Sunday, September 30, 2007

More Evidence of Fractures

"Yes, I know Canada does a good job. That doesn't mean I think our much larger, more populous country with all its pharmaceutical companies, profitable health insurance companies and lobbyists can do the same." (my last blog)

Ambulance Driver commented, "A great many Canadian doctors and healthcare providers would disagree with that statement. In Canada, those that can afford it cross the border south and get their medical care in the US. This is an increasingly common phenomenon.

There's no question that our healthcare system is broken, just like our legal system.

But as someone much smarter than me has said in the past,

"It's the most flawed, inefficient system in the world today...except for everyone else's."

This was AD's answer to my blog on national health care and I was both pleased to get it and saddened. We've all been told national health care is just great elsewhere, so we should have it.

Never did go for this logic. I guess we citizens assume if pharmaceuticals are cheaper in Canada, their medicine care must be better, too. Also specious logic.
But we always want a bargain, don't we? I believed the PR about Canadian health care. I appreciate the correction.

So Bush is vetoing the CHIPS bill the Democrats have proposed. Yesterday, the Democrats pitted the words of a 12-year-old boy against the President's comments. Brilliant, in a way. Also egregious. It is as cynical a political move, as uncaring of children, as anything I have ever seen to use this boy in national politic manuevering. Great fodder for next fall. Thanks, kid. Have a good life, y'hear?

I don't want to imagine how low politics can go. Everytime I do, someone goes lower.
And again, we can vote the rascals out. But who in the world do we vote IN?

AD said our medical and legal systems are broken. I agree. How broken in the political system?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Are You Willing to Pay for What You Get?

I was startled when it was reported on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" that 51 percent of the population is in favor of national health insurance. Wow.
Yes, I know Canada does a good job. That doesn't mean I think our much larger, more populous country with all its pharmaceutical companies, profitable health insurance companies and lobbyists can do the same.

When Hillary Clinton announced she was for national health insurance, one critic, no, I don't know who, and that's dangerous. But he opined it would enlarge the federal government about four-fold, and that sounds like a reasonable enstimate.

And then yesterday the report came out that the only way Social Security can continue solvency is to cut benefits while increasing spending. Allen Greenspan was saying virtually the same thing last week as he talked about his book, and that the Congress is ignoring needed changes when baby boomers are coming into retirement with a vengence.

A charitable hospital district in the area estimated covering routine care beyond emergency care for indigent patients with no insurance for just their county could boost expenses in one year by 40 million dollars.

Everyone is posturing for votes. The truth is barely skimmed in the media, it's more just quoting who has the best sound bite. It is all about the emotion and popularity and who's winning. I am so tired of this. It didn't used to be such work just to find out the facts. Maybe I had more energy, but I don't think so. Not only is Congress mostly operating as a bunch of sugar daddies (or mommas), journalism does an increasingly poor job of covering it.

Oh, yeah, there's a lot that needs to be improved in health care. I just have heard nothing that makes me think nationalizing it would help. Medical care on the par with say, public housing would not make me happy, I think. Ask vets about the VA Administration. Extremely spotty record.

Sigh. It's seems every time I pick a cause, it's defeated, But I hope not, or planners at least come up first with something coherent and address the aging population and the illegal population problems along with the rest of the population.

Both House and Senate will approve a bill this week increasing health insurance benefits for children. Bush has already said he will veto it and both parties know they don't have the votes to overcome a veto. So this seems like a gesture signifying nothing. Bush is reported to have said he will veto because the bill would cover children whose families already have private insurance. How do I find out if this is true? Oh, and they say they would pay for this by increasing cigarette tax again, when everyone piously prays the higher taxes will encourage people to stop smoking. Gee, what if it does? Then what?

I don't like the way my country is being run, and I don't like the choices that are being made, and God help me, there don't seem to be any alternatives.National Health Insurance won't give us more choices. It will give us less. There are too few already.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Smiles with my Tomato Basil Soup

A medium level chain restaurant I used to avoid at all costs has made some menu changes that now bring me in fairly regularly. They are actually offering plates with meat and vegetables people might really want to eat. And they have expanded their soups to four. Yeah, the obligatory cheese broccoli and baked potato, but also French onion and tomato basil, served with a variety of salads and thick half sandwiches. I also like this place because the wait staff is excellent. With two universities in the immediate area, diners almost anywhere around here are pleased to have a plethora of bright,coordinated young people who are determined to get the best tip out of their customers by providing excellent service.

