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Posts from the ‘Life’ Category

Potpourri – June 2019

Notice: If this post contained any real potpourri, you’d be sneezing by now.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why well-meaning people thrust potpourri on innocent people who walk into a bathroom, living room, bookstore, Wicca supply shop, or auto supply store and then start sneezing their asses off.

Moving to Juneau?

If so, there’s work. I’d take this job in a New York minute (whatever that is) if I lived there:

The Sun Singer

If you’re one of the wonderful people who downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Sun Singer during the recent giveaway, thank you! If you like it, you may also like its gritty sequel Sarabande:

 

The Strand Bookstore

Since I have worked in historic preservation, I’m a fan of the National Register because it draws attention to a historic site or object and imposes no restrictions on the owner’s use of the property. Not so, the government overreach in forcing landmark status on New York City’s famous Strand Bookstore. The bookstore fought against the designation because it comes with rules that impact how the slim-profit-margin store can use the building it owns. I signed the petition against this kind of nonsense.

Medical Update

I posted this medical update on Facebook and since I’m too lazy to write a fresh medical update, I’ll just paste it into the blog:

Darn it, rain

I was planning to mow the yard after supper until I noticed that it’s getting a bit dark outside (at 2 p.m.). The weather RADAR indicates that I might not be cutting grass even though we just got one of our riding mowers back from the shop and it’s ready to go.

 

Fried chicken for dinner tonight, but there’s not enough for you, so don’t stop by unless you stop at the KFC on hightay 27 before you get here.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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because people shouldn’t have to journey alone

Cancer Navigators is a northwest Georgia organization that provides a variety of support, direct help, and other resources to patients with cancer. Their tagline is “because people shouldn’t have to journey alone.” In addition to the American Cancer Society, CancerCare, and groups designated for specific kinds of cancers, perhaps your area has a state or regional organization that provides help. Our local group provides a weekly support group where people can share, learn, and get ideas.

In addition to support groups and retreats, there’s counselling, information about community resources, financial issues (including lack of insurance), and transportation problems. Many types of cancer include long periods of treatment, extended hospital time, and treatment costs that only a rich person could pay for. My prostate cancer is generally assumed to be usually survivable, but the daily radiation treatments over several months cost about $25,000 not including the hormone treatments. Fortunately, Medicare takes care of 80% of that.

There’s a strong likelihood, I’ll be cancer free by Thanksgiving. Many families and individuals see costs astronomically higher than that, often with little or no hope that the patient will ever be cancer free. Most of us have heard that certain things increase our likelihood of getting cancer. So, we have an option not to do those things. Things get muddled when the most dutiful people get cancer anyway and the most careless people do not.

I have a feeling a lot of people think that God, or perhaps fate in the form of a big wheel of fortune, determine who will be included in the next round of the National Cancer Center statistics that say, “The Burden of Cancer in the United States. In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.”

In spite of the advances in medical technology, I suspect many people (perhaps most) are fatalistic about improvements coming from research. Too many people are dying and the treatments cost more money than the living have. Perhaps such feelings keep most people from donating money to research and support groups unless a close friend or family member is affected.

Personally, I’m not overly worried about the prognosis for my treatment. I’m more aggravated about the hassle after having one easy ride (except for the last three years) most of my life with little to no interactions with doctors and hospitals. Yes, the words, “you have cancer” tend to get one’s attention. S/he wants to ask, “How long do I have?” or “How much pain is involved?” or “What percentage of the rest of my life will be spent in a hospital bed?”

Such things cross my mind, of course. How could they not? I like the phrase “because people shouldn’t have to journey alone” because I think a lot of people do face cancer alone. Friends don’t stop by because they’re superstitious like they might get cancer by saying the word or being in the same room with a person who has cancer. Treatment and the effects of the treatment curtail many activities, so some of a person’s natural interaction with others comes to a halt. When my parents and then my wife’s parents were old and ill (not with cancer), people said they’d stop by and check on them, but mostly they didn’t.

I guess those people feel like there’s nothing they can really say or do that will change the circumstances of a terminal patient. Plus, what they see tends to scare them into thinking “what if I’m next?” Better to run and hide, right?

