Sunday, June 21, 2009

Audiophile in the Making

Up until two weeks ago, audiobooks failed to interest me. Raised as a voracious reader, I was always wary of starting a relationship with books on tape. To me, there really is nothing else like finishing a book. Good or bad, you can still close the book with your own hands, sit back in your chair, and think about what you just read. Thanks to my new job, however, I am free to listen to audiobooks all day, everyday. And I do listen to them. All day, everyday. According to my newsletter from

Listen to this:

The average reader gets through only 5 books a year, but the average AudibleListener® member completes 16 books a year.

Side note: I love how the email begins with "Listen to this." I love it because, on more than one occasion, I have caught myself saying "I finally read Call of the Wild (eg)! Today! All of it!" Am I correct to say I "read" Call of the Wild when I actually "listened" to several volunteers recite the story? Is correct to demand I "listen" to what they have to say when I am actually "reading" it?! I apologize for the digression, but I have struggled with the wording more than I would like to admit.

That little tidbit that is gloating over is exactly what I thought I did not like about audiobooks. What's wrong with getting through 5 books per year? I've already been through 5 (nearly 6) audiobooks this month and I am not even sure I have fully appreciated them. I cannot, after all, grab a pencil and underline choice phrases and words (yes, I do this). I cannot savor passages and dogear pages to return to at a later time (yep, I do this, too). While I feel that audiobooks have certainly preserved my sanity over the past month, I can't help but feel like they have stolen just the smallest part of my reader's soul in exchange.

There is something to be said for books on tape, though. I recently finished Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down (not good) and I fully appreciated the authentic accents of the readers. With the exception of the Hornby book, librivox has been my guide to the books on tape world thus far. While I have been completely satisfied with the site, I sometimes cringe at the attempted accents of the readers (all volunteers, a majority of whom are Ontarians). I suppose I equate this aspect of books on tape to seeing a play - while Shakespeare's prose are very rich, who really wants to see Fran Drescher play Ophelia?

In case you are interested, tomorrow I begin Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Gibble Fisted Kinda Life

I have always had a soft spot for southpaws and how they display such pride for their dominant hand. In a world where most people want to fit in, left-handers rebel - they are different, and they are proud. I kinda like that. Perhaps I have always been interested in lefties since we are kindred spirits of sorts. Yes, I am a right-hander who possesses one curious left-handed trait: thanks to my first grade teacher, Cindy Martin, I write like a leftie. I, too, experience the dreaded smear of ink on the paper and I, too, must pause to wash the ink off the side of my hand before I move on to the next line. It's a tedious affair sometimes. August 13 marks Left Handers Day, which is just around the corner. Their slogan, "Celebrate Your Right to be Left Handed" speaks volumes about their agenda, I think. To give you a better idea of what they're all about, here's the chorus for the song "Lefty Lament," written by long-standing Left Handers Club member Ian Radburn:

We're the Cack-Handed Kings, we're the LEFTIES
You right-handers just haven't got a clue
'Cos if you'd been through what we've been through
Then maybe you would feel superior too!

As you can imagine, the rest of the song is basically a laundry list of problems left handers face in their everyday lives (clashing with his right-handed wife, for example) and how they just feel different.

After a bit of research, it is glaringly evident that the word "left" is surrounded solely by negative connotations. In Welsh, the word chwith means left, but can also mean strange, awkward, or wrong. In ancient China, the left has been the "bad" side. The adjective "left" means "improper" or "out of accord". In Russian, "to stray left" is a euphemism for being unfaithful to a spouse or partner. The question is: Why, then, do some countries drive on the "bad" side of the road? About a quarter of the world drives on the left side of the road - mostly old British colonies. This transportation quirk may be seen as just another way to isolate the left in a right world, but there is a perfectly good reason for it. Believe it or not, it all comes down to a bit of swordplay.

In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road since that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left so that their right arm would be closer to their opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.

In addition, it is easier for a right-handed person to mount a horse from the animal's left side, and it would be very difficult to do otherwise if wearing a sword (which would be worn on the left). It is safer to mount and dismount towards the side of the road rather than in the middle of traffic, so if one mounts on the left, then the horse should be ridden on the left side of the road. Simple as that.

