Saturday, June 22, 2019

MEDICAL MATTERS (again)!

My April 27 post took my breast cancer story up to the point when, after some time had passed following my left breast re-excision mastectomy, the drain tube had been removed, followed later by all the stitches. All my posts relating to breast cancer, by the way, can be accessed by clicking on "breast cancer" in the label cloud - in the sidebar, below and to the right.

Story continues: I saw the oncologist, on May 29 - she whom I hadn't seen since November 2018 - when all had seemed to be going so well, around six months after my lumpectomy. Oncologist appointments scheduled after that had had to be cancelled as things began to move on quickly.

So...on May 29, the oncologist brought herself up to date on newer developments, on the breast cancer's possibility of metastasis, taking into account my weight loss during past months. I'd attributed this loss mainly to the lymphocytic colitis I had been found to suffer from, following a colonoscopy; she was unaware of this. Anyway, she referred me to the radiation department for an assessment, ordered a CT scan, and prescribed another course of estrogen-blockers (the pesky tablets I had to stop taking early on in my tales of woe). This time she prescribed a lower dose and different generic type as a starter.

A CT scan was carried out the next day. This showed that my early stage breast cancers had indeed spread into some of my bones (apparently a favourite place for spreading BC to roam into). In my case it has roamed into left femur and right hip. I'd been having problems, and pain, but had put it down to arthritis or side effects from other medications. I'd had other things, such as surgery, on my mind for some weeks!

During an interview with the radiation oncologist a few days later, he told me that bone cancer is treatable, can be controlled quite well by various means. He set me up for an appointment to plan a course of radiation on my chest wall, and on both hip areas. This was done, on Thursday this week, by simulating the radiation I shall need, using a special machine to make a plan of how, when, where and for how long radiation will be focused. For this planning session we had to travel to a nearby city (40 minutes distant) because the required machine is not available in our hometown. Fortunately, the eventual daily radiation procedures can be done in our hometown. Radiation oncologist also advised me to have a PET scan; the other oncologist had also recommended this. A PET scan can show any other tiny lesions lurking throughout the body (excluding brain) and give detail on how one's organs are working. I was not keen on lying on a hard, flat board for 25 minutes in an enclosed space, but did so, earlier this week - I think it was Tuesday. Days and dates have morphed into a blur, it began to seem as though a ton of bricks had fallen on me from a great height! Setting out the order of things here is proving helpful to me so, dear reader, please feel free to skim or move to the last paragraph should things become too wordy by half!

I didn't enjoy the PET scan but it was not as difficult as expected. It was carried out, quite unexpectedly to me, using a travelling PET scanner. The machine, situated in an area within the trailer of a huge truck, was in town that day just for yours truly, at 8 AM, and for one other lady afterwards. One technician and a driver/assistant made up the crew. The truck would later be on its way north, to Kansas and beyond hauling its precious cargo, stopping at hospitals here and there to carry out its helpful business.

Another layer of treatment from the oncologist is still to begin : a second set of pills to go with the estrogen-blockers. These tablets are going to be ridiculously expensive, even with all kinds of discounts deducted from the price. Ibrance is the name of this ultra-expensive medication; its purpose is known as "targeted therapy", rather different from chemotherapy which is an all-encompassing zapper. Ibrance targets only specific types of cancer cells. There will, inevitably, be side effects, some of which could pass me by, but my immune system will be weaker, so avoidance of bugs and germs will be the order of the day from now on. Ridiculously expensive, I said ? With no discounts or insurance the current price is, I've been told, between 14 thousand and 15 thousand dollars per 21 days. The pills are taken for 21 days of each month with 7 days off. Obviously, nobody could afford those prices - per month!

Medicare has accepted an Ibrance prescription for my treatment, as has our supplementary insurance. The pills can only be supplied by specialist pharmacies. I'm dealing with such a one in Austin, Texas. The pharmacy people have been working to secure discounts for me from various sources. So far they have a single $5,500 donation from the PAN Foundation, to be used as the pharmacy sees fit. My Medicare, and the medication supplement side of Medicare will cover some part of the first month's cost; some of the $5,500 will be used to cover the rest, the pharmacy has told me. So, initially, for 21 days' pills, I'll pay nothing. Once I've accepted the arrangements and am "in the program" the specialist pharmacy tell me that they will work on securing more discounts. I've been warned that co-pays, from then on, could still be high - between $300 to $700 per month. Sigh. We'll cover what we can for as long as we feel it reasonable to do so, and IF the tablets are shown to be zapping the nasties after several months. I shall be tested routinely and regularly to ensure blood counts don't go too low, as well as to discover what improvements have occurred - if any. It's said, online, that this medication has been found to be quite powerful and very successful in many cases. I won't know if I don't try. There is no generic version available. The Ibrance pills for the first 21 days were delivered yesterday (Summer Solstice) via FedEx. I shall not begin my course until Wednesday next due to other procedures scheduled for Tuesday, about which, please read on, if you have the patience.

Something more was fixed up just two days ago. As well as the multi-week radiation course being planned for me, the radiologist at our local hospital is going to do some "local treatments" on the lesions in my left femur and right hip (iliac bone I think). This will take place on Tuesday next (25 June). I'll be under light anesthesia during the procedures (similar to the level of "knock-out" used during a colonoscopy). The radiologist will put an injection in one side (left femur, I think), and perform an "ablation" on the iliac on the right. I think that an ablation is a kind of very strong electrical zap to deliver a mighty blow to the malignant cells, hastening relief from pain. I've only a sketchy idea about these procedures though, haven't yet been told about them in detail.

At the age of 80 + years I'd have limited time on Planet Earth in any event - with or without latest health-related developments. If I can retain a reasonable quality of life while taking the recommended medications and treatments, and it helps me to spend more time with my husband - who is now 82 - I shall count myself very lucky indeed.


TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read version):Breast cancer has spread from left breast (now fully removed) to the bones in my left femur and right iliac. A variety of tests and treatments are available, some have been already undertaken others are still to begin. I'm 80 years old so I do not expect miracles, but a little more time would be good - as long as quality of life remains reasonable.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Lemons

Learning Curve OTE will remain on hiatus for a few days more, pending clarification of the state of my continuing medical issues. Once I know for sure what's what I'll "journal it" here. For now, all I'll say, regarding my state of mind, is something I heard during an episode of "Third Rock from the Sun", a night or two ago - declared by "Harry" played by French Stewart (my favourite character in the programme):

"When life gives you lemons...eat the damn lemons!"

Monday, June 10, 2019

Has America "fallen out of love with itself"?

"Has America fallen out of love with itself? In the 60's I think we all loved America and its cars and its landscapes and its dance and its music. Has this ended for good?"

The above question, posed at Quora, proposes an interesting concept. I wasn't in the USA in the 1960s. From my home in the UK I had no knowledge of how the people of the USA were feeling, in general, at that time.

Perhaps, if the USA has "fallen out of love with itself", that is part of the process of a new country struggling to grow up. I suspect that there's still a long way to go before full maturity sets in for the USA. Even when maturity is reached, sometimes a country can begin to slide back into a period of decline and incompetence - take, for instance, the current Brexit debacle in the UK.

Here are snips from three answers with differing points of view on the Quora question, though these do not fully answer whether the USA has really "fallen out of love with itself". Has it? Perhaps more eyes have been opened courtesy of the internet. People now have access to much more information than they had in the 1960s. Wool can still be pulled over eyes, manipulation and propaganda still take place - for sure - but there's more opportunity for critical thinking and in depth research than there ever was in decades past.



Part of answer by Robert Martin Pollack
Yes it has. What you witnessed in the 60’s was one last outburst of creativity fueled by people who grew up in the twilight era of the republic. It was an era where people could still connect with each other and it was safe to interact with others. Hitchhiking was relatively safe and it was even possible for girls to hitch rides without being molested or raped. One could go to concerts and hear great music and see light shows for a reasonable amount that was affordable to just about anyone. This was still a wealthy country and people had disposable income so there were large numbers of places that had live music and where you could dance. Since then everything has become very atomized. All the places where people used to go to enjoy themselves and relax have been driven out of business. The few that remain are so expensive they are beyond the reach of the average person who now just barely has enough money to survive. If you ever take public transportation, everyone has the same bristly attitude - don’t you dare try and talk to me.

Ross Driedger answered:
Wait, what?! Are you kidding me? There were protests against the war in Vietnam, one of those led to the shooting deaths of four students by the Ohio National Guard (Kent State shootings). Woodstock was decried as immoral by many social conservatives (all that rock music, nudity and free love — Damned Hippies!). Racism was systemic, overt and rampant, even more than it is today.
People were terrified that the Soviet Union could, at any moment, launch a nuclear strike against the USA.
And Evelyn Elwell Uyemura wrote:
Maybe your memory is a bit hazy.
In the 1960s there were riots in many major American cities, Civil Rights and anti-war demonstrations on a regular basis, and an entire “counter-culture” that rejected all the values and trappings of American life.

(And much of the most popular music was British, not American!)

Thursday, June 06, 2019

BRAINWAVES

Apropos of nothing at all, husband "Anyjazz" came up with the following the other day, so I have taken the liberty of borrowing it.

Many years ago I read a piece about intuition and premonition that made a lot of sense. It basically said that the brain is working all the time, collecting things. The background sounds and changes in color and temperature, movements of things around it and general details that are of little or no use to the person at the time, are none-the-less stored in the memory in a just-in-case file. We don’t realize the brain is doing that for us but running our body and consciousness is only a small task for it, so it gets bored and collects things.

The writer said that this collection of details may be at least part of things like déjà vu, clairvoyance, premonition and what we call intuition. We are unaware of it, but the brain knows. Sometimes it realizes it can be a help, and slips in a few details of knowledge we didn’t know we had. We don’t know where it originated.

Think of those crime stories where a witness is placed under hypnosis to reveal details they were unable to call up for themselves. The details were there, the witness just didn’t know it.

There are stories of people who made hard choices based on “gut feeling” or “what was in the heart", or whatever the popular phrase is now. Then it turns out the choice was right, in the face of all the opposition. The brain knew and gave them subtle advice.

Imagination is probably supplemented by these sub consciously collected details. A child is particularly good at it because a child’s brain is collecting things at an enormous rate. The child has no idea of the meaning of most of the world around it but the brain stores everything anyway.

Many dreams may be like this too. During sleep, when duties are at a minimum, the brain is at least, partly awake. So, it plays. It assembles interesting things and plays with them, based on what it knows. Sometimes it brings out some of those things it collected that you ignored or missed at the time.

Wish I had kept the article.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Carpe Diem (in case the future sucks!)

Trying to predict the future, by whatever method, often turns out to be what's commonly known as "a mug's game".

I have a very old copy of Pathfinder Town Journal, dated December 1953 - picked it up in an antique store on our travels many years ago. When the magazine was published, topics were much the same as we find in magazines and on the internet today, but many steps back: the atom bomb, elections, new car models, black and white TVs, cookie recipes, weather and more. No astrology column. There's a paragraph in a piece titled Looking Ahead asking : "What will the US be like in 1963?" John E. Haines, VP of Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. predicted that in 10 years from 1953:

Planes will fly round the world non-stop in less than 18 hours.
Rockets will reach the moon.
Residential air conditioning will be as commonplace as automatic heating is today.
Houses will be built of plastics.

