Thursday, December 22, 2016

Colonoscopy's Proper Use

This is the letter I wrote my GP after my colonoscopy:

When your resident recommended I get a colonoscopy, I asked him for an article that compared colon cancer testing alternatives. He didn’t know of any. The colonoscopy was worse than even I had anticipated.  Since then, I have found the article I wish I’d read in the first place.

Had I seen this, I would have opted for FIT or FOBT and only agreed to a colonoscopy if the FIT or FOBT came back positive.

I will never go for another colonoscopy again, as a regular screening.

The nurse at gastroenterology did not know how to insert an IV.  She missed twice at my elbow, leaving behind two nasty blood clots. Then she took more than 2 minutes of digging and twisting and turning that needle while I screamed. (Nobody came to my rescue, so they must have a policy that says screaming is okay, which also means it is common.) Then she said she was done, gave me a few seconds of relief and went back to digging and twisting for another minute while I went back to screaming.  Again, nobody came to my rescue.

When she finally got it in, and started the IV, my arms started shaking uncontrollably. She walked away. After a while, I got the attention of somebody else who worked there. This person put a heated blanket on my legs. Why my legs?  I tried to pick the blanket up to put it on my arms, but my arms were shaking uncontrollably and I couldn't do it.

After a while I got the attention of another person who brought another heated blanket for my arms. That did help.

I have had surgery with IV insertion 5 times at this medical center. 3 times at Orthopaedic Care, and 2 times at breast cancer surgery.  I have never had trouble with IV insertion or with shaking after the IV started.

I wrote to the hospital president’s office asking that they make 3 changes:

1) a nurse gets 1 miss and then apologizes and finds a more experienced IV inserter to finish the job.

2) if there is screaming, somebody comes to the rescue immediately

3) gastroenterology should find out what IV solution is used at Orthopaedic Care and / or Breast Cancer Surgery and switch to one that does not cause shaking.

Instead, his flack-catcher wrote me that she would investigate and get back with me.

Several weeks later she wrote that she had concluded her investigation and closed the case.  She said she and my nurse "apologize if you experienced any discomfort. But, you should be informed that inserting an IV is uncomfortable."

The words IF and DISCOMFORT and UNCOMFORTABLE do not apply.  This was torture.
And the clear meaning of her words are that they will not be making these three crucial changes.

In addition the preparation solution caused damage.  It was painful on the way out.  The doctor who performed the colonoscopy took a photo of my swollen red anus if proof is necessary. And, even more damaging, it washed out my healthy intestinal flora.  I never used to get headaches.  After the colonoscopy. I started getting headaches. I tried yogurt and kim chi, to no avail.  I tried 3 different brands of probiotics.  Finally, the 3rd brand stopped the headaches. But I'm still gassy, so I've ordered a 4th brand.  In other words I'm still not back to normal, months later.

In summary, I do not recommend the gastroenterology department.
I do not recommend colonoscopy as a standard of routine care.  Most of the warts removed are hyperplastic, which never become malignant.
I suggest that the FIT or FOBT be used as the primary test and colonoscopy only be considered if that test comes back positive.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

He said, She heard

This probably explains why I don’t get along well with doctors:

She went to the doctor’s office because of persistent back pain. She gave her birth date as part of the office check-in process.
He came in, looked at the computer screen, and said, “Are you 21 or 22?”
She heard: I have the wrong chart on the screen, and I haven’t bothered to look at you so I haven’t noticed yet.
She said: “I’m 68.”
She thought: When I was 21 or 22, I had 80 years ahead of me. I was just starting out.  This is end game. I have at most 30 years left and I want them to be as active as possible. I do not have the health problems of a 21 or 22 year old.
He said: “I just wanted to see you smile.”
She heard: “I can’t find anything real to compliment about you, so I’m making up something preposterous, just to say something. And I don’t care how stressful your back pain is for you, even though it must be awful or you wouldn’t be here.  I’m just trying to get you onto the surgery conveyor belt.”
He got her dexa scan up on the screen.  “It doesn’t look like you have any fractures.”
She heard: “I haven’t read the report that came with the dexa scan.”
She said: “I read the report. It says specifically No Fractures.”
He said: “We can’t be sure, but it doesn’t look like any. You have low bone density. You are prone to fracture.”
She heard: “I haven’t read any of the clinical experimental literature of the past 20 years.”
She said: “All the research of the past 20 years shows there’s no connection between bone density and bone brittleness.”
He said: “That may be, but you have low bone density and your bones are brittle.”
She heard: I don’t care about anything that contradicts what I was taught in medical school.”
He wrote on her chart: Fracture Risk.
She heard: I was really faking with that 21 or 22 year old nonsense.
She said: I’ve had one broken bone in my entire life and it took a 2-ton car hitting me at 30 miles per hour while I was riding my bike to break it. Lance Armstrong had more damage falling while riding his bike and nobody wrote Fracture Risk on his chart. This injury is not different because he is a young man.
The doctor refused to change his note.
He said: “You need to do weight bearing exercises.”
She heard: I’m not looking at you, so I can’t see the muscles in your arms – muscles that can only develop with weight bearing exercises. Then again, I don’t exercise, so I don’t appreciate muscle development. I don’t even know what to look for.
She decides to start him off easy. “I do push-ups.”
He said: “That’s fine. But you need to do weight bearing exercises.”
She heard: I have no idea what a weight bearing exercise is. It’s just a buzz word that I heard someplace.
She sent him an email listing at least 20 types of weight bearing exercises, including calisthenics. She detailed how she spends over an hour a day doing a variety of them.  He did not respond.
She sent the doctor 4 papers from refereed professional journals detailing clinical research studies, all of which show clearly that there is no connection between bone density and bone brittleness.  He did not respond.
She asked him to remove the erroneous Fracture Risk from her file.  He did not do so.
He did a series of strength and flexibility testing. He gave no feedback. He poked her feet with a pin. He did not ask permission to do something painful. When she told him he should have asked permission he said he thought he had permission to do an examination. He didn’t understand why painful tests are different from other tests, and why he should ask permission to do them. He claimed nobody had ever said anything about painful tests before.
She heard: I don’t care if I hurt you. It’s more important to me to fill out a box on my form than to have your respect and trust.

Three men she knows had recommended this doctor. He never asked any of them about their age. He never commented to any of them about their bone density. He did not write fracture risk on their files, even though they are old.

He tried to talk her into an MRI and tried to talk about surgery.  She asked for PT.  He said: “Surgery usually works better than PT.”
She heard: “I think PT is a waste of time and money. But I’ll write the prescription if it will make you go away.

He wrote the PT prescription, but checked the Fracture Risk box on the top of the form. She thought he meant to deprive her of useful exercises. He didn’t want the PT to work. They made an appointment to meet again after a month of PT.”

She went to PT, did the exercises. Plus she accidentally discovered that lying on a small exercise ball removed the worst of the pain. The exercises worked to enable her to stand longer and walk longer without her pelvis cramping up. She’ll have to do these exercises every day for the rest of her life. This is end game.

She went back to the doctor’s office for a followup visit.
He asked how she liked being 39.
She said: “My children are older than that.”
She wanted to say: “When I was 39, I had both my breasts and both my hips.  I’m not aging well.  That’s why I’m here. My age is no joke. And why in your mind has my age suddenly doubled?”
He said, “I see you don’t like being teased.”
He hadn’t read the research papers.
She showed him the exercise ball that eliminates most of the pain if she lies on it for at least 15 minutes every night.
He said: “I knew about that.”
She heard: “I think this home-remedy stuff is useless. If I actually thought it worked, I’d have told you about it.”
He said: “We never need to meet again.”
She heard: I never want to see you again.
It was mutual.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Right/Left Agree on Many Issues about Crime

Just when I thought America was reveling it its right/left division, I came across this website:

The right and left have a lot in common when it comes to reducing prison terms, number of crimes, severity of penalties, and treatment of prisoners.

