30 Dec. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

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A Hospital Mystery

I checked off two more hospitals on my life-list this week.  A friend had minor surgery and I picked her up and drove her home.  One.  Another friend ended up back in a different hospital after suffering a relapse from an infection a few weeks ago and I paid a visit.  Two.

My friend in hospital two is not unduly keen on food at the best of times, and when bedridden generally needs an incentive to eat more than a few bites.  Hospitals, in case you haven't had the pleasure, are not the best at providing such incentives.  While I was attending, a friendly aide delivered a plate containing a brick of random veggies.  It didn't look all that unappetizing, and actually smelled pretty good.  If I found it on my plate under other circumstances, I might well be tempted to eat it, especially in the absence of anything else that was recognizable.  And especially tempted if my other option was the bottle ofsomethingthat was presented as an alternative or supplement or perhaps just as a colorful garnish.  The bottle was passed to me since I had my glasses and could put it under the light in an attempt to ascertain just what it was.  This was a challenge.  I have "viewed with alarm" the bizarre marketing trend of the " 'n' ," which is the tendency to name products with compound adjectives.  Perhaps it started with "CoolWhip," where a descriptive noun might be implied by the "Whip," implying a whipped desert or topping.  Then there is Tropicana's "Light 'n Healthy," only one apostrophe away from full obscurity.  But at least that package eventually discloses its contents, a "light orange juice beverage."  (There are also Light-n'-Crispy Bars, with a contrarily-located apostrophe.)  And "Smooth 'N' Creamy" which discloses itself to be a pale ale.  As Bill, my apostrophe consultant will aver if given a forum, I myself am no paragon of appropriate usage of this unusually versatile albeit minuscule symbol and so refrain from any implied criticism. 

But that's just an aside, a lead-in to the subject of this mysterious bottle.  Its lack not only of apostrophes but also of any comestible-related noun had us baffled.  I accepted the challenge of trying to find a referent.  E.g., is it a drink?  A food?  I was told one came with every meal.  Perhaps patients at this hospital were required to learn to juggle?

My first attempt to deduce the contents was partially fruitful.  Using the normal rules of English construction, I could tell by the subtitles (center panel) that it was a "convenient snack" or a "meal replacement."  That's incomplete in the sense that "convenient snack" doesn't tell you what it is.  Neither does "meal replacement" do any more than tell you what it isn't.  But that was the best I could do.  Perhaps it's a "nutrition"? 

For better or worse my friend the recipient was having none of it.  Neither was she strong or agile enough in her weakened condition to attempt to juggle the containers.  I slipped one into my pocket and this blogitem is the result.  I've sized the photos so you can just read the ingredients.  As you might expect from one who can sing the element song, I also get enjoyment from reading lists of ingredients.  I was especially pleased to see that this concoction contains some trace elements that are needed by the body in tiny quantities.  Included are chromium, cobalt, selenium, and molybdenum along with the usual suspects (or pollutants, depending on where you find them).


NP:  "Nothin' At All" - Heart  (An apostrophic coincidence, I promise.)

Richard Factor

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