Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nothing so rare as a day in June

Or some such poetic flight of fancy. While thousands of Calgary's residents and businesses continue to gut flood ravaged homes and businesses and six rail cars full of diesel fuel slowly sink on a failing bridge on the Bow River I wandered out to the front of the building to assess the progress of my flower beds.

And as you can see from the pictures, things are coming along nicely. I took these yesterday, today I can see that the red roses which were buds yesterday have now opened, but you'll have to imagine them, as I am too lazy to go down there this morning.

We begin at the front bed, where the yellow roses, "Little Rocket" Ligularia, Sage, catmint and violets are in full flight. Just opening or on the verge of opening are the red roses, the Oriental poppies, echinacea, yellow cinquefoil, and the daisies. In the background the white cinquefoil is beginning to bloom, and the lilac bush is in its glory.

Moving up the walk to the shaded area, the pink astilbe are absolutely gorgeous, and the sage I planted last year is almost three feet tall and holds up its deep purple flower spikes like candles.  The chartreuse hosta I planted as a rhizome last year is coming into its own, a lovely lime colour that brings a bit of light to a spot that is shaded for most of the day.

Across the walk are the deep purple "Coral Bells",  which are blooming but since the blooms are the size of a pin head they are hard to get a decent photo of. Behind that bed is my Zen garden. The sedum mat has really taken off and looks wonderful. I hope (but doubt) that these are hardy sedums. If not I'll drop the $15.00 for a new mat next spring and replant.

Farther down the row several hostas and a white astilbe are just hovering at the edge of blooming. I'll leave them until pictures can be taken. The one hosta has several buds, which is exciting (well, for me it is!) because I've never had more than one bloom on a hosta before.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered...

Paul Beckwith · Climatology/meteorology research & part-time professor at University of Ottawa
Torrential rains in some regions are causing massive floods while in other locales record droughts are occurring with higher frequency and severity. 

Global food production is being hit hard, leading to large price increases and political instability. Areas under drought are experiencing massive forest fires of incredible ferocity. The frequency of extreme weather events has changed for the worse due to changes in the location, speed, and waviness of the jet streams which guide weather patterns and separate cold and dry northern air from warm and moist southern air. 

The jet streams have changed because the equator to north-pole temperature difference has decreased due to the huge temperature rise in the Arctic. This temperature rise in the Arctic is due to a decrease in the area of highly reflective snow and ice, which is caused by melting. The melting is from warming due to the increase of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning. 

The Arctic sea ice and spring snow cover will vanish within a few years and the weather extremes will increase at least 10x. - Paul Beckwith, June 20th, 2013.

What can you do? Talk to your politicians and friends about climate change and the need to slash fossil fuel emissions. Immediately. Cut and paste my comments above and post them on facebook, send them to newspapers, and educate yourself on the science behind global climate change. Leave my name on or take it off and plagiarize all you want, just get this knowledge out ...

From an unmuzzled climate scientist,
Paul Beckwith

Surf's Up - Calgary-Style

Unless you've had no contact with the outside world you'll know that Calgary is in the middle of a devastating flood. As I noted earlier Calgary has three seasons; winter, monsoon and drought. It's rained pretty much steadily and heavily for the past three weeks, but in a 24 hour period about eight inches fell in the mountains above us, with smaller, yet definitely not needed amounts at the lower altitudes. Compounding the problem, the rain in the mountains melted much of the higher than  normal snow-pack, adding more water.

Calgary lies in a natural bowl created by glacial flow thousands of years in the past. Two rivers run through this bowl, the Bow and the Elbow. The city was originally built at the site where those two rivers converged. In the past couple of days both rivers have been flowing at 10 times their normal volume and speed, overflowing the dams, and rushing through every low-lying neighbourhood in the city.  A hundred thousand people have been forced to evacuate their homes in Calgary and surrounding communities. Thankfully, we are well out of the evacuation zone. If you look at the map, to the far right in about the middle in the community of Pembrook Meadows. That is where we are, so we are well out of harm's way.

