Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Rodential Dilemma

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 12, 2021]  ©2021

One of my most common topics over the years – and probably the least favorite of the local Chamber of Commerce – regards La Jolla’s rat problem.

The little varmints are insidious.  Also pervasive, prevalent, ubiquitous, widespread, epidemic, and generally everywhere. If you were a rat, you wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

This is because upscale areas like La Jolla offer lush foliage for high-end rodential housing, never mind a veritable cornucopia of rats’ preferred cuisine, including and especially oranges, pet food, and snails.

On your tax bill, you pay for something called Vector Control which deals with disease vectors, particularly typhus, plague, and Hanta virus, all potentially carried by our rodential residents. Rats can also be complicit in damage to the wiring in one’s home should they move into your warm cozy attic. 

When you have a prolific orange tree as we do, word gets out in Rodentia Land.  I’ve spent four decades attempting to control our rodent guests with everything from reducing their food supply (donating all the oranges to food banks) to smiting the little buggers in ways that sometimes make even me feel bad.

In my defense, I did try to start with the humane approach. A gentleman from a local pest control firm responded to my call for rat-control services and installed live-capture traps around my property with promises that he would be back daily to check on them.  It was all very humane, he explained.

“So, what do you do with them after you catch them?” I asked, immediately regretting the question. 

“Oh,” he said, “we drive them out to the country and let them go.”  He actually said this with a straight face.  Unfortunately, he looked like he’d had a supporting role in The Terminator and that the back of his truck was filled with devices I didn’t want to know about. 

Now here’s the problem: my younger granddaughter recently decided she wanted two pet rats, and persuaded her mom to take her to the local pet store to acquire some.  I told her father that there was no need for them to have wasted a single dime on this as I could have supplied as many rats – live trapped, health-screened, and overnighted – as they wanted.  I would even have felt my guilt assuaged a teeny bit, kind of like the White House pardoning a turkey every year.  (Let me tell you, that turkey should be buying lottery tickets.)

But by the time I heard about it, they had already acquired Velma and Louise, two alleged sisters. I say “alleged” because two days later, Velma (or was it Louise?) gave birth to 11 more rats.  Either Velma was getting it on with another rat after hours in the pet store, or Louise is really Louis.  Time will (quickly) tell. 

But my granddaughter is absolutely besotted with Velma and Louise and has built them an elaborate multi-tiered ratopian habitat with toys, exercise wheels, swings, and every accoutrement a rat could ever want.  Rat World should do a spread. 

When I FaceTime my granddaughter, she has Velma and Louise snuggling her neck, crawling around on her head, and otherwise being the cuddliest of pets.  She says their fur is incredibly soft.  She has even taught them tricks. Why, she asks pointedly into the phone camera, would anyone ever kill them?

Correct answer:  Because you have two and I have 500?

Still, Velma and Louise have really caused me to suffer a full-on attack of cognitive dissonance about our rat abatement efforts. 

Truth be told, Velma and Louise are not the first rats who have caused me to feel bad about this. Several years ago, the son of my dear friend, “Carol,” had an adorable white rat named Cream Puff. 

When Carol went through a horrible divorce, “Puff “ would lick the tears off her face at night as she sobbed into her pillow. One can never underestimate the power of pets to sustain people in times of sorrow.

A year later, a bereft Carol reported that Puff had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We’ll leave aside the obvious questions as to who treats pet rats (I have enough trouble finding vets for our birds) and how this diagnosis might have been made.  Routine mammogram? Self-exam?

But there were actually treatment options for Cream Puff, including surgery.  These days, if you can do it for a human, vets can do it for your pet. Carol agonized.

Some weeks later, I got a call from Carol. She weepily reported she was in the vet’s waiting room waiting to have Puff put down.  The treatment plan would likely cause Cream Puff considerable discomfort with no guarantee of appreciably extending her small furry life.

We cried over a memorial bottle of wine later that evening. And yes, it was really, really sad.

Sorry, rats. It all comes down to being invited. Velma and Louise, you should be buying lottery tickets too.


