Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forgot My Sling This Morning

This morning I decided to do a modified version of Tamilee Webb's "I Want Those Abs." I kept my arms crossed over my chest, instead of all the positions she uses, like behind the head, and extended over the head. Hey, my abs still work. It's my collar bone that is healing. My dog, Petruccio, decided he had to have a walk. This is a 15 minute video. He has a dog door. He can go out if he really needs to. I insisted on finishing the video. Then I leashed him and went out the door. Without my sling. Oh, that arm is heavy. My husband brought the sling out for me, and took Petruccio's leash. For a moment, I felt normal. And now I'm back to being a wounded weakling. That is soooo not my self-image.

For those of you who have asked about the pinhead locks for bike wheels and seats, that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, the website is I don't get a commission from them. This is an unsolicited endorsement. My husband and I bought these locks for our bike wheels after we looked out the window of a downtown building and saw a man starting to remove the front wheel from my husband's bike. My husband ran out and told the man, "That's my bike." The man replied, "I thought it was mine." This is Philly, where crime is limited only by the imagination of the criminals." Now, they have to take the whole bike to get the wheel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Never Thought I'd Say This, BUT Exercise Can be Boring

I love exercise. On a normal day, I exercise at least 4 hours. I bike all over the city. I swim. I do yoga and Pilates. I do exercise videos. I jump on my trampoline. But since I got hit by a car and broke my collar bone, I'm denied all this. I'm not allowed to do anything that requires strength in either arm, because both shoulders are attached. And besides, recovering means I'm supposed to sleep an extra 4 hours a day. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to exercise.

I can do crunches with my arms folded across my chest. Same thing for oblique crunches. I can do leg extensions and ankle rotations. That's it for prone exercises.

Standing, I can do heel raises, toe raises, lifting my legs out to the side.


So I went to the gym. The gym I joined so I can swim and do yoga and Pilates. And I asked -- what can I do while my collar bone heals? I can do the inner and outer thigh machine. Boring. I can do the baby elliptical that has stationary arms. Boring. And I can do the so-called recumbent bicycle.

This machine comes with a variety of computer programs. I can bike along a path among cartoon redwood trees. Since I can't steer, I thought maybe I'd get to run into trees, run through campfires, steal digital marshmallows while they roast on digital sticks. Nah! The programmers keep the bike on the trail. Maybe I can hit my digital pacer? Nah! When I get close enough for a good collision, the digital pacer on his/her bike jumps ahead. After being in a real crash, I'd like to have some painless digital crashes. But the programmers won't allow it.

I watched another rider. He found an even better program. He got to catch digital dragons and digital coins and digital balloons. He rode up close, tried to crash, and got a message that he'd caught the digital prizes. I don't know if you can catch these things without steering. I don't really know if the steering device counts a lifting something -- maybe it's just a gentle push. I'm going to have to try it.

The heart rate detector doesn't work if you only put one hand on the sensors. But the steering wheel has to work with one hand.

Today's plan. Catch a dragon. Visit a bike store to see what's in stock. No, I can't even test drive because I can't put any weight on my hands. But I can start to get my life back. I hope catching dragons isn't as boring as not being allowed to crash into trees. The programmers have quite a job -- trying to amuse people who prefer real exercise. Where's the wind in my hair? The sense of balance? The bounce of the road? Catching a dragon had better be good.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Please Don't Fix that Flat

Here I was, feeling sorry for myself that my bike got stolen from safekeeping at Police Headquarters. I was surfing the web looking for my next bike, and planning the accessories I want this time.
Last time, I got a yellow leather Terry women's bike seat with a nice gap in the middle -- as the company says, "nothing where you need it most." And a luggage rack to hang my saddle bags, so I can carry my groceries. And I got pinhead locks to keep folks from stealing my wheels and my seat off the frame while my bike is parked.
Pinhead locks. Unique locks. Big Fat Funny looking key.
For the first time, I had hope that I might get my bike back.
I still have the key to those locks. This is a unique key. Nobody will be able to get those wheels off that frame, even to change a tire, without a great deal of effort. At my shop, where I bought these locks, they refuse to fix my flats if I don't have the key with me.
I wrote Pinhead and asked them to keep a lookout for any bike shop ordering a key for my locks. I told them my bike was stolen and the "new owner" isn't me. I want my bike back.
Yes, I ordered more locks for my future bike. Locks that fit my key.
But I can't ride for several more months. Maybe the thief will get a flat tire before I have to buy a new bike. Everybody gets flat tires.
I don't have to depend on karma.
Please -- if you fix bikes -- please -- don't fix a flat on a bike with pinhead locks unless the rider has the key. Contact Pinhead. Return the bike to the real owner. I'm not the only person out here whose bike got stolen.
It's a truism that most stolen bikes never get returned. But maybe these locks will make a difference. Yes, I know, the thief got my bike for nothing, so it will mean nothing to throw it into a trashbin and forget about it.
But if somebody brings you a bike with a flat tire and the wheel is secured with pinheads to which they don't have the key, it might be my bike. The person who brings you the bike may not be the thief. The person may have bought it from the thief, thinking they were buying a legitimate used bike. But this is my bike. I want it back.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Quit Looking at the Sling

Slings are not contagious. You don't have to look at my bright blue sling and quickly look away. It won't bite you. It won't cause you to have an accident of your own.

