Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Concert Journal Part V: The Best

I have been holding off on this one because I just know that I will forget to mention some great concert, and remember it shortly after posting. Still, I've got to try.

Two of the best concerts have already been mentioned. A-ha, from my series on the first concerts I attended, and Presidents of the United States of America, from shows at the Crystal (though I saw them at the Rose Festival too).

I can't rule out that part of A-ha's appeal was how much I loved them, and how young and new I was. Still, I'm not sure that I loved them that much more than Charlie Sexton, and I still knew his concert was not as good. The energy was high, Morten was flirting with all of us all night. (Can someone tell Chris Carrabba that playing to teenage girls does not have to be boring?) They were awesome, and as disappointing as it was that they did not come anywhere accessible on their farewell tour, at least I had that.

The Presidents are just fun. Maybe removing the extra strings from their instruments gives them more time for awesomeness, or maybe it's that they don't take themselves that seriously. Energy of the crowd is one thing, but the energy of that band is something else. If Chris Ballew had any more energy, they would need to tether him to the stage.

There's a lot to be said for showmanship. Googoo Dolls wasn't a bad show, but it was almost more like watching a jam session. Johnnie and Robby were riffing off each other, and sometimes they would remember to look for us, but at times it was just a little flat. Now change that to Third Eye Blind. I mention them together because there were a lot of similarities in venue and audience and so on. The difference was that Stephan Jenkins lived for us! He was all about the audience and that made a better show.

That was one of the great things about the Psychedelic Furs, which is largely giving props to Richard Butler. He didn't have a lot of "business" (like Stephan came into one of the balconies, and had a hat)--all Richard did was pretty much the same dancing and jumping, which had kind of a nerd vibe, actually. But he was just so happy to be there! You could feel it, and it made us feel good. Really, if rock stars can't enjoy their work, who can?

With a really great show, even previous rules may not apply. For example, I was at a punk show, on the floor with no seats (not in the moshing area, though there was one), but it was Green Day and it was awesome! I don't even know what was going on with the puppets, but somehow it worked. Talk about your audience attention--Billie Joe was so careful to not leave anyone out he mooned one half of the audience, wriggled his pants back up, went to the other side of the stage, and repeated for the other half. Okay, I could have done without that, but don't you see? He was there for us.

One of my more fun reads this year has been Rob Sheffield's "Talking to Girls About Duran Duran", so it seems appropriate to end on them. One thing he pointed out was that there is always some band or singer teen girls scream over, but then they want the guys to respect them, so they take on a harder edge and lose their fan base. Duran Duran was always perfectly happy to be entertaining the girls--there is no guilt in their pleasure.

So, when the original five reunited came on the stage and just stood there, basking in it for a moment before they played, it did not matter how many years I am removed from teenager, or that they are not even in my top bands, and that my sisters and friends have always liked Duran Duran more than me. I was a girl and they owned me. And it was a great show.

Mosiah 7-9
12784 steps

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Concert Journal Part IV: I Love You, But We Just Can't See Each Other

Sometimes you go hoping for a good show and getting disappointed, but sometimes you know that you just shouldn't go in the first place.
I came to the Ramones late, and they were already starting to die off, so attending one of their shows was really an issue. If you had a reunion show of all the surviving members now, you would have three drummers and one guitarist (obviously Elvis Ramone doesn't count). Still, take me back a few years, and I still don't think I could have ever belonged in the crowd at CBGBs.

This isn't necessarily the fault of the band. Punk bands back in the day attracted a lot of skinheads and thugs who were really just there to get in a fight. Even those who were showing their appreciation for the music were often doing it with bodily fluids. This is just not my scene. (And it would be about the same with the Clash, but I can't imagine them reuniting either, even if they have only lost Joe Strummer.)

I think things would be different for an established band, playing a concert hall instead of a club, but that doesn't necessarily mean I belong in the audience. I heard that Rancid and AFI were touring together, and I have to say that intrigued me. At the same time, Rancid looks as stereotypically punk as you can get. AFI looks more Goth really. Musically, I remember listening to their CD and thinking they were talented and it was powerful, but it really sounded like they had been attacked by vampires and had some real anger issues over it. I think that could have lent an oppressive mood to the show.

Anyway, even though I would be drawn to that concert, somehow I think I would be kind of an anomaly there. I suppose I could just hang out at the back, but when I heard about it they were actually already gone. I don't really listen to the radio much, so I am often behind that times. I will think a song is new and great and it's been out for two years. I guess I haven't been hip since MTV stopped playing music videos.

With the previously mentioned concerts, that is my speculation that I would not enjoy the show despite enjoying the discography, but there is one group where I kind of know. Blink 182 has a concert CD, and it is really annoying. I kept having to fast forward the banter, because it was too stupid. If I attended a concert, I would just be yelling at them to grow up, and if they were interested in that they would never have joined a rock band. But musically, I like them.

Mosiah 1-6
10769 steps

Monday, June 27, 2011

Concert Journal Part III: Hey, I paid good money for that!

With the recent karaoke thread kind of bringing us back to music, I thought this might be a good time to get back to the concert series.

Back in September I wrote about the tendency of the Crystal Ballroom to have atrocious opening acts, but I will say that once we got to the main attraction, the shows I have seen there have been quite good. Sadly, that can't be said about every show I have attended.