But the young woman waiting on me last week was a cut above.Yes, she topped up my glass every time before it was half empty. She didn't annoy, but she stopped by to check on things. She was cordial, punctilious, efficient. She was more. She came across as a real person dealing with another real person. She had a warmth in her interactions. She SAW me.

When I was taking my change for the bill at the end, I stopped her as she was about to zip off again and thanked her for adding a measure of enjoyment to my meal, because she did. I told her she moved so fast, I bet few people got a chance to tell her that very often.

"Oh," she said, "last week it happened two times. It turned out one of the people at one of my tables is a manager at Macy's. She said if I wanted a job any time to come see her. Then I was trying to handle the situation at a table where the diners had complaints about the food. Another ccustomer at a nearby table stopped me, and told me I had excellent people skills and if I wantted a job to come see her, and SHE was a manager, too!" And she beamed.

Well, I don't know if either of those jobs would pay any more than what she gets waitressing, but it's a kind of security knowing other jobs are out there. And it is good to know people still appreciate good service and say "thank you." (I know you and I are polite and genteel, but what about all those OTHERS?)

And for the most part, I do run into pleasant, polite people. Men and even young women hold the door for me. When I'm trying to break into rush hour traffic, sooner or later someone is going to pause and let me in. And I try to pass these courtesies on. I strongly support Random Acts Of Kindness and I need to be on the lookout. I've got at least two to pass on.

But back to the waitress. Excellence shows, I think, whatever we may be doing. Some of our young people still adhere to the adage of taking pride in their work and doing it well. In fact, I suspect --a great many?--most?--do good work. They just have no longterm loyalty to the firm. Which is only reasonable.

I wish that young woman much success. All I know is, her smiling service added a lot to my tomato basil soup and spinach salad with grilled shrimp.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I Prefer only Invited Guests

I came into the kitchen and discovered the fire ants in the back yard had invaded. Two crisp slices of bacon, left draining beside the stove the night before,had definite movement over them. (I guess the fact I left them out overnight says something about me, but oh,well.) They weren't swarming over the bacon, but they were definitely there.

So what did I do? I tapped the paper, which sent most of them diving for cover, rinsed the bacon under hot water, to make sure they all were gone, dried them on a paper towel, and put them in a baggie, thence into the refrigerator, which I should have done in the first place. And I cleaned the space where the bacon had been. Did I go after the fire ants.? Naw. Those of you who deal with the critters know why: they will sting and hurt you. And raise pus pockets, and itch and hurt.

But I got to thinking. Why do I consider ants "clean"? If it had been cokroaches on that bacon, I would have thrown it away and torn apart the kitchen.

If you have a drink beside you and fruit flies fall in, do you flick them out and go on drinking? Maybe you just shrug and mutter, "more protein", and drink. But what do you do if a housefly buzzes into the same drink? Ewwww! I throw it out, I thoroughly rinse the glass (note: true hygenists would get a fresh glass,) amd get a new drink.

What we tolerate and don't tolerate differs widely. As a caseworker in many homes, I learned a lot of people cohabit comfortably with cockroaches. They are not necessarily dirty people. Many of them bathe daily and wear clean clothes. But when they sit on the couch to watch TV, they will flick an encroaching bug off the couch without thinking about it.

In college, I had a friend who was the son of missionaries that went to India. He said flying cockroaches-- big ol' things-- would fly into their food and they would simply spoon them out, hopefully hurling them at another sibling, and go on eating.

Me? My ex-husband used to joke that he was afraid to put rat shot in the .22 for fear I would start aiming if we got a cockroach.

The ants? Got to find my ant bait or go get some new stuff. They are not to be tolerated, either. You Yankees just don't know how good you got it. No chiggers, no fire ants, no killer bees. At least we share mosquitoes. I think we do better as a nation if we share SOME tribulations.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This Country is MY Country

When I was growing up, I remember my parents telling me over and over about Pearl Harbor, how they were at Sunday breakfast, listening to the news on the radio when the bulletin was announced: the Japanese had hit Pearl Harbor. They were stunned, as was the nation. But they knew what had happened; it had already happened. And they knew who. And we were already at war, if not then officially with Japan. There was grief, but there was immediate, tremendous anger. On Dec. 8, 1941, probably a majority of men in the United States went down to the recruiter's to sign up for military service.Many, many more men were to die before the war finally ended following the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Women died, too, of course, who had enlisted as nurses or other support positions to care for the injured and troops. Many sacrifices were made, in service and at home, for years.

