Monday, November 26, 2007

Communication Challenges

Locked-In Syndrome

"Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Movie Theater Release - 11/30/07

Health Care System Weaknesses

Imagine what life would be like if we were unable to talk, make sounds, gesture with our hands, but we hear, see and understand people. We know what is happening to us, perceive circumstances and activities around us. Basically, we're just "locked-in" our mind, without voice, presumed to be unable to communicate and maybe thought of as a mental vegetable.

This sudden circumstance presents the communication challenge which has faced a New Jersey, U.S.A. husband and father, Steve Chiappa, since 2001
and a New Zealand Rugby player, Nick Chisholm, since 2000.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
describes this Locked-in Syndrome as "...a rare neurological disorder characterized by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles in all parts of the body except for those that control eye movement. It may result from traumatic brain injury, diseases of the circulatory system, diseases that destroy the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells, or medication overdose. Individuals with locked-in syndrome are conscious and can think and reason, but are unable to speak or move. The disorder leaves individuals completely mute and paralyzed. Communication may be possible with blinking eye movements..."

You can refer to The Association for Locked-In Syndrome - French which is written in English, too, for additional information.
This locked-in syndrome is also the focus of a book I read shortly after publication years ago. It's written by a man who actually lived the experience which he describes in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, also known as "Le Scaphandre et le Papillon."

The years since my reading, I've followed the evolution of the book to film. Finally this true story is scheduled to be released into motion picture theaters November 30, 2007.

I experience trepidation about viewing any movie based on a book I view as exceptionally unique in writing and content as I do this one. All too often there is little resemblance between the book and film. I hope this film's translation depicts the author's experience realistically, effectively describes the arduous, tedious acquisition of his communication skills, though he was unable to speak or gesture, and conveys the narrative power of his words.

Australia's Radio National host Robyn Williams, a science journalist, on his broadcast transcript of "ockham's razor"
says "'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' must be one of the most extraordinary books ever written - if written is the right word. Jean-Dominique Bauby was trapped in his paralysed body - the diving bell - in which his mind flew like a butterfly. He was locked in." (Italics and bold print added)

From the book cover:
"In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

"By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.

"Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. This book is a lasting testament to his life."

An extract of the book is provided with this link.

Assoc. Prof. Roger Rees, Director, Institute for the Study of Learning Difficulties, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide is quoted in the Robyn Williams broadcast transcript noted above, reading this excerpt from Bauby's writing:

"I am fading away, slowly, but surely. Like the sailor who watches his home shore gradually disappear, I watch my past recede. My own life still burns within me, but more of it is reduced to the ashes of memory. Since taking up life in my cocoon, I have made two brief trips to the world of Paris medicine to hear the verdict pronounced on me from medical heights. I shed a few tears as we passed the corner cafe where I used to drop in for a bite. I can weep discreetly, yet the professionals think my eye is watering."

Rees also asks a question we might ask: how many people are there in hospital beds who receive no stimulation, are not recognized as individuals with intact minds, who might still be able to contribute if only their talents were recognized?

Here is a link to an extensive account of then 23 year old New Zealand rugby player, Nick Chisholm's experience in 2000 with locked-in syndrome. His journey, living with the syndrome is described in much more detail along with ethical issues involved.

Steve Chiappa describes on his web site being able to fight his way back into the communicating world having been given a Locked-In Syndrome diagnosis, due largely to the efforts of his family as he reports on his web site.

This New Jersey, U.S.A. husband and father of four grown children has written that at 52 years of age "On Christmas eve 2001 {I} received an early Christmas present, a severe brainstem stroke which left me with a condition known as Locked In Syndrome. At first I was completely unresponsive and unable to breathe on my own." He continues by describing becoming more alert, but he experienced a lack of recognition and acceptance by medical staff that a mentally functioning person resided in his body. What a nightmare of frustration that must have presented him as it would anyone.

Steve Chiappa states the reason for starting his web site is to provide information and hope for those who have received the locked-in syndrome diagnosis he received. Perhaps family, friends and loved ones searching the Internet for information will find him. He provides an email address for contact.

He also says:

"We often think that we are living in a society that provides the best, most advanced medical care available. Get ready for some pretty grim realities.

"Our healthcare system is ill-equipped to handle anything that requires long term treatment."

I know this to be all too true for individuals experiencing any of the large spectrum of communication problems and/or also cognitive deficits. Rehabilitation therapy services in all disciplines have been and continue to be reduced in our U.S. health care system. Most people are unaware of this situation until such time as they personally need the service(s) or have a friend or loved one who does.

