Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jacobite Songs and Royal Weddings

This is a guest blog by French GeezerDude

Recently I was incited by a friend to gather information, so as to stay up to date on the British monarchy, in view of the oncoming Royal Wedding in case I would be invited.
I immediately reported to a site dedicated to Jacobite Songs which I started some years ago

Jacobite Songs?
Remember! The songs where the Tories vituperated the Whigs of old for having turned out the lawful Stuart monarch, James II, (“Jacobus” in Latin) to the benefit, a score of years later, of the German House of Hanover, those ugly usurpers who occupy the British throne ever since and are allowed to star in pageants at the cost of tax payers (after deduction of the income derived from the TV fees) in the three Kingdoms, whether they be Whigs or not …

As to that famous site, it contains, among others, this fact susceptible to appeal to the modern TV-watcher’s imagination:
First report to
Then click on the link:
E10 “A Parcel of Rogues” (in the 1st column, chapter “The Act of Union”)

The comment to this song (which was evidently composed by Robert Burns, but not acknowledged by its author), contains information on the curious bonds uniting the present Prince of Wales and his second wife, née Camilla Shand.
The latter appears to be the direct descendant of the Dutch General Arnold Joost van Keppel (1669 – 1718).
To use a cautious word, Keppel was the nearest “adherent” to William of Orange when he came to England in 1688 and snatched sceptre and crown from the hands of his father-in-law, the King of England, James the II. (Another Jacobite song, registered G22 “Here’s a Health to the King”, is more explicit and calls William, in verse 3, “A vile sodomite king”).
Rapidly, this young man, who had hardly rendered any service to his new country, was bending beneath the offices, titles and awards bestowed on him by his royal friend. (See link “Arnold Joost van Keppel's Descendants”   in the middle of the page “Parcel of Rogues”)
After William’s death (1702), van Keppel returned to the Netherlands and had offspring: he is the remote ancestor of Lt Col. George Keppel, the great grand-father to the present Duchess of Cornwall
But it could be also that Camilla’s maternal grandmother, Sonia Keppel, was a daughter of King Edward VII rather than of the Hon. George Keppel…

The site should be a comprehensive source of information for anyone interested in Jacobite songs and poems.
As in the present instance, these polemical or poetical texts often complete (and, maybe, correct?) the data gathered by the methods of orthodox history.
Unlike a printed book, the Internet site provides a tone background to each text, (as a rule a MIDI harmonization, sometimes completed with relevant U-tube videos or WAV clips), along with well-documented comments on tune and lyrics for over 550 pieces (for the time being):
Did you know what a “guy”really is? Or  what people were called “frogs” in the 17thcentury?
Did you know that haunting songs like “Adieu Dundee” or the “Lass of Livingstone” were originally bawdy ditties?
Did you know that the most offensive swearword contained, in Alexander McDonald’s Gaelic diatribe «German Cannibal», is also to be found, in plain English, in the earlier song, “Royal James”? …
In short, you should find there “every thing you always wanted to know about Jacobites but were afraid to ask “.

French-speaking connoisseurs will, I hope, appreciate the careful  French verse translations aiming at prolonging a tradition of verse transcription of Jacobite songs initiated by James Hogg and John Lorne Campbell for the Gaelic songs included in their collections.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Raised My Mother to be a Cheapskate

When I first met her, my mother liked to buy brand name products, like Wonder Bread and Scotch Tape.  There wasn’t much competition in those days. Stores didn’t have their own brand labels. And the lesser known brands were often inferior products.

She shopped at the stores that gave orange stamps or blue stamps or green stamps, rather than at the discount grocery which gave a few cents off on each item.  She actually pasted the stamps into booklets and traded her full books of stamps for folding chairs or plates.

She also gave me a teeny tiny allowance.  I quickly learned to supplement the allowance by picking up bottles from under bushes and taking them to the store where the cashier gave me the 3 cent deposit money. I picked up pennies from the sidewalk. (Still do.)