As it happens, Napoleon, everyone's favorite self-proclaimed Emperor, was a southpaw and is also the man responsible for France's keep-right practice. A popular story from the Napoleonic period states the country's leader changed the rule of the road in all of the countries he conquered from keep-left to keep-right. Thanks to Napoleon's dominant hand, his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and the advancing enemy. From this time any part of the world that was colonised by the French would travel on the right, while the rest would continue travelling on the left.

Some countries still manage to keep things interesting, though. Montreal's Autoroute 20 is a prime example - between Route 138 and the Turcot Interchange, the carriageways reverse, making it one of the only stretches of roadway in Canada where traffic drives on the left side of the road. O Canada!

The question becomes, when will the lefties of the world colonize their own state, where everyday is Left Handers Day, President Radburn rules, and left-handed coffee mugs, notebooks, and keep-left signs are omnipresent?

Monday, May 5, 2008

This Little Piggie Went to War

Take a good look at that face. Cute little porker, isn't he? One would not think such a face could start a war, but they would be wrong. It is said that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand marked the beginning of World War I; the shooting of a hungry pig, on the other hand, sparked what is known as the Pig War.

In 1818, an Anglo-American agreement declared joint occupation of the Oregon Country, but by 1845 both parties had grown displeased with this settlement. The British, determined to resist the movement of American migration across the Rocky Mountains, argued the Americans infringed upon land guaranteed to Britain in earlier treaties and explorations, as well as through trading activities of Britain's esteemed Hudson's Bay Company. Americans, on the other hand, saw the British presence as an offense to their "manifest destiny" and were not keen on the idea that the land west of the Rockies should remain under foreign control.

The Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846 resolved the Anglo-American dispute by dividing the Oregon Country/Columbia District between the United States and Britain "along the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of [Juan de] Fuca's Straits, to the Pacific Ocean." Sounds evenhanded, no? Unfortunately, there are actually two straits one could refer to as the middle of the channel: Haro Strait, which rests alongside the west of the San Juan Islands; and Rosario Strait, located on the east side. Thanks to this ambiguity, both the United States and Britain could claim sovereignty over the San Juan Islands.

By 1859 there were about 18 Americans inhabiting San Juan Island who settled on redemption claims that they expected the U.S. Government to recognize as valid, but which the British considered illegal. Neither side recognized the authority of the other. Needless to say, the Brits and Americans were not exactly feeling neighborly at this point in time and it would take little for an American to upset a Brit, and vice versa.

Enter the pig.

On June 15, 1859, the uncertainty presented by the Oregon Treaty resulted in direct conflict. Lyman Cutlar, an American living on San Juan Island, shot and killed a pig fiddling in his garden. Little did Cutlar know, Charles Griffin, an Irish employee of the Hudson's Bay Company, owned the ravenous culprit. The relationship between Cutlar and Griffin had been an amicable one until this episode, and Cutlar offered the Irishman $10 to compensate for the death of the pig. Unsatifised, Griffin asked for $100. Surprised by Griffin's reply, Cutlar believed he did not have to pay such a high price since the pig was trespassing on his land, after all. In what is possibly an apocryphal exchange, Cutlar said, "Your pig was eating my potatoes," to which Griffin snidely replied, "It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig." When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar for the shooting of the pig, American citizens drew up a petition requesting U.S. military protection.

Enter the 9th Infantry, comprised of 66 U.S. soldiers.

Concerned that a squatter population of Americans would begin to occupy San Juan Island if the Americans were not kept in check, the British sent in three warships under the command of Captain Geoffrey Hornby to counter the Americans. By August 10, 1859, 461 Americans were opposed by five British warships mounting 70 guns and carrying 2,140 men. While forces grew on both sides, their guns remained quiet. British Rear Admiral Robert L. Bayes, did his best to avoid war. He would not, he said, "involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig." Local commanding officers on both sides were given the same orders: defend yourselves, but absolutely do not fire the first shot. For many days, the British and U.S. soldiers slung insults, each side attempting to goad the others into firing the first shot. Alas, not one bullet was fired throughout the entirety of the war, save for the one that killed that little piggie.

