Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Singular Honor

Dr. Rosemary Schroeder. You may not have heard of her. I hadn't, other than simply as Rosemary, one of our corner peace protesters when she was in town. I heard from a friend that she traveled a lot, giving piano concerts. Really good piano concerts. I also knew that we two had about an hour's conversation - between bouts of traffic noise - on the details of selling a house via contract for deed to one's own child.

Just a few weeks ago she returned to our protest corner for a couple of our peace protests. At the end of the first one, she handed me a free ticket and an invitation to an upcoming concert  just a few miles from our corner. I was ready for some music, and put the date on my calendar.

Last night was the night.

Fortunately the ticket had an address on it, since I was completely uninformed of its location. Internet maps weren't very helpful, leaving too many street names off  for me to orient myself until I found several different ways to refine the search. Even then, once in the area, some street signs didn't match the maps. Luckily, I left plenty early. Even more luckily, pleasant weather invited several dogwalkers out to cross my path and offer information.

I arrived well before performance time, early enough to meet Rosemary outside and be introduced to her husband and son. After a brief chat, we wandered in. I was about to pick a seat somewhere where a single one was open, when she caught me and assured the usher that I was invited as a special guest to sit in the front section with her family! As I told her at the time, I knew I was honored by the ticket, I just didn't know I was special! She left us to take her place sitting with the other performers, and we perused the program and chatted until the concert started.

As it turned out, the format was a series of piano recitals, all performed by residents of the community on a new grand piano. Several vocalists performed as well. All in all, it was a great evening. Selections were either old (think "Tea For Two", for example) standards, or even older classics (think Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, etc.). All were my kinds of music, and Steve would have loved to be there were his back up to their chairs for that extended time.

No, it's not, not yet anyway, and thanks for asking. Hope becomes more difficult.

As music critic, I will say nearly all was performed competently. A few slightly sour notes popped up, but not enough to spoil the evening. (Hey, it has been done. I am nowhere near good enough to perform, but I'm good enough to recognize bad pitch.) I reminded myself that these women (as it turned out) were all quite good caliber musicians, fingers still limber and accurate despite age trying to take its toll. Vocalists I had a few quibbles with, but a good part of that was my dislike of a certain type of female vocalist and finding that type of voice difficult to listen to. Most of the notes were landed, but not all, and that jarred, particularly in contrast to the rest of the concert.

But, all in all, quite easy listening. And then ....

Rosemary stepped up to the piano. As her fingers started caressing the keys, it was suddenly plain that what we had been listening to had been OK. But this was music! What came before had been skillful pounding. This whispered, danced, sang! I had often heard about auditions where a single artist stood out with a performance from the soul, where others merely played competently. Finally I knew what those people were talking about.

Oh, have I mentioned that Rosemary has played around the world? Europe, South America, China, Japan, New York and Florida make part of the  list. And I, now, have had the honor of listening to her here in Arizona!

Thank you, Rosemary!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Safer? White Genocide?

There have been a lot of themes dancing through recent horrific events, even those which are "just" threats. I just want to touch on a few. Even if I had all the answers, you didn't flip over here to read a book.

First, for those of you who haven't been following my daughter Stephanie's blog, let me steer you to her most recent posting as of today. Check out https://the-orbit.net/almostdiamonds/2019/03/15/making-me-safer/ . 

I happen to agree with her points. I also think it needs to be taken much further. There's a whole lot of short-sighted stupid out there leading those who believe they are losing their privileged white rule over the world. Yes, demographics are changing. One can acknowledge that without making any kind of moral judgement over what is "right" about what has passed or is perceived to have passed. But those who are acting out against these changes are not only morally repugnant but completely stupid if their goal is to maintain their idea of status quo.

Emphasis on status.

Start with attacks on whichever group is being blamed this time for causing the upset. Muslims, blacks, and Jews are the current prominent targets. Attacking any of them is horrible on its face, and backlash does little to advance the "cause" of white supremacy. The Holocaust advanced worldwide the viewpoint of the moral validation of the Jews, not of their murderers. Black Lives Matter had brought to the public's attention -if they didn't already know or want to know - how unjust laws and enforcement are shaming us as a country and need to be changed. Muslims aren't getting the good press they deserve, but people are beginning to realize their new neighbors are as peaceful and hard-working - if not more so - as they themselves are. Some of us even realize that we've been blaming the wrong people for 9/11, but that message is not getting across due to greed for oil.

Even if we/they can get past the blaming of OTHERS for what's going wrong in their own lives, by continuing to blindly follow those who would "think" for them they continue to stumble down the wrong paths for improving their own lives. ME! NOW! prevents adaption or even mitigation of global forces for change.