On Sept. 11, I was getting ready for a meeting to determine the future for a family I was working with, working with a couple who had volunteered their services and taken this family in. It was an important meeting for this family's future. I was listening to the radio as I got ready. There was a silence, and then the newsman came on and in a rather blank voice announced a plane had just crashed into one of the twin towers. He added that at that moment, they had no information to indicate this was anything but a tragic accident. And then the second plane hit. And we knew. We all knew. We weren't sure what we knew, except this was no accident.

I was on my way to my meeting when the third plane hit the Pentagon, and I screamed at the radio, "WHAT'S HAPPENING?" Then the news that all aircraft in the U.S. had been ordered to land. As I headed west towards my destination, I saw an airliner coming in to land at D-FW Airport, and I thought, "That's one of the last I will see for awhile."

When I reached my destination, they had the television on, and there was absolutely no way we could cope with the business that brought us together. We watched as people in New York reacted, as debris came down, and witnessed the companies of fire fighters and police walking into the towers, with almost a swagger in their steps....We watched and saw the first tower fall, the wind and debris swooping down the streets and people running for their lives, and then, the fall of the second. We were numb. We prayed. There was nothing else to do. How many? My God, the towers held 50,000 people when fully occupied. How many?

We finally got ourselves together and dealt with some of the business we were there to conduct. I wouldn't say it was the best thinking or planning any of us had ever done, but we came up with a plan.

I went back to the office, swinging by one of the fast food places I frequented, and the clerk who often served me was at the window. As I paid for my food, I asked, "How are you doing?" Her lip trembled and she almost cried. "I'm making it," she said, "but it's hard. You know?" And I did. I don't think I could have done her job that day. Sometime that day, we learned about the crash of Flight 93, and sometime after that, started learning what transpired there. Those people were heroes. Just like the firemen and police who went into those towers. We owe them a tremendous debt. I will always be grateful.

The information came in bits. I think it was the next day before I first heard the name, Osama bin Laden.

I know that night, George Bush spoke to the American people. Now, I've never liked Bush. He irritated me (and still does) extremely. But that night there was a sea change. He was the Commander in Chief, and I was grateful to hear his voice. I needed to hear it.

I've long since returned to being the Loyal Opposition. There is a change in that, too. I do worry that our rights and freedoms are being whittled away bit by bit. But they aren't gone, and this is the United States, and I realize, as never before, what a privelege it is to live here. I always knew it, but it has been driven home. Maybe that has something to do with my feelings about illegal immigration, because those folks live here, but they really have no idea what they really have.

I've always loved the sight of an American flag rippling in the wind. And whatever rights or wrongs I think my country is responsible for, it is MY country. And the waving flag, or flags, simply touch my heart even more deeply than ever before.

So if there are sad memories, and there are, there is also a deepened love of country, a better knowing of just what it means to be an American. I mourn the dead.The deaths were horrible, and those families and friends will grieve the rest of their lives. But I also celebrate the deeper love of country. I especially celebrate it today. I will continue to in the years to come.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Look! My pants are getting baggy!

As a person with a slow-normal metabolism, I'm always needed to exercise regularly if I was going to have that second helping or dessert. I am a veteran of most of the diets out there. I find nutrition interesting and read on it.

Back in 1977, I interviewed the author of the liquid protein diet, and decided to try it. A pathologist in the area was doing the weekly bloodwork and oversight this diet required, and I was really motivated. Fortunately, about the same time, the manufacturer came out with a liquid protein flavor that didn't require mentholatum in the nose to choke down (I was REALLY motivated.) I worked out five times a week while on the diet and read a number of books on dieting and eating psychology and how to change my lifestyle. I quit tasting anything when I was cooking. I still don't. In 21/2 months, I lost 65 pounds, and I never felt better or had more energy in my life. I learned to enjoy the feeling of an empty stomach. (My husband, however, said he caught me several times caressing the food in what he thought was an unseemly way.) Re-entering the eating world was a little touchy before I settled on a comfortably full feeling that wasn't feeling stuffed and settled down.

