Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Code Enforcement

It seems to me that if there is a law, however silly, and if a person is accused of breaking that law but goes to court and a judge agrees that their behavior did not trespass the law, that such a precedent should serve as a guide to that person and all in the district for acceptable behavior. These people should not be repeatedly accused of breaking that law for the same offense ruled to be legal in prior cases. I would call that harassment.

Those are my opinions, but they do not seem to be shared by our local government. For Planned Parenthood, who is trying to shut down the pro-life voices outside their clinic, has been pressuring the government in every possible means (save making brand new laws; Obama is a bit to busy to keep his promise of passing FOCA, thank Jesus) to harass us. The latest, from Wednesday this week, was to call code enforcement about our ladders. Now pro-lifers look pretty extreme a lot of times not only because we have the unpopular belief that people have a right to life, but because we are trying to be law abiding behind ridiculous restrictions. To save lives we are not allowed to enter a medical facility, or its property. We cannot peacefully sit in the driveways or roads, or in front of the doors. Politics has found us inconvenient. So have police*, it seems.

So we have to yell at women, because we can’t get close enough to them to talk (8 foot bubble law within 100 feet of an abortion clinic). And we have to have big signs because kids aren’t taught the truth in school, at home, or through media. We wear t-shirts because no one else is talking about it. And we use ladders because, unlike any other medical facility in the country, these have tarps surrounding their parking lot. Men who practice wickedness like to hide. They want to block out the light and the truth. So we put up ladders and talk over the black tarp fences. (Yelling is certainly not preferable. If they park close enough, or walk by, we do talk to them. And we try to make eye contact with the mothers.) We heard one account from this past year where a baby was saved partly because of ladders. The girl couldn’t believe the man talking to her was so tall!

Code enforcement came by Wednesday. He rolled down his window and addressed me at my perch on top of a ladder. “You can’t have those on the sidewalk,” he said.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, with naivety. I mean, I’ve been doing this a year and a half. The people who own the ladders have been coming out for decades. I’m sure if it was illegal, they would have been stopped already.

He added, “They can’t block the sidewalk.”

“People can get by.” I looked down at the three feet of space between my ladder and the road.

“You can’t have the ladders on the sidewalk.”

I then directed him to the owner of the ladders, whom I knew would know what to say. “Yes I can,” was the thing. “We’ve been to court 100 times, and we’ve won every time about the ladders.”

“I can take them,” he said.

“No you can’t,” she replied. I mean, this is hard for Christians. Because in a constitutional republic, where we have laws that guide our behavior and not arbitrary men telling us what to do, we have the right to act in accordance with those laws. But bossy little people with no real authority try to tell us what to do, and they are working for the government, so should we comply? Do we have to comply every time they talk to us, until we look up the law again and go back to doing it until they stop us again? The court told the sidewalk counselors they could use ladders on the sidewalk. So that’s what she stood for. And she threatened to call 911 if he tried to take her ladders.

So he drove away, and as we suspected he would, he called the police.

Three squad cars and an SUV came shortly, and told my friend to move her ladders. Same story. Except they could ticket her, and they had big sticks and probably guns. (They always remind me of when Jesus asked, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.”) She tends to remind policemen* that babies are about to be murdered just a few yards away, instead of sticking to their topic. Men should know what they are doing, she feels, and which side they are serving.

During her argument, one or two of the police officers went to chat with the abortion clinic security guard. A third, Catholic, chatted with a woman who had been praying her rosary before they arrived, when she spoke up. I went to find my camera and start taking pictures and prepare to video whatever was going to happen. My friend kept talking to the fourth policeman. Eventually she said that she knew the name of their commander, had spoken with her about the ladders, and that she would back her with permission to keep the ladders.

“You can move them into the street,” one officer suggested.