One thing that I have found is that the venue does matter. A good venue does not guarantee a great show, but a bad venue can really make things harder. This is why I don't really like shows at the Roseland or Wonder Ballroom. The seats are uncomfortable and the rows are too close together. You can be down on the floor, but I am a rapidly aging person and I like having the option to sit down, or to get up and dance. I suppose that makes it weird that I like the Crystal, but good bands give good shows there for not very much money, and it just works out.

I would say the Wonder Ballroom is a little better than the Roseland, but really, I hope no one I really like ends up there. The Roseland show was Franz Ferdinand, though I think I also saw Gogol Bordello there (that was a trip). The Wonder Ballroom show was Dashboard Confessional, which had much worse problems that shall be treated later.

Now, the Memorial Colisseum can be a fine venue, but not when its festival seating on a weeknight. Coming in from work to see Franz Ferdinand (again), we roamed and roamed trying to find seats, but everything outside of nosebleed was taken, and any time you stopped security would tell you to move along. They wouldn't help you find seats, but they would have no sympathy for your inability to find seats on your own. "Festival" makes it sound fun, but it wasn't.

Honestly, besides the Crystal, I think I had had my best luck at the Keller and Schnitz.
Sometimes the venue is fine, but the atmosphere can still be wrong due to the audience. This was definitely an issue when my sisters and I went to see Sting at the Rose Garden. I know he's older, so I guess his fans are older too, and maybe that's why no one was getting into it. We did dance some, but we felt like we were sticking out like sore thumbs. It was more than a feeling, in fact, because the next day at church Mark and Amy mentioned seeing us. We were embarrassed, but they were like “Good for you. We wanted to dance.” Still, it’s good I went then, because I am completely over Sting now.

Worse than issues with the venue or the crowd is when the band lets you down. After all, that’s why you came. This has happened to me three times.

The first time was Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl was really obnoxious, and there was just no spark. I believe it was due to a little too much alcohol. Probably some people do perform better with a mild buzz, but if you overshoot, well, all he could really do was talk about how great it was that Portland had so many strip clubs. Seriously, for the next few weeks I was looking for an announcement that he had entered rehab. The concert was not a total loss though, because the opening band was Wheezer, and they were great! It was like a total reverse of every Crystal show, only more expensive.

The second time was Cheap Trick. This was really disappointing, because with Foo Fighters I was more there for my sisters, but I thought it would be a good show. I knew Cheap Trick was going to be a great show, and then it wasn’t. I hated the venue. It was Spirit Mountain, and I don’t love casinos anyway, but that’s where they were playing. The hall has too much of a lounge feel, so perhaps it is not an ideal setting for rock, but Robin was just barely there. Rick tried to compensate, but it was hard not to notice.

The last one is that Dashboard Confessional, and it is not really fair of me to complain, because in this case he did bring his A-game—it’s just not what I was expecting. I mean, I had noticed that he had a tendency towards the slower and sappier, but he still had songs that I liked, and that had some energy to them. What I did not realize was that in a live show all of that energy would be promptly killed.

All right—maybe it wasn’t so much killed as transmuted. Chris Carrabba totally played to the audience, but that audience was composed primarily of 14-16 year old girls (one argument in favor of age-restricted shows). What these girls wanted to do was gaze at him in adoration and sing along to every word. He accommodated them by slowing everything down, and amping up the heartbreak. I would say he became extra soulful, but if you say “soul” that implies there was some spirit, and there wasn’t. What it was is that every song sunk to the level of "Stolen", which is his slowest and sappiest, last time I checked. It wasn’t fire or ice.

And really, it should have been a little more fierce, because I noticed something about him that night. Chris Carrabba is remarkably hairy. I had seen the prominent eyebrows, but I hadn’t really thought about them until I got a load of his arm hair. He must never get cold. Anyway, it suddenly seemed very likely that he was a werewolf, so that should have been somewhat exciting, but it wasn’t. I guess it does mean that all of those teen girls were on Team Jacob.

Enos – Words of Mormon
17689 steps

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pool Theory

In my last I gave you my thoughts on karaoke, but last night involved pool too. (If anyone is wondering, I did “Falling for the First Time”.)

My first encounter with pool was, I think, at the open house after Aaron Munter’s bar mitzvah. He had many toys, so I got chances to try out ping pong, mini-billiards, and I think some video game, or maybe it was darts. Basically, I just remember showing no aptitude for any of them, especially the billiards. I couldn’t get a proper feel for holding the stick, and nothing went where I wanted it. The other things I felt like I could improve at, but not pool.

(I do understand that pool and billiards are not the same thing, but I believe that they are similar enough that being lousy at one is a good predictor for being lousy at the other.)

It never really came up that often, so I didn’t worry too much about it. However, at a recent alumni get-together at Ringlers, people were playing, and I realized that even people who played missed a lot of shots. It started to change my perspective. Maybe it’s not something you’re supposed to be good at. I can do stuff like that.

One guy there offered to teach me, and he was really good. He explained the basics, made me take several practice shots before we started, and when I really messed up a shot during the game he had me go again. I don’t think he was intentionally missing shots and giving me good leads, but it was still a lot of help, and I actually won that game. That being said, I won it by sinking nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, three balls, nothing, two balls, nothing, nothing, well, you get the picture.

So I thought, I can do this. I can play pool. Then, there was another get-together, this time at Henry’s, and I got to play pool for the second time (I don’t really count the bar mitzvah). It was different this time. The other people playing were fraternity brothers who, though having known each other before, apparently bonded a lot over pool during college, and Joe even now has a pool table in his basement. I was toast.

