FACTORING IN THE TEST RESULTS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Factor

So my test results came back. After I did a full translation of virtually every word in the report — I’m pretty good with medicalese, but this was way above my pay grade — I discovered that considering my age and stage of life, I’ve got functional, but not perfect arteries. If you want to factor in all the tests that were run initially during my first visit to the neurologist — and then this new set of tests — we know that I’m getting on in years.

Which is exactly what we knew before. We do not know if what the tests found to have anything to do with the visual symptoms. They could be connected, but they could also be entirely separate with no connecting thread. And worse, there’s actually no clear way to address the matter. It’s not like there’s a book which gives answers because what’s bothering me aren’t the symptoms for any known disease or condition or illness.

Thus I know what I knew when I started this process. I was afraid this would be the result and why I didn’t want to begin the process. It’s “non-result.”

A lot of information has been collected,  but are any of these results related to the symptoms? I’m not even sure why I started this process in the first place except that I felt I had some kind of obligation to find out if it meant something — or not.

“Or not,” seems to be the answer.

I’m just as worried (but more confused) than I was at the start. I’m overloaded with information that doesn’t mean anything to me. I suppose — or at least I hope — that this will make more sense after I see the doctor next week.

With all the advances we’ve made in medicine, in the end, a lot of it is more like art than science. Maybe someday it’ll be just like “Bones” on the Enterprise. Just use that little tricorder and poof! Diagnosis, cure, and life renewed.

I’m waiting. Aren’t we all?

WHAT IS JEOPARDY? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Jeopardy

Is there anyone who doesn’t or has never watched Jeopardy? As game shows went, that has to be the most popular one ever. When I was a young adult, people were addicted to this show. It wasn’t because they assumed they could go on it to win tons of money, though some did hope for that, but because Jeopardy was and remains the original TV trivia game.

By Joseph Hunkins from Talent – Kelly from Jeopardy Clue Crew at the CES09 set

This is Trivial Pursuits for the world, broadcast (depending on the decade and year), daily or weekly. It was created by Merv Griffin (what wasn’t created by Merv Griffin?) and has been on the air as a daily (5-days a week) show, a weekly nighttime event, or a daily evening presentation, usually just after dinner time — between 7 and 8 at night – since 1964. That’s 59 years which is a great deal of television! I think the reruns are as popular as the original. Is there any other show that has been continuously broadcast for this long?

Recently, it has become a headline:


“James Holzhauer was aiming for his 26th straight ‘Jeopardy!’ win Wednesday and moving closer to the $2 million mark in prize money.”

And he won. Again. So his winning roll continues. Unless he does something really stupid, he’s will come out of Jeopardy more than comfortable for the rest of his life.

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org

Unlike most quiz shows, it didn’t give prizes. It was all about money. You got an answer and had to answer the answer with a question. When Trivial Pursuits came out as a board game during the 1980s, I kept being surprised that you didn’t have to answer the statement with a question. While I wasn’t addicted to the show as some people were, I did watch it and much to my amusement learned a lot more miscellany than I’d previously known.

I think writers are the best Trivial Pursuit players because we accumulate tons of random information. We absorb a bit of just about everything, from what we see, hear, and read. We remember bits of conversations about anything we hear or read. You just never know when that bit of information won’t become the lead in or conclusion of your next book, post, or long, shaggy dog story.

For most of the years when I occasionally watched it, Alex Trebek was the host. Since those years — I guess the last time I watched it was during the 1990s, probably with Garry’s mom — who was an addict. But she was in good company. Millions of people followed the show either sometimes or constantly.

Countries with versions of Jeopardy! listed in yellow (the common Arabic-language version in light yellow) – Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

It is the most popular show in elderly housing and gave them a chance to show off their knowledge, something old people rarely have an opportunity to do. Of course, we who blog are not showing off OUR knowledge. We’re just hanging out. Online!