All the downtown high rises, offices and hotels have been evacuated. The power has been turned off  downtown due to flooding of wet electrical transformers.  

Still there is no chaos and no panic, in large part because our mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has been on his feet non-stop keeping everyone informed and reassured since the crisis began. He even opened his home to several seniors who had been evacuated from their assisted living facility. It is no mystery why Nenshi is Canada's highest ranked mayor.  

The Stampede Grounds are totally under water, as the Elbow River wraps around the site. The Stampede is scheduled to open two weeks from today. People are already volunteering to pitch in and clean up the grounds and buildings so the Stampede can open on time. Calgary is vibrant and very community-centred. People have a reputation for pitching in and helping each other. Thousands are already overwhelming the city offices with offers of any kind of help needed, from shoveling mud from flooded basements to feeding emergency workers.

And though the photo of flooding in a backlot in the downtown is genuine, the Orcas have been photoshopped in - I think. LOL

Friday, June 21, 2013

Endlessly Fascinating...

Neurologist Oliver Sacks is almost a household name for his ground-breaking work in neurobiology.

I could listen to him all day. In this TED Talk he describes several cases where patients who were perfectly mentally healthy had hallucinations, and how the syndrome that describes their condition came to be recognized and named. It is a fascinating glimpse into how the brain works.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Feeling Better Yet?

As reported earlier, I emerged from my doctor's appointment on Tuesday morning with prescriptions for two of the needed six medications I had on my list. Thus began the circus. I was totally out of one of these meds, and, of course, it is the only one I take that I absolutely cannot skip a dose.

The pharmacy FAXed my list to the doctor's office, and advised I follow up with a phone call. I called. My doctor was gone for the day and would not return until Friday, so sorry, but no filling of prescriptions by FAX until Friday. I explained to the voice on the other end of the line that there is one medication I must have, and asked her if one of the other doctors can't simply write a script for that one?

Lost your marbles yet? Need help?
She said she'll call me back. An hour later she called back and said, "Dr. X will FAX a script for two pills, one for Thursday am and one for Friday am." (Oh goodie! A co-pay for the dispensing charge of $15.00 + cost of two pills!)

She instructed me to check with my pharmacist in a couple of hours, and to call the pharmacy on Thursday afternoon and ask them to FAX a request for the prescriptions again since my own doctor will be in on Friday. I thanked her and went about my business, weary and a little aggravated around the edges.

A couple of hours later I called the pharmacist and learned that Dr X had written scripts for a two-day supply of every medication I take plus one I don't take and never have taken! I think my hair is a bit whiter than it was when I crawled out of bed this morning, but never mind. I had already arranged for delivery of a couple of meds for Tony earlier and I asked that the one I needed be added to that. I told them I only needed the one medication. I got two bottles with two pills each but at least not nine bottles with two pills each, so that was some kind of victory.

This afternoon I called the pharmacy. (I really wouldn't blame them for blocking my number.) I apologized but said I had to ask them to FAX this blooming list to the doctor again, and read the list to them. Second on the list was my pain med. Now this is just plain old Tylenol 2, but as soon as I said I needed a new prescription the pharmacist asked, "You've got a prescription here from March 1st for 480 of them. You need more?"

I had the bottle in hand, filled March 19, 240 pills, which still has 20 or so pills in it. But it says clearly at the top, NO REFILLS. The pharmacist explained the bottle I had in hand was from a prescription written in November. Suddenly I was filled with a sinking feeling that my doctor may well think I am taking twice as much pain medication as prescribed, when I only rarely take the amount she allows.

The pharmacy's policy is that when you bring in a new prescription it clears the old one off, but in this case they did not do that, and their inconsistency led me to believe I had no prescription for pain pills left. I called back and had a heart-to-heart with the pharmacy manager and asked if they were not going to be consistent then they should at least let me know, so I don't appear to be a drug-seeker with my doctor.  He said, "Dear dear but we can't be responsible for getting things wrong. We're too busy to follow our own rules, or to be consistent. But if your doctor calls asking if you're an addict and I happen to answer the phone and remember this conversation I'll tell her you aren't."  (Somehow I am not feeling the warm glow of reassurance, but it could just be stress-induced senility setting in.) 

