A Deadly Belief

This is part three of a Meniere’s page I’m slowly editing together. Part one is here. Part two is here. This is tangential, but still part of the story.


Then there was the effect of Christian Science on my family. I’ve struggled with where and when to mention this little gem of understanding, because mentioning it is fraught with tons of angst and potential explosive feedback. But understanding how I got to 40 without a diagnosis of Meniere’s, how I’ve never been diagnosed with dysgraphia even though I have had all the symptoms of it for the entirety of my life is a direct result of my mother’s early childhood indoctrination into Christian Science. Because of this fact, Christian Science has to be discussed here as part of this story.

Christian Scientists aren’t scientists; they pray to Jesus to cure what ails them. Jesus is their science, and they exercise their science in prayer rooms across the US. They still do this all across America to this day. When a child dies from lack of medical care, and the state where that child dies cannot prosecute the child’s parents, the law that allows this was lobbied for by the followers of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. My mom and her immediate family were members of this belief.

Her distrust of doctors and medicine lead directly to her demise February 9, 2018. One of the mantras she took to her grave was doctors don’t know anything. It was her most repeated comment over the last months of her life, as doctor after doctor told her she had cancer and needed chemotherapy. You couldn’t dissuade her of this or pretty much anything else she believed at any point in her life.

This is a hallmark of most of humanity, I have come to find out. If you think you can change the average person’s mind you simply don’t know what you are thinking. People survive as long as they do by believing things, and sticking to those beliefs. My mother survived to the age of 77 and raised four children to adulthood based on her doing exactly what she deemed best at the time, and you won’t convince someone who has lived successfully by their own judgement for 70 years and more that what they believe is wrong. So give that idea up now and save yourself the life-shortening frustration.

Christian Science. If you are a Christian Scientist you don’t take drugs. You don’t see doctors, and if that religious upbringing was all there was to my mother’s belief, I think she would probably have gotten over it eventually. However, over the course of her life she has been nearly killed by well-meaning doctors more than once. All her life she’d been told gibberish by people who didn’t have the sense to pour piss out of a boot with directions written on the bottom (not that she would ever utter such a low phrase. In her estimation) so she knew that people believed insane things and discounted what other people told her almost by rote. She knew what she knew, but that left her vulnerable to the things she thought she knows but was wrong about.

Mom knew the value of modern medicine and never hesitated to get me antibiotics to treat the frequent illnesses that I had as a child, but she never stopped believing that doctors were pulling a scam on the sick. It all had to be a scam, somehow. She was never clear on how or why, but it was a scam, she was sure of it.

She never stopped believing that people would get better on their own if they just lived a better life, ate better food, got the right kind of nutrition. It was the failure of this belief, that healthy living was all you needed to keep from getting cancer that killed her a decade early. Had she not had encounters with believing doctors who proposed treatments that proved near-fatal, treatments that were fatal to her mother. Treatments that decreased the quality of life for the patients she tended. Patients that died anyway. Had she not watched time and again as things were labeled bad be relabeled good with more study and more time. Had she had different experiences with the medical community, she might have said yes to the promising new treatment the doctors wanted to try. The same treatment that saved president Carter’s life. But she didn’t have those experiences, and so she didn’t get to live that extra decade.

Who should be blamed for that?

About That Lack of Posts. Meniere’s? “The Best Laid Plans” As the Saying Goes.

I woke up dizzy Monday. Dizzy, not vertiginous. With vertigo, the world spins. Or rather, with rotational vertigo, the world spins, generally in a horizontal direction (don’t ask me which way, because my brain will lock up) I took a bunch of drugs trying to make it better. Nothing made it better. Dizziness is (as I’ve said elsewhere) the most common complaint that doctors hear. It means completely different things to different people. This dizziness is a feeling of being on the verge of falling/fainting, pretty much with every step.

Tuesday I woke up, dizzy again. This time dizzy and with chest congestion. I had taken the CPAP mask off to answer the phone, and simply neglected to put it back on at about 8 am (trying to schedule appointments with mundanes means being clear and attempting to be coherent at 8 am when they return calls) so when I finally got out of bed at noon, I had a nice wheeze going and a tickle in the middle of my chest. Needless to say, I took a round of allergy drugs and my regular daily medications, put the mask back on and went back to sleep.

When I woke back up again, the tickle was gone, the dizziness was lessened and I wondered about the cause of the dizziness since the mask filters all my breathing air. I tried wearing a particulate mask around the house for awhile and that seemed to help, but then I had to talk on Discord for the guild raid that night, and the tickle and congestion returned.

Funny thing is, I can stick my finger in my left ear and trigger the inside out vision for a brief second or two. It makes the dizziness much worse, to the point of almost blacking out. The right ear, even though I have bilateral (both ears) Meniere’s, does nothing to my equilibrium. That is a puzzle.

Allergies? Barometric pressure? Meniere’s flaring up? I don’t think it’s the latter because the dizziness is wrong. I’ve already gone to the ENT once this month, so I’m visiting the GP today to see if it’s something he can figure out. If not it’s back to the ENT for another needle in the ear and the nasty taste of drugs in the back of my throat for two weeks. Fun. Fun. Fun.

