Friday, March 20, 2015

I am not a robot

Suddenly appearing on the "Comments" window is the "I am not a robot" widget.

I didn't think anything about it until I was visiting another blog which has the "I am not a robot" widget and I wanted to leave a comment but before I could, I was made to try to type the words, one of which is so distorted it can scarcely be read.

I hate that.

So just out of curiosity, I tried leaving a comment on this blog and sure enough, I was made to type the distorted words.

I really hate that.

I didn't ask to have "I am not a robot" and I am not sure if I can make it go away.

I'll try.

I get so few comments as it is, I hate the idea that someone who just might want to leave a comment is discouraged from doing so by being made to jump through the "I am not a robot" hoop..

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Eye of the beholder?

This morning when I took Mollywog for a walk in the park, a freight train pulling mostly boxcars came down the tracks next to the park and gradually slowed until it was stopped on the siding to wait for another train coming in the opposite direction.

I noticed that with perhaps one exception, every boxcar that I could see on this long train had become the canvas for graffiti artists. I stood mesmerized while Mollywog snuffled and sorted at a ridge made by mole. I was stunned at how beautiful some of these freehand drawings were/

Art? Yes, I think so. Vandalism? Yeah, that too.

But definitely food for thought: Who decides what is art?

When I was a child, we spent a lot of time at the LA County Museums that were part of the Coliseum complex in downtown Los Angeles. It was only perhaps a 10-minute drive down the freeway from our house and admission was free back then. My folks were very clever at finding free things to do to amuse their four children and we went there often. Back in the day, before the LA County Art Museum had been built some miles away down on Wilshire Blvd by the La Brea Tar Pits, all of the art in the collection was housed in the Natural History Museum. I loved looking at the beautiful paintings.

One incident I have never forgotten took place after Dad and I climbed the stairs and came into a gallery with a number of sculptures, including one that was a large collection of scrap metal that had been welded together. There were lots of large and small car parts in the creation--tail pipes, mufflers, engine parts, transmission parts, that sort of thing.

Now my Dad, who was an automobile mechanic, had a finely tuned sense of what was “art” was and what was “not art,” and like Justice Potter would say not too many years later in the landmark Supreme Court case on obscenity “"I know it when I see it.” Well, Dad had handled many of the objects in this sculpture day in and day out, and he knew art when he saw it, and he had an opinion about this particular piece of art.

What a piece of junk!

 And he wasn’t exactly whispering when he said it, either. But as the cliche goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. 

Now, this is a perfect point to insert a video essay by the late great Molly Ivins about fine art in the great state of Texas. Do take a few minutes and watch it. 

It is just too bad that the skills of these extremely talented young people who are vandalizing the boxcars can’t be channeled into something that isn’t against the law.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pushing too hard?

Last Friday I spent 3+ rather miserable hours at a consult with an interventional radiologist about my back. How miserable? Oh have mercy. Let me count the ways (no, on second thought, I won’t).

I realize that the competence of a physician and his or her skill at diagnosing and treating disease has nothing to do with the person’s personality. But it is a bit easier to warm to a physician—or a Physicians Assistant, such as Not a Doctor Bob, who takes care of my basic medical needs, who is loving and pleasant and kind, even when I am a “bad patient”—than it is to one who is the archetype of “I am the physician, I am God. You are the patient, and this is what you will do.”

Unfortunately, the physician who I was consulting about my back was something of an arrogant bully.

However, as much as I did not like him very much, I acknowledge that he does seem to know his business. Because the level of pain in my back has subsided a great deal—I have not had to take a heavy-duty pain pill for almost 2 weeks—he believes that I do not need the vertebroplasty that was being proposed, at least not for the time being.

Vertebroplasty is a procedure in which the interventional radiologist sticks a needle into the bone and injects a plastic cement to shore up the bone.

Instead, he is more concerned about stopping the progression of the osteoporosis in my spine, which is fairly advanced, and maybe even rebuilding the bone.

Now a few days before this appointment, Not a Doctor Bob gave me a list of all the available treatments for osteoporosis so I could research it out and decide which one I wanted to do. The very last one he listed was a particular drug that must be injected every day. I immediately decided I did not want to use that medication. 

Dr Bully happens to believe that that very drug is the best one to stop the process, and so he sent me home with a 28-day supply of it and I received instructions on how to do the injection.

"Now don't press the needle in too hard," the nurse says, "you don't want to cause a bruise."

I have been injecting myself for a week, and it is not a big deal after all. The needle is tiny—about as thick as a sewing thread and maybe a quarter-inch long—but nevertheless, I have a some spectacular bruises decorating my belly. I can barely feel the needle going in and I guess I am pressing too hard.

Good thing my belly is not on public display.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!
 Terry Pratchett, The Truth

Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors—dare I say my very favorite author—died today of complications of Alzheimer disease. I have written here about him and his books before.
One or more of his books has always accompanied me on the many trips I have taken on airplanes to see my family in Southern California, and will continue to do so.

Except there won’t be any more new ones.

It is hard to imagine what it will like not having any more stories about Commander Vimes, or Moist von Lipwig, or Rincewind and the Luggage, or Death and his granddaughter Susan, or the characters I think I will miss most of all, Tiffany Aching and the band of Nac Mac Feegles.

The notice of his death was posted in true Terry Pratchett fashion on his Twitter account -- perhaps he arranged for this himself, before he died:

"AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER." Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night. The End.

