STUPID IS THE NEW NORMAL – Marilyn Armstrong

96-OneRuleToRuleThemAll

My motto and I really should remember it more often

For the past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with the customer service for the medical plan I was trying to join. I spent — LITERALLY, NOT KIDDING — four hours on the phone yesterday until the battery on my phone died. It has never died before. Ever. In like five years. It’s not a cell phone.

They couldn’t answer a simple question, they gave me wrong answers, transferred me to the wrong departments, but to be fair, they didn’t disconnect. A miracle indeed. At the end of the conversation, I said: “SEND ME BACK TO BLUE CROSS!”

And then and there, I switched back to my previous medical provider. Because if this was before the plan had even gone into effect, it was going to be like the year I spent with Fallon when I needed to see a medical oncologist and the person on the Customer Service line told me there were doctors listed, but not their specialties.

“So how do you list them? Alphabetically?”

My doctor’s (not this doctor, the doctor before the last doctor) dimwitted secretary sent me to a cancer surgeon and when I called her back and explained that I don’t need a surgeon, I need a medical oncologist because I had cancer and what I need NOW is a checkup. I went with that company for a year and never actually got the checked.

Then came Blue Cross and life got better. This plan would have saved me around $150 a month which is a good deal of money, but I was pretty sure it would also ruin my life. I can’t do it anymore. I cannot spend the rest of my life fighting with customer service to just answer a simple question. I’m too old, too tired, too beat up.

I’ll pay the money. Just let me have people who answer the phone and know what they are talking about. Please!

And for all the comments I haven’t answered and posts I haven’t read? I swear to you I have spent about 9 hours over the past two days straightening out my medical plan — well, OUR medical plans. I’m exhausted. And I’m running out of birdseed again.

WHAT A DAY FOR NEWS JUNKIES! — Marilyn Armstrong

I admit it. By the end of about six hours of impeachment testimony, I knew I’d never survive the Democratic debate. Also, Garry said he’d leave home if I didn’t change the channel — which I was intending to do anyway — but he supplied the final push. I just handed him the remote and said: “Go at it!”

I’m pretty sure that even the anchors were exhausted by then. There’s only so much bombshell testimony (Was it bombshell testimony? I no longer know what that means) anybody can take. And I missed the beginning — what I gather was the really hot testimony, but they talked about it constantly, so I really didn’t miss anything.

Is this enough?

But now, it was post-dinner and the idea of watching however many people are running for president on the Democratic ticket snipe at each other was over the top. I need a very long night’s sleep before I reconnect.

And since they delayed the debate, bet we’ll catch the last hour of it anyway.

I do not know how anyone remembers anything on these shows. I can’t even remember the names of the senators or testifiers. Moreover, when someone is going to drop a bombshell, that is when I have to go to the bathroom.

Carry on, America!

AN AWFUL LOT OF POSTS BUT WHO REMEMBERS THEM? — Marilyn Armstrong

9,947 published posts. I know that’s not quite 10,000 but it’s close.

Now, the minuses:

Tom: 400
Ellin: 525
Rich: 1,000
Garry: 1.000

So of the 10,000 posts, about 3.000 were written by other authors and probably another few hundred were re-blogs, so call it 4,000 written by other authors or re-blogs. I’ve probably written about 6,000 posts of my own. That includes most memories of childhood that were not published in my book … or are parts of the book or rewrites of chapters of the book.

Today’s statistics

About half of my posts were photographs, though even there, I tend to include writing even when the majority of the post is made up of photographs. But not always. It depends on how tired I am when I put the post together. And how many pictures I have.

So let’s say between 4,000 and 5,000 posts were exclusively mine. Still a lot of writing. Strangely, I wrote a lot more than that during my professional writing life. News writing, advertising, and documentation included thousands of pages and a mountain of research. I don’t remember how many books I wrote or how many kinds of software I wrote about. Or for that matter, what subject matter was involved.

I do not know if this is related, but for the last few months, I’ve been terribly tired. Aches and pains in many or most of my joints. Even my fingers, arms, shoulders, and occasionally my neck. If I don’t take pain drugs, I can’t stand up. Actually, it’s my inability to stand that’s my clue that I haven’t taken my medicine. I try to stand up and I fall back down.

“Oh, right,” I think. “I guess it’s medication time.”

I recently had a major three-day checkup on my heart. All things considered, my heart is doing very well, especially in view of all the surgery it has undergone. The implanted valves are working. The ventricles are pumping enough to keep the correct number of red blood cells flowing through veins and arteries. Whatever is wrong, it’s not my heart. So, whatever is going on is probably not lethal … at least not yet.

The neurology department did a major checkup on my brain (such as it is) and proved that (1) I have a brain so it’s not just a rumor, and (2) it’s more or less normal, at least neurologically. I’m not demented. I don’t have Alzheimer’s, or any sign of a brain tumor.