…I mention all of this because I decided that this week was the week to try communicating with people, and I can tell that my writing is less than coherent. I’m hoping the above was coherent. Who knows? I won’t for at least a week. Also, I’m in the middle of reorganizing my website and my blog, as well as revisiting the wisdom of my presence on several social platforms and I will be leaving more than one of them, permanently. So I’m largely incommunicado and unwilling to compose text in my normal fashion because that has lead to a lot of time wasted trying to recover lost work when things go sideways. (see my last post) and what little conversation I am required to engage in is probably incoherent to at least one side of the conversation. Maybe even both. I’d really like to get away from the problems that started back in mid-August. This is getting old. Really old.


11/8/18 – The spell finally seems to be passing, but the complete lack of change in the body politic of Texas has me in such a funk that I doubt I’ll be writing much of anything positive for awhile still. I have a few cutting polemics in mind, but the better angels of my nature may keep me from ever publishing them here. On the other hand, I’m about to go off on relatives on Facebook again, so the inner troll may also get access to the keyboard here. Stay tuned. 
First things first. Get an editor that won’t eat my drafts while I’m composing. When I get that all worked out, I will certainly write about that process. Writing about it is part of the process.

#IBelieveHer and That Still Isn’t Enough People

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

You tell me the world has changed much since 1994.

And yet here you are, telling me that we should put that same old mindset, boys will be boys, all boys do it, on the Supreme Court and you know, it’s hard for me to see that much of anything has changed at all. – Stonekettle Station on Facebook

I want to tell you a story. No. Scratch that, I need to tell you a story, a story that’s needed to be told for quite some time. It’s a true story, so I will take a little literary license with the details to masque the identities of those involved; but the story remains true enough that those involved will know the truth of this story. Both the guilty and the innocent will know the truth of this.

It was 40 years ago. A young woman stumbled into a frat party near a  lake. She was naked. Her hair was matted with twigs and dirt. She was half-drowned, very drunk and confused. She said she had escaped from someone trying to kill her. She was raving. She sounded crazy. Someone had snuck up behind her while she was answering the call of nature. A few too many beers, she said. He had raped her, tried to strangle her, and then dumped what he thought was her dead body in the lake. “I’m a good swimmer” she declared, triumphantly.

No one that found her knew who she was. She had been brought to the party by friends from another frat. Just looking at her, you could tell, she had been through some serious trauma. So these benefactors, these people who had no idea who she was, took her to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had been raped by someone. The police were called. Yes, she said. I want to press charges. Yes, she said, I know who it was that raped me and tried to kill me. She gave his name to the police.

…and that was when the trouble started. This young man was well known, a hometown kid. She was a nobody. She had been shipped off to this far-away place because she had gotten pregnant.

Her high school sweetheart had been insisting they should have sex for most of their senior year. They had just graduated. It was time to celebrate, so she finally gave in to his desires and her own. And why not? She wasn’t going to be going to the college she wanted. Her parents refused to send her to Europe, to the conservatory that she had a free ride to attend. To Europe, where her musical talents could be properly honed. They refused to buy her a plane ticket, even though they could pay for it. “You can’t make a living playing music” they told her. So here she was, in the arms of the man she thought she would marry. There was little else to look forward to, from her perspective.

She wasn’t stupid. She knew that she could get pregnant, but she loved him. She thought he loved her, until she found out she was pregnant and told him. Then he disavowed her. He said he’d never had sex with her, so it couldn’t be his child. He was going to the college he wanted, after all. He couldn’t stay there, get married and raise kids. That just wasn’t his plans for his future. Alone and pregnant, she was sent away to live with foster parents. Sent away to a place where none of the friends and family would know of her dirty little secret. The dirty secret that she had been foolish enough to believe a man when he told her he loved her.

She did the right thing. She carried the child to term, because that’s what you are supposed to do. She carried the child to term and gave it up for adoption. That was the christian thing to do. Accept your punishment for having sex, and give birth to children you can’t afford. Children that you give away to strangers who can afford to raise them for you. She went through all of that, because that was what she was supposed to do.

With the embarrassment of nine months of a belly she didn’t want, a child she couldn’t keep, couped up with people she barely knew but strangely adopted as parents anyway; with all of that behind her, she set her sights on doing the best with what she had left of her life plans.

She still had her musical talent, even if she wouldn’t be touring Europe as part of an orchestra, the role she really was suited for. Her college friends envied her her gift, a natural ear for music and the ability to pick up nearly any instrument and play it well enough to shine in state competitions. But teaching music was the best she could hope for now. She didn’t relish the thought of teaching others to play, but if that was the best she could do, that is what she would shoot for.

A few months into her delayed college education, she was invited to that fateful party. Had a little too much to drink. Had the misfortune of needing to relieve herself. Left herself vulnerable to the jealous and the talentless albeit well-liked hometown boy. A hometown boy with a grudge.

Once again, she did the right thing. The thing you are supposed to do. She knew her attacker, even though she was drunk at the time. She knew what he had tried to do to her, had actually thought he had achieved. Thought she was dead when he left her floating in the water. Just another body found washed up on a beach somewhere. A tragic accident. Except it was rape and attempted murder, and you don’t let that go unpunished.

She pressed charges against the hometown boy. Faced him in court. Accused him of the crimes that there was far more than sufficient evidence for. He was found not guilty. Why? Because she had done the right thing, over and over. She had yielded to the man she wanted to marry. She had carried the resultant child to birth and given it away. She had shrugged it all off and made the best of what she had left. She had the temerity to stand tall and not be embarrassed by the things society told her were embarrassing. Why should it be embarrassing? Doing the right thing should be praiseworthy. Shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it!

