I invoke *sneeze!* the *cough!* lazy web. *wheeze*

Ah, Selva is wondering about something that has also been puzzling me:

For the past few weeks I have been in sneezing hell. Everyday when I wake up, my phlegm factory wakes up with me and kicks into high gear producing copious amounts of that white jelly that dribbles out of my nose (disgusting? Imagine what I feel..It’s coming out of MY nose!) England has too many flowering plants. The damn pollen is killing me. Anyway, the question is: All the air borne irritants are present even while I sleep but I do not dribble when I sleep. Why? Why is that my nose runneth over only when am awaketh?

I, too, am afflicted with this yearly blight, this vile assault on my mucosae. Portland Anthophyta are trying to kill me; Satan has relocated his infernal Itch Factory to my nose.
On a bad (especially pollenaceous?) day, my nose and eyes begin to itch and run within moments of waking. Surely the offending gametes were present in the moments before I awoke: what part of the reaction requires consciousness? Conversely, what aspect of the sleep state prevents the physical manifestations of the allergic reaction? Now, sneezing being a reflex, it seems intuitively reasonable that it might be suppressed by sleep; although it seems less clear, itching might be a similar case1. I’m also aware that the sinuses can produce mucus in one’s sleep, as is anyone who’s ever had a cold or ‘flu. This is different: not only does the sneezing hold off while I’m asleep, but so does the snot. I sometimes wake with blocked sinuses, but never — unlike when I have a cold — with a runny nose. Once I’m awake, though, all bets are off and I have to make a run for the drug cabinet.
I have no idea what is going on, and would be most grateful if the lazy web could tell me. (A quick google reveals nothing of any use.)

1 Mechanism, of course, is a whole nother can of worms in both cases. Is there a neurologist in the house?

Scientology vs. mental health

Chuck Currie has an entry up about the ongoing assault on mental health treatment by the Cult (I refuse to call it a church) of Scientology. I don’t have anything to add to Chuck’s remarks, which you should definitely read, about Tom Cruise and his brainwashed buddies, but I wanted to take a personal diversion into his comments section, where one “RandiHeisterWoman” says:

… The overall number of proscriptions [sic] of mental medications, particularly among children, is way, way out of control. As a teacher, you should see the length of the line of students lined up outside of the office at lunch time every day, just so they can get their ritalin. I know these kids. They’re normal. They were normal before ritalin and they’re a sedated form of normal after ritalin. You can’t look at the numbers and say that drugs aren’t replacing discipline in many (not all) cases. There is a real problem here. […]
The other legitimate problem is the fact that psichiatric [sic] medicines are prescribed primarily based on symptoms, not causes. Have you ever actually read the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders)? Every definition of every mental health illness is so vague, they could apply to anybody! … who would want a medical doctor to prescribe heart medication simply because someone reported chest pains, without doing any tests to investigate the cause? No one. Yet psychiatrists do that every single day.

If this person really is a teacher, I despair.
Have you ever actually read the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders)?
Yes, I have.
Every definition of every mental health illness is so vague, they could apply to anybody!
No, they are not. This is utter nonsense.
I am not a clinician, but I have major depressive disorder, so I have a certain stake in understanding mental illness. (I also have a PhD in molecular biology, which gives me a bit of a head start on reading the literature.)
A fairly common analogy is to diabetes: no one claims that insulin is overprescribed, or that diabetics should just “pull themselves together” — a la “I know these kids, they’re not really diabetic”. You don’t hear those things because the physiological basis of diabetes is not disputed, because the primary symptoms are in large part physical. Popular misunderstanding of an inherently flawed concept, “mind/body duality”, seems to have something to do with this: behavioural and emotional symptoms stem from the mind, which is somehow not physical, so the “cure” must be somehow non-physical as well. This is nonsense, and commenter #2, “a social worker”, is exactly correct:

Mental illness consists of chemical differences in the brain which are prompted by heredity and environment. Symptoms are behaviors and feelings that differ from the norm and are similar across cultures. “Sheer will” does not eliminate depression, just as will alone does not eliminate blindness. Medication can be an important piece of therapy by helping to balance chemicals in the brain.

