Monday, May 30, 2011

Missed Opportunities to be Mediocre

Lately I can see that I’ve missed two opportunities to be mediocre.

I attended two plays that were not ready for the stage.  

The first was by a man about my age. This was his 50th play to make it to full production.  His was a variant on the movie Life is Beautiful, but it took place on an ordinary day, in which deceitful adults tried to lie about their misdeeds to a child.  The characters were stereotypes. The play had no surprises. The humor was the embarrassing sort.  I left the theater thinking I’m glad I’m not so famous that people are afraid to tell me when my work needs work.

The second was even sadder. Again, the play was no where near ready to be performed. It had a few good scenes and an excellent premise. But the author didn’t really have an opinion about his controversial subject matter and that led to lots of illogical actions and unexplained anger in the characters.  This author is about 1/3 my age.  His play won a national award.  He would be justified in thinking that winning this award and receiving professional productions at paying theaters is proof that he is writing at a professional level.  He’s not. Not yet. He has the potential.
 
I left the theater thinking I’m glad I didn’t receive fame and glory for my early unprofessional work.

It’s odd looking both back and forwards to my writing career of mediocre successes. Books that were published but only sold about 10,000 copies. Plays that were performed in one theater, but never again. Poems and short stories that were published in anthologies for narrow market niches.  Yet I continue to write because I’m addicted.  

I’ve always written.  It's a high when it's going well and it's a focus when it's a struggle. It's like a movie in my head when it's flowing.  And it's like gardening when I do the prep work.  Engrossing, pain-relieving, a way to explore my thoughts without getting angry or afraid, a way to recognize flaws as part of life, a way to live life with more fun.

Much as I’m glad my weaker works have been ignored and rejected, I’d like more success for my artistic efforts that fulfil their dramatic potential.  This ruminating makes me wonder how many works by others have I missed that I would have enjoyed if I’d found out about them. How many movies or books I might have preferred to the ones that did manage to make it into my realm of awareness.

Virtue is not rewarded – it is randomized and so are the rewards.

Friday, May 27, 2011

TSA Responds

Last month, after being sexually molested by a Transportation Security Officer, I wrote to John Pistole, head of TSA, and to the TSA Office of Civil Rights and Liberites and the Department of Homeland Security Privacy office, and all of my congressional representatives, and to President Obama, objecting to this treatment.


I even applied for a Secondary Security Exemption and submitted copies of my driver’s license, passport and birth certificate for their investigation.  I thought that the birth certificate was the silliest of the requests. It is in a name I haven’t used for 44 years. It states that I weigh 5 lbs 11 ounces and that I’m 19 inches long.  It has no identifying marks, such as foot prints.  In other words it has nothing that would identify me.


Today I received a letter from Chad Bash, Assistant General Manager for Communications and Resolution Office of Security Operations.


It says in part that the “Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and DHS’s Privacy Office carefully examined the revised screening procedures to ensure that they adequately protected passengers’ rights and civil liberties.”


“During the standard pat-down, an individuals’s upper thigh is screened when the same gender TSA places a hand on the inside of the thigh and moves upward until resistance is felt where the leg meets the groin.”


“Standard pat-down procedures do not permit security officers to insert their hands inside a passenger’s clothing or to touch a private body part.”


“TSA personnel will never require a passenger to undress, nor are Transportation Security Officers (TSO) allowed to touch a passenger’s intimate body parts.”


“Passengers have the option to request a private screening and have a witness present during the screening process.”


I’m going to be carrying this letter with me when I board commercial airplanes.  No TSA person will touch me until we’ve gone over all these relevant parts.  I plan to highlight them in advance.


If you have a medical implant that triggers metal alarms, feel free to print this out and bring it with you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hula Hooping With my New Hip

The last time I went to Hula Hoop Class was before my hip replacement surgery. Foolishly I stayed for the whole hour, hobbled home, and soaked in the bathtub.  I was sore the whole next day. Hula hooping is fun. It creates endorphins.  When the endorphins wear off, a worn out hip exacts its revenge.


Since the surgery, my PT has been talking me out of hula hooping week after week.  When he says NO, I don’t want to disappoint him. He is the expert on getting me healthy and strong again. So long as I’m in pain, he’s the way out. 


He thinks I’m working hard enough on my rehab exercises, and my biking around town and my use of the elliptical at the gym.  But I want to hula hoop. So last week I didn’t mention it to him *again*.   He can’t say No if I don’t ask, and I don’t need to mention it to him, afterwards so he can’t make his worried face at me.


