Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Death by Internet Searching

The hot flashes I experienced from chemo a few years ago, and continued anti-hormonal therapy, caused me to develop rosacea. It may have eventually erupted on its own, but I primarily fault my cancer treatment for bringing it on.

I am probably predisposed to the condition.....it tends to hit fair-skinned women in their 30's with Celtic ancestry.  That's me.

There is no cure for rosacea; it's a chronic condition that is managed, sometimes going into "remission" and then flaring up.

One of the treatments for rosacea consists of taking Doxycycline, an antibiotic, for about a month or two depending on how quickly symptoms subside.  Doctors aren't quite sure why the antibiotic works for rosacea, because rosacea isn't exactly an infection.

Anyway, now that I've bored everyone with my medical conditions, the point is that I had some Doxycycline in my medicine cabinet from the previous time I had taken it a couple of years ago. My rosacea was acting up and I decided to just take it because I didn't have time to get to the dermatologist and just figured they were going to tell me to take Doxycycline anyway.

I noticed it was expired, but then recalled a pharmacologist I once knew saying that most medicines are still effective way past the expiration date. I figured the worst thing that could happen would be that I would take it and it wouldn't work in which case I would have to go to the doctor anyway.


A curious mind is an infernal thing.  It never knows when to stop.  It's always asking "Why?".  It's always wondering how things work.  It's like a five-year-old child pestering their parent with a thousand questions a day, unsatisfied, always wanting more, more, more.  More answers.  More explanations.  More understanding of generally obscure, not-very-useful facts.

Unfortunately, I have one of those question-generating-machines in my skull driving me to look things up. Curious about why medicines expire, or what could happen from taking expired medicines I used some free time to look it up.

This is what I found:

Store doxycycline at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Throw away any unused medicine after the expiration date on the label has passed. Using expired doxycycline can cause damage to your kidneys.

What??? Kidney Damage???

In a panic, I tried to find more information.

Everywhere I looked on general, medical, non-obscure sites I found this dire warning about doxycycline and the words "renal failure" used in conjunction with expired doxycycline and tetracycline antibiotics.

OK.  I had taken 3 days worth.   How much trouble was I really in?  Should I let my husband know so that he could start planning my funeral?  How quickly was I going to die?  What symptoms should I look for?

So off I went through the inter-webs trying to find out more information, more details, more understanding of why this stuff is so bad for kidneys.

And what did I find?

Nothing really.

The first clue came from the wiki article on doxycycline.

In the case of doxycycline, the absence of an hydroxyl group in C-6 prevents the formation of the nephrotoxic compound.

Oh. OK.  So maybe I wasn't going to die after all.

Now I was very curious.  Which was it...Deadly Toxin, or Meh?

Eventually I came across the topic in this forum which seems to be associated with Rutgers University.

The forum administrator, while trying to answer a poster with the same question I had:

I tried to find the data behind the statement that "expired doxycycline can cause a dangerous syndrome resulting in damage to the kidneys" (Source (http://www.drugs.com/doxycycline.html)). I was unable to find a published study on the subject although there are many outrageous warnings of the dangers of expired tetracycline or doxycycline all over internet. Let me continue looking but this is making me very suspicious.

I followed the thread which I won't entirely repost.  He listed some information and basically said that there have been no studies about expired doxycycline and the information he was able to find was based on some case studies over 40 years old.

He finished the conversation with:

I was quite surprised to find all these strong warnings all over internet, including statements that taking expired tetracycline and doxycycline can kill people. That is one of the problems with internet. All these people are posting and reposting information without critically evaluating it. Even reputable sites are reposting the information. 

It turns out that tetracylines can degrade into a toxic substance, but so far there haven't been any concrete, documented examples of expired-doxycycline-caused renal failure. 


I hate when I mentally bump up against this. It always shakes me up a little when I come across these situations.....situations in which normally reputable people and organizations turn out to not know what the hell they are talking about.

Received wisdom from a perceived, authoritative source can become so powerful that no one questions it.  When we have a source that we have previously experienced as being smart, knowledgeable and useful, it is easy to assume that it will always be so.

It's uncomfortable when we realize it's not.

Anyway....turns out that I probably won't die... at least not from expired doxycycline.....but at the same time I don't think that I will take any more of it.

You know...just in case.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who Said It?

"A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty."

Over 1,000 Posts

I realized that I have actually published over 1,000 posts on this blog. It's hard to imagine that I let that many mostly complete thoughts escape my keyboard and wind their way through cyberspace....or, perhaps more honestly, stagnate in this little corner of it.


How many "wasted" hours does that represent?

I don't want to know because for every post I have published there are several others that never made it that far.

Gandhi and Hitler BFFs?

I was tracking down Gandhi's letter to Hitler, hoping to find someplace that had the actual text available after following some links to a site that was dropping the bomb that Gandhi called Hitler "my friend". The reference was so brief and interspersed with other personal failings of Gandhi that I was curious about how exactly Gandhi used the term.

Here's the post dealing with Gandhi's letter. It turns out Gandhi didn't really know Hitler and was trying to butter him up and ask him, oh-so-politely, not to start a war. Well...that didn't work out....although the post makes mention of the fact that Hitler never actually received the letter. Still, I doubt Hitler would have cared about Gandhi's opinion. The letter was written before the start of WWII as tensions were ratcheting up in Europe but before the scope of what Hitler was eventually planning on doing was fully understood.