Immigration patterns have existed as long as human have. Food supplies are just one factor in why people move. It's not just that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but that we have short-sightedly demolished all the grass on this side of it. All of us are the products of eons of peoples spreading out and looking for whatever looks better then here. In the process, conquerors become conquered. Groups merge, interbreed, and resentments both flare and erode. On and on and on.

Those who adapt and adopt the cultures of the others pave the smoothest paths for themselves. One of the most obvious examples of this is the spread of Christianity. Every time its believers spread into a new culture the church adopted new rituals, co-opting what was there and smoothing their acceptance. Matriarchy led to the deification of Mary. Christmas traditions included solstice celebrations and their trappings. Examples are almost endless. One has to search to find the original message of the faith.

What has strongly evolved within the church is the conviction of superiority along with the need to convert others "for their own sake". Christianity gets shoved down people's throats, and that leads to yet another force pushing fears of "white genocide". Efforts to block the limitations of population growth, now that improved health care means more humans survive to reproduce, end with overcrowding, limited resources, and the need to migrate.

These alone don't lead to "white genocide" fears. The migrants tend to be "those brown people", but that's a product both of Christianity and the misuse of it. The church is supposed to be about charity. Unfortunately that stops at the point where it does more harm than good. Certain forms of knowledge get spread. Again, witness populations growing. Other forms are halted or delayed. Witness prohibitions on birth control and abortion. "Those people" are the ones with rapidly expanding populations, and those are the people looking beyond their traditional borders to find a better life. Witness all our country's moves to supplant home-chosen rulers with rulers who support our needs and desires. Witness... well, introduce yourself to history.

Then there is the recent perversion of Christianity that declares we have the right to acquire wealth, that God wants us to be rich. Of course that's popular. Greed is easy. Me! Me! Now! is universal, but most of us are guided out of it as we leave the toddler phase. Cooperation is what builds societies that survive. It's the why behind taxes, a system that accurately refuses to trust that all in the society will cooperate for the betterment of everybody.

It wasn't so long ago that wiser heads realized that society was becoming a global phenomenon. Wealth, knowledge, resources, peace, all need to be shared. If not, none will last. Recent ideologies have curtailed that. We need all we have for ourselves. Those who have not don't deserve to have, so why should we help? Even if you can't see the moral problems with that philosophy, there are myriad practical problems, including the very ones which cause the "brown migrations" which white supremacists find so troubling. Other people see we have rule of law, food, water, housing, peace, travel rights, education, jobs, freedoms of religion and speech, few of which are available in their own countries. In other words, we give them plenty of incentive for migration. We withhold from them in our own short-sighted greed any incentive to find a better life where they now live.

Perhaps the proposed $8.5 billion for a border wall won't solve all their problems, but if you want to keep this country "white", you reprehensible idiots, wouldn't it be better spent on problems which really do exist and where it can help mitigate some of the demographic changes you do so fear?

And if you think it's bad now, we haven't even started to address global climate change, making whole new sections of the planet unfit for habitation. Where do you suppose those billions will head to?

Monday, March 11, 2019

No Security Clearance For Me

I'm basing this on what's in the news these days, not on any attempt to get a security clearance and failing to do so. I guess that means the primary reason I won't be getting any security clearance is that I'm not asking for one. So, obviously, I'm not too broken up about my presumed disqualification in getting
 one. It's the "whys" of my not qualifying, presuming what's in the news is accurate, that are what this posting is about.

First: I'm not related to Donald Trump. Ohh, Lordy, Halleluia!!!

Second, I'm not likely to get every answer absolutely correct. Seventy years is a lot of time to forget seemingly unimportant details. Had I been living my life with the goal of a security clearance, I would have either lived it much differently in terms of documenting everything remotely relevant, or differently in terms of starting much earlier to get that clearance.

Third, I know too many people that I don't know. Doesn't make sense? Let's try it another way. You need to list your foreign contacts. Just these last few years, for example, I have met numerous people that I've learned - in asking that snowbird question of where do you return to in the hot summer? - hail from various parts of Canada or the U.K. These conversations register just to the point of my noting another Canadian, for example. They don't register in terms of coming away with full names or precise locations, occupations, and what-have-you. My daughter and her husband have invited a pair of Canadians to live in their house for the last several years, and besides being very personable people, all I can come up with is first names and a hazy idea that they hail from one of the eastern provinces. (Sorry guys.) Even our next-door neighbors are getting ready to return to B.C., but don't ask me their last names either. Larry and Sharon just aren't enough information.

