Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ladies only

"Being in tune with your body" these days has the connotation of sending little scrubbing-bubble cartoons through your body and getting the inside and outside completely "clean". I won't deny that a few days' fasting or near-fasting makes you feel damn good, and hypes your brain up to almost-supernatural speeds (hey, you try writing a grant in a week), but frankly I think there's some point at which you're only deluding yourself. Alas, that point happens only after you've sent in your $39.95 for the acai/apple cider vinegar/green tea pills.

But apparently there is another type of "being in tune with your body" that actually works, unlike the promises of less-than-slick adverts in Parade. The Fertility Awareness Method of birth control requires that a women recognize the biological markers of fertility, and abstain or engage in sexual activity during and a few days after.

I've never really liked the idea of hormonal birth control, but that's mainly due to the fact that I am gifted (or cursed?) with a liver that might as well not exist, for all that it fails to metabolize. The pill is certainly one of the most reliable methods of birth control, but frankly the slight increase in strokes, which is minimal to begin with, makes me nervous about taking them (I am quite aware that the statistics say my chances are minimal--but still, this is a stroke we're talking about, something that could damage you for the rest of your life in a very real way, that I don't want the odds improving, as it were). Furthermore, seven days every four weeks seems rather excessive to me--I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that I do not follow the average twenty-eight day cycle. I have yet to meet a woman who did, for that matter.

The main difference between FAM and the Family Planning method (sanctified by the Catholic Church) is that FAM doesn't require you to count days and divide by two and add three before get the picture. Besides, FPM assumes that you are absolutely regular, and that is something almost no woman is.

What FAM requires is that you know your body. Inside and out, literally: keeping track of the state of one's basal body temperature, vaginal secretions, and cervical position. All of these change when you are ovulating, and if you really, carefully, listen to your body, it is a simple matter to figure out when you are most likely to be ovulating.

All the same, I can't see it catching on. For starters, while "being in tune with your body" sounds great as a catchphrase for gluten-free diets, it gets robbed of the holistic-touchy-feely aspect once you start measuring basal body temperatures to the tenth of a degree. Yet this kind of scientific probing is, oddly, what enables things like perfectly natural birth control to be effective.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pet peeve of thrift stores

My boyfriend loves crystal glassware. Unfortunately, he doesn't love the price tag it usually comes with. So every time I hit town, I stop by the thrift stores to see if they have any lovely pieces that I can take home.

You've probably encountered this: a beautiful bowl/vase/plate/cup at the thrift store, just waiting for you to buy it. Snatch it up, pay for it, trundle it home--only to find that the stupid little price sticker is practically cemented on. You pick at it, trying to remove the gunk, and then you end up with a little rectangle of gunk, and what's worse, it can't be washed off without scratching your find.

Vegetable oil is your friend in this case--"Fear not! You will never again have to live with a little black patch of sticker-gunk again!". A little dribble directly on top of the sticker, then rub it in with your fingers. Peel back an edge, and from then on the sticker should come off easily, though slowly.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Keep your cats inside

The other day, my boyfriend and I were standing in our kitchen, which overlooks a grassy spread that people often use as a shortcut. We heard a most distressed eeping noise, and when we looked down, we saw that one of our neighbor's cats had caught a bird. It disappeared with the bird by the time we made it down the stairs, thank goodness, because otherwise my boyfriend would have been stuck with the task of snapping the bird's neck (something he knows how to do, but really would rather not do it).

In the Netherlands, there are no natural predators (minus birds). The last wolf was shot in the 1890s, and you have to go all the way to Maastricht before you start to encounter lynx. So hunting plays a huge role in maintaining stable and healthy populations of just about everything. One of my colleagues tells me that, unless you trap muskrats regularly, they'll tunnel through and damage the dikes. (Ironically enough, there is no real "gun culture" here, perhaps because gun laws are so strict.)

However, there are many, many different species of songbirds (and waterfowl, and birds of prey, and gulls), many of which nest on the ground--not to mention small animals like hare and rabbits. Needless to say, where it's normal to let your cat outside, there's a dearth in these animals.

"But it's only natural for the cat to go out!" some people say, as they defend letting their cat out. Look, I completely understand letting your cat out if you're on a farm and need mousers to keep the rats out of the barn. But no cat needs to be outside. My cats are happy as clams sitting on our balcony, sunning themselves and chewing on the cucumber vine.

Consider that, on average, a cat has the intelligence of a three-year-old child (and some have less, *cough* Shadow). You wouldn't let a three-year-old run around by himself, would you? Yes, they might be smart enough to avoid cars and dogs--but will they be smart enough to not eat mouse poop (which contains parasites), stay away from rat poison, not drink antifreeze (some human children will do this, for Chrissakes, never mind cats), differentiate between a dove and a hawk that can kill them, and not get lost? There's a reason why the average life of a feral cat is 5 years, while an indoor-only housecat lives three times that.

"But I can't keep my cat inside!" If you can't outsmart a cat and keep it inside, then you've got no business owning a cat.

"But if I don't let it out, he'll scratch/pee/poop all over!" It's called training. And believe it or not, it can be done with cats. My own cats are very well-behaved. They know their names. They know the signal that I want them to come to me. They sit still when it's time to clip their claws. And they don't scratch the antique furniture. I don't really know anything about training a cat, so if I can do it, you can figure it out, too.

The point is, letting cats run around outside is basically a sentence of genocide for all the wildlife that lives in your area--even if you don't see it (and believe me, that's kind of the point of most creatures, not to be seen)--and a death sentence for your cat. So please, keep your cats inside.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Inconvenience Yourself

We're pretty self-sufficient, as much as you can be while living in an apartment. In fact, we do just about everything on this checklist that are supposed to save you a few bucks, except for the thing with the air conditioner. The additional benefit which is almost never touted is that most of these practices are pretty green, too.

And really, it's not all that inconvenient to make your own cleaners, cook your own meals, clean your own house--this has the added benefit of turning you into an anti-clutter freak and keeping hoards of stuff from building up--repair your own clothes, etc etc etc. I suppose you could consider the convenience of buying all of these goods and services worth it if the time saved amounted to enjoying your life more. But really, what are we doing with the time saved? Odds are, you're watching more TV (I've been sleeping this week).

I've never seen WALL-E, but it's extremely tempting to make a comparison between the space-blobs in the movie and the current helplessness of people in general: the degree of our dependence on technology has infantilized us to the point where we're completely divorced from our "natural state". The optimist in me says this can't possibly be for real, but I begin to despair when I consider that many people apparently don't know how to put a button back on.