Slings are not a threat to national security. The guard at a local government building which I have entered regularly for over 5 years insisted on patting down my arm inside the sling. I told her I'm badly bruised, and touching hurts. She didn't care. The metal D-rings on the sling triggered her metal detector and now that I'm suddenly wearing a sling, I must have had a personality transplant and become a terrorist too.

If you ask about my sling, this is not an invitation to tell me that your doctor told you to wear a sling, but you aren't wearing it. It is not an invitation to ask my age. It is not an invitation to ask if my grandchildren spent the night recently.

The pictures at the top of this blog were taken about 35 years apart. Yes I let my children and my grand children stand on my hands while I lie on the floor. That is normal for me. I've never been injured playing with my children or grand children. I hope to heal up soon from this broken collar bone so they can stand on my hands again.

But right now, I need to wear a sling to support the weight of my arm. One of my relatives sent me flowers and balloons. I like flowers and balloons. But one of the balloons said "Hurry to get well" and "Hope ur feeling better." I don't know how to hurry to get well and I do know how to spell. That balloon is now in the trash. I'd rather have thrown away the sling. I hate it because it makes my arm sweat. But the sling is helping me get well.

If you don't want to look at my sling, then look me in the face. Yes, I've got a black eye from the accident. That's not contagious either.

Remember when you were a kid and you signed the cast on a classmate's broken limb? And soon your classmate had the cast off and was playing again. That kind of healing still goes on when you get gray hair. The sling is just temporary. Quit looking at the sling.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cars Hit Bikes. What Else is New?

Since I moved to Philadelphia 17 years ago, I've been hit by 3 cars and a bus. I seem to get hit once every 2000 rides, or about every 10,000 miles. I've been being hit by cars on my bike since I was 9-years-old. This is the first time I've gotten worse than a skinned knee. But suddenly everybody (except my wonderful alien husband) is telling me I should give up bike riding. I should get a car or at least take the bus. Why? A broken collar bone, a few skull fractures, and I'm not me any more? I am an exercise junkie. I ride my bike everywhere.

Probably the worst accident was the one when I was 9. I wasn't badly hurt, but my hips got knocked out of alignment and the family doctor didn't bother with x-rays to see if I had broken bones. He had me touch my toes, and then told my parents I had scoliosis. He then referred me to scoliosis experts who x-rayed me and "treated" me for scoliosis for the next 9 years -- until I was old enough to refuse. Twice a year they tried to talk me into surgery to fuse my spine and put a metal rod in my back. I felt like I was fighting for my life. Every time, I continued to refuse. I was on the gymnastics team. I was on the swim team. I was not going to give up my life to a supposed disease. I'm certainly not going to give it up now.

When I was 34, I was introduced to a chiropractor who specialized in scoliosis. He took one look at me and told me I'd never had scoliosis. Pop. Pop. He straightened my spine. But all those years of gymnastics and swimming had made my muscles strong out-of-alignment. So I keep pulling my back out -- and going back to the chiropractor to have it straightened again.

As a result of this accident, I did have to have surgery to put my collar bone back together. That was not a mistaken diagnosis. I saw shattered bone fragments in the x-ray. But I should be on a bike again in a few months. My jock-doc surgeon expects a full recover. I can ride again. After I buy a new bike. The police took my old bike to the police station for safe keeping. It got stolen. Now I have to pay $28 to get a copy of a report of the theft of my bike from the police station. Maybe the insurance of driver who hit me will pay for a new one. If not, I'll get one somehow.

I also have to wait for the bones to knit so they'll be strong enough to let me bike again. But quit riding my bike? Why? That would mean quitting being me. I didn't quit when I was 9. And oddly, nobody told me to then. What's the deal? Gray hairs, and suddenly I'm not supposed to ride? Or do people assume if a car hits a child, it's the car driver's fault, but if a car hits an adult it's the adult's fault, even though both witnesses stated it was entirely the fault of the driver?

Cars hit bikes. I know that. If you don't like it, stop driving your car.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Scar NOT a Scab

A smashed clavicle is a Jock Injury. The surgeon says direct impact won't break this bone. It takes the kind of angle impact that only a jock can exert. It's hard not to laugh when I'm being treated for a jock injury at a jock injury center, almost directly across the street from the stadium where most such injuries occur.

I asked when I can return to swimming. Not for months. But I can get in the hot tub when my surgical wound is healed. "That's a scar, NOT a scab," my surgeon stressed.

I have always been an exercise junkie -- not a jock. I don't push myself to extreme accomplishments. I exercise because it's fun. My 2nd physical therapist understood this, and gave me some respect, plus harder exercises. I've never been addressed as a jock before.