 R.I.P Cream Puff. The best of rats.

 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Shopping For My Next IT Guy

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 5, 2021] ©2021

I personally think that it’s not too much to ask that computers do what you want, not what you say.

Not long ago, I was just typing along, minding my own business, when my computer suddenly began spell checking in German, cheerfully morphing  my prose into variations of Ich bin ein Berliner.  I officially dispute my engineer husband’s allegations that I had anything to do with it. 

My husband will try to insist that I obviously “did” something as computers are, in fact, simply machines cycling ones and zeros, and not malevolent spawns of the devil as some might maintain.  But he will concede that when, for example, a tool bar suddenly disappears, I might not have done it intentionally. 

“So what exactly went away?” he’ll query patiently, knowing that this conversation is as doomed as many that have gone before it. 

“Well, there used to be a tool bar thingy and now it’s gone.”

“What was on it?”

“I don’t know.  But I know I need it.”

My techno guy presses on.  “Would you recognize the thingy bar if you saw it again?” he says patiently.  He recognizes the value of not getting overly technical with me.

Now there are those who think the Undo command fixes things like this.  But they would be wrong.  Undo fixes the text mistake you just made nanoseconds ago but the second you even breathe on the machine, it’s already moved on.  The Undo command has a very short attention span.

Ditto, on-line help.  Totally, completely useless unless you know the technical term that some eighteen-year old acned techno geek gave it.  For example, I lost an entire day of work unable to edit a document until my husband came home from work and observed, “Oh, you switched to Overstrike Mode.”  A keystroke and it was back to letting me insert text.  

“I did not switch anything!” I whined. “Why would I switch to something that keeps me from editing and whose name I don’t even know?” I can assure you that you can’t get out of Overstrike unless you know you’re in Overstrike. 

If a software company had asked me, and inexplicably they never do, I would help them design a computer that real people, especially aging non-technical but really nice people, could actually use.  The Clairvoyance Model.  Your computer would get to know you, realize that those nasty keystroke commands that are the boon of techno types, but the bane of the techno challenged, should be ignored at all costs.  The Clairvoyance Model would quickly learn that you have the frustration tolerance of a gnat.  It would sense when you are so aggravated with your computer that you are ready to drag it out to the driveway and run it over with your car. It would know that you only activated Tracking inadvertently by some accidental keystroke and that you want all those stupid red lines in the margins to go away right now.

I confess I lie awake nights wondering what am I going to do if my live-in techno guy goes to the great recycling bin in the sky before I do. Would I ever be able to find someone willing to have the conversation I described above? 

I have a standard joke with him that at his burial, I am going to throw myself on top of his coffin and let them dump dirt on me. It would be an act of kindness to all future persons who might be forced to deal with my technical difficulties.

It might not surprise you that my husband actually agrees with this. His version of heaven is someone having to deal with my computer problems who isn’t him. He says he hopes his successor drinks Scotch.

I know that there are theoretically services that will come to your house and sort out computer problems for you. But I have computer issues pretty much daily. When I accidentally hit Control Whatever and send my screen to Mars, how fast will they respond? I require service. Immediately.

I understand from friends that some of the more upscale retirement facilities actually have IT guys on staff.  But do they have the Patience of Job, er, Olof?  I fear not.

Will they let me get out my lined legal pad and wait patiently as I take down their instructions in the minutest detail so as to make the resolution of this problem potentially (operative word) replicatable in the future? I really do aspire to the “teach a person to fish” strategy even if the techno fish I’m angling for seem to go immediately extinct.

But you can be sure that if I end up in a retirement facility by myself that the top criterion I’ll have is interviewing the IT guy.  Food, schmood.  It’s all too bland and sugar-free anyhow. I just want my computer to work.  Right now.

 


 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Sobbing At The Salad Bar

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 28, 2021] ©2021

Who knew that June 15, California's official alleged re-opening, would be the happiest day I’ve had in 15 months?  I went to Gelson’s to shop for dinner and was happy to see no cart guys. Nobody spraying anything.  No masks required for customers.

