Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And Then There was YouTube

I was fortunate to be interviewed recently for my new book, “Harnessing a Heritage”. More importantly, the interview was to be taped and played on closed circuit television in a community that includes more than 30,000 people with a mean age (no pun intended) of more than sixty years. Now some of these people have to have grandchildren, right?

And the target audience for my book is readers who have children or grandchildren, since each chapter ends with a “how to” page of how you might use the information presented to improve your children or grandchildren’s sense of their own heritage, which I feel is often lacking. So I was very excited about my interview and more so when they sent me a copy of the tape with my six-minutes of fame on it. But what to do with it?

For one thing, it was jumbled in with three other interviews and my editing skills are a little short of professional. For a second thing, to play it I had to press “play” twice on my DVD player, and I couldn’t figure out how to do that on my computer to download it as a file.

Luckily, I have a friend in the professional side of editing who had access to the correct equipment and more importantly had the experience and background to get through the editing process and make it a 17 MG Flash Video file. It cost me about $100, but that was an investment well worth the time and money because it allowed me to put the video on my website: www.deefitzgerald.com .

At Kevin’s suggestion I did not load it directly to my website as I had other clips. Instead I loaded it on to YouTube and then posted a link to the YouTube clip on my website. This increased the likelihood that I would get more traffic to the interview. It also allowed the thumbnail of the YouTube presentation to be the link to YouTube. And how hard was it to upload to YouTube? I didn’t even have to ask my grandson.

All I had to do was open a free YouTube account by going to http://YouTube.com . Once I had an account and signed in I was invited at the top of the screen to upload a file in one of several formats. Size was no problem as I could upload up to 2 GB and time was no constraint because they accept up to 15 minute clips.

So, if you want to see my interview you could go directly to YouTube and type in Dee FitzGerald. There you will see at least three clips. I hope you’ll check them out. And I hope that if you have a clip of your own, you will open an account and join me on the internet.

Next weekend I will share with you the Kafkaesque tale of my connection with the Toll Roads and the DMV. If you think your DMV story is strange, and doesn’t everyone have one? Just wait until you hear mine!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

“I think the left side of my body is cursed.”

Are we going to have one of those, “Does this make me look fat?” conversations, I thought, but replied to my wife, “Why do you say that?”

“Everything bad that has happened to me is on the left side: I broke my arm when I was six and two bones in the arm when I was ten. It was my left shoulder that broke when we were skiing. My left Achilles tendon tore. Similarly the rotator cuff tear was on the left. I’ll remind you I’m in therapy for a ligament tear on my left hip, and finally, my breast cancer was detected in the left breast. If it’s not cursed, it certainly is different than the right side.”

I am fortunate to have survived this life to date with no broken bones, although the cartilage in nose, ears and knees have taken several beatings. So while I can empathize with Mary I have no reference point on which to evaluate whether one side of the body is more susceptible than the other. As a dentist and as such a quasi-scientist, I doubt it. But I do know that the sides of the brain are said to have a practical and artistic difference, so I suppose it is possible.

I tried to make light of her problem by saying that perhaps the left side was just lazy, or distracted and could be made to pay better attention, but it got me thinking about bones.

I just returned from a dental meeting where there was mention of an update on the risk of bisphosphonates by the American Association of Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeons http://www.aaoms.org/docs/position_papers/bronj_update.pdf . This very technical paper essentially downplays the risk of having delayed healing of bones following bisphosphonate therapy and is consistent with a recent Swedish study, which concluded a low correlation between taking bisphosphonates and spontaneous hip and leg fractures.

The reason for taking bisphosphonates is triggered when a patient is diagnosed with Osteoporosis or, since we now have an instrument that can pick up early bone loss, Osteopenia. Both these conditions place one at risk for losing Calcium and many people who are not on therapy supplement their diets with Calcium-rich foods (yogurt, cheese, milk products) or supplements.

NPR this week highlighted a 61,000 person longitudinal study showing that a good diet will provide 700 mg. of the recommended 1200 mg. of Calcium we are supposed to take, meaning that Mary and I are over-shooting our needs by at least half. But, since there is only a small risk of kidney stones and such from too much Calcium, it is probably better to err on the side of more.

Discussing this topic with one of my sisters-in-law, I was steered to a book by an author of whom I was previously unaware: “The Left Neglected” by Lisa Genova. http://www.amazon.com/Left-Neglected-Lisa-Genova/dp/1439164630/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306535381&sr=8-1 This novel begins by providing the ultimate lesson about cell phones and driving, and then makes us brutally aware of how bilaterally dependent we are. In the process we are given some perspective on what is important in our lives and the wonderful work done by Occupational Therapists..

