ranges of learning styles. I’ve heard parents rant about how unfair it is for their well-behaved child to not receive the same level of attention as the “problem kid” in the class commands, and I’ve seen them answered by the parents of said problem kids with an invitation to trade shoes, just for a day.