Not bad! He did rather well, I thought. I wonder, though, did anyone see the hippie culture coming? It took over more or less where the "Beat Generation" left off, a year or so later than 1963 though. Did anyone predict it? I suspect not.

For a smile or two in much the same vein, pay a visit to the illustrations at
A 19th-Century Vision of the Year 2000.


Now.... I asked in a blog post here, in late 2012, what might the USA be like 10 years from then? That'd be 2022/3. Ten year spans don't always see major differences occur on a national level - on a personal level, yes, certainly! Just for fun, I said in 2012, let's haul out the ol' crystal ball. As there was more than enough doomladen commentary and fiction around, I decided to aim for a somewhat brighter version of 2022/3. However, due to my rose coloured glasses approach, I have become the personification of that "mug in the game". It's almost seven years on now - do any of my intentionally starry eyed predictions look any nearer to coming true? Not a chance! Here they are, or were.

The USA has, for 5 years, had benefit of a very efficiently run national system of health care, with state of the art hospitals and clinics available to all, financed by a reasonable level of contribution by all citizens and residents, at a rate according to their earnings level.

A simply administered cure for some types of cancer has been discovered.

A completely biodegradable material invented to take the place of plastics in most applications.

The US Constitution, after years of struggle, updated and amended in two areas: corporate personhood rescinded, and the Second Amendment re-written and clarified.

All US military occupation abroad terminated in 2021, surplus weaponry still being destroyed and materials re-cycled. Currently in process of finalising nuclear arms agreements worldwide. A small but efficient military force remains in place in the US. The majority of military personnel are employed in a range of capacities updating, re-building and extending a variety of public transit networks, nation-wide, and running them efficiently on behalf of the government.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Can the Corporations Ever be Corralled?

Among the archives at Daykeeper Journal, website of the late Maya del Mar, astrologer, I found this article which, though written in 2002, is even more relevant today. We are now just a year or so away from that key date mentioned in her last paragraph: 2020. The "democratic movement" has shifted towards the left in recent years, but the establishment, corporate Democrats will be loath to let go of the reins and allow such candidates as Bernie Sanders to take over. I suspect a few more years will still have to pass, after 2020, before the final exit of the corporate Democrat clan.

Why Corporations Rule the Nation
Ms del Mar began thus:

"Corporations provide the matrix for our lives.

Our lives are shaped and governed by corporations. The consumer culture, the sea in which we live, is run by corporate image-making, advertising, and media control. Corporate values become cultural values. Corporate politics become government politics. Every area of our lives is fashioned by the dominant corporate culture.

The corporate movement grows implacably, like a giant amoeba, and threatens to take over the world, and destroy it in the process. As it grows, it shuts out democracy and effective decision-making. It is no wonder that people have quit voting and quit paying attention to civic life. We feel disempowered—and in many ways we are.

How can astrology shed light on this growth of corporate power?

She explains the cycles of the outer planets and the relevance of those current at the time of writing. She then goes on to look at the chart for the birth of the USA using 4 July 1776 at 5:10 PM, Philadelphia.


The United States has a lucky chart. The U.S. Declaration of Independence chart (7-4-1776, 5:10 p.m., Philadelphia) is blessed with a grand earth trine, which means material success comes easily to this nation........... We have the resources to enable us to develop models for harmonious, bountiful living.

However, this great gift of earth energy has been co-opted by corporations, and much of it transformed into toxins and garbage. The early idealistic political vision of Americans has been gradually subverted by the corporate bottom line of making profit for the corporation. Earth, tangible goods, is also the raw material of corporations.

The U.S. chart is also fortunate in having a Sagittarius Ascendant. This makes Jupiter the chart ruler, governing all U.S. expression of energy. Jupiter is the greater benefic, and shows good fortune and expansion. It is also especially associated with corporations (and old boys’ groups).

20-year Jupiter-Saturn cycles show the social-business character of our everyday lives...........For most of this nation’s history, we have had Jupiter and Saturn joining every 20 years in earth signs.... This earth phase really went into full gear in 1842, as the Civil War was building up...... We have just experienced our last Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in earth signs for the next 600 years, in May of 2000. This one was at 23 Taurus. Taurus is the most fixed, determined, and possessive of the earth signs. It is loathe to let go. The last conjunction in Taurus was in 1881, which began the "gilded age," the time of millionaires, consolidations, mansions, and high living. Corporations came into their own then.

Now we are closing the long earth cycle with Taurus. Will corporations extend their power, as they have in the past? Will we, the people, look at their excesses and corruption, and decide to take charge of them again? Will we reclaim democracy? Or will it be that the 200-year earth period was the time for corporations to grow into ruling the world — regardless of who and what gets hurt and destroyed?

This last Taurus conjunction in May 2000 ties in very nicely with the U.S. chart. It helps U.S. corporations move ahead with the steamroller effect until 2020, when we begin the air cycle in Aquarius. In the meantime we can begin to rebuild a democratic movement, and be ready to emerge with some sovereign infrastructure by 2020.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Power of Words and Language, with Ian Lang

Calling once again on Ian Lang, at Quora, for this post on the topic:
What powers do words and language have?

Ian has given me blanket permission to use any of his Quora answers on my blog. Thank you, Ian! Here is what he wrote in answer to the above question. A round of appreciative applause from yours truly, Ian!

From Ian Lang, Leading Technician:

Ooh, words.

It’s often said that the pen is mightier than the sword, thanks to Bulwer-Lytton. With this in mind I went into Harrods and got myself a really nice Cross-Townsend and went and poked some members of the Blues and Royals with it during the Trooping of the Colour last year.

Bulwer-Lytton, you were not right I’m afraid. This year I’m going to try it with a Montblanc but I’m not terribly hopeful.