Yeah, I know. Lose it fast, gain it back immediately. Well, I kept at least 80 percent of that weight off 20 years. And I continued to work out.

And then I developed RA and sat down on my bum. Lost mass quantities of muscle tone, and gained, mmmm, about 50 pounds. I don't quite know why I did that. I knew better. I didn't and don't want to become debilitated, but I made sure that's what happened. Go figure.

For the last year, I've been following my "little plate" rule--if it fits on a luncheon-size or salad plate, I can have anything I want. No layering allowed. The tummy becomes accustomed. And almost effortlessly, I was losing two to four pounds a month.

Something happened about two months ago or more. I lost my appetite, for one thing. It was summer and sultry, but--I just wasn't hungry. So I quit eating. At all, some days. No, I didn't forget to eat. Eating anything just sounded icky. Last coupla weeks, my energy has been shot. Big surprise there.

I don't have any scales. Last week was my birthday, which is my day for making resolutions and goals, rather than New Year's. So the day before, I plugged my quarter into the electronic digital scales at the grocery store. And nearly fainted. I had lost a significant amount of weight. The next day at a friend's, I weighed on her scales. Yep, hers were lighter than the grocery's. I had really lost that weight. And once I noticed, I began to see how roomy my pants and shirts have become. I haven't lost so much I need a new wardrobe yet, but my clothes are definitely roomy.

Yeh, I had farkled my health and done stupid stuff but I had lost weight. Always a thrill for this woman. Well! I thought. Now to build on this. So I've started on a regimen to eat three meals a day (don't always make it),and put nothing but healthy food in my mouth (and I do count the two scoops of ice cream Thursday). Fortunately, I really, really like squash, brussel sprouts and broccoli. A week later, my energy level is almost back to normal. And I've lost another three pounds, which is a little fast for a sedentery 64-year-old woman. I've started exercising again. I'm seeing a chiropractor for some of the back problems. I am hopeful for the first time in a long time. Won't it be nice if my doing something stupid turns out well? I have more results already than I had expected, however ill-gotten. The effort I am now putting in is worth it, whatever the results. I have to remember that.

First-born Syndrome is almost killing my oldest son, I think, who is aquiver with desire to tell me what I need to do next and to pick up the pace on what I am already doing. But he is holding his tongue, because he really does love his mother. And I appreciate it. Second-born is more laid back. He just makes "keep comin" signals with his hands.

I had to write about this, since I am so intently scrutinizing my own navel at the moment. A lot of my concentration is here for now. And God knows we women will almost always show interest in another woman's tale of, "There I was when I lost weight" story.

My knees are very grateful. They have quit hurting the day after my cycling exercises.

So I will see where this next year takes me. And I will try to be more mature in my behavior henceforth. In the meantime, it's kind of fun for a change to be trying to eat MORE calories instead of cutting down. That won't last long, of course, but still.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Great Voice is Silenced

When my sons were growing up, I went to great lengths to expose them to as many cultural experiences as I could---with two deliberate exceptions. I feel guilty about that....

One was baseball. I think they both played T-ball when they were four or so, but I never, ever exposed them to baseball again. When my oldest was older, it IS true that the image of a ball hitting him in the face while his mouth was full of extremely expensive braces was a deterrant, but much larger than that, I didn't want either of them to discover that they wanted to play baseball, thus relegating me to the stands for game after game after game of a sport that makes my eyes glaze over.

The other was opera. Now, when you grow up listening to classical music, and I did, you hear the odd snatch of opera now and then, and I was aware of many beautiful solos by men and women that were lovely to listen to. But overall? yuck.

When I was 22, I was fortunate to spend 10 weeks in Europe, and saw three first-rate operas during the course of it. The first was "Dr. Faustus" in an outdoor Greek amphitheater. It was a beautiful night, the smell of thyme wafting from the hills, and I really perked up at the ballet dancing included. The second was "Carmen" at La Scala. Full pageantry. Live elephant on stage and everything. One of my co-travelers turned to me with shining eyes and exclaimed, "Isn't this magnificent!?"
I blinked at her. I was bored out of my mind. The third was "The Magic Flute" at some really big deal music festival somewhere in Scotland. I don't even remember it.