Then a few steps further inside, I saw it, like a mirage in the Sahara.  The salad bar was back.

I actually started crying.  OK, my husband doesn’t call me the Grim Weeper for nothing. But I truly thought salad bars were going to become permanently-retired relics of the past, along with blowing out birthday cake candles and shaking hands. We’d tell our great-grandchildren about them and they’d say, “Seriously? People touched each other? There was food that wasn’t plastic-wrapped?”

Pre-pandemic, Gelson’s fabulous salad bar, along with their hot food bar and soup station, were mainstays of my life.  At the salad bar, you could get exactly how much you wanted of about 50 different salad ingredients, freshly replenished multiple times daily, with a choice of six dressings as well.  I blame my 22 pounds of Covid weight on the loss of that salad bar.  Also from not socially distancing myself from my refrigerator.  But especially the salad bar.

I guess sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it.  Covid has given us all more opportunities to experience this than we ever wanted.  Like most people, I got the message after three months. Didn’t need another whole year of Appreciating How Good I Had It Before - especially about masks.

Let me be clear that I did, and will continue to, wear masks when required (or someone specifically asks). But for those of us who wear glasses, unloading the mask requirement in most locations was right up there with the salad bar.  For more than a year, I’ve felt like I’ve been rendered legally blind with fogged-up eye wear. It’s amazing I haven’t fallen and broken my hip. In my age group, that often leads to pneumonia and death. Either way, it seemed like I had “respirator” written across my forehead.

We all developed our own comfort zones over the last 15 months about personal boundaries. By definition, anyone whose standards are more lax than yours is a risk-taking idiot. And those folks who are still standing in their back yard wearing masks as they water the tomatoes might as well have gotten Covid for all the quality of life they have (in some of our opinions).

Let me just clarify that my husband and I have probably been less impacted by Covid 19 than 99% of Americans.  We’re retired. Nobody we knew died of Covid.  In fact, no one we even knew contracted it.

Regardless, there are some things I am just totally over.

At this point, I can’t even bear to hear the C words (Covid or coronavirus) or the V words (vaccine and variant).

In various mindfulness classes I have taken over the years, the power of visualization has been emphasized as a way to manage stress.  So when someone other than a doctor’s office says, “have you been vaccinated?” I can visualize myself inflicting some major act of violence on them.  It allows me to continue to smile the whole time. 

Forty-two million doses of vaccine have now been administered in California. Watching the evening news, I think I’ve personally witnessed every single one of them.

I’ve written about the 30+ hour slog it was to get appointments for Olof and me, only to have them repeatedly cancelled.  I feared that as younger and more computer-savvy groups became eligible, it would be harder and harder to get appointments. They’d be giving shots to offshore infants and we’d still be hitting Refresh.

Turns out, we could have gotten a free ticket to Six Flags and a $50 gift card if we’d waited long enough. Now, those once-elusive vaccine folks are begging us to show up.  In another month, they’ll probably be offering foot rubs and a glass of Pinot along with the shot. I’m guessing all those people who waited five hours in their cars to get into PetCo Park are feeling Refresh Rage right now. 

Initially I wore latex gloves at the supermarket, and washed my hands a lot. But I lived for those two trips a week to Gelson’s and a weekly jaunt to CVS. If I lived in a locked-down retirement home, I would have broken out early on.

Plenty of people we know are more comfortable continuing to wear masks which is fine with us. We, however, hoped getting vaccinated would allow us to start living a freer life. As we experienced during this past year with a family friend, Covid isn’t the only horrible thing you can die of.

It’s been emphasized that Covid has probably never going to completely disappear.  Its future course is still unknown.  But as long as Gelson’s salad bar is back, I can live with it.


 

               Gelsons's salad bar miraculously re-appears.  Was it a mirage?

 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

How To Ignore Internet Wardrobe Advice

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 14, 2021] ©2021

As anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows, I’m a sucker for “listicles,” those popular website lists like “what your car/phone/plants say about you” and “12 ways to lose 30 pounds in a week.”  So it wasn’t too surprising that when I saw “10 styling tips that will instantly slim you down,” I had to go for it. Especially after the 15-month food felony that was the Covid pandemic. 