I play with magic, write books about magic, and am generally a very superstitious person. But the whole idea of God or fate deciding who gets cancer (or anything else) makes no sense to me whatsoever. I believe in destiny, though not a destiny decreed by the gods, but a destiny we (perhaps) chose before we were born and that we control (consciously and subconsciously) that speaks to what we want to accomplish in this lifetime. That said, I suspect this entire prostate cancer hassle is something that I chose one way or another and that I’m supposed to learn or otherwise get something out of it. But that view is just my view. It doesn’t change the care people need or the help others can provide personally or via support groups.

The main thing, I think, is finding a way to “be there” for others who might need your help. They won’t tell you they need it because, well, who wants to say such things? As for me, please don’t stop by the house with a casserole, especially one of those with beans and onion rings and mushroom soup.  Look to the people next door and at the company where you work and the PTA where your kids go to school. They’re not lepers and they won’t infect you if you stop by to say “hello.”

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does everyone in the U.S. need an anger management class?

“How dare you don’t agree with me, you ignorant bastard.”

I’ve seen responses like that so often on Facebook that I seldom get involved in political “discussions.” Looking at this, and many of the protests, some commentators are asking why “everyone” is so angry.

Maybe we’re just flat tired of the ultra-polarized world we’ve suddenly found ourselves in. There seem to be few shares of grey: you either support a candidate or belief system 100% or you’re scum. There’s seldom an alternative. If you’re a moderate, in years gone by, you might have been a peacemaker, one who’s trying to bring together extreme views into a consensus. Now, moderates get beat up online by the extremists on both sides of the political aisle.

We’re told that our silence is consent in so far as nasty issues are concerned. Yet when we speak out, we’re lambasted by a lot of angry people when we don’t buy into one extreme or the other hook, line, and sinker. I see more shades of grey than either/or, but there’s little I can say online to combat those who are 100% for XYZ and those who are 0% against XYZ because all of those people sound like they’re getting their talking points from the same kinds of places. That is, they aren’t speaking for themselves but for a point of view, that’s (apparently) beamed into their minds by a BORG mothership or a PAC or a political party.

It appears to me that a lot of people feel very uncomfortable when the views they’ve had for a lifetime are questioned by others. Quite often, those views were considered mainstream, the kinds of things that “everybody” in the country believed in. Now, people are finding out that the kind of views that might have seemed reasonable in the 1950s aren’t reasonable today. So, they don’t know how to respond other than with anger and profanity.

Some people wonder if all this anger will send the country into another civil war. I don’t think so, though I can see why many people might think that our differences cannot be healed peacefully. In general, I have a live and let live viewpoint. If another person or group is not a real and present danger to you and others, why get upset about it? Yet a fair number of people apparently think that their religion and their value system and their yardstick of right and wrong should be applied to everybody else. I don’t get it.

I have always believed that the tenets of one’s religion apply only to those who subscribe to that religion rather than the public at large. A lot of the anger seems to come from the belief that “whatever my god tells me to do applies to those with other religious beliefs.” I think that’s an arrogant stance. Why do any of us need to control another person based on our own religious beliefs? Why do people fight like hell to impose their religious beliefs on others via state and federal law? Anger often seems to be a result of this kind of thinking.

We seem to have gone past the point where civilized debate is possible. Personally, I think that if a protester or a politician or an activist cannot listen to the opposition, their cause is suspect. That is, they are not sure of their enough of their stance to be civil. Or even human.

If you look at the political speeches of the day, the commentaries about those speeches, and the fallout on social media, you’ll see–I think–that more people want to be aggrieved than want to find unity.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Cancer, my old associate

Okay, here’s an update, and then I’ll get off the personal stuff and look again at books (including my own, of course), writing, and a bit of magic.

The news and our neighborhoods are constantly filled the talk of cancer as though it’s a shadow that follows all of us or, at the very least, hovers nearby as friends, neighbors, and widely known people either die from it or become survivors.

I’m already a survivor–from kidney cancer and successful surgery–two years ago. It was caught by coincidence when I suddenly came down with appendicitis and the CT scan and MRI found the tumor. Fortunately, it was on the outside of the kidney and could be removed before it invaded the kidney. I ended up with a six-inch scar that took a long time to fade away, but I feel hesitant to mention that I’m a survivor because I didn’t undergo the long and painful journeys that many survivors face.

