Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When I Thought I Could Know Everything

I was chatting by email with a fellow writer. We're learning how to use social media and other Internet communication venues to reach our readers and potential readers. There's so much to learn. I never mastered small talk, and that seems to be a basic skill for making web-friends. I was never popular. I didn't want to be.

But one thing I clearly remember wanting from the time I was eight years old -- I wanted to know everything. When I was eight, I thought this was possible. My teacher said everything I could possibly want to know was in the library. I was a fast reader. The library was only a few rooms. I figured I could read every book in the building by the time I was 20. And then, I'd know everything.

I became fascinated with every book. Deep sea pearl diving, asteroids, fossils, myths, the list was long, but it was finite. I imagined that the sum of all knowledge was finite. It didn't even occur to me that the poems and stories that I wrote, that my classmates wrote, were adding to the sum of stuff to read on the planet.

I was nine when I noticed that the library bought new books every year. That was okay. I was a fast reader. I could still read everything by the time I was 20. Then I noticed that bookstores had books that were not on library shelves. And the library refused to buy them. Different book stores had different books. The infinity of it all. I was never going to know everything. Even if I did nothing but read for the rest of my life.

I've never been able to make a conscious choice of topics I care about. They just float into my awareness. If I don't act on them, and grab a book, or surf the web, I forget about them. Even if I do surf the web and read about them, I may forget about them. But still, I feel as if I'm making a decent effort and getting a decent reward. I can't know everything, but I can know things I enjoy knowing. And I can know things I need to know, like how to use Map Quest to get directions, or how to sell stuff I don't want any more on eBay. These are finite skills, quickly acquired.

But social media. I've even bought books on it -- I just don't get it. It feels like working at being popular. When I was a kid, the librarian told me which books she thought I'd enjoy. The publishers told my librarian. The editors told the publishers. The publishing world used to be finite.

But today -- everybody can be published. And librarians still read the same short list of review magazines. And the review magazines still listen to the big publishers. But the big publishers aren't able to handle the expansion of topics, the expansion of knowledge, the infinite variety of new material. And I'm not interested in all of it, anyway.

The problem is figuring out what to do when I want my books noticed. And that means learning new skills. I just want it to happen. Why can't the people who know these new skills fall in love with my books and buzz them for me?

I never understood the kids in my class who didn't want to learn stuff. I have an insatiable appetite for learning stuff. I'm glad I never learned everything. But I don't want to learn social media. Why do I have to?

The answer is the same one that the teachers gave the recalcitrant students. "You don't have to learn it if you want to live without."

I never thought I'd sympathize with lazy learners. Now I know it's more than laziness. It's antipathy. I want to do what interests me. I don't want to study it just to pass the test. But the test is -- can my books reach their audience? And I very much want to pass that test.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Just When I Thought My Body was Getting Into Yoga

Saturday's Yoga class didn't start out well. The teacher yelled at me for being late. I wasn't late. I was 5 minutes early. She said I should have been 15 minutes early so I could be all set up with my mat, blankets, blocks and strap and sitting cross-legged before class begins. This is a school where sometimes the teachers are late. It was raining. I didn't want to stand out in the rain with my bike (which I bring into the building) waiting for the teacher. I'm glad she was there before I was. I just smiled and set up my props. She grouched at me again for getting a strap that she thought was too short. That was the only size available. I assuaged her by getting another strap. I know what I'm like when I'm grouchy. We're all entitled to be irrational now and then.

The cool thing was that I was able to do all of the asanas she chose for that lesson. I stood on my head, I did shoulder stand. I did the twists. I did all of it. Then she told us what we'll do next week -- a bunch of the asanas I can't do. Nevertheless I left feeling rather good about the progress I've been making with my body since being hit by a car.

I decided to try the new Vinyasa Yoga class at my gym. I got there ten minutes early. The teacher was late. She was gorgeous. If she has any spare bodies hanging in her closet, I'd be happy to wear one. She looked about 20. She was strong. She was flexible. And I couldn't do half of what she was teaching. She did a bunch of chatarangas. That's like a plank push up, but your shoulders are only as high as your heels and everything is held parallel to the floor. Only your toes and hands are on the floor. I can't hold that even for a second. Then she did something that started out innocently enough. Stand on your right foot. Bend the left leg so your left foot crosses your left thigh right above the knee. Bend your right knee into a one-legged chair pose. So far, so good. Now, lean forward and put your hands on the floor. That's where my balance went blewey. Back to one-legged chair pose. The rest of the class followed along. Now put your left knee on your right elbow and stretch your right leg off towards your left. Balance on your hands. Foo! This is not what I want from my body. I want to be flexible. I want to be strong. I do not want to be a pretzel. And most of all, I want to stop hurting.

It's been over 5 months. I'm doing my strengthening exercises and stretches daily. And I still hurt. Last time I was in this much pain (from arthritis) I went to the rehab department and asked for microcurrent. It reduced my pain and increased my range of motion. I went too often. I lost strength in my legs. I severely limited my vacation by having to hoist myself up monuments with a cane. It took over 2 months of hard work to get my strength back. And I never thought I'd use microcurrent again.

But this morning, I got over my ego-snit and called the woman who did the microcurrent last time and left a message on her machine. I'd like two more treatments -- if she's willing to see me. So far she hasn't called back.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Green, the Color of Spring and Mold

Green. The color of Spring. Spring has its place. We all start out young and tender, first reaching into the world with our tender tendrils. I'm glad it doesn't last long.

Spring is officially 1/4 of the year. Fortunately, it is only about 15% of our lives. In a good life, Fall, harvest season, is the longest season, with its rich golds and browns.

In Federico Garcia Lorca's Somnambulist Ballad, Green is the color of death. "Green green I want you green:
Green the wind, green the branches.
The ship upon the sea
and the horse in the mountain.
With the shadow at her waist
She dreams in her veranda,
green the flesh, green the hair,
and her eyes of cold silver.
Under the gypsy moon
They are watching her
and she cannot see them."

In the folk song Greensleeves, (what kind of folk sing this song?) Green is the color of rejection. The lass who wears the green sleeves rejects the singer / suitor.

For those of you old enough to remember, Green stamps were a gimmick at grocery stores that did not discount prices. You had to spend hours pasting the silly stamps into books and save them up for years before you could cash them in on something. My grandmother used to give me hers. I remember the happy day I had enough to get a set of 4 folding chairs and a folding table. Where did I get the hours in took to paste those silly things?

Green is the color of mold on bread. Scientists who grow bacteria on petri dishes used to throw dishes out if they got mold on them, because the mold would keep the bacteria from growing. Alexander Fleming became famous for figuring out this might be a good thing. Florey, Chain and Heatley got a Nobel prize for figuring out how to use Penicillin to fight disease.

Green is the color of envy. People who see chakras claim that Green is the color of the heart chakra (not red).

Green is the color of aliens. (except the lovely blue ones with the cool antennae on StarTrek). My skin is olive -- that's a shade of green. No wonder I married an alien.

Green is the color chlorine can turn your hair.

Green is what you get when you mix yellow and blue paint. Yellow is either happy or cowardly. Blue is patriotic, or sad. Does this make Green a cowardly patriot with bipolar emotions?

Green is the color of the ecology movement. I'm an eco-freak, but I think the color should be a rich brown, like fertile soil, and like my hair used to be.

Red is opposite Green on the color wheel. Red is the color of injury, anger and embarrassment. Injury is one way we outgrow green. The Green can be angry, but it's a different anger than Red. Green anger is from immediate pain. Red anger is from the world not being the way we wish. The Green cannot be embarrassed because that is a culturalization.

When people talk about becoming like a child for spiritual advancement, I think they mean giving up Red anger and Red embarrassment. But not giving up experience.

Mostly green means inexperienced and immature. In that respect, I'm glad I'm no longer green.

Monday, December 21, 2009

PowerPoint for Pre-Op

A week after my surgery, the surgeon showed me an x-ray of what he had done to my collar bone. Screws protruded through it, holding a metal plate on top. Nobody had told me I was going to be treated like a piece of carpentry and have holes drilled in my bones. Jock Doc asked if I had any questions. I asked, "Why didn't you use bone glue?"

I've been seeing articles on bone glue for over a decade. All they told me at pre-op was they were going to put the pieces of my collar bone back together. They showed me somebody else's x-ray with a lot more pieces than mine, but that's a separate issue.

The doc said bone glue isn't strong enough to hold a clavicle. A collar bone is not a particularly weight-bearing bone. These articles seem to indicate that bone glue is a viable option.

http://www.csiro.au/solutions/novosorb.html

http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2009/09/sandcastle-worm-bone-glue.html

The issue is how to help rushed and sleepy residents explain to potential surgery patients what the surgery is going to be.

PowerPoint seems to be a good answer. This is not an endorsement of Microsoft products. OpenOffice, Corel and Adobe all make equivalent products. I'm using the term PowerPoint here as a generic name for this type of software presentation.

Powerpoint presentations with graphics for each type of surgery and their side effects would provide a sensible solution. The resident would also read a script to the potential surgery patient from the notes of the ppt file. Printouts of the Powerpoint presentation and script could be given to the patient and family. In this mode, no information could be omitted or forgotten.

Powerpoint presentations to a patient enjoy several advantages over an oral explanation.

1) Powerpoint is visual as well as auditory. 60% of people do not learn well by audio presentation alone.

2) Residents are always sleepy and rushed. A Powerpoint presentation will make sure that no steps are left out.

3) A Powerpoint presentation can be tested and modified as improvements are noted.

I also suggest a quiz for the potential surgery patient to make sure he or she understood the explanation. The quiz would include simple questions, such as these for broken bones:
1) How many pieces of your broken bone will be put back together?
2) How will the bones be put back together?