I personally am more concerned about my grandson’s bones than I am about Mary’s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ygf0gRQsUb4 . At ages thirteen and six respectively, I can’t recall ever seeing either of them drink milk. It used to be sodas, and that still is beverage of choice most times when we go out. At home and at our home when they come for dinner, it has shifted to juices or lemonade. Ryan, my thirteen year-old has broken at least two bones while playing basketball. Coincidence? I think not. But they are not alone in their choice of beverage and perhaps as their generation ages, we’ll come up with alternatives sources of Calcium.

On another topic, I’m quite excited about a new trick I learned, that either of my grandchildren could do, and probably have done: uploading to You Tube. Tuesday I’ll share my story with you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Are These My Brains?

A recent male-bashing joke I saw involved a six year-old boy who came home from school and for some reason dropped his drawers and pointing to his testicles, asked his mother, “Are these my brains?” To which she replied, “Not yet!”

I was reminded of that joke when I read about Dominique Kohn-Strauss on the heels of what is continuing to develop as the Arnold Schwarzenegger story. Time magazine in the current issue takes a look at the phenomenon of powerful men and what turns them into pigs. They quote studies hypothesizing that with power, wealth and/or fame comes increasing opportunity and a feeling that those very traits that would seem to make indiscretion more likely to be discovered, also insulate the powerful from the danger of doing anything about the indiscretion.

My take on it is a little different. I believe that there is a difference between the genders when it comes to the sexual urge, and it is a little more subtle than whether we are from Mars or Venus. Different even than whether we divide ourselves by gender with some having ritualistic bloodletting and others making baskets to gather fruit and nuts.

I don’t claim to have a cultural knowledge of all countries when it comes to sexual awakening. My Master’s degree in International Affairs was a little light on that emphasis. But my suspicion is that regardless of infant and childhood experiences, which can be as life-affecting as mutilation and abuse, there is a gradual awakening of sexual curiosity around the time of puberty. For girls, it is a natural curiosity with hormonal stimulation that leads to a desire to appeal to the opposite sex.

For boys I think there is the need to appeal, but there is also a need to gain control, to have some sort of “trophy” conclusion to the attraction process. Most boys learn what works best for them and as they mature they remember those lessons, probably for the rest of their lives.

Those whose strength lies in their appearance don’t do all that well when their appearance wanes. Sometimes, if they are mated, that works to the advantage of the relationship. Sometimes, on the other hand, it leads to embarrassing flirtations. Those who find success in wit, humor or as the English call it “cleverness” have a skill that develops rather than diminishes. Lucky them!

For girls, the downside if any, is the development of a competitive nature with other girls. As they mature this competitive spirit, if it worked in adolescence, may be a skill that encourages continual flirting. If competition wasn’t a great success, they may become more reserved and become a greater target of conquest for the male.

Now all of this is conjecture and based on anecdotal experience, but I think it makes some sense. The coup de grĂ¡ce is that in some ways it explains why powerful men do such stupid things. Whether it is that they can’t help themselves and have a higher success rate than we normal guys, or whether they intentionally take advantage of their situation to put more conquests on their shield, golf cart or $400,000 vehicle, they are acting to type.

Time mentioned an explanation for why women come out of the woodwork when a high profile allegation is made. They claim it is because the environment is now “safer”. Skeptic that I am, I believe it is more opportunistic. I can picture the ads on daytime LA TV, “Have you been groped by Arnold? Please call 800-555-1212, and we’ll assist you in your grief. Oh, by the way, if you have been taking bisphosphonates, please press “2” at the prompt, and we’ll help you with that also.”

The mention of bisphosphonates gives me an idea for Saturday’s blog. Maybe I’ll explain Mary’s experience with the left side of her body…

Assuming no reader sympathizes with our “womanizers”, do you have feelings about the attitudes taken by their wives?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Vast Wasteland

While perusing my Rolling Stone a few weeks ago I came upon a well-written review of Game of Thrones: http://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones/index.html#/game-of-thrones/episodes/index.html . Rob Sheffield has a way with words. He sucked me in with his comment, “You expect 'Hobbit' but end up watching 'Sopranos of Middle Earth'.” Of course he also got my attention mentioning the “timeless combo of breasts and beheadings, with approximately six beheadings per nipple.”

I have watched two of the six season episodes and am hooked. Mary, my wife dismissed the show as “awfully violent”, presumably choosing to focus on the beheadings. And I was struck by why we watch what we watch.