You notice that in the title of this post, I didn’t say, “my old friend.” Yes, I suffer from depression, but not the fatalistic kind that would put cancer on my Christmas card or Facebook friends list. Suffice it to say, we’ve met before. I read somewhere that 80% of the men who reach 80* have cancer cells in their prostates. Sometimes it’s treated, sometimes it’s simply monitored. However, the older a man gets, the more his doctors insist upon a PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) blood tes several times a year. The higher the number, the worse the result is. So, you want to see nothing higher than, say, a “3” in the results. As you get older, that acceptable number gets a bit higher. My number has bounced up and down, partly because I had BHP (Benign prostatic hyperplasia) which can impact the results.

So, when the number shot up to 22, it was “what the hell is this?” The doctor put me under sedation and did a biopsy. A relatively small number of cancer cells were found. Fortunately, the follow-up CT scans showed that the cancer had not spread, the worst case being into one’s bones. When my wife an I talked the urologist yesterday about the results and prognosis, we were actually relieved because we already knew it was cancer and were more concerned about how bad it might be.

The treatment will probably be radiation since the cancer cells are scattered–rather than comprising a tumor–along with hormone therapy. We won’t know how this will be set up until June 10th when I have an appointment with the oncology department. The prognosis at this point is that the treatment will make me cancer free again by this fall. The radiation treatments [External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)] are a five-days-a-week protocol, and that’s way more doctor’s visits than I want. The treatments are painless and the side effects impact a very low percentage of those being treated.

So there it is, more cancer details than either you or I want to read in a post or anywhere else.

As for today, Lesa and I are celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary. We’re having homemade mousaka for dinner along with some wine or Coke and maybe something amusing on TV.

Malcolm

* P.S. No, I am not in my 80s.

Delivery trucks, Ingram & Amazon, CT Scans, and granddaughters

  • In yesterday’s blog, I speculated about when (or if) a lawn mower service and a lawn mower delivery truck would show up. Our old mower is going into to be serviced. It was supposed to be picked up between 9 a.m. and high noon. It was picked up at 4 p.m. A new mower was supposed to be delivered between 3 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. It showed up before lunch. So, I guess that evens out, delivery-wise. Now, if the old mower can be repaired, we’ll be able to use both mowers on the 3+ acres of grass and maybe keep up with it better.
  • If you dashed out to buy hardback copies of the three copies in my Florida Folk Magic Series on Amazon, you probably noticed that two of them are displaying a “no image available” graphic. One of the three is displaying that graphic on the Barnes & Noble site. The good news is, you can still buy the copies and when they arrive, the covers will not say “no image  available.”  I don’t know if Ingram is backed up because it’s having to pick up the slack now that Baker & Taylor has suddenly stopped supplying bookstores, or if Ingram and Amazon are experiencing a failure of communications.

Fortunately, a CT scan is not as loud as an MRI. – Wikipedia photo.

  • I spent the morning at the imaging clinic getting two CT scans. This is a follow-up to the indications of scattered prostate cancer cells from a recent biopsy. If any of you have gone through this, or a similar series of tests, you know there’s a lot of hurry up and wait. So, that meant four days waiting on the biopsy results and another four waiting to hear what the CT scans show prior to meeting with the doctor on Tuesday. For the scans, they injected dye or kryptonite or cyanide or something to provide contrasty pictures that will show how extensive the problem is. If it’s not too bad, the treatment will most likely be hormone injections.
  • My granddaughter Beatrice recently celebrated her sixth birthday. She had a party. I wasn’t there since she’s in Maryland and I’m in Georgia. Fortunately, we’ve been able to see Beatrice (Bebe) and her older sister Freya a fair number of times a year. And, their mother is pretty good about posting pictures of the girls on Facebook. My wife and I hope to visit the Gettysburg battlefield this year. If that works out, we’ll be several hours away from my daughter and her family and might be able to get together.

Once I know the treatment plan, etc. for the prostate cancer, I want to get back to working on the novel in progress, Dark Arrows, Dark Targets. The medical thing has been distrating me, so I haven’t made much progress on it. But soon, I hope.

Malcolm

On a dark and stormy night, no HVAC repair truck

Let’s say the HVAC repair people set up a service call between noon and five. Among other things:

  • You’re stuck in the house all afternoon waiting.
  • You can hardly go to the bathroom because the moment you do, the doorbell will ring and you won’t hear it and you’ll find a note on the door saying “Sorry we missed you.”
  • Five o’clock will come and go and the repair people won’t have shown up and any calls to their hotline or the techs in the truck go into voice mail.