Such a quiz would determine not only if the patient understood, but also if the patient was shown his or her own x-ray, or at least one that was substantially similar.

I'm just putting these ideas out there -- hoping hospitals all over the world will pick up on this idea. My motto is not -- sue the stuffing out of them. It's Never Again!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Can't Lift it Yet

I took my first full-scale computer job Friday. My client bought a computer for her boyfriend. She was saving money and didn't buy him a monitor because I told her I had an old 17" CRT one she could have. I used to carry these things around like a sack of groceries. My client was going to pay my cab fare to bring it to her. The thing was on the 3rd floor of my house. I could barely lift it a few inches. There was no way I could carry it down 2 flights of stairs and get it into a cab.

I thought these old monitors weighed about 30 lbs. Surely I can carry 30 lbs now. My collar bone is knitted. The surgeon says I can try to do anything just as if the bone never broke. But it's been 5 months since I lifted any thing heavy. Before the accident, I held my grandchildren on my hands. They weigh at least 40 lbs. Then I looked up the weight of a 17" CRT monitor. They average 55 lbs. I'm not up to that yet. I'm still practicing doing more reps with my 5 lb weights and doing yoga downward dog.

So, we rented a car. My husband, the alien, carried the monitor downstairs at our house and upstairs at my client's house. I set up the computer, installed the home network, installed the antivirus software, the word processing software, and other programs the client's boyfriend wanted. Got the Windows updates. There were already 10 of them since the computer shipped.

I'm not fully functional yet. And I forgot to put the rental car on my bill.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Girl in the Cafe

Yes, I'm a Netflix member. On a whim, I ordered Girl in the Cafe. When it arrived, my husband, the alien, asked, "What's it about?" I honestly didn't remember. "Does it matter?" I asked. "You can go look it up on IMDB while I set it up." He didn't care to know the plot in advance that much. Kind of like our daughters who would ask questions and when we told them we have the book where you can look it up, they always said, "It's not that important." But Girl in the Cafe is one of those movies where it's fun to be surprised. I think the title hides the plot on purpose. You can't guess from the title if the plot will have a romance or a robbery or any of the usual movie staples.

I'm not going to ruin any of the surprises. If you know the acting talent, Kelly Macdonald and Bill Nighy, you can look forward to watching them at their best. This is an important movie with nuanced characters, such as you would expect from these talented people. The author, Richard Curtis, has taken on human foibles before in Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral. This is the first movie he's written that made me think, and let me care about the characters.

As a writer, I believe in the power of drama, of entertainment, to change peoples' thinking. It was a treat to experience another author's vision. Now, don't cheat and look up the plot in Wikipedia or IMDB. Just watch it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buddha at the Cash Register

More on yesterday's topic of Enlightenment in the workplace.

Here's a poem I wrote when the cashier at the veggie shop first started working there:


Buddha at the Cash Register

A new woman at the register
just learning the prices, smiles
as I place my fruit before her
oblivious of the impatient line

She lifts my plum hesitantly
pausing above the scale
the purple globe resonates
God is in that plum.

Her eyes sparkle in wonder
“It’s a plum,” I tell her.
It sits placidly on the pan
Bells ring. The line behind me shifts.

The printer clatters.
Gears clank forth paper.
Lights illumine the register face.
Twenty-three cents. The price of God.

She puts my plum gently
in the bottom of a bag
then elevates my bananas
glowing bananas, shimmering bananas

Her lips an inner smile
The bananas are her joy
“They’re bananas,” I say
Fruit must be sold pricelessly.

--
Enlightenment is supposed to be rare and mysterious. I think we meet people like this all the time and in our hurry to finish our agendas we miss appreciating the obvious.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jobs for the Enlightened

I've been wondering what sort of jobs enlightened people could do. The ones we usually bump into are the ones who want to teach other people to be enlightened. I suppose if they feel called to do that, it's what they must do.

People have teased me that as a computer repair person, I spend more time on my knees than a nun. But my purpose is purely practical. Computers and their wires are on the floor and I'm not strong enough yet to lift them.

The cashier at the local veggie shop has taken a new job as a receptionist downtown. When she was the cashier she gave an aura of peace to the veggie shop. She made buying veggies feel like it was more than a transaction -- cash for lettuce or grapefruits. This food was going to be part of my body. I was going to carry its molecules around with me, integrate them into my life. I would slice them and chew them, digest them, and excrete them. She was going to make sure I felt the preciousness of each bite. The way she handled them as she rang them up, the way she touched the keys on the register, as if they were sacred implements.

Experiencing her checkout got me wondering what other jobs an enlightened person could do. I doubt they could be effective politicians. But they could be soldiers. I don't think an enlightened person sees death with any fear or loathing. I don't think an enlightened person could do a job where there are lots of rules that keep them from helping people. It would be sensible for them to be entertainers in any medium. And in any service job. But ultimately, in its finest form, politics is service.

I'm not enlightened. I was just wondering what it would be like. And if it would make any difference in my daily life.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talking About Inventions

My husband, the alien, asked me to look up information about sonic toothbrushes. I learned all sorts of things about how they use a technique called cavitation to make a space between the bacteria and food on teeth and the teeth themselves. That wasn't what interested him. He wanted to know if they would let him brush his teeth for less than 2 minutes. The short answer is NO. He lost interest.

I asked him if he'd like a soft thing to bite down on that he might have to keep in his mouth for 2 minutes, but no brushing required. He liked that idea. I wrote my brother, the inventor. My brother said -- it's two minutes. who cares?

Okay. I married an alien. Maybe I'm not normal. And of course my alien husband isn't normal. So, I emailed my most normal girlfriend. She didn't want a soft thing to bite down on and besides she thinks it would be hard to clean. Huh? It's a sonic cleaner. The thing can clean itself. Anyway, she wanted chewing gum that could clean her teeth.

That stuff already exists. Cleaning gum. She just hadn't heard of it.

Peelu Company - Dental Chewing Gum - Peppermint, 300 gum

My alien is not impressed. He doesn't chew gum. He wants something that requires no effort at all that will keep his teeth clean. And my brother doesn't want to invent it, so the idea is now out there for any inventors of like mind.

Meanwhile, I've been reading

A Taste for Red

in which the protagonist (a sixth grader at a new school) asks: "Could this sad specimen of an instructor possibly teach me anything? I doubted it. I was certain the man didn't even floss."

There's another customer for the sonic mouth cleaner.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Update on my Mom's Computer Problems

When we last visited my mother and her computer, the computer would not turn on no matter which outlet she plugged it into. Her monitor turned on. Her cordless phone turned on. But her new computer wouldn't even blink the light on its belly button at her. We thought the problem was her computer. The manufacturer, with whom we have a warranty, thought it was the computer. The manufacturer said they'd ship a new computer. They didn't ship and they didn't ship.
The phone representative tried to tell me that they had to burn all her programs onto her hard drive. I told him that there are drive images with the programs included and all the company does is pick the correct image and burn it to the hard drive. Nobody sits there installing software. He agreed with me, but seemed surprised that I would know such a thing.
Then the computer company called my mom and told her it would be another 9 days before they could ship. And my mom started having more electrical problems in her house. She hired an electrician. Suddenly her computer came on.
I called the computer company and told them not to ship. They said it was too late to stop the order. They promised to email me the fedex tracking number when it shipped. No, it had not shipped yet, but it was too late to stop shipment.
This morning my mom left a message for me on my machine Fedex had called her. The computer will arrive tomorrow.
I called Fedex to return the computer to the sender. Fedex said it was too late to stop the shipment, but maybe they can prevent it from being delivered to my mom's house. If they can't do that, she can refuse the shipment if she's home when the truck arrives. But if she's not home, the driver might leave it at a neighbor's. If that happens, I can call the computer manufacturer and get a pick up tag. My mom will have to be home for the pickup.
I still don't see why a computer that hasn't been shipped can't be stopped at any point before it's picked up from the loading dock. It has to be assembled. The only custom things are what's on the hard drive and how much RAM it has. It has to be put into a box. The box has to be put on the loading dock. At each point, a message could pop up on the computer screens that no doubt accompany the entire process and say HALT! But this manufacturer of computers doesn't seem to be computerized itself.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Home Funerals Make the CBS News

Home burial. Green burial. Caring for your own dead. It’s no longer the province of cults or hippies, or minority religious groups. It’s an old custom that is regaining popularity.

Funeral Consumer Groups have helped families care for their own dead for years. Http://www.funerals.org The original motive was saving money. The motivation has also been ecological. Green burials are good for the environment. Embalming chemicals are bad for the environment.

Most recently, the motive has been reclaiming the circle of life. Saying good bye to loved ones personally – rather than hiring the job out – like hiring professional mourners.

Suddenly, home burial has made the general news: http://cbs4.com/local/4.your.money.2.1361803.html

Unlike home birth, there are no risks. The dead person is already dead.

(Don’t get me wrong here – I’m all in favor of home birth. I’ve done it myself.)

The point here is that families are making death a part of family experience. The casket doesn’t have to be a fancy work of craftsmanship. The words said don’t have to come from a professional preacher. The family doesn’t have to have a formal setting for their good byes.

There are no laws requiring funerals to be run by funeral directors or held at funeral homes.

As with all other functions, each family must decide what works for them. Home schooling vs. public schooling or private schooling. Home birth vs. hospital birth. Fix your own car or take to the shop. I hope my family will choose a home funeral for me. And a green burial. I know that I’ve told them I want this. But I won’t have any control at the time. Funerals are for the living.