The one thing that was clear about this listicle is that it was not geared to my demographic.  I may not be in the pastel polyester pantsuit crowd just yet, but for me, it’s all about comfort.  Unless I get a spinal transplant, there is no way a pair of heels will ever grace my feet again. 

So here are the 10 listicle suggestions:

(1) “Invest in shapewear, particularly a seamless slenderizing piece that has reinforced panels to suck in your stomach, slim your thighs, boost your derriere and define your waist when wearing bodycon dresses, clingy skirts, tight pants or evening gowns.”  First, what is a “bodycon” dress?  Does Land’s End sell them? Actually, it doesn’t really matter because I’m pretty sure I don’t own one, or for that matter, any clingy skirts, tight pants, or evening gowns.  Whew! Dodged the fat-squisher bullet! 

(2)  “In terms of skirts, a knee-length pencil skirt is the most universally flattering silhouette.”  Are you kidding?  The only silhouettes that pencil skirts flatter are pencil-shaped people. The rest of us look like fermenting pork sausages.

(3) “Say ’yes’ to higher rise jeans.”  They advise “going for a rise that hits directly above your belly button.”  That’s their idea of “high rise”?  I will say no more. 

(4) “Rock out with vertical stripes.”  I will concede that vertical stripes can make a person look “longer”. But we chunkies tend to eschew stripes altogether.  For good reason.

 (5) “Cinch with skinny belts to accentuate your natural waist.” What if you have no waist?  Of course, I make up for it by having multiples of other parts, like chins. And thighs.  But it makes the whole skinny belt thing moot.

(6) “Don’t discount maxi skirts; a well-cut maxi skirt can actually give you the appearance of looking longer and leaner.”  I’d totally agree, so long as you weigh a maximum of 95 pounds.  The rest of us look like a beluga whale about to give birth.

(7) “Buy a new bra.”  I don’t know what it is about aging, but bras just keep getting more and more uncomfortable as you get older.  For me, it didn’t help that I got my chest crushed and three thoracic vertebrae permanently de-stabilized by a drunk driver a few years ago. But maybe I wouldn’t be any happier with bras even if hadn’t had this accident.  I was telling a friend that the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra.  She said she usually takes hers off in the car.

(8) “Choose heels with a low-cut vamp.”  A vamp, apparently, is the portion of a shoe that cuts across your foot at the front which allegedly gives your legs a slimmer look, even as it cuts off circulation to your toes.  A high vamp shoe comes up the foot and possibly up to the ankle.  (Do Orthofeet lace-up walking shoes count?)

 (9) “Mask problem areas with dark colors and highlight assets with bright colors.”  Not a bad concept, but what if your whole body is a problem area? Do you wear all black?

(10) “Wear all black.”  You were probably waiting for me to shoot this one down just like I did the first nine but this one I could (mostly) get behind.  OK, I don’t wear ALL black which seems a tad funereal. But I’m really big on the slenderizing effect of black slacks.   When my young granddaughter was visiting one weekend, she queried, “Mormor, why do you always wear the same thing?”  As I explained to her it only looks like the same thing.  Mormor actually has eight pairs of those black slacks (and at least as many white tops the combination of which I admit make me look like a server at a trendy trattoria).  It is my personal opinion that black slacks best minimize years of abuses of chocolate and chardonnay.  I wear them with colorful tops and sweaters even if they bring attention to areas that No. (9) suggests I shouldn’t be highlighting.  But tough luck. I like color.

Unlike my college years when I wore miniskirts to sub-zero college football games (can you say “bronchitis”?), I am no longer willing to suffer for fashion. And I would also aver that all the camouflaging tricks in the world won’t help chubby folks like me look good in anything that’s tight.  Sorry, listiclist lady. That’s the word from the trenches.


 

 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

I Ate The Dog's Cupcake

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published June 7, 2021] ©2021

Over the twelve years I’ve been writing this column, chocolate has been a frequent topic, most recently as a health food, which, by the way, it has finally been determined to be.  I was definitely born too soon.