Oh, I see the problem. the repair people have a right-hand drive truck and can’t figure out how to work it.

If they do show up, it will be moments after you sat down to dinner at 7 p.m. They’ll have a lame excuse for being late, like, “Old Mrs. Clark’s unit got stuck in a tree and we couldn’t call you because our cell phones were on the ground and we were wrestling the thing to the ground.”

Today, the lawn more repair people are scheduled to pick up a riding mower and take it into the shop. We can’t do it because we don’t have a truck or a trailer. The time window is between 9 a. m. and noon. It’s 9:30 now, so things are promising.

Meanwhile, a replacement mower was supposed to be delivered yesterday. It wasn’t. Today the time window is between 3 p. m. and 7:15 p.m. Will they show up? I’m not betting money on it. Or, if they do, they’ll get here early and the old mower and the new mower will get mixed up and we’ll get a bill from the repair shop for an estimate on fixing the new mower which wasn’t broken.

Meanwhile, the grass just keeps in growing working its way up so high that we’ll need a tractor and bush hog rather than a riding mower. If we were to order a tractor, we’d probably hear that its price is tangled up with one of the new tariffs.

Hmm, I wonder if I have 30 seconds to run into the bathroom without missing whoever (if anyone) is about to show up. I feel like putting a note on the front door that says, “TAKING A LEAK.”

Malcolm

 

Zero Tolerance: White Supremacists Take Over D.C. Bookstore Reading

White supremacists briefly took over a reading by author Jonathan Metzl at the flagship location for Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington D.C. on Saturday, shouting “this land is our land” and marching through the store yelling the name of a group that helped to organize the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.

Source: White Supremacists Take Over D.C. Bookstore Reading

I am worried about the future of free speech because this kind of crap marks people of either major political party as targets for disruptive actions. That makes it harder for a person to speak out–or to have the guts to speak out.

As my novels suggest, I have zero tolerance for racism and white supremacy in any form. I also have zero tolerance for jeopardizing the right of anyone to speak out whether it’s from threats of violence at planned speeches by members of either party at campuses and other venues or hate campaigns against authors/bloggers online.

If a person or a group won’t even let the opposition speak, that person or group is bankrupt and without any value whatsoever.

–Malcolm

 

There ought to be a law against slide show “news”

If you get most of your “news” from Yahoo and Facebook, you’re a slide show victim waiting to happen. They usually begin with a headline like this:

  • Here’s the scene that got “I Dream of Jeannie” cancelled.
  • So an so was famous and had billions. See how they’re living now.
  • What’s her face was really hot 25 years ago. See what she looks like today.

The answer to any of those questions might not fit on a postage stamp, but it will fit on a 3X5 card.

Instead, you’re “treated to a slide show,” the first page of which has nothing to do with the headline you clicked on. Let’s say you clicked on So an so was famous and had billions. See how they’re living now. Lately, Yahoo has been using Sean Connery as click bait. Instead of seeing Sean Connery, you see some other actor on a page filled with pop-up ads and a graphic called “Next slide.”

As you click “Next slide,” you realize that you’re going to have to wade through 49 other slides before you come to Sean Connery, “I Dream of Jeannie,” or the hot actress from 1994.

Click on this graphic if you have had the joy of the slide show experience:

OR:

The bad news is, these slides load at a snail’s pace unless you bought the latest hot computer 25 minutes ago.

The worst news is, the slide shows paint in on the screen in such a jerky fashion, it’s easy to click on an advertisement by mistake and get shunted off onto a site telling you how to get hot Russian wives.

Seems like we ought to be able to sue, or even kill, somebody for this bait-and-switch game because these slide shows are almost as annoying as the real slide shows years ago when we went over to friends’ houses for dinner and they hauled out a Carousel projector with 100000000 vacation slides.

Or, maybe if we can’t beat them, we should join them. I’ve got a lot of boxes of vacation slides in the closet that will give me a head start in something like:

Malcolm Shows You Where to Find the Best Hookers.

or

How To Find Hit Men Who Don’t Like Slide Show Creators.

