Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Half-Baked Alaska

Facts & Figures:
  • Population of Alaska: 670,000 (US Census Bureau)
  • Alaska Racial Diversity: 70% Caucasian, 15% Native Alaskan American, 15% all other races
  • English Speaking Households: 80%
  • # of non-agricultural businesses: 62,000
  • Population of San Francisco Metro Area: 7,200,000
  • Racial Diversity: Huge. More diversity in one first grade classroom than in all of AK.
  • English Speaking Households: See item above
  • # of non-agricultural businesses: I didn't even bother to look it up - more than 62,000
  • Personal income tax in Alaska - does not exist. Only state in U.S.A without it.
  • Sales Tax in Alaska - does not exist.
  • Tax Revenue in Alaska - primary source is petroleum industry. So lucrative, that AK residents actually get tax rebates, rather than paying taxes.
So, we are being asked to elect as Vice President of the United States a new governor of a state which contains less than 1/10th the population of the SF Bay Area, which has little racial diversity, which has no illegal immigration issues, which has a budget surplus based on oil, which is culturally separated from the lower states ... and she was chosen for the simple fact that she is a female.

I'm so incredibly insulted by this action that I just made the first-in-my-life political contribution and I signed up for a Get Out the Vote activity for next Saturday. Trust me, neither of those will be for the McCain/Palin ticket.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dear John

Dear Senator McCain, I am not at all sure what your advisors have told you, but do you actually believe that Hillary supporters and women voters will now flock to your side just because you chose a woman as your V.P.? Yes, it is an historic decision for the conservative, traditional G.O.P .... but,

DUDE she is pro-life, pro-NRA, pro-oil, pro-Iraq war, pro-development, pro-capital punishment, pro-fundamentalism..... are you seeing a pattern here? In short, she is everything that Hillary supporters are against, except for the fact that she inhabits a female body.
And, I know you don't want to consider your own mortality but since you're 72 it must occasionally cross your mind. Like maybe late at night or when you're waiting in the MD's office for the results on your latest biopsy? Have you actually considered that you might leave the rest of us in the hands of a 44 year old mother of 5 who has limited national experience and no, nada, zip, zero experience dealing with foreign diplomats or international crises? And please, tell me how a mom with a 6 month old disabled child will have the time & focus to serve as V.P. of the USA. Has it occurred to you, as it has to me, that since she had that child at 43 she could possible get pregnant again - from an observer's standpoint birth control doesn't seem high on her list of personal responsibility.

So, Dear John, tell us What Were You Flapjacking Thinking? But in closing, I'd like to say a very big THANK YOU, since I think you may have given my candidate a much better chance in November. Unless the women of America are as stupid and emotional as you apparently think they are. Sincerely, the spynster

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Peach Progress

  • Friday: 10 lbs. delivered to lunch room for co-workers.
  • Saturday: 10 lbs. picked up by friends for cobblers.
  • Sunday a.m.: 30 lbs. picked, 10 lbs. given to the ants, snails, and birds.
  • Sunday: 15 lbs. turned into 3 frozen pies and 1 super-size-me crisp for work.
  • Sunday: 15 lbs. set aside for slicing and freezing.
  • Sunday Eve: Small corner of crisp eaten warm with light cream. OMG.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I am so mad at myself right now, I feel like a flapjacking idiot. Not because I did something stupid, but because I did something nice. Huh, you say?
Yes, I did something nice but I guarantee that it will come back to bite me.

Let's see if I can explain this without revealing too many details. There is someone on our staff whom I consider to be a slightly greener hue than Elphaba. I'll refer to her just as TWW (you can figure it out) and she is my ARCH-ENEMY at work. This week, TWW delegated a task to her assistant. The assistant asked me politely for help, since it requires use of software program which she has never used. Now, it just so happens that I am the self-taught company whiz at this particular program - if I do say so myself. I've been receiving broad hints from TWW for several months about taking on her project and I've always thought, "not in this lifetime, witch!" But I don't harbor such thoughts about the assistant so I agreed to show her the basics of the program.

It was obvious after about 30 minutes, that she wasn't going to pick it up fast enough to meet the deadline. That's when I heard myself say: "OK, if you assemble all the pieces you need for this and put it on the intra-net, I'll do the complete layout for you this time and send it over." OH, FLAPJACK! I have now agreed to do the project for TWW and broken my lifetime vow of never lifting a finger to help her. Too late. The assistant of course is thrilled, but it's only a matter of time before TWW finds a way to twist a knife in my back again. And it's my own stupid, flapjacking fault. To be continued, I'm sure.