A woman in the video on the CBS station says, “I haven't heard anyone say 'I'm sorry we had a home funeral.’”

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Imagination is Coming Back

My imagination has been weak since the accident. No new ideas. Occasionally, I ideas to play with old ideas. Today, I got two new ideas. No great shakes, but it's a start, after a long lull. A lull in which I thought maybe I'd lost my major source of entertainment -- my imagination. First, I got an idea for the hospital -- so they would explain planned surgeries properly -- they could create powerpoint shows for every surgery and show these to prospective surgees. Not my typical sort of idea -- but it was a new idea.

Then I got a story idea. Not a full story, but a character, and this is often how stories start.
I was at Trader Joe's. The cashier gave me a ticket to enter in a drawing to win some groceries, because I brought my own bag. I told him I'd rather have a nickel. I never win drawings. The cashier told me to be more positive. I told him I'm positive I want the nickel. I invented the bag refund. He said bag refunds have been around for a long time. I told him I invented them in 1969. He gave up.

This is a true story. I was a member of the Berkeley Food Co-op. The Co-op was losing money. One of the right-wing board members, (her name was Ann) suggested that shoppers should bring in used paper bags to save the store money. Bags cost 3 cents. I suggested that shoppers who do bring in bags should get the 3 cents, and that the store should sell cloth bags. My suggestion was published as a letter to the editor in the Co-op News.

The management at Safeway, the co-op's major competitor, was known to read the Co-op News. They copied every sale that the Co-op stores had, trying to lure away our customers. The Co-op never did give bag refunds. But a few months later, Safeway started giving bag refunds and selling cloth grocery bags.
They even gave away free bags if you saved up $300 worth of receipts. Somebody listened to my idea, even if it wasn't the intended audience.

All of this is to say that an eccentric character in a comedy who claims to have invented bag refunds, or something equally unimportant could be fun to play with.

No I don't have the plot yet -- just a character idea. But at least it's something. I'm not dead! This is my first new creatie idea in 5 months. I used to pop with them all the time.

What's weird -- instead of snippets and scenes, my brain starts replaying old conversations or worse yet postulating about future conversations. I don't enjoy either, and I cancel them. But I'm not getting what I used to find all the time -- inspiration, creativity, ideas -- I loved that. That was normal.

Friends told me I hadn't changed. I hadn't had the dreaded personality change that often comes with accidents that include concussions. Nobody noticed this one important lack but me. I never thought of imagination as a muscle that needs time to recover.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wife of Bath's Tale - Chaucer Got it Right

In the Wife of Bath's Tale, in Canterbury Tales, a rapist is given one year to find out what women want. The answer he finds, that saves his life, is "Women want to be able to choose for themselves."

This is the lesson that the hospital I was in after being hit by a car while biking hasn't learned.

The President of the hospital has posted this statement of patient rights on the the hospital's website: “You may refuse any drug, treatment or procedure offered by [the hospital] to the extent permitted by law and the policies of this institution.”

I think that means the physicians should have explained their requests for x-rays to me, rather than pushing me into the machines. The final decision should have been mine. In most cases, they didn't even tell me where they were pushing me. My husband did object to the 1mm CT scan, when he learned that it was requested. The resident took me away and put me in the CT machine despite his objections.

The hospital's response to my listing of mistakes is that my unwanted x-rays are "standard of care." The Patient's Right statement does not say, "except when procedures are standard of care." My husband made clear when we arrived that we did not want more x-rays. He gave a full set of x-rays from the overcrowded hospital I was originally in - to the intake people at this hospital. We wanted the right to choose.

The Patients's Rights statement continues: patients have the “right to participate in [their] care and treatment to the fullest extent possible.”

There is no need to go over the many violations of my "patients' rights" that this hospital performed. Read my earlier blogs if you want the details.

Basically they are stonewalling on the majority of items my list of mistakes. And worse yet, refusing to fix these problems so they won't happen again.

I'm not asking for apologies. I'm not asking for admission of wrong doing. I'm asking for the right to choose. A right which is guaranteed in their published statement of Patient Rights. A right recognized as necessary and celebrated by Chaucer as early as the year 1400. A right which can only be protected by hospital protocols that clearly do not exist.

I wrote the President of the hospital: "I want to be able to rely on your hospital for health care. That is why I’m trying to help you by pointing out places where your hospital needs to improve. The only way to improve is to devise protocols that will keep these mistakes from happening again."

These protocols must keep a patient's right to choose paramount, even when it is not convenient for scheduling the operating room, or getting residents out of rooms as quickly as possible.

If hospitals want to avoid lawsuits (I'm not suing them) they need to give patients the information they need and then let the patients make their own choices.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sizes Have Changed, Softball Use Has, too.

The skin on my left shoulder and upper arm is numb, as a side-effect of the collar bone surgery. Not a big deal, but my bra straps and swimsuit straps fall down and I don't know about it unless I look. I decided to buy a new swimsuit with straps that criss-cross my back. I usually buy a size 8 blouse. but to be sure, I checked the sizing chart on the swimsuit website. I needed to order the size 9/10 swimsuit. It fits. Chalk up one for the success chart.

Then I noticed that my jeans are wearing out. So I decided to order a couple more pairs. Thinking I knew what I was doing, I ordered size 10. Hah! There's room in these size 10 jeans for me and my little dog, too. So, I decided to look at the sizing chart on the website. Their size 6 is slightly big -- I like my jeans a little loose so I can wear shorts under them for yoga class, or thermal underwear for a winter bike ride. Size 6. I know expensive women's clothing has smaller size numbers. But jeans? I sent back the 10's and ordered the size 6. They fit.

Moral of the story: always check the sizing chart on every website.

Meanwhile, I found a good yoga video website --you only get to watch one video free: http://www.yogatuneup.com/quickfix-yoga-videos

Note: if you have RealPlayer
Free download here: http://www.real.com/realplayer

you can save the video to your hard drive. A little box will pop up on top of the video showing a download link.

(note: I have no connection with this website and nobody gets a commission)

I decided to watch the hip video because I've got hip arthritis and since the accident my left hip has been painful and ornery. The woman in the video does some good warmups. Then she did something I've never seen before. She put what look like yellow softballs under the dimples in her buttocks and rocked her knees back and forth. So simple. And, Wow! I highly recommend this. I have white softballs. Color clearly doesn't matter. Tennis balls would probably work, too. I even tried the warmups with the balls under my backside. I like that, also.

I usually carry a pair of softballs when I travel -- in order to access pressure points to relieve pain. I had no idea these balls could be used for massage. Consider this an unsolicited endorsement for unconventional use of softballs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An Apology from the Hospital

I've sent a long list of problems to the hospital where I was taken after being hit by a car while biking. Little problems, like failure to return phone calls to the rehab department. Big problems like showing me somebody else's x-ray in order to convince me to have surgery. Little problems like cardboard flavored chicken and no fresh fruit or veggies. Big problems like scheduling me for surgery without asking me first if I wanted it, or even telling me there was a problem. Little problems like handing me an information sheet on weight loss in my discharge packet when I was down to 110 (I'm 5'2"), which actually indicated big problems -- it seems the beds have scales in them and the bed told them my weight after 6 days without food was 135. That weight was use to calculate my drug dosage. Big problems like having me sign an informed consent document when I was unable to read due to a concussion and nobody offered to read it to me. Nobody bothered to explain what the surgery was going to be or what risks or side-effects were involved.
Anyway. They sent me an apology. Guess what for? For not returning my phone calls in the rehab department. Hey, when the rehab folks at one center didn't return my calls, I made an appointment elsewhere. I got my rehab. My shoulder is working reasonably well now. And they agreed to recalibrate the beds, but no apology for any possible drug overdoses, or for insulting me with weight loss instructions.
Furthermore, they haven't even begun to address the problems that led to my unwanted and unnecessary surgery -- like how they could show me somebody else's x-ray, and how they could schedule me for surgery without talking to me first.
My husband, the alien, is going to talk to the head of bone surgery, since the hospital President won't address these issues. I'd like to fix these problems from within, since my husband works here. But if necessary, we will go to the hospital accreditation agency of the state. These problems must be fixed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How to Find a Lost Cat

Guest Post by Melissa

(Note, Melissa in the neighborhood expert on retrieving lost cats)