So I came back, convinced that nope, opera really wasn't my cup of tea. So I never took the boys.

But over the past 10 years or so, my opera consciousness has been rising. I've deeply enjoyed the music. Come to look forward to it, in fact. A great deal of that is due to the efforts of just one man--Luciano Pavarotti. What a glorious voice. And how tirelessly he performed, not just for himself, but to promote opera, opera, opera. He brought thousands, or more likely, tens of thousands, to an appreciation of operatic singing, of the music of the opera. He sang with such joy in the music. You could feel it. And it was contagious.

So it is with genuine sadness I learned yesterday of his death. The world has lost a great treasure.

And I've learned that just like trying vegetables we don't think we are going to like, we need to expose ourselves to as many as possible of the experiences this world has to offer.

I didn't take my sons to the opera. But in a few more years, maybe I can take my granddaughters.

Godspeed, Pavarotti.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Childhood Memory of Trinity Site

While I was sleeping peacefully in my crib at age two in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, the first atomic bomb was being tested at the other end of the valley in 1945.
Locals did notice the brilliant flash to the northwest and speculated. Everyone knew top secret testing having to do with World War II was going on, and speculation very logically connected this to some new kind of war weapon. No one was very surprised when the truth was revealed.
Throughout my childhood, I kept hearing about a little girl in Roswell, I think, who happened to be looking out her window at the moment of the brilliant flash, and she was permanently blinded. There is absolutely no proof such a girl ever existed, but I heard the story over and over growing up.
My mother was a seventh grade history teacher the year we took advantage of one o the two open house days at Trinity Site when I was in early elementary school. It took about an hour from Alamogordo, I think. There weren't so many of us--30 people in seven or eight cars, perhaps. There was a brief greeting and welcome by a high-ranking Air Force officer.Being a sensible young girl used to the interminal boring rituals of adult ceremony,, I paid no attention. The site was secured all around with tall, chain-link fence. There were some sparse walkways, and a small,low, one-story building with a few informational pster boards explaining the difference between fission and fusion and basically giving some sparse info on how the bomb worked.
Outside, there was a not very impressive depression of bare earth in the ground.where the bomb actually detonated. Some kind of debris nearby. And not nearly far enough away, this 4-6-inch concete barricade maybe three feet tall (it may have been taller; I'm working on really old memories here) where the scientests and techs hunkered when the bomb went off.
Everywhere, the ground was covered with one and two-inch clods of pale bluish green, melted earth. It felt rough, but slick and almost ceramic. There were bubbles in it. I may be wrong about where the scientists were; after all, the melted earth also extended beyond that concrete wall.
It was deliberately a small bomb, so the area of melted earth was not much more than 200 feet in circumference, if that.
Was I scolded for picking up this radioactive earth to look at it? Oh, no. At that time, geiger counters hadn't even made their debut. The idea of any peril from that melted earth didn't enter anyone's mind.
In fact, my father approached the Lt. Col. in charge and explained my mother's profession. He asked if there might be a box and if she could take home souvenirs of the site to give her students. The officer agreed, and himself went off to find a smallish cardboard box for Mother, who probably collected 100 pieces or so. And we brought them home. Wish I knew where one of those pieces was today.
Dad stored the box in the pump house, and sure enough, for several years Mother did give her students pieces of the melted earth to give them a true feel (pun very much intended) for the heat and power of that small blast. She kept several pieces to at least show later students what the very small bomb could do.
The men at Trinity Site changed the world. When they did it, some of them were afraid. They weren't quite sure what would happen.They all died, I think, before any of the positive uses of atomic energy began to come into being. I will research that again, but I remember several wrote correspondence where they expressed dispondency over their great success.
Trinity Site is this ordinary, unussuming place surrounded by chain link with a simple little building in the middle, the whole sitting in the middle of nowhere. Twice a year, someone comes up early and shovels out the dirt and spider webs since the last open house, and they do it again. I have no idea how many people come today. I have heard from others that about the only change since I was there in the early 1950s is that every piece of atomic earth has long since been picked up, making the site even more unprepossessing.
I rather like the idea that it is available to the public on a limited basis, but it hasn't been spruced up or fancied up. It is as it was when the initial explosion occurred, pretty much. The presentation fits the history.