Of course, I recognized the health properties of chocolate long before science figured it out.  Some years ago, I discovered that, unknown to any but the most dedicated wrapper-reading chocoholics, one can supply ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of one’s daily calcium, riboflavin, protein AND fiber requirements (never mind a whopping 50% of your daily iron) with only twenty-five vending machine-size packages of M&Ms – all with no trans-fats and staying WELL within your daily sodium and cholesterol allotments.  

Not surprisingly, chocolate lovers tend to gravitate toward each other, partners in cocoa-buttered crime.  I have a wonderful neighbor named Jill who is always up for a field trip to what we call the The Cupcake Place. Annoying construction delays and impossible parking have never deterred us. Where there’s a cupcake, there’s a way. 

During the pandemic, Jill discovered that with a minimum order of $25, Cupcake Place will deliver. I’m kind of sorry she told me. But Jill’s deliveries usually translate into more cupcakes than even she wants to eat in one sitting, so she often brings two over, allegedly for Olof and me. 

She knows, of course, that Olof will never eat his cupcake, partly because he just isn’t a sweets kind of guy. But mostly because I always eat his first, the non-chocolate one, just in case that changes. While my preferred flavor is chocolate, anything with two inches of gooey frosting has my vote. 

Cupcake Place understands that cupcakes are a vehicle food.  Hotdogs, for examples are vehicles for mustard. Cupcakes are vehicles for frosting.  The cake part (or the hotdog) are mere delivery mechanisms.  Alas, most cupcakes are all-too-frequently mostly cake and not much frosting, missing the point entirely. 

When Jill made her most recent drug drop, er, delivery, I wasn’t home so she handed them off to Olof.  This included two regular-size cupcakes (chocolate and red velvet) plus a cute little sample one with white icing. The next day, I texted Jill with my thanks.

“Great cupcakes! You are the best friend ever!”

She replied, “So Lily liked hers too?”

Pause.

Me: “Lily?”

Jill: “Yes, the little one was a dog cupcake.”

Inga: “Ha ha!” What a kidder, that Jill.

Jill: “Seriously. I told Olof.” 

Inga: “Oy. I thought it was just a sample.  But it was great!” 

Or was it? I tried to think back: Did it have an under taste of kibble? And was that why the dog was glaring at me the whole time I was eating it?  Should the little orange dog bone on the top been a clue? Hey, the orange thing could have been a bow tie. And who was paying attention anyway? It was a cupcake!

Sorry, Lily. Next time. 

Cupcake Place describes their canine confections on their website as “a sugar-free cupcake with yogurt ‘frosting’.” Hmmm, why the quotes?  And no further ingredient list.  This made me the teeniest bit concerned.

After all, I recently wrote a column about why some dogs (that would be ours) like to roll in their own poop.  Research indicated that dogs are primally attracted to odors that humans find repugnant. There is also the evolutionary theory that smelling bad would help protect them from predators even though dogs have been domesticated for, like, 40,000 years.   

One of the wonderful things about writing this column is the things I’ve learned from readers.  And right after that column, a reader sent me an article about the difficulties pet food makers have in making pet foods that smell disgusting enough to appeal to dogs but not so bad that it will repel their owners.  Among the “palatants” added to dog food can be such colorless flavorings as “putrescine” and “cadaverine.”  Yum-mo.

Let me say right here that I am not suggesting in any way that Cupcake Place adds either of these to their doggie treats. But you do have to wonder what they did put in it to make it attractive to dogs. And given that I ate it, I am at least mildly curious. Thus far, no one has accused me of having doggie breath.

But another advantage of writing this column is that people don’t only send me links to interesting articles.  For the first time ever in the 12 years I’ve been writing, someone replied to my recent column on chocolate as a health food by sending me actual chocolate. And no, not M&Ms!  It’s called Volo and let me tell you, this stuff really is insanely good. And yes, healthy! One of the types even has chunks of candied orange peel which in Inga Land technically makes it a fruit, and no one can argue that Vitamin C isn’t good for you.