Neither Mary nor I watch a lot of television. I tend to watch more sports than anything else, but I usually watch the 10:00 o’clock news, and a couple of season shows a week. Mary used to watch reruns of "Perry Mason" but that has seemingly run its course. She now is pretty faithful with "The O’Reilly Factor", and an occasional "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil". I scored big points a few years ago when I got tickets to "The Dr. Phil Show". She also watches a few weekly shows, some different than mine.

The ones we watch together include "The Closer", "Bones", and "House". The ones she watches alone include "What Would You Do?" My alone shows include "Justified", and the above-mentioned "Game of Thrones". Interestingly neither of us watched "Lost", any "CSI" shows, any show with “Island” in it since Gilligan's or Fantasy, or "Dancing with the Stars".

In our early married life we used to proudly state that we had no television machine. Of course that was a day shortly after Newton N. Minow, FCC Chairman in 1961, made the “Wasteland Speech” likening television programming to a “Vast Wasteland” of viewing and suggesting that a world devoid of newspapers, books, magazines and other written word would cause our very souls to dry up and die.

Now when most of my magazines and news sources are only available online, I wonder if Mr. Minow’s comments are true.

The irony of this matter is that what Mary and I watch together and even the series shows we watch separately have one thing in common: they are well-written.

As an actor I am totally aware of two things: first, what separates a good actor from an excellent one is well-written material. The good scripts usually go to the better actor, because the same well-crafted scene is better appreciated by the audience if presented by the better actor, and that’s important to the writer and to the producers; the second is that I should be watching more seasonal shows. The nuances of writing are best observed if seen on a regular basis.

Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, both excellent actors with variety in their bodies of work, are certainly different, and maybe better, actors than Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. But scripts are more realistic now than fifty years ago. There is more freedom for a writer than there was before. And the audience is more demanding of innovation, action, and surprise (if not suspense).

And those nuances change over time. I think I have just talked myself into watching more evening television, if I want to increase my bookings.

In my Tuesday blog I think I will explore some of the scandals that are recent news with celebrity men, starting with the ex-governor of California, and maybe catch you up on bisphosphonates.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rolling Stone, Still With Me After All These Years

Most mornings I listen to KCRW from the time it serves as my alarm until The Morning Edition signs off at 9:00 AM. Today I listened a little longer, to Jason Bentley and his show “Morning Becomes Eclectic” which intrigued me even before I chose my Blog name. The teaser was an interview he had with k d lang, one of my favorite singers. She recently issued a new CD, called "Sing It Loud", and I bought an early copy.

The interview was held about a month ago. If you missed it and want to hear it, you could replay it at: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/17/135444887/k-d-lang-bringing-it-all-back-home .

Ms. lang is no youngster, but her 50 year-old voice is as clear and pure as it was when she struck out from Canada for fame and fortune. She is purported to have a four-octave range, which she demonstrates very impressively in the song "I Confess", which reminds one strikingly of Ray Orbison with whom she recorded some twenty-five years ago. I have another of her collaborative CDs, "A Wonderful World", this one with Tony Bennett, who said “Many singers have a voice, but she has a fortune.”

How I came to buy the most recent CD is interesting. I have always been interested in music and that got me to purchase a subscription to "Rolling Stone" magazine shortly after it debuted in 1967. Ralph J. Gleason, a music critic I was fond of was one of the founding editors, along with Jann Wenner. In the 1970s it got a little political and one of my memories is taking a copy out of my carry-on on a troop flight to Japan in 1971, on the way to Viet Nam. The Marines accompanying me certainly seemed to notice.my choice of reading material

Through the years I have enjoyed many articles by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman, P. J. O’Rourke and Ben Fong-Torres, and built an affinity for other staff like Annie Libovitz. If you saw the movie “Almost Famous” you will remember the almost eerily-familiar casting of the magazine’s staff.

Lately I find I mostly skim through the articles, except for features and the occasional controversial political story, but I do follow the reviews, of television, film, and CDs. That was where I found k d lang. Except for my erroneous memory that she had been part of the Lilith Fair tours, she was just as I remembered: original, with a very impressive style. Oh, Lilith Fair? That was another Canadian, Sarah McLaughlin.

I found myself watching a new television show that I think I’ll write about next Saturday. Have you seen "Game of Thrones"?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Military Dependence

Funny how several things will happen in a short period of time, that all seem to be connected. Last week my wife asked me to accompany her to the nearest military base to have her ID renewed. Unlike mine, which has an indefinite expiration date, hers is only good for four years, at least until she turns 75, when she can get an indefinite expiration date. Since we have been married for fifty years, I saw no reason not to renew.

My indefinite date occasionally causes me trouble. I use the ID as my government form of identification and on occasion TRA personnel will note that I have an expiration date on it that has passed. I then have to explain that that is when I became eligible for Medicare and dropped off the DEERS list, which made me eligible for care at military bases.