I had to amend my theory at this point. You don’t have to be good at pool, but some people certainly do become good at it. I believe it is like golf in this way, only, you know, less boring and elitist.

Anyway, my third round of pool happened Saturday night, where Bernadine and I played pretty steadily for an hour. I did win one game, when she inadvertently sank the 8-ball early. Go Default! She was significantly better than me, but no Joe. Anyway, she was not given to gloating, and it could have been worse. I am hitting the balls I mean to hit on a regular basis—they just usually don’t go where I want them to after that. And yes, I saw Donald in Mathmagic Land—I totally get that it is all about geometry; it just isn’t quite enough yet.

I guess what I am really trying to say is that if you are lousy at pool, I would love to play you. It’s not even so I can beat you, but I would love to lose with more dignity.

Alma 28 – 31
11514 steps

Friday, June 24, 2011


I'm supposed to do karaoke tomorrow night. Well, I will be at the place for sure, because I organized it. The "supposed to" part is that I am just not sure how the turnout will be, and if the environment does not seem supportive enough I may not sing. Anyway, it seems like a good time for my theory of karaoke.

I am not an expert at all, but I have overanalyzed it in the same way that I overanalyze everything else, and I have some thoughts.

My main thought is that it kind of doesn't matter whether you sing well or not--you just need to own the song. This should involve you liking the song. My first karaoke experience was not great because I could not find any good songs. The book we were looking at was listed by song titles, and that's a horrible way to try and find something. Having done this a few times since, I now know that there was quite possibly another book there with them listed by artist, but I ended up just settling on "There is a Light that Never Goes Out" which is my favorite Smiths song (for what that's worth), but I feel like the meter is a little weird, and it's not very melodic.

It helps when there is a strong melody to the song. With songs that are more spoken than sung, it's hard to sound right. This is why, even though I do like Dashboard Confessional's "Hands Down", I never choose it, and I think I would regret it.

I have done "Vindicated" which is also Dashboard Confessional, and it was not horrible, but it was not great. I tend to gravitate toward male singers because my voice is low, but somehow when I am singing louder, my voice starts getting higher, so what works when I am singing to myself may not work when I am singing to people. The last time I went, I kind of surprised myself by singing "Never Forget You" by the Noisettes, and it worked. Someone sang Cee-Lo Greene's (well, really Gwyneth Paltrow's version) "Forget You", and it put me in mind of the song, and I just felt like I could go for it, and it worked out.

Of course, a lot may vary depending on venue. That time, I was at Voicebox with coworkers, so there were just seven of us in the room, and it was pretty casual. This may help shy singers feel more comfortable, and more daring. The downside is that we would have some pauses in between while people were deciding what to do.

On the other hand, the time before that was at Galaxy, and man, they take it seriously there. Everyone seemed to have a really good voice, or choreography, or boundless energy. The DJ was great, and you could hear some good stuff, but it was also a bit intimidating, and I wouldn't go there as a first-timer. I did sing, but I felt kind of lame. The crowd was supportive, but that’s typical.

Ultimately, I don't know that I am really a musical performer. I do stand-up every now and then, and I like entertaining people with words, but I tend to be better at appreciating music than doing it. And yet, I really like to sing. And it feels better when you sing loud, and karaoke is a chance to do that where it is totally socially acceptable. I will sometimes sing at the bus stop when there is nothing around but speeding cars, or walking down the road, but most of the time there is someone around, and singing loud makes you a bit of a fruitcake. In karaoke, this is endorsed.

I’m not sure what I will do tomorrow night. I have been wanting to try Counting Crows "Accidentally in Love", or maybe Barenaked Ladies "Falling for the First Time".

Actually, I do very much want to do My Chemical Romance "I'm Not Okay" (Old School Version, no F-word), but I have a funny feeling that when I do finally go for it, I won't have any voice for three days. Do you know how hard it is to mime smart-aleck remarks? It completely throws off the timing. Torture!

Jacob 5 – 7
13172 steps

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I sometimes think that I should made my user name "Sporadic" instead of "sporktastic". Of course, when I was setting up the blog, I had no idea how I would be. One project that was keeping me very busy is completed now, so that is nice, though there is always a long waiting list.

Anyway, one thing I was thinking about was vocabulary. You may think of me as having a fairly good one, and that is pretty true but there is a weak area in that I learn most of my words from reading, and I often have poor instincts on how they should be pronounced.

This came up recently when for some reason I used the word "sadist". (It totally made sense in context.) Now, I have actually heard people pronounce this with a long "a" (SAY-dist), so I should be okay on it, but I have also read "A Wrinkle in Time", which refers to IT as the "happiest sadist", (pronounced SADD-est), and said that most people pronounced it wrong. So I was corrected, but common, this is a Newberry Award winner! If I can't trust Madeline L'Engle, who can I trust?

Now it was bugging me, so the next resource was the dictionary. Surprisingly, they gave two correct pronunciations, though it looked like the one was more sod than sad, as in Marquis Du Sade-ist. This led me to greatly doubt Ms. L'Engle.

(I had a similar issue with “sloth”, which my father insisted should be pronounced with a long “o”, and the dictionary does give that as an alternative, but no one ever says it that way. As it is, I feel like I am saying it wrong regardless of how I say it, when really, I am right no matter how I say it.)

Going back to the original issue, I also had to wonder if SAY-dist was never really wrong, or if it has just gained acceptance. After all, language changes and evolves based on usage all the time. There is a dictionary entry for "irregardless" now, though they admit it is non-standard.