Changes in our present health care system, or formulation of a new system, will require careful monitoring of any plan devised to insure further cuts are not surreptitiously incorporated in the final draft. Then there's the fine print that slides by unnoticed by most, as happened with Medicare Part B services some years ago.

Each of three therapy disciplines (Physical, Occupational, Speech) was intended to have a funding cap. The cap itself presents another whole issue relative to long term care needs of some. However, the final adopted criteria with the new limits deviated from the intended funding for each of the three disciplines to have separate caps. Instead, a shared cap between two of them was interpreted (Physical and Speech Therapy.) Efforts to correct this error and inequity have since been repeatedly rejected by legislators.

The fact of this disregard of original intent confirms to me that any health care system plan adopted, better be written carefully and exactly as intended before passage, as the likelihood of corrective adjustment afterword may be quite remote. Such fine print also needs to include the requirement for timely delivery of all medical services, as I have written about previously.

Assessment by a certified Speech-Language Pathologist is highly recommended for any infant, child or adult at any age for whom there is a communication problem, including those who have a locked-in syndrome diagnosis. In the U.S.A. contact the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) for referral to an ASHA certified professional. Solely in the interest of disclosure I should acknowledge this is my profession. All opinions and views expressed here are personal and my own.

Following are the links repeated from above:

Accounts of Individuals Living With Locked-In Syndrome
Steve Chiappa, New Jersey, U.S.A. Husband and Father

Nick Chisholm, New Zealand Rugby Player

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

Movie Theater Release 11/30/07
Web site:

Association for Locked-In Syndrome - French (also in English)

Elle Magazine

Friday, November 23, 2007

H.R.1955 - Thought Crime Assault Bill

Read at "Time Goes By" about why passage of this bill, now having been forwarded to the Senate, is of such concern and must be prevented with its present wording. But it is that wording that should alarm every citizen. The possibility of setting up a commission that can police thought is an assault on our personal liberties. The bill's potential is that if we disagree with government policies, we could be subject to this law as it is written, despite wording supposedly giving assurance otherwise.

This amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002 titled the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007, designated H.R.1955 was overwhelming approved by the House of Representatives 23 October by a 404 to 6 vote. Rep. Jane Harmon {Dem-CA} sponsored this bill. Only six members of the House of Representatives voted against the bill. I still have not read anything in the mainstream press about the issues this bill presents which elicits concerns, also.

The degree of my concern is such that I mention this issue again to urge everyone to contact their Congress persons to determine why they voted for this bill and protest their having done so. Most important now is to contact our Senators to protest the passage of this bill, since they are the final legislative group to consider it. The Bill, if passed by the Senate would then require only the President's signature to become law, and there is no reason to believe he would not do so.

I strongly urge everyone who is not familiar with this issue to follow this link to Ronni Bennett's "Time Goes By" blog feature - H.R. 1955 Thought Crime Index. She has objectively and succinctly assessed the bill, and why we citizens should all make every effort to prevent this amendments passage and enactment into law. Pros and cons are discussed in comments there. A direct link to the bill is provided so you can read the actual written language that is of concern.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving !

This 2007 holiday season has arrived much more quickly than I could have imagined. I am sure many are scurrying around making preparations for Thursday's feast -- turkey, ham, prime rib, pork roast, roast beef, filet mignon, tamales ... whatever your favorite. By the way, what is your favorite?

I visualize scenes on Thanksgiving Day that conjure many happy memories of times spent with family and friends, hope you do the same. Make some new memories this year.

T h a n k s g i v i n g H o l i d a y

B e s t
w i s h e s
t o
e v e r y o n e !

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wait Until Next Year

Rivalry Continues

Special Orchestral Music Score
Samples - Film and Television

You'll have to read the previous post to fully appreciate this, but thought I'd best give an update. The Ohio State University Buckeyes football team did win the game! I know the celebration behind those pearly gates for my husband and his sister must be spectacular. Guess they must have finally coordinated their coaching techniques so the team could do their best. They've probably resumed fussin' though, about the fact the Buc's hedged on the offer for them to play in this season's January '08 Rose Bowl -- once the Big Ten Conference college football Holy Grail of Bowl games. Now there's a Bowl game for the national championship even grander to which college football teams aspire.

I can't really gloat about this Buc's win, because I hear from my Michigan side-of-the-family source (who's feeling quite glum) that the Wolverines didn't come even close to playing their best. The team is not hiding behind the fact the weather was lousy in Ann Arbor either, 'cause this time of year such weather, and even worse, is always a possibility, whether this game is played in Michigan or the Buckeye's home, Columbus, Ohio. What I'm hearing is "Wait until next year!" in true rivalry fashion.

