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What hath I bought?

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally you’ll be cruising eBay for something else entirely and you’ll see something pretty tasty that’s about to close and nobody’s bid on it at all.

And that, Yer Honor, is how I ended up with fifty-something surgical tools I have no idea what they are. I got two really good pairs of precision pliers and some dental picks that make the whole lot worth the £7 paid, but I’m kind of mystified by the rest.

Let’s start with something easy. I shall call these things “bone clamps”. There are six of the kind on the left and two of the kind on the right.

Sound about right to you?

May 14, 2018 — 8:58 pm
Comments: 15


I have to clean some old wax seals for work. It’s tiny, fiddly work. “Woot!” thinks I, “my chance buy some new tiny, fiddly tools!”

Somewhere around here, I’ve got a student dissection kit (eh, you know me…I never dissected anything more sentient than fridge mold. I just love me some weenus little tools). Can’t find it, but they’re cheap enough.

Holy shit, my people, do not be searching for surgical instruments on eBay. Because they’re there.

Cat spay kits. Dental implant bone grafting instruments. Urethral dilators.

Who is buying this shit? And why? Don’t tell me clinics and med schools are buying their instruments used on eBay. Are they?

p.s. Don’t actually click those links. I’m just giving my bona fides.

p.p.s. The collection in the picture this one. I might actually bid on this one if it doesn’t go too high. Some of those instruments look pretty useful (and some of them are an enigma wrapped in a cringe).

April 24, 2018 — 8:36 pm
Comments: 11

Speaking of smells…


I’m a big fan of Western medicine. And, along with that, a big skeptic of herbal and other home remedies.

Or at least I was. I’ve changed my mind after a couple of non life-threatening but annoying conditions that yielded better to herbal remedies than drugs, or at least the drugs I was willing to take. (People who talk about their health issues are boring, but remind me to tell you my psoriasis story some time).

Two things I’ve learned about herbals. One, they’re highly individual — something that works for me may not touch you. Two, you have to take them in higher doses and/or for longer than it says on the label. I suppose herbal companies are right to be cautious, but most of the stuff they sell is benign (and it’s pretty easy to find out online what’s not).

Like, if you make an herbal tea for a therapeutic purpose, make multiple strong infusions and sip it throughout the evening. And never buy in capsules when you can buy bulk powders (the capsules take up more room than you think).

I’ve recently been taking boswellia for joint pain. But because I’m a cheapskate, I bought a bag sold for veterinary purposes (10 grams for ponies, 15 grams for horses, a little spoonful for weasels). I mean, nobody would poison a horse, right?

I’ve been taking it about a week and I’m not sure it’s helping my joints, but I’m pretty sure it’s upsetting my intestines.

The other name for boswellia is frankincense. My poop smells of frankincense.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. I told you this story just so I could inform you that my poop smells like frankincense.

July 27, 2017 — 10:12 pm
Comments: 19



This cartoon is from a serious article on fecal transplants, part of my course on gut bacteria. Also, it says POOP and BUTT a lot, hee hee!

As horrifying as the very idea of fecal transplants might be, it’s one of the most promising treatments to come along in ages, particularly for dealing with Clostridium difficile. C. diff, as I devoutly hope none of us knows from experience, is a truly nasty bacterial infection of the gut and highly resistant to antibiotics, even the stupid expensive new ones. From the article:

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in January of this year [2013] found that 13 out of 16 people treated with fecal transplants were cured of C. diff. Two of the remaining three were cured with a second transplant. The results were so impressive that the researchers found it unethical to continue the other study group on antibiotics, and they received transplants as well.

When it works, it works overnight. Word.

So why aren’t fecal transplants the first line of defense against C. diff? Simple: money, honey. Drug companies can do little to capitalize on or patent human feces. It’s highly unlikely that, without an opportunity to make money, transplants will get the research funding they deserve. Without more research, they remain controversial — a lot of doctors won’t perform them, and some C. diff sufferers resort to at-home transplants [ack! – Weasel]. To further complicate things, the FDA tried earlier this year to regulate transplants by classifying human stool as a biologic drug. That means doctors would have to get an IND (Investigational New Drug) application before performing a transplant, slowing down the process and delaying life-saving treatment. Thankfully the FDA backed off, but it’s possible they’ll attempt regulation again in the future.

This lady was completely cured of her C. diff after a single transplant from her (horribly embarrassed) nine-year-old niece. I should add, though, she still has a nasty, lifelong dose of inflammatory bowel disease, so it ain’t everything. Still.

I used to think blaming drug companies for not following up unprofitable treatments was a bit unfair. Well, actually, I still think it’s unfair — it costs bzillions to research a new drug and carry it through to approval, so of course they don’t follow up on things they can’t patent. It would be a dereliction of duty to their shareholders to do otherwise. Now I blame medical research for not stepping up just a little better. And the regulatory state for getting in the way, of course.

So that’s Week 4 of 6 – two weeks of POOP and BUTT studies yet to come!

June 7, 2017 — 8:47 pm
Comments: 20

Some slack, please


No, that’s not a charming crocheted tree ornament, it’s a 3D representation of a human rhinovirus and I got one for Christmas!

That wouldn’t be so bad, except it’s my third in a row. One after the other. I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t even know it was possible.

Some time in mid September, I got a sort of a sleepy flu thing — chesty cough and extreme fatigue. Lots of people around got it at the same time. After which I got a cold. After which I got a cold. After which I got a cold. I have been continuously hacking and snotting for almost four months.

How can this be? I’m amazed there are that many different rhinoviruses floating around town. Clearly, my immune system is shot to hell.