That would be one reason to accept either pronunciation, or all three if we could get more people to use it, but I hate it when errors become accepted through common use. I get that ignorance is really democratic, but I still always feel like ignorance should be refudiated (sic).

The comic "Frazz" helpfully came through for me with a storyline about someone using the word "penultimate" instead of "ultimate", but then getting it correct. First, let me say that a lot of these errors come from people trying to dress up what they say, when speaking simply but correctly is always more effective. But I digress.

Anyway, in the June 9th strip, Miss Plainwell compliments Mrs. Olsen on admitting her mistake.

Mrs. Olsen: Eh. All I have to do is wait. If people misuse a word or phrase long enough it just gets absorbed into the language.

Miss Plainwell: Evolution isn't like a license.

Mrs. Olsen: I could care less.


2 Nephi 33 - Jacob 4
11803 steps

Friday, June 10, 2011

Walk this way

I decided to start giving my daily steps instead of minutes exercised for a while.

Regence has various programs it does throughout the year, and we have just started the Summer Games, where we are tracking our steps via pedometers, so right now I am really focusing on my steps.

I am still doing periods of concentrated walking, because taking time to exercise is very important, but it is pretty much always going to be walking through July 17th, and I thought maybe it would be more interesting to see how many steps than how many minutes walking. Once the games are over, I hope to start working some biking and swimming into my exercise, especially now that I have a beautiful extra day off.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, though, because I need to get into bed. Tomorrow is the Grand Floral Walk (four miles), and I want to get a good night’s rest.

12075 steps
2 Nephi 15 - 23

Thursday, June 09, 2011

My first extra day off

We are trying a pilot program at work where people are working four 10-hour days instead of fivc 8-hour days. Based on reasoning that had a lot to do with the dogs (surprising, I know), I chose Thursday as my off day. This is the first week.

I love the idea, and I was working four 10’s when I first started at Intel back in 1997. One thing I learned is that there are a lot of things that are easier to get done on weekdays than on weekends, so I became a fan of the extra day then. What I have learned since then is that I do not get much done on workdays other than work anyway. It just drains me enough, and there is not time to get anything started really. An extra day should be helpful there too. Of course the days that I have are longer, and I have to get up earlier, but there are still definite advantages.

Today I did get some pruning done, and washed Julie’s car, and I did exfoliate and deep condition my hair. I did not color my hair, shave, or research publishers. Dinner did get made, but I also intended to assemble dinner for tomorrow so it could just go in the oven, and that did not happen. It’s an okay start, but there is room for improvement.

Pretty much like always.

40 minutes pruning
2 Nephi 6 - 14

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Knee Replacement, Part 2

I did not intend for this to be a two-parter, but I left out a really important point, and then I keep remembering more. Oddly, forgetfulness is part of why this was an issue for us. I sat in on all of Mom's appointments, because she often tends to forget key details (well, my sisters and I debate whether it is forgetting or not catching in the first place, but that's a whole other issue), and we felt we needed a second pair of ears.

Your parent may have a fantastic memory and a firm grasp of details, but they are older, they are getting a lot of information, and it is even more personal for them, where even a close, loving relative may be able to be more impartial. Again, there are just more emotions tied up in all of this than you would expect. Maybe it's because getting a joint replacement tends to mean they're old, they are doing it because they are experiencing chronic pain, and the path out of that pain involves more pain, money, and some risk. It's a lot for one person.

I will give one example. I wrote yesterday about how my mother does not have great range of motion, and her therapist was goading her about it. Naturally, we brought it up on a follow-up visit to see where we should be, and if we should be doing anything differently.

That was where we found out that the surgery does not tend to increase range of motion, but we discussed that Mom was able to do what she wanted for the most part that way. She's probably not going to hop on a bike any time soon, but she can drive and walk and do things around the house and yard. So, the Physician's Assistant said we had three options. First, since Mom was pretty happy, we could do nothing, and leave it as it was. Second, we could switch to outpatient therapy and see if they could accomplish more that way. They have more equipment there, which allows more options, and also that meant Mom was going back to Randy at Aloha Physical Therapy, whom she liked, and not dealing with the visiting therapist anymore, whom she did not like. (Physical therapists seem to often have a bit of a complex about not being doctors, and can be a little overbearing as a way of compensating. At least I assumed that's what was going on when she was talking about how she knows more than doctors about these things.) Anyway, we decided to go with outpatient therapy.

The third option was that Mom could go back into the hospital, go under anesthesia again, and they could try bending her knee to break up some of the scar tissue. If we were going to go that route, we would need to do it soon, because the longer you put it off the harder the scar tissue becomes, and that increases the risk of causing damage to the bones while doing it.

At the office, we agreed to go with outpatient therapy, got an order written for it, as well as a new prescription for drugs to assist with the extra therapy sessions. However, the thought of going back into the hospital freaked Mom out so badly that she did not remember anything else that was said in that conversation. Sure, she participated in it, but only on the service. On the inside she was remember how woozy she had been, and being away from home, and cold, and every thing that was bad about the experience (just for being at the hospital--they were good to her and did a good job). Fortunately, I had pieces of paper that proved we had chosen another option, so she had to believe me.

I think I am closer to actually done now, but the range of motion issue makes another point. When you have flexibility, it is important to keep it. If you start experiencing joint pain, don't stop moving just so you don't feel it. You will probably still feel it, and then you can lose the ability to move. In retrospect, she should have done the surgery much sooner. We have a tendency to play through the pain and just keep going however you can manage, and there are good things about it, but sometimes you need to be smart about it too.
I do want her to start tai chi after we get the other surgery out of the way, and maybe even if she can't build much flexibility up for her knees, it can help keep those hips and shoulders limber. It's nice that the replacements are available, but better not to need them.