This young PT is a wizard.  In less than 10 weeks since surgery, that’s about 6 weeks of rehab, he’s got me riding my bike for 6 miles, walking 2 miles, and going 14 minutes on the elliptical with very little pain.  And best of all, he’s got me getting up from sitting or lying down and able to walk with only level 3 or 4 pain for the first few steps, and after that, it’s actually comfortable – it feels like ME walking.  He thinks this is dangerous.  If I’m not in pain, I’m more likely to try new things.  


He specifically told me not to go parachute jumping, or do yoga poses that violate my surgeon’s rules – like eagle or child’s pose.  He was not joking – he knows I love anything active.


So, even if he is cautious, I felt strong enough to try hula hooping.  I promised myself that I’d leave if I felt pain.  It’s my body – not the PT’s. I hoped I wouldn’t pay for it with a day of pain, like last time.


The class started out with stretches.  The hard part was putting the hoop on the floor and picking it up again. I’m not allowed to get my chest near my thighs. (That’s why I can’t do child’s pose in yoga.)  So, I bent my right leg (the one that didn’t get surgery) and stuck my left leg out behind me, every time I put the hoop on the floor or pick it up.


Good thing there were only two of us in the class, and the other woman had a broken toe, so she was not speedy either.


After about 10 minutes of stretches, we started hooping.  First to the left – which is my usual direction.  Walking while keeping the hoop spinning.  Pivoting in a circle while keeping the hoop spinning. It only fell a few times, so I only had to do my pseudo-duck dive a few times to pick it back up.


Then we spun to the right.  Crash. Clatter. Clickety-Clack.  I got to the point where I could stand still and keep it spinning.  I could turn around and keep it spinning most of the time.  Walking while keeping it spinning – maybe next time. And with all that duck-diving, I started to hurt.  I almost made it for half of the hour-long class.  I placed the hoop back against the wall, and went downstairs where the gym owner gave me a bag of ice to put on my hip and thigh. I spent about as long with the ice as I did with the hoop.  But I did it.  And here I am writing this the next day. I’m not in pain. I’ve already ridden my bike, worked the elliptical, and done chin-ups on the assisted chin-up machine.


And I’m not telling my PT.  I’m going to tell him that I can now go up stairs without the banister, one foot per step.  I can go downstairs with the banister, one foot per step. I can do my exercises with 5 lb weights on my ankles.  And I’m in less pain than I was a week ago.


No, I don’t think the hula hoop had anything to do with it. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pelvic Clocks on a Balance Ball

Last week, we did pelvic clocks while lying on soft mats on the floor.  This week, we did them while sitting on balance balls.  


The floor can’t squirm away from you and go rolling across the room. The floor doesn’t care if you pick up one foot, or lean to the side. The floor doesn’t encourage you to bounce on your butt.
All of these sturdy and stable things about floors, are reasons to practice on a ball.  In other words balance.


Balance isn’t just about strength.  Children who are not strong learn to ride bicycles and roller blades. Even minor movements can make the difference between feeling sturdy or toppling.


Our Feldenkrais teacher at the gym made sure we each had a ball that was the right height for us to have our feet comfortably flat on the floor, while our butts were on top.  He had us place our feet far enough apart that we felt stable. Then he advised us to make small clockwise movements, or even imagine rotating our pelvises.  He promised us that even imagining moving would improve our balance and coordination.


The imaginary clock face was on the floor underneath us, with the 12 towards our knees and the 6 towards our tailbones.  We were supposed to rotate our pelvises in as small or as large a circle as felt comfortable and safe.  Make sure the pelvis touches each imaginary number.  If any part of the arc feels stiff or wobbly, go back over it – clockwise, counterclockwise – as many times as you feel comfortable doing. Note the rough spots.  You don’t have fix everything the first time you do the exercise.  But you do want to notice where your body moves easily and were it balks. 


You don’t have to keep the clock in the middle.  You can move the clock to each side where the femur meets the pelvis at the top of your leg.  I found these clocks to be easier to control and easier to study. That new hip joint isn’t cushioned like the old real one. That’s probably not the only reason it was harder to control – all the weak muscles and ligaments from limping around and from the surgery need to recover.  I don’t know if they’ll ever feel the same as the old one.


