Thursday, August 31, 2017

Meeting "my Cardiologist"

"Wow, I really like this guy."

"My cardiologist." I have not warmed up to that phrase though I like the man whom it depicts quite a lot. Ellie and I went to see him several weeks after my family doctor had suggested it because of some blood work and an echocardiogram showing some slight heart irregularities. Dr Sam
( name changed ) was both very pleasant and young enough to be my son.

While waiting for the appointment, I vacillated between wondering what awful news he was going to pull from the data and feeling confident all was well … sure my case was interesting, possibly worthy of further study, but the further study would be no more than returning in six months to a year to be tested again.

I also wondered how I'd handle a stress test, which my doctor said may be necessary. Would I be able to pass one or would I have a heart attack trying? ( Walking is something I was used to doing, albeit neither swiftly nor uphill. ) Though I did not have nightmares about this topic I did find myself thinking about it a lot, especially as I went to sleep.

After introductions all around … "Well," he said, "let's talk about your heart."

"Fair enough; I'm pretty sure that's why I'm here."

The long and short of it was that my case is unusual ( and if I ever don't want to be unusual it's when I'm in a doctor's office ). My EKG was only "pretty" normal; there was a hint that I had a heart attack some time ago. The echocardiogram suggested the same thing - but only when viewing from a specific angle. From all other angles, all was fine. The radiologist had concluded I did have the long-ago heart attack but my cardiologist
( there's that phrase again ) wasn't so sure given that it seemed to indicate that from only one viewing angle.

"My gut," he said, "tells me it's a false positive. … But I've been wrong before, and what I'd like to do is give you a low dose of linsinopril, which will strengthen your heart, and in four to six weeks give you a nuclear stress test. This will help us be sure."

"Heart medication? Me? Who are we kidding? No!" I thought. "I really don't want to take heart medication," I said.

"OK," he replied, "no medication and we'll do the stress test next week. How's that?"

"Wow, I really like this guy," coursed through my being. "OK, you're on; let's do that."

He explained the test, wanting me to understand it completely, and sent his nurse in to schedule it.

The test consisted of an injection of a nuclear trace material to get a good picture of the blood in my heart, resting while that had time to fully flow, taking the picture, the stress test itself, another injection, rest and two more pictures. The actual stress test consisted of walking on an inclined tread mill, then the tread mill was sped up and inclined some more, until my heart rate reached eight-five percent of its safe maximum, monitoring my blood pressure and heart rate all the time.

I felt I did well; no chest pain, breathing differently only enough to know I was working, and feeling some stress in my knees and legs. The test administrator thanked me and said I did well. All that was left, then, was to hear the results.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

The Mint I've been Looking for

When I was about 10 my father took me to a surprisingly fancy dinner; surprising because it took place at the Renascence Festival.  It was a 7 course meal, with my main dish, as a child, being a half a pheasant.  The servers would have put the ladies at Hooters to shame.  Desert was a scoop of shaved ice, with a lemon syrup poured over it, and perfect green leaves on top.  I'll never forget those leaves.

At the time I knew mint was a flavor, but didn't realize that flavor came from a plant.  And apparently the plant tastes much better than the flavor.  I grew up knowing I liked mint, and I really liked some mint.  It took a long time to actually weed through the different factors before I came to the obvious conclusion: I like spearmint.

There are only two types of mint that humans commonly eat, peppermint, and spearmint.  And it's rarely advertised that they use spearmint.  It's always "mint," or "peppermint."  Peppermint tea was easy to find, and I could find tea that included spearmint.  I was this close to buying bulk spearmint online before I finally found it at a fancy grocery store.

It was sold as traditional medicine, without making any specific claims.  It says you can have up to 3 cups a day, without saying why.  But I don't care.  I'm glad there's a market for it, whatever the reason.  And I definitely got it right.  This is the mint I've been looking for.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Are we Tracking?

"Those warranties … they always find a way out of them. They're such a hassle!"

My wife and I are non-athletes, but we like to know something about our activity level: steps taken; sleep quality; heart rate; heart rate variation with activity and so forth. At the end of May last year we each bought a wrist worn activity tracker at a big-box electronic store. ( I will henceforth refer to the device and its maker as 'tracker,' and the store as 'retailer.' ) We downloaded the tracker app and enjoyed being able to monitor our activity, and see our history.

Previously our older son had gotten a tracker. His wristband delaminated, developing a huge bubble. The device was integrated into the band, so if the band went bad the device did, too. "I talked to tracker about it; they were great. Sent me a new unit with no questions asked." Matt is quite active, and always wore his tracker. We figured his perspiration took a toll on the band.

Eight months after the purchase of our trackers our bands began delaminating. "I'll bet this is just what Matt was talking about," we said.