To be fair, I don't know that she could have afforded the surgery before she got on Medicare, via Humana. I have to give high praise to them. Mom is getting the best care of her life now, and I really appreciate that.

It's also worth mentioning that the way we managed home care was that Julie worked from home for several weeks. Mom was able to walk right away, but slowly, and it helped to have someone there for some waiting on her, but also to be able to attend to the dogs. They complicate everything.

20 minutes walking outside
1 Nephi 22 - 2 Nephi 5

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A Guide to your Parent's Knee Surgery

Yesterday Mom set the wheels in motion for her next knee replacement, so it seems like a good time to cover the first go-round.

I suppose we waited too long in the first place. She had gotten to where she was in so much pain that it was really affecting where she went and how much she did, and she had a lot of days that were just miserable. She did get some physical therapy, and cortisone shots a few times, but they were only temporary helps, and her orthopedist told her flat out that there was nothing else he could do for her--she needed to get surgery. The x-rays showed bone grinding on bone in both knees, so there's a limit to how much you can mask that.

Our first appointment was November 14th, and the surgery was scheduled for December 21st. That's a bit of a wait, but at least where we did it (which was through OHSU, with Doctor Huff), they do an MRI to get precise measurements and then a firm custom makes the implant, which takes about a month.

The other thing we needed to do was a pre-surgery appointment where a doctor not involved in the surgery assesses whether the patient is a good candidate for surgery--so questions about previous reactions to anesthesia, testing the heart rate, looking at overall medical history, etc. I found out, which I had not known before, that Mom did have a bad reaction to anesthesia the last time she was in the hospital. However, that was 1977, and the field has changed so much since then that those results were probably irrelevant. On the same day Mom met with a physical therapist to talk about after-care, and a physician's assistant to cover any last minute concerns.

One thing we have been asked a lot is why we did not do both knees at the same time. We did ask about that in the first appointment, and there is a really good reason for it. Your biggest risks with any surgery are infection, breathing problems, or clots/stroke. It turns out that your risk for all three is more than doubled by doing both knees at once. It's a huge strain on the body, you are under anesthesia longer, and you have more entry points for infection. Also, it is very important to get the patient moving around soon after surgery because the new joint needs to be used to get it working well. Having one good leg makes this a lot easier.

We knew the day of the surgery more than a month in advance, but you don't learn the time until right before, because there could be cancellations or reschedulings, and actually, even with our 1:00 time when we got it, someone else cancelled that day and we were called to see if we could get in earlier.

The time change was not a big issue, but perhaps just one more area of uncertainty. That being said, we are now at the really grueling portion of the story. So, if you have something like this coming up, this part may be the most helpful.

All four daughters had the day off. Maria and Julie had dental appointments, and then were going to go watch the dogs. This is not a frivolous thing. A major part of Mom's worry was leaving the dogs alone, and she kept saying not to visit her but to just take care of the dogs. She thought she meant it, but she also got very lonely in the hospital, so it was just something we needed to balance, and I knew it would be that way. Misty was the driver, of course, but she hates hospitals and did not want to come in, so I was the only one there. I thought that this was fine, because some company can be worse than no company depending on the situation, and just waiting around the hospital for several hours seemed like enough of a waste of time that you should not have multiple people doing it, but, yeah, I did not know what it would be like.

Much like surgery times, they don't assign a room until the surgery is over, so there is nowhere to put the stuff. I had really not thought about this part.

I had my coat backpack with me, and in my naive mind I imagined myself dividing my time between writing out Christmas cards, reading, and taking little walks through the halls. However, I ended up also having Mom's coat and cane, the bag we packed for her, and the bag the hospital gave us for putting all her clothes in. It was a lot of stuff, and carting it around was not really practical, so I ended up being glued to the waiting room. I left once to go to the bathroom, asking the concierge to watch the pile, but that was it. I would have needed food, but Julie and Maria had thrust a bag of mint meltaways at me as a backup, and I ended up having, I guess it was two or three an hour, just to keep me going. Yes, I realize that was less than ideal. If you have someone else with you, you can all take turns watching the stuff.

I did not take any walks or write out any Christmas cards. I did read, and I was lucky that I had a gripping new book (If You Really Loved Me, by Ann Rule). Starting it in that room, and going on through hours of surgery interrupted by worry and phone calls, I read close to 300 pages. I don't think I actually got over 300 until I was on the train.

The other thing I was not prepared for, and where company could help (the right company, anyway), is the emotional toll. Mom was really scared, and once she was prepped for surgery--covered only in a thin gown and with the drugs starting to take effect--she was very vulnerable, and I had to leave her, and wonder about her. That was followed by hours of waiting (two more hours than planned, actually), and every time my phone went off someone was asking for information I did not have, because I had not gotten any updates (incidentally, cell phone use in hospitals is okay now, except maybe in cardiac wards), and when the doctor finally did come and tell me it was done and Mom was okay, despite the fact that I had no reason to think it would not be okay, and was totally expecting it to be okay, I burst into tears.

Still, seeing my mother be weak and vulnerable was not over. She was very groggy in the room, and looking very frail. It was so late by then I could not stay long, and she was not that alert anyway, but at least I was able to drop her stuff off.