The day after we renewed the ID, we read an article in the Orange County Register by a feature writer, Jenny Sokol: http://jennysokol.com/ . She is a Naval Academy graduate, married to a deployed Marine officer. The subject of that week’s column dealt with her daughter recently turned ten, who now qualified for her own ID. The column is witty and provides insight into the rite of passage that is so meaningful to a group that has been captured so well in the book and movie “Brats” http://www.bratsourjourneyhome.com/ . I especially liked the phrase her daughter used when she learned that after her daddy retired, he would be probably get a regular job. The newly card-carrying ten year-old said, “I don’t want him to be regular, and I don’t want to be regular either.”

Ms. Sokol correctly states that at age ten, the military ID has limited utilitarian value. Mary, my wife uses her's to get a base decal for her car, to get preferential security screening at the Orange County airport, and on a weekly basis, to shop at the commissary. The card is her's and even after my death she maintains essentially the same privileges. As my dependent she also depends on the military for community and for some advantages, sort of qualifying for military dependence.

My parents are buried in Arlington Cemetery, my mother’s ashes on top of my father’s casket. The single grave marker has their names and dates on opposite sides. My hope is that Mary and I will also be buried in Arlington. My younger son, a middle school teacher in a local parochial school, has been chaperoning the eighth-grade students to the Washington, DC area for the last several year and ends their tour of the cemetery by saying a prayer over his grandparent’s grave. I’d like to think of him doing the same for us.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, I find myself reflecting on my father’s service during the Second World War and as a reserve officer after that. I find myself remembering my own service, my two carrier assignments, my time with the SeaBees and the Marines, and my first military ID card, which had a number other than my SSN. I remember that, if I were captured by an enemy, I was to tell them nothing that was not on that card: my name, rank, and serial number. Today, as a civilian, I have to tell more than that to buy an airline ticket or check into a hotel. But the card is a good place to start.

And then, one of my favorite bloggers, Sonia: www.gutsywriter.com , writes a blog about her son, a student in a New Mexico military academy, finally realizing a dream to join the National Guard, and how she feels about that. As I say, it's funny how all those things fit together.


Tuesday’s blog will feature one of my favorite female vocal artists, who has just cut a new CD. I’ll tell you what makes her one of my faves.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday’s Letter from Mom

If it’s Tuesday I can expect an email from my sister-in-law with what has been happening in her life in an unincorporated town just south of Door County, Wisconsin. Actually, I am on the distribution list by request, as the weekly letter is designed to keep her eight children, five of whom have families and children of their own, feeling as a family.

This is something I am very supportive of, as those of you who have read my book “Harnessing a Heritage” ( www.deefitzgerald.com ) would fully appreciate. I have been telling her that the content is of general interest and could be a successful Blog, but she continues to feel it is more private.

Last week’s was so entertaining that I am going to risk going public with what could easily have been a David Letterman 10 best auction items from the Saint Louis Church annual auction:

10. A beautiful hanging basket, just in time for Mother's Day! A serenity plaque and 10 pounds of ground beef.

9. Pick your own raspberries. We will call you mid-July when they are ripe for the picking! Also, take home as many fresh cut flowers as you like and fresh vegetables from my garden.

8. 3 pound package of homemade Tripp, 5 jars canned tomatoes, 2 pints homemade salsa, one gallon of delicious hearty chicken Booyah and homemade white bread.

7. Music basket with Johnny Cash and George Jones CDs, popcorn for a home movie night and two jars of secret recipe chocolate sauce.

6. Blue Hawaiian basket filled with 15 polka dot cups, green and blue serving bowl, blue glass jar lantern, 4 bug candles, sesame sticks and margarita glasses, Blue Hawaiian malt, 2 Tiki lights, 20 plates, napkins and a light-up lei.

5. (Unfortunately this one went for only $22) Yoga Party, a $200 value.

4. One gallon of hearty chicken Booyah and homemade white bread. Four packages of garden seeds, 3 garden tools, pair of gloves, garden tool rack, carry-all tub and 2 faux stained glass window panels with flowers.

3. One hour of “old time” gospel music: vocals and mandolins. Great for an event, dinner party, campfire or your choice; please contact Scooter to make arrangements. Ten pounds of ground beef.

2. Your spring planting all taken care of! Julie Renier will plant your planters, either 4 large planters or 6 small planters, after May 23. She will come to your home and supply the annuals and perennials. Please allow one week notice.

