SCATTERED BRIEFING
Pills & Shells

Oct. 26 - I saw a doctor yesterday and went through the entire visit in Danish. It was the first time I'd ever gone through a lengthy and important encounter without having fallen back on English at some point. In retrospect, a doctor visit probably isn't the best place to experiment with one's budding language skills, but the exam was satisfactory even if the results were not.

The results were not satisfactory because although I have a big old sinus infection that's going to require a course of antibiotics, I was not prescribed anything to help me sleep. That's why I'm writing this in the middle of the night. Once again, a sinus headache is pre-empting my sleep and ruining my tomorrow.

I did my damnedest tonight. I did everything right. We got Molli down by 9:15. Trine and I were in bed by ten. I set myself up against a mountain of pillows to keep my upper body and head vertical rather than horizontal. That was supposed to help. It didn't. In fact, had I been fortunate enough to fall asleep, I would have been looking for a chiropractor by the time you read this.

This seems to be a problem with the Danish medical profession: they have an unnatural aversion to pain relievers. They always want you to drink chamomile tea and see if things don't improve on their own. "If they don't, just come back." Invariably things do improve—either that or you end up in hospital—so the doctor is left with the feeling that he or she has serviced you properly.

I have not been serviced properly.

The doctor I visited this afternoon, though otherwise entirely competent, told me that chamomile tea, steam treatment, and sitting upright in bed would give me enough relief to sleep. I've had so much chamomile tea that my piss smells like flowers and taken in so much steam that I'll be wrinkle-free until I'm ninety. Sitting in bed with the upper and lower parts of my body at a ninety-degree angle didn't do anything for my sinuses but aggravated the hell out of my back.

Codeine, please. Vicodin. Any of those wonderful pills that lets a human being actually sleep despite considerable pain.

I hope I never have to go through surgery in this country. "Hello, Mr. Nagan, I'll be your anesthesiologist. Before the surgeon begins this very painful surgical procedure, I'm going to brew you a lovely pot of chamomile tea..."

It's not just me. Prior to my appointment, I told my studieskolen classmates that I hoped the doctor would give me something to help me sleep. They all shook their heads, recollecting miseries of their own.

"She's going to tell you do drink chamomile tea," they all said. Men and women from five continents in unanimous agreement: Danish doctors need to hand out more pills.

* * *

Yeah, sure, probably it's a good thing that they don't, probably chamomile tea will some day be discovered to cure half the diseases known to man, prevent cancer, remove stains, and power highly-efficient automobiles. It's organic, non-addictive, and probably boosts the immune system and improves the smell of your flatulence.

But it's tea, for the love of God—tea.

* * *

Trine called me on my cellphone while I was on the Metro yesterday. She had a question about a recipe. It called for shelled oats. Did that mean oats in shells or oats that had been removed from their shells?

It was an American recipe from an American cookbook written entirely in American. Trine posed the question in American. Yet I had no idea.

According to Websters, shelled can be the past tense of the verb shell, meaning "to strip or break off the shell of; to take out of the shell, pod, etc.; as, to shell nuts or peas; to shell oysters." It can also mean "having a shell."

In other words, the same word means having a shell and being removed from a shell.

Let's not speak of oats, though, because most of us probably don't deal with them very often. I myself didn't even realize oats had shells until this question arose. So let's talk about peanuts.

First of all, what is a peanut? Each particular little edible nut inside the shell, or the shell and however many of those little seeds it contains?

If we assume a peanut is just the nut itself, then shouldn't we speak of buying "shelled peanuts" when we buy them in the shell?

But if our definition of a peanut includes the shell, then a "shelled peanut," in the sense of a nut stripped of its shell, wouldn't even be an actual peanut. It would be a peanut nut (cf. Christopher Guest's nut monologue in Best in Show). So however we define a peanut, this notion of "shelling" is going to be troublesome.

What we ought to do, which is what the Danes do, is have different words for shelled and unshelled. A shelled thing is something in a shell; an unshelled thing is something that has had its shell removed.

Just a suggestion.

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Important fathering lesson: always preview internet content before you turn to the wife and kid and say, "Here's something fun!"

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It's Independence Day in Austria. It's the birthday of Lauren Tewes (1954), Pat Sajak (1947), Jaclyn Smith (1947), Bob Hoskins (1942), Jackie Coogan (1914), and Mahalia Jackson (1911).

Happy Tuesday!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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