Now, I have a confession to make about the night/wee morning hours when I finished writing that previous blog. I heard the sound of the morning papers smacking the concrete driveway as they were tossed from the black SUV which barely slowed as it passed my house. I thought I might as well bring in the papers, so I put my robe on over my warm flannel P.J.'s I had put on earlier in the evening when I readied for bed before writing that previous blog post. I grabbed my car keys that have the panic button, as I always do when I go out in the wee hours, though there are lights on the house entrance and street. The panic button is just precautionary as we have had various wildlife visit during those hours.

I fantasize should I encounter any unfriendly wildlife, the sudden noise of my car alarm might serve to deter any aggressive creature actions, at least long enough for me to get back inside the house. I don't mind encountering raccoons, opossums, the occasional house cat, but I've seen skunks, coyotes and know mountain lions, bobcats, even bears are potential rare visitors. Should the unwanted two legged human creature variety suddenly appear I figure my panic alarm would arouse help since our neighborhood is not over-exposed to the sounds of security and car alarms.

The brisk night air had an awakening effect as I walked through the welcomed creatureless slightly lighted dark, gathering the papers, then returning to the house's warmer interior. Feeling very alert, I decided to fix an early breakfast, a glass of pulpy orange juice, a microwave poached egg with soft yolk, whole wheat toast with a dab of blackberry jam on one slice, a bowl of fresh mixed fruit, and I brewed a pot of green tea. Quite awake after eating my special breakfast (usually it's oatmeal topped with just strawberries, blueberries, or some other single fruit,) I began leisurely reading the papers.

The next thing I knew it was only an hour or so before game time. I didn't dare go to sleep then, or I'd never wake up. So I poured myself some more tea, lamenting the fact I had allowed myself to pull this all nighter. I also felt sort of excited about doing so, as I always do whenever I stay up all night, like I'm doing something I shouldn't, but smug in the knowledge I can do as I please 'cause the next day's schedule is mine to change anyway I want.

I watched the first half of the game, no "Script Ohio" with the band at the beginning. Perhaps the statistic spewing talking heads at half-time would be silenced long enough to air some performance of either University band, but that was not to be -- at least while I was watching. By this time I was reclining on the sofa with a cozy warm blanket over me. Somehow, probably during a commercial, my eyelids drooped, closed and got stuck in that position.

The next thing I knew when they re-opened, two entirely different teams were playing football. Furthermore, I had to wait quite some time before I learned the final score of the game I had stayed up all night to watch. Expect my husband was too busy coaching his Bucs from on high to have noticed I had fallen asleep. Had he known, he would have arranged for bolts of lightening, or at least rolling waves of thunder to hover over our home to visually and auditorily express his shock and disbelief my adrenalin was at such a low level I could possibly sleep.

You might want to go to the previous post just to visit those YouTube marching band links. I don't have a musical link for John Tategenhorst's arrangement of OSU's "Hang On Sloopy" rally song, though you can read the lyrics. I'm confident if I had heard the bands I would have aroused to see the game's second half. Wonder if I'll feel compelled to watch this game again next year?

I just discovered and listened to excerpts from some of John's music. Included are some film and television scores, arrangements he's done for John Williams and Erich Kunzel. You can listen to John's music samples at his web site by clicking here: "John Tatgenhorst Music, Inc."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rivalry at the 50 Yard Line

Affected by Siblings
in Heaven ?

Who in their right mind wants to crawl out of bed at nine o'clock on a Saturday morning just to watch a football game on television? For reasons beyond my ken, I'm likely going to do just that a little later this morning. So what if it's a long time rivalry between two famous teams, the Ohio State University Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines. I think viewing a football game at that early morning hour seems a bit strange, but due to the three hour time difference between many Big Ten Conference Team locales and West Coast time, that's when the game starts. Starting that early can make for a really long day of football in many households as it once did here, for my husband, but he thrived on what would have been sports overload for me.

These football teams are each others arch enemy. They can be counted on to upset the other's winning streaks in any given year, so it should be an exciting game. For the second year since my husband's death, I find myself drawn to watching this game on television on his behalf, I guess, for reasons I do not understand. I just cannot excise this game from my thoughts since learning the action is to be televised locally. The last time we saw Ohio State play was in San Diego some years ago at the Fiesta Bowl. Their appearance triggered so many memories for me at that time, I actually got a bit weepy-eyed when Ohio State's famous marching band took the field forming their unique "Script Ohio" (see a YouTube video) -- an old friend, Merv Durea, had once earned the honor of "dotting" the "i" in Ohio. Later during the game the band launched into John Tatgenhorst's popular arrangement of "Hang On Sloopy" -- more memories for me of our flying days when that OSU alumnus and his young wife joined us on a flying trip to the Sandusky /Lake Erie area of the Great Lakes.