Now I hitched up my big girl drawers and called the clinic again, to tell them they should have received a FAX from my pharmacy. The receptionist chirps, "Yes, you need scripts for med #1 and med #2. We have it. Bye."

"WAIT! Read that back to me again. Med #3 and #4 are NOT on the  FAX?"

"No, just these two."

The pharmacy has FAXed a request for two of the four remaining meds I need. I had to hog-tie the receptionist to the telephone while I told her exactly which meds I need. She got a bit starchy and suggested I should make an appointment with the doctor when I want so many prescriptions. 

I told her I HAD made an appointment with the doctor, and had seen her on Tuesday, and although we had talked about the medications, and I had brought her a printed sheet of the meds I needed scripts written she only wrote two of the six prescriptions I needed before getting distracted and as a result I have spent two and a half days trying to get the mess straightened out.

She said she would FAX the pharmacy, and ask them to FAX the clinic back the correct list of the medications.  She then said, "Then I'll have to see if one of the doctors who is in today will sign them." I told her no, I want my own doctor to sign off on them tomorrow. The clerk is supposed to call me back once she has the FAX from the pharmacy. So far this has taken 10 phone calls, seven FAXes and two and a half days of wasted time.

This is one of the joys of "elderhood". If you aren't demented when you go into the doctor's office you damn well are by the time you finish with them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All Together Now Zzzzzzzzzzz…..

A couple of weeks ago I had some blood work done at the lab. Last Friday our GP's office called and said the doctor wanted to discuss my results with me, nothing urgent, was I free the next morning at 8:30 am?

Well I was not, as I have a standing (or lying) appointment with my bed at that particular o'clock. On the rare day when I have achieved something resembling consciousness by that time it's dangerous to assume I am coherent.  So she suggested Tuesday at 10:30.

Ten-thirty is still iffy by my body clock. My wits and I do not tend to look in the same direction until noon at least. Elephants could float overhead at 10:30 am most mornings and I would not even notice, or if I did, I wouldn't give a flying fuc^. But she pressed it and I reluctantly agreed.

I laid out *everything* yesterday. I printed off duplicate copies of the prescriptions I needed to have refilled, with doses and timing, (one sheet for her and one for me). I printed the one question I had. I laid out my morning meds, made the coffee, decided what to eat so I could take the pills, decided what to wear, in appropriate layers. One layer = 20 C, two layers = 15 C, three layers = 10 C, four layers = 5 C. And if it's raining one additional layer to whichever choice was appropriate. (For those who are dying to know I went with two layers and a rain layer because it was raining buckets.)

I always arrive early so I have a few minutes to sit, quieten myself, counsel my doctor phobia, meditate a bit, and let my blood pressure and heart rate settle. Today, there were no handicap spots open and I had to park halfway down the lot. Rather than drown I hurried faster than I should have, so I really needed that "quiet time." But as soon as my butt hit the seat the admit clerk called me in, plopped me on the scales (yikes!), then took my still-elevated blood pressure and pulse rate.

Remember it is 10:30 in the morning and I am still stupid. The doctor comes in. She is a pleasant young woman in her early 40s, but she has a computer phobia which is unfortunate because she has to use it for every appointment. She approaches the computer as one would an erect hooded cobra which is triangulating for a strike. Fear stark on her face she slides into her chair, never taking her eyes off the screen. 

"I called you in?" It is a question she asks the screen.



"I had labwork done."

She winces and touches the keyboard as if anticipating an electric shock, and brings up my file. "You need your thyroid medicine increased. It that all?" 

"No, I need refills." I hand her my sheet, with prescription refills printed in 16 pt Georgian font, double-spaced. Clear, concise.

She looks at the sheet in dismay and pecks at the keyboard. A paper comes out of the buzzing printer on her desk. I am still stupid. I do not look at it.

"Call in October to book an appt." she says, and she scurries out the door.