Now, if we could agree on how to eliminate poverty, which seems to be the main cause of crime, we’d be on the road to recovery.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Erotic Cartoon Alligators and other Oddities

First I received an email from Draft2Digital informing me that SCRIBD has rejected my children’s book Oliver, A Story About Adoption because of erotic content.  I wrote back asking if the problem was the backside of a naked cartoon alligator. They responded that it is possible I received the wrong reject letter. The book might have been rejected because of its wordcount. But a few hours later, I again received the reject based on erotic content.  This is an award-winning book that got written up in School Library Journal. I don't think most people find these alligators objectionable.

Then I went for my annual physical, which I only get because the insurance company gives me a 15% discount if I go and have the blood work done.  My regular doctor wasn’t there, so I got the office newbie.  He was insistent that I get a tetanus shot.  I asked why, since I live in a city made of cement. With a straight face, he told me that I might fall off my bicycle onto a rusty nail and get tetanus.  I tried explaining to him that the tetanus bacteria grows in moist warm soil, not in streets.  He insisted that rust causes tetanus.

He clearly does not know that vaccines can only be made against bacteria and that rust is inanimate.  So, I did a bit of web surfing.  One person in Philadelphia did get tetanus in 2015. This person was a fully vaccinated child.  

Now, suspicious, I went to the CDC site. According to CDC, age alone is the best predictor of tetanus mortality.  Not vaccination status:
1/4th of people who get tetanus have been vaccinated recently.
I’m not going to get the shot.

I’m also not going to put clothes on my cartoon alligators.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Back Ache Treatment

My back has developed into major pain city. The whole pelvis feels like it is biting me. I was taking pain pills: Ibuprofen, Tylenol.  I even went to a back doctor, who looked like he was readying his itchy scalpel fingers.  He did agree to send me to PT, but said that surgery usually gets better results than physical therapy.

I have a set of 4.5" inflatable balls that I use for some exercises. I put one under my pelvis, while lying on my back. I didn't feel like getting up and doing anything, so I lay there, on the ball, for about an hour.  When I got up, I felt sore, but the biting pain was gone. The next morning, I was no longer sore, and the pain was gone.

The pain started to come back in the evening -- the sides of my pelvis, just above where my legs attach hurt so much I didn't think I could walk my dog.  I lay on the ball again for 15 minutes and the pain disappeared.

I do not usually endorse commercial products.  I am not in contact with anybody who makes or promotes this product. Nobody is paying me for an endorsement.  Probably other balls of similar size will work. If you have something similar around the house, by all means try that. This works for me.  I had two friends over who also have low back aches.  It worked for one of them, but not the other.

The Miracle Ball Method: Relieve Your Pain, Reshape Your Body, Reduce Your Stress [2 Miracle Balls Included]

Monday, July 4, 2016

Colin Powell for Hilllary's VP

This is a team that can win.
And with a Real Republican on the ticket, Republicans have no reason to vote otherwise.

Colin Powell for Hilllary's VP

This is a team that can win.
And with a Real Republican on the ticket, Republicans have no reason to vote otherwise.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Doctor's Response to Research on Dexa Scans

My doctor’s response to information on the lack of value for dexa scans is a model for good medicine.

I sent her these three links to studies of bone fractures and bone density:  bone brittleness in white women bone fracture in women without osteoporosis -- bone density and risk of hip fracture in men and women

Here is her response:

Dear Lois,
Thank you so much for all the information you’ve sent!  It confirms what I’ve suspected and I’ll be sharing it with my colleagues.  I appreciate the detective work you’ve done – I am lucky to learn from patients like you.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Acting Mature

I recently read an article claiming that choosing to act mature was far more useful than self-inquiry. It first that seemed like a disconnect.
The more I thought about it, the more I remembered that the thing I like about "enlightened" or "wise" people is how mature they are. They don't anger easily.
And what is it that I find when I do self-inquiry?  I find all the things that bug me, all the things that prove I'm not mature.
So, choosing to act mature seems like a logical first step to becoming mature.
If practicing maturity brings the results I want, then that is a step towards outgrowing the immature responses that don't get the results I want.
And if it doesn't, I don't see any negatives. Acting immature doesn't work, so why not try acting mature?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Perils of Tooth Brushing

