Monthly Archives: January 2015

Life is Strange Enough – Quit Making Stuff Up!

I am going to start this entry with a book recommendation, for a change.

It’s a book written by someone who made a decent living as a “medium”, with work on the side as a ghost hunter/house cleanser.   Made a lot of money, too, what with TV appearances and book signings, the whole shebang.

She has decided to come out with the truth: she cannot talk to the dead, she’s never been in a haunted house, and now that she’s retired on her considerable wealth she wants to ensure that no one else gets duped.  She details how she conducted “cold readings”, how she rigged electronic devices to go off when she was claiming to “sense” a presence, and even how she sometimes had assistants planted in various locations to “make the experience seem more real”.

Emails sent to her, requesting readings, were saved and memorized (on her applications, she states that you need to provide basic details on your reason for a reading) – the rest is something she “fills in” when she meets the person, throws out some generalizations, then runs with whatever information she sees the client react positively to.

At live sessions, she throws statements out that are so general that someone inevitably will think it applies to them.  If, during a reading, she says something the person doesn’t relate to, she tells them to “think about it – it will come to you when you get home”.  Or sometimes she apologises and says the message is for the person sitting next to them.

She also states she got tired (and a few headaches) from pretending to be possessed by spirits.  She apparently has hit her head a few times when her assistants were not paying attention.  And, as she is getting older, it’s getting increasingly harder for her to see in the dark, a necessary condition (she says) in order to fool people better.

Additionally, she is getting sick and tired of a select group of clients and hangers-on who, while contributing a lot to her personal wealth, annoy her to the point of “mental exhaustion”.

“It’s as if they cannot make any decisions at all without my advice,” she complains. “Why can’t they just grow up and think for themselves?”

She, of course, doesn’t see that she has fostered this dependence. But hey, no one’s perfect, right?

Aside from the mental and physical exhaustion, she is beginning to worry about her own mortality.

“I don’t know what happens after we die, if anything,” she admits.  “And since I was asked to leave church because I was causing so much distraction, I don’t even know where to go to get my own spiritual guidance.  I’m getting older, and I’m becoming afraid of old age and death.”

Welcome to the club, idiot.  It’s hard to feel sorry for someone like that, isn’t it?  And even now, with this admission, she is hurting people because they now have to come to terms with their own belief in something that clearly wasn’t true.

And she’s not even giving their money back.

Internet Politeness Norms & Alternate…Everything

Today’s post is about internet politeness norms (there don’t seem to be any), alternative medicine/treatments (aka “woo”), and the general alternative reality that a lot of people seem to be living in (virtual reality in its many forms).

First of all, though, yet another health update: (Skip to Page 2 for My Usual Commentary)

I finished the antibiotics and am still sick.  The fevers are fewer and farther between, which is good, but the nausea/dizziness/upper right quadrant pain remain.  The fatigue is at bay unless I do something incredibly strenuous like, say, go downstairs to get the mail.  Then I’m done for the day, pretty much.

I don’t think people understand what I mean.  I don’t mean I am out of breath going up and down stairs – it doesn’t even get to that point.  I mean I feel like taking a nap in the foyer after fetching the mail and before returning upstairs.  Tired times a zillion and then some.

I have no idea how I am going to grocery shop next month.  I barely made it this month and when I got home I was wiped out for days.

And Dr. Wonderful?  His last comments to me via email, after I asked him if the lab results indicating I had some kind of atrophied pancreas (and the everpresent gallstones) might be the source of my symptoms, were somewhat terse – he stated that pancreas atrophy does not have symptoms and would not cause upper quadrant pain, and that the best way to “prevent illness” is a good diet, and strength training.

Can’t really disagree with him there.  However, it’s not really helpful.  My diet now consists of “eat whatever I want as long as I eat 45 g of fiber first” – which, if you have ever tried, leaves no room to eat ANYTHING else, because 45 g is a LOT of fiber and hard to achieve in one day.

Try it.  I mean, without pills or fiber drinks.  It’s tough.

My diet consists of raw vegetables (usually broccoli and caultiflower), some cooked ones (peas and artichokes, as both are high in fiber), an apple or berries, the occasional free-range happy chicken egg, and 2 c. black beans with bulgur and/or brown rice.

