Tag Archives: Advice

Human Experimentation: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Ice-Obsessed

I come from a family of self-experimenters. Well, okay, I come from a self-diagnosing mama, anyway, and by genetics or preference have embraced that tradition. My mom and I are always “testing” new things out on our bodies and minds. Experimenting with meditation, eating various wonder seeds and oils, vinegar, weird enzymes, cherry juice, crushed and encapsulized herbs, movement techniques, posture, accupressure… we’re pretty much willing to try anything for a potential (life! changing!) health benefit.

The nature of experimentation is that it is a gamble. And our family now has a classic cautionary tale as a result of such a gamble. For years I was told that the women in our family had “too much iron” in our blood, and that we shouldn’t add to it with supplements. This is mostly because my aunt had an issue with Hemochromatosis, and my mom either assumed that was a kind of sister condition, or was told it was an issue she probably had too.

Cut to twenty years later.

I’m home from college for the holidays, listening to my mom say how unbelievable tired she is all the time. Not only that, I notice she is really, really into chewing on ice. And not just any ice. It had to be perfectly half-frozen mineral water. When asked my little sister, still living at home, confirmed that our mother was becoming obsessed with freezing said water in bottles, then repeatedly shaking said bottles, and crunching said ice, day and night.

It took a bit for any of us to realize that her behavior was more than a little odd.  (I mean, we all like our special little snacks, right?) Eventually she saw a doctor for her fatigue, was told she basically had NO iron left in her blood, and was asked how was she even walking. She was also told that all that compulsive ice-chewing was a form of pica disorder, in which severely anemic patients eat non-food items. We were all grateful that at least her weak blood hadn’t compelled her to eat dirt, chalk, clay, or paint chips, and we all had a good long laugh. Though indeed a cautionary tale, the ice-crunching era did not deter us from continuing our tradition of self-diagnosis and experimentation.

I once asked my mom if, hypothetically, she would prepare my (hypothetical) placenta for my consumption if any medical proof arose that the consumption of afterbirth really did help with postpartum related woes, and being the awesome and health-adventurous mama she is, she (hypothetically) agreed.

[Note: 1. While some hippies tote the benefits, to my knowledge there is no clinical evidence eating placenta is good for you, though plenty of wild mammals seem to think it plenty tasty. 2. Theoretical preparation of said placenta involves a dehydration, pulverization, and encapsulation process, and does in no way involve eating a placental steak. 3. I am NOT pregnant.]

But I digress. Point being, it is easy to pop some vitamins, or take a bath in salty milk, or drink vinegar, or stare at a candle for an hour and see what happens. Even choking down a placenta seems withing the realm of semi-reasonable self-experimentation, when compared to say, infecting yourself with hook worms, or strapping radium salts to your arm and observing the resulting chemical burn.

I may dabble in self-diagnosis and experimental treatments, but some scientists make a career out of it. Okay, and some die from it, too.

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the history of human experimentation. If you’re at all curious (as you should be) what that entailed, watch my latest SciShow video here:


You’ll see that self-experimentation is sort of the odd high-point to an otherwise often dubious series of events and discoveries. Sure, lots and lots of important, life-saving, revolutionary medical and scientific discoveries inevitably had to have some level of human subject testing in their making. Unfortunately, that shit wasn’t always voluntary, and got pretty messed up a lot of the time. And I’m not even talking about the obvious stuff (Nazis, Unit 731, etc.)

Ahh… but self-experimentation… that takes cojones. And conviction. Yeah, and maybe ego, which I suppose is some version of cojones + conviction anyway. Or a death wish. Either way, when you swallow that petri dish of bacteria, or zap yourself with gamma rays, you never know if it is going to lead to a Nobel Prize, or death, or a distinct green coloration a steroidal rage issue. It’s a mixed bag.

Why Do We Kiss?

Yo. I want you to do something for me. Pause for a minute, and dig deep. Think about your very first kiss. Was it exciting? Was it awkward? Terrifying? Were you twelve? Or sixteen? Or twenty-five? Are you still waiting?

Think about your last kiss. Maybe from a paramour, or an old friend, or little kid, or a strange but friendly dog on the street (yeah, that was me), or a David Bowie poster… think about what that one was like.

Now think about the last time you listened to Prince’s song “Kiss”… did you sing along? Did you picture Julia Roberts in a bubble bath with headphones? (Did you worry about her safety?)

Most people seem to enjoy smooching. At least smooching certain people, animals, celebrity paraphernalia, anyway. Maybe you like it more than the average bloke… maybe you like it less. If it really isn’t your bag, imagine something else that you really love doing… maybe it involves a bag of kittens, or a long walk on the beach, or getting caught in the rain, or a bucket of freakin’ pina colada, I don’t know, just go to your happy place.

Now imagine doing that fun, delicious, amazing thing for  58 hours. Straight. Without eating or private pee breaks. Not so fun now, is it? Well, bow at the feet of or run in terror from the Thai couple who broke the world kissing record last Valentine’s Day when they sucked face for OVER 58 CONTINUOUS HOURS. Nasty! Yeah, they won a little money, but not nearly enough to encourage me to attempt such an ambitious, gross, and generally unsanitary feat.