First, find a photo that shows the full animal, or as close to that as possible. Make prints with your computer's printer on a standard sheet of typing paper. Some experts advise that you use a neon sheet of paper as a background or border because it draws more attention.
Post signs within a few block radius of your home or last place you saw your cat. Put up your posters every quarter street if possible and at every intersection. Use a staple gun. Put up new posters after a good rain. All the ink of your picture is going to fade or run in the rain, unless you have laminated each sheet, which is expensive. If you have the stamina, place flyers under the door of all the houses you possibly can. A lot of people don't read signs, but they get their mail..
Describe the cat on the poster with it's Gender, it's Name, if it is Neutered or spayed, approximate Age and Weight, description of his hair color and his eyes. Include details like if Kitty is wearing a decorative color.
LEAVE OUT A SPECIFIC IDENTIFYING DETAIL, so that if you get a call, you can ask the caller about this detail and be sure if s/he has your cat. Many cat finders make mistakes, and you'll run to a location to get a cat that looks nothing like yours,. You have to be prepared with what you will do if this happens. What will you do with the cat if the people won't keep it? Are you in touch with no-kill facilities near where you live, where the cat could go if you don't take it?
Call all the local vets within a few miles and take photos for them to post in their offices. Often people who find cats and are considering keeping them will take them to a vet for a check-up.
Call the Animal Control Board, which here in Philadelphia is the intake arm for S.P.C.A. I understand that they are doing the best they can do with a huge volume of animals that they couldn't accommodate, but you will have to work quickly if your cat is there. They are usually too busy to talk on the phone, it's best to go down there in person as many times a week as possible. I think they are open to 10:00 PM. They will not let you take a tour of the cages yourself, but it is not a long wait for a nice guide.
Cat behaviorists will tell you that most cats are hiding close to home. sometimes even on your property.
Leave dirty old socks and articles of clothing or rags that you don't care about in alleys or bushes near your home so a lost cat can pick up your scent.
It was advised to me by a behaviorist at Penn Vet to set up a shelter box for her, which I did in the alley, in case she couldn't shimmy back over the fence. You can use a cardboard or plastic container large enough so your cat can lay down on some bedding, eat and stay out of the cold or rain. it is very possible that other cats will use it, but that doesn't matter.
Penn Vet also advised me to set up a trap on the property, 2 if possible, one in an area covered up and one out in the open. Put lures inside the trap, like Kitty's favorite treats. You might trap a different cat, and smaller animals may get the food without setting off the trap, so check the trap often, free stray cats, and replace the treats.
Stop in Pet Shops and Grooming Shops and ask them to put posters on their windows. Local businesses are usually happy to help.
It is also possible to contact legitimate Animal Communicators. I know the Web is filled with a lot of nonsense, but I have come one who is truly awesome and while she would not permit me to publish her number here, I know how to reach her. (Write geezer-chick to contact Melissa)
When searching the alleys and byways of the neighborhood, remember to keep cats' hours. They are out and about in the morning before the sun comes up at this time of year and again anytime after 5PM is a good time to look as it is dark so early.
I am thanking God ahead of time that you find your cat.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recycling Costs

I used to take my recyclables to a recycling center that was only open a few hours a week. Volunteers ran the center, and I thought proceeds went to local charities.

But yesterday, this notice appeared in the local paper: "Right now, the city pays $64 a ton to landfill its waste. It pays only 33 cents a ton to send recyclables to the Blue Mountain sorting facility in the Grays Ferry section of the city.

But Streets Commissioner Clarena I.W. Tolson said the market for recyclables was currently low. In the past, when commodity prices were higher, the city has been paid as much as $44 a ton for recyclables - a $108 differential between recycling and landfilling.

In a city with 580,000 tons of waste a year, "those are significant numbers," she said."

So, even though my fleece sweater is made of recycled soda bottles, the sweater company isn't paying all the costs of getting those bottles. And the recycled paper I buy for my printer is subsidized by the city.

Apparently, most people don't understand the importance of recycling, so the city feels the need to bribe residents to recycle by giving them coupons at local businesses if the recycling rate goes up.

I'm already a recycling nut. The city is using this program to talk to my neighbors. So, if my neighbors recycle, then I'll get coupons? Local businesses give out coupons already. Do they think that more coupons will recycle customers?

The mayor is calling this a win-win-win situation. The environment, the citizens, and the local businesses all win. I hope so. But what about the businesses that re-use my recycled paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and cans? What can we do to help people choose these products? And why aren't they paying for the labor that brings them their materials?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Telephone Computer Support

Me: Hello. I'm calling about my mother's computer. The order number is ______. Her computer worked for about a week. Now it won't turn on.
Company: What is the service code on your mother's computer?
Me: I can't see my mother's computer. I'm in Pennsylvania and her computer is with her in California. That's 3000 miles away.
Company: I see that your mother's computer is waiting to be picked up at Fedex.
Me: My mother's computer has been delivered. It won't turn on.
Company: Please wait while I get Fedex on the line.
Me: Your company decided to make a replacement computer for my mother. I'm calling to ask if when the new computer arrives, if you could send a technician to transfer the hard drive from her dead computer to the live one.
Company: That is not our policy.
Me: May I talk to your supervisor?
Company: May I ask why you want to talk to a supervisor?
Me: I'm not satisfied with the policy.
Company: That is our policy. Nobody will change it.
Me: I bought a new computer for my mother. I flew 3000 miles to her house and spent a day with her putting all her programs and data on the new hard drive. Now the computer is dead, but the hard drive is probably good.
Company: Our technician can help your mother transfer the data from her old computer to the new one for a minimal fee. It's just a telephone call, not a home visit.
Me: Her old computer -- it's less than a month old -- doesn't turn on. She can't transfer data from it.
Company: She should back up her data.
Me: Her computer won't turn on. And she needs more than the data. She needs drivers and programs.
Company: It is not our policy.
Me: Then please cancel the new computer and send all the parts except the case and the hard drive to my mother's house and have a technician put them in.
Company: That is not our policy.
Me: May I talk to a supervisor?
Company: Getting a new computer is better than fixing the old one.
Me: No it is not. I spent a day putting all my mother's programs and data and drivers on her computer. The new computer won't have those things on the hard drive.
Company: I can help you troubleshoot the old computer. Are you sitting in front of it?
Me: My mother's computer is 3000 miles away and it won't turn on. I can't trouble shoot it. May I please talk to a supervisor?
--- If you would like to make a call please hang up and dial again ------
Me: I'm calling about my mother's computer. Her order number is __________. I was being transferred to a supervisor and we got disconnected.
Company: Would you like to talk to a supervisor now?
Me: Yes.
Company: Maybe I can help you.
Me: A replacement computer has been ordered. I would like to have the hard drive from her current computer put into her new computer when it arrives.
Company: That is not our policy.
Me: May I talk to a supervisor?
Company: All the supervisors are busy now. I can have one call you back in 15 minutes.
Me: Okay. My number is ___________.
--- Next day ---
Me: I'm calling about my mother's computer. Her order number is _____________.
Company: I see that somebody has picked her computer up from Fedex last week.
Me: I was told that a new computer is being made and that it has not shipped yet.
Company: Oh, I see. That was a mistake. I called up the wrong account on the screen.
Me:I'm calling because I'd like someone to go to her house when the new computer arrives and transfer the old hard drive from her dead computer into the new one.
Company: We can send a technician to her house who will do that. Your case number is __________.
Me: Thank you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Secret Romances

My husband says that my father told him that his wife (that's wife #3)told him that one of our nieces has a boyfriend. I asked my brother (our befriended -- I don't dare say boyfriended -- niece's father). He said, "That's the first I've heard about it. How did you find out?"

My husband's friend from high school days wrote us that he heard from an undisclosed third party that his older daughter is now living with "a gentleman," her boyfriend of 3 years. At least he didn't say, "a cad."

When my husband and I moved in together, it was still the dark ages, there was a practical reason for our secrecy. It would have brought shame on our families if word got out. But today, when 40% of babies are born to unmarried parents, this secrecy must have some other purpose.

Both my daughters lived with their husbands before they got married. They even bought houses together. My mother didn't hesitate to let me know when her boyfriend was spending the night. These romances are also ancient history.

This modern romantic secrecy is something new. Since we all find out anyway, family grapevines being what they are, the only thing that changes is the chit-chat. I can't say to my niece, "Please bring your boyfriend next time you visit," because officially I don't know she has a boyfriend. And if she does bring him, do they want separate bedrooms?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Dog is My Evil Twin

I didn't pick out my dog. My previous dog picked him out at the animal shelter. I have no idea what she saw in him. The shelter said he was house-trained. He's not. They said he gets along with other dogs. Aside from my previous dog, he's hostile to other dogs.
And he's a traffic hazard.

He seems to know where I want to be, and he gets in the way. He's especially good at knowing when I'm going to step backwards, in which direction. He's there for me to trip on.

I was raised with the commandment: Thou shalt not be inconvenient. His motto seems to be the opposite.

And to make matters weirder. He loves going to the vet. When I walk him by the neighborhood vet's or the groomer's (he doesn't need grooming) at 6 in the morning, or 8 in the evening he tries to break in.

Lately, he's become a picky eater. The grocery store discontinued his favorite brand. It was the store label food for senior dogs. He doesn't like any of the brand name senior dog foods. He's 17. He's not active. He needs low fat senior dog food.

All I want when I go for a walk, is a pleasant jaunt through my neighborhood, maybe picking up some trash. What he wants is a chance to bark at all the other dogs, inside or outside their homes, and a chance to sniff the garbage and the trees and the stoops. In other words -- he's not out for a jaunt -- he's out for a sniff and growl.

If there's some sort of moral to this story, it's beyond me. At least we're not conjoined twins. I only have to deal with him when I'm home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Flexi-girl in Yoga Class

Yesterday in yoga class we were all seated, our legs outstretched, leaning forward. Some of us needed straps to loop our toes. Some of us could barely grab our toes with our fingers. Flexi-girl laid her chest onto her thighs and relaxed. The teacher went over to her. "You're so flexible that it's harder for you. The purpose of this posture is to stretch."

Yes! Just because it's easy, doesn't mean that you don't have to work.

For a moment, Flexi-girl reminded my of one of my gifted high school chemistry students who never did her homework. This student was angry because she hadn't gotten an A on a test. I told her, "If you did the problems in the homework assignments, you'd have learned how to do the problems on the test."

She said, "I'm gifted. I don't have to study."

"Being gifted means that you can do more with what you study, if you work as hard as the other students."

Chemistry is like that -- there's a level of achievement possible to the gifted. A level that our society rewards with patents and contracts and prizes. A level that leads to life-saving drugs.

Yoga is not like that -- no matter how far you stretch, you still want that stretch. If you are flexible, like Flexi-girl, you can enter yoga competitions. You can pose for yoga photographs. But unlike in chemistry, where the achievements are the point of the effort, in yoga, the achievements are unimportant. The goals are personal. The daily stretch is key. And nobody else will benefit from your work.