Little by little my habits began to wear off on her.  But my father was no help.  He insisted that store brand puffed rice sparkies were not as good as brand name.  He had temper tantrums, so she had to be more subtle.  He would never know if the canned peaches he was served for dessert came from a brand name label.  He could not detect if the staples in his stapler were brand name staples.

My mother learned to watch the newspaper for sales, and plan menus around the discounted foods.  But she never did catch on to shopping by catalog.  I thought shopping by internet was going to be a lost cause, until she developed a passion for used books, and I was able to get titles for her that her local used book store didn’t have.

This was her rosetta stone.  Suddenly, she saw that she could pay a wide variety of prices for exactly the same thing.  But she is still drawn to heavily advertised products, but frequently she asks me to do consumer research on them before she commits to buy.  

Last week was a watershed moment.  My mother got a virus in her computer. The truly nasty sort that pops up boxes offering to get rid of the virus for $49.95.  But of course they don’t get rid of it. They just use your charge card information to go buying things on your account.

When she called me and told me about it, I dreaded hearing the words, “so I bought it.”  But she said, “good thing I’m a cheapskate.”  I felt like all my patient tutoring of the last 50 years had paid off big time!

My mother has an excellent antivirus program.  All I had to do was talk her through running a full system scan, and I knew it would be gone.  She was patient. She willingly rebooted several times. She re-set paramaters.  She ran the full scan. There were 22 viruses.  The program said it removed them.  Then she did the kind of thing every teacher dreams of from her students.  She volunteered to run the full scan a 2nd time.    This time there were no viruses.  

Not only is my mom now a full-fledged cheapskate.  She’s a safe computer user.  I’m proud.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not My Grandmother's Hip Replacement

After my grandmother got her hip replaced, she spent at least a week in bed. When she finally got up, she needed a walker.

After I got my hip replaced, the hospital staff had me up and walking with a walker that afternoon. They sent me to PT the next day and after PT discharged me, they sent me home with a cane.

My grandmother didn’t show me her incisions. She was a proper lady.  I have a 4" incision in the front of my thigh. My surgeon assures me he did not cut any muscles.  He spent 2 months practicing on cadavers to learn this technique. And before the surgery he came into the holding room and initialed my leg to mark which side he was going to operate on. It was a 45 minute procedure.  They normally insert a catheter but I told the surgeon that 3 times I’ve had a catheter and 3 times I’ve gotten a painful bladder infection. He agreed to do the surgery without the catheter.  

After the operation, I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down.  A nurse came by and asked me to sit on a bed pan and imagine I was urinating.  That didn’t do anything, so I imagined I was pushing a baby out.  That worked. Even the nurse was surprised.  It was just an experiment.

I don’t know what drugs my grandmother took, but I’m guessing narcotics because she seemed fuzzy headed.  I was offered narcotics.  I chose acetaminophen. They also have me taking aspirin as a clot prevention drug.  And they have me putting ice on the incision site frequently throughout the day.  I’m sore and swollen. But my head is clear.  I walked to the near end of the block in the early morning and to the far end of the block around noon.

I only had one threatening doctor during the whole procedure. The first time he came up to me, he did not introduce himself, did not ask permission. He just opened my clothes and started examining me.  I was still drugged and in no condition no object strenuously.  When he came in my room the 2nd day, before he could get close, I said, “Please go away. I do not want to see you.”  He seemed to have trouble understanding that. We had a five-minute discussion in which I restated my case more and more firmly. Finally, I said, “I did not like how you treated me yesterday. I do not want you involved in my medical care. Please go away and do not bill me for today’s visit.”  He got it. He left. It may have helped that there was another person in the room at the same time.