When news of the Pig War reached Washington, officials were amazed that the shooting of a pig could stir such an international commotion. U.S. President James Buchanan dispatched General Winfield Scott, commanding general of the U.S. Army, to investigate, and hopefully terminate the potentially deadly encounter. It wasn't until 1872 that the question was put to a third party for a decision. On October 21, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany declared the San Juan Islands American property; land north of the 49th parallel was Canadian, to the south it was American.

Exit the British.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Keep Moving On

Who is buried in Grant's Tomb? Asked on many quiz shows, including the Groucho Marx-hosted You Bet Your Life, this was the supposed "easy" question; one a host would ask a contestant so they would not go home empty-handed. Despite being a consolation prize question, it is actually quite tricky for two reasons: first, Grant's Tomb is really a mausoleum - North America's largest, in fact - meaning the bodies are kept above ground. The proper answer to the question, then, is "nobody." Yar har. Second, the Tomb houses the bodies of both Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia, although Marx often accepted "Grant" as an appropriate response. While in New York a few years back, I visited Grant's Tomb which is in a nice location in Riverside Park overlooking the Hudson River - prime New York City property. Sitting on a bench near the gargantuan limestone building, I overheard a son asking his father the famous trick question:

"Who lives here?" asked the child,

"Thomas Jefferson," the father replied.


The father and son walked away, hand in hand. Sure, I think it is safe to say we all use $20 bills more often than we use $50 bills, but Ulysses S. Grant is not a man one should confuse with Jefferson.

Military historian J.F.C. Fuller described Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant) as "the greatest general of his age and one of the greatest strategists of any age." Indeed, Grant won many important battles, rose to become general-in-chief of the Union armies, and is credited with winning the American Civil War. Some may even argue that Grant receives more respect for his military years than the ones he spent as President in the White House. It is interesting that Grant is seen as a military hero when in fact he was very mild-mannered and even said of himself, "I am more of a farmer than a soldier. I take little or no interest in military affairs." During a visit to Mexico, Grant attended a bullfight but left before the fight was over, disgusted with the cruelty displayed towards the animal. In his personal memoirs, Grant recounted, "The sight to me was sickening. I could not see how human beings could enjoy the sufferings of beasts, and often of men, as they seemed to do on these occasions." One would not expect to hear such tender sentiments from a celebrated war hero, but a war hero Grant was - not to mention, a man whose love for a good cigar led to the making of a legendary story.

While Grant fought in the Mexican War, he did so reluctantly, even calling it "one of the most unjust wars ever waged by a stronger nation against a weaker one." Hmm... sounds familiar. Grant reportedly saw the Civil War as a punishment for America's sins in Mexico and when President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to enlist in the Union army, Grant did so with great zest. In addition to enlisting, Grant helped organize Illinois volunteer regiments and the Governor of the state asked him to organize one particularly boisterous regiment. By September of 1861 Grant whipped the regiment into shape and became the brigadier general of volunteers in the war. Unstoppable, Grant took Fort Henry and attacked Tennessee's Fort Donelson in February of 1862. Simon P. Buckner, Fort Donelson's Confederate commander, proposed a cease-fire and when asked for his terms, Grant famously replied, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." Needless to say, the Confederates surrendered and Grant was given the nickname "Unconditional Surrender Grant," which is quite a mouthful if you ask me. Two months after his victory at Fort Donelson, Grant fought at the Battle of Shiloh, a bloody skirmish that ultimately ended as another victory for Grant. After the Battle of Shiloh Lincoln joyfully chirped, "When General Grant once gets possession of a place he seems to hang onto it as if he had inherited it."

While the Battle of Shiloh was indeed a victory for the Union, the taking of Fort Donelson came at a crucial point in the Civil War, and many argue that this triumph is Grant's shining moment during the war. Indeed, the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson were the first significant Union victories in the war and opened two great rivers as avenues of invasion to the heartland of the South. In addition, the Union suffered 2,691 casualties while the Confederacy saw 13,846, largely due to the Confederate surrender. The Union and its supporters rejoiced, the Chicago Tribune announced the city "reeled mad with joy," and many proclaimed Grant a savior. After his victory the public showered Grant with gifts of thanks, including 10,000 boxes of cigars.