On my recent visit to my dentist, I had a worn out filling that had to be replaced.  No new decay. No gum disease. Very little for the hygienist to scrape off my teeth.
My only problem was that the cold water being squirted into my mouth hurt.
I asked the hygienist about it.
She told me that the same tooth brushing and flossing that keeps my mouth disease free damages the gums. Quite simply, the gums are worn down at the base of the teeth and now the cold water can land on exposed roots.
She gave me a tube of temperature sensitive toothpaste. The instructions are to brush my teeth and floss them as I usually do at night, and then smear this paste on them and let it sit all night. She claims in a few months, my teeth won’t be cold sensitive any more, but I have to do this for the rest of my life. Or there is surgery, that will temporarily build up the gums, but brushing will wear them down again.

One more problem with growing old.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Young Man at the Door

My neighborhood has had a deluge of teens selling magazine subscriptions. I get magazines in the mail without ever ordering them. I get letters offering to use my unspent airline miles for magazines. If I wanted to read magazines, I would not need to buy them.

With my aging eyes, the computer monitor is easier to read than a magazine printed on glossy paper.

Yesterday’s teen was different.  I saw the clipboard and said, “I’m not going to buy any magazines.”

He said, “I’m not selling magazines.”

So, I said, “I’m not in the market for anything.”

Then he said, “Don’t you want me to go to college?”

I said, “I very much want you to go to college if that is what you want. What does college have to do with door-to-door selling?”

He said, “If I sell 100 subscriptions, I have a chance at a scholarship to Penn State.”

I started feeling sorry for him.  He reminded me of the time my blue bird leader sat our troop down at a table in front of the grocery store with a stack of vacuum packed cans of peanuts to sell.  I hadn’t sat there 10 minutes when a woman came out of the store and said, “The peanuts are cheaper inside.”  I felt embarrassed. Blue Birds were supposed to be an upstanding youth organization and here I was overcharging people for groceries.

This magazine selling gig for a chance at a scholarship – not even for a cut of the take – seemed wrong.

I told the young man, “That doesn’t sound legitimate.”

He gave me a terrified look and ran.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Ride of Silence

Last Tuesday, May 18 at 7 PM I participated in the Ride of Silence. Hundreds of cities all over the world hold these rides to remember and honor bicyclists who have survived and those who have died in car crashes. The rides begin with a reading of the names of those who have been killed in the previous year. In Philadelphia, where I live, these include a young man who just graduated college, and a young woman who was celebrating her 7th wedding anniversary. The reading of names takes about 15 minutes. Then the group group of riders, all wearing helmets, pedal their bikes in silence for an hour (about 8 miles) on a route through the city, with a ghost bike at the end, to symbolize all the riders who can’t ride with us in body.

The ride runs from 7 PM until 8 PM.  My first thought was that’s when I go home to relax.  Sure, I ride 8 miles or more in one day. But not in one ride. Such a long ride when I’m already tired seemed daunting. But I decided to try it.

The route was planned carefully. It mostly avoided hills. Police blocked traffic, so we only had to stop a few times. I had no idea how much of the energy of biking is spent stopping and starting. That 8 miles felt more like 4 miles. The pace of the ride is about 10 mph. Not tiring at all.

We attracted small crowds who had no idea why hundreds of bicyclists were hogging the road.

We were silent. They called out, “Are you all the cyclists in the city?” And “Go faster!” And, “Why are you here?” We did not answer. The ride had been announced in every paper. The ghost bike had a sign “Ride of Silence.”  If they cared, they could google us from their cell phones.

When we arrived at the ride’s end, younger riders lifted their bikes over their heads.  That was one activity I didn’t feel up for joining.

Since we were all silent, I want to take this opportunity to say that we rode through town to get people to notice bicycle riders. Not just once a year for one hour, but every day at all hours. We can only avoid accidents if people see us. Pedestrians have to look for us when they dash out into the street between parked cars.  Drivers have to watch out for bikes, especially when they are making turns. They need to be careful not to make a turn into the bike lane. And folks getting out of their cars the street side need to look in the traffic lane for bikes as well as cars, before they open their car doors.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Stuff they don't teach in PE

The stuff they didn’t teach me in PE.