I wonder if it's as surreal for my surgeon as it is for me?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yoga and the ICU

The machines in the ICU are NOT programmed for yoga students. As part of my yoga exercises, I've learned to slow my breathing to 6 breaths per minute when I'm at rest. On occasion, I've slowed it to 2-breaths-per-minute after about an hour of practice. Genuine slow breathing confuses doctors who ask me to take a "long slow breath" and then "another one" before I'm done with the first. But machines don't know how to be confused. They just beep and summon humans who wake me up. The machines were set to call for help when my breathing dropped below 10 breaths per minute. I don't need 10 breaths per minute, especially when I'm asleep. It's very hard to sleep when people keep waking me up to get me to breathe faster.

Then there's the heart rate. I'm an exercise junkie. I remember studying the heart rate in physiology class. It's simple. Hearts that are used to working hard don't pump as often at rest. The ICU machine was programmed to call for help every time my heart rate dropped below 60 beats per minute. That happened every time I fell asleep. It's in the low 70's when I'm awake, if I'm just sitting around. Lying down, sleeping, is way less work than sitting up. It's very hard to sleep when people keep waking me up to get my heart to beat more often.

If you are a yoga student, I guess the moral of this story is -- wait until you get home to get well, the ICU won't let you get any sleep.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Sling is Off Part-Time

Went to the surgeon today because it looked like the titanium plate was cutting me from the inside. The x-ray looks like there's still some meat between the plate and the skin. As the doc said, I don't have much meat over the collar bone, on either side. He's a cyclist. 3 members of his team have had this same operation. He did this same surgery on somebody else last week. We talked about it. Maybe shoulder pads could protect the collar bone, but probably not. Collar bones break from end-on impact -- not direct impact. I've been being hit by cars while I ride my bike since I was 9. This is the first time I've wound up with worse than a broken knee.

Bottom line, the stitches weren't supposed to come out until next week. They're out now. I'm allowed to type without my sling. I can sleep without it, too. Yay! But I can't ride my bike until the bone is completely healed. He did give me some exercises and approved some of the ones I want to do, that I wasn't sure were safe.

And meanwhile, my bike has now been officially admitted as stolen from the police department. The officer I spoke with says that non-city employees who are hired to clean the station probably stole it. She's going to get me a document explaining that my bike was there because of the accident. This should mean that the insurance company for the driver has to buy me a new bike.

The oddest thing of the whole day -- the surgeon didn't seem familiar with the new bone glues. He said he didn't use bone glue because they're not strong enough. I've been reading about bone glues for more than a decade. Here's one article:

A report that used to be on the Mayo Clinic website said that bone glue could make a wrist ready to go in 24 hours. Have to go visit with a lawyer in about an hour. I'm totally tired of the phone calls from the driver's insurance about why they won't pay my medical bills, and all the other calls from other companies that imagine being in accident means I want to hire them to clean my house or assist me in other ways. I just want my life back!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Agreeing to Disagree

While I was zoned out on morphine, Jacqueline kindly wrote an entry for my blog, on the subject of Language Usage.

First, let me state that I see zero possibility that I would ever become a morphine addict. That drug makes me dizzy, makes me vomit, makes my mouth feel dry, and makes me sleepy. Yes, it takes the edge off the pain, but as soon as I could, I demanded a non-narcotic pain killer. The doctors didn't know of any, but the nurse suggested Ultram or Tramidol. That drug works and lets my brain function. A day of that, and I was demanding to go home. The hospital has a silly test that nobody on morphine could pass. You have to go up and down stairs, get in and out of bed, sit in and rise from a chair and a few other practical daily activities. With the Ultram, I could do them, so they let me go. Yay!

Back to the main reason for today's blog. Jacqueline wrote: "If two people discuss a subject and discover they have differing opinions because they are each accepting as fact something the other thinks is not a fact, then the discussion must pause right there -- and fact-finding must ensue until both parties agree on the facts.

That means getting rid of the process that has recently become 'politically correct' of 'agreeing to disagree.'"

I don't agree with Jacqueline. She expected that. It's not a matter of whether we agree on facts. It's the importance and interpretation of the impact of those facts that we disagree about.

Jacqueline is a Republican. I'm a Democrat. This is not due to any ignorance of facts by either of us. We interpret human actions differently. We can agree on what we saw, but we'll disagree about the societal impacts of those actions. I'm not going to stop my life and ask Jacqueline to stop hers, while we do a major psychological study to see if we can amass enough data to prove either of our interpretations more likely to be repeatable. I'm not going to challenge her right to vote. Nor is she going to challenge mine.

Some facts that may be of interest.
makes the interesting claim: "Twice as many young American men died from suicide during the Vietnam War as young men who died in combat."

I've also read that the death rate was the same for young men who went to war in Vietnam and young men who stayed home.

If either of these statements are true, does that justify war? I don't think so. In my opinion, you also need to look at the death rates of the so-called enemy. And you need to ask if killing people is the best way to solve the perceived problem. It usually isn't. Note - I didn't say NEVER.

Republicans decided to go to war against Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks on the Twin Towers on Sept 11, 2001. Now a Democratic President is going to bring the troops home. Same facts. Different opinion about what to do.

So, I will support President Obama in his efforts to bring our troops home. And I will support Jacqueline's right to disagree with me.

