Passing of the Elves, Pinned Down

When Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out, there was a scene that haunted me: when Frodo and Sam see the passing of the elves. What they sing is just eerie beyond belief.

Well, now the lyrics are available on the “Complete Recordings” CD/DVD set: the entire choral piece, which surprised me in how eerie it remained over the entire song, instead of petering out (we hear less than a minute in the extended edition of the movie).

The entire song:

A Magpie’s Nest translates the lyrics and makes other notes.

Oh Good Grief – Tonsil Stones

A couple of times every year, I get the nagging feeling over a couple of weeks—or even longer—that there’s something in the back of my throat I should be swallowing, but I can never figure out what it is. During this period, sometimes a horrible white calcified thing would come out of the back of my throat, ye gods.

This time it started a couple days ago, so for once I searched teh interwebs, because there’s nothing that the Internet is more useful for than scaring the bejeezus ((Spellcheck says this is a word. Hallelujah.)) out of you when you have random symptoms.

Except in this case, it was pretty normal and run-of-the-mill… the things forming in the back of my throat were tonsil stones, aka tonsiliths. I never got my tonsils removed ((Or my teeth straightened, or my asthma diagnosed, because my parents thought doctors were evil. Though I understand that tonsils aren’t removed these days, usually, as they actually are helpful in fighting disease or sommat.)) so these things form in my tonsils.

I tried a number of things to try to get the damned thing out:

  • real bubbling-in-your-mouth gargling (no one ever taught me, thank goodness for the internet)

  • squirting water out of a little dental syringe thing that I got to clean out the pits from the removal of my wisdom teeth years ago ((One of the things that helped pushed me into poverty further as a graduate student with the laughable student health insurance provided by the university. It was either pay for the (local anesthesia only) operation to remove all four teeth, or end up losing all my back teeth to rot, since it was spreading, and possibly die of an infection. Like the olden days. Sigh.))

  • attempt to use a q-tip (too short!) or finger (gaaag… gaaaaag… argh)

And finally I gave up and googled further, looking for anything else that did not involve sticking something sharp or edged into my mouth, since I know from experience that actual wounds are much worse than tonsiliths.

I did find some internet snake oil, of course: “Therabreath” has bought and created dozens, maybe even a hundred, sites about tonsiliths/tonsil stones that specifically point back to their $40+ kit ($80 “deluxe”). I was suspicious because there was little explanation about how the products worked, and the reviews were always rather too general and too praising.

Fortunately, I did find someone who wasn’t interested in forwarding the dubious products of Therabreath, oddly enough:, a small blog which a chronic sufferer had set up for people to share stories and information. It was this and other sites that eventually led me to the following solution:

This is called a “blackhead remover” tool. You’ll find it in the cosmetic section next to wherever they sell the tweezers. The important features of this little device are the length (just right), and that the head(s) are smoothed loops of metal—rounded and ideal for pushing things gently (natch) without ripping into tissue.

As various people—and myself—found out, the flattened loop end doesn’t do much, but the “wire” loop end works. And you can also use it to remove blackheads.

I have a bad gag reflex, but this little thing was thin enough such that… well, for some reason, it didn’t provoke my gag reflex as much. It took several minutes of pushing around before I—because this was a rather protruding tonsilith that just wasn’t budging—hooked some part of it and pulled it out. I think the final removal started from underneath the… thing.

It was a big tonsilith. The tool didn’t make me gag—the feel of the tonsilith being pulled/pushed out made me gag. I take it from reading on the internets that the large size (nearly 1cm long) was a bit unusual. It was like pulling out a smelly, ugly perl made from mucous and shit. Really. *shudder*

From now on, I’m going to gargle daily—when I do it right, it actually feels good—and scrape my tongue, in an attempt to keep “stuff” from building up in my tonsils again. Here is a video about tongue-scraping. The dude is right about what shows up the first time you do this. Ugh.