You see, the Buckeye's were my husband's favorite team, as might be expected of an OSU alumnus who spent so many years living in the Buckeye's home town. He likely might have had an Ohio State football scholarship the fall after he graduated from high school, had it not been for two significant factors. World War II caused OSU's athletic program to be placed on hold and he was diagnosed with a serious medical problem requiring his lengthy hospitalization. Many years later when we met and married, the team's horseshoe shaped football stadium sometimes accommodated us in the stands. We watched as their fabled coach, Woody Hayes, repeatedly guided the team to victory through primarily ground play -- a running game characterized as "ten yards and a cloud of dust."

A few years later when we moved to the West, one of the great disappointments my husband experienced was his inability to regularly view his Big Ten Conference OSU Buckeyes on TV. Even the local Los Angeles Times newspaper sports pages relegated news of his team to very little commentary, if any at all. For reasons he did not want to accept, the college and university teams of the area in which we lived always took priority gaining press attention over his Buckeyes. His sister, commiserating with his plight, sent him a game program after attending each year's opening home game, clipped all sorts of newspaper clippings regarding the team and sent them to him. National networks often televised Ohio State's games, but they were not aired in our region, again catering to local preferences, much to his displeasure. So, when such a game was actually available to view here, my husband's plans revolved around the start time schedule for the event. Perhaps I'm conditioned now to do the same, at least this year again, I guess.

Ohio State's undefeated season last year was one my husband had longed for them to experience for many years. When that finally happened, I couldn't help wondering if somehow where he resides now, behind those pearly gates, he was able to exercise some ethereal influence that enabled the team's success. Unfortunately, he must have been distracted when they later played that bowl game that didn't turn out quite right. But that was last season.

A few weeks ago, his sister, an equally or even more avid Ohio State fan joined him. She was in her eighties, attended home games religiously with their season tickets even after her husband died. I think she and her brother (my husband) are putting their heads together in an effort to enable this team to have another winning season. The Buckeye team has had an unexpectedly spectacular season until being upset in their most recent game. I have to tell you I think that loss happened because he and his sister are butting heads as siblings sometimes do. They're still trying to agree on what various individual players need to do to improve their game. More importantly, I suspect their individual views are quite divergent on how best to coach this team to another winning season. I surely do hope they've gotten their differences worked out, 'because game time is fast approaching as I write this.

I must get to bed now, because I want to see the very opening of the game's televised coverage, just in case that's when the Ohio State Marching Band plays, and performs(see YouTube Video) the "Script Ohio" formation.(See YouTube Video.) I'd prefer to see all the bands at half-time, but corporate greed dictates the television network programs video clips of other games that viewers could easily wait to see later and talking heads spew their replay analysis with statistics during that time. (See YouTube Video University of Michigan Marching Band at a half time Rose Bowl performance.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Healthcare for All

with Timely Service Delivery

Veterans Care Idea

(This note added after post was published: Thanks to Nancy for providing this link to Kevin Ferris' 11/10/07 Philadelphia Inquirer article titled "A son's pain leads a father to call for help for the VA" documenting the idea source below. This article very effectively describes what too many of our veterans experience in their efforts to seek needed care.)

My Veterans Day post elicited some interesting comments deserving of further thought. Here are some matters which have been on my mind for some time.

A comment from Nancy from Pennsylvania (blog not known, or she may not have one) noted:

"Some of our young men and women are waiting months for appointments at the VA hospitals around the country. While they wait, they often suffer."

This "waiting" is a critical issue for me, as is the "suffer" from the delay. This is true not just for our veterans, but for all our current health care services, and for whatever system we may adopt in the future. Timely delivery of medical services is vital to optimize recovery and minimize deterioration.

Veterans definitely require timely deliver of medical care. Also, any consideration we give to modifying our current health care system, and certainly all plans for a national health care system, must ensure timely delivery of services, whether or not the ailment is life threatening.