Actually, I think blogging is our Jeopardy. We don’t cover quite as big a range of topics as the show does and did, we cover a lot of stuff. I have a genuine passion for writing about whatever weird little idea has passed across my brain.

It doesn’t need to be important. In fact, it’s unimportance is part of why I enjoy writing about it.

INSTINCT OR THE GIBB’S THEORY OF “GOING WITH THE GUT” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Instinct


Without getting all Leroy Jethro Gibbs here … is there any other way to make a decision when you have no hard facts with which to work? It sounds right, doesn’t it?

Except when Gibbs does it, the entire agency agrees. When I do it, no one ever agrees.

If you’re a mother and you know your kid is “off,” you take him or her to the doctor. You don’t wait until the strep throat or whatever it shows up with full symptoms. The doctor promptly tells you he can’t see any problem. You go home. The kid is a mess the next day.

Let’s hear it for instinct!

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You hear a noise in your car’s engine. A funny little squeaky noise which comes and goes. Do you wait for the serpentine belt to snap or take it to a mechanic? You take it in. They look. They shrug.A few days later, the transmission falls out. Instinct! Gotta love it.The meteorologists on the television are predicting a few inches of snow, but your bones are screaming “it’s a big one on the way.”

Do you ignore your instinct and believe the guy on TV? Or lay in some supplies, fill the car with gasoline, and bring the candles out … just in case. I mean, what the hell. A few extra items in the house won’t hurt, right?If I have data to work with (better yet, if I had Data to work with), I’ll work with it or him. But through most of real life, we have no facts. We have instinct, experience, “gut feelings.” Plus, we have a sort of prescience that comes with years of making judgment calls, dealing with emergencies … a kind of “know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em” sort of thing.

Unfortunately, the doctors, mechanics, bosses, friends, colleagues et al? They don’t share that with uw. They merely think we are a bit strange. Remarkably, no matter how many times we are proved right? They still won’t believe us.

The next time you just know what’s going to happen? Everyone will completely ignore you. Totally.

So, when you get that deep, gut feeling, the one which tells you a catastrophe is on the way? Run around. Tell everyone. They will ignore you. BUT later — you can enjoy the rare opportunity to tell everyone: “SEE? I TOLD YOU SO!” and they will say, “Yeah, yeah. Right. Uh huh.”Most major decisions in my life have been gut decisions and they usually turned out better than the “rational” ones based on whatever evidence I had. Instinct on the hoof.

I think it’s how we contact the basic, hard-wired knowledge in our brains.

If only someone would occasionally agree with us.

TOO BUSY AND NOT PARTICULARLY DISINGENUOUS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Disingenuous

I am not (mostly) disingenuous. I certainly lack false modesty. Okay, that’s not true either. I’m really terrible at taking compliments, especially when I am not sure I deserve them — but I really improve if I think I’ve earned it.

So, while I am not 100% honest, who is? If you count the fake excuses we make for places we don’t want to go — and little white lies about the dent in the hood of the car — we are all a little bit politely dishonest. We don’t lie about important stuff, though. The fact that I blog probably eliminates “disingenuous” from my resume.

I figure I’m honest enough, especially these days when I’m not even sure what honest is supposed to mean.  Are we all equally confused or is it just me?

Today, it’s off to the hospital to get tested for something that has been lingering with me since I was in my early thirties and for which I have been tested — repeatedly — both here and in Israel. Lots of guesses, all of them wrong. So now they are checking to see if I perhaps have had minor strokes without knowing it.

Tests and followup appointments for the next two weeks will keep me ridiculously busy. I don’t know how this can be, but I swear my life seems three times busier than it felt last year.

I used to have plenty of time to blog, write stories, take pictures and all that and still have time to read other people’s posts and comment. Now I swear by the time I am halfway through my first cup of coffee, I’m already late for something.

Today I am having a Carotid Duplex Scan, which is some kind of intriguing CATscan of my throat and arteries to determine if I have had one or more minor strokes with no after effects. After which, there will be an appointment with the specialist to sort through the half dozen tests I’ve already done. And the bills. Sigh.