I'm wondering if all the tough spots, especially the emotional pains and stretches that are not self-inflicted like yoga, are also for our health. If nothing else, that attitude makes them easier to live with. Seeking out the easy positions is not an option in daily life. If so, yoga is a metaphor an a training arena, not just a discipline.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's All Random

I went to the hospital today, this time as a visitor. One of the first things my neighbor said when I came in the door was, "I never smoked. It's not fair that I have lung cancer."

It's not fair. I totally agree. Even if she had smoked, it wouldn't be fair Plenty of people smoke and don't get lung cancer. Disease and accidents aren't fair.

I reminded her: You're strong. You can get well again.

My mother's new computer died a week after I gave it to her. It is under warranty. The company came out with a new "reconditioned" motherboard. It worked again for another week. Now the company is sending her another new computer. On the surface that's nice, but I spent hours copying over her email address book, downloading and installing Picasa, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash, Quicktime, RealAudio, Open Office, Mozilla Thunderbird and other downloadable software programs that she uses. I set up her bookmarks with her favorite sites. All of that is lost. And I'm not going to fly across the country to do it again. Now I have to find somebody to do this, and I have to pay them. It's not fair.

Last time I went to the hospital, I got hurt on my bike. This time, my bike got hurt without me. I came out and saw it -- handlebars askew, seat askew, breaks non-functional, reflector missing. I walked it to the nearest repair shop. They're closed on Mondays. I walked it to another repair shop. It should be ready tomorrow at noon. The bike was locked to a bike rack, on the sidewalk side. I have no idea how this happened. At least I wasn't on it this time. It's not fair.

My DVD drive died. The eggplant I put in the bowl in the fridge for safekeeping grew mold. The insurance for the driver who hit me has now paid out its maximum and bills are still arriving. It's not fair.

I also got the best husband on the planet. I had a good Thanksgiving with my East Coast family and another one with my West Coast family. I have a warm house, a good education, and a working computer. It's also not fair. I've done nothing to deserve these.

It's all random.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yoga Class Without Restrictions

Monday's x-ray showed my collar bone is healed. Jock Doc said I can now do anything I'd have done if the accident had never happened. Yoga class was relatively tame. No backbends, no hand stands. But we did shoulder stands and head stands and supported plow.

I've been standing on my head since I was five. I still have the balance. But I don't have the strength in my left arm and shoulder. I put as much weight as possible on my arms to avoid hurting my neck. I lasted about a minute, before my left arm felt weak and my balance began to wobble. I lowered myself to child's pose. The rest of the class stayed upside down for at least 3 minutes. My arm has lost a lot of strength in 5 months of restricted use.

Shoulder stand was okay. My shoulders can take the weight. It was work, but not painful, and my balance was not threatened.

Supported plow (we used a chair to support our legs)puts weight onto the shoulders at a different angle. I had to exit that pose early too.

Since I was not in the more difficult poses, concentrating on my body, focusing my mind, I listened to what the other students were saying to the teacher. At least three other students were recovering from surgery and needed modifications to the poses. Other students have arthritis. Iyengar yoga is yoga for people who don't have yoga bodies. I was feeling like a weakling, but so what? At least I'm there and I'm working on my body.

I'm the oldest student in the class, but the rules are the same for everybody. Do what you can. Use props and supports. Modify the poses. Get the stretch and strengthen the muscles.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Magic Words at the Magic Show

My grandchildren are not magic enthusiasts. One of the twins loves to yell, "Magic isn't real." The other starts speaking in squeaks and lying on the floor. The six-year-old is taking magic classes, but refuses to show me any of what she's learned, or participate as my assistant. Her brother only likes the tricks where he gets to whack something.

But I have killed my computer repair business and I need to start up a new business. Since I love magic and I love storytelling, and I love science, I thought a magic and science show would be fun.

Yes, I believe what I do to earn money should be fun. I love writing. Getting paid for that would be ideal. But, back to the magic shows. I know I'm not allowed to discipline my grand children. My own children still hate me for sending them to their rooms or making them do their own laundry.

So, what can somebody who has no authority, but who needs cooperation do? If I can't get my own grandchildren to participate in a magic show, what kind of business will I have in strangers' homes?

Julian Franklin to the rescue. Julian is the author of Kid Control. I'm not done reading this book. The material I've read so far saved yesterday's magic show with my grandchildren. Two lines will make the point.

When Twin #1 yelled, "Magic isn't real!" I used one of his lines (tweaked to fit the situation).

"I get it that you think magic isn't real. But some of what I'm doing is science. You need to watch carefully, so you can tell which is which."

She quieted down. Her dad, who loves to put me down in front of her, didn't say a word. She participated as my assistant. She followed instructions.

When her twin sister started squeaking and lying on the floor, I said, "I need you to stand here." She became quiet and moved where I pointed.

This is true magic!

I had a whacking trick. The six-year-old magician tried it once. Her brother, the whacker, did it over and over.

It looks like I can learn to do this. I guess it's safe to assume that any party will have kids who like to whack things and kids who like to get attention by saying bad things about magic. I intend to read the whole book and learn the magic ways to turn off bad behavior. There's a type of magic that is very real indeed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My New Attitude Toward Gratitude

I've hated the whole gratitude movement, if you can call it that. They have you make lists of all the things you are grateful for -- as if this will make you feel better.
But when I look at the items I've written down, it's a scary list of everything I value that I can lose. Everything I'm grateful for is mortal or stealable, or just plain transitory, like a refreshing breeze.

But I meditate. And a common phrase in meditation training is "Be here now." In meditation, I watch my thoughts without participating in them. If I get a thought about how I forgot something, or said something dumb, or a worry about some future event, the thought can come and go with no more impact on me than a cloud blowing by over my head. They are just thoughts, pictures in my mind, with about the same impact as advertisements on a webpage.

They are my thoughts and I can choose to look at them, or choose to let them go. We are always looking at far more than we can pay attention to. We choose what we will focus on. In meditation, we are trained to focus on a key word, such as Shalom, to calm our minds. Sometimes Shalom is boring. And my mind would rather dream up some horrible future event, or relive a past mistake.

Then I discovered a new trick. I can choose to notice something pleasant. The soft texture of my sweater. The hum of the refrigerator. The wetness of the saliva in my mouth. These are things I can be grateful for in the now. My mind doesn't object that these things are temporary. These things are now. And they are far more compelling than the fragments of past or future that were distracting me.

It's strange that such seemingly minor experiences can distract my mind from what seemed to be an emotionally compelling story. But they do, and I'm grateful.

So, for Thanksgiving, I won't be giving thanks for having a roof over my head (that could be destroyed in a natural disaster) or for having a job (that could disappear) or for having my family around me (who are all mortal), or for my health (that can be damaged in an instant). I will give things as an ongoing process. Now, I'm tasting cranberry sauce. Now I'm holding my grandchild. Now, I'm listening to leaves crunching under shoes. Each is transitory. Each is enjoyable. Gratitude can be constant without making demands on the universe that it continue to give me a specific thing that I like, that I know perfectly well it can take away with ease.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Act as If Nothing Ever Happened

I visited Jock Doc again yesterday, and got another x-ray of my left shoulder. Even I could see that the comfrey oil has been working. The area of the bone where the crack was is now the most opaque bone area in the x-ray. The scar is a thin line for most of the length. It was obvious to me that the comfrey has been working on the skin and the bone.

"I told you I've been using comfrey," I said, hoping for an interested response from Jock Doc.

"The two pieces of bone fit so well together, it's hard to see much difference between your first x-ray and this one," he said.

Okay, he wasn't seeing what I was seeing, or he wasn't going to talk about it.

"The scar is the thinnest one I've ever seen." I tried to get an interested response again.

"Shoulder scars aren't the prettiest ones I do, but they fade and you'll barely be able to see it."

Okay. I don't need his enthusiasm about my healing.

"You can go back to doing everything you did before, act as if nothing ever happened."

That was what I really wanted to hear. I want to stand on my head, stand on my hands, push up into a backbend, and do other yoga things, like crow, that I was just starting to learn when I got hit by that car.

"It's okay if I fall over?" I asked. My shoulder therapist had been concerned about that.

"It's okay." Jock Doc was running late. I was his first appointment of the day and he was half an hour late getting to me.

"Call me in January to make an appointment for 6 months from now so we can get the hardware out."

That will truly be like this never happened. "You'll have to be careful for the first year until the holes fill in."

Fine. I'll use comfrey oil again. And I won't bother to tell him.

It's weird that doctors aren't curious and aren't observant.

What matters is that I'm getting my life back.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Racism is Never Personal

When I go to someone's home to fix their computer, they often tell me their problems, as well as their computer's problems. Most of the time, I don't comment, or I wish them well as neutrally as possible. Sometimes I celebrate with them. I love learning about marriages and births. I've attended funerals for members of my clients' families. I'm not just a pair of hands that hold screwdrivers or press keys.

But when my clients want an ear for their complaints, I'm just that -- an ear. I don't want to take sides. I don't want to have opinions. And my clients are grown-ups. I figure if they can get themselves into these situations, they are grown-up enough to handle them. They just want to tell their stories. I can listen -- and maybe get an idea for some of my fiction writing.

But the other day, a client referred to a woman she doesn't like as a "black bitch."
I didn't comment at the time because I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say that could be helpful. Things like, "she can't her her color or her gender" would have made my client angry. Or I could have gotten up my dander and said, "please don't use terms like that around me." But that would have just led to her hiring another computer tech -- not changing her ways.

I went home and thought about it. Finally, the answer was so simple -- something I wrote in response to an OS topic about racism. Racism is never personal. I've been hated for being white and female. But if the person really knew me, she'd have specific things about me to hate and my color and gender would not be at the top of her list.