Sometimes I go wild and eat 2 slices of $6/loaf (yes, really) Ezekial bread, which is so high in healthy ingredients it nearly tastes like it.   Sorry, but vegetarian/health food has not changed a whole lot (ie, it still tastes a lot like cardboard) since I was a vegetarian in 1969 (I was 13 – an animal, um well not rights person exactly, I just didn’t think killing animals for food was kind or right).  I don’t think animals have rights, nor did I then.  I just don’t/didn’t think we as humans have to torture them for food/cosmetics/anything else.

They depend on us to not hurt them.  Oh, for heaven’s sake, if I was out in the wilderness and had to fend for myself I would maybe fish, as I kind of see that as an equal sporting kind of thing (I have never actually caught a fish, despite my love of bass fishing – them’s some damn smart fish and they always get away, if I am able to hook them at all, which I’m usually not).

But, in general, Americans do not need to hunt for food.  And, while even I will admit that McDonald’s burgers taste good (especially those cheddar/carmelized onion ones), they are just not worth the health issues or contributing to McDonald’s global domination.  So, I mean I don’t need to eat meat of any kind, for a lot of different reasons.

I digress.  What was I talking about?  Right, the diet and health.  So I have a boring diet and since I am rarely hungry now, I can check the “dietary lifestyle change” off my list.

Exercise, as my doctor clearly knows (because we have discussed it many times), is the tough part.  He knows I do not have a car.  He also knows I am on disability.  He knows that anything that’s not a medical errand (and exercise does not count, I already argued with Pennsylvania Medicaid and Medicare about this) costs me $6 round-trip.

I applied awhile back to the YMCA grant for poor people thing, which I got.   The woman told me, “As Christians, we think everyone should at least pay SOMETHING,” when I asked her why there was still a fee of $12/month.  “You mean you can’t spare $12 a month??” she asked.  I told her, no, but I would be glad to volunteer as anything, and if she had me do counseling volunteer work that was worth at least $25/hour so…”Oh, you have to volunteer on top of paying the fee,” she said.

Ok so that’s $12 plus transportation costs of $18/week, assuming a 3 times/week exercise schedule.  And it has to be done between the hours of 9 am and 2 pm, M-F, because those are the times the Blair Senior Services vans run (the $6/round-trip guys).

That’s minimally $84/month.  Even if I inexplicably ditched my cell phone (which isn’t practical and no, I do not want an Obamaphone – I had one once and the talk time they provide each month isn’t enough to cover the cost of calls to doctors and other necessary things, let alone call or text my kids and friends), and got rid of my internet (which is $28/month), it still wouldn’t add up to $84/month.

The classes are another issue.  The free ones are either not on the days/times I need or they are not suitable (NO Silver Sneakers for me, thanks) or they cost money.

A side issue – one that creeps me out – is that a prominent (and very elderly) doctor I have had contact with is on the YMCA board (in a visible, active, ‘hang-around-the-place’ way),  I would not want to run into him.  I had heard – through some former clients of mine – that he was into the BDSM scene as a dom, and when I met him he made it creepily clear that this was not a rumor.  I was in the middle of an exam for my back at the time.  It weirded me out so much, especially when he told me I was a “good girl”, that I left as soon as humanly possible and never went back.

It didn’t particularly shock me that Altoona has an underground dungeon or whatever.  I just really don’t want any contact with that group of folks, in any capacity.  They seem to be obsessed with sex and that doesn’t sit well with me (no obsessions sit well with me, to be honest).

So, back to the issues of diet and exercise.  Diet, check.  Exercise, um still figuring that out.  I bought a bicycle 3 years ago, and have fallen off it 3 times.  Yes, I used to ride bikes a lot as a kid and young adult.  I think the falling has to do with the peripheral neuropathy in my legs, which makes it so my legs do not do what I tell them to do, a lot of the time.  That relates back to the lower back issue, which was supposed to resolve itself without surgery but the last CT scan last week unintentionally revealed that nothing has changed.

So ends the health update for today.  That was the “everything” part of the title.

Next Time.

Despite being on a course of antibiotics, the fever has returned.  I am extremely fatigued and the upper right pain continues.

My doctor, in response to me asking him if my latest tests showing an “atrophied pancreas” could be the cause of my pain, stated no.  He also said it isn’t pancreatic disease anyway.

His tone indicated to me that he’s pretty much fed up.  And I had such hopes for him.