I stuff the paper in my bag, hobble back across the parking lot through sheets of rain and drive to the pharmacy down the road. At the pharmacist's counter I take out the prescription sheet and ask for refills on…. I look at the sheet. Of the five medications I needed refills on there are only two listed, and I don't need either of them right away.

The two medications I need refilled now are not on the sheet. But I also need one filled for which I have a prescription on file. I ask for it. The pharmacist says I can't have it because it's 41 days early. I tell her that this can't be, as I only take half the dose of what's prescribed. Nevertheless the pharmacist insists I can't have the medication and suggests that I "go home and think about it". (???)  But she agrees to call the doctor and get my refills straightened out.

I come home, look at the meds in my case. The one I need refilled was last filled in January and could have been refilled in March. I call the pharmacy. "Oh, we got the drug names mixed up," she said. "We thought you wanted the other one that you just had filled."  (I toy with the idea of suggesting they all 'go home and think about it')

On a practical note I think we all ought to go home and go back to bed, sleep a few more hours and start this day again. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rambling in the Roses

Well, only one rose blooming so far but it's a beauty of pure butter yellow. Of course, it began to rain buckets on us as we finished planting so I didn't think and let Kevin take the bucket the rose had come in to the garbage without recording its name. So now I have no idea what kind of rose it is, other than it is hardy, on its own root and is supposed to bloom from June til frost. (promises promises)

It has a lovely form as a bud, and opens to the old tea-rose form. The bush is loaded with buds. There must be two dozen in various stages of development. 

A morning walk with the camera affirmed what I can see from the balcony.

The sages are blooming, the ligularia "Little Rocket" has several fabulous spears of brilliant yellow. The purple-blooms of the sage and catmint fill in between the ligularia and the rose, creating a nice purple and yellow combo.

I noted that the other roses, some of the echinacea (coneflower) and the Oriental poppies are putting on buds, so there should be an explosion of colour in that front flower bed before too long.

Back in the shade the fern and hostas are doing well, and across from them, the purple sage is blooming and the feathery heads of astilbe buds are just beginning to open and blushing pink. The large leaves of the "Midnight Lady" ligularia are behind the astilbe. It will eventually have yellow daisy-like flowers which look like an ox-eye daisy.

The beds still look a bit bare, but will fill in over the next few weeks, especially when I go down and plant the last six-pack of dusty miller I found tucked underneath one of the shrubs. Aiiii.... Missed that entirely! Will have to figure out
where to shoehorn in another six dusty miller. 

Sadly the coleus plants I put in are sulking and haven't grown. Maybe they don't like our soil, or there's been too much rain for them. In sun or shade, it doesn't seem to matter. They are all threatening to shrivel and die. I may replace some with those dusty miller. In gardening it's always a "win some lose some" situation.  

But there's no argument that replacing the moss garden around the standing stone in the Zen garden with a sedum mat is a big success. Since the moss was in bad shape after the winter I pulled it out and replaced it with a sedum mat I found at the gardening center. It gives the impression of a wild and pristine forest at the base of a lonely and inaccessible peak. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is This the Asylum or...

Is it one more stop down the highway?

We have a couple of neighbours who really enjoy squabbling with each other. I think both are monumentally bored and fussing with each other lends a little drama to their deadly dull lives.

They live two doors apart. One has a cat.  I live on a different floor and in a different wing. The one with a cat took a holiday last summer and asked me to look after her cat. I agreed, and three times a day traipsed to her unit to open and shut windows, feed, water and keep company with the cat who is a biter and is not to be trusted.

Her place probably would not quite qualify for an episode of Hoarders, but she's definitely not house-proud. She left for her holiday without cleaning the cat's litter box, which was packed concrete solid with soiled litter. It was so hard the cat could no longer scratch a hole in it, so he'd been using the floor in front of the box for a couple of days at least.

The odour was overwhelming. The first day I came home, got my shovel and broke up the litter in the box into manageable size blocks, shovelled it into several bags and filled the box with clean litter from my stock. Then I scrubbed down the floor, which was covered in pee and worse, and washed the matt that she had lying adjacent, which he had drug over his mistakes.