I chatted online with a Tracker CS agent. My device was under warranty, he'd send an email detailing my options, one of which would be to simply replace the device I had. I spoke on behalf of my wife, and she got an email with the same options I had. We both chose replacing our original device, and received them promptly. We were happy as clams.

Until another six months passed … I noticed the end of the band immediately adjacent to the device was delaminating. I didn't mention this to my wife, I didn't feel like contacting tracker again, and figured I'd wait until it had delaminated across the entire width of the band and then I'd try gluing it down.

As I waited for that to happen the delamination slowly widened. "Look," Ellie said, showing me her tracker bearing wrist, "it's happening again." Sure enough, her band had developed a bubble. I showed her my tracker; ugh.

"You warranty is up, but all is not lost," the agent said this time, "I can offer you a 25% discount on anything."

"I buy two devices, need to replace each of them, twice, for the same reason, in a period of less than eighteen months, and all you can offer me is a 25% discount?" I asked, incredulously.

Well, no, that's not all. He also upgraded our accounts to premium. If Ellie or I were athletically competitive, this might have been worth something. But we're not, and it wasn't. "I'd trade you the Premium Account for an additional 25% discount," I said.

"I cannot do that," he replied. "I've given you all I can."

As Ellie and I spoke about this, shopped on the website and wondered what kind of device(s) we'd like to get, I mentioned what I thought was the original device cost.

"No," she said, "they weren't that much."

Curious about this, I got the original receipt. "Oh, honey," I said, "look at this!"

There was a second line for each device: "2-year replacement warranty … $30." We never buy extended warranties … except when we do.

Because Ellie wanted to see the various devices before making a purchase decision with her 25% discount, we were already planning a visit to the retailer that day. "Now we have another reason to visit retailer," I said.

"I, of course, want to go," she said, "But what are you expecting?"

"I expect to walk into Customer Service, turn in our bad trackers and walk out with new ones."

"Dreamer," she said. "Those warranties … they always find a way out of them. They're such a hassle!"

We went. "Did you bring your charging cords?" the pleasant agent behind the desk asked.

"Groan!" "No, we didn't."

"We have to return them with the device. You bring those in, and I'll give you store credit for the original purchase price of the devices."

Home was close, it was still only late afternoon, and we made a round trip.

We took the previously-selected units (on sale for $20 off ) to the CS desk, and the agent did exactly as she had said.

We left the store with two brand new trackers ( similar to the one we originally purchased but with removable bands and a new feature or two ) and  $40 credit. We did not buy the warranty; we have two weeks to decide on that.
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Monday, August 21, 2017

New Plan - Fast Track Edition

I set my sites on becoming a flight attendant over 6 months ago.  I gave myself over a year to apply, with specific goals in mind.  I've been doing very well at those goals, and only idly doing the research on actually getting the job.  I have another 6 months before I even start looking, right?  Well...

My main goal is Delta.  That's the airline my cousin has worked for for 20 years.  It's the one he recommends.  My limited research tells me it's the best.  Not just the best to work for, but it has great international travel perks that others don't necessarily have.  The new wrinkle is that they only hire once a year, and the time is very soon.

I'm really only 95% sure they're hiring soon.  All I say is they have done this historically, and people who work for Delta think they're hiring soon.  They usually hire in September, and train for eight weeks starting in January.  I guess my cousin knew this, but didn't really connect the dots for me.  I've given it some thought, and here are all of the scenarios that seem likely.

1. I apply now, and I'm turned down.
In this scenario, I'll be glad I applied.  I will be more prepared to apply next time than if I hadn't.

2. I apply, get hired, and get posted to MSP.
I am very conveniently located to MSP.  I see flight attendants in and near my apartment building all the time.  It's two stops down the light rail that I live on.  And my research tells me MSP is a likely posting, even if they placed me randomly.  It looks like it's one of the four places they send all new hires.  I'd be happy I applied.

3. I apply, get hired, get posted somewhere else, but don't start until March.
My cousin tells me that there are two training sessions.  The first starts in January, and the second starts right after.  I can't find anyone else saying that, but if true, I'd be happy I applied in that situation.  I'd be out two months rent, but wouldn't be paying rent anywhere else at that time.

4. I apply, get hired, get posted somewhere else, with training starting in January.
This is the darkest timeline.  I'd build up some credit card debt having lost 4 months rent while taking a pay cut.  Still pretty good though.  It looks like I'd be making more money than I do now a year from that.  Also, the reason the pay is low is because I'd be working fewer hours to start.  That means I would probably be able to use my current apartment quite a bit.