What to do when I’m in pain.
What to do to avoid pain.

So, now, as a geezer I’m having to learn that stuff.

Several weeks ago, I woke up with what felt like bones grinding together in my low back.  The last time I felt that I went to the chiropractor who told me I had a slipped disk. I tried the exercises and bouncing on my yoga ball, like he prescribed last time. It didn’t work.

I went back to my chiropractor. This time, he said it was tight muscles. He didn’t give me exercises. He just told me to do exercises that don’t hurt.  That meant riding my bike even if I was only traveling a few blocks. The pain continued.

I surfed the web. Two types of exercise seem get the most recommendations: rolling a foam cylinder on thighs and back, and using either tennis balls or pinky balls to apply pressure to trigger points.

The pressure point balls helped in the morning, but by evening the pain was back.  I tried the foam roller in the evening. The rolling made me sore.  The rolling instructions said if you find a tender spot give it extra rolls.  I don’t like pain, so I figured that was a bad idea.  I was sore in the morning. Not the grinding sensation. Just all over ouch. I put ice on it. No progress.

I went back to the chiropractor.  He seemed to think I was getting better.  So, I asked, “Am I doomed to be an old lady for the rest of my life?”  He laughed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dexa Scans have No Predictive Value

I have a basically sane General Practitioner.  She understands why I refuse meds to lower my cholesterol or reduce the chance of getting cancer in my other breast by 2%.

But she sent me for a Dexa Scan.

At the Outpatient Imaging center, the technician felt obliged to give me a sell job on the wonderfulness of the dexa scan.  She insisted that the doctors who looked at the scan could tell me the likelihood of my breaking a bone within the next 10 years.  They could even tell which bone.  I told her that people who have dense bones can still have brittle bones that break.  She told me that I’m saying all the books are wrong.

I agreed – the books are wrong if they say that low density bones are the only ones that break.

The more she hyped the value of this scan the less I thought she was telling the truth.

When I got home, I surfed the web.
Here’s the basic data:   Age and family history are much better indicators of likelihood of breaking a bone than bone density. This only refers to minor falls – not accidents.

The only broken bone I’ve ever had was caused by a 2-ton car that hit me while I was riding my bike. My parents are alive in their 90's and they’ve never had broken bones.  My doctor had me exposed to unnecessary x-rays.  And she spent unnecessary insurance money.

A dexa scan is not a preventive or a treatment. It is not a predictive tool.  It is only used to sell unnecessary drugs.

There are drugs that help make bones stronger, by improving the crystalline structure of the bones themselves. They are non-prescription vitamins K2 and D3.  These vitamins also help prevent arterial plaque because the calcium that could form dangerous plaque gets used to build strong bones instead.

I sent all this information to my basically sane GP.  I hope she stops prescribing this useless test.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vote for the Delegates

I’ve been excited about this Presidential election.  For the first time in many years, a candidate who has a chance of winning is saying what needs to be said.  Yay, Bernie!

I’ve been giving out literature telling people where and when their polling place is open.

Only yesterday, I learned that pressing the button beside Bernie’s name isn’t enough.

In addition to voting for Bernie, I need to vote for delegates to go to the National Democratic Convention.

Philadelphia PA gets 10 delegates.  The ballot listed 6 Bernie delegates and 10 Hillary delegates, plus 1 Hillary alternate. Since it is unlikely that either candidate will get more than 60% of the vote, voting for 6 is enough.  But it looks like voting for the delegates is more important than voting for the candidate, since they will cast the votes at the convention where the decision will be made.

I see no sense in this extra layer of voting.  Since it exists, I see no sense in keeping it a secret.  I’m one of those people who never read the agreements when I install software on my computer. I just agree to whatever it says.  When I actually have a choice, I want to know the full meaning of all the fine print.

Vote for the delegates.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Your Face Will Freeze That Way

Google Hangouts was slow and pixelated.  One of the threats from my childhood finally came true.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dust Masks

This morning, while walking my dog, I saw men using power tools to destroy sidewalk. They looked like somebody had hired them to do this – it wasn’t wanton destruction. Powdered cement filled the air.  I walked my dog upwind and noticed that the men were not wearing masks.