**flapjack (flap' jak'): a pseudonym for a four letter word beginning with F. Created by a group of millennials one evening, when using the F word a little too often in the presence of some baby-boomers. The substitution of "flapjack" satisfied both parties and has been used ever since.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Backyard Orgy

Yeah Baby! I might not be blogging this weekend if the peaches are ready to pick - my fingers will be too sticky from fresh peach juice! I only have one little tree in the backyard but it produces amazing fruit, with absolutely no help from me. Last year I made 1 cobbler, 3 pies, froze 10 quart bags, and canned 16 pints of peach slices in spicy-rum sauce. That was in addition to the bowls I ate with yogurt, cream or ice cream and the bags I gave away to friends. The crop this year isn't quite as large, but there's still enough for a backyard peach orgy. Yum Yum.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Uh-Oh Squad

Somewhere in the Bay Area today, there's a woman waking up with serious black & blue marks down her right side. I know this because when I last saw her yesterday she was being strapped to a back board and loaded into an ambulance. Here's the story.

My friends and I went on an urban excursion yesterday to celebrate someone's birthday. We had a great morning meandering thru a botanical garden, having mimosas and proscuitto wrapped shrimp in the park, and enjoying a relaxing lunch sitting high in the Berkeley hills overlooking the bay. The people watching was very good. We spotted a very pregnant bride in clingy white satin with an "outie" belly button (those will some lovely wedding pics), an Asian call girl on an afternoon assignment (dude, I apologize if that was your wife, but who wears a leather bustier, black mini skirt, 5" heels, and a quadruple strand of magnificently huge white pearls at 1:00 in the afternoon?) and Tony Soprano having a lawyer/client consultation in a hallway alcove (good luck with the deposition, T.) We were strolling across the parking lot discussing these sitings when it happened. BAM!

We whipped around, wondering if we were about to become drive-by shooting statistics. I looked to my left and saw a bicycle with a blown front tire. I looked to my right and saw a cyclist rolling on the pavement yelling about her shoulder. I should also mention the bike tire was under the front passenger tire of a large black car. Uh-Oh.

I started walking quickly over to the cyclist, hoping someone else would get there first. Despite my med-blog reading, I don't claim to have much in the way of first aid skills. Since she was yelling at the top of her voice, I assumed CPR wasn't going to be needed. At it turned out, 4 of us arrived at once: the driver of the car, a young couple from across the street and me, followed quickly by my three friends. Multiple cell phones were out but the parking lot attendant had already called 911.

Other than complaints about her shoulder, she didn't seem to be injured. Surprisingly, there was no road rash or bloody scrapes. She was moving both arms and had good control of her hands, while she unzipped her jacket and unclipped the fanny pack belt. The Uh-Oh squad was mostly standing around trying to think of things to do while we waited for emergency response. The driver of the car checked her pulse and quietly mentioned he was a doctor. She briefly opened her eyes to see who said that and then resumed moaning and writhing. Uh-Oh.

As it turned out, the pedestrian couple admitted to being an EMT and a chiropractor. Then a new black Mercedes convertible pulled up and a young man in blue scrubs got out. He was on his way to work at an adjacent hospital. By now, I'm thinking "Holy crap! What a great place to be in accident. She's got 2 MD's, a chiropractor, and an EMT and the ambulance hasn't even shown up yet. All she needs now is the lawyer, and he's right up the hill with Tony!"

I did notice that not one of the observers touched her, other than the quick pulse check. Everyone else was very careful to do visual checks and offer to call her husband or family. None of us gave her our names either - not really out of paranoia, but just caution I guess. When the fire truck and ambulance pulled up, my friends and I made a quiet get away. As we pulled out, she was being strapped to the back board.

Of course we thoroughly hashed over the experience as we drove home, and reached the following conclusions:

  • She was amazingly fit for a woman of a certain age, and appeared to be an experienced cyclist based on the expensive athletic gear she was wearing.
  • Her address was very close to the site of the accident so she must have been familiar with the busy intersection and driveway into the resort.
  • Therefore, the accident was mostly her fault for not using extra caution and ceeding right of way to the auto, even if both bike & auto had the green light.
  • And that Dr. Driver was most likely phoning his insurance agent and attorney the moment the ambulance drove off.