This will not even close to the first test for this problem, here or in Israel. They have more advanced testing now than the last time (about 18 years ago) I was tested. It will be interesting to see if they find out something. So far, this has been a lot of running around without anything to show for it. I didn’t want to do this because each time, the result is “idiopathic” — which is to say, medically clueless.

It could be anything or nothing.

This “small seizure” thing has been popping up intermittently for 40 years. It’s scary (especially to those who are around when it occurs), but it never seems to do any harm. Five minutes later, I’m fine and it feels like nothing happened. It may not occur again for years.

As we get older, though, it becomes more of an issue to determine what is happening. So we endure all the tests. So far, we know what isn’t wrong.

I’m betting I’m going through this entire testing and doctoring thing — and will know nothing more when I’m done than when I started.

Also under exploration is my spine. That’s of more concern. I’m hoping — seven years after being told there was nothing anyone could do — that maybe medicine has advanced and there’s something.

Not a cure it because it isn’t curable, but at least something that might make it feel better. Even a little better.

I’m off to the hospital. This time, I get to go to the big shiny building on the campus! Are we having fun yet?

LIVING ABROAD – JERUSALEM – Marilyn Armstrong

Once upon a time, in another life, I had a home in Jerusalem, just down the road from Jaffa Gate.

When I remember Jerusalem, the edges are soft. “My” Jerusalem is gone, replaced by housing projects, shopping malls, and office parks.


When you move to Jerusalem, it is called “going up” to Jerusalem. Indeed, it is on top of a small mountain, but there’s more to it than the simple physical act of climbing. It’s an emotional event of rising into another place and a different world.


I didn’t know I was arriving at the end of an era. Those would be the last years the Bedouins would cross their sheep through the middle of town, stopping traffic on King George Street on their way to the greener grass on the other side of the mountain. Those would be the final years during which you could stand on the edge of the wadi by an ancient olive grove to see the great golden Dome of the Rock glowing in the first light of dawn. Now, the wadi is filled with condos. A promenade has been built where ancient olives trees grew.

At the end of January 1978, my son and I arrived at Lod airport. Neither of us had ever been to Israel. Owen knew absolutely nothing of the place. I had read a great deal about it … history, legends, guidebooks, and novels. We had no friends or family in the country, nor were we familiar with the language or customs.

Despite this, we would make it our home and both of us would grow to love it.
My mother said she thought me very brave to leap into the unknown. I enjoyed the role of intrepid heroine. But I was not brave, just hungry for adventure and yearning for culture shock.

When we arrived, exhausted and anxious at the airport, I scanned the faces in the crowd, wondering who would be there to take charge of us and get us to our destination. Remarkably, someone was there. Somehow, we recognized each other. We were collected, processed and given official identity papers. A small amount of money. I had no idea how little it was worth. It was a while before I learned to do exchange rates in my head.

I remember that the taxi driver played the radio loud and sang along. The music was 1960s American rock and roll. The driver spoke no English. I spoke no Hebrew. Images tumbling one on top of another.

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The apartment in which we were to live had a living room, a hallway with a kitchenette, a small bedroom, and a tiny bath with a half-tub. No closets. You buy closets and install them. Israeli closets combine closets and dressers. Lacking any place to put our things, we used our trunks as dressers.We had nothing to eat.

The refrigerator was empty. Hunger was gnawing at us, but we had no car nor a clue where to shop. No other choice, so we ventured out. Found a grocery store. All the labels were in Hebrew. Bread was sold in whole, un-sliced loaves. Cheese was sold by metric weight. Mostly, I recognized the fruits and vegetables, but even some of those were unfamiliar.

