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.

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.

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:

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:

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.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hit and Run Bicyclist

A local pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run bicyclist. The story is that the bicyclist swerved to avoid being hit by a car, and accidentally hit a pedestrian. The story continues that the bicyclist stopped briefly, spoke with the pedestrian, and then continued on his way. The pedestrian was taken to a hospital and placed into a coma to slow a brain hemorrhage. The pedestrian died in the coma.

The story does not say if the pedestrian was paying attention to traffic in the street (both car and bike). Or if the car-driver suddenly accelerated. Or if the bicyclist was swerving irresponsibly.

All we know is that the pedestrian is dead and a hit-and-run bicyclist killed him.

I go to my gym for yoga and Pilates and swimming as part of my own rehab from being hit by a car, while riding my bike. I-am-on-the-mend. But suddenly, people see me as a potential scary attacker.

A fellow Pilates student asked me, “Why would a bicyclist keep going after hitting a pedestrian? I thought biking was part of getting away from that car-driver mentality.”

Where could I start? Most car-drivers are not hit-and-run drivers. But I didn’t sense that this was the main thrust of the man’s question.

Was he asking if I could be a hit-and-run bicyclist? Perhaps THE hit-and-run bicyclist?

I know I am often torn between time obligations and kindness impulses. I often choose to get off the phone or refuse to chat with a neighbor in order to keep an appointment. Suppose I hit somebody on the way to an appointment? I would feel torn. Do I put all my attention on the person I hit? Or do I look for an opportunity to call my client and tell him or her that I’ve got to reschedule?

I often feel conflicts about priorities.

I can remember arguments with my children in which I pulled rank. “No we don’t have time for you to change your blouse. You’ll be late to school, and I’ll be late to work.”

We do what we value. Often we have to choose between things that we value. I want my daughter to feel happy with what she’s wearing. I want her to be on time to school, more. And I want to be at work on time myself, more.

So what was going through the mind of that hit-and-run bicyclist?

I told the man in the elevator, “There are no sane reasons to leave the scene of the accident. But there are plenty of insane reasons.”

Clearly my answer did not satisfy him. But he didn’t know how to ask what was still puzzling him. I think the unspoken question was, “Why are people on this planet crazy?”

If he had asked, I have no answer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Comfrey Oil Experiences

My broken collar bone was quick with the initial stages of knitting. But then it seemed to slow down. It was supposed to get opaque and in a month, there was no progress. I tried putting cooked comfrey roots against the skin over the broken bone. The roots get cold and drippy and slip around. After a week, I got tired of it.

I bought a jar of comfrey in bees wax. That stays put and does not get cold and drippy. I do not know if it was working on the bone underneath.

Then I took a trip to England and forgot to pack my comfrey. The first health food shop I went to in York didn’t have comfrey in beeswax. They did have comfrey oil. UK labels are not like US labels. I grow comfrey in my yard. I know there isn’t enough oil in a comfrey plant to make it worth squeezing. The label just said comfrey oil. I bought it anyway.

I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and I was amazed to look in the mirror and see that the scar from the surgery has gotten much thinner and less obvious. I’ve used comfrey before to help skin grow after nasty scrapes and cuts. But I had no chance to use comfrey at the fresh wound stage after the surgery. It was covered with sterile bandages. And it never occurred to me to put comfrey on scar tissue.

I decided to check on the web to find out if you can buy comfrey oil in the US. And maybe find out what kind of oil is used. Yes, there are several brands of comfrey oil available in the US. They are extractions in extra virgin olive oil. The extraction is done at the flower stage, and the entire above ground part of the plant is used.

Here’s one place that sells it:

Comfrey Oil - Organic 4 Ounces

Here’s a video showing how it is made:

I’ll get another x-ray at the end of this month. I hope the comfrey is working as well on my bones underneath the skin as it is working on the skin.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Traveling Without Checking Luggage

When I travel, I don’t like to be burdened with heavy luggage. I don’t like to wait in the line to check in luggage. I don’t like to wait around for an hour or more to claim my luggage after the flight. And I don’t want to risk my essentials being lost or broken by the luggage machinery. And it’s fun to see the faces of people who work at the airport when I tell them, “All I need is in my backpack.”

One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” I think so many people check luggage because it takes less time to fill a suitcase than to figure out what is really necessary for a trip.

I’ve had many decades to figure this out. First, I need to know how many days the trip will last. If it’s one week or less, I don’t need to do laundry. My bookbag will hold 7 days of underwear, socks, and t-shirts. Pants or skirts are good for 2 or 3 days each. Wear one and pack two.

If the trip will be 8 days or more, I only pack 4 days worth of clothing, but I do pack an extra pair of shoes. I also pack a laundry ball (not soap) so I won’t have to rinse, when I wash clothing in the sink. Here’s one such product.

All my clothing has to audition for the special privilege of being packed. How quickly will it dry? My t-shirts, pants, and skirts are all made of quick-drying material. My bras have no padding or wires. My underpants are thin cotton. I do NOT recommend quick-dry underwear. Since people ask, some of my favorite travel clothing websites are, eddiebauer, llbean, travelsmith, landsend, sportsmansguide, championusa, and eBay.

The TSA has taken the guesswork out of how much bathroom stuff to pack. Nothing over 3 ounces or 100 ml. No more than will fit into a 1 quart ziplock baggie. I bought some refillable plastic 2 ounce bottles. Mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide (in case my ears itch), comfrey oil to put on wounds, hand lotion.

I refuse to pay for those travel sized toothpaste tubes. I found soap chips with xylitol formulated for toothbrushing. I like the orange flavor. One or two chips are enough for a good scrub, and no, it does not taste like getting your mouth washed out with soap. And it doesn’t count as a liquid.

The same stores that sell tooth soap also sell bar shampoo. Thus neither shampoo nor tooth wash count as liquids.

I also pack my hairbrush, toothbrush, floss, tongue scraper, and comb, a compartmental box with pills. Vitamins, psyllium, aloe vera, magnesium, homeopathic remedies, a few herbs that I might want, and salt packets. My Neti Pot (From – if you get one please mention you heard from so you will get a 5% discount and my friends at will get a 5% commission.)

There’s still room for my camera, cell phone, cell phone charger, a small book, a small notebook, and a pair of balls for some of my exercises.

And this does not fill my backpack. I still have room to pack small gifts for people I’ll be visiting, a few magic tricks to amuse grandchildren or cranky children at airports, and some snack bars in case the flight is delayed. The whole thing weighs less than 8 pounds.

If I need more than this, there are stores where I travel.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Neighbors Get No Say

Okay. It's official. If a business wants to put in a sidewalk cafe, they don't need to ask the neighbors. There is no hearing. The business just needs to give a diagram of the sidewalk they want to set up the cafe on to the streets department. The cafe can't be more than 5 feet wide. There has to be room on the sidewalk for people to pass (which there is in most of Philadelphia. The sidewalks in my residential neighborhood are 12 feet wide -- our front doors open directly onto the sidewalks) they get the permit. That's it.

There is talk of revamping the zoning laws. If something really happens, I'll be sending the committee my input. But it's too late for my neighborhood.

Now I can only hope that the thing my neighborhood bar does need a license for -- serving liquor on the sidewalk -- is denied.

Meanwhile, the head of trauma at the hospital where they mixed up my x-rays and took duplicate x-rays is now claiming that the duplicates were because I was sick. I was never sick. I was hit by a car. We're still trying to arrange a meeting with him. The hospital also claims they don't show x-rays on laptops to patients. This is clearly a case of a hospital administration that does not know what is really going on. I will pursue this and keep you posted.