I stopped and asked them if they had dust masks to wear.  No, they hadn’t been given masks. They seemed to think this was an odd question.  I thought about going to the hardware store, buying masks and bringing them back. But I didn’t think these men would wear them unless their boss ordered them to do so.

Instead, I called 311.  This is the number for all and sundry city questions. Clearly the representative had never had such a question before. I kept being put on hold.  Finally she said she’d take care of it.

I’ve heard that before.  I’ve been trying to get a collapsed sidewalk over a street drain repaired for months.  The sidewalk now has two orange warning cones on it.  No repairs.

I’ve been trying for years to get them to repave Girard Avenue. They repave other streets in far better condition every few years (they buy poor quality asphalt, probably for short term savings), but they ignore Girard.

When I reported a fallen electrical line, they had that fixed within a few days.

When my husband reported a monster pothole, they sent him an email claiming they had fixed it. They hadn’t.  He reported it again, with a photo from his cell phone.  They came out and really fixed it.

Sometimes calling them works.  These guys won’t be working on this spot in a few days.  This is the kind of thing that needs to be done today.  I think it would be great if police cars had stashes of dust masks in their trunks and police, doing their rounds, could hand them out.  The men would not refuse to wear something the police gave them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


No humans are native to the Americas.

Everybody who lives in the Americas today either came here personally, or is descended from someone who did, or who was dragged here against their will.

The people who live in this hemisphere are adventurers, people who want a better life for themselves and their families, explorers, pioneers, and survivors.

We can discover where people came from by looking at the DNA in their mitochondria. Mitochondria are transmitted by eggs only.  Not sperm. Mitochondria are in every cell of our bodies. They contain DNA that is not in the cell nucleus. This DNA is from the mother only. Mitochondrial DNA is the same in all children of the same mother, the same maternal grandmother, and so on through the generations.

The so-called “indigenous people” or “native Americans” have 4 unique mitochondrial DNA sequences.  These mitochondrial DNA sequences are also present in Siberians. Therefore, all the so-called “native Americans” are descended from four Siberian women who probably came here with men, or possibly traveled while pregnant.

People aren’t native to Siberia either. People originated in Africa. But since that happened a long time ago, people tend to describe themselves in terms of the country they lived in before they came to the Americas.

Therefore, I propose the term Siberian-Americans or First Americans as the most accurate term to use, rather than “native Americans” or “indigenous people.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pop Art on Pop Bottles

I just visited the pop-art exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Two exhibits I hadn’t seen before fascinated me for different reasons.  The first because I’m taking a drawing class. The effectiveness of this minimalist drawing comes from the ability of the artist to pick out the identifying characteristics that prompt recognition.

And the second because I used to collect pop bottles and take them to the store for the 3 cent refund.  It never occurred to me to read them, let alone look for secret messages.

Then again, they were tricky to read when empty.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Wisdom of Radishes

In the scientific community, there’s a saying: “Truth is repeatable data.”

Before publishing a paper in a scientific journal, the researcher is expected to make sure the results can be duplicated.  

Other labs are also supposed to be able to follow the directions in the published paper, and see duplicate results.

Most of the time, this works. Most scientists are honorable people who care about Truth.

Therefore it makes the news when somebody attempts to duplicate an experiment, and gets different results.

This week the culprit is a paper about depleting ego. In this experiment, the researchers baked chocolate chip cookies.  And while the room was still filled with the warm enticing aroma, they put out a plate of the freshly baked cookies, and a plate of radishes.

The researchers then asked one group of students to eat the radishes, and another to eat the chocolate chip cookies.

After snack time was over, the researchers gave an impossible-to-solve puzzle to all the students.  The ones who ate the radishes attempted to solve it for an average of 8 minutes.  The ones who ate the cookies, spent an average of 19 minutes trying to solve it.

The researchers concluded that
1) students with strong egos try longer to solve puzzles
2) radishes are ego-depleting
3) cookies are ego-enhancing

I reached different conclusions.