Uh Oh.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hello Kitty

Dear Miss Emms and Maddy-Moo, the time has come for a frank and open discussion about our living arrangements. Although we've been sharing space for 15 years now, there are some things which need improvement and it might help to just bring this stuff out in the open once and for all. You may be surprised, but here goes:

Your skills for purging gigantic hairballs are impressive, but it's rude, crude, and disgusting to do it just as dinner guests are being seated! If the urge absolutely can't be controlled, the least you can do is move to the back bedroom where you'll be out of sight and out of hearing. Purging in the middle of the living room carpet does not work wonders for my social life.

Speaking of social life, you know how we sit at home on weeknights and watch TV? And you know how you perch on my thigh while doing so? Well, it's not necessary to sink your claws into both sides of my knee. Yes, your ancestors slept in trees and it's no doubt an inherited survival response. But you've never been higher than the back of the couch and I've seen you fall off it without being injured! So don't get a grip - keep your claws in your paws and we'll both be a lot happier.

As long as I'm on the topic of injuries, let me also assure you that there has never been a documented case of full grown cat being sucked into a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner won't hurt you and surely, after 15 years, you might have this figured out. You are much more likely to get hurt by shooting out from under the bed or the couch, scaring the hell out of both of us, and making me drop the wand and power head. Keep this in mind next Saturday a.m.

And you know that creature you discovered on the deck last week, which prompted two huge hissy fits and prolonged snarling? Well, that was a kitten and he looks a lot like you did 14.5 years ago. His name is Boo-Boo and he belongs to the 4 year old girl next door. He is not going to trash your deck chairs or eat your food. It's considered good manners to be pleasant to a neighbor until they do something which really deserves snarling and hissing. Like dealing drugs or neglecting to recycle.

Finally, we need to talk finances. In all the time you've lived here, you haven't contributed a dime to household expenses. I've paid for your food, shelter, health care, entertainment, and personal hygiene supplies and will continue to do so until you, well you know, start using the eternal litter box. Whatever. For the most part, I've been happy to provide but you could show a little gratitude now and then. And no, that does not mean laying on my head in the middle of the night and purring from self-satisfaction. It means providing companionship and some "OMG, that's so cute" kind of moments. You can do it - it just takes a little bit of effort!

OK, whew, I feel so much better now don't you? But girlfriends, remember this: even tho the PC crowd says that you are animal companions, and not pets, in the end I OWN YOU! It's not the other way around. Thanks for the chat.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

White Coat Syndrome

"I was not obliged to be a model. I was not obliged to be a singer. I could have been a doctor." Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Vanity Fair, September 2008

Oh, the allure of those crisp white coats! Has anyone ever said "I could have been a software engineer, or CPA, or IRS auditor, or Plumbing Contractor?" Nope. It's the romantic, powerful, mysterious, intimidating world of medicine which often ends the "I could have been..." statement. Even by Carla, the newly installed First Lady of France. (La Premiere Damoiselle? Je'ne sais pas! )

Apparently, a white coat is an international symbol for competence, intelligence, and accomplishment. I do understand why. Science, math, half a lifetime spent in school, competition, information retention, man, woman, life, death, infinity ... cue in the music from "Hopkins"ABC's recent series filmed in Baltimore. Which I thought was awesome by the way.

Obviously, I have a med-obession right now as evidenced by the list of "doctor" books I've read over the past year, and the med-blogs I haunt. (look left). And all that reading has confimed something for me. I could NEVER have been a doctor. Never. I don't have the intellectual abilities or the determination or the stamina or the math & science aptitude. Not to mention the bank account needed for mega-years of schooling or the ability to get up close and personal with other peoples bodies. No thanks.

I do believe, however, I could have been an English Professor! I love reading and I love writing. It's painful when my young nephews tell me they hate books, and it's painful to watch the deterioration of spelling, writing, and use of the English language in our current culture. (Look left again, to Pres. Bush. OMG.) I've found myself lately making a mental collection of weird or interesting words like ineffable, perjorative, surreptitious, immutable. I'm not likely to use words like that in conversation anytime soon - I'm not THAT big of an egghead - but they still roll around my Jello brain, waiting to pop out into my blog I guess.

But I'm not an English teacher and Carla Bruni Sarkozy is not a doctor. I have settled for being an ordinary person and she has settled for being the French presidents' wife. C'est la vie!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gym Shorts

While doing my version of Olympic treadmill walking last night, I started reminiscing about the exercise phases I've gone through . For someone who routinely says "I hate exercising", it's a bit surprising to realize that I've done so much of it in the past 30 years.

