Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Odds-and-Ends on an Orangish Afternoon

What would otherwise be a bright blue sky on a beautiful Spring day has instead turned to a rather peculiar orange-colored sky because the smoke from a 100-plus acre controlled burn started by the Conservation Department southwest of town is billowing into the air and is obscuring the sun, which is headed in that direction.

A friend who reads this mentioned when I spoke with her last night that all she sees is the “I am not a robot post.”

Well, that is because since Monday last I have been operating on a back-up Windows 7 computer because the motherboard on my XP workhorse died. True, I should really not be using the XP for a variety of reasons, but I prefer the way Word is configured on that operating system. In any event, the Windows 7 computer was not quite set up for blogging or Face Booking, and I was too preoccupied trying to get up to speed on Word 2007 that I did not feel like tackling social media too.

Over the weekend I just about finished Friday...

the 1982 novel by Robert Heinlein. This novel happens to be about a woman who is also not a robot but is instead is what is referred to as an artificial person, she is human and even has the capability of reproducing in the normal way, but did not come herself into the world in the usual way, and so faces certain discrimination because of her status.

What continues to amaze me about the science fiction writers is that they had such good imaginations that the things they invented in their novels often came to pass in real life.When Heinlein wrote this novel, the Internet existed but not in the format it is today and not with the graphic interfaces and speed that we currently enjoy. Nevertheless, his character is able to access libraries and watch concerts and videos of events that happened “10 years earlier ” (her time, which is appears to be rather far in the future).

Which leads me to the real reason for this post. When I began having trouble with my back in January and it gradually became apparent what was wrong and what might be done about it, my sweet sister-in-law Donna, wife of my youngest brother,  who has had some trouble with her back...
warned me not to go on the Internet and look up stuff about it. I did not exactly follow her advice at first, and then realized she was "spot on."

Well, most recently, last Tuesday in fact, I started having a problem with my lower leg. Unfortunately, I have spent years (years, I tell you) editing medical manuscripts for a vascular surgery journal and for a group of vascular surgeons at a teaching hospital in The Netherlands. How many manuscripts have I worked on outlining problems with deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, peripheral arterial disease, critical limb ischemia, claudication, and aneurysms of arteries in the lower leg? More than I can count. Does one have a tendency to become a hypochondriac in those circumstances? You betcha.

To back-track a bit, some years ago a bulgy lumpy thing formed at the back of my knee. It did not hurt and it did not bother me in any way, it was just there. By this time I had developed a very cordial relationship with the supervising vascular surgeon in The Netherlands, and so I sent him an e-mail in which I described the lumpy thing and asked his opinion. He said it sounded to him like it was a Baker’s cyst and did not suggest that it needed treatment. And I promptly forgot that exchange, until today.

Between Tuesday night, when I discovered my lower leg just didn’t hurt (I thought it was a strained muscle from overdoing the chair exercises at aerobics on Monday) was also swollen and yesterday, I was fairly convinced I had a blood clot or an aneurysm and was going to end up in the hospital undergoing some sort of bypass operation or and perhaps I'd even be dead from a pulmonary embolism, except I wasn’t convinced enough to go to the emergency department. And of course, none of the possible explanations for the symptoms I was having mentioned what I no doubt probably have.

I did, however, present to Not-a-Doctor Bob this morning and I described the bulgy thing that used to be in the back of my leg and he felt my leg carefully and said, “I think you have a ruptured Baker’s cyst.” The only way to tell for sure is to do an ultrasound. We have a guy that comes here or you can go to the hospital.”

I decided I would see the ultrasound guy at the clinic and forgo going to the hospital for the scan. So, I am going to assume that Not-a-Doctor Bob is correct and that I am not going to drop dead between now and next Monday from a pulmonary embolism.

Stay tuned!

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!