Honestly most of the time voting seems as silly as the kindergarten class that voted on the gender of their classroom's baby hamsters. Even as a biology major, I often find it difficult to recognize the gender of a baby hamster. I'm willing to wait for the hamsters to mature in order to determine their sex. Waiting doesn't necessarily help determine the best course for society to take on any given issue.

And we're stuck with those less fact-based decision making processes. Empathy seems to be genetic.

Democrats tend to be more empathetic than Republicans. There's a fact with wide-ranging societal implications. Okay, Jacqueline, your turn.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Maybe I'm a Table

I looked over the home care instructions from the hospital. While I was in their care for 6 days, they asked me several times a day how tall I am and what I weigh. I guess they didn't listen. I'm 5 feet 2 inches tall. That's 62 inches for folks who don't like to think about feet. On their records, I'm 61 centimeters tall. That's 24 inches, or for folks who do like feet, that's 2 feet tall. And they think I weigh 135 lbs. That's about 20 lbs more than I really weigh. So, maybe they were describing the table they had me lying on. But they think I need to lose weight, and if I smoke, they think I should stop. They had me under constant observation for 6 days and they don't know if I smoke? Maybe they paid no more attention to me than they do to a table.

I also looked at the instructions for taking the drugs. They sent me home with 3 drugs. Drug A is to be taken 45 minutes before Drug B. I'm supposed to take Drug A every 12 hours. I'm supposed to take Drug B 4 times a day. And I'm supposed to take Drug C when I'm in pain.

Tables don't take drugs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Have No Bike and I Must Ride

I was biking along Pennsylvania Ave. The weather was warm. I was feeling fit. The next thing I knew I was naked being examined in what appeared to be a stereotypcial alien abduction scene. Except the aliens all looked human. So, where was my husband, the best alien on Earth?

These "alien doctors" claimed to be in a local hospital. They claimed I was on the 8th floor in room 19. Every few hours after that one of them asked me where I was. Since I had no proof that I wasn't aboard an alien space craft--they hadn't let me outside to check--I told them that they had told me I was in a hospital on the 8th floor in room 19. That seemed to satisfy them. They claimed that I was hit by a car. I have no memory of this. They claim my nose was broken. If so, they miraculously fixed it. All I found was dried blood on my upper lip. They claimed I had either 5 or 6 fractures to my skull. The room had no mirrors. They showed me an x-ray that they said was my left collar bone. It was certainly somebody's left collar bone that had been broken into more pieces than I could count. I agreed to let them screw it together. I now have stitches and a clear bandaid over my left collar bone. Several of my teeth feel bruised. My eyes are uncooperative. I can read computer screens easily. But they get tired reading books. And it takes a while to focus on smaller type or italic type.

The Police say they picked up my bike from the accident site. But they don't have it. Twice they've called to say they have it, but twice my husband has gone to pick it up, and twice they couldn't find it. So, I'm stuck walking. I walked 1/4 mile to the ATM to deposit my income tax refund check. My left knee got tired en route and I had to sit down to rest before the uphill walk back. I'm not supposed to bike or do other arm exercises until after I get the stitches out. I have an appt on the 27th of July.
I don't like this body that the aliens stuck me in. It's got huge purple raccoon eyes (bruises). It gets tired easily. It has to keep the left arm in a sling. I opened up the end of it so I could get my fingers out to type. My mom wants me to ask the surgeon if this is okay. I've never been an authority freak. That's her thing.

I'm having surreal email conversations with people who seem to be aliens from another galaxy. The words seem to meet a total disconnect. I thank someone and she writes back concerned that I was disappointed. I ordered a new bike helmet.

Giro Remedy Bike Helmet

It arrived with instructions for a different helmet and without the visor screw. And rotten rehab doc showed up at the hospital apologizing that another doctor had beat me up. Rotten rehab doc is the only doctor to have beaten me up lately. The one he was accusing had most definitely not beaten me up. I tried to get RRD to apologize but all I got were illogical jokes. I emailed him, again asking for an apology. No response. So I wrote his dept chair. Still no apology, but this time a muckety-muck administrator told me that the chair will talk with RRD about how to treat patients. That's the main point. RRD should never treat anybody else the way he has treated me.

Then there are the phone calls from the insurance company of the driver who hit me. PA has a weird no-fault law, so your car insurance is supposed to pay if you get in an automobile accident, no matter whose fault it is, even if you weren't in a car during the accident. But I don't own a car and don't have car insurance. When I explained this to the driver's insurance, they said they'd have to investigate me. I suppose they discovered I was telling the truth because the next day they called back, and told me that their client's policy will pay $5000 of my medical bills. I told them the bills are over $100,000. They said they have to investigate whose fault the accident was. Hmmm. According to the police report, a car hit a bicycle that was in the proper lane for a bike. The car was trying to cut around to the right side of the bike, and hit the bike, causing the bicyclist to bounce onto the trunk of the car and then the pavement. There are two witnesses, one of whom is an off-duty police officer. The insurance company wants to re-interview the witnesses. This is going to take a while. If the insurance company agrees that their driver was at fault, then they'll pay up to the driver's limits for my medical bills. I hope that's at least enough to cover my deductibles. This driver seems to be way under-insured. And his insurance company seems to have the twin goals of minimizing and delaying payments.