I was completely drained, and somehow I still needed to get myself home and get myself some food. The cafeteria was long closed, as well as the gift shop. It occurred to me that my easiest route was to take the tram to the streetcar, get off at the MAX line, and eat somewhere right there so I did not have to do any more transfers or walking, which is why I ate at Maya’s Taqueria.

Getting some solid food, and protein, into me did help, but I was still really tired. My emotions had been through the wringer, and somehow the fact that the surgery is very normal and went fine did not help.

Let me tell you, the emotional toll does not stop there. For one thing, there was waiting to find out when we would get Mom back, and making sure she got a visit and phone calls every day. This was partly our misunderstanding. We had originally heard 2-3 days, but they will only do the 2 days if the patient is going to a rehab facility. Since we were going straight home, they needed to be sure that she could do various things, and for a while it looked like it might be four days. As it was, we brought her home on Christmas Eve.

Then there was the recovery period. Your parent will have a lot of residual pain. An associate doctor predicted that six weeks after, Mom would be really mad at him, but by eight weeks she would wish she had done it sooner. That was pretty much how it went.

There is also a continuous round of icing, elevation, and exercising. Our mother was not a good patient for this. We reminded her, we wrote up a schedule, and yet she only really started taking it seriously when I got really mad at her and gave up on her, and then she was going to show me. I did sort of do it because I suspected it would work that way, but I was also sincerely mad.

You do need to have realistic expectations. The surgery is for taking away the pain, but generally does not improve flexibility. Most patients have a greater range of motion than our mother did, who has been carrying herself stiffly for some time. Getting rid of the pain was wonderful, but the visiting therapist was really ragging on the range of motion.

That is one thing that I think we should have done differently. After several weeks of home visits, we switched to outpatient physical therapy, which was more helpful. I think we should have done that sooner, maybe after three weeks.

I do think the second knee will go better. First of all, it is familiar this time. We know what we are getting into, what it looks like, and what we need to do. In addition, the weather is warmer and the days are lighter, which should make things less gloomy. We did the first one around Christmas because, of our two choices, that was the one where everyone had time off. It did work, but Christmas feels like it didn’t happen, and also, Mom was cold all the time. Also, the first time Mom’s recovery was hampered by the other knee being bad, but this time all joints should be working (unless her hips or shoulders start going out).

I’m pretty sure I will end up alone at the hospital again, so all I can really do is pack lighter. She did not use a single thing in her overnight bag that night, and don’t think she used it the next day either, so maybe it can be brought the following day. She should not need a coat. The cane will be necessary, but I will not bring anything but my purse and a book. I am planning on Green River, Running Red (Ann Rule again).

For Mom’s clothes, the family does not have to keep the bag, but it improves the odds of nothing getting lost or stolen. I will probably keep it with me, but if that is all I have it should not be so bad.

For the emotional aspects, I am just hoping that familiarity will make it better this time. There are a few less stressors in my life than there were then, and I have learned some things about my ability to handle it all, but that is actually going to be another blog post. Being able to plan helps, and that’s why I share. Well, it’s one reason anyway.

35 minutes walking outside
1 Nephi 16-21

Monday, June 06, 2011

Not as planned

So, I had just started reading my scriptures, and the phone rang, and I ended up talking to a friend for over an hour. However, I did walk for 25 minutes at lunch.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

My Native American Heritage reading month

So, yes, this should have been for November 2010, and it ended up really going from January to May of 2011, with multiple interruptions. We already covered why that happens, and actually, it is a good thing that it happens. I find that a lot of the books that I feel I need to read end up wearing me down a little. I do think it is important to know about societal problems, but then you know about the problems, the impact, and the difficulty of fixing them, and often I end up kind of sick of humanity. So, if I can have that interspersed with some light-hearted fiction and comical narratives, it helps me maintain an even keel.

When I started planning these reading months, back in February 2010, that Black History month consisted of several books that I had been meaning to read for a long time. There were two books (The Slave Community and Time on the Cross) that I owned from browsing at the PSU bookstore, which would have happened while I was working at Clear Connections, which would have been in either 1995 or 1996. I had started browsing through “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in the Knight Library at U of O the summer after my first year there, so that was 1991. Finally, my friend Rose had recommended “Beloved” to me back when the movie had come out in 1998, when I was still fairly new at Intel. So really, I was overdue to read them all.

The creation of the Native American reading list had some similar origins. I had first intended to read A Century of Dishonor back in junior high. We had to create newspapers for various years, there was a passage in the textbook about this book coming out. I wanted to read it, but could not find a copy. I did find Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona in our library, and ended up reading that. My newspaper had a blurb about one of the books coming out, along with other relevant articles. I think it was Ramona, for 1884, and in the blurb I mentioned her previous book from 1881. You know, 25 years later, the details get a little fuzzy.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was just one I had always heard of, and of course I first heard of Open Veins of Latin America when Hugo Chavez gave a copy to President Obama, but reading a little more about it made it seem worth reading—regardless of any issues with Chavez.

Finally, when 500 Nations came out, it got good reviews, and I had been interested. It was not strictly a book of course, but I spent six hours on it, and there’s nothing wrong with some multimedia.

Being fairly recent, 500 Nations was probably the only one that did not suffer with age. I already mentioned that Jackson’s book is from 1881, and the other two are from the 1970s.

I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee first, and initially it felt a little abrasive. Of course we get that it was wrong, and that in many ways the Indians were maligned. Then I remembered, in that time period, it was not an “of course”. This book was groundbreaking, and had an influence, and could be worth reading for that reason alone. And it did turn out to be pretty even-handed.