“But,” they said, “she was a loose woman.” This was evident because she had given birth recently. Given birth instead of having an abortion and hiding the evidence of her improprieties, her loose ways. Loose women just want to have sex, and clearly she wanted to have sex with this hometown boy. When he rejected her, she staged the entire scene. Choked herself, tried to drown herself, rolled around in the dirt, naked, and threw herself on unsuspecting strangers in order to malign the hometown boy. Who was the court to believe? This loose woman, spirited away from her family and friends in order to save their reputations? Or should the court believe this fine, upstanding hometown boy who, while musically talentless, was still a handsome young man with a promising future? Who indeed?

Who indeed? Not guilty. Case dismissed. Free as a bird, he flew. Still flies. As I said, a true story. True enough, anyway.

So when I read stories about “why didn’t they come forward?” In the news these days, news about high profile judges and corporate leaders and politicians galore, men of high stature accused of the wrongs that they’ve hidden in plain sight until finally some woman has had enough that she just won’t take it anymore and risks everything to shine the light of justice on these loathsome individuals, I don’t even have to ask “why don’t they come forward?” I know why. They didn’t come forward before, and most of them will not come forward now because they won’t be believed. As the latest accusations about Brett Kavanaugh circulate, while the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief defends him, and the same old song and dance plays out. Just like it always has. These women are not believed by far, far too many people. It’s too convenient not to believe if believing means you have to change who and what you think is right in the world.

Equilibrium on the Equinox

What happens on September 22nd? I think to myself as I start looking through today’s history on Facebook. It’s bugging me. This day is important. There is an event that occurs today, what is it?

Obviously, it is the equinox. It took a bit of googling to turn the lights on, but finally, I had my answer. That is the significance of September 22nd. Equinox. Equal amounts of day and night across the globe.

Most years, this happens on either Sept. 22 or 23. However, every once in a while, the autumn equinox can occur on Sept. 21 or 24. This happens because the length of a calendar year (365 days) is not equal to the time it takes for Earth to travel around the sun (365.25 days). To make up for this inconsistency, people have observed “leap years” for the last two millennia. By adding a “leap day” (Feb. 29) to the calendar every four years, we have managed to keep our seasons more or less consistent from year to year.

The last time the autumnal equinox fell on Sept. 21 was over a thousand years ago, and the last Sept. 24 equinox was in 1931, according to timeanddate.com. While it’s been a long time since the equinox occurred on Sept. 21, we can expect to see it happen twice in the next century, first in 2092 and then in 2096. The next Sept. 24 equinox will be in the year 2303. (Keep in mind that these dates are based on Universal Time, so some time zones may not experience these equinoxes on the dates listed here.)

Space.com Autumnal Equinox Not the Same Day Every Year

Equinox. Equilibrium. Balance. I’ve been feeling pretty unequal for about a month now. Unbalanced. The Meniere’s has been particularly burdensome since sometime in mid-august when the left ear started to flare up again. There has been a near-constant feeling of pressure in the ear for the last month. The pressure started a bit early this year for me, and it has lasted longer and been more annoying. But then this is the beginning of fall and it’s accompanying seasonal allergies. I just got my annual symptoms a little early this year, I guess.

Along with the pressure have been long bouts of hyperacusis and/or painful tinnitus. I can’t hear, I’m uncomfortable, I feel ill as if I have an infection. I went to the ENT yesterday just to reassure myself that I wasn’t actually ill. Nope. Not ill, just Meniere’s. This feeling of malaise has lasted for a solid month, almost without respite.

Which is why there is a dog hugging a goat at the top of this post. Denied physical balance I will seek mental balance. Calmness where I can find it. Lacking medical treatment to alleviate the symptoms of Meniere’s, I will simply endure it for as long as it takes. I see a lot of World of Warcraft in my future.


So I woke up this afternoon with vertigo again. This is the third day in a row (10/22/2018) I have woken up with rotational vertigo. The third day in a row where I wake up and quickly drug myself. Take meclizine. Add Xanax if necessary. Stare at the screen in front of me for hours at a time. Try not to shift the focus of my vision because that always causes a little bit of spin until the new focus point is established. Lovely. Just lovely. This bout of vertigo is just the latest part of the symptomatic spell that started mid-August for me. This makes it a pretty solid two months of being severely symptomatic.

The vertigo spell finally ended on Wednesday the 25th. I celebrated by getting out of the house for the first time in a week and treating myself to an All Star Special at the Waffle House. Since Austin has established a Boil-Water Mandate in response to the record breaking rainfall on the Llano Estacado, and the subsequent flooding of the highland lakes including Lake Travis, the lake that provides Austin’s water, the choice of places to go was rather limited. When a restaurant can’t use the water that comes out of the taps to make the food they sell, most restaurants will simply close when there is no visible demand for their services.

But the Waffle House is always open if they can turn the lights on and fire up the griddle. That is why there is a Waffle House index for disasters. It was a yellow day, plastic tableware and a limited menu, but I would have gone to the Waffle House anyway. Love the coffee, even if it has to be decaf these days. I have to have hashbrowns and eggs over easy, too. My goto breakfast for those days when just waking up is a good thing.

Being symptomatic, when you have a chronic illness like Meniere’s, is not a contest to be won. You don’t get brownie points for suffering more than the next guy, because the next guy’s goal is the same as yours. That goal is getting through the bad days so that you can enjoy the good ones. If your good days don’t happen often enough, maybe you should change the things you are doing, or the treatments you are using, and see if you can’t get yourself more good days. Since there is no cure, and you won’t die from it (ergo chronic illness) the only metric available to you is the number of days in a row where you wake up glad to still be here. Today was one of those days. I had waffles, and I got out of the house. Looking forward to the next good day, now. If only the pressure in the left ear would ease off. That would be great. 