So, the next time I saw this client, I told her the truth -- I'm a grammar buff. I like good solid insults, that are specific and insightful. I told her that I'm sure that the woman she dislikes has some very specific behaviors that are irritating. But I'm also sure that the things my client dislikes about her are not the color of her skin or the fact that she's female.

My client laughed. She agreed -- these are not what she dislikes. Her nemesis is a power-tripping narcissist. Okay. I can get into that. We can all work on being less power tripping and less narcissistic. A good solid personal insult can help us all improve.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Mother Hates Her Computer

I got my mother to accept a computer for the first time 8 years ago. It was a family conspiracy. My daughter was due to give birth to twins -- my first grandchildren and my mother's first great-grandchildren. My daughter agreed to email my mother a photo of the twins as soon as possible after their birth. My mother agreed to received the computer in order to get this photo. She also had to have a color printer, so she could show the photo to her friends.

My mother grouched about that computer if she didn't get pictures often enough. She grouched if I didn't send her emails often enough. Finally we agreed that I would send her Rose is Rose comics every day. http://comics.com/rose_is_rose/

That computer lasted her about 3 years. At that point, she was sure there was something really wrong with it. We'd bought her a laptop because my older daughter, mother of the twins, said that laptops are less intimidating than desktops. I do not think there was anything wrong with the computer, but we decided that maybe she'd be happier with a desktop computer. And my husband could use the laptop in his mad-scientist lab.

She agreed to accept a desktop computer if I would come out to California and personally install it. Done. But lately, despite daily emails and photos of great grandchildren (she now has 4 of them)the computer wasn't being good. It wasn't sending email. It wasn't letting her watch movies on YouTube. It wasn't showing her attachments from her friends.

Okay -- time for another desktop. 5 years isn't bad for a computer. I insisted she get DSL, rather than dialup -- I figured that was the problem with the youtube videos and possibly some of the email attachments.

I ordered her another desktop. I went to California and personally installed it. I hooked it up to the DSL modem. I made sure everything was working and she could watch YouTube videos. I made sure it could send and receive emails. And she could see attachments. I thought everything was fine.

But 3 days went by and she didn't send me any emails.

Then she called. She hadn't been able to turn the computer on for 3 days. I know her house is old. I suggested she plug the computer's surge protector strip into a different outlet. Still it wouldn't turn on. I suggested she unplug and replug the power cable from the computer. Still it wouldn't turn on. I told her to call the manufacturer. I bought a 4-year warranty on that puppy to take care of situations like this.

She didn't want to call. She didn't want to be put on hold. She wanted me to fix it NOW. I couldn't. The rep on the phone wanted her to buy software protection insurance. $230. She called me. I told her that's a waste of money. She owns her software. She has the disks. She can reinstall whenever she wants to. All she uses are her word processor, her browser and her email program, and her printer software. Combined, they don't cost $230. She said the man was going to call her back in 10 minutes. I told her to get him to send out a human to fix her computer. "That's already arranged. He's coming Tuesday."

Oh. Okay. "It's not worth having a computer for all this trouble."
I told her, "I like getting email from you."
"I like getting email from you, too."
"Then we have to get this machine fixed. We have a 4-year warranty. They have to fix it."
"It's still not worth it," says my mother.

I hope she says something different once it is working again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cyber Security Hoax

This is my 200th posting. And it's not personal. Last night A neighbor called. She had a scary message on her screen warning her about computer viruses. I told her it was an ad or a virus and in either case not to click on it. My warning came too late. Not only had she clicked. She was in panic mode. And it was a virus. It disabled her McAfee Antivirus program.

McAfee does not provide free help when you get a virus. I have to ask what she paid them for. Is their software no more useful than locking your door? When you buy a lock for your door, that's a one-time purchase. When you buy antivirus software, that's an annual purchase. You update daily. You do everything you can and they don't do everything they can.

I tried the usual antivirus tricks. I looked for the programs that load in startup, using msconfig. I tried to uninstall with the control panel. I looked for registry entries with the word cyber in them (other than cyberlink, which is a good DVD program). I knew I needed help. This virus kept popping up with box after box with phony warnings, slowing down the computer, and grabbing the cursor, making it nearly impossible to get any work done.

I decided to buy PC Tools. They have a 30 day money back guarantee. Life is never easy. When I copied and pasted the multi-digit registration code from the email, the software insisted that I'd entered the wrong number. I emailed the company. They didn't email back. I poked around on their website. No phone numbers. But eventually I found a link for web chat.

The virus hated that. It gave me a blue screen of death. I rebooted. I went back to the chat. The chat disconnected before I could ask for help. I went back to the chat a 3rd time. I got in. I asked for a phone number. To my amazement, they gave me one. I got a live human who got the program working. Several PC Tools boxes popped up asking if I wanted to block unwanted activity. I clicked Yes. After the 3rd box, the scary messages from the phony Cyber Security program stopped appearing. PC Tools reported that it found 33 infections. I left it scanning. I'll be back this evening to check on it. I think the evil virus has been eradicated from my neighbor's computer.

Of course now she's cranky that between paying me fees and buying the software, she's paid half the cost of her computer. I can't win for winning.

So, two warnings:

1) if you see what looks like a cyber security warning on your screen, do NOT click on it. Go into your control panel. Click on the security icon. See what your computer's real cyber security screen looks like. At the moment, these hoax warnings do not even resemble it.

2) Consider the competition when you buy an antivirus program for your computer. Make sure which ever program you choose will give you support when you need it, without charging you extra.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Standard of Care

Yesterday, my husband, the alien, talked with one of the doctors at the hospital where I was treated after being hit by a car while biking. In particular, my husband was concerned about all the x-rays of my various body parts.

The doctor informed my husband that all the x-rays are "standard of care."

When I was a child, I was misdiagnosed with scoliosis. The doctor who made this misdiagnosis took two copies of every x-ray position "just in case one doesn't come out." Children are at major risk for DNA damage during x-rays because a large number of their cells are in growth phase. I'm sure that taking two copies was standard of care at the time. My parents did not know enough to tell the doctor not to take the extra copies -- that they would bring me back for more if necessary. And as I said, the man misdiagnosed me, so it would not have mattered how many copies he made. He didn't know what he was looking at. And he was providing "standard of care."

My husband does know enough to ask that the x-rays not be duplicated. He was overruled by the hospital. My question is -- does a patient or her family -- have the right to refuse "standard of care"? I should think the answer is yes. The doctor my husband talked to said the extra x-rays were necessary to see if anything had changed. I don't think broken bones change in a few days. But that was his explanation.

Even this doctor agreed that surgery should not have been scheduled without talking to me first. Maybe we are getting somewhere in changing how people are treated at this hospital. But, perhaps surgery is "standard of care" too.

I think we are dealing with rival paradigms. The hospital staff all seem to think that surgery and x-rays and tests are "good things." My paradigm is that the body heals itself, most of the time.

I had no choice about going to the hospital. I was taken there unconscious. Once there, they would not let me go home until I could climb stairs, get in and out of bed and in and out of a chair, and walk around a room. Since they kept me on opiates for the first 4 days, I was unable to attempt this test. When I was finally on non-opiate pain killers, I had gone 6 days with only one meal. I was bruised. I had had surgery. And I wanted out of there more than anything else in the world. I do not know where I got the strength to manage that test. I dread to think what other things they would have done to me if I had stayed.

The doctor my husband talked to says he'll talk to another doctor about how surgery is scheduled and how patients are informed about surgery. He didn't agree about anything else, but he did agree that a patient should make a decision about surgery before it is scheduled. The next step is to get them to agree that just because you get brought to the hospital in an ambulance does not mean you give up your rights to make your own health care decisions.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inertia Can Be Fun

I went to a science teacher boot camp looking for magic tricks. This is not as far fetched as it may seem. Many physical phenomena look like magic. Leaves change color. Clouds move across the sky. Magnets stick to refrigerators.

Much of the early part of the program was gosh-wow that called for special chemicals. Instant Snow, Gel beads, dye tablets. I like to do magic with common items. I was having fun, but not seeing anything I wanted to show my grandchildren.

Then we got to Inertia. We started simply enough. Set an empty plastic soda bottle on the table, mouth side up. (be sure the cap is not on the bottle.) Place a business card on top of the mouth. Place a small hex nut on top of the business card. Be sure the hex nut is half the size of the mouth, or smaller. Now, curl your index finger against your thumb, so the finger nail of the index finger is touching the top joint of your thumb. Now flick the index finger straight out. The thumb will slow you down and when the index finger finally does release, it does so with force. Practice this a few times.

Then flick your index finger against that business card.

The 1st law of physics states that an object at rest will stay at rest unless it is acted upon by outside forces. That hex nut is at rest. That hex nut has mass. For all practical purposes, mass and inertia are the same thing. Bottom line, in our environment, gravity (which depends on the attraction of masses)pulls things towards the center of the Earth. When you flick that business card out from under the hex nut, there's a competition. Will the hex nut fly away on the business card, like a wizard on a flying carpet, or will it fall to the bottom of the empty bottle when its supporting business card is no longer holding it up? We picked the hex nut because it has a lot of mass for its volume. Yes, that's what is known as density. And yes, this is way easier to see than to read.

Do it. I'm not going to tell you what happens.

It's a good demonstration but it lacks the gosh-wow factor.