Meanwhile, Blue Cross called me. They wanted to know if I need a home nurse or other home help. That might have been useful over the weekend. But it's now Thursday. I've been home 6 days. Now they offer? I asked the woman to put me on her Ignore List. She laughed. The third time I asked, she agreed to do it.

My yoga teacher has agreed to help me with recovery asanas. But I have to wait until the stitches are out before I can get a t-shirt on and go to class.

I seem to be on basically the same planet I was biking on before the so-called accident. But I have no bike. My body is different. And who ever lives on this planet sure doesn't know how to treat somebody who is recovering from either an accident or an alien abduction. The people/aliens at the hospital asked if I wanted anything. I told them I want access to their time machine to go back before the accident so I can avoid it. They laughed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Geezer-Chick is Home from the Hospital

I am happy to report that I talked to Geezer-Chick on the telephone yesterday. She is now home from the hospital, but unable to use her left arm. She complained to me that they have put her in a sling that doesn't even leave her fingers free.

She sounds good, much stronger than when I talked to her in the hospital a few days ago. She is able to climb stairs (a good thing considering the house she lives in) and walk as much as she wants, but she is not allowed to lift anything over a few ounces, even with her uninjured hand.

Knowing Geezer-Chick, she will be back online as soon as she can get a one-hand keyboard for her computer and learn to use it. In the meantime, though, her friends will continue to put guest posts on her blog.

Jean Lorrah

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Language Usage

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to this (rather wonderful) blog about life after 60.

Those who don't share this time-perspective have a hard time understanding what we're talking about, nevermind what we're actually saying! And if they do grasp a point or two, it often doesn't seem to mean much to them. For the younger people (yes, I remember being very young) the world hasn't changed at all - yet.

Boy, do they have a treat in store.

So it's good to talk to people who remember the 1950's and 1960's fondly. (well, except for having to whiten bucks and starch crinolines.) I remember buying records that could actually break if you dropped them. And I remember going weeks and even months at a time without encountering even mild invective used in public or in books for that matter.

In a previous entry on this blog,
Geezer-Chick pointed out a problem that I've encountered more and more often these days. People don't say what they mean, and it may be due to not knowing HOW to say what they mean.

Geezer-Chick wrote:
Disagreeing does NOT make me an Idiot

I've become distressed about a recent trend in language usage. A new definition of idiot, moron, and similar terms has come into common use. That definition? Anyone who disagrees with the speaker. I've heard Nobel Prize winners decried as idiots. Talented artists as morons, and mentally deficient.

Well, I'm going to disagree a little with Geezer-Chick (a dangerous pastime, the years have taught me).

I don't think the evidence that I've seen supports the idea that the changing definition of idiot, moron and other derogatory terms flung as destructive labels, really has to do with simple disapproval.

I think the flinging of weapon-words at someone who dares to venture a different opinion is a knee-jerk reflex to being made to feel helpless.

There's a principle at work here that I have seen evidenced far and wide.

A human who KNOWS something, but doesn't know how they came to know that thing, who didn't arrive at that opinion by by their own meticulous reasoning, can not defend their position.

The human mind can't construct a proof on the fly for an opinion that they did not personally derive from facts which they themselves verified.

Thus any challenge to that KNOWLEDGE hits as life-threatening. And the response is inarticulate fear-fight-flight.

Or worse. Subconsciously, they may remember acquiring the opinion from someone they love (father, mother, grandfather) -- from someone they treasure. Disagree with an opinion absorbed with a mother's love and you MUST be put in your place because you have attacked that mother and disproved that love.

If you turn out to be right and the loving mother inculcated an incorrect opinion, then it follows that the love itself did not exist. Nobody who really loves you will lie to you.

Such opinions imbibed with "mother's milk" are sacrosanct. They are the axioms in our reasoning universe and don't need proof. If you disagree you are a moron or less. You can't deny that the sun shines, gravity pulls on you, and mother is right. Mother's opinions are non-falsifiable hypotheses, like faith in God.

Of course, with the teen years that attitude is submerged by the unfurling ego. But submerged is the key concept. The attitudes that are imbibed with love submerge into the subconscious and lurk there to then condition and control the behavior toward the next generation. Those attitudes lurk and persist for 4 generations.

So the response to disagreement isn't what we used to expect when we were growing up in a school system that put a premium on learning to use the correct word, to avoid invective because it's imprecise not because it's impolite, and believe what we believe for reasons.

The response to a challenge to one's inherited opinions is vicious counter-attack or even destruction (character assassination). No one can gain respect by denying parental love was real (even if the person knows for a fact that their parents never did love them, nobody else is allowed to say so and get respect for that opinion).

The cure for this creeping social ill of imprecise language has to be more language instruction, the earlier the better.

We need to summon a cultural value that places a premium on accurately expressing your opinions with precise words and enclosing within your opinion the facts you derived your opinion from.

Accurate communication must be elevated in our value structure to be above SOUND BYTES, brevity, simplicity.