Words though. They do have a power. In Western languages we have an alphabet based on the Roman one, and in English there are twenty-six ugly little characters (thirty-six if you count numerals too) which, when strung together in just the right way, can delight, enthrall, cause despair, joy, pain, love, hate, jealousy, anger and all emotions between.

Daily I thank God for the circumstances that caused me to be able to read and write for I’m sure I would have made a most miserable illiterate, and words cast to paper (or as in these days to the server) are the shapers of our history, and the echoes of our lives.

Writing and Oratory are the two most important skills any person can have. Applied properly, they can cause the world to shake. Let’s have a look at this chap:




Cicero. His letters and speeches were of such perfection that they ringed for two thousand years and still today anybody who does Latin at school will be tormented with and influenced by him. He could strike chords in men’s souls and such an accomplished gobshite was he that they had to murder him to shut him up.


Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet). Jesus, I thought I was a snarky bastard, but this bloke could take snarkiness to an art form. His writings so chimed with the stroppy, awkward squad of pre-revolutionary France that he was exiled and his books were burnt. He’s widely thought to have made the first serious cracks in the Ancien Régime.







Then there’s this bloke:
I’m sure he needs no introduction. Now think what you like about him personally and politically. But can you, through the power of your voice alone, persuade millions of people that have seen the slaughter of a great war in Europe a mere twenty-one years previously, take a course of action that’s going to land them in an even bigger one and make them think that this is a good idea? Because I can’t.





Up against him was an equally brilliant gobshite:

Sometimes I just wish I’d been around at that time because I don’t think there’s ever been anybody before or since that’s been better at using the English language to do something really on the face of it monumentally stupid, and yet fire up enough spirit to not only actually do it but do it so well that the opposing side is completely crushed. The German War Machine rolled right over Europe unstoppably. It got to the English Channel. It’s a hop, skip and jump over twenty-two miles. All it’s got to do is get to London and the game’s finished. We couldn’t stop them in France and Belgium. They’re on the Channel Islands. It’s bloody hopeless. Except-

A fat little bloke educated at Harrow who likes a drink and a smoke stands up and effectively says:

“Right. No. We’re not giving in to this little bastard. We’re going to kick his arse roundly and if we all have to die in the attempt so be it.”

But he delivers a factual account of how hopeless it looks and then at the end puts in shining words:

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”


God almighty. The British Army’s been booted out of Europe. The Luftwaffe is at its highest glory. The Wehrmacht just can’t be beaten. There’s U-boats everywhere and we could easily starve. The only advantage we’ve got is the Royal Navy and the Home Radar. Neither going to help if the Germans can get air superiority. And it’s a BIG and very cocky Luftwaffe now. The sensible thing is to sue for peace. And yet……and yet………

What did Winston just say? Hey, do y’know what? He’s right! "Bollocks to Hitler! If he thinks he’s just walking in here he’s got another bloody think coming. Right. Sleeves up. Boots on. We’ve stuff to do.”

And it rang with every man and woman in the UK, and didn’t stop there. Men of the Empire came. Men of Europe came. Men from countries who had nothing whatsoever to do with it came. All because they’d read and heard the words of power emanating. Who’d have thought that some ink and some electro-magnetic waves could do that?

To our shame, in so many ways we today are not the equal of what our grandparents were and one of those deficiencies we suffer is in the field of literary and oratory works. There is no Orwell writing his simple but resonant sentences now. There is no Churchill stirring us on to punch well above our weight. Where is the Voltaire that can mock for millions? Perhaps our lives are too easy; perhaps our days are filled with business and we have no time for the craft now.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Which doesn’t mean that some woman threw up in my van at the beginning of the week. But it’d be nice to think so.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Memorial Weekend


Memorial Weekend (in the USA) has come around once again. Memorial Day itself will be on Monday, 27 May.

I can, in good conscience, do no other but post the following, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

In 1974, Howard Zinn was invited by Tom Winship, editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. He did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year's Memorial Day. After it appeared, Zinn's column was cancelled.
Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon's and Kissinger's war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars he honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Good (but rather whiffy) Old Days

This question at Quora a few days ago received an answer from yours truly. This is what I wrote in response to:

Are you old enough to remember when outhouses were used?
I am indeed! My grandparents lived in a tiny village in East Yorkshire, England. They had no indoor plumbing until the early 1950s, so water had to be brought in from a pump in a communal yard, catering to a row of five cottages. Each cottage had a long narrow garden at the back, at the end of which was the outhouse - though it wasn’t called an outhouse in Yorkshire. I don’t remember what we did call it in conversation; in formal language it was called an ‘earth closet’.

I also recall visiting my great grandparents’ small farm in an even more rural setting, and seeing their earth closet : an earth closet made for two. Very sociable! :)

Using earth closets wasn’t pleasant, but imagine the poor souls whose job it was to empty them! These men, of ultra-strong constitution, were called ‘scavengers’ , they toured the area once a week or so, emptying the earth closets into a big specially designed truck with sliding lids. The stink was indescribable as the scavengers passed by.
After pondering, later, on the question of "what we called it", I eventually recalled my grandparents' comments when they were about to use the earth closet: "I'm just going up t'garden" - translated into British English = "I'm just going to the loo."

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday's Mumbles about Movies


On Saturday evening we watched a couple of movies via Amazon Prime. I picked them because, from the brief outline themes, neither promised beaucoup gratuitous violence, blood and guts.




Big Night (1996)

Big Night is one of those often engaging "foodie" stories. Two Italian brothers, immigrants to the New Jersey Shore, run a restaurant, The Paradise, serving fine Italian food. Primo is the chef, Secundo Maitre d'. The business is not doing well - near to foreclosure in fact - possibly Primo's wonderful food is simply "too good for this place". Another restaurateur with a business close by hears of their plight. He suggests that he should contact a celebrity and friend of his to ask that he and his entourage should visit The Paradise one evening to bring in some custom and help in spreading the word about the excellent Italian fare available.