I never had patience for slow explorations like this before.  I wanted big fast movements like chin-ups and push-ups, or yoga poses that required stretching and strength at the same time.  Feldenkrais is much more delicate.  Because of that, it will give me the fine level of control that I’ve taken for granted all my life, and now have to relearn.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fake Protest Rally

I’m on the local theater email group list. As such, I get free and discount tickets to many local theatrical productions.  Yesterday I volunteered to be a recorded voice for a local play in which only two women appear on stage.  Since the play has yet to be performed, I can’t comment on it, other than to give you the plot summary that the author gave us.  It’s a play about a Black Panther who is accused of killing a white police officer. The daughters of the two men each believe their fathers’ stories. The play is about their conflict.  The idea for the play came from the Mumia Abu Jamal case. 


But as a participant in many protest rallies, it was fun to discover that the needed voices were for a rally to “Free Rashid!”  I remember attending rallies in the 60's at which I heard babies shout. Among their first words were, “Free Huey!”


In order to make the rally sound as realistic as possible, we volunteers were told to stand in the alley behind the Adrienne playhouse where traffic sounds can be heard from two adjacent streets.
As we shouted, “Free Rashid!” people who live along the alleyway opened their windows to look out. Some opened their doors.  One man offered to let his daughter Rashi come out to play.


People stopped and asked us what we were protesting, and why in that alley.  Cars drove down this narrow alley in both directions, but miraculously not at the same time.  We stopped our protest to let them through.


The woman recording our voices had us stamp our feet while we shouted “Free Rashid!” again.  Then she asked for men who were willing to shout, “Cop Killer.”  A few volunteered.  


The woman said we’d been getting attention from the neighbors with our shouting, but that was nothing compared to what was coming up.


Finally, embarrassed, she asked for a man who was willing to shout. “The N word.”  Nobody volunteered.  Finally, the author of the play volunteered.  He thought it would be fun at the Q&A after the performance to be able to say that it was his voice that did the shouting.”  I listened during the next round of recording.  I didn’t hear “The N word.”  But perhaps the shouters were simply closer to the microphone, so they wouldn’t bother the neighbors.


Now there’s a consideration we never had at a real rally.  Then again, this fake rally may be more thought-provoking than any of the real ones ever were.  At the real ones, I don’t think anyone’s mind was ever changed. I hope this play gets people to think. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gross Looking Exercises

Sometimes the most effective exercises look gross.  Okay suggestive. And I don’t mean belly dancing.


Balance Guy showed me an exercise to help free up my left hip which is restricted by scar tissue.


There will be no photo in this essay because the words are revealing enough.


Stand in front of a table or counter top.


Put your hands on the surface.


Lean forwards, placing the weight of your upper body on your hands.


Straddle your feet at least two feet apart – more if you can do it.


Move your hips in an arc, right to left and back again. As you move to the left, bend your left knee forward. Straighten again as you go back. As you move to the right, bend your right knee forward. Straighten again as you move back to the center of the arc.


Once you are able to move smoothly through this arc, pause on the left.  Rotate around the left hip, several times clockwise, then several times counter-clockwise.  Again move through the arc. Pause on the right. Rotate around the right hip clockwise several times, then counter-clockwise.


Do the rotations slowly, feeling for any places that are sticky or that your muscles tend to jump through.  Move back and forwards through those areas.  Repeat.


Now, picture the fact that BG is losing weight and intends to lose more. So, he’s not buying new pants. And he’s not wearing a belt. Okay, don’t picture that.  He’s only a few years younger than I am.  There’s something about rehab that means we have to allow people to touch us in intimate ways without any intimate intent. And sometimes we have to see each other exposed in ways that are educational, even if they are gross.


It’s all good exercise.  Some of it is for the mind. Some for the body. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dealing With Copyright Thieves

Google Alerts notified me that two notorious Torrent sites are giving away copies of my copyrighted books.   A torrent is a stolen copy of a copyrighted work – usually a song, book, or movie.  I contacted both of these torrent sites.  One immediately removed my books. The other ignored me. I tried every email contact on the site.


So, I decided to go higher.  I contacted their domain registrar.  They ignored me.


Then I got what I hope is a brilliant idea – I started contacting their advertisers.  These torrent sites aren’t directly making money from giving away my books. They make money from advertisers who pay to place ads on their site, on the page where they offer my books for free.  Big and reputable companies like Toyota, NutriSystem, Verizon, Travelocity, One Hanes Place, Gaiam, Virgin Mobile, Marriott and American Express, place ads on these sites. I have contacted all of them, plus the smaller companies that I’d never seen ads from before.


Some of these advertisers have direct email contacts on their websites. Others like Valvoline and Toyota required me to follow them on Twitter in order to contact their support staff. Their support staff never tweeted me back.


I called Marriott on the phone and talked to a man who agreed to contact their advertising agencies and figure out which one is placing that ad and ask them to stop placing ads on demonoid.me.