If two people discuss a subject and discover they have differing opinions because they are each accepting as fact something the other thinks is not a fact, then the discussion must pause right there -- and fact-finding must ensue until both parties agree on the facts.

That means getting rid of the process that has recently become "politically correct" of "agreeing to disagree."

Many of our communication problems that have arisen in the last 3 decades can be traced to this blurring of the line between fact and opinion by agreeing to disagree as if the facts don't matter. This process leaves a festering hole in our factual universe.

In fact, there are younger people around who actually don't know the difference between fact and opinion because of "agreeing to disagree."

Such people, though they may be over 18 years of age, aren't actually qualified to cast a vote for public office because of that lack of knowledge of the difference between fact and opinion. Isn't that a frightening idea.

Thank you for giving me a chance to sound off on this pet peeve about language usage.

I post on Tuesdays on a co-blog on Paranormal Romance
where I often talk about Tarot and Astrology and other fields of psychology that can be used by writers to create fiction. I'm currently working on a series of non-fiction books about writing craft.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jaipur, India, December 28, 2008

This is a guest post by Jean Lorrah, The House of Keon.

[Notes in square brackets are added as I transcribe my journal for publishing. Everything else is what I wrote in my journal during the trip itself.]

Up at 4:00am, picked up at 5:15 for the train station. People were sleeping all over the station floor--the homeless seeking to sleep under a roof. We had a hard time not stepping on anyone as we maneuvered our luggage to the platform. It's December, the coldest part of the year, yet people who can't get into a place like the train station are sleeping outside.

The train was crowded, but we had reserved seats in 2nd class. Shabby old train cars, but our tickets included a newspaper and a hot breakfast, delivered to our seats. I have discovered masala chai, a form of tea mixed with spices and hot milk, served in small cups. Delicious. [So far, I have not been able to duplicate the flavor at home with recipes to be found on the web.]

The heavy pollution disappeared as we rode out into the country--thriving farms, every square inch of land put to use. At this time of year fields of mustard were in bloom, while rice paddies were only beginning to sprout green shoots. [This was the only area in which we saw rice paddies.]

In Jaipur, a city that appears to be one giant market, we are staying at another of those little havens away from the madding crowd. This one is called Jai Nivas, a luxury guest house. It has a garden with a koi pond, where we sat and were served juice while they got our rooms ready.

Except that there is less colorful air pollution, Jaipur is a smaller version of Delhi: dirty, crowded, and crazy. We walked into the Pink City through neighborhoods of grinding poverty. Here the sacred cows do wander freely, while goats are raised right in the city. Cute baby goats gambol in the filth. At one corner a family of pigs blocked our way.

Our guide clearly wants us to see everything, but he is exhausting us. We visited the City Palace, a textile museum, and street after street of open market. Along the way, Lois got the opportunity to see snake charmers, something she had wanted to see. But I don't think she expected to see them this up close and personal!

Then our guide had us get into tuk-tuks (bicycle rickshaws), which carried us for blocks and then suddenly, for no discernible reason, set us down in front of McDonald's. [That was the only McDonald's we saw in India.] Our guide promptly disappeared into the insane traffic. We looked at one another and tried to figure out what was going on.

Just as we were about to try to call our guide's cell phone, he reappeared and led us across a roundabout and up a street to a gem exchange. Lois, Eric, Kyle, and I had no interest in expensive baubles, so collapsed onto couches in the lobby to wait for our tour mates. To our amazement we were brought chai and treated as welcome guests, even though we were clearly not there to buy.

After that welcome break, we walked the rest of the way back to our lodging. Lois, Eric, and I elected not to go out to a restaurant, as we needed to rest and do some laundry.

On our second day and second city, India continues to show us havens of comfort and hospitality, beauty and charm, in the midst of poverty and filth, beggars and thieves. One thief--an able-bodied young man--tried to take my walking stick right out of my hands today, but backed off when I threatened to hit him with it. Goodness knows what cultural rules I broke doing that, but I carry it for foreign travel for good reason: ancient walkways are uneven, as are steps, and there are often no handrails. It also gives me something to lean on when standing in queues.

My stick is not expensive--around $15 at Wal-Mart--but it collapses to go through airport security, extends to the length of a cane for strolling through cities, and extends to walking stick height for hiking. [See my upcoming Dec. 29 post with the photo of the steep climb to the Amber Fort for the obvious reason I cannot let go of a walking aid just because someone who doesn't need it wants it. I would not be able to buy another till I got home.]

Having passed some laundries in which people wash clothing by banging it with bricks in water we have been warned not to drink, we chose to wash our own clothes in India. [In later posts I'll have photos of people doing laundry that will show you why we were leery of sending our laundry out.] So we did that, then had a very nice dinner at our lodgings, where we are getting the finest service I have ever experienced.

So far, we have seen India as a land of great contrasts--but we've only been here for two days.

Guest posts on Geezer-Chick

Lois, the Geezer-Chick, was riding her bicycle on Monday when she was hit by a car. She is in the hospital, badly injured but expecting a full recovery. As she has a broken collarbone, even after she returns home she will be limited to things she can do with one hand.