I'll not spoil the film's theme further, but will say that, though we didn't dislike the movie, there were some weird omissions and a really iffy ending. It was nice to see Tony Shalhoub (Monk) in an early role here, and Allison Janney too (CJ Cregg in The West Wing).

The film received very good reviews - most of which I feel were way overblown - but the sight of great food can do that to some people!





The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Based on a 1993 novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, the film was directed by Sofia Coppola (in her feature directorial debut), co-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, and Josh Hartnett. The film also features Scott Glenn, Michael Paré and Danny DeVito in minor roles, and a voice narration by Giovanni Ribisi.

I found this to be a rather peculiar movie. Like Big Night, above, it received excellent reviews. Perhaps I just didn't get it. Maybe I don't remember what it was like being a teenager (but actually, I do, though I was not one of five!)

I like a movie with a good plot, a twist or two, and a satisfying end. I do wonder if the famous surname of the director of this movie might have....well...influenced critics more than a tad! None of this story felt at all real, reasonable or believable to me - except, perhaps the first suicide.

Without giving away too much (as though the film's title doesn't!) the story's focus is on 5 young sisters, aged between 13 and 17, living in suburban Detroit with their loving but ultra-strict and over-protective parents. Those facts along with the title is really all you need to know, apart from continually needing to ask, "Why?"

I read around some reviews of both the novel and film later. I came across one comment which put a more metaphorical spin on the novel's, and therefore the movie's theme: "I see the suicides in this book as an expression of the often senseless loss and decay that is happening in the world around us today." Remember, too, that the story is set close to Detroit, a centre of recent loss and decay. So... watching the movie through that lens, perhaps it wouldn't seem quite so peculiar.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Astrology in the 21st Century

A good read for anyone with views on astrology and its validity:

Approaching Astrology With a 21st Century Mind
Written by: Armand Diaz, PhD.

Some paragraphs from the beginning of the piece:

When I tell people that I am an astrologer, I get a range of reactions, from bemusement and even anger at one pole, to excited enthusiasm at the other. Many people seem to wonder what went wrong – how could an educated, intelligent person in the 21st century possibly give any credence to something like astrology?

This article is in no way an attempt to convince anyone of anything about astrology. All I’m doing here is laying out a few prerequisites, things that are “necessary but not sufficient” to consider that astrology may have some validity. Without some experience of astrology – good astrology – none of this is going to seem particularly compelling. To be honest, we’re going to have to get a bit heady if we really want to understand how we can approach astrology with a 21st century mind.

Not Fitting In
If you’re already comfortable with astrology, it might not seem necessary to work out the details, but I think it is worthwhile to try to see how things fit together. Many people who have an interest in astrology or other metaphysical things tend to keep quiet about it, because although they see value in them they know that they don’t quite fit in with the rest of their world view.

In recent years, astrology has gotten a bit of support. For example, Richard Tarnas, who wrote The Passion of the Western Mind, a popular book on the history of Western thought that is widely used in colleges, has also written Cosmos and Psyche. Stanislav Grof, a pioneering psychedelic researcher, physician, and psychologist has endorsed astrology as means of predicting when transformative breakthroughs will occur.

However, suggesting that astrology may have some value frequently does less to elevate astrology than to lower the status of the endorser. It is a trap that catches anyone who looks outside of mainstream thought: no matter how “skeptical” and careful you are, if you are even looking at astrology, energy healing, psychics, life after death, any anomalous phenomenon, you are already something of a kook.
[Note from me: Ain't that the truth!!]

The first thing we should consider is temperament. William James, the great American psychologist, used the terms idealist and materialist, which Jung saw as something like what he meant by introvert and extrovert. But this distinction in temperament has been in operation for a long time. In the West, we usually trace it back to Plato (the idealist) and Aristotle (the materialist).

Materialists see the physical world as the real stuff, and mental and emotional contents as somewhat ephemeral. To them, the reality of a material object with all of its concrete, measurable properties, is obviously more substantial than the changeable world of ideas, which are just “in your head.”

Idealists think very differently. For them, the material world is real, all right, but it is transient. This or that physical object will be around for a while, but the underlying idea or form of it is transcendent. This snowflake or that leaf will last a short time, but the overall pattern of the seasons is a different story – it remains while the particulars change...............



Last paras:

Almost no one today could hear about astrology and think that it made sense or that it was coherent with their view of the world. Experience with it might do the trick, assuming that one has both an idealist bent and the requisite understanding of the creative nature of symbols, and a sense that matter and meaning may co-occur.

Even so, it’s a lot of work. If all we got for it was a bit more understanding of our relationships and a good time to ask the boss for a raise, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. But astrology – for those willing to take a look – offers something more: an experience of the harmony of matter and meaning, experiential evidence that we are not empty shells scattering through a meaningless void.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

FAMILY

The International Day of Families is observed on the 15th of May every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with resolution A/RES/47/237 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families

In honour of the day, I'm borrowing some vintage photographs of families, identities unknown, from my husband's collection at Lost Gallery and Flickr

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.
Thich Nhat Hanh quotes (Vietnamese Monk, Activist and Writer. born 1926)











The family is one of nature's masterpieces.
George Santayana













Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life! ~Albert Einstein


The Only child?






In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.
Alex Haley



Proud Relatives of Sons "called to arms"?






A family is a unit composed not only of children but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold. ~Ogden Nash


"The occasional animal" (+ my husband's caption)


Oh. I was just looking for my um...ball. Yeah, that's it. Pork chop? No. No, I haven't seen any pork chop.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Maximum Age Limit for Voting ?