When she returned she was angry that I had changed the litter, and told me so in no uncertain terms (it's expensive!). She also didn't like the way I had fed the cat, but she had left no instructions, other than, "the food is in the pantry".  She complained almost daily about my cat-sitting sins until November, when she asked me to cat-sit for her two week Christmas holiday.

Not surprisingly I begged off. Thankfully the neighbour volunteered. That was good, except on the third day the neighbour showed up at my door and said, "I don't want to do it, you do it."  She hadn't cleaned the litter box for the three days she'd taken care of him. When cat lady returned she gave me holy hell (again) for not feeding cat the way she wanted. Told me I could have called her sister long distance for instructions if I didn't know what to feed him on what day. Complained about it from January until April when she asked me to take care of the cat during her two week summer holiday.

I said, "NO, in no uncertain terms! Right now I'm having trouble taking care of my own family." So she went to the neighbour and came back saying the neighbour will feed the cat and I can clean the litterbox. I asked her what part of no does she have trouble with? I am not taking care of the cat, or his litterbox. "Oh," she said.

She was scheduled to leave Friday morning. Thursday night she called me from the neighbour's. "Here", she said, "you and neighbour can work out the rotation of who is taking care of the cat on what days."

She handed the phone to the neighbour. I said to neighbour, "I told [cat lady] from the beginning that I am unable to take care of the cat. I am not cleaning the litterbox, I am not rotating days, or mornings and evenings. I am not doing it period. I told her that two months ago and have told her that every time she has brought it up. "

"Okay," the neighbour said, "I know you haven't been well. You have to take care of your health," (She is 30, healthy and is home all day, and has a young, strong husband). "Don't worry about it. We'll do it."

Today I got a long distance call from cat lady saying, "I just got an angry e-mail from neighbour asking why you aren't helping take care of the cat like you promised?"

If this is the Asylum some of us aren't getting our meds on time.

Monday, June 03, 2013

When the Student is Ready

The teacher will appear, or so Zen precepts say.

Allow me to introduce Brother Servant Salvador, master teacher of simplicity.

Here he meditates, using his mala beads, probably on which lesson the student needs to learn next and what technique to use.

Perhaps the lesson is that all things are temporary? For example, he teaches that the body is temporary in a unique way. He steals all the toothbrushes and hides them. While one isn't supposed to form an attachment to one's body, one's failure to achieve this state is never so obvious as when a molar has to be extracted from a bottom jaw. The roots reach into one's shoulder blades apparently.  Attachment is too mild a word.

Maybe the student's senses should be sharpened by the removal of and/or puncturing of skin? It is a well-known fact that students must be scourged. All religions are cognizant of the value of pain to heighten the senses, instill a healthy sense of fear and impress the need for immediate obedience.

The teacher also encourages simplicity by breaking items of value. The student's favourite vase? A bowl pushed off the counter onto the floor, a six-foot leap ending on the screen on the ipad?

The student's outburst of temper is eventually followed by the lesson of contrition and there will be cuddles. But not until after the shouting has subsided and the teacher has emerged from an appropriate period of contemplation under-the-furniture or in the too-high-for-her-to-reach-place.

The interruption of sleep is another valued tool the teacher uses. "Wake, lazy sluggard; for the hour is 3:00 am and the teacher is an hungered for grilled chicken with gravy from a can in the pantry!"  At 4:00 am the teacher begins to sing, "Wake oh lazy one! Dawn approaches and your toes are both titillating and delicious!" At 5:00 am the teacher begins a course of acupuncture on the student's scalp, a well-recognized technique for curing the migraine now throbbing on the right side of the student's head. 

At 5:10 the teacher is ejected with appropriate curses chanting, from the student's bed chamber. He begins his 80 decibel "song to the morning" howled by his sect from time immemorial. The older monk gets up from his perch on the cat tree, a scuffle ensues, there is some hissing and quiet descends on the monastery, at least temporarily.  

Exhaustion and intimidation have ever been the tool of brainwashing of religions. There is no other explanation for why we  become lifelong students in the school of catzen.

Unless you count kitten kisses.