So, while Lois is incapacitated, some of her friends are going to write posts for Geezer-Chick.

We will try to emulate her energy and enthusiasm!

I'm Jean Lorrah, and my own blog is HouseOfKeon . Today I'll cross-post one part of my series of journal entries on the trip Lois, her husband, another friend, and I took to India and Nepal last winter. This post is appropriate because it includes video of Lois and the snake charmers she particularly wanted to see.

Watch for original posts from me and others of Lois's friends until we can all welcome Geezer-Chick back with her usual inventive and impudent posts.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Anti-Virus Program for my Mother

My mother lives 3000 miles from me. She calls me for tech support whenever her computer misbehaves. She’s impatient. If a document doesn’t print immediately, she clicks the print button again. Then she get upset that her printer wastes paper and ink by printing more than one copy. She has yet to memorize my basic instruction – if your computer is acting crabby, it needs a nap. Turn it off and let it rest for a minute or two. Lately, her descriptions of what’s wrong sound serious. The computer is slow. She tries to log into her email and gets a message that somebody else is using it. Her computer crashes. She uses the free AVG antivirus program. I want her to get a spyware program, too. I recommended Spybot Search & Destroy or Threatfire, both of which are free at I copied my brother in on the email. He wants to get her a copy of Norton 360, which he says he can get for $10. I looked up the reviews of AVG and Norton 360 on the PC Magazine website. Out of 5 dots, Norton gets 4.5 and AVG gets 4.0. I don’t know if that extra half dot is worth $10. But if my brother picks out the program, he’ll have to do tech support. So, yes, I think my mother should have Norton 360. My brother lives about 400 miles from my mom. He can’t pop over and do the laying-on-of-hands to fix her computer any more easily than I can. She really should have nearby tech support. Is it too late for her to adopt a whizkid? It takes a village to supply proper tech support.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Unicorns are Disappearing

When I visited my Virginia grandchildren last week, I asked, "Do you have any unicorns in your house?"
"Noooooo!" they both answered.
"Do you know what a unicorn looks like?"
"Then how do you know you don't have any?"
I had them.
I consider one of my functions as a grandparent to encourage my grandchildren to cultivate a sense of wonder.
I got out my unicorn catcher. (go to YouTube, and look at the videos on "ring and chain" if you want to see one)
King Arthur and his knights used to ride unicorns into battle. Too many unicorns got killed that way, so Merlin, the wizard, made them all invisible. There are still unicorns among us. And if you are lucky, you can catch one with the bridle and bit of a unicorn catcher. But you have to let them go, quickly. They like their freedom.
I asked my daughter if she had any books with pictures of unicorns. She didn't. And she didn't want to go online to get one to show her children.
My grandchildren liked catching unicorns.
When I got home, I emailed them a picture of a unicorn.
I took my unicorn catcher to a neighborhood block party yesterday. One of the dads told me that he had tried to discuss unicorns with some students at the local art school. None of these college-aged children knew what he was talking about.
Are unicorns going the way of home-made bread?
If you know something fun, teach someone.
I'm going to hunt up a mystical creatures book and send copies to my grandchildren.

And then the topic changed to planets. My grand daughter was sure that Saturn was the ONLY planet with rings. Again, I asked to go online. I was sure Neptune has rings. When I got home, I found the link and sent it to them. Neptune does indeed have rings.

Please don't tell me that the Internet as a research tool is going the way of the unicorn.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Disagreeing does NOT make me an Idiot

I've become distressed about a recent trend in language usage. A new definition of idiot, moron, and similar terms has come into common use. That definition? Anyone who disagrees with the speaker. I've heard Nobel Prize winners decried as idiots. Talented artists as morons, and mentally deficient.

First of all, if indeed one is mentally deficient, that is not an insult. That is a statement of fact. It is something that person and those who live and work with him or her must deal with. It makes no sense to use an inaccurate label to describe someone whose opinion you disagree with.

On the original Star Trek series, one of the characters was a half-Vulcan half-human. As a result, his blood was green. When one of the other characters on the show tried to insult him by calling him a green-blooded half-breed, he just shrugged. Why be insulted with a statement of fact?

But if one is not mentally deficient, and is so-labelled, that is just plain illogical. Again, it is not an insult because it has no truth. But the charge throws the discussion completely off track. It is the speaker's attempt to avoid the discussion by claiming that his or her opponent is not worthy of debate.

It is also an admission that the speaker has on solid arguments on his or her side and therefore has resorted to attempted insults.

My appeal? If you are going to debate, do so. If you run out of arguments, politely table the topic. But don't corrupt the English language just because you can't think of anything sensible to say.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

42 Years of Marriage to the Best Alien on Earth

42 years ago, we promised to love and help each other in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or for worse. We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We had no ideas about the adventures we’d have the changes we’d go through, the problems we’d face and fight about, or how deeply we would come to trust each other.

Much of what I love I learned from my husband. Before I met him, I never thought about taking chemistry classes. I didn’t know that chemistry was a subject that thrives on language and can be illustrated with drawings in a secret code.