And the hit of the evening, going for $500:

1. Kohler elongated comfort height white toilet with seat! Includes installation at buyer’s home.

Three of Kathleen’s eight daughters live “local” and so most of the weekly letters are filled with activities the geographically close family members are doing: the annual pumpkin patch hunt, Easter-egg hunt, deer and turkey hunting, Packer games, grandkid’s sporting endeavors, health issues, births, deaths and First Communions, business and occupation changes. Being Wisconsin, season, and climate provide content. Everyday activity provides the stories.

What is not included are petty references of what is “good”, “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. Opinions are rarely expressed, and what is left is a feeling of togetherness, of commonality, family cohesiveness.

When I left home to go to college, I called my parents weekly and wrote a letter every Sunday evening. I’m sure there was nothing of great interest to them in either communication vehicle, but we remained close until their deaths, largely because we shared how I was growing up.

The Wall Street Journal had an article yesterday on how grandparents are communicating, primarily on Facebook, with their grandchildren, leaving the parents outside the loop. You see, the grandparents and the grandchildren have the time to text. They also have the money to buy the gadgets necessary for social networking. Most importantly, they have the desire and interest to care about someone outside themselves.

Although Kathleen aims her Letter directly at her children, I have the feeling that it also reaches the next generation and will bear fruit for many years to come.

Next Saturday I think I’ll do my Blog on some aspects of being a military dependent. There was an article in the OC Register that got me thinking...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring and a Young Man’s Fancy

We’re almost as far past spring as I am past knowing a young man’s fancy, but part of the spring ritual is gardening and that has been on my mind lately. I have a brother-in-law who lives in rural Wisconsin and the earth is finally thawed enough so he will be turning it for his summer garden.

He takes gardening seriously. For starters he cultivates a plot that is at least thirty-feet by fifty-feet. He mostly plants things they will eat, like corn, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, peas and of course, zucchini. He has learned over the years to plant some things that will lessen the devastation by insects, if not the assortment of deer, rabbits, birds and other denizens of the nearby fields. For his birthday one year we gave him a book that only slightly tongue-in-cheek advised going nude in your garden under a full moon and marking its boundaries in the same way a dog would claim its territory.

Renny does plant some flowers for Eileen, his wife.

My own experience planting had a fifty-year hiatus between when I used to help my father with his, respectable by size, Iowa garden. When I left home for college, the Navy, California living, and eventual semi-retirement, I left gardening also. Like most Californians I have things growing in pots on my deck, but nothing very utilitarian other than herbs.

However, a few years ago, with time on my hands and a new-found attraction for cooking and fresh vegetables, I found myself shamed by a friend into investigating “Square-foot Gardening” a theory, book and newly revised edition by Mel Bartholomew www.squarefootgardening.com . The concept is that you can make your own soil, plant what you will use, time the maturation to avoid the “zucchini deluge” my Wisconsin relatives face every year, put watering on a timer, weed an hour every other week, and do it all in a space 4’x4’ or twice that if you have the room.

Things started well, until I realized that one of the truisms of living in a section called Lake Forest Woods was that I got very little sun. Mel had some suggestions and I devised a system of mirrors that quickly allowed me my own carrots and tomatoes.

A better solution soon presented itself. My neighbor was intrigued by what he saw and offered to allow me sharecropper rights to an irrigated sunny plot on the side of his house in exchange for some produce. Things improved and I could tolerate cleaning up and replanting when his cats, which had not been part of our negotiations, expressed their dissatisfaction with our arrangement.

My strawberries were almost ripe, when the raccoons found them. Actually, the raccoons, who my neighbor was feeding from his deck, probably found the strawberries early on, but they were smarter about knowing when to pick them than I was and one never made it to my table.

With a setback from treatment for Prostate cancer (there’s something about a colonoscopy bag that clears the mind from thoughts of weeding), some dry weather and a faulty water system, no produce to share and the local fauna, the concept of square foot gardening frizzled. The apparatus and the soil ingredients are now contributing to the land fill problem.

And now my gardening is done once a week at the local Farmer’s Market. The produce is abundant, fresh, organic, has a green carbon footprint and, even at prices higher than the produce at the local produce market, cheaper by far than my gardening adventure, which produced the classic “$200 tomato”.

I’m fortunate that in California the Farmer’s Market is pretty much a year-round thing with seasonality providing great diversity in selection. I don’t have to fight the critters, except for a rat that has found my birdfeeder, the occasional raccoon digging for grubs in my oregano, or the stupid possum wandering around in the night. I don’t have to worry about too much or too little rain and I have the warm, fuzzy feeling that I am doing the right thing in my vegetable and seafood purchases.

Have any of you been more successful in your gardening efforts?