1) Smart students can see when a puzzle is impossible and don’t waste their time
2) Radishes are intellectually stimulating
3) Students can be bought – the ones who got the cookies felt they owed the researchers more of their time

In this case, it’s not the data that constitute Truth. It’s the interpretation of the data.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Writer's Dilemma

Getting an idea for a new story is a high.  Writing it, solving the problems that come up, bringing it to a satisfying conclusion is another high. Then I let it sit for a week or a month. And if I still like it (often after some tweaks and twiddles, or maybe a plot twist or five) I take it to my writing group.  If they have suggestions that make sense to me, I do another round of rewrites.  Then I send out to agents and editors. 

Then come the rejects.  I’m no piker at this.  I have a list of agents who sell the sorts of things I write.  I’ll do 4 at a time for weeks.  My list has over 100 agents.  I also have about a dozen publishers on my list, who read unagented stories.  The rejects pour in.

And I wonder if I’m fooling myself.  My friends know enough to be critical of my work.  If they say they like it, they mean it.  They know I appreciate a good criticism far more than praise, even if in their opinion, it’s earned.  I’m not good at accepting compliments.

But over 100 rejects.  What does that mean?  I’ve certainly read about books that became famous best sellers getting rejects before they were published. 

I’ve also had books published. My books have won awards.  But they don’t sell well once they are published, which makes publisher hesitant to accept work from me.  My books are not profitable.  They’d rather have a new name.

So, after much consideration, I created a new name and an email address to go with it.  So far, the story I’m sending out with that name is getting rejects.

This story is a picture book. Therefore, I decided to commission a cartoon based on the story. Once that is complete, I’ll enter it into contests for animated cartoons under 15 minutes.  

There must be some way to get an audience for my stories.  And get some income from them. A few days of being high is not reward enough.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Cold Shower Experiment

I subscribe to Simpleology.  When they suggested cold showers in the morning, with the possibility that it would make me less sensitive to cold weather, I decided to try it.

For the first 3 months, I hated my morning cold showers, but winter was coming and I thought a few minutes in the morning would be a minor trade-off for avoiding winter misery.  I did breath-of-fire in the shower. I became a master of the quick shower, except when I wash my hair.  I even discovered that my scalp doesn’t mind cold water as much as my tummy and back do.

Then the test came.  Cold weather, snow, ice.  It wasn’t so bad. I found myself making excuses – this winter isn’t as cold as last winter.  I’m dressed for the weather.

But somewhere around the 3 month mark, I started thinking of cold showers as normal. I no longer did breath-of-fire in order to endure them.

And a few days ago I was out biking when the temperature dropped.  I wasn’t dressed for it. Wind whipped up. A cold rain (in the 30's) fell.  And my first thought was: I took a colder shower than this when I got up this morning.

My one-person data point: Yes, cold showers help make cold weather more tolerable.

And it turns out there are other benefits: Improves alertness, circulation, immunity, and other good health features.

The main thing is that I enjoyed feeling stronger than an unexpected cold windy shower.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Take a Cab, not an Ambulance

6 years ago, when I got hit by a car while riding my bike, a kind woman sat with me and called an ambulance.  When the ambulance arrived, I asked to be taken to the hospital I trust. The paramedics on the ambulance jabbed a needle in my arm against my wishes and when I woke up, I was in a hospital I’d never have chosen.

I called the fire department, which handles the ambulances.  They said they only take people to the nearest hospital.  The fact that the one I wanted was only a few blocks away didn’t matter. They also said I had “lost consciousness.”

The ambulance sent me a bill for $500.   I could have taken a cab to the hospital of my choice for less than $20.  It never occurred to me to ask the kind woman phoned 911 to call me a cab instead.

Last week, my 93-year-old mother thought she was having a heart attack.  She wears an alert call button.  She pressed it.  The company sent an ambulance. It took her to a hospital that made her wait in the ER for 2 hours before they ran some blood tests and told her it wasn’t a heart attack.  They didn’t tell her what might have caused that pain.  They did offer to run a bunch of expensive tests, but could not promise to tell her what was wrong.  So she decided to leave “against medical advice.”  Her ambulance bill was $1000.  She doesn’t know if her insurance will cover anything because she left AMA. And, like me, she has a hospital she prefers to the closest one.