I’m awake, alert, and doing my PT exercises. There are 5 easy ones and 1 hard one.  I still can’t believe ankle wiggling is considered an exercise.  They could at least call it point and flex.  And they gave permission to do upper spinal floor twists.  I forgot to ask about hanging from my chin-up bar and doing lower ab flexes, so I guess I don’t dare do them for the next month. My next appt with the surgeon is in 4 weeks.  If all goes well, I’ll be back on my bike after that.

I’m having an easier time than my brother-in-law who had his hip replaced about 20 years ago.  He had to have satin sheets so he could slide out of bed. I’m having no trouble with my flannel sheets.  He had to have crutches to get up stairs. My cane is just fine. Even the banister is sufficient. 

Finally a good experience at my local hospital!  The knife is gone from my hip joint. I’m going to get my life back.  My life. Not my grandmother’s life.  This afternoon, I’m going to double check my city income tax return. That’s something my grandmother would never have done, before or after her hip replacement.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm Going to be a Cyborg

I’m going to be a cyborg.  Tomorrow, a surgeon is going to cut off the top of my femur, drill out a hole, put a metal rod in the hole, and attach some ceramic disks to the rod and to my pelvis so I can walk easily again.

I cried when I thought about losing a part of my body.  But that part isn’t working well any more. I can’t walk without a cane and with one, I can’t walk very far. Pain and exhaustion force me to sit after a few blocks.  And I can’t sit very long. That hurts, too. My grandson wanted me to make a hover car kit with him and I had to turn him down because I knew I couldn’t sit long enough.

I can’t get on my bike any more. There are no comfortable sex positions. There are no good answers.  I’ve tried exercises, physical therapy, herbal creams and herbal concoctions.  I’ve held this off for 19 months.  I can’t do this any more.  Even a wheel chair would not solve my problems: a combination of pain and weakness.  That hip joint is not doing its job.

So why am I emotionally attached to the thing?  I’m not emotionally attached to my bike’s parts. I buy new tires and inner tubes several times a year. I didn’t even mourn my bike when it was stolen. I bought a new one. Why is my body different?

Partly it’s my grandmother.  She got a replacement hip in her 80's.  She was not athletic. She did not get hit by a car while biking. Her hip broke when she fell.  After she got her new hip joint. she was never the same again.  She could sit. She couldn’t walk well. She sat around and played cards for the rest of her life. She moved into a senior assisted living community where she didn’t need to cook. Her greatest pride was that she didn’t need diapers.  I do not want her life!  I want mine - an athletic life with a comfortable strong body.

The surgeon says I can have that.  I just have to become a cyborg.  Not his word - mine.  There will be rehab – the new joint won’t have the full range of motion of the old one before it quit working. The metal will make me vulnerable to infections, so I’ll have to take antibiotics before I get my teeth cleaned. I’ll have to carry a form to go through airline inspections. Yipes! – they already have me pegged as a terrorist (I always get the pat-downs, the extra questions, the unpack your backpack in front of witnesses several times, the take your cane apart, and more questions) – now I’ll be packing metal! But maybe I won’t be carrying a cane.

In general, I’ll have my life back. I’ll be able to climb stairs without holding the banister. Within in a month, I’ll be able to get on my bike and pedal all over town. I’ll be able to participate enthusiastically in sex instead of trying to protect my hip all the time, which distracts from the main event.

I should be happy. Instead I’m sad and frightened and hopeful all at the same time.  I'm going to ask the surgeon to give me the top of my femur so I can see what's been hurting me all this time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doctors Playing Gotcha

I have never gotten along well with doctors.
When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the doctor’s. I felt healthy and energetic when I arrived. But when I left, I was in pain from a shot.  Later, I often got a fever and felt sick for days.  Lesson learned: doctors make me sick.

When I got older and actually wanted things from doctors, like birth control, they played gotcha.
The first doctor I went to for birth control recognized my name. He was a friend of my youngest uncle. I’d never had a doctor feel my breasts before and this conversation topic was not appropriate to my teenaged ears.