Jumpscare

David Gerrold on Facebook

All of my friends thought scaring me was funny. This has been true for as long as I can remember. Because they told me scaring people was funny, I started scaring people to see if it was funny. Weirdly enough, it was funny. It was funny when someone else other than me danced around like a stroke/heart attack victim.

I hate horror movies. The Wife has worked on close to ten horror movies now, so I have learned to deal with light horror in order to watch what she has been working on. At least appear to watch it, enough to be able to appreciate the art that goes into making a horror film. I still have nightmares from watching The Ring a decade ago, so I don’t do extreme horror anymore. The Wife and Son go watch horror movies together now, I stay home and play World of Warcraft with The Daughter.

But when I was a teen, all my friends loved horror movies. When they would watch horror films, I’d try to humor them and watch with them. It never worked out well because they knew I was jumpscare prone and so would do things like grab my leg when say, Jason came up out of the water in Friday the 13th. They still laugh about that one.

The first time I found out there was a thing like jumpscare videos was back in the early days of the internet. Some forgotten website challenged you to study some photograph of a typical dining room and try to figure out what didn’t belong there. At some set frame in the video two or three frames of the screaming face showed up and screamed at you, from an image that you had been told was single frame NOT a video. Everyone knows MM GIF now, but back then it was a new thing.

When that face popped up I think I blacked out. The next thing I remember, I was across the room climbing up on the desk to get away from whatever it was. The sad part was, I still thought it was funny and showed it to my kids. The thing that broke me of enacting jumpscares was discovering I was related to someone with anxiety issues, and having to condition myself not to scare them. This revealed anxiety issues in myself that I never realized were there before.

There is a vicious child somewhere in the lizard brain that wants to scare people. I don’t know why it wants to scare people, but it might be missing that dopamine fix of being terrified itself. There was some part of me that was terrified by Star Trek as a child. The salt monster really gave me a fright. I was terrified of the crawling hand for years after watching that film one Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I can still picture the hands crawling toward me if I try. I had nightmares about talking possessed dolls long before Chucky was a thing because some grade school friend insisted that some show he saw with a possessed doll in it was real. As if anything filmed is real, and not merely the POV of the cameraman. Most Science Fiction still terrifies me on some level, but I keep coming back to it for the thrill. For the unknown, the unthought of, the beyond comprehension.

Jumpscares are cheap entertainment by comparison. The people who make those things should take up bungee jumping or skydiving. Platform diving. Stand a hundred feet above the water and jump in, like I have. Before I knew how dangerous that was. Those are real thrills. If you are into jumpscares, scaring other people, turn off the computer and don’t come back till you’ve got your adrenaline fix in. The rest of us will thank you for it.

Facebook comment backdated to the blog.

Enjoy Your Vices More

Overheard in a cigar shop:
Customer – “I’ve smoked cigars for years and have always inhaled. You get the full flavor that way.”
Shop – “The taste buds aren’t in your lungs ya know.”

Smoking is not about taste. It’s not about the taste of burning tobacco leaves in your mouth; a taste which, to the uninitiated, is so disgusting that it makes you want to retch. Contrary to most romantic visions of why we engage in the vices we engage in, we don’t do it for the taste. We don’t drink wine for the fruity high notes. Or rather, most people engaging in a vice do not break down their vices in this way. Tobacco is a nicotine creator, and nicotine is a drug. A cigar is a nicotine delivery system. Nicotine is best absorbed by the lungs, not the sinuses and not the linings of the mouth.

To misquote Freud “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” All of the romanticism aside, nicotine is what you get from smoking, chewing, ingesting tobacco. And, yes I know, this approach to vices means that wine is there just for the buzz. Wine is an alcohol delivery system, this is why I prefer my wine distilled. If I’m just wanting to catch a buzz, why not shortcut the process? What I am trying to point out here is that, if the man overheard in a cigar shop just wants more nicotine while smoking his cigars, let him get it. It doesn’t matter in the end how he gets it.

Flavor isn’t in the mouth. Flavor comes more from the nose. You have to let the vapor of what you are consuming rise up into the sinuses to get the full flavor. Cigar smokers call this retrohaling. My father blew smoke out through his nose quite frequently while smoking cigarettes. I never could get the hang of that, but deep lung breathing that first cigarette in the morning definitely got a head buzz going, every time I did it. These are the kinds of things you can do when your mucus membranes are deadened by thirty years of smoking.

But you do have to get the smoke/aerosolized alcohol/chocolate, etcetera into the back of the mouth and top of the throat to get the full flavor of whatever it is you are consuming. Knowing this is one of the perks of insisting on cold, hard facts. Research has instructed me on how I should consume things for the best effect. Listening to others. Learning from their failures. Learning from their successes. Reading as widely as possible.

This is also why I know why I can’t taste anything most of the time. Clogged sinuses. I really need to find a place without allergens to live.