But from now on, I’m going to let Lily have the cupcakes with the little orange bones on them.

 


 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

In Memoriam: Post-It Note Inventor

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 31, 2021] ©2021

I was genuinely dismayed to read recently in the New York Times of the death of a man who has had a profound impact on my life.  He was Spencer Silver, inventor of the glue that makes Post-it Notes stick. 

I would have gone to the memorial if I’d known.  

Anyone who has spent any time at all in my home knows that from the instant I first encountered a Post-it Note in 1980, my entire mental organization has centered around them.

Truly, I think Uber and yellow sticky notes are the greatest innovations of modern times.  I’m not sure what I did without either.

In 1968, the aforementioned Mr. Silver, was a scientist at 3M working on “pressure-sensitive adhesives.”  When I hear stories like this, I always wonder: did his high school guidance counselor bring him in and say “Your Myers Briggs test indicates that you would be ideally suited to a career in the glue industry”? 

Actually, Mr. Silver was attempting to create a pressure-sensitive glue strong enough to be used in aircraft construction when he inadvertently created one most definitely not suited for that use. You do not want to be able to pull the wings off the aircraft, even if you could quickly reattach them. 

But what to do with this amazing new product, this “solution without a problem.” It was another ten years before a potential application was found. The story, which sounds suspiciously apocryphal, alleges that one of the scientist’s colleagues discovered that the adhesive helped him to anchor his bookmarks in his hymnal. If you say so.

Post-it Notes are now produced in multiple sizes and colors, different strengths of adhesion for non-smooth surfaces, and even with lines on them.  We purists, however, only use the original canary yellow.

Personally, I’m only willing to try to keep so much information in my head at once.  This is why my computer monitor is ringed with sticky notes reminding me of all manner of info such as short cuts I use during word processing, passwords I use frequently but not quite often enough to remember them, what sequence of commands to use when my computer freezes up, and how to stop print jobs when I accidentally specified 100 pages instead of 10.

 

Sticky notes on my bathroom mirror remind me of the day’s appointments now that I am a senior.

 

There is no machine in our home that is not adorned with sticky notes advising me of its operational requirements. Some current and former residents of this house still need to be reminded to push the dial of the washing machine IN before turning it. 


At one point, my older son Rory sent me a birthday card depicting an old person holding a remote up to her ear and waiting for a dial tone. Rory noted: “Mom - I’m sure there is a sticky note in your house that addresses this.”  

Post-it Notes on the fridge remind me to thaw chicken or put the lasagna in the oven at 6:00.

I just have a Post-it note mind. Or, as it has been suggested by mean-spirited persons in my family whom I will not personally name, a mind not sufficiently memory-capable to avoid needing Post-it Notes. Take my Post-it Notes away and you’d have to put me in a Home.


A few times my Post-it note habit has had unintended consequences.  In 2009, during a weekend visit, my prankster older son Rory appropriated my 14-digit library card number sticky-noted to my computer and ordered me up a long list of books including The Book of the Penis (it came with an 8-inch ruler along the binding); The whole lesbian sex book: a passionate guide for all of us; Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders; and The Rear View: A Brief and Elegant History of Bottoms Through the Ages.  He was aided and abetted by the public library website’s then-policy of announcing “your password is the last four digits of your phone number,” a policy now changed, presumably at the behest of other mothers with creatively-minded sons.

It’s comforting to know that after I’m gone, I’ll live on through Post-it Notes.

If Post-it Notes are to be my legacy, I think it would only be appropriate that when I die, the assorted assemblage should be issued with pads of sticky notes on which they could write farewell messages and stick them to my coffin. This could be in lieu of flowers. It would be especially appropriate since yellow is my favorite color.  The messages could run the gamut of, “I’m sorry I never returned your blender!” Or: “I hope those chocolates won’t melt where you’re going, ha ha!  Or even: “Inga – you really should have had that checked.”

But somewhere in the program, there should be an important announcement: Given Inga’s demise, go short on your 3M stock.