The sort answer is, I'm gonna do it.  I'll apply, and see what happens.  I'll let you know.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In Need of Mercy

Just about a year ago, concerned about the possibility of a Trump presidency, I posted a poem, "our democracy is fragile." After experiencing 200 or so days of President Trump,  witnessing the ugly demonstrations(s) in Charlottesville, Virginia, and hearing the President's vacillating response to those demonstrations, I claim, sad to say, my fear was prescient.

No Right to Kill 

Values clash
Nazis, white supremacists,
counter protestors.
Incompatible ideals.

A cowardly supremacist,
What could he have been thinking?
weaponized his automobile,
injured nineteen … killed one.

This ‘supreme’ white drove
into a human sea, people
running as best they could.
Defenseless versus the weapon.

I vigorously defend beliefs,
values, and free speech.
But don’t kill the defenseless.
May God help me forgive.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Losing my Generation

When I was a kid, the new adults were Generation X.  No one really questioned that.  But they were calling my generation, Generation Y.  That seemed so generic to me.  It seemed the difference between my generation and the one before was more pronounced than usual, and Generation Y made it feel like we were riding their coattails.

Then Lisa Simpson called us, including herself, the MTV generation.  Approaching 18, if I had to name one thing my generation had in common, it was the Simpsons.  Letting them define us seemed right.  I never really thought about it again for the next 20 years.

Then there was all of the talk about Millennials ruining whole industries with their ways that are different.  I finally looked into it, and was surprised to find out this is the new name for my generation.  I turned 18 in the year 2000, and just snuck in.  Two people I've mentioned this to said, "Technically, I guess."  But is it?  I feel like I fit many of these stereo types.

I don't buy napkins.  This is because paper towels are superior.  They are conveniently dispensed, and are flexible in length.

They say we're self centered.  I think this complaint is entirely about posting about ourselves online, which I do.  This is exactly like telling someone about your day... but online.  The difference is that we're more active online than the last generation.

They say we're lazy.  I think this is about hiring out different tasks.  I do that for sure.  Like living somewhere that provides maintenance instead of owning and maintaining my own home.  Or replacing something that could be repaired.  This is called specializing.  Time has value however you spend it.  I prefer to spend more time working my job so I can afford to pay to replace something, instead of spending that time trying to repair it.

And this business about avocado toast being frivolous is just silly.  For the nutrition offered, avocados are not a bad deal at all.  I do eat avocados when they're in season, and they're pretty great on toast with a little olive oil and pepper.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Have a Heart

“I saw those results online and noticed the same thing.”

It all started innocently enough … I made an appointment to give blood at the Memorial Blood Center, ( as I’d done many times ), went to the appointment, went through the preliminary questions, blood pressure check, temperature check, pulse check, and was stunned to hear, “Well, I am afraid I have to send you home; we cannot take your blood today.”

“What??” is all I could muster.

“Your pulse … it’s 105; our limit is 100. I cannot take your blood.”

I was stunned. My pulse rate had “always” been on the high side … I expected it to be upper 80’s to mid 90’s whenever I measured it … and to be sent home now unsettled me. Particularly, perhaps, because nobody there had ever suggested that my pulse might become too high for them to take my blood.

A little research confirmed what I thought I knew … 60 to 100 is the normal range for a healthy adult. I checked my fit-bit, which provided me with a graph of my pulse rate over time. This showed pretty much what I’d expected to see … an average in the mid 90’s, a low rate while sleeping, a jump when rising and lower variability when sleeping compared to when not.

I decided this would be a good topic to discuss at my already-scheduled, annual, usually uneventful physical with my primary doctor. It was.

She did an EKG on the spot, which looked normal. “But let’s include some blood work that will give information on your heart’s function, and an echocardiogram, which will give us an ultra-sound picture of your heart at work.”

She called the afternoon after the echocardiogram. ( When I saw the clinic name on the caller ID, I knew the call wasn't about the weather. ) “Well,” she said, “all your blood results are nearly normal. Some are on the high side, just below the upper limit and some are just over the upper limit. I would dismiss any of them, by itself. But there are half a dozen ( perhaps ten … the details are unimportant here ) of them.”

“Yes,” I said, “I saw those results online and noticed the same thing.”

“And the echocardiogram is similar,” she went on. “There are several things that don’t look completely normal, any one of which I would ignore. But, again, there are a small to medium sized handful of these things.”

This conversation unsettled me. Suddenly I realized I was unsure if it was my Doctor who called or Her Office. Acknowledging this, I said, “To whom am I speaking?”

“Dr Lozenge,” ( name is changed ) she replied, “your doctor.”

I was surprised. “Ah … I wasn’t sure if it was you or your office. I missed that detail when I answered the phone. You sound different on the phone and I’ve forgotten what your phone voice sounds like.”

“Well,” she said mischievously, “you never call.”

Returning to the subject at hand, I said, “So, about my results. Please continue.”