“Why didn’t you just say so?” With evident frustration, she descended her ladder for the first time and tugged the first one into the road. But once she had both of them in the street, they were going to cite her for having had them on the sidewalk. As you may imagine, this was met with further resistance. For one thing, after the last time they had been to court for the same legal action, my friend and her husband had warned the government that if they had to deal with the issue again, they would be in a federal first amendment lawsuit. This was brought up to reinforce the seriousness of her next statement: “I’m calling Commander –“ she said, and took out her cell phone. The station did not pick up my friend’s call, and the officers raced her to speak with their commander first. While the ladder-woman continued to wait on hold, the commander informed her people that as long as the path was not obstructed in a way in which pedestrians could not get by, the ladders could stay.
With a short apology, three of the patrol packed up and left. She returned her ladders to the sidewalk, and spent the next half hour or so talking with the Catholic policeman who was the friendliest to begin with.

I would like to point out that during the whole incident the street was rather blocked with patrol cars, including two parked facing the wrong direction.

*Police, I imagine, got into their line of work because they wanted to defend innocent lives. To be reminded that the law protects murderers and that their official job restricts their involvement in saving lives has to be frustrating. My friend likes to invite them to join the cause, even if only when they’re off duty. And she likes to point out that they will answer to a higher authority.
To God be all glory.


I made up a word today, and I like it:

Alect - adj. to vote against, or disapprove. It is not veto, because veto tends to have power. Alected officials are those whom you did not elect, and would for all the world wish had not been elected. This term can also apply to men who are dictators, and weren’t truly elected at all. Compare to unelected, but with unfavorable connotations.

To God be all glory.

On Laws that Should Not Be

This is getting on my nerves. There are so many laws in this silly country that no person should be held accountable for them all. It would probably take years just to read all the laws for a given city, county, state, and country – let alone understand them and the precedents for their application. And yet these laws are constantly changing (because legislators get bored? Power hungry?). And most of them are silly. For example, it is fine with me for it to be illegal to shoot someone except in self (or family or friend or property) defense: unprovoked. But why then do we need laws about registration, about locking the weapons in trunks, about not practicing in city limits? And do police really intend to enforce these laws, or only when you make them (or some powerful influence on them) mad?

I don’t mind laws against impeding traffic, but why in a free country can people not be allowed to think for themselves and go in or out of the public street as they wish? A policeman should not be able to ticket a person for engaging in a behavior that, had circumstances been all wrong and the person fail to use any common sense to get out of the situation, could lead to inconvenience (or harm) to another person? Why are we doing preventative law? Is this about protecting people and their rights, or about controlling them?

To God be all glory.

The People Who Once Owned their Country

Once upon a time there was a country that belonged to the people. Maybe you have an idea which one I mean. The thing about ownership is that property can be stolen. Two of the ten Mosaic commandments address property rights. But not only is theft no longer illegal; it has been codified. Government itself functions on and benefits from theft. We’re talking about private property, private rights, private liberty.

It just so happens that the supreme law of this land guarantees a few rights to its people. For example, we have the right to peaceably assemble, the right to bear arms, the right to free speech, and freedom from federal laws instituting or prohibiting religion’s exercise. There are a few other little rights that we usually ignore, but that are in this simple list of laws all the same. We citizens cannot be unreasonably searched, plundered, or seized by our government. There is a right to trial by jury, prompt and in due process. (Due process and promptness tend to be mutually exclusive in today’s courts. But they keep everything legal by allowing you to waive your right to a free trial so that there will be no miscarriage of justice.)

I’ve never been too bothered by conspiracy theories that warn, “Big brother is watching you.” I mean, our country has ceased to belong to the people, and the rulers in charge have the power, should they choose to declare themselves free of the laws that have kept us complacent, to do whatever they want. By the time Big Brother has put surveillance in place, you weren’t free anyway. We were already doomed.

So I’m not sounding any dark warnings here. (Well… I guess I did begin on a depressing note…) What I want to do is to tell you a story. If you wish it were impossible, you are welcome to protest to your elected officials (and the unelected ones). If instead you see opportunity and power to take to yourself, by all means, step up to the plate.

You probably know if you’re a regular reader of my blog that I do regular sidewalk counseling, a ministry by which, with much prayer, I stand on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic and try for a chance to talk with a mother about her choice, to share options with her, truth with her, and chances for help. This is the last ditch effort to save lives – a place for me to meet hurting people and offer them love. That love tends to look like standing on a ladder increasing my volume as the women move away from me and towards the door through which they will murder their sons and daughters, warning them about side effects, consequences, and the precious life they have this one last chance to save – that is unfortunate. I wish that more often it looked like a girl sitting in the passenger seat of a car looking at pictures of life forming in a womb, shedding quiet tears and finding out about forgiveness, hope, and crisis pregnancy clinics that can help. Sometimes it does, and I rejoice to see fruit in my attempts.