Crivens, indeed!

Friday, February 27, 2015

A thrill a minute...

It was 7°F this morning when I arrived at the park with Molly for our walk. But it really wasn’t that bad. It could have been worse. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and only a slight breeze was rippling the flag on the pole.

I could tell by the footprints left in the snow that I am the only person who has walked all the way around the park in the past few days. Other people have been there though, and other dogs as well. At one point she was stopping every few feet to sniff the footprints left in the snow by a very large dog.

The real fun part of coming and going is the trip down our driveway. Even though our neighbor was kind enough to clear enough snow from our driveway so that we could get out, there was still enough on the ground—and more snow fell along with freezing rain—after his kind gesture so that the first car to drive out made two noticeable grooves down the driveway, which grew deeper with each successive trip in and out. And then with the daily thaw-and-freeze the ridges turned to ice.

Now when we get the car going down the driveway, we can take our hands off the wheel – if we are wanting a bit of excitement – and bump and slither our way up to the asphalt without going over the edge. We do not need to pay $100+ a person (!) to experience thrill rides at a certain amusement park. No indeed. We have our very own thrill ride.

And just by way documenting the human spirit, which sometimes is able to find something humorous in very inconvenient circumstances… 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Merriam-Webster to the rescue

Yesterday afternoon I carefully positioned myself on the couch with a paperback mystery by the prolific writer Michael Innes

Almost immediately I saw that Innes was the sort of writer who I really enjoy reading. I like the words he chooses and the descriptive way he constructs his phrases and sentences.
Something long, pale and flattened had appeared against the window, like the under-belly of a sea-slug sucked hard against the side of an aquarium. Slightly above and to either side of this were what might have been two writhing caterpillars of the furry sort, and below each of these was a faint but baleful gleam of fire. The whole, in fact, was a human face engaged in some act of reconnaissance, and a moment later the door was thrown open and its owner heaved himself violently into the compartment….
But before I was a very few pages into the book, I started coming across words that were a puzzlement -- I had no idea what they meant or only a vague idea…
  • assize
  • hebdomadal
  • catholic (little “c” not Catholic)
  • Ruritania
  • breviary
  • otiose
Sometimes when that happens, I assign a meaning that seems to fit the context of the sentence and plow on. I do it all the time with words and phrases I see in the medical manuscripts I edit, but in that case I really don’t need to understand what I am reading, just that it makes grammatical sense.

And to chase a bit of a rabbit here, one of the few classes I remember from junior high (some 50+ years ago now!!) was an English class taught by Mrs Brewster. Oh my. She was an elegant, immaculately groomed woman who wore a subtle but wonderful perfume. I think now she was a great role model for impressionable and squirrley junior high school girls. We were learning the parts of speech, and she was teaching us how to diagram sentences (using the Reed-Kellogg system in case you have no clue and just have to look this up). She then handed us Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, which starts off…

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 

And told us to have at it. We had no idea what most of the words meant, but discovered it was quite possible to diagram the sentence and do it correctly.

Where was I. Oh yeah.

Having decided that I really wanted to know what these strange words actually meant rather than just guess, and because the computer stays off on Sunday, I grabbed my trusty Merriam-Webster’s Eleventh Edition, which has seen better days and is held together by duct tape. All the words were there, and knowing what they actually meant made much more sense than what I was guessing they meant.

I only have the one Michael Innes mystery, which I believe I swept off the shelf as part of a “$1 a bag sale” at the thrift store. I am not likely to find any more at the thrift store (this one was written in 1945), so I have a feeling I may be visiting the library before too long to see if they have any of his available for checking out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A "little bit of snow...

Saturday afternoon after I left off looking at the lovely primroses my husband bought for me to plant in pots and enjoy (hopefully) for years to come, I took a look at the weather forecast that I have on my Internet toolbar to see what might be happening on Sunday. I wish now I had saved a screen shot of the projected forecast for Sunday…

“a little bit of snow Sunday afternoon” 

is what it said.

Sunday morning dawned cold and windy (about 19 not counting wind chill) but with a clear blue sky; however, things sounded a bit more ominous when I got in the car to drive to the spot where I was going to take the dog for her morning walk: the news warned there could be up to 8 inches of snow in our area of the state.

Nah… they’re usually wrong. Right?

Yes, they usually are wrong but not this time.

The ice pellets started hitting shortly after the sun went down Sunday, and then the snow started, and we woke up Monday morning to at least a foot of snow. Compared with what has happened in the Northeast and New England in recent weeks, a foot of snow is not such a big deal. I get that, and I am not complaining.

What this is really about is the wonderful young couple that moved into the church next door a few years ago and turned it into their house. We had never before had next-door neighbors and suddenly we did, and they are indeed truly lovely neighbors.

We are blessed.

Monday afternoon the husband took it upon himself to come down our driveway with his little Bobcat machine and cleared the snow up to the concrete pad in front of the garage where we park two of the vehicles. Had he not done that, I am not sure we could have gotten out today even in our small pick-up. I needed to mail my cousin’s birthday present, and most important: Tuesday is “banana Tuesday” at the local market. The price per pound for bananas is just about half the regular price. We both eat a banana a day, so we don’t miss banana Tuesday if we can help it.

My car, which is parked by the back porch is buried and is certainly going nowhere anytime soon.

I am very thankful for having such a good neighbor. Some folks are not so fortunate.