My information gathering for several recent years about universal health care systems in other countries (Great Britain, Canada) is on a first person anecdotal level -- from young to elder adults. The one consistent criticism with their systems is with the care delay in many non-life threatening situations. The reports are of long waits "a year or more" for medical care/service for what is considered "elective surgery" i.e. joint, hip replacement surgery and many other non-cosmetic services that can seriously deteriorate with time from a bad situation to worse or more. A few months ago one individual I met reported, in reference to undue service delays, "...not just one year, but two!" This young woman added, "I should know, because I work for the NHS." (National Healthcare System in Great Britain)

I am not writing this in opposition to adopting a national healthcare system in the USA. The lack of healthcare for too many people in this country is a blight on our nation, sad commentary on our society, and heart-breakingly tragic for those parents, children, families, friends, neighbors, others, when they have need. I know of several individuals, in their midlife years, who are only a step away from losing their home, being forced into bankruptcy, should a medical problem require hospitalization and surgeries. The job they hold to pay what insurance they currently can afford would possibly be lost. Or, they might not even be able to perform their previous work if they are able to return following recovery.

I simply want to clearly define at least one of the features I consider essential to any healthcare system we adopt in this country -- timely delivery of services and not just for life-threatening medical problems. I wonder what features are considered vital by others?

Incidentally, (and this is hardly an incidental matter since I'm in this group,) those with what they believe currently to be good insurance coverage and medical service from their doctors, (my primary coverage is Medicare supported by a private supplemental plan,) would be well-advised to recognize we are not immune from possible less desirable health care changes in the years ahead as rising health care costs continue unabated.

I have read numerous reliably documented reports that an increasing number of physicians are refusing to accept Medicare insurance-covered patients. In fact, I have reason to believe I experienced this denial in one instance when I had to seek a specialist a few months ago. I was accepted at another specialist's office, but never saw him, only his nurse practitioner.

The question might be, to what extent does the fact that Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians are being decreased influence these physician actions? The rate decrease is noted in this American Medical Association's Patients Action Network report.

The issues I've mentioned here are only a few threads extracted from the healthcare coverage cloak in which we all want to wrap ourselves, so that we each can have the care we desire and deserve in this wealthy nation of ours. We certainly do need to continue to dialogue about these topics and others which readers might suggest.

One of those threads, Nancy mentioned in her comment, was a possible way to ensure our veterans receive the healthcare to which they are entitled. Here's what she wrote:

"A local activist here in Pennsylvania has a suggestion that he hopes will be put into action in relief of these veterans.

"His plan is for every Doctor in the country to "Adopt" a veteran to take care of. Just think, the young man or woman who needs help would be treated locally by a Doctor who would have a sincere interest in him/her.No long waits for appointments with a hassled Doctor at the VA who has hundreds of others to take care of at the same time. The local Doctor would become a friend, healer and champion of the vet who needs him .

"What do you think? Would it work?"

My response, Nancy, is anything is possible, but probable is another question. I'm not a Doctor, so I will not presume to surmise what the medical profession's reaction to this idea might be. I believe the local activist would be wise to consult with some doctors as to the viability of such an undertaking, to understand the pros and cons of the matter, if the activist has not already done so. If this idea has any realistic expectation of being adopted, I would think the local activist's best chance for successful implementation will be by obtaining the physicians' support. If the activist gains a Doctor(s) support, then perhaps the plan could be undertaken on a small scale. The idea seems simple and workable enough on the surface, but I think the layers in making it function are more complex.

I would certainly welcome others ideas on Nancy's question and on other healthcare issues, whether or not mentioned here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Deserve Quality Medical Care and for Citizens to Vote

Thank You, Veterans !

Veteran's Day is the annual occasion when we honor our U.S.A. armed forces for their dedication to preserving our freedoms, sometimes risking their lives. Some other countries recognize their veterans with the Nov. 11th date named Armistice Day, as originally designated at the conclusion of World War I. (See archives for the Nov. 11, 2006 post.)

Many Americans, including some of my family members, were veterans of WWI which was centered in Europe. The horrific consequences of the weapons used, including destructive bombs and effects of chemicals/gas led many people to believe war would never again occur.

Then years later, the unthinkable happened when the U.S.A.'s military troops were directly assaulted in Hawaii. World War II escalated until most people everywhere were eventually embroiled in some way. Many in our country had family members who volunteered to serve as did mine. Everyone was convinced at the climax of this nightmarish conflagration and holocaust, that this was the war that ended all wars, that genocide would never again happen. How mistaken we were.

I do believe that the sacrifices made by our armed forces during WWII are directly responsible for the fact our country continued to exist as the free democracy/republic our constitution's creators intended. For this reason I accord special tribute to those WWII surviving veterans whose numbers diminish daily, as well as to those who live only in spirit now.