He didn’t know that you could critique a first draft of a play, or say something silly that would wind up making our living room headquarters for the neighborhood food co-op. Or that his lab skills would overflow into our kitchen.

His quick ability with picking up useful phrases makes it possible for us to travel off the beaten path anywhere in the world.

Thanks to his skills, we climbed the steep paths of the swiss-cheese rocks in Meteora, Greece where the monks live, and we wandered around the streets of Kyoto where the signs are no longer in English and people are pleased to have their dogs praised, “Inu, ii des.”

He learned to ride a bicycle because I wouldn’t let him ride my motorbike until he could ride a two-wheeler. He encouraged me to become strong enough to use a bicycle as my major transportation – and now we don’t own a motorbike or a car. It’s funny that we used to think a car meant freedom and now not owning one is greater freedom.

The hospital locked him out of the delivery room when our first daughter was born. He delivered our second daughter himself in our home while we distracted his mother by sending her for a camera.

He made child-rearing a joint project, like everything else. Discipline, allowances, what they could wear. He helped me survive their teenaged rebellions, and just when they started to improve, he helped me survive their going off to college. He cried at their weddings.

We’ve provided safe havens for each other when our jobs weren’t going well. And employed or not, he worked on his amazing research projects (doing what I taught him was called stone-soup research) that I’m sure will improve the lives of many.

He helped me renovate two fixer-upper houses.

He jumps on a trampoline with our grandchildren and help me do magic shows for them.
He has survived being fired, being hit by a truck, burying beloved pets, being criticized by our children and even being yelled at by me, and he has continued to be my best friend.

I don't know any other marriages like this. I have always felt that I am an alien. The fact that we were able to have children together indicates that he is an alien, too. After 42 years I am happy to see him beside me when I wake up in the morning, happy to receive calls from him during the day, happy that he comes home for dinner. I love it that he reads stories to me and does the voices for the characters. I love it that he eats cutely, which makes cooking worthwhile. I love it that he has a different perspective from me and his ideas help me shape my own. He is a major part of my life.

When we said those vows about for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, that sounded scary. But now that we’re doing it – that’s just how life is. I’m glad we’re exploring it together!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

They're Hot Spells, NOT Hot Flashes

My sister-in-law asked me about hot flashes.
Do I get them? What are they like? She’s in her early 50's. She deserves honest answers – not the brush-off that you get on medical websites. Doctors only recently learned what women have known forever – the body actually does get hotter during a hot spell.

I can’t imagine how they ever got the name flash! Hot spells last up to 15 minutes. They are a form of blushing. They happen when I get upset. The upset can be about something in my own life, or a reaction to something going on in a play or a movie or a book. I’ve been in the audience at an emotionally intense play and taken off clothing in public. I dress in layers so I can do that. I’ve seen other women at these events do the same. We smile sheepishly at each other. We’ve even gone out into the snow in the thinnest of t-shirts just to get some relief, kind of like smokers, but we’re not hot enough to leave ashes on the snow. Maybe a garment or two.

When they started, I’d get a dozen or more hot spells a day. At 15 minutes each, that’s 3 hours a day of being “hot and bothered.” That idiom is a key to understanding what is happening and what can be done about it. The answer is not to get upset. And the only way I’ve found to accomplish that is compassion.

Yes, I’m sure whatever triggered my upset was WRONG. S/he should not have said/ done that terrible thing. That natural disaster was terrifying. Even if it was fictional. Even if it was totally out of my control. Even if it is WRONG by any moral standard. The bottom line is that when I am upset then I’m the one with the hot spell. I’m the one taking off my clothing in public and dashing out into the snow.

Being right is no compensation. A hot spell is nature’s way of telling me that I need a new way to think about my world. Not being upset does NOT mean NOT caring. It means compassion, rather than pain. When something bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s more useful to be compassionate than upset. A cool mind (I’m starting to love the idioms we use to describe our thinking processes) can work on problems better than a hot head.

Sedona Method helps. EFT helps. ( (This requires tapping on yourself, in public, which looks even sillier than taking off clothing – but who cares? During a hot spell, relief is all that matters.) The Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet at is brilliant, and I can carry these with me. Writing on a piece of paper does not look silly. EFT and the Worksheet are free. Some of the essays on the www.GuyFinley,com (also free) are also helpful. I particularly like this one on tolerance:

Using them prevents future upsets. If I learn a new way to think about a situation, it’s like learning any other skill – the ability stays with me. Just as I’d rather exercise than take a pill, I’d also rather work on my thought processes than take a pill. I find it useful to imagine scenes in which I would be upset and work on them. Yes, this can induce a hot spell. But since I picked the topic and the time and place, at least I’m not stripping in public.

If you want to help a woman who is having a hot spell, get her some ice, or a cool drink of water. Don't be surprised if she dumps it on her head. The middle of a hot spell is NOT the time to introduce the tools of compassionate thinking. (These are great tools, but introduced at the wrong time, they can sound like "blame the victim") Her hot spell is a time for you to exhibit compassion. After she has cooled down, you might mention that you read an article that says compassion can help. Getting pushy with a woman who is "hot and bothered" is never a good idea.