It was not what I expected at all. I initially thought it was a narrative account of Wounded Knee specifically, when actually it covers many events and many tribes. Perhaps because of that, it took me a while to get into it, but I did, and it was really good.

A Century of Dishonor covered very similar ground, with a lot of overlap, but there are some key differences. Jackson started with a legal argument for the property rights of the Indians based on the earliest treaties. Brown does not make those kinds of arguments, probably because he assumes that as you get to know these people and what happened, you will feel the immorality of the treatment of the Indians, regardless of points of law.

In addition, so much of Hunt’s argument focuses on the response to Christianity of the Indians as they converted and started to adopt the ways of the whites, where Brown would appear to want them left more to their own culture. I’m saying this clumsily, but it totally makes sense that one book is by an elderly devout maternal woman of the late nineteenth century, and that one is by a probably left-leaning librarian who had recently been through the sixties.

One other key difference is that Brown was writing when it was all over. Jackson still believed things could be turned around. Brown’s title made sense, because the Battle of Wounded Knee was the last major confrontation between the natives and the military. It was done. Jackson was dead before Wounded Knee happened, and it would have broken her heart.

Probably the most important thing to take from the books is seeing how many times the various tribes had to start over, and then be moved again. They reached a point where they began to be afraid to make any efforts. That, and the removal of children from their families may be the crux of a lot of the problems that they face today.

Interestingly, I ended up seeing two plays during this time period that related, which would not have happened if I had actually gotten it done in November. One was Ghosts of Celilo, which is specifically about some children who were taken away to school, and what happens with them, and also the adults who got them there. There are parts where it is a little clunky, but it was still very moving, and of course it added to my reading.

The other was One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which I did not even think would relate, but the reason Chief Bromden is in there has a lot to do with what has happened to his people, and his father’s role in that. Anyway, that all worked well.

For 500 Nations, the part that interested me most was that on the Mound Builders, which did not go into as much detail, but November will come around again. You know, or May, because of that easily distracted thing.

Finally, Open Veins of Latin America. Again, age may be an issue. One of Galeano’s complaints is how the Western World pushes birth control on his people, and I am a big believer in letting women control their own fertility as something that helps families escape poverty. But one thing the age of the book does do is let me hope that things have gotten better, because there are some awful things in it, and they come from greed, and it really shows the evils of colonialism, and explains how the US was different. Really, really fascinating book, and richly written. This book has inspired some passionate devotion, and I can see why. It can be a good companion piece to “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, and it makes me wish I had tried harder with “Sweetness and Power”, even though it seemed unreadable. Well, maybe I will try it again some other year. And it really makes me wish I had seen Josh in “The True History of Coca Cola in Mexico”, but I have other reasons for that.

I have not decided what I will do next year (well, this year) yet. I feel like the story of what happened to the children sent away to school is important. How much of their identity was stripped away? Did they have children who don’t even know they are Indians? Rabbit-Proof Fence relates as well. Still, most of the books I have on my reading list are farther back in history. Still, I have some time to decide. I may read Windwalker, because I don’t mind a novel now and then if it captures things well, like Beloved, and maybe I will read 1491.

There is always more to know.

32 minutes walking outside
Alma 16-19 (with family)

One more thing

I can’t believe I forgot this, because it is so important, and it is very much a part of the whole bin Laden issue. I am very bothered by people who say this proves the efficacy of torture.

No. No. A thousand times no.

While some of the people who eventually provided useful information may have at some point been subjected to enhanced interrogation, the information that ended up leading to bin Laden did not. This is not a coincidence; this is how it works.

The enhanced interrogation techniques were developed based on training for increasing resistance to brainwashing. This cannot be stated enough.

The problem with any torture (beyond the moral considerations) are that people will often say anything to stop the pain, so if they don’t know the desired answers, or the truth is not believed, they will lie or make things up.

Beyond that, the specific methods that have been at issue, like waterboarding, are designed specifically to break a person down so that they will say what you program them to say. Useful, if reprehensible, if you need to propagate false information, but disastrous if you need accurate information to provide maximum results and safety.

This has been well documented, but it just doesn’t seem to matter. People still say it is a necessary tool. Maybe it’s because it always worked for Jack Bauer on “24”, but that was fiction, and the writers could make it come out how they wanted. When you really have 2 hours to find the ticking time bomb, you don’t have time to chase down a false lead, realize it is wrong, and correct. Torture is the last thing you should do.

Just needed to get that off my chest.

40 minutes walking outside
1 Nephi 9-16

Friday, June 03, 2011

Good Riddance

I was originally going to call this post Random Opinions, but I realized I had so much on Osama Bin Laden that I might as well put all of those together. The downside of being a procrastinator is, of course, that this is all old news, but I am just going to put it out there anyway.

First of all, I have no qualms whatsoever about the death. I feel it was completely justified. What he had already done previously was more than enough to be worthy of death, he was actively planning ways to bring more destruction, and while it really just seems lucky that there was resistance offered to justify killing rather than capturing, capturing would have been awful. Trials and sentences can be great, but I just imagine the rescue attempts, and demonstrations, and his increased demagoguery since he is no longer trying to stay hidden, and I think it is much better that such a can of worms was never opened. For that reason, I am also fine with burial at see, avoiding a new shrine, and it was nice that we followed Muslim customs.