Then our instructor, put a table cloth on the table. He placed china dishes and glasses on top of the table cloth. He filled the glasses with liquid. And he yanked the table cloth out from underneath. I'd seen this done before, and not thought that I was watching a demonstration of inertia. There are two tricks. 1) the table cloth must not have a hem. 2) You have to pull the table cloth edge straight down towards your feet -- not back towards your belly. This is going to be a great addition to my magic show. It's powerful magic with the potential for making a mess. What kid can resist? I hope my grandchildren take this to school with them.

There were other variations, stacking an egg on a toilet paper roll, on top of a pie tin on top of a glass of water. Putting the hex nut inside a balloon. Putting a penny inside a balloon. But for sheer magic -- I'll take that table demo.

Here's a variation, in case my words weren't sufficient: Steve Spangler did this on the Ellen show.
http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/teacher_training/nov-2007-ellen-visit

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Want my Mom to be Independent, But...

My mom lives alone in a house on a block where she knows several people and is friends with a few. She has enough money for a modest lifestyle. She can afford her necessary house repairs and her gym membership. Her health is a problem. She's been to the emergency room 3 times in the past 2 weeks. None of her children or grandchildren live close by.

We're not considering anything drastic like asking her to stop driving. We have asked her to get a walker because her walking is not steady. She'd rather grab anything and everything nearby. That works. She rarely falls. It's just a bit odd walking down the sidewalk with her watching her grab every parking meeter and street sign pole. She says she doesn't want to become dependent on a cane or walker.

We children and grandchildren been conspiring. There must be some way to find out if Mom / Grammie needs home help.

Mom is still friends with the woman who took care of her boyfriend before he died. This woman would know if Mom needs help. I got the job of asking Mom if she'd be willing to have lunch with the caretaker once a week. Just to make her children and grandchildren feel better.

This was not a phone call I wanted to make. To my amazement, she agreed. She even volunteered that if that woman isn't available, she knows of an agency that might provide somebody.

Her grace under this kind of pressure was inspiring. I'll probably be much worse if it is ever my turn to live alone and have my children pester me to do things their way.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Horses in Diapers Feed my Garden

Horse-pulled carriage rides are a popular tourist attraction in Philadelphia. The horses wear diapers.

You can see a photo of a typical horse in diaper here: http://blog.peta.org/archives/Carriage_Horse_New_York.jpg

The manure is removed from these diapers at the stables and mixed with sawdust and hay. Gardeners are invited to haul it away free.

Today was our day. We rented a truck from PhillyCarShare, got our buckets and shovels and did our version of fill-her-up. Most of it will go on the garden for the winter. But some of it is going into the worm bin. The worms get a real feast in the winter because they get all my kitchen scraps. In the summer, most of the scraps go to the regular garden compost bin.

While my husband, the alien, and I were filling our buckets, a neighbor walked by and asked, "What are you doing?" After we explained, he asked, "What do they charge?"

"Charge?" asked my husband. "We're providing free manure removal service."

The neighbor walked on, shaking his head.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Open Letter to Hospital President

Below is a letter I'm sending to the President of the Hospital where I was treated last July after being hit by a car while biking. I have no intention of suing. I just want the problems fixed, so nobody ever has to experience this kind of treatment again.

Dear Mr. Hospital President,

On August 27, I wrote you about aspects of care at your hospital that were less than satisfactory. I wrote you again on October 13, specifically about the x-ray problems. I have written additional letters to the ombudsman. I have visited with the radiology department. I am still concerned that the problems that I encountered, that caused me to have surgery that I would have refused if I had seen my own x-ray and been properly informed of the nature of the surgery, persist at your hospital and other patients are in jeopardy.


When I wrote to the person, who developed the microcurrent device and who trains your hospital's physical therapists in its use, she redesigned her training to make sure nobody else would experience the loss of strength that I had.

When I wrote the chair of Rehabilitation Medicine, about Rotten Rehab Doc's practice of administering painful and frightening tests without permission or explanation, the chair talked with Rotten Rehab Doc.

When I wrote you about blatant violations of patient rights as you described them on the hospital website, the only action I know of was my invitation to visit Radiology, where I was informed that there are no laptop computers on which patients are shown x-rays. Since my husband and I both saw the same x-ray on the same laptop, and my husband drew a sketch of the shattered clavicle in the x-ray, we know it did happen.

I will repeat the sequence of events here because each step needs to be addressed:


1) When I was transferred to your hospital from the one nearest my accident, which had no room for me in Trauma, my husband handed a full set of x-rays, including a CT scan of my head to Trauma. These x-rays and the CT scan were duplicated at your hospital, with the exception of the hip x-ray. They should not have been duplicated.

2) The first I learned of the surgery was when I asked for food and was told, "You can't have food. You are having surgery." No surgery other than emergency life-saving surgery should be scheduled without first talking with the patient.

3) I asked why I was having surgery. That is when one, or possibly two, young men brought in the laptop with the picture of the shattered clavicle that belonged to someone else. You have stated that it is not hospital policy to present x-rays to patients on laptop computers. This policy is not being followed.

The young men who showed me the laptop computer did not tell me what the surgery involved, what side-effects were likely, or what would happen if I did not have the surgery. They did not offer to delay the surgery to see if it would heal on its own. I was on opiates. I could not clearly ask the necessary questions. Nobody volunteered the information I needed.

4) I was brought the "informed consent form." No one offered to read it to me. I could not read for about a month after the accident. I signed it without knowing that I had not seen my own x-ray and without knowing what the surgery was, because I believed that the shattered clavicle I had seen was mine. I did not learn that my clavicle only had a simple break until I received my x-rays from the hospital. Also, when I went to radiology, I learned that there were several other x-rays of my chest that had not been included on the CDs given me. Since the concern was with my clavicle, I see no need to continually x-ray my entire chest, considering the risks of DNA damage.

In addition, I suggest that you reduce the authority of residents to order CT scans.
After having 2 sets of 5 mm CT scans and an MRI of my head and neck, none of which showed any injury to the back of my head or my neck, a female resident came into my room and insisted that I needed a 1 mm CT scan of the back of my head because of my black eyes. She said that black eyes indicate a fracture at the base of the skull. She seemed unaware that I had a broken nose, which is a common cause of black eyes.

My husband told her that the left black eye was from the impact of the accident and that the right black eye was much more recent. He asked her not to do the CT scan. It was not necessary. I landed on my face, not the back of my head. She took me anyway and put me in that machine for a 3rd time, and ran a 1mm CT scan of my entire head. She didn't even bother to report back that she didn't find any injury to the back of my head. I can understand that a new doctor who has recently read a textbook might think my black eyes indicated an injury to the back of my head. A more experienced doctor would know that the existing CT scans and MRI ruled that out. The resident should not have been allowed to take me to the CT scanner over my husband's objections in any case.

And as a final point, the food at your hospital is inedible and unhealthy. The one meal I had in my 4 days there consisted of chicken that tasted like cardboard and a bunch of sweet stuff (melted ice cream, instant pudding, lemonade) that I did not want. There was no fresh fruit or salad. I asked the nurse if my taste buds were being weird or if the chicken was really that bad. She said the chicken was really that bad. Other patients had told her that they couldn't eat it, either.

These are all fixable problems. Please tell me what you are doing to fix them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Toys in Pilates Class

We’ve been pestering the gym for new mats in the Pilates room. The old ones are pitted and ripped. They didn’t buy us new mats. They bought us small exercise balls – mini- versions of regular exercise balls which are about 22 inches high – these are about 14 inches high. And they bought us new metal rings with curved pads on opposite points. They even bought us new wide rubber bands, similar to those I use for rehab. But no new mats.

I could always bring my mat from home. It’s just laziness that’s stopping me – that and I don’t like the backpack method for carrying a mat, and I’m not pleased with the saddle bag method either. Once I have the mat on the floor and I’ve used the sani-wipe on it, an old ripped pitted mat does the job. But for what I pay the gym, I think they can afford new mats at least once a year. And we’ve had these mats for as long as I’ve been a member.

The 14" green inflatable balls are versatile. We can squeeze them between our thighs and get an adduction workout. We can put our feet on them, raise up into a bridge, and roll them back and forth to work the abs and hamstrings at the same time. “Make suction cup feet,” says our instructor. “Keep your pelvis in neutral.”

The metal rings with pads are also about 14" in diameter. The pads are for hands or feet, or knees. The pads are on the inside and outside of the rings, so we can squeeze in or push out with a variety of body parts. One of our teacher’s favorites is standing on one foot, holding the ring straight out at arms length and squeezing the ring ten times between our hands. Even she wobbles on her left foot, and she is a professional exercise instructor in her 30's. We try to keep our four-cornered foot-press, spot on the floor, watch ourselves in the mirror, keep our balance and squeeze that ring. You’d think we were training to be circus bears. I want to be a circus bear. I really do.

Another teacher’s favorite is squeezing that ring between our feet as we lie on our backs and extend our legs at a 45 degree angle. Then we do crunches. Even circus bears can’t do that, but we try.

And the 6-inch-wide rubber bands have a sneaky way of looking easy. They don’t weigh much. They are floppy. But once you bend your knee, put your foot in the middle of one, turn your foot at a slight angle and hold both ends with your hands, and try to extend your leg, it feels like pushing a weight, that gets heavier the further you push it. My legs aren’t that long, and it feels like at least 10 lbs by the time my knee is straight. I wonder what the taller women feel.

When the hour-long class was over, we all clapped our hands like circus seals. And we’re all coming back next week. We are going to continue to nag the gym for new mats, but we like the new toys.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Doing a Magic Show for my Grandtwins

Things got off to a bad start. My daughter’s husband showed us their new refrigerator. He did not tell us the wonders of side-by-side fridge and freezer. He did not tell us how much he likes the ice dispenser. He told us that his favorite thing about the new fridge is that the door is not magnetic. Now he doesn’t have to look at fridge magnets.