So this abortion clinic is on the edge of an ethnic neighborhood caught between mall redevelopment and inner city tradition and railroad industry. It sits on a wide, empty street. Directly across is an abandoned parking lot. On either side is a telephone company building that has no signs and gets about one visit a week, and a fire house no longer in use. This three-story red brick building is surrounded by no trespassing signs, and displays a few large signs warning that no help can be found at the location any longer. On top is a disaster siren that is tested on Wednesdays at 11 when the weather and season are right. Beside that are two white cameras, rounded in a style too modern and artistic to be original to the building. From their vantage point on the tower, these two cameras can take in the whole street – not to mention the cameras posted high on the lights above the entrance to the abortion clinic.

So this building still appears to be public property, with the siren on top – but it isn’t. Yet the police came last week to ticket another sidewalk counselor. They parked (side by side, blocking half the road) and sat to watch us for a while. Mostly ignoring them, we went on as usual. They have warned us before about “stopping cars by stepping into the street.” Now, we stand in this empty street near the curb because of sunshine. Until about 10 AM the black tarp the abortion clinic has erected to keep the truth contained and invisible to the women it entices in with “choice” manages to shade the entire sidewalk. So I don’t have to step into the street for anything; I’m already there. But if I do happen to be on the sidewalk instead, I don’t step into the street. I stand on the edge of the curb and hold out my hand in a stop signal or extend a flyer towards cars driving to the abortion clinic. This is an effective tactic because it is non-threatening (and a little confusing), so people tend to stop. When they stop, we go to their cars to give them the promised flyer and try to talk them out of killing children. No one has ever been unable to access the street or the clinic due to this tactic, nor have we forcibly stopped cars or impeded traffic. If the conversation is going well, we will have the car pull to one side so we can talk more.

Last week while the police watched, I did that very thing. I extended the flyer with a large list of facilities and people offering help to moms in need to a couple in a car. They stopped and I headed to meet them with my paper, but was intercepted by the other sidewalk counselor, who has been doing this for decades and knows what to say much better than I do. After a few sentences, she had them pull to the curb so she could answer their curiosity about what was going on (they were not clients of the abortionist). Five to ten minutes after her conversation had begun, the police got out of their cars and came up to her, interrupting and requesting that she come with them. She complied.

They told her they would have to give her a ticket. In a few minutes I joined her, confessing that I had stopped the car (which they could see). The officer, who was considerably taller and larger than me, ignored me. He said not a word to me, and seemed by looking over my head and addressing my friend to have brushed me aside like a bit of lint blowing across his vision. After a short plea for the officers to save lives instead of writing tickets that would prevent her from doing so, she decided that her temper could not handle further discussion, and submitted to the citation.

As the police drove away, we the pro-life team gathered around the yellow slip to discuss, question, and criticize all that had taken place. “They showed me pictures,” my friend said. And she pointed. The pictures the police had used for evidence were taken from the old firehouse across the street. “You were in one of them, standing by the car with me,” she looked at me. But I hadn’t been by the car today, and how could they get pictures so quickly?

“What’s the date?” said another friend, an older man with a golden dog on a leash. “This citation is written for yesterday. At 11:38 AM. Were you here at 11:38 yesterday?” My friend nodded.

“But I wasn’t. I was at work… That picture must have been from a long time ago. I haven’t been in the street for a while.” I added.

“The officer signed as the complainant. He wasn’t here yesterday.”

“[the security guard] complained. He called them,” reported the owner of the ticket.

“A police officer can’t be the complainant unless he was a witness.”

That’s how it went. She’s going to challenge the ticket in court (something she is rather good at by way of experience). The incident for which she was cited was actually a mom with two little kids in her car driving by asking for directions. My friend didn’t even do anything to get that woman to stop except to be outside.