I hear you asking what about cancer? out there in the darkness somewhere. Yes, you. I hear you. Let me put your concerns about cancer to rest; you will get cancer eventually. The only way to avoid getting cancer is to die before it shows up.  But what about lung cancer? Yes, smoking leads to lung cancer in people who are susceptible to that mutation in the cells of the lungs. Mouth cancer is even worse and you can get that from ingesting any tobacco product or drinking alcohol. You can quibble over percentages of risk, but not inhaling smoke into the lungs doesn’t protect you from cancer, even of the lungs. In the end, just living will give you cancer. The longer you live, the more certain it is to happen. It is in the nature of cell division itself for that process of division to go astray. Go astray and lead to cancer, eventually. It is all just a matter of time.

We don’t do recreational drugs based on the health risks, dear reader. If we did we’d all be smoking weed all the time and certainly not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco. We would be smoking marijuana/MJ/reefer/weed because smoking that plant is an essentially harmless recreational pastime with little to no negative side effects in adults. No negative side effects aside from making smoking cigarettes look more harmless than it is by comparison.

I was a smoker for many years. I smoked weed and I smoked cigarettes and I would smoke a cigar if you handed one to me. I wasn’t picky and I didn’t worry about illness because like all young people I was immortal. I was ten foot tall and bulletproof until the day I wasn’t. Until the day I realized that I got winded more easily. Couldn’t hold my breath underwater like I used to. Couldn’t do a lot of things the way I used to. So I quit smoking. I quit smoking anything, altogether.

I quit smoking weed easily, simply because I wanted to. I found no further use for the pastime, so I quit. However, quitting tobacco smoking took six or seven years. Quitting my physical nicotine addiction took patience and planning and the deaths of multiple loved ones before I could finally give it up. It required the births of my children. Quitting smoking required that I learn REBT therapy and apply it to the activity of smoking. Quitting smoking is harder than quitting heroin to pull off.

How did I apply REBT? I would think of the smell that an empty bar has in the morning when you show up to clean it. I performed this mental exercise every time I craved a cigarette, especially when I ended up smoking one. I would wilfully summon the acrid, acidic smell of alcohol, vomit and old smoke that hits you in the face when you open the doors to a bar after a heavy party night, and I would do that while I was actively smoking a new cigarette. I kept doing it until I felt ill when I thought about smoking. Then the cravings stopped. After a three pack a day habit infused into my blood as a child, a habit extended by me as a adult finally came to an end, I felt much better. Like I was breathing, really breathing, for the first time.

My second experiment with linking smells to behaviors I wanted to change has not gone nearly as well as the smoking cessation practice did. Linking the taste of french fries to the smell of a grease trap has not gotten me to quit eating fried potatoes yet. That is still a work in progress. A work in progress that might be more successful if fried potatoes didn’t taste so damn good and I wasn’t so hungry all the freaking time. Nicotine can help with that desire to be eating all the time, and being overweight carries its own risks. More risks than ingesting nicotine? Depends on your genetics.

Insist on cold, hard facts. Relish in them. Nicotine is the drug being delivered. Alcohol is the drug being delivered. That is why we engage in those pastimes, to ingest the drugs in question. When you are doing that, make sure that you properly inhale the smoke. Aerate the distilled spirits when sipped. Allow the chocolate to melt and linger on the tongue before swallowing. You’ll enjoy your vices more, which is kinda the point in having vices.

A tip o’ the hat (h/t) is due for The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe on Facebook. It is because of them that I drug this reedited series of comments, insights and further thoughts out of my drafts bin and published it. Without their social media editor’s willingness to republish spurious data on a subject near and dear to my heart (nicotine therapy in the form of vaping) I wouldn’t have bothered to kraft this bit of business into a shape that could be published. Thanks, I guess? 

Hospice Oversight

I’ve been using Countable for awhile now. Every now and then the notifications and articles go completely wrong on some subliminal level. Like this one, apparently asking me if the Feds found fraud in Hospice care,

Countable

[T]he report shows that sometimes, patient needs have been ignored.

For instance, it found that hospices provide significantly fewer services on the weekends than during the week. Patients’ pain levels don’t diminish over the weekend, raising concerns of inadequate pain management.

This can put patients at serious risk, because when they elect hospice care, they are waiving their right for Medicare payment for curative treatment. In some of the cases the report documents, patients were not even aware that they were being enrolled in hospice. – Countable, Feds Find Fraud and Flaws in Hospice Care

Not providing as much care on the weekends is a red flag for regulators in health industries. This is exactly the kinds of things that regulators (if they existed) would be empowered to investigate. It’s a good thing for these fraudulent operations that Republicans are against hospice existing in the first place. Their religious base doesn’t believe they’ll ever die or that bad things happen to good people. So they won’t be anxious to do anything more than shut all hospice down the way they want to shut Planned Parenthood down. But hospice is as essential as Planned Parenthood is, and we need there to be oversight of these facilities.

We also need people to recognize that end of life does occur, but let’s stick to problems we can solve. Starting with getting oversight in place so that the fraud is stopped. 

Vilified but Charitable?


Freakonomics, The Most Vilified Industry in America Is Also the Most Charitable

This episode of Freakonomics comes with a pre-made rebuttal that I was disturbed to discover that Dubner didn’t cop to at some point during the lengthy interview segments. That perfectly reasonable rebuttal takes this form; Since the pharmaceutical industry sets the value of their products independently, and since the vast majority of their generosity is quantified in the value of in-kind charitable donations of their drugs, their charity is really of their own creation. Large or small, high price or low, they dictate what that value is and they expect us to thank them for their generosity.