A question posed at Quora: Should there be a ‘Maximum Age Limit’ for voting in elections?





Oh dear! A quote: “Discrimination on the basis of age is as unacceptable as discrimination on the basis of any other aspect of ourselves that we cannot change.”
― Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.

Elections, in the UK, USA and in most other countries are an opportunity to vote for representatives in government (local and national) for a limited period - 4 years, 5, 6 and with the opportunity, in future elections, to extend, within limits, those periods. Older voters most certainly have a stake in how their city, town, county, state or country will be governed during the next few years. To argue otherwise has no basis in fact.


A few snips from Quora answers:

At what point do you feel a Senior Citizen’s opinion has become so worthless that his/her Constitutional right should be revoked? As I see it: understanding, knowledge, experience, preferences, and opinions do not come with a shelf life like a carton of milk. (from Al Nolf's answer)


But just to be devil’s advocate, the best reason to limit the voting right of the very aged (say 85+) is that they are not going to have to live with the long-term consequences of their vote and so their votes should not have as much sway. My own parents actively decided not to vote once they got to be in their mid-late 80’s for just this reason. They felt the world belonged to the younger folks and they should be the ones to decide how it went forward.
(From Ellen Garbarino's answer.)


Yes, there should be a maximum age limit for voting. It’s better known as death. Up to that point — but hopefully not beyond — we need the input from people who have actually been around the block a few times.
(From Susan C Weber's answer)

Absolutely not. Only someone young and inexperienced who has not experienced the process of aging, who has not looked back on their lives with regret in regards to the assumptions they were so sure about would propose such a ridiculous idea. (Ridge Green's answer)


Mark Hartman wrote (with the added disclaimer "/sarcasm"):
I am all in favor of imposing a maximum age limit, and raising the minimum age limit.
No person below the age of 30 should be permitted to vote.
No person above the age of 150 should be permitted to vote.



And Al Eisenmenger wrote:
If it were not for the Senior Citizens that fought for your right to vote you wouldn’t have a Country to vote in….

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Step Right Up .......

Insightful and fun (?) piece by Paul Street at Counterpunch:

Step Right Up to the Quadrennial Extravaganza!


A few examples from a much longer list of spectacular events listed in the full piece:

Malevolent Narcissists and Wall Street Sell-Outs Masquerading as Champions of the Middle and Working Classes!

Elitism Masquerading as Populism!

Dazzling Issue-Avoidance!

Step Right Up! Watch the Biggest Issue of Our or Any Time – the Climate Crisis – Get Amazingly Avoided!

Savage Class Inequalities – a New Gilded Age – Papered Over!

Subtle Neo-McCarthyite Machinations Performed by Vacuous Cable News Automatons!

Amazing Death-Defying Destructions of Democracy, or What’s Left of it!

Peek Behind the Curtain to View the Faces of the Terrifying Un-Elected and Interrelated Dictatorships of Money and Empire!

Remarkable Feats of Nauseating Racism, Sexism, Classism and Ecocide!

Ride Through the Astounding Tunnel of Identity!

Watch Democratic Socialists Get Eaten Alive!

Watch Live Sex Acts Between Financial Institutions and National Party Committees!

Calculate the Candidates’ and Media Operatives’ Carbon Footprints as they Fly Constantly Around the Nation!

Kiss the Species Goodbye at the Extinction Gallery!

Friday, May 03, 2019

World of Today (through the eyes of teenagers from the 1980s)

I've been lacking inspiration this week; today I'm calling on a Quora colleague, Ian Lang, to help out once more. (I do have Ian's blanket permission to use his Quora answers here.)

The question:
If teenagers from 1980s could see our modern-day world, what do you think that they would be shocked by the most and what kind of questions would they ask?



By Ian Lang, Leading Technician:


So, here I go with my spotty face from 1982, travelling into the future and —— it’s 2019!

What the feck-

Why is everybody staring at a little glowing box and typing out vacuous messages to one another rather than talking? What the feck is a Facebook and how can you possibly have eighteen bajillion friends?

Hang on. Last time I looked at the top forty, we had Madness, The Police, Blondie and Adam and the Ants. Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Now it looks like you’ve got a bunch of bland pretty boys and clone-women all singing the same bleedin’ song. And what do you mean you don’t go down the record shop? Download an MP3? Knob off. I want my boom-box.

Your mum and dad drive you everywhere? Have you never heard of a bus? Where’s all the Wimpys gone and what the feck is sushi? Or burritos? Starbuck was the cocky bloke on Battlestar Galactica- what’s he doing selling coffee? What do you mean they remade it and turned him into a girl?

You want to work in what? Marketing? Do you mean advertising? No? Well, what the bloody hell is it, then? Holistic sales promotion? You’re just talking bollocks, aren’t you?

Why in the name of all that’s holy do you say everything as though it’s a question? What are you babbling about when you say “OMG, LOL, it’s like you’re a caveman, dude?”

Why are you all dressed in running shoes when your parents drive you everywhere and how come you’ve all got five bleedin’ computers but hardly any of you know how to program them? Or change a fuse. How come you all go to university but none of you can change the wheel on a car? You’ve all got twenty million A levels each? So how come when I ask you a question the answer’s always, “oh, I dunno? Google it?” And what’s a bloody Google anyway?

God almighty. Send me back to 1982. You’re all at university now, even if you don’t pronounce the -versity bit, so there must be someone who knows how to do it.

No, I’m not bloody Googling it. Google off you spoilt little bleeders. And go and vote in this Brexit thing. Whatever it is. I’m going to see if anybody’s got work for a turner.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday & Sundry Thoughts on This & That


Not many or particularly deep thoughts. Over the past week or so I've been feeling tired, exhausted, fatigued, fed up.... It's not really connected the breast cancer issue. Both incisions are healing well, and the pesky drain was taken out at last, on Thursday. Stitches likely to be taken out on Monday. There might be a course of radiation sometime in my future, but I have not yet made my appointment with the radiation oncologist for assessment - I need a little breathing space, damn it! It's our 15th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. We missed a celebration last year, have missed celebrating my birthday and husband's birthday already this year.