I imagine my reply telling him the fever is back will not sit well with him.

Doesn’t matter.  I am in a snit, I’m exhausted, and I’m done with doctors.

This will either go away or get so bad that even the dumbest of physicians will be able to figure out what it is.  So, time is the answer I guess.

What it isn’t, is factitious.  I get no joy out of being prodded and poked, made to drink obnoxious radioactive concoctions, and shoved into tubes that precipitate anxiety attacks.

I went grocery shopping yesterday and had to leave halfway, due to fatigue.  I struggled up the stairs with 3 bags of groceries and spent the rest of the day in bed.

3 bags of groceries, mind you, that cost $100 in food stamps.

Peanut butter, coffee, eggs, dried milk, bulgur, wholegrain bread, kefir, cauliflower, broccoli, corn tortillas, 1 pound of cheese, 2 boxes of fiber crackers, and a gallon of water (fracking, remember?).  I am putting this all down for the future readers so they can see how much food cost in 2015.   I buy organic but come on!

The lady I shared the van with spent $60 and bought snack cakes, mac and cheese, and dried mixes.  She’s in a wheelchair and has to carry that into her house.

As I carried my stuff inside and up the stairs, I realized that’s another factor in why disabled people who are poor eat as we do – the actual weight of the food.  It’s too hard to carry without help.  Shitty food = light-weight food.  Think about that next time you go to the store and you’ll see what I mean.

Anyway, until next time…

National Brotherhood Week

Naw, we haven’t had one of those since the 1980s…See the history of it here.

It’s also the title of a Tom Lehrer song.  I would quote it except that I would have to write him and ask for permission (yup, he’s still around at 85), and I am just a no-name blogger.  I can’t afford to pay for quoting song lyrics.  Here’s a YouTube link to him performing this on The Frost Report, a tv show from 1966.

I remember this, actually – I was 10.  My parents were huge David Frost and Tom Lehrer fans, so I grew up watching and listening to both.   I know most of his songs by heart.

Anyway, I wanted to write a funny, witty post on bigotry, but the above is as light as it’s going to get.  Because I just can’t find it in my heart to make light of anything that’s happened lately, particularly in France.  It’s horrible and downright frightening.

Before I get into that, I want to explain something to the younger readers (or for those who come much later).  I was born just 11 years after the end of WWII.  Progressives – and I count my parents as among them – were damn happy that Hitler had been defeated and they were determined not to let the ugly face of antisemitism appear ever again, anywhere.  I wasn’t around when the horrors of Nazi Germany took place, but I was taught about them as an example of the very worst that human beings are capable of.

And I was taught to speak up, to shout, to expose any kind of hatred like that when I saw or heard it.   To say nothing, to do nothing…that was all the nurturing anyone had to do to allow evil to flourish.

And for awhile, tv and other public forums were reminders of that – there were episodes of The Twilight Zone, for example, that were really lessons about what happens when evil runs rampant, unchecked.  Everyone knew that it was really about fascism and the lessons from WWII.

When I was a child, I had regular nightmares about death camps and so on.  I wasn’t allowed to watch “Hogans Heroes” because it made light of that.  I wouldn’t have wanted to watch anyway.

No, my family’s not Jewish.  Does it matter?  “Some of our best friends….”   Quite the cliche, ain’t it, but I attended Seders and celebrated Hanukkah because my parents had friends who did and we were often invited.  There is a history of Jewish participation in progressive social movements, so it’s not a surprise we had a lot of Jewish friends.

In my limited understanding, this comes from the concept of “tikkun olam”, which loosely translated means “repairing the world”.  I don’t pretend to understand much of it, but I mention it here in case you guys want to look it up and find out more.  As I understand it, Jewish people are called to be examples to the rest of the world in terms of social justice and doing the right thing.

So it is with great dismay and horror that I am seeing the rise of antisemitism in Europe and, to a lesser extent, the US.

Let’s start with France.

This week, a couple of jihadist brothers and a friend of theirs attacked a French news magazine and killed 12 people – yelling “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great”) and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” (“Charlie Hebdo: Gun Attack on French Magazine Kills 12”, BBC News online, 1/7/2015).

Why?  Because this satirical magazine dared to publish cartoons mocking Muhammed – oh and also depicted him, which I guess is one of the many things punishable by death in the extremist view of things.