A well-known cigar afficionado, it is said that Grant smoked his way through all 10,000 boxes in five years.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Speckled Monster

In 1806 President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward Jenner, the developer of the smallpox vaccination, "Future generations will know by history only that the loathsome smallpox has existed." Smallpox afflicted humankind as no other disease had done; during the 20th century, it is estimated that the disease was responsible for 300–500 million deaths. To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated from nature. The last cases of smallpox in the world occurred in an outbreak of 2 instances in Birmingham, England in 1978. One of the victims, medical photographer Janet Parker, passed away after contracting the disease. In light of this accident, all known stocks of the virus were either destroyed or transferred to one of two laboratories in the United States or Russia. I can't help but think of Jurassic Park when considering the random instances when smallpox has decided to rear its speckled, pockmarked head - just when you thought the world was safe from attacks... a T-Rex somehow ends up terrorizing San Diego in an awful sequel.

Smallpox is one of history's oldest and fearsome diseases. Many believe smallpox emerged in human populations in 10,000 BC. - the earliest evidence of its deadly mischief is found on the scarred mummified body of Pharaoh Ramesses V of Egypt. Indeed, smallpox affected many people and, in some cases, entire populations as it traveled its pustular, rash-inducing path - before it was eradicated in 1980, smallpox infections affected as many as 15 million people per year. Smallpox had made itself quite comfortable in the immune systems of Europeans by the sixteenth century. As Europe's population increased and packed into cities, smallpox epidemics appeared more frequently and with greater intensity. As another indication of its increasing strength, epidemics in the 1560s crept over the palace walls of several European monarchs of France, Spain, and England.

On October 10, 1562, Queen Elizabeth I of England felt a little under the weather and took a long walk through her gardens to get some fresh air. A few days later, Elizabeth felt feverish and faint, and her advisers called in German-born physician, Dr. Burcot. The doctor correctly informed his queen, "My liege, thou shalt have the pox;" Elizabeth became outraged upon hearing his verdict. Truth be told, Elizabeth was quite narcissistic and the prospect of contracting a disease that would leave her with a badly scarred face most likely frightened her - should she survive the illness at all, that is! Elizabeth's rival, Mary, the queen of Scots, was rumored to be quite beautiful and this, in all likelihood, only fueled Elizabeth's denial that she did not have smallpox. Agitated, the waggish Elizabeth waved Burcot away, "Have away the knave out of my sight," and off the doctor went, feeling slighted.

Hours after Burcot's departure, Elizabeth became incoherent and sank into a coma. From the start of Elizabeth's reign, all of England questioned who the queen would choose to marry. Elizabeth, however, never married and the reasons for her choice are not clear. Indeed, the queen once said, "If I follow the inclination of my nature, it is this: beggar-woman and single, far rather than queen and married." After Elizabeth became increasingly ill, her council became increasingly distressed over who would be their queen's successor should smallpox take her life. Parliament had urged the queen to marry or nominate an heir to prevent civil war upon her death, but Elizabeth did neither. In her feverish state the queen begged the council to appoint Lord Robert Dudley, a childhood friend with whom her affair was widely speculated upon, as her successor. In the interim, two of the queen's servants were sent to summon Burcot from his home; still sore from his earlier interaction with Elizabeth, the doctor initially rejected aiding the queen, "By God's pestilence, if she be sick, there let her die! Call me a knave for my good will!" Touché, Burcot. One of Elizabeth's servants threatened to kill the doctor right then and there if he refused to help the queen, so, reluctantly, Burcot rode his horse to the palace and advised the queen be wrapped in a flannel blanket beside the fireplace in order to keep warm. Burcot also administered medicine and when Elizabeth came to a few hours later, she was furious that red spots appeared on her hands as a result of taking the treatment. Upon hearing her groans, prickly Burcot exploded, "God's pestilence! Which is better? To have a pox on the hand or in the face, or in the heart and kill the whole body?" If only Elizabeth chose to marry Burcot... imagine the tempestuous spats, the screeching that would reverberate off the palace walls!