Culture shock really struck when I tried to buy milk. Finding milk required asking everyone until I found someone who spoke English. He then led me to the dairy case. This was unsettling since I’d thought that a dairy case is a dairy case and would be easy enough to recognize. Milk was sold in plastic bags.Not cartons or bottles. Plastic bags. What in the world was I going to do with a bag of milk? Finally, I bought a pitcher. After tearing the bag open with my teeth I poured the milk into it.It turned out that there are special containers to hold milk bags and you just snip off a corner and pour the milk directly from the bag. Who knew?

We finally slept. The next morning dawned into brilliant sunshine.“Let’s go see our city,” I said and we found the bus to Jerusalem, rode down Hebron Road, and got off at Jaffa Gate.

The walls rose up around us. I shivered with excitement. I suspect that Owen, lacking my expectations, was merely stunned into silence. This was what had brought me to Jerusalem. Thousands of years of ghosts floated through those narrow streets. You never walked alone in Jerusalem. Generations of ghosts walked with you wherever you went.

Donkeys, so heavily laden that they looked as if they would collapse under their loads, plied the stone streets, cruelly prodded by small brown boys armed with sticks and shrill voices. Vendors called from their stalls. Dresses blew gently in the soft wind, brightly ornamented with intricate needlework.

Everything rustled in a light breeze. Stall owners stood in the lanes accosting passersby.

“Come in, come in,” they called. “I make you a special deal.”

Small open spaces housed spice markets that filled the air with the most exotic smells, the scent of ginger mixed with cinnamon, cumin, and saffron. Breathing in all the scents was a joy.

As the day moved on, more and more people arrived, filling the shuk until it seethed with activity and noise. Everywhere, people were haggling over prices, making deals, grabbing up bargains, filling their bags. It was vital and alive.

Everyone was buying or selling. Voices echoed off the stone. Jerusalem of gold, Jerusalem of stone, and in the springtime and summer, Jerusalem of flowers. All around you, embedded in the walls, is the architectural history of the city.“Yerushalmis change their minds a lot,” I was told. The walls told stories. You could see the outlines where arches and windows had been but were now closed and see how the ground level had risen.

My home in Baka, Jerusalem

That first day, we wandered. The city led us into herself. She twisted us around until we found ourselves atop a hill, looking down at the Temple Mount, the golden Dome of the Rock shining in the sun. The walls, the golden dome, the stones made my bones resonate.I fell in love with Jerusalem.

No matter how difficult my personal life became, the city lifted me up.

Jerusalem sang to me, called to me, made love to me, and now, so many years later, in my dreams, I am still in love with her.

THE ANOMOLOUS GRADUATION: HOW IT CHANGED EVERYTHING AND NOTHING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Anomaly

Since we are on the subject of graduation I decided to do a twofer.

This is the story of Kaitlin’s graduation. At the time, everything had somehow or other come out perfect. After the drama of Kaity’s years in high school, we were astounded.

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As far as we knew at the time of my granddaughter’s high school graduation, she had graduated on the Honor Roll. She had gotten into the college of her choice. She had a scholarship to cover her tuition and books. She’d found a job to coördinate with classes so she’d also have a little spending money, too.

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After all the angst and periodic mayhem of Kaity’s high school reality show, we were thrilled.

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After the month of May during which no rain fell, graduation day dawned dark, cold, and rainy. With a hint of foreboding, the family — me, Garry, Owen (dad), and Sandy (mom) — gathered in the parking lot of the new high school. It was early, so I suggested brunch. We adjourned to the breakfast joint in town and ordered the usual. Bacon. Eggs. Home fries. Toast. Coffee.

It took a long time to get the food. Every other parent and grandparent was also fortifying him or herself for the upcoming event.

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Scheduled to start at one, the festivities started at exactly one, except indoors in the gym rather than outside. Without being able to use the great outdoors, the graduates, appropriately gowned and capped, marched around the gymnasium. They were smiling, giving little waves to the occasionally whooping audience.

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We are not, as a family, big on whooping. We managed some enthusiastic applause, but mostly, we were taking pictures. Of course.