My secondary issue, lymphocytic colitis, discovered after colonoscopy, has been causing more problems after it had gradually started settling down. I suspect that side effects from the 6-week course of meds I bought - at the knock down price of $1,400 - have been kicking in during past days. I have only 5 days' worth of tablets left. Side effects of this med do include unusual tiredness, and various types of discomfort stomach/bowel-wise. These should subside once I finish the course (I hope).



Other thoughts, unrelated to health issues:


If Joe Biden eventually becomes the Democrats' nominee in the 2020 presidential election - it simply has to have been "a fix".

Happy to see the name of Mike Gravel around once more, this time in context of the 2020 election.

Two of my posts on Mike Gravel from 2007 and 2008:

https://twilightstarsong.blogspot.com/2007/10/soapbox-time.html
https://twilightstarsong.blogspot.com/2008/05/changing-horses.html




We watched "I, Daniel Blake"
on Netflix this week - a 2016 British movie. It made me as angry as I've ever felt watching any movie or TV drama. Angry, not at the movie itself, but at the circumstance described in it, which are present for far too many people in the UK (and in the USA too as it happens). Gold Star to the movie's director, Ken Loach (also famous for other hard-hitting films such as "Kathy Come Home" and "Kes"). Thank the gods for the Ken Loaches of this world - unafraid to say what needs to be said in ways that strike at the heart.





 James Spader as Alan Shore, Candice Bergen as Shirley Schmidt
David E. Kelley, in the USA, is another such writer/director, though not as raw and hard-hitting as Ken Loach, he still managed to get said things that needed to be said. We've been re-watching (by DVD) the whole series of "Boston Legal" this week. Alan Shore's wondrous closing speeches are the jewel at the heart of each episode; these address issues that needed to be candidly addressed at the time the show originally aired. Those same issues mostly still need a candid airing in 2019 - because really nothing much changes, does it? "Boston Legal" managed to last for 5 seasons on ABC channel, 2004-2008. Those outspoken closing speeches did, eventually, raise the hackles of the network's owners, or their advertisers, I guess. Where is today's comparable show?

Monday, April 22, 2019

April's Cruel Side

Around this time in April, in several past years, I've posted listing some of the best known dark deeds coincidentally all happening in mid-April. My 2013 post went like this:
It never ends does it? Man's inhumanity to man. The dreadful events, deaths and horrible injuries in Boston yesterday are the latest addition to a blood-soaked list of tragedies here in the USA, and let us not forget, in countries abroad - some at our own hands.

I've written before about the darkness of this month in recent US history: 19 April 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing when 168 people, including children, died at the hands of home-grown terrorists; then the shootings at Columbine High School, Colorado on 20 April 1999; and April 16 2007 was the date of the Virginia Tech. massacre when 32 people were killed by a gunman, fellow student of those he murdered.

There's no rational explanation for this growing cluster of horror in what ought to be a happy and optimistic time of year, long winter behind us, trees greening - but .......

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
(From Longfellow's Christmas Bells)

In 2010 I wrote the post accessible at
https://twilightstarsong.blogspot.com/2010/04/cruellest-month.html.

These and others can also be accessed via the label cloud in the sidebar, by clicking on "April Events".


In 2019 April is keeping up its cruel reputation: Notre Dame on fire; attacks in Sri Lanka with at least 290 people losing their lives.

On a very personal level (and these pale into insignificance on a world wide scale):
On 23rd April 1992 my father died.
On 21 April 1996 I and my late partner lost everything we owned, except the few clothes we were wearing, my purse and our car, in a fire which consumed the apartment in which we'd lived for 24 years.

This year I found that the lumpectomy carried out a year ago wasn't sufficient, so I underwent full mastectomy left breast. That still wasn't sufficient, so a few days ago I underwent re-excision mastectomy and learned that the right breast ought also to be removed in the near future. As I said, insignificant in the great scheme of things, but a bit wearying for yours truly, again, in a month that promises renewal and all things bright and beautiful.

Let us hope, very sincerely, that future Aprils will not continue in this pattern!

Postscript - The post's title uses a thought from T.S. Eliot's poem The Wasteland.

Friday, April 19, 2019

EASTER

Here in the USA, Christmas still seems like Christmas did in the UK (and then some!) Easter doesn't feel the same as it did in the UK.

In England, especially during my quarter century in the civil service, we'd look forward to a welcome Easter break when our office ran on skeleton staff from mid-day on Maundy Thursday to Good Friday around 4pm - then office closed until the Tuesday after Easter Monday - even on Tuesday we'd have a quiet day, because in Leeds most solicitors' offices were traditionally closed on Easter Tuesday. So, not much going on for us in an office connected to legal matters: employment tribunals.

In my younger days, Easter at home meant lots of hot cross buns and simnel cake. My Dad baked both for his small bakery and shop; people formed a line outside to get some of 'em! Dad baked wonderful stuff - a truly talented perfectionist in the bakery he was, bless him.

In the USA, at least in Oklahoma, Easter Monday doesn't seem to exist; Good Friday isn't much different from most other Fridays, apart from extra church services being held. Hot cross buns and simnel cake are not easy to find. I don't like American chocolate, so my old annual treat of a yummy Easter egg has disappeared. But still - it is Easter weekend so...