So here’s my question. It only took a little bit of investigation to know that Planned Parenthood owns the cameras that survey the entire public street. There is no sign on the building on which they were mounted informing the public that they are being video-taped. Court precedent says that such surveillance is legal if it is in a place where someone can reasonably expect to be seen (parks, streets). But since when can a private company or citizen take a picture of someone doing something that they think may be illegal, send the picture to the police with a complaint, and the police respond with a ticket? Can you really be ticketed for something that no one witnessed?

This has come up with the photo-radar machines that measure your speed and then snap a picture of you and your license plate as you drive by. Some courts, I believe, have ruled that such evidence is shaky.

And I understand that video from security cameras can be used to track down, identify, and convict criminals who rob convenience stores or graffiti buildings. That’s ok with me. But seriously – a jaywalking ticket after the fact? And absolutely no one was inconvenienced? Can I set up a camera on my street and call the police on random kids – or on cars failing to use turn signals, etc.? It’s bad enough for the police to do it themselves, let alone a private citizen!

Planned Parenthood loses money every time we educate women and help them to avoid the stain of murder on their conscience. That wicked company is therefore applying pressure to the public government, asking them to enforce laws that they never enforce (tying up 3 to 4 officers and squad cars to deliver the citations, for some reason) on the rest of the population, so that the calloused businessmen inside can keep brutally murdering the most innocent human children alive.

To God be all glory.

Why I Don't Like the Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffith Show is one of my least favorite classic television series. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that all of the adults and trusted authority figures are habitual liars. They lie to make friends feel good, and they lie to protect themselves, and they lie to patronize children. Sometimes the lie works out, and other times they get caught, but it is always “cute” and “funny.” No one is ever shown considering the moral implications of lying. This despite frequent references to God and church, as the quaint trappings of small town life demand.

My second reason is that there are no marriages in the show. The two main characters are in stagnate relationships with women who seem no more interested in permanent commitment and domesticity than they are. The fashionable, fun loving gals must simply enjoy dating, and it is as casual and undirected a relationship as ever there was. Aunt Bee is a spinster who helps her widowed nephew to raise his orphaned son. No where is there a marriage really demonstrated for the audience or for the children. I can recall only one married couple from the show, and that is the town drunk and his wife. Great example.

For such a long-running, highly-esteemed show, the lack of moral foundation is sad. However, the themes, stereotypes, and worldview portrayed by Andy and his friends is representative of those seeds of corruption that blossomed in the decades to come, leaving us today with a society in which family and marriage are perverted if not meaningless, and in which the truth is grossly undervalued, unsought, and even betrayed. Astounding percentages of students admit to lying. A large minority of births are out of wedlock. Divorce is rampant, as is unmarried cohabitation. Do we want to promote this in our entertainment? Are we so sunk in deception that we look back on the Andy Griffith era as a wholesome, family-values past?

Is there any hope, any shining examples of television today that portray the truth and biblical values?

To God be all glory.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where Did All These Place Names Come From?

Once upon a time I was a high school student, who chose as her foreign language the fine and elegant French. Because these courses are all about being practical and conversational, I focused on learning numbers, names of random household objects, days of the week, and names of countries. These are the intriguing parts of language, probably the least relevant to the distinctions among the tongues. Days of the week, months of the year, and names of places are some of the most fascinating studies in history and myth, and the migrating peoples. Here in the United States, we call the “Fatherland,” that great military empire of the 19th and 20th centuries, boasting Kaisers and Fuhrers, Germany. The Germans themselves call their empire Deutschland. And upon learning French, I discovered that the passionately peaceful peasants (except during anarchic revolutions) named Germany, Allemagne.

Usually my little brain is creatively making associations and speculations about where words came from, but here I was stuck. Names and titles are interesting things, because they are only rarely required to have a relationship to definitions. For example, in studying the etymologies of country names, I came across several (20th century inventions, mostly) whose names meant “land of the free.” Others seem arbitrary – or even derogatory, bestowed on the people by hostile neighbors.

Join me, then, as we briefly navigate the history of the world as told by the naming of nations. Let’s begin our tour with Germany.