As if they couldn’t just alter the price of all the drugs they make to make them affordable in the eyes of every person who needs them, while at the same time not bankrupting the people who have to pay for their drugs out of their own pockets.  Heaven forbid they not milk every available dollar out of every unsuspecting customer while at the same time giving away a product at something closer to its actual value. This was a point that Dubner did make during one of the connective segments, but he never actually goes on to fully explain, that the value of in-kind charity is completely within the control of the manufacturer, rendering the reported numbers essentially meaningless.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I don’t want any of the Big Pharma conspiracy fantasists or the naturopathy profiteers they go to to think that I’m somehow on their side in this argument. The fact of the existence of the identifiable label Big Pharma Conspiracy proves that the pharmaceutical industry is unjustly vilified in the general public. It’s just that their insistence that they aren’t profiting to a maximal amount at the expense of the general public rings a little hollow when their prices are so demonstrably fluid in value.

Status Update. A Lot of Hot Air.

The only time you’ll ever see
my #bedhead

So I’m finally feeling almost normal after our trip to Chicago. The day after we returned home, the sore throat that had been bugging me in Illinois turned into a full-blown sinus infection complete with glaring red pink-eye. This prompted a hasty trip to my immunologist and a series of antibiotics. I finished the ten day course of antibiotics on Wednesday, and had my first physical therapy session in three weeks on Thursday. I was bushed after the PT, but that was only part of the problems that surfaced this week.

Monday morning was the follow-up for the 90 day Betahistine (Serc) test that my ENT and I had been running. The results looked promising, and so I’m going to try upping the dose for a year and see what that gets me in the way of relief from Meniere’s symptoms. I’ve noticed that I seem to start exhibiting symptoms again before the next dose of Betahistine is due, so I’m going to take the same dosage three times a day. If you are a Meniere’s sufferer and you have triggers similar to mine, you probably should get your ENT to trial you on Betahistine and see if it helps you or not. I am curious to know if there is a sub-group of Menierians who benefit more from Betahistine than others. This data would clarify whether there is a benefit to Betahistine treatment or not. Comments on this subject are not only welcome but I’ll beg for them if I have to.

I’m feeling better, I thought. I should have known this was a prequel to the hell life had in store for me later in the week. On Wednesday the air conditioning dropped dead on us. It had been acting a little squirrely for awhile now and the system is nineteen years old. Several times over the last few years I had noticed that the thermostat didn’t seem to control the system like it should. It would sporadically fail to come on when it got too hot in the house, and would fail to turn off when it got cold. Sometimes the interior spaces got chilly enough that I thought seriously about wearing more clothing. On Monday, the system’s lackluster cooling performance lead me to do some basic troubleshooting and I noticed that it was well past time for a filter change. Changing the filter did seem to improve cooling and airflow, but Tuesday evening the fan wouldn’t start if we set the thermostat to cool, and Wednesday the fan said fuck it, I’m outta here and refused to start in any position. On or auto. Heat, cool or off. No dice and no air conditioning.

Ah, Texas in the summertime with no air conditioning! Back in the days before that invention every building in the region had ten or twelve foot ceilings and floor to ceiling windows that allowed cool air to enter the building from the lower sash, while simultaneously allowing the heat to escape the building from the upper sash (this is the origin of the term double-hung for the architecturally curious. Windows which can be opened from both top and bottom) and even then you slept outside on what was referred to as a sleeping porch because it was too hot to sleep indoors at all. Air conditioning changed architecture radically and not necessarily for the better. With the ability to alter indoor temperatures builders could ignore long-held rules of thumb that governed Southern construction, putting large glass facades on South-facing walls and lowering ceilings to the now-common eight foot height. Which is all just fine, as long as the air conditioning works.

So we called our handyman, but he was out of town for a week. Deeming it time to bite the bullet, we called a contractor we have dealt with successfully before, and they sent a guy out on Friday. Based on his estimation we had to replace parts just to see if the system could be revived or not. I’ve been down this road a few times. Replacing one part leads to replacing another part, which leads to replacing a third part until at some point you’ve rebuilt the entire system. As I mentioned previously, it’s a nineteen year old system. I can’t even get refrigerant for it anymore, legally. Spending money on this dinosaur is throwing good money after bad.

The heat and the humidity were threatening to send me spiraling back down into vertigo hell, but the salesman (comfort adviser) who showed up to pitch us on a new system came bearing gifts of window units. Consequently we were open to the idea of looking into replacing the ancient HVAC system. This was a theoretical possibility on Friday, a possibility that is rapidly gelling into a reality for Monday. So I’m taking this opportunity to start some renovations of my own that I’ve been wanting to get done since the first day we toured the place before buying it.

I won’t be raising the floor in the former garage yet, that project is a bit too ambitious even if it is desperately needed. The attic fan that has hulked above my head every time I climb the stairs is going away though. I’ve wanted that thing gone from the time we moved in. I can’t use it. It draws outside air into the house unfiltered. Everything outside wants to kill me with allergies. The last thing I need is something that pulls even more allergens into my breathing space. The window units alone are making my symptoms worse, I can feel vertigo perched above my head like an unwelcome avian visitor. Removing the attic fan means the upstairs HVAC will finally be properly balanced without the thing taking up attic real estate and letting attic heat into the living space.

Who knows, maybe other repairs and modification are following fast on the heels of the new HVAC system? Hope springs eternal, even for those cursed with chronic illness.