One of my neighbors turned up (briefly!) at coffee this morning with a case of the calamitous shits and if I catch that one for the holidays I swear I’m done.

I’ve tried every remedy suggested to me. My favorite so far is whisky. Or whiskey. I’m not picky.

Any other suggestions?

December 21, 2016 — 9:31 pm
Comments: 24

There’s a weasel in that thar double helix


It’s DNA day! I got a mailing from 23andme earlier:

Today we celebrate the discovery of the double helix of DNA in 1953 and the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003.

They just say ‘we celebrate’ — not that it’s an actual anniversary or anything. And, since they sell DNA testing, I’m’a assume it’s one of those made up holidays, like National Stinky Cheese Day or Mother’s Day. In which case, they missed a trick by not picking the 23rd of some month.

Anyhoo, there were several interesting DNA-related articles accompanying the mailer, like this one: now that they have a grasp of some of the markers that indicate a susceptibility to disease, one new avenue of research is to look at people who have a vulnerability to certain conditions but never developed the condition.

Or not yet, anyway. It’s leading to some novel ways to look at health problems, and I’m all for novel ways of looking at things.

The project leader gave a TED talk about it — never a good sign — but it still sounds promising. Link to the project itself here.

And don’t forget to hug your genome today.

sock it to me

April 25, 2016 — 9:34 pm
Comments: 8

Proof that I live in a civilized country


I came down with a cold this weekend. Bleh.

So I went the pharmacy today and asked — half-joking, although you used to could — if you could still get codeine linctus without a prescription. Bear in mind, you cannot buy more than 16 aspirins in this country without a pharmacist on the premises (I am not making that up; when the pharmacist goes to lunch, you can’t buy jack shit).

Well, yes, actually. You can buy this stuff. Every dose contains a healthy 14mg of codeine, and you’re allowed three doses a day plus an extra one before bed “for a good night’s sleep.”

I took one before my nap this afternoon and dreamed I was chased by a zombie. She was a fast zombie, but only in the auditorium. To stop her, I had to fill my mouth with blue bath salts (don’t swallow!), skip around the auditorium and blow it into her face, while my friends laughed and clapped.

I’m going to think long and hard before I take a bedtime dose.

Also, it tastes like horse ointment. Vile. Must be the chloroform(!).

Truth is, I don’t really have the cough yet. I just really, really like opiates.

sock it to me

October 19, 2015 — 6:52 pm
Comments: 22

Recognize this jar?


Uncle B is a charter member of the Doctor Haterz Club. He goes to a qualified medical herbalist, who manages to keep his blood pressure and other complaints well under control. Has done for years.

Actually, he’s been to several. It’s a thing here. Alternate therapies in general; I think it’s partly a side effect of the uselessness of the NHS (but I won’t go into ‘whiny immigrant’ mode).

No comment on some of the alternative therapies, but the medical herbalist thing is a proper specialty with, like, real qualifications in actual medical schools and advanced degrees and shit.

I’ve been messing about with herbal remedies lately. Not the prepared things. I’ve been buying herbs and making teas. Like, I have insomnia. I went to a herb supplier, ordered 250 grams of everything that’s supposed to make you sleepy, and I make a big ass jar of tea with it every night. Like, five or six infusions.

Hells yes, it’s working. I’ve been sleeping like a baby. A drunken baby with serious neurological deficiencies who pulled an all-nighter studying for a baby exam. Seriously, I have to cut back on this shit.

So Uncle B made me confess what I was doing to the herbalist today (in case I was poisoning myself. You can buy some pretty heavy herbs by mail order). Not only did she approve my ingredients, my quantities and my methods (I did look it up on the internet first — honest), but she made some further suggestions and offered to add my requests to her next order. I don’t suppose her suppliers are necessarily any purer, but they are sure as shit cheaper.

Anyway, I’ve been making herbal teas in this jar since forever. It’s nice and heavy, it has a handle (!), it’s just perfect. I’d like another. I’m quite sure I bought this whateveritwas entirely for the jar in a supermarket in New England. I believe it was something in the ethnic Italian (or perhaps Spanish or Portuguese) section. And it was something like olives or pimientos or something.

Anybody recognize?

Oh, and happy Equinox. Technically, it’s Wednesday, but the 21st is the thing. Autumn is upon us!

sock it to me

September 21, 2015 — 10:46 pm
Comments: 15

Non-drowsy, my ass!


My eyes have been kinda itchy lately, so I took a Cetirizine. One seven hour nap later…

Oh wait — these aren’t the non-drowsy kind!

Sheesh…I hope I can sleep before work tomorrow…

sock it to me

September 1, 2015 — 10:39 pm
Comments: 6

Yay! Plague pit!

Crossrail is an astonishing engineering project; they’re boring a big-ass new subway tunnel straight across London. Like, 26 miles worth of new track, going through infrastructure, under foundations and within inches of existing tunnels and roads. It’s Europe’s largest construction projects — one of the biggest construction projects EVAH.

If you love big machines and amazing feats of construction, if you sometimes wonder whether we’ve totally lost that audacity the Victorians had so darned much of, you really should follow the link and spend some time exploring. Try their YouTube channel (at least check out the eight ginormous tunneling machines).

Digging a huge trench across London, as you might imagine, is turning up all sorts of ancient junk. They’ve just run across the Bedlam plague pit — 3,000 skellingtons worth — and they’ve got sixty archaeologists on site beavering away at it so construction can continue soonest.

Earlier Underground lines took a stomach-crunching jog to avoid digging up plague pits and taking the chance of unleashing something. But, as it turns out, it’s pretty difficult to extract y. pestis out of old bones. They’re going to do their best.

sock it to me

March 9, 2015 — 9:43 pm
Comments: 12