So....it is factually true that Gandhi called Hitler "my friend" but not thematically true that Gandhi viewed Hitler as one of his best buds.

Just an interesting tidbit I ran across.

Camping Not Giving Up the Ghost

Harold Camping just can't surrender the idea that he's right, even when the evidence that he is completely wrong is all around him in the presence of non-raptured human beings and in the earthquake-less, destruction-less world around him.

While I definitely have a certain mocking tone about the whole thing in my head, I do actually feel some pity for the man and especially for the followers who fervently gave all they had to support him. Discovering that your certainties are all wrong, and being able to actually admit it, is a spirit-breaking event.

If you learn that the way you thought about something was based on false presuppositions through and through it upends your whole world and sense of yourself.

You gotta love this quote from Camping, though:

"I don't have any responsibility. I'm only teaching the Bible. I'm telling ... this is what the Bible says. I don't have spiritual rule over anybody ... except my wife as the head of the household."

Yippee for her! What a lucky woman! I send her my condolences.

On a serious note, I do wonder how he can so easily make himself blameless in his own eyes. No responsibility? While he certainly didn't make anyone do anything drastic by physically forcing them to give up savings, cars, houses, and jobs, he didn't seem to have any problem accepting the proceeds from people. He didn't hesitate to hasten the drumbeat of doomsday in his followers' ears, encouraging them to sacrifice for his message.

And now....well if they have nothing left, that's their problem. Maybe it's true, but it's awfully heartless.

Anyway, what does he care? The world's going to end again, for like REAL....I mean really, really, REAL in 5 months. So, his followers just have to squeak by for 5 months before they truly won't need jobs, houses, cars, etc.

So why does it all matter? AVI thinks it's not such a big deal, and I would agree on a very basic level that he may be right. No one was physically harmed. No violent protests took place. No one died as a result of this end-of-days fiasco.

I would argue, however, that the harm done by Mr. Camping was/is psychological, spiritual, and relational. Families have been separated. People have been brought up short by the failing of their leader to instruct them. The world of those followers who now recognize Camping is and has always been completely wrong is in shambles.

It matters because these people will not simply have to square the fact that Camping, as a human being, was wrong, but that what they think about God, who He is, how He works, and what He thinks of them is all up for grabs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Political Identity

Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald, wrote a column that was featured in the local paper a while ago entitled, The Civil War, 'A conspiracy of amnesia' contending that The Civil War was not about states' rights, no matter how frequently people say it was. I'd have to say that I largely agree with his column. Go read it for yourself to get a feel for it.

In response, the local paper printed a column by Al McCray, refuting Pitts' column and reasserting the states' rights argument. McCray is black/African American, so it goes against the conventional idea that his column flows from the mind of a white southerner defending the confederacy. Trust me, there are scores of those in the South. When I spent 5 years living in Tennessee that was one of my first culture shock moments, hearing people get worked up about a 140 year-old war as if it happened the previous week. It took some getting used to.

I suppose it makes sense for the South to hold onto the memories of War more tightly than the North; though both sides had enormous casualties, the war was fought in Southern lands with all the destruction and devastation that any war could bring. When it was all over, not only had the South lost the war, but they had lost entire cities and properties and infrastructure.

These two columns, juxtaposed against one another, made me reflect on how Americans view their identity.

In the South, particularly outside of its major cities, there is a strong attachment that people seem to have to their region or state. They think of themselves as Tennesseans, or Alabamans, or Georgians in a way that I never think of myself as a Floridian, or an Illini. I don't have a high degree of loyalty to any particular state. I think of myself as US citizen before I think of myself as a Floridian and that impacts how I survey the political landscape.

When the Right refers to Obama as a socialist, I think this phenomenon is coming into play. For people who have strong ties to a particular community or state, the idea of the federal government overriding that community or state seems like socialism/communism. The federal/national political urge becomes an enemy to the local/statewide political urge.

At this point, the conflict is probably unavoidable and inescapable.

Like it or not, our country's infrastructure and economy is incredibly complex, and requires so many resources, that believing that a single state can survive economically, largely on its own, becomes a near impossibility. We are entangled, one with another, in deeper ways than we were during the Civil War.

Political choices hang on these distinctions. For younger generations who have moved around more than previous generations have, loyalty to a particular region will be inevitably weaker. In areas where the population is more transient, or diverse, or there are large influxes of people from elsewhere, many people will have their first loyalty to the federal government rather than the state government. The particular region they settle in may only be a stopping off point for a few years. They may see the reliance on federal systems as more important if they are likely to relocate to another part of the country at some point.

I think this is why portraying the federal government as an enemy works well in several "red states". Most of the "red states" have a more stable demographic. They possess a strong sense of regional political identity and they recognize that the federal government does not share that specific identity.

How could it? It is supposed to represent all states, not simply the desires of one or two.

As a result, the hard conservatives from these regions will only ever see any national program as an imposition on their self-rule....thus the vitriolic comments about socialism/communism/the dictator in the White House....etc., etc.

I'm not sure who is still reading, considering I haven't posted in forever, but I am curious and want to do an informal poll.

Do you think of yourself as a US citizen first, or as a member of a particular state/region first?