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer 
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”Edgar Allan Poe 


I got what I wanted out of the project, but it took a herculean effort to get it done. A lot more work than it should have been just to get satisfaction out of the project. I wanted the Wife to try her hand at managing a construction renovation with outside contractors, she’s been dabbling in renovations with some of her starving artists and actors as hired hands. Not making money, not enough to talk about anyway, but being productive and getting things done for friends. So I let her supervise. We picked the contractor, made sure what we wanted was in writing before work began, and waited for the work to start.

As the saying goes no plan survives first contact with the enemy, the enemy in this case being the existing broken HVAC system, and that pretty much sums up how this project went. The HVAC crew showed up, punched holes in every surface available, or so it seemed, and I did my best to calm the Wife down. Holes in sheetrock make dollar signs roll across her eyelids in a frightening hurry. They did seem to be punching a lot of holes. A lot more holes than I probably would have, but then that’s me. I knew they’d have to patch the holes they made, eventually.

The upstairs system was replaced first. The Daughter and Son were planning on staying in the house through the entire construction process, so their A/C had to be in place as soon as possible. The contractor refused, however, to remove the attic fan. While we had discussed it, he said he would not actually do the work of removing it. So we got some of the hands that the Wife has worked with before to get the giant thing out of the ceiling over the stairs and then put a sheetrock patch up to cover the gaping hole sixteen feet in the air. Twenty year goal finally achieved! With that out of the way, the rest of the upstairs was finished in a day or so (or so we thought) and the contractor moved on to the bigger project, getting the downstairs system updated.

The downstairs system had to be completely removed. This was the agreement before the contractor was signed on. Little did I know just how involved removing the system was going to be. I had wondered to myself for the better part of twenty years just where all the ductwork was hidden in this house. That was a question that was quickly answered for me. It was hidden in the kitchen ceiling. Hidden in the bedroom ceiling. It was clear from the planning stages onward that I was not going to be able to stay in the house with the ongoing construction, this was the second reason the Wife was supervising. I was dizzy within minutes of this phase of the work starting. So we left to find the first of several long-stay hotels that have popped up in the last decade around Austin, while the crew continued to gut the interior of our house.

The HVAC system itself went in pretty quickly. The vertical unit and it’s closet would be removed, the closet abandoned and used for storage, with a new horizontal unit located over the master bedroom, closer to where air conditioning should be in the first place. After the HVAC crew worked out how to get A/C to the now remote rooms in the structure, back where the old unit was, it became relatively short work to get the new ducts in place. That was when the real fun started. The plumbing crew arrived.

surveying the wreckage

We have gas heat, gas water heater, gas stove. I like gas heat. I like cooking with gas. I like not paying for electric heat. I like not burning food with electric burners. We rarely need heat around here, but when you do need it, it’s a requirement. Gas heat requires plumbers and black iron piping, and even more holes in the ceiling. The two plumbers that we ended up with from the four or five who showed up before they were needed could have just as well been the one apprentice. He did most of the work, and he was the more agreeable of the two to start with. The plumber he was helping refused to go up in attic spaces and so consequently required the additional large holes in the ceiling everywhere he needed to work, and they didn’t bother to cover anything before dropping attic insulation, sheetrock dust and plumbing pooky all over everything underneath them. They even made holes that they really didn’t need, in hindsight, after it became clear where they were going to have to run the gas line from and managed to leave the gas turned off to the other appliances for several days in the process.

The upstairs furnace was the last piece of the puzzle to be solved, even though we planned for it to be done first. The gas line spirals it’s way through this house like water in an Escher print. It shouldn’t go where it goes, and it doesn’t make any sense for it to go there, but it does. Why it is where it is doesn’t matter as much as how to attach to it does, and cutting the line where I wanted it cut would have been several thousand more dollars, probably.

Just getting them to tell me where the gas line came from outside the house to where the A/C system had been before we moved it took several days of hounding. When I finally got an explanation, it was from the master plumber for the contractor. And it only took about ten minutes of talking to him to figure out why the plumber who was assigned to our job was uncommunicative. The master plumber? I’m pretty sure he thought he was god himself. Once we got the misunderstanding about the gas line straightened out and agreed on the plan to get gas to the new systems, he demanded that he be compensated on the spot. He had to come out here, we needed to pay him. He had people he paid to do this kind of work. His appearance on the job meant we owed him money.

He left muttering threats under his breath, without his demanded payment, and no payment would be forthcoming unless it came from his bosses in the company. You want to be paid on a separate contract? Work from a separate contract. This isn’t rocket science. But we did get the gas hooked up, finally.

From July 31st to August 14th we lived out of a slowly rotating group of hotel rooms. I was able to stay at the hotel I wanted for my birthday, at least. I even got to swim in the pool, watch a pay-per-view and get drunk in my own hotel room. The cost of this disaster set us back several thousand dollars, but there are many things that you discover a way to pay for if you really need it to survive. I survived, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to write this all down. But two weeks was twice as long as the project was slated to take, and the cost could have been much higher if the contractor had felt like billing me for all the extra work they made for themselves to do. After the confrontation with the plumbers and the damage to property created by their ham-handed attempts to get the gas line to the new system, the contractor decided that they would just stick with the agreed upon price and call it even.

The destruction of the interior of our house was corrected, just like I knew it would be. The new finishes are better than the ones they replaced. The new paint a better color than what was there originally. Best of all? The stairs are no longer a trip through the bowels of hell. The heat in that area is no longer fed through a grill that lead straight to unconditioned attic space. The bedrooms are (as they should be) the coldest rooms in the house for the first time in twenty years. I can still hear the TV when the A/C fan is running, and that is a major improvement.