In fact, having changed medication for my spine, my headaches have almost entirely gone away. Proving my point that they should stop looking at each little thing and start looking at my entire self. I’m pretty sure they might find more connections.

To quote a song, “Dem Bones“:

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone,
The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone,
The ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The hip bone’s connected to the backbone
The back bone’s connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone’s connected to the head bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

The finger bone’s connected to the hand bone,
The hand bone’s connected to the arm bone,
The arm bone’s connected to the shoulder bone,
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around
Now shake dem skeleton bones!

This is especially relevant to me because my spine seems to be the source of most my problems, not counting my heart, my missing stomach, and ye olde cancer.  So my good doctor sent me directly to the lab. I went to the one at Dana-Farber because they are much faster than the hospital and there’s a guy there who can ALWAYS find a vein. In ONE shot.

Meanwhile, I should be figuring out what I’m going to write for tomorrow, but surprisingly, that was not what I was thinking about. I was wondering what, if anything, the test would find. If they found something, what might it be? If they don’t find something, there’s simply got to be a reason why I feel this way. I never want to do anything or go anywhere. I’m too achy and tired. I don’t even want to talk on the phone.  I felt less tired after major surgery than I do these days, so something has to be going on. I would hope this isn’t a preview of the rest of my life!

So I didn’t get new pictures of my newly opened Christmas Cactus flowers because by the time we got home from the doctor, laboratory, and grocery store, it was dark. I’ll take pictures tomorrow.

Note that there are any number of versions of the words to “Dem Bones.” In case you find another version and the words are not quite the same.

MEDICARE FOR ALL: WAY TO GO AMERICA! – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #48

Personally, we both are on Medicare because we are at an age where we deserve it. Lord knows we paid enough money over the years for the privilege of having doctors when we got old.

Medicare is a pretty good system and it is getting even better. The people who run it are competent, ready and willing to talk to you any time of the day or night. They are incredibly patient, which really helps because a lot of people on Medicare are not entirely “all there” anymore.

Medicare’s way of distributing drugs was deeply flawed and still leaves a lot to be desired, though it is better than it was. Their unwillingness to deal with — until this year — seeing, hearing, chewing, and breathing was cruel.

I don’t know if the changes we are seeing this year are local Massachusetts changes or national, but this year we are actually going to get enough money to buy a pair of eyeglasses, get our teeth cleaned and x-rayed and if Garry still needed them, hearing aids. Too bad they are available now because a few years ago, Garry really needed them.

We just changed from BlueCross to Harvard-Pilgrim. It will save us about $170/month and we can keep all our doctors (I checked). Also, since we’d use the same hospital where they already have all our records, I wouldn’t have to get a new institution “up to speed.” I honestly didn’t think I could cope with swapping all my doctors again and records again.

Do you believe the government of a country has a responsibility to provide universal, affordable (if not “free”) healthcare for its citizens?

Yes. Absolutely.

If you live in the United States, would you favor Medicare for all/single-payer health plan?

Having lived in Israel where medical care is free if you are poor, but if you aren’t quite that poor, you can buy into any one of a number insurance plans that give you other options, like private doctors rather than clinics, or one of the groups that offer more options for natural care. But all medical care uses the same hospitals and surgeons are not your choice but are based on your problem(s) and who they think can best solve it.

You got incredibly good medical care, probably because there are more doctors per capita in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Well, you know. Jewish doctors are a “thing.” Half the doctors were American or British, too. All the top surgeons were American — but of course, that was the 1980s and things have probably changed.

The thing is, you had a choice of how you wanted the services delivered, but one way or the other, you were entitled to the services. Everyone had medical care, free or paid. Whether you were a citizen or tourist, you could go to the nearest health clinic and they would take care of you. No identification needed.

Medicine was free. For everyone.

It was such a good system that I think that’s what we should have here. You can use the government “free for all” system or spend a bit more money and get extra services. But regardless, everyone gets medication at no cost. No one is left out of the system.

If you live outside of the U.S., does your government provide universal healthcare? If so, how do you feel about it? If not, what kind of healthcare coverage do you have?

See my answer above. Having lived in two countries with two very different medical systems, Israel’s was really great. I think Switzerland has a very similar system too.

NCIS AND MY PACEMAKER – Marilyn Armstrong

EPISODE: Need to Know (2012)

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade his info — which he says is about national security.

It concerns Agah Bayar, the arms dealer. Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

ncis-need-to-know

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked in and jacked his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.


What does this have to do with me?

Well, glad you asked. This episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery in March 2014), that they decided to find out if it really could be done. One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it. My surgeon did point out as far as they could tell, to actually hack a pacemaker you had to be no more than a couple of feet from it. Nonetheless, they made the manufacturer change the programming.

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker.

I find this comforting. Garry finds it disturbing and I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek.

RBB-pacemaker

I find the technology sufficiently interesting to overcome its inherent creepiness. It is creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart would beat on its own, I wouldn’t need a pacemaker.

In the beginning, they used to stop my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation.