Going back many years, I met foreign students from around the world. For most, the relationship ended at knowing - at the time - a name and country. None happened to become friends. Even now, the only name I can remember is of a young man (from church camp?) with a name fascinating to say in the way it rolled off the tongue. I can only approximate it after all these years: Olomuyawe Osiname. It was a matter of pride that I learned to pronounce it in full. This rendering may or may not be correct. It has, after all,been over 50 years. Only the poetry of the name sticks. My youngest participated in an exchange program through high school German class that involved us hosting a young man and his family hosting my son. Names? Not bloody likely. Memories included his being unimpressed with our very quiet lifestyle, and our being impressed with the variety of German chocolates brought back to Minnesota.

Fourth, I just realized I lied in the beginning of this posting. I actually did pass a security clearance type of background check many years ago. I hadn't asked for it, and didn't know until I was told about clearing it so I wouldn't be alarmed if I noticed I was being followed. It happened way back when I was doing family day care. It turned out that one of "my" kids  had a relative in a very sensitive government position. Threats against the child in order to influence the relative had been made in the past, and luckily foiled. When this relative was back in the area, protection would be assigned to this child, and I was reassured that this was a good thing, should I ever even notice. (They were supposed to be all but invisible.) I was also never to mention it - and hey, look how that turned out. However, the relative is likely long deceased by now and the child likely a grandparent, with any threat long vanished. Even so, just writing this little bit now is likely enough to kill any chance of my ever getting a security clearance.

Good thing I'm not applying for one, eh? And yes, that earlier situation was enough to truly blow my mind!

Monday, March 4, 2019

FUBAR = Not. My. Fault.

I was prepared to assume my problems with my event monitor (you did read the previous post, right?) were my fault. I tell everybody that machines hate me, that my being in a check-out line means something is going to go wrong, and sometimes even surprise myself at my failure to navigate tech-speak as if it were a foreign language and I had the language-speaking skills of a 70-year-old.

OK, that last bit is true. About being 70, that is. I will never speak fluent tech.

We started off fine, I thought, with the first incarnation of monitor wearing, care, and feeding, etc. In preparation for switching day and night monitors so each got a chance to charge, I dutifully pulled out the manual and read every bit necessary to perform the task, at least as they wrote it. Most reassuring was the troubleshooting section with an 800- phone number. Heck, they even gave the prompts for which number buttons to push to navigate their voicemail system to arrive quickly and without having to guess which selection to pick for the right department.

I almost have that number memorized already. No big surprise that I should, since I've been talking to them for a combined total of over 2 hours.

Honestly, I thought I had it nailed. I mean, the second reminder via phone text that what I was wearing didn't have complete skin contact and my finally figuring out one of the snaps wasn't actually snapped was real progress. And no mea culpa, this part had been done in the cardiologist's office to their satisfaction before I even walked out the door, so I deny all responsibility for anything except it taking two notices to me for me to figure out that "no skin contact" wasn't actually referring the the skin contact with the adhesive patch, but it's hookup to the monitor.

Go figure.

Switching over to the evening monitor and charging the daytime monitor seemed to go smoothly. Lights that are supposed to go on or off did so in the correct series, colors, and locations on the equipment. I knew this time I was hooked up properly and charging was happening as scheduled. It was bedtime. I complied....zzzzzz.

Morning was time to take off the old patch and, post-shower, put on a new one. I had somewhere to be and a time to be there, so I figured adding in an extra 45 minutes to the routine should be sufficient.

Not so much.

The old patch, the one with the adhesive I'm allergic to, comes off in the shower. Apparently it needs water to keep it from resticking because that sucker really clings! And hey, no problem properly locating the spot for the replacement (non-allergic this time) to go because I could just put it directly over the big red welt on my chest. After, that is, using rubbing alcohol to remove any adhesive residue, and no worries that that, in turn, would eliminate the welt for days and cause any sort of confusion. Because it hasn't.

There is a special extra process one goes through when a shower is part of the monitor's routine. The manual kinda explains it. It involves extra steps with the smartphone from the system since you will likely get more than 10 feet away from it and be broadcasting a signal equivalent to total lack of heartbeat with its disconnection from the body. One doesn't need the EMTs dashing into your shower to revive you.

OK, I don't.

In going through that phone menu of the to-do list, I was informed that there was no signal. Whatsoever. Before anything had gotten disconnected. I double checked all skin contact and snap contact, idly wondering all the while why there had been no kind of an alert that the patient had died. I tried several times to complete the steps needed to pause the monitor before switching over, but of course you can't stop something that's never started.

Seems logical.