German is first attested in writings of Julias Caesar, probably the name of an individual tribe. Speculation on the roots of the word range from a Celtic word for “to shout” or the Germanic gar, meaning “spear.” Part of the problem is that Germany is an empire, a collection of tribes, so that there is wide selection of names that accurately apply to large swaths of the German countryside. English (which has had its own fair share of invading languages and kings) formerly used the French (Allemagne, “land of all the men” i.e. “our many tribes” used to denote foreigners – compare to the words alien and else.) and the German (Deutschland – “land of the people”) to refer to the country. I cannot find out when we started calling the land Germany almost universally, but neither can I discover when the Deutschland came into use, or Allemagne. Since they all come from ancient tribal names, none is more correct than the other – except that we might want to give precedence to what people choose to call themselves.

Dutch, whose name is obviously of the same root as Deutschland, is first recorded in official correspondence from Charlemagne’s reign, when it referred to Germans in general. It means “belonging to the people” from the root þeod “people, race, nation,” actually sharing a root with another word for Germans, Teutonic (Proto-Indo-European *teuta- “people” or in Old Prussian, tauto “country”).

Interestingly enough, the Polish word for Germany is Nemetsy/Niemcy which means “land of the mute.” Mute is the way some people described others who couldn’t speak the common language. It’s rather ethnocentric, but goes to illustrate what I was saying about getting a name from a neighbor. (It has been suggested that the word barbarian, baby, babble, and infant all come from that same general idea: they’re talking, but we can’t understand them. And this whole language problem is indivisible from that Biblical account of Babel. Imagine a decade or so after the tower project was interrupted by the confusion of languages. One forcibly-separated tribe runs into another with a speech frustratingly meaningless to the first, and they both look at each other and recite a place name, Babel. That’s the word for it. History explains; this is why. How often do you get why’s in these strange questions of etymology?)

Welsh is another name for a country, granted by its Saxon (another occasional word for Germany or Germans) neighbors. It was used long ago to mean “Celtic” or simply “foreign.” G’s and W’s are interchangeable due to accents and evolution of languages, so Welsh is actually quite close to Gael and Gaul. The Welsh have their own name for themselves – or at least they did back when people cared about languages and less about this up and coming global society. Cymru is that little country on the British Isles, meaning “compatriots.” Cambria and Cumberland are derived from this name. The Welsh were kinder to the Germanic invaders, and generally referred to them by their own name, Saxon (adapted to sound Gaelic). Or this might have been a bitter term of respect, since the tribe seems to have been named for swords, Saxon having the same root (most likely) as saw. Saxon is a word that shows up almost everywhere, including in those English counties Essex, Sussex, and the Gaelic term for a foreign ruler, Sassenach.

Another pretty word referring to the Gaels is Brythons. Great Britain and British are the common forms of this name today. There is a dialect called Breton (which is really beautiful if you ever get to hear it spoken or sung). Before Christ, Greek records describe the peoples with the term Prittanoi, “tattooed people.” It only came into official use as a name for England when King James I (who was definitely the Scottish King, and got the British crown after Elizabeth was done with it by reason of being a distant cousin of that childless queen – and if you think how we got names of countries is complicated, take a look at the ancestry of the famous King James!) called his country that at his coronation. It was made official 100 years later when Scotland (more properly British by racial descent) was joined to England.

Scotland’s name is so old that we aren’t sure what it means. The English called the inhabitants of Ireland Scottas, and that was an idea they picked up from the Romans (Latin). Speculation born purely out of the similar sound says that the term may have come from an Irish insult, “a term of scorn,” scuit. But I have no idea what that word means. In Gaelic Scotland is Alba, from the Indo-European for “white,” supposedly referring to the white chalk around Dover or some association with mountains (similarity to Alps). In Latin Scotland was also called Caledonia, which is “good waters” in Greek. (Apparently the Greeks and Romans hung out a little more than the Greeks and the Persians, despite each being successive empires of the known world.)

I’ve mentioned the Irish a couple times. Their etymology is pretty simple. It comes from Erin, a word referring to fertility of land, and animals and people. Whether the goddess Eire got her name from this word or vice versa, she was the goddess of fertility in the pagan mythology of the Gaels.