One of the ads said AdBrite at the top, so I went to the AdBrite website and asked them to help shut these thieves down.  


They wrote back:
Thank you for reporting this to us.  We will investigate the complaint immediately, and if the user has violated our policies we will limit their account.  Due to our privacy policy, we can’t discuss any actions we take on the account with you as you are not the account holder.


Our Publisher Acceptable Use Policy provides guidelines for acceptable publisher behavior, and lists different behaviors that we prohibit.  To read the Publisher Acceptable Use Policy, click here:


http://help.adbrite.com/index.php?action=artikel&cat=3&id=10&artlang=en


This looks like progress since the AdBrite policy is to prohibit sites without original content and sites that perform criminal activities. I’d say that stealing copyrighted work is a criminal activity. And since everything on their site is copyrighted by other people, they have no original content.


AdBrite also sent me a long form to fill out explaining how I know that I didn’t give demonoid.me permission to steal my work.  


I sent it in.  As of this morning – my books are no longer up on Demonoid


I still want to shut them down by persuading advertisers not to support them.  Every title they have is stolen from the copyright owner.


It's fine to go to places like the Gutenberg Project, that offer books on which the copyright has expired. 

Please support authors.  Do not go to sites that have free copies of artistic creations that are protected by copyright. 


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Preventing Copyright Theft

Google Alerts notified me that two notorious Torrent sites are giving away copies of my copyrighted books.   A torrent is a stolen copy of a copyrighted work – usually a song, book, or movie.  I contacted both of these torrent sites.  One immediately removed my books. The other ignored me. I tried every email contact on the site.

So, I decided to go higher.  I contacted their domain registrar.  They ignored me.

Then I got what I hope is a brilliant idea – I started contacting their advertisers.  These torrent sites aren’t directly making money from giving away my books. They make money from advertisers who pay to place ads on their site, on the page where they offer my books for free.  Big and reputable companies like Toyota, NutriSystem, Verizon, Travelocity, One Hanes Place, Gaiam, Virgin Mobile, Marriott and American Express, place ads on these sites. I have contacted all of them, plus the smaller companies that I’d never seen ads from before.

Some of these advertisers have direct email contacts on their websites. Others like Valvoline and Toyota required me to follow them on Twitter in order to contact their support staff. Their support staff never tweeted me back.

I called Marriott on the phone and talked to a man who agreed to contact their advertising agencies and figure out which one is placing that ad and ask them to stop placing ads on demonoid.me.

One of the ads said AdBrite at the top, so I went to the AdBrite website and asked them to help shut these thieves down.  

They wrote back:
Thank you for reporting this to us.  We will investigate the complaint immediately, and if the user has violated our policies we will limit their account.  Due to our privacy policy, we can’t discuss any actions we take on the account with you as you are not the account holder.

Our Publisher Acceptable Use Policy provides guidelines for acceptable publisher behavior, and lists different behaviors that we prohibit.  To read the Publisher Acceptable Use Policy, click here:

http://help.adbrite.com/index.php?action=artikel&cat=3&id=10&artlang=en

This looks like progress since the AdBrite policy is to prohibit sites without original content and sites that perform criminal activities. I’d say that stealing copyrighted work is a criminal activity. And since everything on their site is copyrighted by other people, they have no original content.

AdBrite also sent me a long form to fill out explaining how I know that I didn’t give demonoid.me permission to steal my work.  

I sent it in.  As of this morning – my books are no longer up on Demonoid   YAY!

I still want to shut them down by persuading advertisers not to support them.  Every title they have is stolen from the copyright owner.  
 
It's fine to go to places like the Gutenberg Project, that offer books on which the copyright has expired. 
 
Please support authors.  Do not go to sites that have free copies of artistic creations that are protected by copyright. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Of what use is my opinion?

I’ve messed up twice, recently.


A man who did repairs on my house happily told me that he was marrying a woman and getting an instant family because she already had a daughter.  A voice in my head told me to say, “She’s lucky to find a man who won’t molest her daughter.”  But I didn’t say it.  


Not long afterwards, he told me that his wife’s daughter was accusing him of molesting her. This time I followed that voice in my head. I asked, “Did you do something that she might interpret as molesting her?”  The man didn’t answer.


Next thing I knew, he was staying the night in my spare bedroom because his wife had kicked him out. He didn’t stay long.  My grown daughters, who no longer live with me, were furious that I’d even put him up for a night.  But he’s a human and he’s been kind to me.  I don’t feel the need to redress every grievance on the planet, and shun a man who has been accused but not convicted.  Soon there after, he was convicted. And he no longer wanted me in his life.  