And now I’m going to go drink some more damn tea. Gods.

Note for anybody who comments: Yes, I will be removing “Therabreath” testimonial comments from this post if they look like they come from any tonsilith/tonsil stone site apart from the aforementioned and its non-Therabreath fellows.

ETA: Look, someone made a video of removing their tonsilith! Now, that is a tiny tonsilith. Mine was at least a hundred times bigger—definitely at least the size of the q-tip head alone.

So I Had My First Post-Wedge Nightmare

Actually it’s kind of strange. I didn’t have a nightmare when I woke up at 3am (almost exactly) on Friday morning. Just nothing (which I love) and then just awake, very awake actually, staring at the ceiling. I should have tried to sleep again. I shouldn’t have just thought about stuff, because what do I think about at 3am in the morning?

Well, all the nights I woke up very early in the morning because I was paranoid about my parents. Except that I’m not now… except that I am… what I’m saying is that the danger was more immediate years past, but not now… I think. Oh damn. I think that lady taking credit for my site might have caused me to trigger myself when I brought up my parents in my blog entry about that… so stupid… but if I stop myself thinking about my parents, won’t that mean that I noticed myself thinking about them? Which then… ARGH DAMN YOU INESCAPABLE CATCH 24 OF PTSD.

It’s just creepy to think of the weekend I spent with friends hiding in another county while my parents rampaged through campus, trying to find and kill me… or the weekend I spent with friends, er, doing much the same thing later on… and the days I lay awake in the special (expensive) dorm room my college set me up in because I had just arrived there in a flurry of emergency dean activity and didn’t know what to do… and the days I lay awake when a friend betrayed my location… twice, actually… and the days I lay awake after my parents discovered which professor I worked for and the office phone number… and the days I lay awake in hotels with nothing and nobody… and the days I lay awake in tiny apartments with no security… and on. And on. And on.

And on.

I didn’t cry. Or feel anything much. It was just there. I don’t even know, particularly, why I felt like thinking about them. It serves no good purpose. I tend to be introspective. It seems to be bad for me; maybe writing this stuff in a blog is even worse, because my brain doesn’t forget. I notice the PTSD started becoming more pervasive when I started writing about it, but the “peaks” are not as dramatic. I don’t know what’s worse: having degraded functionality on an almost constant basis, or being highly functional for long periods but losing it entirely every several months or so, and going more or less catatonic during holidays.

Okay, the latter is probably worse. At least the former means that I will, at some point… get better or something. Learn from the past, rather than completely forgetting every single time.

Anyways, then I tried to go to sleep again.

And had nightmares.

Let me tell you: when the snakes show up (starting off maybe an inch long, then growing…) KILL THEM DEAD ASAP. At least my parents didn’t show up (or did they?). My co-workers did, which was kind of cool. And Google Maps, like a constant overlay on my vision. Dreams, go figure.

And then the rest of Friday was just surreal. I still functioned (more or less, kind of, rather more degraded than of late even) but everything was just… weird.

Okay. And now I’m going to watch more Nostalgia Critic and Linkara. And taking a (single) sleeping pill to try to handle all this, or at least sleep. Sleep deprivation makes everything much, much worse (at least I remember that. I have gone on “memories will eat me, can’t go to sleep” marathons before, and they don’t turn out well).


Leshp is Real, Y’all

Remember how in Terry Pratchett’s Jingo, Ankh-Morpork and Klatch were disputing over an island that just showed up in the middle of the sea between them, and then went its merry way?

Truth be stranger than fiction, apparently. And fiction is prescient; or at least, Terry Pratchett is.

BBC: Disputed Bay of Bengal island ‘vanishes’ say scientists

That’s kind of a beautiful image.

“What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming,” said Professor Sugata Hazra of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta.

Anyone wishing to visit now, he observed, would have to think of travelling by submarine.

At the Movies is Gone

Disney canceled “At the Movies.”