Wishing y'all, whatever kind of holiday you keep:


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

More Medical Updating

Yesterday, Tuesday 16 April, we had to be at the hospital at 6.30 am to prepare for me to undergo a procedure/surgery : left breast re-excision mastectomy. "Oh, good," thought I on hearing the arrival time, "I bet I'll be the opening act." I was.

Surgery was needed to remove two very tiny (microscopic) spots of potentially cancerous tissue close to the skin, a little way apart, just outside the line of the original incision, only perceptible via microscope. These were discovered during pathology of tissue removed on 2 April during my original mastectomy.

Preparing for the surgery (any surgery at our local hospital, and maybe in all hospitals these days) includes taking three showers using Hibiclens - antiseptic skin cleanser - in a prescribed manner: twice on day before surgery - morning and evening; once on morning of surgery. Freshly laundered towels, washcloths and clothing after each shower. That last shower was fun, timed just before 4 am. I was not playing with a full deck after a mainly sleepless few hours on the recliner, wrangling a dangling drain bottle which kept making a nuisance of itself in the shower! "Using Hibiclens will greatly reduce your risk of developing a staph infection" says the instruction sheet.

No food after midnight, before surgery. That is a direction that doesn't bother me one bit, but it must bother some folks, according to stern warnings on the instruction sheets the hospital provides.

I knew nothing. I was wheeled into the operating theatre, and once shuffled onto the operating table, a nurse applied a mask to my nose and mouth, in preparation for what I think is called intubation, then out I went.

Now...I'm still not 100% sure what was what, but the surgeon had explained that he would need to do a bit of re-aligning of the original incision, from a straight line to a more wavy or angled one, necessitating the move a bit of fleshy tissue from one place to another in order to "pull it all together". I'm still vague about the detail. Later, my husband and other visitors were told by the surgeon that the procedure had "gone well". We were home, amazingly, just after 11.30am. The procedure will probably leave me with a "tight" feeling for a while, but it'll gradually go away with ordinary use of left arm.

Going forward (as they are wont to say in business circles) there will be a few weeks' healing time, with follow-up appointments at surgeon's office, first of which will be on the first of May.

Mastectomy of my right boob is TBA (to be arranged). I'd like to have a few weeks of breathing space, to enjoy what's left of late spring, before summer comes a ragin' in once more, with triple digit temperatures. When it's 103 degrees outside, maybe I'll be glad of the ultra-cold temperatures inside the hospital. Yesterday morn I had 3 warmed blankets atop me and was still shivery cold - 50% temperature 50% nerves, I guess.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Unpleasant Update

I received unpleasant news at my appointment at the surgeon's office on Wednesday afternoon. Pathology shows that there is a little more tissue that needs to be removed where indication of cancerous cells has arisen on the margin of the tissue removed during mastectomy last week. Margins should always be clear. Surgeon will do what he calls re-excision to extract a small amount more tissue and adjust the incision, hopefully then drawing all together. Tricky but doable, he says. Alternative would be to look into possibility of radiation but he'd have to consult others on that. I opted for re-excision.

It'll be an outpatient procedure, on Tuesday, no overnight stay this time.

Here we go again! The incision and drain are still in process of healing from last Tuesday.

More unpleasant news. Surgeon advises having right breast removed, as and when I feel up to it, so that we don't have all these same issues again, a year or so down the line. It isn't a certainty this would happen but it's a clear possibility. I feel this is sensible, and as soon as left-side work is all healed, I shall do as advised. As far as they know, from my mammograms, and breast MRI a few weeks ago, there is no cancer in the right breast at present, so it isn't madly urgent that it be removed, but asap will be preferable, because a few weeks ago these extra cancer cells were not visible on the left side. It'll be for peace of mind as much as anything - and I'll be better balanced when all's done!

(Astrological thought) - I wondered what Pluto and Saturn retrograding over old ground had in store for me - now I know! A few more months of medical hassles still to go!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Escape

“Mother used to say escape is never further than the nearest book.”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
During my early to mid-teenage years I loved to read novels, or see films, about prisoners of war in Germany or Japan during World War II, and their attempts to escape. A book by Paul Brickhill, Boldness Be My Friend began my fandom of such stories, I think. I'd scour the library for similar tales, and found several.

I've wondered why I had this penchant for prisoner of war escape stories. My conclusion has been that, back in my teen years, I was feeling "imprisoned" by school and home strictures and wanted to escape myself. Or...perhaps I just enjoyed reading about the way human nature adapts, sometimes never gives up - no matter what.

Over the years I've loved, read/seen (more than once) versions of A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute; The Great Escape; Stalag whatever; The Naked Island (that was a grizzly one if I recall correctly); Papillon (1973 version) and others whose titles I now don't recall.

At the weekend I noticed that Turner Movie Channel was showing "King Rat" on Saturday afternoon.
King Rat is a 1965 World War II film directed by Bryan Forbes, starring George Segal and James Fox. They play Corporal King and Marlowe, respectively, two World War II prisoners of war in a squalid camp near Singapore. Among the supporting cast are John Mills and Tom Courtenay. The film was adapted from James Clavell's novel King Rat (1962), which in turn is partly based on Clavell's experiences as a POW at Changi Prison during the Second World War.
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/king_rat

We decided to give the movie a whirl. It's an excellent, excellent film - should be much better known! There's a lot more to it than a straightforward POW movie. Escaping isn't an issue in this tale; escape would be virtually impossible due to the geographical situation of the Changi prison camp. The film examines the varied attitudes of individuals to the camp's horrendous circumstances; different psychological ways of dealing with what has to be dealt with. Acting is first class throughout, and many familiar faces (especially familiar to British viewers) pop up frequently.

James Clavell's book is now on my "to read" list - once I get through Winston Graham's 12 Poldark novels of which I'm currently in the midst. 1945 Changi, Singapore will offer quite a culture shock after so many tales of 18th century Cornwall, England!