I just wish that the confrontation with the plumbers had not been fated to happen. I really like everything about this contractor and would unhesitatingly recommend them to anyone; IF. If. If they don’t need any plumbing work. HVAC work? They do a great job. The comfort adviser who set everything up was an asset that kept the work going in spite of the trouble the plumbing crew caused. But the plumbers? I wouldn’t use them again if you paid me. I have a plumber already, thanks. He’s gruff and speaks plainly and I get straight talk out of him without having to drag it kicking and screaming into the light. That’s the way I want it. Tell me what the problem is. Tell me what the solution is. Tell me what the cost is. I don’t shoot messengers that bring me bad news. That is what twenty years in architecture taught me. You want the bad news as soon as it is known, because that is how you fix the problem faster and more cheaply. Punishing the messenger is how you end up spending more money. The contractor should have listened to the plumbing apprentice on my project. Should have trusted the HVAC crew when they related the problem. Any of their hands could have told them what the problem was four days earlier in the process. Instead I had to get the information third-hand from the plumber’s boss, who quite literally only made things that much worse. So I can’t sing praises for the company which will remain nameless. Because they don’t deserve blame, either. We were made whole and the systems work better than they ever have.

Now to get on with the other projects in the house. Fixing the Master Bathroom which hasn’t functioned for ten years. Raising the floor in the Master Bedroom. You know, the little things. 

Who brought up Hillary? That Was Last Year.

Baltimore Post Examiner McCain’s Thumbs down.

They will take this embarrassment out on America. These are the people who can’t let abortion go. These are the people who can’t let their goddamned religion go. These are the people who can’t let Benghazi go. These are the people who remember every slight and every offense and they cannot let their overwhelming desire for revenge go. It’s nearly two hundred years, they still can’t let the Civil War go. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO CAN’T LET EITHER BARACK OBAMA OR HILLARY CLINTON GO — hell, 20 years later and they are STILL determined to get even with BILL Clinton. They will learn NOTHING from this, in fact they’ll become even more secretive, intolerant, scheming, and revengeful.

Stonekettle Station

Every single argument I have with Trump supporters (even with relatives) ends up with the question,

but what about Hillary?

I keep wanting to ask in response, who brought up Hillary? I didn’t bring her up. I wasn’t even thinking of her. I couldn’t care less about her now than I did ten years ago (Go look. Harsh, yes I know) I only voted for her because she was who the Democrats picked, the presumed Democratic nominee that was so certain to win that I resigned myself to voting for her two years ago when I wrote Hillary for President? I resigned myself to voting for her because I knew the Republicans would pick a lunatic. Wonder of wonders, one of my predictions came true and they did pick a lunatic from a group of ten lunatics (and Kasich) and now that lunatic is president.

They’ll make this about Hillary too. Hillary and Barack Obama at the same time, if they can. It was Hillarycare that started them all down this long, deep slope into madness. I can easily see how this is all linked to Hillary Clinton somewhere in their minds.

Saying I only voted for her because she was the nominee is selling my support for her a bit short. After she won the nomination. After the Orange Hate-Monkey co-opted the Republican convention and Republican party and made it his own personal propaganda vehicle. After all of that, I decided I did really like Hillary Clinton after all. I mean, at least she wasn’t a lunatic. Wasn’t a fraud. Wasn’t engaged in demonstrably criminal activities that have simply never been prosecuted. I mean, the haters (now Stormtrumpers) tried to prosecute her (#Benghazi) but there simply wasn’t anything that they could get a conviction on. This is more than could be said for the Orange Hate-Monkey, as we are now discovering. So yeah. Knowing real estate developers the way I do, and seeing the cluster fuck that a Trump presidency was going to be, I wholeheartedly embraced Hillary Clinton in 2016. But that was 2016.

Republicans are so caught up in the past, with all these grievances that they just can’t abide, that they can’t even begin to think about what comes next. Which is how we find ourselves here in this mess today, them still talking about what happened in 1998, and the rest of us outraged about what is going on around us right here and now.

The Orange Hate-Monkey’s race baiting. The Orange Hate-Monkey’s misogyny. His probable coordination with Russia during the election. His continued money laundering for the Russian mob. The Orange Hate-Monkey’s uncontested control of 2/3’s of the federal government, with the last third one simple SCOTUS nomination away.

How about we, the sane 3/4’s of the United States, start talking about what comes next for a change? Let’s start now so we know where we’re going in 2018. Screw the Republicans. They’ll still be nominating lunatics twenty years from now. #SignedByTrump

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

Her explanation for the Gap is simple enough. “There’s a lot of behavioral science that if you attack someone endlessly — even if none of what you say is true — the very fact of attacking that person raises doubts and creates a negative perspective,” she says. “As someone Exhibit A on that — since it has been a long time that I’ve been in that position — I get that.”

Understanding Hillary – Ezra Klein – July 11, 2016
09/12/2017 – What Hillary Clinton really thinks – The Ezra Klein Show

Consider, for a moment, two people. One, as a young woman at the beginning of a promising legal career, went door to door searching for ways to guarantee an education to the countless disabled and disadvantaged children who had fallen through the cracks. The other, as a young millionaire, exacted revenge on his recently deceased brother’s family by cutting off the medical insurance desperately needed by his nephew’s newborn son, who at eighteen months of age was suffering from violent seizures brought on by a rare neurological disorder.

Huffingtonpost – Larry Womack – Stop Pretending
They’re with her. Are you? | Hillary Clinton