Roger Ebert himself recommends Phil Rosenthal’s coverage of the history of the show, which also ends with the heartfelt and heartbreaking “Remembering Gene Siskel” episode (in full).

On the relatively lighter side, here’s the Nostalgia Critic‘s wonderful Siskel & Ebert tribute from November 2009, which also covers the great relationship between the two greatest movie critics ever, and also a little bit about “At the Movies” after even Roeper left:

Even though “At the Movies” is now dead by Disney’s hand, Ebert is now involved in hopefully creating another dueling critics show. I have hope.

Look, It’s Not a Good Idea to Claim You Own My Blog, Okay?

Someone decided to list my site under their blogs on a site profile somewhere. Actually, that somewhere is a Technorati wanna-be, but if they want to be one, they really ought to add a verification method like Technorati does. (Here is a random example I pulled from Google.)

This is kind of dumb in many ways, not the least of which is that you can visit my About/Who page and find out that she and I don’t share names, or even my Contact page to discover, whoah, that email doesn’t even look slightly like it would be owned by someone under her name.

The dumbest and also most dangerous aspect is this: I have murderous stalker insane parents who can still conceivably show up and kill me on my doorstep one day over the next 30 years or so.

I imagine her levels of identity hiding are less than mine. Certainly her paranoia is much less.

While it is nice to suddenly have an extra fake shield identity (even if I don’t control it), well, I’m just a nice person and think this is really an unwise course for her to take.

Of course, I am paranoid.

Ada Lovelace Day: Dignifying Science

I’d completely forgotten about today because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks (and all of today) deep in the code involved in the current sprint at work. Which is to say, I’d forgotten about Ada Lovelace because I’m deep in the middle of what she would have loved to work on today. (And today was one of those rare days without meetings, too!)

But I do have a great comic to recommend to everybody: Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists.

This is a collection of tales about some of the most important female figures in science. Too often, they aren’t covered by textbooks, except maybe for Madame Curie. Even Ada Lovelace was written out of my introductory computer science textbook, and that was (a) in the 90s and (b) in college.

So when I ran across this collection of stories in comic form, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about these women. The stories are told quite well, in the style of the previous book, Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Richard Feynman Physicists Scientists, with each story (written by Jim Ottaviani) drawn by a different artist. Actually, there’s more variety in Dignifying Science, because Two-Fisted Science was almost half Richard Feynman stories and just about all about physicists (and a little bit about mathematicians).

The women in Dignifying Science:

  • Hedy Lamarr, who is far more famous for her kiss than her patents. Yes. Real patents, back in the days when patents actually meant something. Most unhappy story of the lot. (Artist: Carla Speed McNeil)

  • Lise Meitner, a contemporary and actual colleague of Niels Bohr. (Artist: Jen Sorensen)

  • Rosalind Franklin, one of the three-way ties to discovering the structure of DNA, and virtually unrecognized as such. Her story is the longest in the book. (Artists: Stephanie Gladden, Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, Linda Medey)

  • Barbara McClintock, biologist (YAY BIOLOGY) who discovered “jumping genes” and who also is just awesome. (Artist: Lea Hernandez)

  • Biruté Galdikas, biologist (YAY BIOLOGY AGAIN) who studied orangutans in the wild—and longer than anyone else has. (Artist: Anne Timmons)

  • Marie Curie, you all know who she is. I hope. Her story bookends the collection, as prologue and epilogue. (Artist: Marie Severin)

Front cover by Ramona Fradon, back cover by Mary Fleener. And yes, all mathematicians look like that inside their heads (computer scientists only a little, because we’re quite more related to mathematicians rather than physicists or engineers).

There are plenty of notes in the back for extra context on a panel-by-panel basis as well, and they’re actually interesting reading that supplement the comics well.

I strongly recommend this comic on any day, and especially on Ada Lovelace Day.

Available from: Amazon.comBarnes & NoblePowell’s