When I became even older, I found out there are more insidious versions of gotcha.  “If you want me to do X for you, I will insist that you do Y.”  Y is usually an unpleasant test that wastes time, costs money, hurts, and tests for something that can’t or shouldn’t be treated anyway.

I got caught on doctor gotcha again yesterday.

I’ve finally given up on a natural cure for my injured hip.  I’ve tried yoga, Pilates, Egoscue and Feldenkrais exercises.  They have kept me going for 19 months, but the pain has continually increased.  I slathered on wintergreen cream. That worked for about a year and a half.  Then I switched to DMSO.  Some days DMSO doesn’t work.  I took my first Tylenol pill in over 20 years last Friday.  I had to admit I wasn’t getting better.

My left leg is able to do less and less. Two weeks ago, I could no longer lift it high enough to get on my step-through bike.   One week ago, I was no longer strong enough to walk to the gym.  I’ve been taking the bus, and it’s difficult to climb the bus stairs.  And after I hoist myself up to seat level, I have to glare down the kids in the “seniors and disabled” seats to get them to let me sit.  I hate begging for a seat. I hate needing a seat. 

So, I went to see Sports Doc.  He sent me for an MRI.  His interpretation of the MRI was that I should see a hip specialist.  He was respectful. He have me options, and let me make the choices. 

The hip specialist said I needed a hip replacement.  Nothing else would stop the pain. He also gave me options – side or front incision, an assortment of implant types, a choice of dates for the surgery.  I was in a good mood when I left his office.   For the first time, I’d gone to a doctor, asked for something and not been handed ultimatums.

But I had to get a permission slip from an internist.  The seemingly nice surgeon recommended one who was conveniently across the street.  I figured they were probably friends.

The receptionist at the internist’s office led me to a room and ordered me to undress from the waist up and put on a cloth topper that tied in the back.  I asked why.  She said “Office policy.”  Not a good sign.

When the internist got there, he started out okay. Standard questions. Standard answers.  I do not take prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, or street drugs. I do take a few herbs: psyllium, aloe vera, eyebright.  He was puzzled that my heart rate was 86 beats per minute, which is kind of fast. I told him I’m anxious in doctor’s offices.  He asked, “What do you take for that?”  

I’d just told him I don’t take drugs.   Then I said, “What do I take for that? (Pause) The bus.” He smiled and said, “or your bike.”  I had hopes for this young fellow.  But then we discussed my 14 month old heart sonogram that showed I have “low normal backflow.”  He decided he wanted a new one.  Why?  Because he won’t sign my permission slip unless I get it.  Gotcha.  I want a real reason and I want a choice.  I do not want to be told – do what I tell you or I won’t do what you want. But I’d already paid for the visit. I’d already scheduled the day free for all this medical stuff. And if I was going to find another doctor to sign the permission slip, that would cost another day and another office visit fee. I agreed to the sonogram.

The sonogram office told me that they would call the internist and he would call me that evening with the results.  Nobody called.  That’s typical. They just want to run the tests. They don’t want to deal with the humans. I never wanted the test and I don’t want to deal with the doctor.

There are a few doctors who don’t play gotcha.  But they play with the ones who do.  
And the really bad thing about this hip implant is that I’ll have to get it x-rayed every year for the rest of my life.  I hate x-rays.  Giving up on natural healing, having to talk about how many more years I’m likely to live in order to select the right implant was bad enough. I was fantasizing about never seeing doctors again.  Now, every one my future years, I’ll have to see the surgeon. That is the biggest gotcha of all.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Explorer's Mind, Experimenter's Mind

Meditators are often told to approach life with a Beginner’s Mind.  This means, “having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”

In my opinion this is bunk.  Either one is a beginner, or one has experience upon which one bases future actions.  A beginner does not know how to balance on a bicycle.  A more experienced rider, might seek to ride without hands, or with greater speed, or for greater distances.  Just as the rider did not originally know how to balance, s/he now does not know exactly what behavior changes will bring about the greater speed or longer endurance.  

