Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When I Thought I Could Know Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Just When I Thought My Body was Getting Into Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 25, 2009

Green, the Color of Spring and Mold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green is the color chlorine can turn your hair.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

PowerPoint for Pre-Op

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Can't Lift it Yet

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Girl in the Cafe

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

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buddha at the Cash Register

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

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

Buddha at the Cash Register

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jobs for the Enlightened

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talking About Inventions

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

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

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

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

Peelu Company - Dental Chewing Gum - Peppermint, 300 gum

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

Meanwhile, I've been reading

A Taste for Red

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

There's another customer for the sonic mouth cleaner.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Update on my Mom's Computer Problems

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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Home Funerals Make the CBS News

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

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

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

Suddenly, home burial has made the general news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Imagination is Coming Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wife of Bath's Tale - Chaucer Got it Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sizes Have Changed, Softball Use Has, too.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, I found a good yoga video website --you only get to watch one video free:

Note: if you have RealPlayer
Free download here:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An Apology from the Hospital

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

Monday, December 7, 2009

How to Find a Lost Cat

Guest Post by Melissa

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

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recycling Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Telephone Computer Support

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Secret Romances

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Dog is My Evil Twin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Another Flexi-girl in Yoga Class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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