My daughter, my grandtwins and I enjoy fridge magnets. The grandtwins like to leave messages with magnetic alphabet. My daughter and I like pretty fridge magnets that we collect when we travel. My son-in-law rhapsodized at length about how happy he is that he doesn’t have to look at fridge magnets any more. We ignored him, which is the most polite thing we could do.

Then it was time for my magic show. He announced, “Magic isn’t real.” This was clearly not the first time he’d said that. It sounded like another irritating rant, like the fridge magnets.

My grandtwins picked up the chant and throughout my show, they continually shouted, “Magic isn’t real!”. They kept grabbing the props, taking them apart. The twins are not gentle. They tried to take them out of my hands. They destroyed one of the tricks. They hurt my shoulder climbing on me trying to get my props. (Yes, I had talked to them about the accident and showed them the scar.)

And despite their rude, destructive, and noisy behavior, they were fascinated with the stories and the accompanying effects. They wanted me to “do it again” even though they kept shouting, “Magic isn’t real!”

The twins are eight-years-old. I’m not sure if they understand what they were saying. Since they were the only children in the room, I didn’t think it mattered if they said, “magic isn’t real.” But in retrospect, I’m not sure they understand what they were saying. I think they may have been quoting their grouchy father, and trying to get attention.

Entertainment is magic. I tell stories and illustrate them with magic. The whole spell of communication and the creation of a story-world is magic.

I’ll be doing another show with all 4 of my grandchildren in 3 weeks. I do not want the other two grandchildren to have their fun ruined by “Magic isn’t real!” Or by broken props. So, I’m looking into rope magic. I’ve got a great one where I tie a kid up and let the kid play Houdini and get free by saying magic words. The knots look and feel totally legitimate. The magic is legitimate, too. I think I can use sponge balls. If the kids choose to destroy them, they can’t hurt themselves with sharp pieces. And I may go with some lollipops, and a lecture about brushing their teeth. I did want to do a vanishing trick, but I don’t want my vanishing props destroyed.

I got a book called Kid Control. They don’t sell it at Amazon. Here’s one store that does carry it: http://www.penguinmagic.com/specialorderproduct.php?ID=7747

It suggests I use tape to create a stage area. I doubt my grandtwins would respect that. Their loss. I just won’t do magic for them that they can destroy. Magic isn’t real if you don’t want it to be.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are You Dead?

I just received an email from someone in Nigeria wanting to know if I’m dead. And did I assign my share of my Nigerian money to my lawyer in the event of my death. The letter continued to say that my lawyer (who really is my lawyer and they really knew his name – this part is scary) is claiming I’m dead and is trying to get my Nigerian money.

I don’t have any Nigerian money. And while I do have a lawyer, I hired him to get the insurance money from the insurance company of the driver who hit me while I was biking, to pay for my medical expenses. I did not hire him to get fictional funds from Nigeria. If these people in Nigeria want to give him my Nigerian funds, he is welcome to them. All $0 and 0 cents worth.

But I am concerned that these people know my lawyer’s name and my email address even though they do not know my name. (I have no idea who would believe they have Nigerian funds when the people sending the email don’t even address them by name.)

My concern is how they obtained my lawyer’s name.

A few weeks ago when I emailed my lawyer scans of several bills for my medical care, I received what appeared to be a bounce message. I called my lawyer to ask if he had a new edress. He assured me that he had received my email and didn’t know why I got the bounced email message.

I forwarded the bounce message to him and suggested he show it to his webmaster. I thought that was the end of it, until I received this Nigerian scam-mail.

I forwarded the “Are you dead?” query to my lawyer. Now he’s willing to talk to his webmaster.

And the good news. He has gotten the driver's insurance to agree to pay for my bike, helmet, and ruined clothing. I've signed the form. Now the insurance company is supposed to send me a check.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Hotel Run by Children

My mother lives near the Santa Anita Race Track. Thanks to the Breeder's Cup race, all the regular hotels were booked months in advance. We didn't start looking for a November reservation until September. We finally found a bed in a 1920's art-deco building that was listed in the historic registry.

When we arrived, we parked our rent-a-car on the street. A 10-year-old girl was sitting behind the reservation counter, eating an egg-salad and reading a fat worn-looking school book. She looked capable, and I remember being 10. I could have used a cash register, looked up reservations, and handed out keys. She was sitting at the desk, alone. I figured her parents trusted her to run the hotel.

A large sign in the lobby read, "No bandannas or other gang insignia allowed. Be polite at all times. No foul language."

"Hi! I have a reservation. My name is..."

She replied, "Would you like a grown-up?"

Okay, she doesn't run the hotel.

"Yes, please."

She left and returned a few minutes later with a teenaged boy.

When I was 10, I didn't regard teenagers as adults.

He asked her, "Has your mom had the charge card machine fixed, yet?"

The girl shook her head.

The boy looked in all the cubbies where keys were kept, read all the notes, and put them back. He went into another room and came back with a 3-ring notebook. He clearly could not find our reservation. He asked when we had made the reservation. Did we know the rates?

Finally, the teenager gave us a room key. Then he led us to the bar, where we paid for the rooms. After we'd signed the paperwork, he offered to get us a key. My husband showed him the key already in his hand.

The boy led us to a secret doorway than opened on a dimly lit stairwell, freshly painted with Aztec designs, but the carpet was stained and old. "Go up, turn left, turn left again. You'll find it."

"Does the hotel have a place to park our car?"

"It's behind the hotel, but it's full now. We're having a funeral."

I thought or hoped that the funeral was what was occupying the adults.

The room was adequate. The mattress was too soft and saggy. The sheets were clean, but had tears, and the top sheet had a different pattern and color scheme from the bottom sheet. This is okay in my house, but odd to find in a hotel. The bathroom roll of toilet paper was nearly gone and there were no spares anywhere. 4 mini-soaps were stacked up on the sink. There was no shampoo or hand lotion (good thing I pack these things when I travel.) One of the light bulbs was missing. The tub didn't drain. The shower head needed a new gasket. This is the kind of maintenance children aren't tall enough to do.

When we stopped at the desk to request the toilet paper and a plunger to drain the tub, a grownup took our written list.

And while we were gone, somebody did bring a new roll of toilet paper, and somebody made the tub drain. Nobody made our bed. It's like that at home, too.

The hotel had loud parties at night. The guests did not wear bandannas. I don't think I'd recognize other gang insignia. But if a 10-year-old and a teenager can run a hotel, the gangs don't seem to be a serious threat. Both the children used polite language at all times.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Truth and Lies in Business Support of Causes

A guest blog by Jean Lorrah

On October 12, 2009, Daily Finance published an article called "Pink ribbon overkill: Are companies exploiting breast cancer campaigns?" October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as a survivor myself I am happy to see big business contributing to the kind of research that has kept me alive and healthy for the past eight years. However, this article questions how much of the money from pink ribbon purchases actually goes to cancer research.

The advocacy group, Breast Cancer Action, points out that many labels are vague about how much money, if any, goes to support cancer research. So Daily Finance did some research, and found that Procter & Gamble, for example, puts pink ribbons on its products with the words "early detection saves lives," but no indication whether buying the product actually supports the cause. As it turns out, it doesn't in most cases! Only if the customer uses a P&G coupon (not a store, magazine, or online coupon, mind you) from a book of coupons distributed in newspapers on September 27, does P&G donate a whopping two cents to the National Breast Cancer Foundation!

Another company uses a different technique. Herr's Whole Grain Pretzel Ribbons indicates on its package "that a portion of its sales will be donated to breast cancer awareness and research programs." However, the fine print informs that Herr's caps its donation at $15,000--so if you purchase after the cap has been reached, your purchase is no help at all.

Here's one I found myself: I use Cat's Pride Cat Litter because it's flushable and because my cats like it--I tried changing to a different product, and the cats started using the bathtub! So when Cat's Pride recently disappeared from the shelves I started worrying about what my cats would accept as a replacement. However, a new supply appeared after two weeks out of stock--and the addition to its labeling indicates why they let the old supply sell out.

Cat's Pride has always had a pink cap and the statement "We Support Breast Cancer Research & Care," with no indication of how they support it. That statement now appears on a peel-off label with a little note, "See reverse for important donation information." On the back we find that the company has made a donation, but "Your purchase does not impact our corporate donation, but we appreciate your continued support."

I'm pretty sure that what caused the disclaimer are the new FTC rules that go into effect December 1. I think soon we will see every product making similar claims adding similar disclaimers. Backing up claims will be required, as will be revealing whether people making testimonials were paid, were given free products, or are actual paying customers.

Why are companies likely to continue the pink ribbons even if they must clearly reveal how they support the cause? Because people who want to feel good about contributing to a cause while purchasing things they would purchase anyway are attracted to products bearing the pink ribbon. Research shows "that 79% of consumers would likely be swayed to switch to a brand aligned with a cause." Since "no one owns the [pink ribbon] image or oversees its use," nothing prevents marketers from using it as they please.

So, no marketing segmenting, positioning, or forecasting required. Just slap a pink ribbon on your product, say something vague, like "early detection saves lives," or "hope for a cure," and pick up a potential 79% of the market with no further effort! And after December 1, how many people will actually peel off a disclaimer label and read the back?

As consumers, to be certain you are genuinely supporting any cause by purchasing a particular brand, read the fine print on the package. And also, watch for local businesses to support your cause, and patronize them. For example, where I live local restaurants will have particular days when 10% of their receipts go to a specified cause. When you patronize them on those days, you will know exactly how much of your payment is going to the cause you are there to support.