Okay, here is the site for my study:


Please, go take it. If you've already taken it, I need you to take it again. There was a technical glitch and as of right now, Tuesday, August 28th at 4.15pm, I have ZERO survey responses. The problem has been fixed, but that still leaves me with NO data. Please, please help me.



I was clipping coupons and I got some for "Yo-plus: Digestive Health" from Yoplait. I was skeptical, but I grabbed them anyway. Then, at the store, I noticed that the Yo-plus was on sale, and the sale plus my coupon brought the price down to about 35 cents per yogurt cup. Not bad. So I bought them. But, what do they do?

Like a lot of people, I guess (20% of America, according to the Yo-plus site), my digestive system is out of whack. It's nothing specific; I just feel yucky. All the time. Before I eat, after I eat ANYTHING - it doesn't seem to matter. It's not really enough of a problem for me to go to the doctor, because, let's face it, I don't have any specific symptoms except "my tummy hurts a lot". So I'm definitely open to the idea of not having to deal with that anymore. Yoplait is claiming they can help.

So, I went to the site, yo-plus.com, to see what all the fuss was about. Mind you, there's a lot of marketing there. The dumbed-down version of how it works that they offer consumers is:

Yo-plus has Optibalance (tm), a special blend probiotics and prebiotics to help the good bacteria beat the bad bacteria in your system. Also, it's a great source of fiber (3 grams!) and calcium, and vitamins A & D! And it's only 110 calories! Tell your friends!

If you're a health-care professional (or if you were hoping for a slightly less "magical" explanation of their product), you get a 3-page PDF.

Roughly 50% of the contents of your colon, right now, are bacteria. Our internal bacterial ecosystems are pretty much essential for life as we know it. But, like all ecosystems, there is a balance, and things like poor diet and stress can throw things off.

So, what's all this fuss about "Optibalance"?

Basically, "probiotics" are nothing new, they're just the good bacteria your doctors are always telling you to eat. L. acidophilus, anyone? Yo-plus seems to have particularly high concentrations of Bifidobacterium lactis Bb 12, a strain frequently added to regular yogurt and other products for its health benefits, namely to GI function.

"Prebiotics" are in this case, inulin, a non-digestible fiber from chicory root. It acts as food for the Bb 12 in the digestive tract, and also (presumably through its presence as a food source) selectively stimulates growth of more Bb 12 in your system.

The 3 grams of fiber? Actually, it's just the 3 grams of "prebiotic" chicory root fiber. I can't imagine it's actually helping much, since it's non-digestible. It's kind of like if I were to say I have a sofa in my living room. Plus, I have a divan in my living room! In reality, it's one, ugly couch, but when I use adspeak, it sounds like I've got a wealth of furniture, here.

So, is Yo-plus any more beneficial than just eating yogurt? I don't know. But for 35 cents, I'm willing to give it a try. Has anyone else tried it? What do you think?



Occasionally, a random, completely irrelevant loose end springs to my mind, and gnaws away at my sanity. Today, I've been preoccupied with The Mystery of the Missing Ring.

Until several years ago, my parents (read: my mother) were (was?) in possession of Aunt E's hideous ring, or, as I like to call it, The Opal Monstrosity. This singularly unattractive gold ring featured a large opal and about 10-15 small diamonds clustered around it haphazardly in ropey, uneven settings. The ring was so spectacularly ugly that it managed to make the reasonably nice gemstones in it look like costume jewelry. It was a semi-precious nightmare. If you wanted to look like you had a jewel-encrusted boil on your hand, this was the ring for you. Also, it weighed a ton. And did I mention it was enormous?

The mysterious thing about this ring (other than the mystery of "OMG, what were they thinking?!?) is that it has disappeared. It hasn't been misplaced, of this we're certain. To my knowledge, my mother has NEVER worn it (why would she?) and until its disappearance, it resided in the top drawer of her jewelry box. Theft is the logical solution, if equally ridiculous. None of my mother's other jewelry is missing. If someone has indeed stolen it, they had to bypass other, more attractive (and potentially more valuable) pieces of jewelry, and specifically select THAT ring.

Here's what I know about it. My parents came into possession of the ring many years ago, when Aunt E and Jim were in a bit of a financial pinch. My parents gave them a certain amount of money ($800 is what I heard), and, not being one to ask for charity, yet not in a position to refuse, Aunt E gave my parents The Opal Monstrosity. It lived in my mother's jewelry box for years, and I remember marveling at its twisted, misshapen form as a young girl. Then, several years ago, somewhere between 5 and 10 years, actually, the ring simply disappeared. Vanished. Gone. No one has any idea what happened to it.

Now, while a ring of such personality and fascinating ugliness has many powers, self-relocation is not one of them. Someone moved that ring. I'm sure any statute of limitations re:theft have long since expired, and I'm just dying to know what happened to it! Where did Aunt E get it? (Why did she ever own it?) When did she give it to my parents? How much did they "pay" her for it? When did it disappear? Where did it go? Who took it there?

If you know anything about the history or disappearance of this ring, if you remember anyone wearing it (ever), or know of any anecdotes regarding it, I'd love to hear them!


Not a hack!

My IRB approval letter came in the mail yesterday!!! That means I'm a real researcher, doing real research, approved by a major university! Now I'm an actual scientist!!! It's enough to make a girl want to overuse italics!



The oppressive heat of the El Paso summer was stifling, and the air was so still, she could almost hear the sweat rolling off her brow. The mid-afternoon desert sun beat down on her from above, and was reflected back to her from below by a silent sea of sand. She was impressed by how small it was. She had always imagined the desert as a place where the sun loomed, large and menacing, but she found it now a small, intensely bright disc, impossibly high, seemingly light years away.
"Well, light minutes", she said, to no one in particular.


Newsflash: It's hot.
By the way, should it be "disc" there, or "disk"? I know both spellings are correct, but I'm never sure which one to use. I went with "disc" because it's like "discus", but I could be way off.