But I was in a bit of time pressure and really needing that shower, so I called that troubleshooting number. We tried this. That. This again. That again, plus three more thats. Even if I could describe them to you - it was directions like hit the double arrow- they would be meaningless. Suffice it to say that I was given the OK to omit putting it on pause, and just put new patch and monitor on and push its start button after I was dry again. forty-five minutes eaten up just on the phone call, and that's not counting the procedures before and after off-phone.

Yep, running late. Late to the shower. Late for my day.

Bedtime again, everything hunky dory. Morning comes, and ... !!!!! That nighttime monitor never hooked into the system AGAIN! Time for another phone call. About 45 minutes and two people later, it was finally determined - HORRAY! VINDICATION! - that the company had sent out one incorrect monitor. The system is set up so the phone needs the serial number of each monitor to match what it's programmed to hook up to before it can transmit any info out. It'll search until it finds the right one. Hell will freeze over and stop global warming in the process before it ever finds that monitor within the required 10 feet of it in my neck of the world.

They would send me out another complete system ASAP. Being Sunday, the definition of ASAP was ambiguous and the tech I was speaking with  had no answer to "when?"

On the plus side, I guess, I now know a whole lot more about navigating their equipment and procedures that I ever wanted to know or dreamed I might need. I can tell you, since this is neither proprietary info nor geek-speak, that the serial number is one set of about 800 alphanumeric characters printed on the back of a 2"x2" piece of equipment, located wherever there were no snaps. The teck could give me no hint as to its location, how many numbers and/or letters might be in it, or how young my eyes actually had to be to find it in order to determine if the equipment matched. I can now tell you the to-you-useless piece of information that it is located approximately a hair lower than the center and is preceded with an equally hard to find "SN".

So far the replacement hasn't arrived. No worries, however. That red skin welt still shows exactly where to position the next patch when I do hook up again.

FYI: Should all the above details be confusing, I could give you the troubleshooting phone number for further explanation. However, I'm pretty sure I'll be monopolizing it myself.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Event Monitor

We're starting with the premise that, as a member of the modern world, I am familiar with the latest technology.

NOT! So not. Let's change the above to reflect that the rest of the world seems to assume I am.

It's maybe understandable. I have a cell phone, a lap top, a TV with satellite connection and remote as well as other media machines hooked up to it. I have a microwave, an electric alarm clock, a reasonably modern car. So what's the problem?

That cell phone is a flip phone. I can't tell you if it has any G, much less 3G or whatever. It claims to have texting abilities but that means hitting any alpha-numeric key a certain number of times to produce whichever letter I want next. I refuse. A girl could get seriously killed texting while driving with this thing!

The TV gets set up by somebody else. I've mostly learned the functions of the current remote. After three years I know how to change the TV input from HDMI1 to Video 1, which is the DVR. Paul's TV remote for any DVD runs through Playstation and off a joystick, and each time it's a new lesson and a lot of fumbling. It helps when I figure out which two buttons are the absolutely essential ones and live without the rest, however inconvenient.

That alarm clock somehow doesn't get the message that I wish to change the alarm time or which 12-hour cycle I would like it to go off in. Good thing I'm retired. If an alarm is necessary, I have Steve set his smart phone.

My laptop, well, after two years I can do some things on it, but still haven't figured out the newest spreadsheet program and am not convinced it's worth the effort to make a budgeting spreadsheet. And which are the rows and which are the columns again? Coordinating the photo library and email or blog to add pics needs some work (aka a miracle).

Hey, I've got the microwave and the new vacuum figured out, and can change the Heppa filter in my "white noise machine", so I'm not totally hopeless. right? Just because I can't change a ceiling light bulb, well, that's a logistics issue (height, blalnce, knees, etc.) instead of new technology. And I'm no longer blonde, got it?

Some things just take a while. And finding someone who can translate my questions to their knowledge base and back to mine again for an understandable reply to my how-to questions can be an issue, particularly when I have to fight through an accent to understand who's saying what even when you can find somebody who can go off script for two minutes. I recall somebody insisting I do something with the Bluetooth logo when I'd never seen one and they couldn't even describe what one looks like.

So all this leads to my new event monitor. I get to wear one for the next 21 days to see what is going on with my heart on a sustained basis. Are my meds working properly? Those nights when I wake  up gasping for breath, is that apnea or heart related? Is it time to consider ablation surgery or even a pacemaker? So, enter new technology requiring instant comprehension. No challenge. Not a speck. Right?

Parts of the system are pretty obvious. There's an adhesive patch for my chest which can stay on for three days, even in the shower after you remove the monitor. The patch has this funny metallic grid on the skin contact side which screams circuit board, and the outside has snaps with which to attach the monitors. There are two monitors, numbered (guess what?) one and two.  One is daytime, two night. Whichever one is not being worn is on the charger. The phone gets its own charger, next to the bed at night so I'm still close.