I keep wondering – if I’d told him my thoughts when he announced his marriage – could I have prevented all this?


--


Then there was my friend with breast cancer. Her mother died of breast cancer, so she had a test called Lavage, where salt water is put into the milk ducts through the nipple and then squeezed out again and the water is tested for cancer cells.  The test came back positive for cancer.  Neither a mammogram nor a sonogram showed any lumps.  Her doctor suggested mastectomy because the location of the cancer was unknown.  My friend did not want to lose her breasts.  Another doctor told her it was probably safe to wait until a lump formed.  She decided to wait.  


She asked my opinion.  I told her I would need to do more research before I could decide.
I didn’t do the research.  I thought she would do it – after all it was her breasts.


When the lump formed, her cancer was already stage 3.   She is now dead.  Should I have told her that I’m basically chicken about cancer and I would have had the mastectomy?  


I’ve never been proud of my breasts. They were adequate to make milk for my babies, but I’m not having any more babies.  My friend had breasts that rivaled Mae West’s.  Mine haven’t required a bra since I quit nursing.  I can’t identify with loving breasts more than life itself. 
-------------


 Could I have said anything that mattered?  Does my opinion matter? Are these people happier with the choices the made instead of the lives I would have chosen for them?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pelvic Clocks with my New Hip





Every Thursday morning, my gym has a Feldenkrais class. One of the lessons that the teacher likes to repeat is thee Pelvic Clock.  Here’s a website with instructions: http://www.emr.msu.edu/documents/rehab/pelvic_clock.pdf


The basic exercise is to imagine a clock under your pelvis, with 12 towards your head and 6 towards your feet.  You imagine rocking the pelvis between 12 and 6, then between 3 and 9. And then you rotate around the clock, trying to keep the rotation round (not looking like something Dali would draw, says my teacher). Make sure to touch each number. Rotate between numbers. Go both clockwise and counterclockwise.  This may appear to be a 5-minute exercise, but it fills an entire hour-long class.


My teacher does variations.  He has us put the soles of our feet together. He has us prop ourselves up on our elbows, so our trunks are slightly elevated and we can see our feet.  He has us prop ourselves into a near-sitting position, with our arms behind our trunks, fingers facing away from us.


He even has instruction to do it with one leg crossed over the other, but I’m not allowed to do that yet.


I remember how hard it was to move on the left (or high numbered) side of the clock with my old hip.  I tried big clocks. I tried tiny clocks. The silver-dollar sized clock was the most work-able. Still, that left side was something Dali would have drawn – not a clockmaker.


With my new hip, rather than balking, my hip slides easily.  Too easily.  My muscles are weak and I have very little control.  Big clocks are easier than little ones.  It’s a good thing that imagination counts as exercise because that way I can get practice in while I’m waiting for a client’s computer to boot, or waiting in line at the grocery store.


It’s amazing how many muscles need to be retrained.  I’m very glad all these exercise gurus have been there ahead of me and worked out the details. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

PT Has Its Own Rewards

You know what happens if you are good in PT and actually do your exercises?  They strap weights on your ankles to make the exercises harder and they give you more exercises to do.
My new exercise involves slow low marching while sitting on an exercise ball, trying not to move my upper body to compensate for weakness in my legs. It’s a balance exercise.
It sounds silly, but I love it.


I love exercise.  What I don’t love is when Young PT calls me “compliant.” In any other area I am not compliant. 


I’ve already figured out a new tactic designed to foil the TSA molesters.  I’m going to buy a box of extra-thick sanitary napkins to protect my crotch from their prying fingers.  Definitely non-compliant, but they can’t claim I’ve broken any laws, so I expect to get away with it.  Another option would be wearing an adult diaper. I’m also going to wear thick jeans.  I must have been crazy to wear a dress,  just because I was going to a memorial service and had no idea that the TSA agents had turned into crotch gropers by government orders.


I did look into taking the train, but it costs 4 times as much and takes 3 times as long.  These are not sacrifices I’m willing to make.


The TSA seems to be in the opposite business from my PT.  My PT is about making me stronger and more flexible, so I can go where I want, the way I want. The TSA is about limiting my freedom to move about the world, and my freedom to privacy in my own body.


Now, maybe we should put weights on the ankles and wrists of TSA agents.  The better they get at their work of taking away our freedoms, the more difficult we should make their jobs.  Make them sit on balance balls and do slow low marching and try to keep their balance.  Maybe they’ll have so much fun they don’t want to bother travelers.