I see no advantages to an ambulance over a cab, if you are conscious.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My 1%

Bernie Sanders (my choice for President) has received donations from about 689,000 people.

My first thought was – is that all?

But then I did some research.  In a typical presidential election, the total number of donors to any political candidate is 1% of the US Population. 

Clinton’s campaign has about 400,000 donors.  

Trump has received about $74,000 dollars.  Since the average political donor has donated 5 times at this point in the campaign, that’s about 15,000 donors.

The other candidates aren’t publicizing their number of donors – only the names of their biggest donors, as required by law. 

Still, it’s amazing to find myself part of the 1% – the 1% that shouldn’t exist.  

I think electoral campaigns should be financed by taxes, so that no candidates can be bought by their biggest donors.  To be clear – no individual donations, no PACs.  No TV ads. Just debates in which the candidates get equal time – no bonus minutes for being good at rhetoric, or for being entertaining.

Now, if the other 1% were as ready to abdicate as I am, we’d be on our way to clean politics.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jalapeno Yogurt

My niece was staying with us for the weekend. This always means cooking.  She had her vegetarian magazine with some new Mexican recipes.  Of course they called for fresh jalapeno peppers. I have canned ones on the shelf, but fresh is fresh.  

I called my local grocery.  They had some.  The recipe also called for sweet potatoes.  They had yams.  My niece said that was fine.  So we walked Roar to the store.  My niece walked him outside while I did the honors.  Yams were in an open bin.  I took two. The jalapenos were in packages of 4.  The recipe called for one.  I bought one package.

At home I was also making yogurt.  My niece asked if we could make jalapeno yogurt.  I chopped up some jalapeno and placed it in a blender proof jar. I poured some of the warmed milk with yogurt starter (previous batch) into the jar, whirred it in the blender, and placed it with all the plain yogurt jars into the space blanket to grow.

As you can see in the photo, there’s a reason you never see jalapeno yogurt at the grocery.  The top half is jalapeno yogurt with a surprisingly frothy texture. The bottom half is jalapeno whey.  Clearly this is a product for home use. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dreaming of Drumming Delights

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lòpez

Drawing dreams has always fascinated me.  This story treats dreams on two levels: first in the “I have a dream” sense and second in the sleep-time dream sense.  Here the artist is called upon to render both. Rafael Lòpez’s interpretation is beautiful. It adds color and charm beyond the text.  And that’s saying a lot.  The text is poetic.

On an island of music
in a city of drumbeats
the drum dream girl
of pounding tall congo drums
tapping small bongo drums
and boom boom booming
with long, loud sticks
on big round, silvery
moon-bright timbales.

This story of a girl in a sexist society who wants to do what only boys are allowed to do treats the sexism in a modern way. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the girl is allowed to prove herself worthy of training.

The joy and pleasure of this tale come from the combination of rhythmic language and interpretive art.  The combo make this story a treat as a read-aloud.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Defending My Sister When She's Wrong

My sister called my mother.  She told my mother that her younger daughter was upstairs packing for a trip to South America.  My mother asked if she could wish her granddaughter a good trip, and say good-bye to her.  My sister refused to interrupt her daughter’s packing.

In my opinion, my sister was wrong. As a child, I’d have been thrilled to hear my mother say my sister was wrong about anything.  “Why can’t you be good, like your little sister?”  But, I know from her emails that my sister was having a rotten day. And I know that saying No to our mother has been a hard won battle for my sister. So, while this was upsetting for my mother, and probably for her younger daughter, if she finds out about it, I’d rather my mother practice forgiveness than indulge her in a grouch-fest.

I’d have enjoyed agreeing with my mother that my sister was wrong. But the price was too high.

So, I defended my sister. Told my mom about my sister’s bad day. Asked my mom to try to understand. And felt guilty the whole time because my mother is the one who taught us about right and wrong.