As a testament to her strong will and plucky ways, Elizabeth recovered in six days. Elizabeth was fortunate - several fellow royal victims and millions of commoners were scarred, blinded, or slain by the disease that historian TB Macaulay called "the most terrible of all the ministers of death." To thank the doctor who saved her life (the queen was not that prideful after all), Elizabeth gifted Burcot with a pair of gold spurs that she inherited from her grandfather, Henry VII, as well as land in Cornwall. Soon, the queen was writing letters to her rival, Mary the queen of Scots, happily letting her know that the disease had not left many scars on her face. Alas, Elizabeth could still compete with Mary's beauty after all (at least until Elizabeth imprisoned and eventually executed her rival in 1587 - I imagine it is not hard to remain more attractive than someone holed up in a sixteenth century prison). After overcoming smallpox, Elizabeth took to painting her face with white lead and vinegar in an attempt to conceal her scars. An inventive, albeit highly poisonous concoction. Regardless of her curious make-up habit and a nasty meeting with one of the deadliest diseases known to humankind, Elizabeth, or The Virgin Queen, as many called her, lived to be 70 years old.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Worst Journey in the World

There are a few types of diaries: those that are used for institutional purposes and those that we generally think of when we hear the word "diary" - the diaries that record our innermost thoughts and ramblings, frustrations, and dreams. I kept several diaries throughout my childhood and well into my teen years and these continue to be a constant source of entertainment and embarrassment. Reading someone else's diary can be just as entertaining, if not more so, than re-visiting one's own past diaries. And if you hold a possibly unhealthy obsession with early Antarctic explorers like I do, reading their journals is definitely more interesting than opening my Mead notebooks from the past. Indeed, when scientific journals get personal, things can get pretty exciting.

Edward Wilson, known as "Ted" to his family and "Uncle Bill" to his peers, is one of the most prominent figures of early Antarctic exploration. Wilson took part in two British expeditions to the Antarctic: the British National Antarctic Expedition (or Discovery Expedition), and the Terra Nova Expedition. Wilson served as a Junior Surgeon and Zoologist in the former, a trek that, at the time, was the southern-most journey achieved by any explorer. Wilson traveled with Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton during the Discovery Expedition and his easy and professional manner was attractive to Scott and Shackleton, so much so, in fact, that each invited Wilson on subsequent journeys. Shackleton invited Wilson to be Second in Command on another trip, romancing Wilson with several letters filled with sentiments such as "Don't say no 'till we have had a talk. Don't say no at all." I like to imagine Shackleton whispering these words into Wilson's ear, coaxing Wilson to join him in frolicking upon the Antarctic floes, admiring baby penguins from afar. Isn't it picturesque? Alas, Wilson rejected Shackleton and instead opted to run off with Scott on what would later be called "The Worst Journey in the World."

In a letter to his mother written prior to the 1910 journey, Wilson wrote, "I am to go as 'Leader of the Scientific Staff,' a high sounding title with the disagreeable duty attached to it of having to reply to toasts on behalf of the scientific staff at the send off dinners." Despite the sarcastic tone used here, after reading his diary, it is obvious that Wilson possessed the necessary qualities of a great leader and that he took much pleasure in his scientific work. For the most part, Wilson's diary acts as a strictly technical recording of his days aboard the Terra Nova, but occasionally he allows readers a glimpse into his personal experience of being in Antarctica and the overwhelming joy he felt while there. After witnessing a pod of killer whales swimming close to the Terra Nova, Wilson writes: "These days are with one for all time... and they are to be found nowhere else in all the world but at the poles."

In the winter of 1911 Wilson fractured from the rest of the Terra Nova crew and led "The Winter Journey" with Henry Robertson Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard. The three men trekked to Cape Crozier to collect Emperor penguin embryos to study what Wilson hypothesized was the most primitive bird in existence. Wilson's account of this journey is much less descriptive than Cherry-Garrard's. Indeed, peers teased Cherry-Garrard for his lack of Antarctic experience and his lack of specialized credentials for the position of 'assistant zoologist' to which he had been named. It makes sense, then, that this young buck's journal would perhaps be more descriptive and written with a wide-eyed tone, unlike Wilson, a man who had been around the icy block several times.