The wars did not end, though we sometimes sidestep use of the word, "war." So it was that we engaged in a "Police Action" in Korea. Those who died, the maimed, the survivors might well attest that the actions during that confrontation seemed quite identical to those of war.

The next major bloody action in which lives were forever altered occurred in Viet Nam. So many lives were lost, others survived with many becoming "walking wounded." Our servicemen and women have been asked to serve in various locations around the world in peace-keeping efforts since then. They have exposed themselves to death's potential and some have made that final sacrifice representing our nation.

Even now, as I write this, our country has increased veterans numbers by embroiling them in war in Afghanistan and Iraq with all the tragedy that entails. Whatever is each individuals view of this latest war, I honor those who have had to fulfill their military commitment in the manner of veterans before them.

All veterans, in the U.S.A. and around the world, have made sacrifices in the name of their country. Some have given their lives, others have survived, some with remaining injuries of outward physical and/or mental change, some with inner wounds invisible to the eye.

I believe as a nation our people should be insistent that our veterans receive not only initial optimum timely medical care, but continued long term therapeutic interventions needed to maximize their quality of life. I am greatly distressed whenever I become aware veterans have not received the highest level of care as media and government reports have revealed this past year.

I fervently urge our legislators and government to ensure all our veterans receive the medical care promised them and of which they are so deserving. The very least each of us can do is to lobby our government on our veterans behalf, insisting on this medical care and the immediate correction of any problems associated with its provision.

We also honor our veterans when we acquaint ourselves with local, state, national and international issues that affect all our lives, then express our views by voting on election days. Our veterans have offered their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. In return, our responsibility is to vote in elections, a small act compared to the actions we've required of our veterans.

Thank you, again, veterans !

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Legislation Assaults Personal Liberties

"Thought Crime Bill Passes House"

is the title of Ronni Bennett's Tuesday, 06 November 2007 post at

"Time Goes By."

She reports this bill is:

"Designated H.R.1955 and titled the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2007, it is an amendment to the Homeland Security Act of 2002"

I strongly urge anyone who has not read the alarm she sounds to do so by connecting to her blog on the link highlighted above.

Please contact your congresspersons to prevent the bill's becoming law if you care about our personal freedoms, preserving our democracy and constitution.

Coincidentally, without having read her post I had just written in my previous post here about prior unsatisfactory communication experiences with my congressperson. I will make my views known in the hopes this time they will receive serious consideration.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Politicians Communication Shortcomings

Have you communicated lately via letter, phone, email with some entity you didn't know regarding business, eliciting a request for information, or expressing an opinion on important social and political issues?

I have infrequently done all of the above through the years, but probably not often enough to any one person that they would remember me from one time to the next. I would estimate that anywhere from eighty to ninety percent of the time, the responses I receive are generally timely and satisfactory. But then, there are those others.

I've been thinking about writing my congressperson, even though I'm pretty confident he is going to toe his political party line on behalf of big business on the matter about which I'm interested. I just can't help thinking, maybe -- just maybe -- he really did perceive the message voters sent that the policies he has been promoting these past seven years have quite fallen out of favor with many more of his supporters, and my views just might be worth paying more attention to now. I suppose his giving credence to my views is just too much to hope for, but hope springs eternal for me. Actually, hope seems to be about all with which I'm left on so many issues today.

The reason I'm hesitating about contacting him is my past experience of doing so has been very frustrating and confusing. This once quite powerful U.S. House Representative, when his political party was in control, I guess has been ill-served by his aides, at least in how they've communicated with me on his behalf. Yes, I do receive replicated hand-written form responses from him, but I don't quite know what to make of them. The content is often very non-specific, and all too often even unrelated to the subject matter of my query.

The first time this happened, I thought it must be a mistake, confusing my message with another's. Then, after such instances repeated through the years, on a variety of different topics, I decided differently. I could only conclude there was no real interest in my issue and wondered what statistical category and pile for form letters my message got tossed into. I wondered what information his aides were really giving him about constituents' communiques. Apparently, all I really accomplished was giving his office an excuse to send me whatever written agenda he was promoting at the time, for that is all I received, along with his thanks for my having contacted him in the first place.

I don't know what you think, but I would rather have no response, than an obviously mechanized one that couldn't even be considered utilitarian since the subject matter was unrelated to my query. I do wonder, if others perceive they are more successful having their views and opinions given serious consideration by those who profess to represent their interests?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Living In Place Complications

Technology is carefully interrelated in such a manner today that I find once I succumb to using one tech item, sooner or later I must adopt another, ad infinitum. Frankly, I think I can hear conversations exchanged between all these communication devices. Today, I think I heard a cell phone I was using chuckling with the ATM which had tricked me, over what a fool I'd been made of, and now the borrowed cell phone (since I didn't yet have one of my own) was going to rescue me from my dilemma, thus proving how we humans cannot survive without any of them.