That fact is just one of many interesting things I learned recently while researching the origins of snogging. Check it out:




Having Learned Much

So I’ve been sort of a Captain Odd Job these last few weeks. Researching and writing about The Science, picking bugs under a microscope, proof-reading for a couple of  publications, and, most recently, making your mom happy.


Yep, last week marked my glorious (if not temporary) return to the glamorous world of Floral Design. And you know next to placating ladyfriends of the greater Missoula area with twelve red Valentine roses, our highest priority is promoting the holiday when moms finally get their due. Even if that would-be payout is hijacked by the questionably tasteless Teleflora designers pushing their hideous pastel-nightmare arrangements with names like “Mama’s Pearl,” “Always a Lady,” and “Pour on the Pink.” Seriously, one distinctly resembled a glassy pink testicle. Okay, or brain, if you prefer to keep your mind unsullied. Whatever.

Just let me offer a little advice to anyone who ever intends to order flowers again. Skip the keepsake container shaped like a tugboat or high heel or purple seashell, and just trust the designers at your local shop to create something beautiful. In a simple glass vase or tasteful basket. Don’t box us in with baby’s breath. We are professionals. Your mama will thank you.

But I digress. What I meant to say was that its been fun flitting between so many random jobs. Each suits me in a different way. So if you need your chinchilla trimmed, or a topiary shaped, or an abstract portrait rendered, or an essay edited, or a fort built, or some bear poop collected, give me a call.

My spring is pretty open.


How to Prepare for a Puppy

Today is the third-week anniversary of welcoming a small tornado into our home. Hazel is a fifteen-pound, nine-week-old mutt puppy, a whirling fuzzball of clumsy, bounding energy. I’ve wanted a dog for a long time, and she’s awesome, except when she isn’t. Recently, after examining my bloodied lip in the mirror, I began thinking about what to expect when you’re expecting a puppy. Cohabitation with a baby anything is going to rock you, and while you can never fully prepare for what is in store, there are some things you should know. Namely, that it isn’t all sliding down jerky rainbows into piles of Cottonelle

Here is some unsolicited advice on the matter:

12 Ways to Prepare for a Puppy

1. Roll up any throw rug or carpet that isn’t stapled to the floor or already       piss-colored. If you’ve got wall-to-wall ivory carpeting, invest in a solid gallon of odor-eating pet-centric carpet cleaner. Or don’t get a puppy.

2. Lock up your jewelry. Got a cute pair of earrings for your birthday? Put them away. Ditto to necklaces, rings, bracelets, and especially facial-piercings. Puppies are like ostriches—they lose their tiny little minds over shiny objects securely fastened to your body.

3. While you’re at it, put away all things at pup-level… power cords, shoes, books, space heaters, hampers, those really nice sheepskin slippers.  Then make or buy some bitter spray and douse the crap out of anything that remains… table legs, curtains, counter corners, wooden chairs, stairs, your bare feet. Get used to yelling This is why we can’t have nice things! It becomes a sort of mantra in the months to come. Think about getting it embroidered on something. But not a pillow, because she’ll work that, too.

4. Pull your hair back and put your hand-modeling aspirations on hold. She’s going to tear your ass up. Read up on the honey badger. It is going to feel like you’re living with one.

5. Also, plan on wearing the same ratty hoodie and your least favorite pair of pants every day. For the next two months they will slowly be ripped to shreds, enraged Hulk-style.

6. Think hard about what you want to name your puppy, but don’t think too hard, or nothing will sound right and you’ll just start repeating sounds and wondering if they are actual words. When you ask a friend if Cabbage would be a cute name, or maybe, Toaster, you know you’re in the black hole.

7. You’re going to want to crate train. Deck it out like a heady little den. Puppy will love it and so will you when you need just five damned minutes to make the morning coffee and pee without getting hamstringed.

8. When it comes to toys, keep it simple. You may be dazzled in the toy section of the pet store by squeaky hedgehogs and furry monkeys, but there’s a solid chance that your pup’s favorite go-tos will be the tried trio: stick, ball, rag. Which, of course, still take second place to hand and ankle. Even food takes second to hand and ankle.


9. Remember that puppies are like mice. They can defy physics to weasel, squeeze, and contort through tiny, odd-shaped spaces you wouldn’t believe. Remember too, that their brains aren’t that big. They will get stuck. A lot.

10. Get comfortable going outside barefoot in your underwear, in the snow, in the dark, a couple of times a night. Remind yourself how bad you wanted this as you shimmy and shiver. Also, although ear plugs help in getting through the first week, don’t put too much faith in them. They are only neon bits of foam, not lab-grade pharmaceuticals.

11. Don’t be too upset when the puppy outsmarts you. I mean, she’s a crafty bitch, and you’re sleep-deprived and rendered momentarily insane by The Cuteness. It happens. Enjoy it. Fall upon her when she is sleepy to get in your daily cuddles. Squeeze to hear her grunty pig noises.

12. And if you get in a fight, just make sure you make up again. She didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or your flesh, she’s just teething.