Another country whose name is most likely from a god is Egypt, which supposedly means “temple of the soul of Ptah” (this is Egyptian, and was their name for the city of Memphis), although some say it comes from the Greek, “land below the Aegean sea” which in its Latin form is Aegyptus. In the Bible the country is named for its founder, Mizraim, who was one of the sons of Ham, the son of Noah. In Hebrew the word has meaning, “straits or narrow places,” referring to the distribution of civilization along the Nile. Other Arabic definitions of this word mean “city” or “to settle or found.” In Coptic, Egypt is Kême “black land” describing the mud after summer floods contrasted with the “red land” of the desert. (You gotta hear this. Desert is from the Ancient Egyptian, dsrt. They should know.)

Ethiopia is a word originally Greek, aithein “to burn” and ops “face.” It was talking about the skin color of the inhabitants. (However, some sources attribute the name to another descendant of Noah, Ityopp’is, who is supposedly a son of Cush – I don’t know which one from Gen. 10:7 is meant. But in the Bible, Cush is the name for Ethiopia). A few hundred years ago, Ethiopia was Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic, meaning “mixed.” There was actually a mixture of ethnic groups inhabiting that country.

Other biblical places and their name origins are:

Jordan, named for the river, “descend” of Hebrew and Canaanite origin.

Iran means “land of the Aryans” or “land of the free.” Arya comes from the Proto-Indo-European with a definition of “noble, free.” In the Bible it is called Persia, which has the same root as paradise, “garden.”

Iraq means “between the rivers.” In the Bible it was Babylon “gate of the gods” in usage, but derived from Babel.

Palestine is the Roman name for Israel, literally “land of the Philistines,” and intended as a jibe at the Jews. Philistine itself is from a Semitic root meaning “invader.” The Philistines were Phoenician high-tech seafarers who settled on the coast and oppressed Israel living in the mainland.

Spain actually gets its name from the Phoenicians as well, since they had quite the colony and port in Spain. The Phoenicians called it “isle of hyraxes,” mistaking the abundant hares for the African hyraxes. The word has changed very little since then. It began as Î-šəpānîm, was modified to Hispania for Latin, and comes to us today via the French Spagne as Spain.

France is named for a weapon, and actually for a Germanic tribe (who else – named for a weapon?), the Franks. A frankon was a spear. Frank became associated with freedom when they ruled over the Gauls. By contrast, then, to the Gauls, who were essentially slaves, the Franks were free. Interesting, however, that the people owning and earning the name are not at all the majority of the people traditionally associated with the country of France. Neither, for that matter, is France typically associated with freedom or weapons.

Italy means “son of a bull god.” And this one you just can’t skip. Vatican City comes from a word meaning “to prophesy,” but in a completely pagan way. The city is built on an old street that used to host fortune tellers and sooth-sayers (obviously before the Christianization of Rome).

Finally, three more interesting names. One is Siam, which got its name from Myanmar/Burma, its neighbor. Siam means “land of Gold.” Siam was changed to Thailand in the first half of the 20th century. Pakistan is the other interesting name. Like the demographics of the country itself, the name is a compilation, an acronym made up by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1934 well before the region became a country in 1956. It stands for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, Sindh, and Balochistan."

You may have noticed that Pakistan has occasional identity crises, and suffers from severe division. The USA is in a similar situation, but we have heretofore handled our cultural differences considerably better than Pakistan (our primary blemish being the Civil War over 100 years ago).

“Out of the many, one” is a hard thing to achieve. In honor of the attempt, I close with the much more widely known etymology of the United States of America. United and States being self-evident, America is the feminine form of Amerigo, the name of a conceited cartographer who made made his name so prominent on his maps that the people, knowing no better, assumed the new world was named Amerigo. And so it is.

Thank you to the following resources, from which I got almost all of this information:







God’s Word for Windows

To God be all glory.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Strep Throat Diagnosis, Carriers, and Special Cases

About as long ago as I can remember, my brothers would come down with strep throat. They are four and six years younger than me, so we weren’t constant playmates, but we were homeschooled, so whatever germs one got, we usually shared. I don’t particularly like being sick, so as soon as I learned about hygiene and contagious symptoms, I began avoiding them. Still, even if they got strep, when I had a strep throat too, the doctor would have us all in for a strep test, and mine was always negative. What’s up with that?