My day began innocently enough as I awakened to the sound of grass being mowed, hedges being trimmed and power blowers chasing leaves, all manned by those hired to aid those less able to do all that themselves. I remember as a young girl the days before all this power equipment and having to use an old-fashioned push mower -- I was the power. I have no nostalgia to return to those days. Once I had a home of my own, my husband and I (mostly my husband) prided ourselves in performing our own yard care as did our neighbors.

Then, something happened in our neighborhood. We all became older or health changes occurred. Next thing we knew the better part of wisdom dictated letting someone else perform those yard care tasks. Gone are the days when the neighborhood boys wanted to earn a few extra dollars, so we could hire them to assist with yard care to supplement their newspaper delivery route income. Boys don't even deliver newspapers anymore, adults deliver the papers now from their cars. Even teenage girls are rarely available for babysitting, for by the time they're old enough and mature enough for that responsibility as sophomore to senior high school students, they no longer are interested in such employment. I'm told babysitters today are often Jr. High School age girls from sixth grade through ninth. I would never have allowed a child that young to sit with my babies and young children.

But I digress as I am prone to do. I retrieved the morning papers from the drive, noticing this was a lovely warm Southern California Fall day. The sky was blue, now, streaked with white clouds, a delight to the eye, compared to the dirty tan and ashy gray we had seen with the recent Southern California fires. The atmosphere appeared clear, but I knew invisible particles and respiratory irritants were still present in the outdoor air, since my voice continues to acquire an every so slight raspy quality daily with much exposure to outdoor air. The fires east of here are still not quite contained.

As I readied for my day, I took personal pleasure in the fact I had planned and executed well some routine periodic tasks the day before, involved in caring for my auto, such as the regular oil change, tires rotated, a cleansing wash and wax to rid the exterior of damaging ashes plus any other residue from recent fires, along with having the auto interior cleaned. They also washed all the little round yellow drops off the surface of my car. Just as a side note, I've been wondering for weeks what the round yellow drops were. I just read in the L. A. Times that research had confirmed they were from bees and were pollen associated, but not as everyone had thought. They were in fact: bee "poop" processed pollen. Who knew.

I decided on breakfast out, taking along my usual newspaper to read, which was my plan following performing a number of errands before going to work around the lunch time hours. Prior to leaving the house I had completed my regular end of the month reports and paperwork which I would copy at the nearby printer, then drop off at our local office. With some errands completed, I cheerfully arrived at the ATM, inserted my card, entered the requested information as usual, then inserted the check I definitely wanted credited to my account that day. I also needed to withdraw some cash from my account.

On the screen, up jumped the little flashing dots that raced one after the other horizontally in front of me, then started over again, while the printed message above said "Processing..." Nothing more happened after that, the "processing" continued with those increasingly maddening little flashing dots repetitively racing nowhere. Finally, striking the "Cancel" key in an attempt to retrieve my card and check, I discovered, nothing changed -- "Processing" and those now irritating flashing dots continued as before.

What to do? I wasn't about to leave the machine with my card and check inside, my account open, should the ATM suddenly finish processing and spit them all back out, leaving my account exposed for whoever might appear there next. Several people came by, but beat a hasty retreat as soon as I explained there appeared to be a cash machine malfunction. They turned a deaf ear to my queries about how to get to a phone to report this dilemma to the bank while safeguarding my ATM card and check lost inside the machine. Privately, I dreaded making the phone call, as I knew it meant reaching a recorded message offering me umpteen different choices from which to select and then after a likely interminably long wait, to actually talk with a human being (probably on the other side of this continent, but, hopefully, not outside the country.)

Finally, some good hearted soul came by, was sympathetic to my plight, offered me her cell phone without my asking. Later I learned she was a nurse on her lunch hour which I inadvertently caused her to spend with me. Who says health care workers are insensitive to other people any more? As expected, the bank person I reached with the cell phone was located elsewhere and was quite unfamiliar with my community. I carefully made certain he didn't mix up the name of my city with another pronounced the same but spelled differently, as I had long ago learned the hard way was a mistake often made by others with undesired results.

This bank representative elicited needed personal information, so I'm spewing out my most private security data to which the cell phone lender was privy. (There is no privacy any more as someone keeps telling me, and I keep getting convinced regularly.) The Rep then gave me assurance my deposited official bank check would be credited to my account at the end of the day when they closed out the machine, thus covering checks previously written for which I did not want to be overdrawn. My card having been devoured by the ATM would be cancelled and I would receive a new one within days in the mail.