Also, I have no problem with Pakistan not getting advance notice. There seem to be some good reasons for that. It is not normally how you treat an ally, but if you have doubts about how helpful your ally really is, well, it just makes good sense, and I can't help but think it would have been better if the one vehicle hadn't crashed so that no prisoners had been left in Pakistan. At least we got to take the computers.

For those who are critical of the operation, I disagree based on the reasons already given, and to Fidel Castro specifically, there is no way you can take the moral high ground on this one buddy. And I say as someone who feels that US policy on Cuba is wrong-headed and harmful, but no, you are just wrong and a hypocrite.

There are other things that do bother me of course. I understand, but do not agree, with the people who were celebrating it. I mean, we were appalled by the people celebrating the Twin Towers falling down, and yes, cheering the deaths of thousands who were just going about their day is worse than cheering the death of one mass-murderer and a handful of his help, but it still just seems tacky and low.

I also disagree with the people who were so quick to criticize the president. This happened in two ways. One was people saying that he was taking all the credit and glorifying himself. I disagree on that. I thought he seemed pretty balanced in crediting the different people involved. There were definitely some "I" statements, but I think a lot of that is the acceptance of the ultimate responsibility. For those who would criticize the raid happening at all, or how it was done, or that any respect to religious beliefs was paid regarding the burial, for all of that the buck does stop with the commander in chief, and he knows that, and if the information had been wrong, and he approved the raid anyway, that would have been a disaster and that would have been his responsibility too, so that does have to be acknowledged.

The other thing was I saw a bunch of Facebook statuses that the president didn't kill bin Laden, it was a soldier, and he was trying to cut their wages. No. The threatened government shutdown was coming from the Republican side. That is so twisted it is not even funny.

Less bothersome, but still kind of irritating, was the editing of the situation room picture by a Hasidic newspaper. Not being able to show any pictures of women ever, because they are too tempting for the men, is a horrible policy anyway, but if you must stick with that, then you just don't get to show the pictures. Sure, there's some serious loss there of impact and understanding, but the editing is a loss of integrity.

However, I do not have a problem with the code name Geronimo. First of all, part of code names is that they should not be immediately recognizable. So if it were codename "Hitler", "Arab Scum", or "Ultimate Evil", it would not be a very good code name. I really don't think it casts any aspersions on Geronimo himself. Both men were hunted for a long time, though for vastly different reasons, so it is not a completely unreasonable comparison in that sense. If you really need to take offense at something, and crusade against it, there are much better options.

33 minutes walking outside
1 Nephi 1-8

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Living in perilous times

I don't actually know anyone who took the announce Rapture seriously, but a couple of months ago there was a different quack predicting a major West Coast earthquake for the week of March 21st, and that did make some people nervous. (The guy, Jim Berkland, actually does have some credentials, but I guess he's let it go to his head, and if you check his web site he is referring to 3.0 quakes as "major", so okay, that's one way of looking at it.)

Anyway, I rolled it over in my mind, because I certainly do believe that the Pacific Northwest is due for a major earthquake (for me that would be bigger than 3.0, however), and I believe we are at a time when we are going to see increasing natural disasters. Fortunately, I found that I feel pretty good about things.

I can't say that I am as prepared as I would like to be. I would like to have more food storage, have it be better organized, and have more space to put it. Honestly, we should probably have more water storage than we have. But we do have some, and that is helpful. We have flashlights, and batteries. We have a first aid kit. We could definitely be better about having every single member of the family ready to shut the gas off at a moment's notice, so that's something to work on, but the point is, the worst I have is things to work on, rather than abject fear and panic.

We had a similar situation a few months earlier. They were predicting heavy snow or ice, and I am sure all of the memories of those weeks spent homebound in 2008 contributed, but the stores were packed with people emptying the shelves. We were there because it was our normal shopping night, but I remember being glad that I did not have to panic--we had supplies. The only real concern I had was milk, and that is due as much to our rate of milk consumption varying as to milk being perishable.

I don't want to give the wrong impression. There are a lot of things that we could do better and I hope to continue to improve. My point is just that whatever preparation you do will be a comfort.

In my first aid class, I had this insight that I think a lot of my zeal for learning is because I feel like knowledge will help me keep situations from spiraling out of control, and I am wrong. There are a lot of wild cards out there, and you can't plan for everything. It doesn't matter how good I am at first aid if you get decapitated--I am not going to be able to fix that. Or if the blow to the head comes to me, again, I am no longer in charge of that situation.

That being said, ignorance isn't going to make anything better, and the more things that I am ready for, well, I guess it just improves the odds of a good outcome, and I will take that.

Finished June Ensign
Walked 21 minutes outside

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


I see it’s been almost a month since my last post. That doesn’t look promising.

Part of the problem is that I just have too much going on. There have been weeks where I had something going on every single night. Some things I have done since the last post are defrosting the freezer, attending music lessons, getting re-certified for first aid and CPR, packing green beans for the Oregon Food Bank, finishing three books, and learning more about extreme coupon-ing.

Some things I have meant to do but have not done include repainting the bathroom and replacing a couple things in it (well, it’s the shower drain and the toilet handle), fixing the door, creating entries for the Jelly Belly cupcake decorating contest, and taking my walk down Terwilliger. Plus, lots of blogging. I was pretty good about exercise, and on and off with scripture reading, but obviously there was no blogging.

At the same time, I have got to spend time with Karen, Jill, and Connie, and I will make time for other friends too. I have more things coming up.

Somewhere in all this there lies a balance, and finding it will be an amazing achievement when it happens.

20 minutes walking outside
Reading in June Ensign