During the 1980's, it was mostly group aerobics: Dancergetics, Jazzercise, and classes at the local "singles" gym. Thank God there are no existing photos of that Jane Fonda wanna-be period. Even tho I was young and slender then, I don't want to see proof that I actually wore color coordinated leotards & tights, wrist bands, headbands, leg warmers, and other action accessories. We thought we looked good - at the time! My role model was a friend's new girlfriend. She was awesome - a blonde, thin, fit aerobics teacher with endless energy and a perfect body. It was only after they broke up that I found out she stayed that way by purging after meals, going on liquid only fasts, and using amphetamines or cocaine prior to starting the workouts. I lost some of my admiration for physical perfection after that little bit of news.

Exercise in the next decade consisted of self-directed activities: walking and using an assortment of home exercise videos and machines. Or to be more truthful, pretending to use an assortment of videos and machines. There was a rower, a stationary bike, and weird little hybrid that was a mix between a rower and bike. All of those were eventually traded away or donated to a local charity. By then I had become a condo owner on a single woman's wages, so health club memberships were not in the budget. I ate more, moved less, and slowly but surely acquired the silhouette of a middle-aged woman. I caught sight of my grandmother in store window reflections more than once which was startling! Those sitings usually resulted in short-lived exercise spikes of long walks and bicycle jaunts but the spikes never lasted. Alas, I became an apple, not a pear. Not a tapered Red Delicious apple either - more like a global, rounded, ripe little Fuji, the kind which rolls across the produce aisle when dropped.

OK, I might be exaggerating a little bit for the sake of a good story. But I moved into the overweight category on the BMI chart and went to double digit clothing sizes. Ironically, I wore exercise sweat pants a lot, even tho I was definitely not exercising!

Then, the little apple started to develop minor health issues mostly related to being too far to the right on the BMI chart. My doctors suggested a regular exercise program might be helpful. And at the same time, our local hospital opened a multi-million dollar Wellness Center which includes a beautiful fitness club and health education activities. (Very savvy planning, geared to aging baby boomers.) I took the orientation tour and signed up on the spot. The facility is wonderful - full of natural light from 20' windows and spotlessly clean, unlike some previous clubs I joined. I love going there and as a result have started to like (not love) my exercise routine. Hence, the Olympic treadmill walking.

And one of the best parts? Every cardio machine has it's own TV! Now I'm improving muscle fitness while decreasing brain fitness. I'm on a first name basis with Stacy & Clinton (don't try to pretend you don't know them!), Larry King, Judge Judy, and the bridal consultants on Say Yes to the Dress. I confess to staying on the elliptical an extra 5 minutes just to see if the bride picked dress #3, even tho Mom wanted dress #1. My quads, hamstrings, and gluts are toning up while my cerebral mass is turning to Jello. But I look better, feel better, and can contribute more to the lunchroom pop gossip. Maybe I DO like exercise!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hand Me Down, Please.

Since I'm on the subject of hands and handiwork, here are a few photos of my latest project. Technically, it is a pieced coverlet, not a quilt, because it is tied instead of quilted. I much prefer quilting but I don't know how to machine quilt and hand quilting this piece was not practical. It's a baby "quilt" and needs to be sturdy and machine washable. Plus, the baby would have been entering first grade by the time I got it finished. So, it is tied....the baby doesn't seem to mind.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hand Me That Tool!

I've always enjoyed working with my hands but I have an enhanced appreciation for them after reading "In Our Hands" by Arnold Arem, M.D. A hand surgeon for over 20 years, Dr. Arem says "that hands are...the Rosetta stone of the soul" and he calls them "the body's most exquisite instrument." As I was turning the pages of his book I started becoming more and more aware of how much I use these instruments every day - cooking, baking, gardening, quilting, reading, typing of course, scratching my cats' ears, dialing phones, changing channels on the remote, and numerous other mundane activities that I simply take for granted.

I've spent 3 days now watching my hands and taking inventory on how they function. I know, some of you will say "Get a Life!", but it's been fascinating really. Start taking stock of your own activities, I think you'll be amazed. Anyway, here's a breakdown of my morning routine - I'm skipping the shower and toilet since some activities are best done on automatic pilot. You can keep your own notes on those!