“I think it’s worth seeing a cardiologist and getting an expert opinion about this … further testing, wait and see, go home and forget about it. Or what? What do you think?”

I didn’t think it took long to mull this over … some blood test results hinting at an abnormality, and an ultrasound with a similar overtone. This was about my heart … my life force. I had never previously had reason to doubt my heart’s strength and vitality.

I must’ve mulled longer than I realized, as she said, “See a cardiologist, that’s what I’d do if it were my heart.” And then, playfully, “So that’s what you are going to do.”

“Yes,” I responded, “let’s do that.” Her playfulness helped.

“Good. There are cardiologists in our office right here; any one of them would do you well.”

I made an appointment for two and a half weeks later … “Do you really want to wait that long?” Ellie asked, “Aren’t you anxious about this?”

“I am eager, perhaps anxious, but I want to go to that office. That’s the earliest date that was open. I can put up with the suspense for that long.” And I hunkered down to wait.
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Monday, August 7, 2017

Camping without the Baggage

Scrolling through Facebook, I saw photos of my cousin out camping.  I idly hit like thinking, "That looks like fun."  Then my cousin actually asked if I've ever camped before.  Have I?

I did go camping as a kid.  If I had to describe it in one word, it you would be, "tedious."  I remember days of cleaning tents and equipment.  At least one evening of detangling fishing lines; restringing when necessary.  And when it was all done, there was the task of carefully packing the boat so it would all fit.  Did I mention the hours spent making sure the boat and trailer were in working order?

Then there was the vast amount of time spent alone in a car with my family.  By the time we were ready to "get away" from it all, it was my family, and I was trapped with them for week.  But then I'd step out of the car, and breath in the fresh air.  All the tedium and annoyances that came up while we were out there were easy to overlook.  I remember asking myself so many times, "Is this worth it?"  I always came back with a definite, "maybe".

As an older child I remember trying to convey this, "What if we didn't bring the boat?"  Leading to, "Where would we store all the stuff?"  Completely missing the point of, "Wouldn't camping be better without all this stuff?"  As a kid, I didn't have the words.

Now that I'm an adult, I have the words, and know that "tedious" isn't one that should describe camping.  And there's no one to convince but myself.  Maybe it's time to walk into the woods with nothing but what I can carry on my back.  It should be a cheap vacation, at the very least.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sometime I Must Backtrack

“When I’m wrong, I’m wrong, … “

On the floor of the Senate, early in the morning of July 28, Senator John McCain was more of a show-boat than I think is seemly. However, he did, by my estimation, the right thing when he voted against the Republican Health Care Bill … the so-called skinny version of Obamacare repeal.

Earlier in the week he voted to go ahead with the process to bring the Senate bill to the floor. Immediately after his vote, he railed against the process the Senate was engaging in. That behavior annoyed me and I wrote him an e-mail telling him so…which email I posted in this blog.

At “crunch time,” when a ‘Yes’ would have carried the Republican “skinny repeal,” he voted ‘No.’ I was overjoyed to see that, and I wrote him another email, referring to the first and thanking him for voting the way he did.

With help from a friend, I realized that without the ‘No’ votes of two other Republican Senators ( Murkowski and Collins ), his vote would have been irrelevant. I wrote ‘thank you’ emails to each of them, as well.  All three follow.

“Senator Murkowski,

I am not in your state, or even your part of the country, but I am immensely grateful for your continuous stance against the Republican Health Care Bill ( or is it bills? ). What you did is courageous, required chutzpah, and is worthy of some distinction. It gives me some ( not a lot, but some is a start ) hope that our Congress and out (sic) country can climb out of this partisan morass we're in. Everybody's job seems only to be that nobody else can get their job done and your stance seems to have put the country and its needs ahead of that infantile agenda. I am grateful.

Walter Jost
Obl SB
Check out my shared blog at

“Senator Collins,

I am not in your state, or even your part of the country, but I am immensely grateful for your continuous stance against the Republican Health Care Bill ( or is it bills? ). What you did required chutzpah, is courageous, and deserves distinction. It gives me some ( not a lot, but some is a beginning ) hope that our Congress and out (sic) country can climb out of this partisan morass we're in. Everybody's job seems only to be that nobody else can get their job done and your stance seems to have put the country and its needs ahead of that infantile agenda. I am grateful.

Walter Jost
Obl SB
Check out my shared blog at

“Dear Senator McCain,

I’ll keep this simple. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I like to think I admit it. I was wrong about you.

Earlier I sent you a scorching email criticizing you for voting to send the Senate Health Care Bill to the floor while speaking to the awfulness of the process for which you voted.

Today I am writing to thank you for voting no on the bill. I am guessing it wasn’t easy, took a large dose of chutzpah, and I thank you.”

When someone does something deserving of appreciation, I believe they should get it.
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