After the three men returned from The Winter Journey, barely alive after working in complete darkness and -40 degree weather, Wilson set out with another party to reach the South Pole. After weeks of trekking through the harshest conditions one could imagine, the five men reached the Pole on January 17, 1912 only to discover that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen preceded them by merely 21 days. Wilson's journal remains detached; he states the facts and lists what the party found at the site. While one can sense disappointment in his writing, Wilson remains stoic and trudges along, although he writes his final entry on February 27, 1912. Robert Scott's diary, on the other hand, continues almost a month after Wilson's ends. Why? Perhaps Wilson's maxim, "to become entirely careless of your own soul or body in looking after the welfare of others" has something to do with it. Indeed, after reading Scott's diary, one can really see that Wilson was a completely selfless leader: "We none of us expected these terribly low temperatures, and of the rest of us Wilson is feeling them most; mainly, I fear, from his self-sacrificing devotion in doctoring Oates' feet. We cannot help each other, each has enough to do to take care of himself." Despite Scott's sentiments, Wilson continued to help his fellow explorers until he physically could not. It is exhilarating and heart-breaking at the same time to read Scott's last few entries - the men are 11 miles away from safety, but a blizzard, exhaustion, and terrible frostbite prevent them from moving. Reading these entries is similar to watching a horror film: the protagonists are so close to safety yet they can never outrun the villain that constantly nips at their heels.

Although Wilson's journal ends in February, there is a letter he wrote on either March 21 or 22 to his parents and it is astounding how lucid and poised he was: "The end has come and with it an earnest looking forward to the day when we shall all meet together in the hereafter."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sweet Sweat

I sometimes still read the comics section of the newspaper. As a child, I had a few favorites: "Fox Trot," "Garfield," and "For Better or For Worse" for some unknown reason. I generally avoided the strips drawn with any actual artistic talent (see Mary Worth and Judge Parker) - the storylines were too dramatic and the drawings too Lichtenstein-esque for my young mind.

When I was in the 2nd grade, a conversation in the carpool ride on the way home turned to the topic of comic strips. Being the youngest of the group, and desperately wanting to fit in, I piped up and claimed to be a follower of "Cathy," a comic strip in which I never displayed much interest, but thought it was a mature choice anyway (should have stuck with "For Better or For Worse"). My so-called preference was immediately met with jeers and yelps of dismay and this is when I exited the conversation and spent the rest of the ride home brooding and staring out the rear window of the Volvo station wagon, looking wistfully at the other drivers on the highway, wishing I could be in their car because I was sure that they would appreciate "Cathy."

I never did get into "Cathy," most likely because of the carpool disaster, but over the years I have had the opportunity to learn a little about Cathy's life and I have to say that she strikes me as quite a neurotic one. I gather she has landed herself a husband at last, but who knows whether or not she will ever end her plight of fitting into that coveted bikini. I feel like "Cathy" is intended to be the comic strip to which every modern woman can relate; the comic strip that is meant to be taped on the refrigerator right next to a postcard of 3 comically-dressed older ladies on pogo sticks.

I revisited "Cathy" one recent morning and saw that she was still burdened by her usual woes - namely, food! While there were many things of note in this strip (namely, the lack of actual humor), the thing that struck me the most was the last panel. A liquid seemed to be spouting from Cathy's head. Using context clues, I could only assume the liquid in question was sweat. I sifted through the recycling and checked out a couple more "Cathy" strips. Lo and behold, Cathy was sweating in several of the panels!! She wasn't even sweating. No, she was projectile sweating! Whenever Cathy became a little flustered, large beads of sweat leapt off her body like lemmings throwing themselves off a bridge. I looked up "excessive sweating" on and it appears Cathy suffers from hyperhidrosis, "a common disorder which produces a lot of unhappiness." This is what they said:

Sweating is embarrassing, it stains clothes, ruins romance, and complicates business and social interactions. Severe cases can have serious practical consequences as well, making it hard for people who suffer from it to hold a pen, grip a car steering wheel, or shake hands.

No wonder Cathy is so unhappy! She can barely hold a pen in her hand! I get it now! The website even recommended undergoing surgery to treat this embarrassing disorder which may be a sign of thyroid disease (!). Who will take care of Electra when Cathy dies of thyroid disease?