Of course there's a process to go through to change the monitors and communicate to the company that no, you haven't just died, and yes, they need to pick up the alternate signal. If you in fact have just died, there are bells and whistles for that too. It's all in the book. Communication between the monitors and the company is via a smart phone.

Oops!

The nice lady in the Doc's office set me up with the system so I walked out wearing my monitor and phone. She answered all my questions, referred me to the book for any further explanations and the troubleshooting phone number (via your own cell, not the monitor's phone), and, I'm sure, thought that I was all set to muddle through well enough. After all, if something isn't sending a signal properly, they alert me, the Doc, Steve, the ambulance company... whatever it takes. We went through everything twice or more before I left.

There were added considerations as well: airplane travel, cell signal blocking buildings, shower procedures, where to wear their phone, how close to stay to it, how far from your own cell, how to pack it all up after 21 days to UPS it immediately back to the company. I already knew where UPS was, so a foot up, eh? Staying away from static electricity will take some thought, since my clothing is full of it, and simply walking across the living room to draw the blinds gives a shock. But if it's a problem for the equipment, I'll hear about it.

But there was just this one little thing. I know the screen saver goes black on the phone to save battery. I was practicing going through the menu with book and phone to make sure I knew the what and how for swapping off monitors tonight. Only, that phone screen stayed black. I wasn't secure in fiddling with everything I could find to see if I could figure out how to light the screen again. They'd already said DON'T TOUCH THAT GREEN BUTTON! So I wasn't going to do that even though it's there for some important reason which I don't understand, and may need to be touched at some time. I did remember how to slide the phone out of its clip-to-your-pants case, so I did that in case something obvious would present itself.

It didn't.

I could identify the charger cord port. I found lots of irregular bumps, cuts, holes, and who-knows-what along the sides, but again, they did a bang-up job of intimidation in the don't-screw-it-up department. Steve had taken his back to bed in hopes of relieving its pain enough to get some sleep, so asking him wasn't on the top 10 preferred options list. I'd determined that while it is a touch screen device, that didn't wake up the screen in the first place so I could tell what to touch.

OK, I'm assuming all of you have the most obvious answer in the world and are shaking your heads over this little issue.  I, however, had to go to plan... uh, z? Call the  troubleshooting phone number for the company.

At least he didn't laugh at me.

They are well trained.

Monday, February 25, 2019

NOW I See It...

While in the Doc's waiting room, a different channel of morning "news" was playing on the TV. To be sure, a two-hour program did carry some news: a plane crash, tornadoes and blizzards, review of whichever bite of the Oscars got their attention. Luckily I got called back for my appointment before they started cooking or interviewing the celebrity du jour or other complete wastes of time which the TV volume made it hard to ignore. But still....

The show had two female anchors. Something about the one doing most of the talking during the segment I saw the most of was bothering me. I wasn't sure why at first. Had she just had a face lift that wasn't quite perfect? I studied her a bit. I've seen really bad face lifts - think Joan Rivers since we're talking Oscars - and this wasn't what I'd seen in those.

I kept studying her, trying to figure out why her face looked, well, just plain wrong. Her eyes blinked and moved, looking normal yet not quite. Her mouth the same, no hindrance to her doing her job. I kept studying her.

Suddenly I had that "ahah!" moment. I'd never seen it before that I was aware of, but once the idea popped into my head, it was unmistakable: she was Botoxed to the hilt! Only the two parts of her face moved, isolated in a mask of plastic. No wrinkles, but no expression either. She may as well have been animatronic.

Once I figured it out, I gladly went back to my book. What a shame! What a waste of what had once been a beautiful face! It's not even tempting to somehow dig up the money to follow that trend. I'm keeping what's left of my 70-year-old face, then my 71-year-old one, then 72.... It's more honest. And you can just look at me to know what I'm thinking and feeling. I have grown fond of the ability to express empathy, silliness, sorrow, happiness, love, or even anger with this old thing. You can even see just how smug I feel about making that decision!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Wind SW, Speed 0

You know I like to make fun of silly weather stuff, like TV meteorologists making much of very little, or struggling to stand outside in a hurrircaine because, I don't know, they're stupid? Apparently it doesn't take a TV job to be ridiculous. Seriously, with no wind, how do they pick a direction?

Let's make it even more silly. This happened to be a day I was out and about immediately afterwards, which was why I had checked for how to dress. Protest day, about to be sitting in the elements for 90 minutes, made me attentive. Flags were flying, mostly pointing a wind direction of north/northeast.

And yet, I still check this weather report.