Task: Inserting contact lenses. Process: Use thumb and index finger to open lens case. Snag contact with tip of little finger and place lens in palm of left hand. Pop saline solution cap with thumb and saturate lens. Balance lens on tip of index finger. Pull lower eyelid down slightly with tip of middle finger and insert lens. Repeat on opposite side. Instruments: 1 Thumb, 2 Index fingers, 2 Middle fingers, and 1 Pinky.

Task: Apply facial moisturizer and foundation. Process: Squeeze appropriate amount of goo into palm of left hand using thumb and index finger. Apply evenly to face with tips of middle and ring fingers. Index and little finger are held gracefully out to side. Instruments: 1 Thumb, 1 Index, 1 Middle, and 1 Ring finger.

Task: Apply cool Raisin Quartz eyeliner on top eyelid. Process: Grasp eye pencil between thumb and index finger, resting it on the middle finger for stability. Using tip of little finger, tighten eyelid and apply Raisin Quartz along lash line. Smudge with little finger if desired. Repeat on other eye. Instruments: 1 Thumb, 1 Index, 1 Middle, and 1 Pinky.

Task: Apply Voluminous Brown-Black mascara. Process: Hold wand between thumb, index, and middle finger. Carefully roll from base of lashes to outer tips. Turn wand on end and brush lightly along lower lashes, keeping control at all times to prevent eye injuries. Instruments: 1Thumb, 1 Index, 1 Middle.

Task: Brush and Floss Teeth. Process: Squeeze on toothpaste using thumb and index finger. Stabilize toothbrush between thumb and extended index finger. Wrap remaining three fingers around base and start scrubbing. When rinsed, wrap dental floss around both index fingers and think of how pleased the hygienist will be at your next appmt. Use thumb and index finger to massage circulation back into both fingertips when finished. Instruments: 1 Thumb, 2 Index, 1 Middle, 1 Ring, 1 Pinky.

Task: Insert earrings into pierced ears. Process: Sort through jumbled jewelry box to find 2 matching earrings. Pull ear lobe with thumb and index finger, while holding earring post with opposite thumb and index finger. Insert post and use thumb and index finger to attach backing. Repeat. Equipment: 2 Thumbs, 2 Index.

Task: Clothing. Process: Uses both gross and fine motor skills to pull items off hangers, onto legs and arms, fastening buttons or hooks, pulling zippers, snapping snaps. Instruments: All available digits.

Task: Shoes. Process: Brace self against closet door with one hand while pulling on individual shoes. Instruments: One full hand - palm and fingers, unless shoes have laces and/or straps. Then fine motor skills are needed.

There - see what I mean? I'm only 40 minutes into my morning and have performed multiple, complicated maneuvers with these exquisite instruments. I still have to get breakfast, drive 20 miles, make a cell phone call, and adjust the car radio a bunch of times before I even get to the office. Now when I say it's a miracle that I get to work on time, I really really mean it! I love what my hands can do - I love my hands period.

PS: OMG, I can't believe I forgot to include THE HAIR, the most complicated process of all! Requiring use of both hands, this procedure involves raking, pulling, scrunching, bending, twisting, rolling, smoothing, and spraying - all to achieve a looks which says "quick and easy". Instruments: 2 Palms, 2 Thumbs, 8 Fingers and 1 Blow Dryer. Even better if instruments belong to a trained professional.

Sticks and Stones

I suspect the title of my blog doesn't make sense to anyone but me. I started posting in April when I became addicted to med-blogs, after listening to an NPR program. In the beginning, I was planning to post about health care issues from a "health care consumer" standpoint and thought the title was quite clever and witty. Now, 4 months and 4 readers later, I find that I'm writing about everything else but health care issues! It's The Dinosaur's fault. His blog advice is: Write Well, Say Something, and Mix It Up. I seem to be Mixing It Up but that means the blog is unfocused and title doesn't apply to anything. Oh well.

This IS the internet. I suppose I could pretend to have a chronic illness and that would give my title credibility. That seems a bit pathetic. And also really bad karma. I'd have to pick a condition which didn't require much research or painful treatments, just in case karma kicked in and actually gave me the disease. Better to not go there. Or, I could stick to writing about health care from an employers'/Human Resource perspective but that sorta puts people to sleep - as I've experienced in communications with my co-workers.

No, better to just Mix It Up and keep the title as is. In a literary way, it might still be pertinent. After all, I am exposing private areas to complete strangers which is what happens when wearing a gown-open-2-the-back. I'm keeping it. Does that make sense?