Saturday, September 18, 2004

Teeth, Computers and Baseball

It's a mixed bag tonight. Let's start here: What do teeth and computers have in common? They're both so ubiquitous that you don't think about them until they start hurting, and then it's probably too late! This comes to mind because I developed a toothache Wednesday evening. Thursday morning, I knew I had something seriously wrong and called the dentist, who ordered me up an antibiotic and scheduled me to come in Friday morning. By Thursday night it hurt so bad I just felt like banging my face against the furniture. The affected tooth is one of my lower front teeth, apparently perfectly good, never had a cavity or anything; however, even though I am a good brusher, my flossing isn't up to par and I immediately began castigating myself for poor oral hygiene as the root of my problem. ( And yes, I did just commit a terrible pun ... )

Fortunately, since I have a serious chronic illness, I also have pain meds on hand, so I downed a couple of whatevers and went to bed until Friday morning arrived. (There's a paradox in the last statement. Can you find it?) The dentist, a rather large, imposing man who has the demeanor of a drill sergeant (I am SO sorry, this stuff keeps coming out ... it must be the drugs), leaned over me ominously with his drill in hand and said, "You won't need any novocaine for this one, it's already dead." Apparently I blanched at the mere prospect, because he quickly added, "If it hurts at all, I'll stop." That is the nicest thing Dr. Sanders has ever said to me in five years as my dentist.

When the drill started its torturous, whirring, baby-buzzsaw noise, my skin got goosebumps all over and I could just feel the pain waiting around the bend for me. But he told the truth; it didn't hurt a bit. I had a preliminary root canal - preliminary because with a raging infection there seem to be limits to how safe it is to poke around inside a person - and I have to go back for more work next week. I felt so much better after he finished that first part, though, because the awful pressure of the bottled up infection was relieved. I will not bore or disgust you with dental details, but I do wonder why people say "root canal" with such dread? It didn't hurt and, in fact, made me feel very much better.

Now, how does this get us to computers? On Thursday, when I felt really awful and didn't want to cope with anything, I discovered that the 13 year-old's computer was running really slowly and seemed gummed up. The giant grinning boy-band lead singer pasted on her screen as wallpaper probably didn't help, but even after I removed him, the computer plugged along like something from the Dark Ages. A few questions led to answers I didn't like, such as "chat rooms" and "porn that keeps popping up," so I pulled the plug on the machine and decided to tackle it after the dentist on Friday, while Tori was away at school.

I accept the blame for this state of affairs with her computer. I ran a "protection" program when she got the computer for her birthday in July, but forgot to renew it when the trial period ended in August. And I guess she didn't want to tell me it had expired, because I had installed a lot of limits on how much time she could use it, etc., and life had become immeasurably more interesting after the blocks came off. But, as you can imagine, she managed to acquire not only some questionable websites, but a lot of spyware and other malicious junk. It took me hours to fix her computer.

First, I ran Ad-Aware and Spy-bot, and, yes, I did give the Spy-bot man a donation. (Thank you for your wonderful program.) Between the two of them, they removed 357 bad things from her computer and inoculated her against another 2238. Then I purged her temporary files and cookies and ran both programs again just to be sure. Next, I installed CyberSitter. I had tried CyberPatrol, but CyberSitter is much easier to use and more functional in my opinion. If I change my mind on that, I'll let you know. So now her computer is running like a charm. It's quick and loads up in a flash. If you Google on one of the "bad" words I blocked, the web page just comes up blank. And best of all, it SNOOPS and REPORTS. Perhaps this is an invasion of privacy, but, as a mature woman, I claim my right to invade the privacy of all children I am responsible for in order to preserve their welfare. After seeing what she managed to look at with her privacy intact, I have no qualms at all.

I remember reading an article about kids and porn that said something like "Most parents don't think their kid will look at it. And they are wrong." Well, that was Michael and me. We had the "safety talk" and thought she would follow our guidance. Hah! So, if you have a teen with an unprotected computer, I guarantee you that the kid has or will find a porn site or two and look at them. Even if they don't set out to do it, the porn perpetrators are so malicious that they sneak their crap into places where kids can't miss it. Examples: if you spell wrong, you will get a porn site. If you type in White House and forget to use .gov, you will get a porn site. Tori found her first porn site when she misspelled Yahoo. I happened to be in the room for that one. She was 11 at the time and she literally got up and ran away from the computer. Two years and one puberty later, she's not running away anymore.

Well, we've covered toothaches and computers. How about baseball? Tonight, Tori's choir sang the national anthem at the Houston Astro's baseball game. (She sings in the Houston city-wide Girl Scout choir, TakeNote.) It was really neat seeing her face tower over me on the Jumbotron! Of course, we couldn't see the real her because the choir was on the field right by home plate and our seats were at the farthest possible distance away above center field. (Actually, we couldn't see the Jumbotron, either, because we were sitting under it, but I got up and found a good spot to watch from before they sang.) I took pictures of the Jumbotron and, if anything turns out, I'll put it up for all to see. There was one really good shot of her that almost filled the screen and I hope I got that one. Don't hold your breath waiting, though, because it's real film, not digital, and a new roll at that, so I have to shoot a bunch more pics and get them developed before you have a shot at seeing it. (See, there's that pun thing again. I really think it's the drugs I'm taking for this toothache.)

By the way (or BTW as I probably should be saying), we have a dental/vision/drug discount card that we continued to pay for even after we had Michael's work insurance because it reduced our dental costs a lot. I used it for my antibiotic purchase and here's the result: A 10-day supply of generic antibiotic cost $44 before discount card and $14 after. I am thankful for the saved $30, believe me, but what in the world is wrong with this picture???? Our American health care system is so messed up I fear for us all.

Ciao for now.

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