But, since s/he is not a beginner, s/he can guess. Perhaps pedaling faster will result in greater speed.  Perhaps use of a different gear. Or positioning the seat at a different height, or using toe clips. While from a certain perspective, the rider is a beginner at gaining speed or endurance, s/he has valuable experience on which to formulate approaches that may result in the desired changes.

I’d like to propose the use of different terminology.  Experimenter’s Mind or Explorer’s Mind.

The desired aspects of Beginners Mind, are enthusiasm, perseverance, risk taking, and a sense of adventure.  But this does not mean forgetting accumulated experiences.

Suzuki’s book says, “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.”

I do not agree with this.  In the beginner’s mind, there is a goal.  Keep balanced on that bicycle and ride.  The beginner has seen successful riders. The beginner knows that successful riders make the pedals rotate in their socket.  They look where they are going.  They hang onto the handle bars. The beginner sees only two possibilities.  Riding and Not Riding.  It is the more advanced rider who sees many possibilities.  Riding to work, riding to school, riding in a marathon, racing, touring, grocery shopping.

When one begins to meditate, the beginner is usually told to focus on the breath, or a sound.  Focus on one thing. Only when one is advanced in meditation does one have the focusing ability to attempt a wide variety of goals during meditation, such as contacting the divine, or finding a feeling of forgiveness.

We all have Beginners Mind when we are beginners. Once we master the skills of a beginner, then we can explore and experiment – that is where the true joy dwells.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are Your Parents Diseased?

The Sports Doc I was going to see was late for our appointment. A resident with a foreign accent greeted me.  He wanted to update my history.  “Are your parents diseased?” he asked. 
They catch colds now and then. They’ve both had surgery for problems. They’re fine now.

Again, he asked, “Are your parents diseased?”  At least that’s what I thought he said.  They’re 88 and 91, and they’re fine.

Then I replayed what he had said.  This time it came out, “Are your parents deceased?”
My parents are both alive and well.  

That satisfied him.

Trying to understand medical people is bad enough. Accents make it more complicated, but eventually we communicated.

Even weirder was the way in which the staff at the MRI center game me directions.

“Would you fill out these forms for me?”
“Would you sit here for me?”
“Would you put your jacket in this closet for me?”

Huh? Like these are favors? Like these are things the staffer could do if I wasn’t there to do it for him or her?

The forms are weird, too.

At the top of the form I was asked to put my name and the current date.

At the bottom of the form I was again asked to put my name and the current date. I asked the woman at the desk, “Is this form supposed to take so long to fill out that the date will have changed by the time I finish?”

The questions are grouped strangely, too.  I was on a roll: checking NO to everything. I don’t have a bunch of medical products that I’d never heard of before. I don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure. I don’t take any prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or street drugs. Suddenly the form asked “Are you over 60?”  I checked NO, and then asked for the white-out.

The bottle was hard to open.  Okay, I’ve got arthritis in my hands. Maybe the bottle would not have been hard for the young woman at the desk to open.  She saw me struggling and she did not offer to help.  I did what I do at home. I made sound effects.  “Squink, Squink.”  The bottle cap unscrewed.  The young woman looked at me oddly.  I explained that sound effects help stuck caps come lose. She continued to look at me oddly, so I gave up on explaining things to her.

When I finally got into the MRI machine, which I’d been dreading because last time I had to be in one it felt as if I’d been stuffed into a metal trash can and all the neighborhood kids were given metal hammers to pound on it for an hour.  This time was much better. It sounded like I was on the sidewalk beside the men who use the heavy machine to break up the asphalt. And the merciful technician gave me a short break after every 4 minute blast.  Unfortunately, she did not know how to count.  At one point she told me there would be only 3 more “pictures” but there were at least 6 more.

I’m still waiting for the results.  I hope they are explained in language I can understand and rely on.