I repeated what an earlier party who had stopped by the ATM to commiserate with me (but could offer no further assistance,) advised me to do, simply because I liked the way what he said sounded and it made me feel more in control. I told the bank official I would hold the bank personally responsible for any charges that might occur against my account as a consequence of this if all he promised didn't happen and I incurred financial loss.

Then, just when I thought the matter was finished, the bank person transferred me to another employee, to which I had the joy and pleasure (I am being sarcastic) of going through much of this again -- their "Loss and Claims Dept." or some such title. Whatever happened to the days when one employee could take care of everything? I normally would have been writing employee names and promises down, but was unable to do so, and by this time the poor nurse is telling me, "I have to go back to work now," so she needed her phone returned. As she quickly departed, I didn't even get her name or where she worked to offer more than the verbal "thanks" I gave her. I sure hope she had lunch before she came to do her banking which she obviously didn't get to complete.

This is about the third new ATM model installed in this location as they keep "improving"(?) them. Well, I haven't liked this latest model from the beginning, partially because there's much less privacy since it takes any checks that are being deposited, then displays them on the big screen, anyone around could easily see. After this little event today off I went to complete more of my errands, including a newly added stop at my bricks and mortar bank to which that ATM belongs. Also, by going there, I increased my comfort level by double checking to see if I needed to advise my "real" bank directly, as I think of the "bricks and mortar" one, to insure no problem (there was no need to do so, I learned.) I finally got that extra cash I needed. I decided to provide my assessment of this new ATM -- a not very pleasant appraisal -- to my friendly local banker while I was there.

Imagine my surprise when he commiserated with me, saying he had managed to keep that new ATM model from replacing the several directly outside the bank because he had learned the new model had entirely too many unresolved problems. He said he hopes by stalling, that within the next few months they'll get the problems with this new model resolved, because he knows that model will ultimately be installed everywhere. Whatever happened to working out technical machine problems BEFORE putting them into use? They seem to do a lot of that premature releasing of tech equipment -- letting customers work out the bugs.

My banker advised me not to use that ATM any more that I used today, or others placed out like that (it's in the front of what was my deli in a solid connected series of store fronts in a small shopping center.) He also said to avoid the lone standing ATMs in stores or elsewhere, instead to transact ATM business through my grocery store check out clerk. Or, come directly to his and other brick and mortar buildings using their ATMs, or the tellers inside the bank.

I said having to drive myself now for banking, defeated my carefully laid plans for later life independence. First the bank did away with my brick and mortar branch, then they finally put in this ATM 'cause so many people complained. Now, I learn it's best to avoid that ATM. I told him I had discovered not long ago, my residence was positioned so that I was located within walking distance of just about every service I might need, should I ever reach a point where driving a car was no longer possible, and that I liked the idea of living in place as I aged.

I added, I thought it was quite likely that a number of increasingly aging adults were also interested in aging in place. Therefore, we need nearby good safe reliable places whereby we can transact our banking business. I didn't mention my bank wasn't the first to thwart my goal, since a few years ago my local deli closed, which is where they put this ATM and gave the rest of the building to the last thing we needed -- a nail salon and tanning booth.

He suggested I should consider banking on line, and he would like to teach me how to do so securely. Maybe the time has come to check into that, too. Not all checks can be deposited automatically though, nor can I retrieve cash from my computer,so guess I still will need to get to my bank sometimes. I expect to be able to do so for a lot of years to come, but you never know what can happen. Can't plan too far ahead these days, so who knows what will develop with my expectation to live in place here in my home, or how the neighborhood will evolve.

I don't like the idea of banking in my supermarket, but... I guess I'd better consider investigating banking online, but ... I think before this year ends I'll get a cell phone, but... I don't really need it that much and I still want to keep my land line. Did I mention right after the ATM fiasco I walked two doors down and picked up a cell phone catalog at my local Verizon store, co-incidentally re-opened today, and listened to the salesman's pitch? I'll consult with my kids for the real scoop.

I'm not going to use that ATM anymore, but... do you think it knew that I didn't like it? Was there some sort of conspiracy in the airwaves between the cell phones in the re-opened store and the ATM? Then, I remembered the date 10/31/07 -- that the day was Halloween. Those darn goblins! The way things were going, I decided not to go out to the pumpkin patch last night to watch for "The Great Pumpkin," just in case the goblins might turn up there. Maybe next year.