A mom at our church reports that she thinks strep tests are unreliable, because both of her boys will be sick with the same symptoms – and she knows her kids. She knows what they’re like when they have a sore throat because of drainage. But she will take them to the doctor, and one will test positive for strep but the other tests negative.

Why this talk of strep? There’s a virtual epidemic among my acquaintance lately, including my sister (9 years younger). She went to the doctor – she also has a cough and cold symptoms. My brother went with her because he was starting to have symptoms, and thought he had the beginning of the symptomatic red spots on his throat. (He is always looking in his own throat with a flashlight and a mirror.) So the quick strep test came back positive for my sister, and she was given antibiotics accordingly. But the brother, the expert on strep from experience, claims that the nurse didn’t get a good culture, so he is doubting the negative result.

(Speaking of negatives and positives, why is a positive strep test such a negative thing? Can’t they be a little less confusing?)

Some doctors say you need antibiotics to get over strep, that little bodies have a hard time fighting back. A few people have told me you can have strep without the white spots near your tonsils. But others say they’ve had the spots, gotten a negative test, and been told that they’re just fine; go home. (Doctors.) Never mind actually figuring out what is wrong.

So here’s the scoop. Strep throat is a bacterial infection spread through the air (mostly when people cough or breathe). It can also be spread through communal use of cups, drinking fountains, toothbrushes, etc. (That’s just gross anyway; don’t do it.) Infants don’t usually get strep, and it is most common in children 5-15. But a lot of people carry the bacteria without getting sick. These people, however, are not likely to spread the bacteria to others. (Here’s one of my theories, though: if you carry the bacteria and then get a cold or cough, that sort of weaponizes the bacteria and spreads it to the world, so that you get blamed for contaminating others who have less resistance to the bacteria.) One of the reasons people don’t get sick from strep is saliva. One doctor’s website I found recommended drinking lots of water, and eating salt, garlic, apples, cheese, and less sugar. Like most illnesses, if your immune system is weakened by something else (lack of sleep, stress, other viruses, malnutrition), you are more vulnerable to strep throat.

It is possible to recover from strep without treatment. Going without antibiotics was discouraged in the 20th century because there were several strains in existence that were more dangerous, leading to rheumatic fever (can cause arthritis and heart disease). These strains are mostly eliminated from the US at this time. However, you are potentially contagious much longer if you do not take an antibiotic.

Scarlet fever is associated with strep, but it is feared mostly because it accompanied those dangerous strains that brought on rheumatic fever. The rash can come with strep without having any serious side effects. If my friend who didn’t take her antibiotics the whole 7-10 days is a typical case, though, the rash can take a long time to go away.

A few people commented on a forum that they believe they can taste strep when they have it or are about to have it.

Most doctors and medical websites consider the strep tests to be reliable, especially the longer culture. I found very little conversation about the possibility of false negatives. Of course the rapid test often gives a false negative, but the culture is considered to be the final authority. A doctor is not liable to do the culture, but it may be a good idea to find one who would automatically do the second test if the rapid one is negative.

Am I convinced? I just may be a chronic skeptic. But in this case it doesn’t seem too important. If you do have strep and the test is negative, most likely you’ll kick the bug in a few days just like you would a cold. And the doctors will say I told you so, but you can think what you like about whether you had strep or not. The final bit of advice from a non-professional that I’m offering here is that if your test does come back negative and you don’t get better in a few days – or get worse! – go back to the doctor, complain a little that they should have figure out what was wrong with you in the first place, and don’t leave until you have more of a diagnosis.

Do you have any stories to contribute to my questions?

To God be all glory.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Verses of My Week

The fruit of the Spirit is… faith, meekness…

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

…In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth…

Sheep are Brought Down from the High Pastures to Their Winter Grazing, 1934 by Mirrorpix
Sheep are Brought Down from the High Pastures to Their Winter Grazing, 1934

For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day… Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.

The Lost Sheep by Alfred Soord
The Lost Sheep

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure…

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins… And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.

To God be all glory.