The blue tooth remote functions still work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were a couple of years ago before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious about it. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would still rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It sits on my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. I find it impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

And no matter what, I will always have that Pacemaker because, after all those tests, my heart absolutely will not beat without it.

CAN YOU MAKE THAT LOUDER? … WHAT? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Volume

In a household where Garry recently underwent surgery for his hearing, we also now have two deaf Scotties. Bonnie is almost entirely deaf and Gibbs can hear, but you have to talk louder. Yelling works, too.

Now that Garry can hear, he was complaining the TV was too loud while I could barely hear it. I suggested, finally, that maybe he could turn down his hearing aids from “as loud as possible” to “loud enough.”

I don’t think he had ever turned down his hearing aids in his entire life. That this was something he could do which would make all the “too loud” stuff more comfortable. It was an idea that hadn’t occurred to him because as the years went on, the issue was always “how loud can I make it?”

Now, since (assuming he is wearing his aids), we both hear at about the same level — more or less — his batteries last longer and you can’t hear our television in the next county.

No one makes hearing aids for dogs. Or eyeglasses. Because not only is Bonnie deaf, she also doesn’t see much anymore and she is just a wee bit confused. She loses track of where she is and forgets to come inside once outside. She will stand for hours in the doggie door with her butt outside and her head and front legs in the hallway.

You can’t call her in because she can’t hear, so Garry spends a lot of time going downstairs and moving her around. She weighs about as much as two cinder blocks, so hauling her is not for the faint of heart.

Bonnie still has good days. When she doesn’t have good days anymore, I am sure we’ll know it. Meanwhile, having two out of three dogs who can’t hear you calling them is surprisingly inconvenient. They also bark more because they can’t hear when they talk softly.

DON’T READ MEDICAL ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE INTERNET – Marilyn Armstrong

Every now and then, I get lured into reading some advertisement on a news item. This one was “The Four Worst BP Medications.”

Now, I always knew that one of them was funky because it did weird things to me and I stopped taking it. When my doctor said I should, I said “No, I shouldn’t,” and I stopped. Garry turned out to be highly allergic to it. After he stopped taking it, he stopped needing any blood pressure medication. He’s normal and doesn’t take any medications.

I’m a different story. And that was one of the really bad things about the article. First, it wasn’t written by a doctor. Okay, she is a nutritionist and specializes in Asian medicine … but she’s not an M.D. or even a nurse.

She goes under the assumption that all blood pressure issues are the same and they most assuredly are not. Garry briefly had high blood pressure after he stopped working and quit drinking. It took his body a while to adapt to the changes, and then he went back to normal.

My problem is a (probably) a genetic version of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It’s not a reaction to stress, but a reaction to a malformed heart that apparently I had from when I was born. It didn’t “do” anything to me until much later in life and might well have been triggered by the drugs I took for breast cancer. You have to make choices. You know the drugs for cancer are powerful and no doubt causes problems in other parts, but the alternative is death. So you deal with it.

Some people are born with my heart issue and live with it. It never seems to cause them any problems.  Maybe without the other medications, it would have gone that way for me too … but it didn’t.

A special diet won’t cure it. Telling people that a special diet can cure all blood pressure problems is the kind of thing that kills people. Very few non-medically trained people have any idea what causes high blood pressure. Most people don’t know anything about how their hearts work.

I’m sure the right diet can help some people, but we aren’t all the same. When you’ve got implanted valves, a Pacemaker on which you depend 100% to have any heartbeat, and thickened heart walls that won’t change, you’re stuck using the best drugs available. Moreover, you can’t cure every heart problem. Some things are chronic and the best you can do it control them. Carefully, cautiously.

I’m pretty sure that it was advertisements like this one that got so many moronic parents to stop vaccinating their children. If “natural immunity” were all that common, we’d never had needed vaccination in the first place. We’d never have had the Black Plague, cholera, whooping cough, polio, or smallpox. And thanks to our overall ignorance and faith in whatever is posted on the Internet, we have most of these things back in our world, even though we thought we’d cured them.

The pressure in the arteries increases when the heart beats and decreases while it is resting.

So are these people trying to save us or helping to kill us off? What do you think?

Oddly enough, this was also the subject of Samantha Bee’s show yesterday. It wasn’t a brand new show — maybe a week or so old — but what she said was exactly what I said. People die from these ads and while there are laws against them, there aren’t enough humans to monitor all the ads on the Internet. They rely on us — you and me — to report these false and/or insufficient advertisements.

Consider this a warning. I tried to find the ad that triggered this post and I couldn’t find it. The advertisements rotate on the Internet, so when you see something and it needs to be reported, write the information down. I’m not sure to whom you are supposed to report it. It’s one of the federal agencies, but which one? When I have a chance, I’ll try to track it down.

In the meantime, if you read it on the Internet and you have no other source of information, DO NOT follow it. Some of it may be okay, but much of it is rubbish or much worse than that.