 

I suggest that you don’t run both of these at the same time.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Too many darned doctors’ appointments

Some authors can write while on a sinking ship or as bombs fall outside their windows. I’m not that kind of person.

No, things aren’t quite that bad–other than too much rain and grass too high to mow–but the things that are happening and are disruptive enough to make it difficult to write.

Sure, at my age (and my wife’s age) one should expect more doctors’ appointments. They fill up the calendar sometimes and often get scheduled on top of each other by offices that unilaterally select appointment times, send out an e-mail, and don’t worry about the fact their appointment conflicts with something already on the calendar.

Where one fears they’ll end up.

To some extent, many these appointments have to do with teeth that must be cleaned by a hygienist, old eyes that need prescriptions, and hearing problems that need magical hearing aids. Then there’s the usual sciatica and arthritis.

My wife was in several car wrecks (not her fault) some years ago, and the lack of compensation by the perpetrators’ insurance companies then leads to long term problems. The laws keep getting tighter, so that means more appointments so the doctor can say s/he saw us and can keep writing the same prescription one or the other of us has needed for years.

Several years ago, I had cancer surgery. It was a success. No chemo or radiation follow-up was needed. Today I learned that I might be facing something like that again. I’m pissed off about it because some test results last fall weren’t the best, but I was led to believe a wait-and-see approach was best. Now the test results are worse. So, that means more doctors’ appointments and worries.

I’m not a big fan of doctors, hospitals, regulations about the hoops one has to go through to get medications, and all that. I think “they” sense that my trust is always guarded. They think I should kowtow to them and I won’t do it. Yet, I wish I could hypnotize myself to move ahead normally until the next appointment without dwelling on all the possibilities that could occur after the new test results.

At least I could get some writing done rather than letting my imagination run wild about all the worst scenarios.

Malcolm

 

I’m not sure of anything anymore

We learned today that blowing out the candles on a birthday cake sends some 1,400 bacteria into the icing. My thoughts are, why didn’t we know that 50 years ago, and aw shucks, there goes another tradition.

Years ago, when I was a kid, I thought my grandfather knew everything. Now that I’m his age, “old white guys” are being blamed for most of the world’s ills.

Heck, I’m sitting here in my house writing novels and short stories and generally minding my own business when I learn that (a) I’m complicit in everything bad that happened in the world back to the days of Moses, and (b) That if I don’t admit to that and offer up a variety of atonement and reparations, I’m pretty much chopped liver.

I never liked liver, so that’s a fate worse than–well, I’m not really sure.

If you’re an old white guy, do you feel this way: that you’re irrelevant and/or a criminal? Or, that you’re the neighborhood joke but the last one to find anything funny about it?

Used to be, when an old guy of any race, religion, or culture spoke, people listened. Okay, there was a hiatus in that during the 1960s when we were taught not to trust anyone over 30. But generally speaking, age was presumed to be a time of wisdom. Now it’s considered a time of archaic beliefs that are holding back the world from progress.

Old white guys held out a little longer before the world accused them of being generally incompetent. But now they’ve joined the crone, the woman once considered wise, who is now put in a home somewhere because she’s no longer hot to trot and/or a viable member of the PTA. If it weren’t for global warming and a scarcity of ice floes, I think most of us over 70 would be rounded up and sent out to sea. Basically, we don’t know anything anyone wants to know any more and we’re in the way of progress. The old white guys with a billion dollars in their checking accounts are hurting all of us because their money still talks while our social security checks are hardly even a whisper in the wind when it comes to influence.

I’m okay with all this. I don’t want the responsibility of saving the country from itself. Like the sophomores in college years ago who thought they knew everything (but didn’t), a new breed of lawmakers is running amok with this proposal and that, and my view (which is irrelevant) is that those lawmakers are trying to outdo each other with crazy ideas. As an old white guy, I don’t hear anyone speaking to the moderates, just to the extreme left of the Democrats and the extreme right of the Republicans.

Hell, even Bernie was called an old white guy and he’s more “out there” than most of us. So, what chance do we have to say anything worth saying? Slim to none, as my grandfather said.

And that’s just as well because as I read the daily news, most of it doesn’t make any sense, and I have to wonder where that lack of sense is “just me” or the people running the country. Years ago, I knew the answer. Today, I’m not sure.

Malcolm