Mental illness has a physiological basis regardless of trigger or treatment. That such treatments as cognitive behaviour therapy have real efficacy only reinforces the observation that mind is part of body, and the two can exert mutual influence. It does not make psychotropic drugs somehow illegitimate as a treatment modality.
In fact, the current standard of care in depression (for obvious reasons, the section of the mental illness spectrum with which I am most familiar) is to stabilise patients with chemotherapy and move on to explore the utility of counseling, CBT and so on. A further analogy is perhaps useful: if you have an infection, it is likely that your own immune system can take care of it, but this can be a long and painful course of recovery and it can fail catastrophically. For these reasons, we use antibiotics to bolster the body’s innate defenses. Similarly, psychotropic medication can be a way of restoring equilibrium (like antibiotics) or a permanent fix for a damaged system (like insulin for diabetes).
Unsupported claims that psychotropic medication prescription is “out of control”, or that “drugs are replacing discipline”, are irresponsible at best. The contention that psych meds are prescribed for “symptoms not causes” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of clinical practice in, and the nature of, mental illness. I expect better of teachers.
(Update: comments off, discuss at Chuck’s.)


I encourage anyone who has been tagged with the “four things” doohickey to pass this back up the line; I think perpetrators should have to come up with four new things (at least in the first four categories) every time another victim passes it back!
Four books I’d buy a friend

  1. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  2. Narziss und Goldmund, Hermann Hesse
  3. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  4. The Moon and Sixpence, Somerset Maugham

Four books I’d buy an enemy (on condition they had to read ’em)

  1. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  2. A Million Little Pieces, that guy who was all over the news recently
  3. The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
  4. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne

Four pieces of music I’d miss if I went deaf

  1. Tabula Rasa, Arvo Part (played by Shaham/Anthony)
  2. In A Landscape, John Cage (played by Stephen Drury)
  3. Are You The One (That I’ve Been Waiting For)?, Nick Cave
  4. Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd

Four pieces of music that make me want to gnaw out my own eardrums

  1. Do You Believe, that Cher thing
  2. Popcorn (I like it, but what an earworm)
  3. anything with a breakbeat
  4. anything by Kenny G

Four pet peeves

  1. people who stand right in front of “No Smoking” signs, smoking
  2. people who stand at the front of the bus when there’s room to move back
  3. the phrase “very unique”
  4. Kenny G

Four things I like that other people commonly find weird or horrible or both

  1. vegemite
  2. Neil Diamond
  3. stale cookies (pre-fungus, though, of course)
  4. high humidity on a hot day

Four popular things that I think are weird or horrible or both

  1. oysters
  2. snow
  3. reality television
  4. Kenny G

Spousal unit, I’m looking at you!


I would be safe from this kind of thing, down here at the far end of the blogosphere’s long tail, but for the spousal unit and her irritating habit of having sociable friends. I appear to have married a popular person. How’d that happen?
Anyway, grrr, but I pretty much cannot say no to my wife, so:

Four jobs I’ve had

  1. streetside hot dog seller
  2. janitor
  3. proofreader/copyeditor for scientific mss
  4. research scientist

Four movies I can watch over and over

  1. Lilo and Stitch
  2. Cool Hand Luke
  3. Jesus of Montreal
  4. Lawrence of Arabia

Four places I’ve lived

  1. Madang, Papua New Guinea
  2. Gracemere, Australia
  3. Sydney, Australia
  4. Portland, Oregon

Four TV shows I love

  1. Firefly
  2. Wonderfalls
  3. A Touch of Frost
  4. PBS’ Now, before it was gutted

Four places I’ve vacationed

  1. Kuwait
  2. Jersey (Channel Islands)
  3. Amsterdam
  4. Northwest Island (on the Great Barrier Reef)

Four of my favorite dishes

  1. rice and beans
  2. vegetable soup (spousal unit’s version)
  3. cheese, tomato and onion sammiches
  4. saag paneer

Four sites I visit daily
my Bloglines account keeps me in touch with some 200 sites; here are four I particularly recommend:

Four places I would rather be right now

  1. wherever the spousal unit is
  2. Brisbane, with some friends I miss very much
  3. Northwest Island
  4. Amsterdam

Four bloggers I am tagging
I’ll have to think about this some more. I’ve decided not to pass it on, for reasons made clear in the next entry.