Garry had coerced a friend who is a videographer to shoot too, so it was an effort worthy of Cecil B. DeMille. We were ready for our close-ups.

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The gym was hot, airless, and smelled like sweat.

Initial enthusiasm faded quickly as endless, dull speeches, heavily laden with every cliché ever used at such an event, commenced. And recommenced. And were repeated by the next local pol. Students with apparently no time restrictions droned on, interspersed with a band that tried hard to end at the same time.

My mother felt if they at least ended together, they were not a total failure.

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The singers … well … it’s hard to justify them. Bad doesn’t cover it. An American Idol judge would have felt obliged to physically eject them from the stage. With extreme prejudice.

After they (mercifully) ended, the audience, in stunned silence, waited. Surely actually graduation would take place any minute.

Instead, the principal arose from her chair to begin the longest, dullest, most amateurish speech in the history of high school graduations. I’ve been to enough of them to recognize a really terrible speech.

Whether or not she was an equally terrible principal, I can’t say as I didn’t go to that school, but I’m betting she was. People who give speeches that dull, droning, meandering … well … how good would they be at anything else? She clearly didn’t actually know more than half the graduating seniors either. Oh shame, shame on her.

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It wasn’t merely too long. Her abilities as a public speaker were profoundly lacking. Maybe she’d written the speech the night before and not read it through, counting on her (lack of) talent to carry the day. She should have skipped it entirely. It was a bad speech given by an inept speaker to an uninterested and by now, hostile audience.

She stumbled, back-pedaled, tried (desperately) to find something to say about each graduate, even when she clearly didn’t know the kid. At all.

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The audience was slumping, murmuring. My back was spasming. Garry was limping. Graduates were talking lethargically amongst themselves about what they would do later … if they were ever finished with this … ceremony.

It reminded me fondly of my own high school graduation where my best friend burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. I asked her why she was crying? It wasn’t like she enjoyed our high school. Lord knows I didn’t.

She said, “They bored us all these years and even today, they are boring us again.”

This was worse and I didn’t think it could get worse.

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By the time it was over, the wind outside had picked up, the temperature had dropped into the low forties.

Party plans were abandoned due to exhaustion. It was almost four in the afternoon and no one was in a good mood except Garry, who didn’t yet know that his poisonous spider bites were infecting. That was for the next day’s festivities.

It was pouring, but at least the speakers, screechy singers, and off-key instruments were finally silent. We were allowed to creep out of the bleachers and go home. We had survived. Didn’t we at least deserve a free tee-shirt?

The college thing fell apart pretty quickly when Kaitlin realized her foot was even worse and there was no way she could stay on her feet the hours required to be a nurse. The scholarship was for a nursing program.

It didn’t transfer to anything else. There was no money for tuition and the price of a private college — or, in Massachusetts even a public one — were astronomical. They commented on the news last night that Massachusetts is 48th in the amount of money we give to higher education. Our public colleges cost more than many private ones.

72-KK-Grad-GA_078So Kaitlin fell into a slump and Garry was on multiple antibiotics for a month during which time he couldn’t walk, drive or do much of anything.

Synonyms for anomaly include: abnormal, atypical, nontypical, irregular, aberrant, exceptional, freak, freakish, odd, bizarre, peculiar, unusual, out of the ordinary, inconsistent, incongruous, deviant, deviating, divergent, and eccentric. And there are more if these don’t do it for you.

It was a long, long day … and the now the entire world is a vast, bizarre anomaly. Who knew?

In 2015, we had no idea what lay ahead.

WELCOME, BIENVENU, WELCOME – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Welcome

When this movie came out, I saw it every day for two weeks. I thought — still think — it’s one of the best movies ever made.

I usually went with a friend. I went twice with my mother,  but sometimes I went alone. We have a copy on DVD and it gives me shivers.

Who knew that more than 40 years later, the movie would feel relevant in my country?