 

 Some members of my family continue to need reminding

Could not operate computer without sticky notes

Monday, May 17, 2021

'Prevailing Medical Advice" Doesn't Seem To Prevail Very Long

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 19, 2021] ©2021

The jig is up, medical science.  I don’t believe a word you say anymore. 

The one thing about being in 70 is that I have had the opportunity to watch “prevailing medical advice” (the ultimate oxymoron, in my view), flip flop back and forth multiple times. 

When my sons were infants, babies had to sleep on their stomachs to avoid crib death; now they have to be on their backs.  Our friends with ulcers who spent 30 years avoiding spicy foods are now being treated for a bacterial infection.  People with diverticulosis were once relegated to soft diets; now they’re filling up on roughage.  Olof and I have dutifully switched back and forth from butter to margarine several times in the last 30 years (but frankly preferred the butter years). The New York Times recently reported that even 50 years ago, exercise used to be considered dangerous for people over 40, and for heart disease, bed rest was prescribed. In my youth, teenage acne was treated with radiation.   I spent twenty years limiting myself to two eggs a week and then suddenly eggs were OK again.  (I demand a cholesterol refund!) 

Remember Sam-E, chondroitin, tryptophan, and Airborn?  Actually, probably not. They were the miracle cures of their time.  Now even the current darling – Vitamin D - is getting bad press.  Medicare just denied a lab test for Olof’s Vitamin D level saying that no longer think testing for it is “routinely medically necessary.”

People in my advanced age group are really having a hard time embracing the  now-popularity of foods like coconut oil, its 14 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon always considered a fast track to premature death.  Now it’s a health food.  I decided to add a jar to my supermarket basket but only got five steps before the chest pains started and I put it back.  It’s like Mao waking up one morning and exhorting the Chinese to embrace democracy. 

And don’t even get me going on hormone replacement. Or calcium supplements, for decades the sacred cow of medical advice for women, now thought to cause heart disease in supplemental form. (You’re supposed to get it from your diet.)  If that’s true, what took medical research so long to figure it out?  I’ve been taking supplemental calcium for at least 40 years.  Aside from a big fat refund, I also want an extended warranty on my heart from you guys. 

Ambiguity fatigue has taken its toll on me.  In my heart of hearts, I’ve begun to think of medical researchers as the Enron executives of health care.  What happened to all those studies, for example, showing HRT was good?  If those studies were all flawed, how do we know the new ones aren’t too?  Before I completely change my life again, they’re going to have to convince me. And I’m going to be a really hard sell.

When one reads about medical treatments through the ages, one is frequently horrified at the amount of suffering that was inflicted upon people by what passed for the gold standard of medical science in their day.  (Before long, I predict they will be saying that about colonoscopies.) Of course, you say to yourself, they didn’t know what we do now. 

C’mon, admit it: Is “now” just as flawed as it was 50 – or 100 - years ago?

All you can really do, I’ve decided, is go with what feels right, knowing that whatever you’re doing is bound to come back into favor again at some point. It’s kind of like riding out a down market.  In fact, I like to think of it in terms of medical research ``futures”:  I personally plan to go short on Lipitor (my pick as the next pariah of health care) and go long – very long – on chocolate. A person, after all, has to live.

Sorry, medical science. It's over between us. You've lied to me one too many times. No, the constant volte faces are a level of perfidy that cannot be countenanced.  I'm done with you changing the rules! 

And speaking of which, there is nothing that irritates Olof and me more than finally hitting the cholesterol and blood pressure targets our doctors have set only to have them announce that new research has found that these numbers should be yet lower.  We’re in a loop of perpetual medical fail. Is this a plot?

I’ve concluded that my husband, Olof, is right:  Since medical science doesn’t really have clue, that you can pick what you want  to die from.  Neither of us are willing to die from tofu since we don’t like tofu.  But I’m willing to die from chocolate.  He’s willing to die from single malt Scotch. 

Fortunately for me, there are plenty of opportunities with chocolate to get enough calcium from one’s diet.  As a first step, I’m going to drastically up my intake of chocolate mint chip ice cream.  Strictly medicinal.