Thursday, April 03, 2008

No fool like a (really cute) old fool (with rockin' gazongas)

The main problem in living this far out of the way is that your choices are real limited when it comes to health care. Now, living in America means thats going to be a problem anyway, but I also live in a tiny American town that had to advertise internationally to persuade two doctors to come practice here.
Naturally, we didn't end up with anyone who had to turn down offers to teach neurosurgery.

Whenever I've had to choose a new doctor I try and go for the youngest woman on staff. If it comes down to one of those 'feet in the stirrups' type procedures I'd rather have someone who knows their way around the territory doing the exam, for one thing. For another, the younger person knows the newest procedures. Right?

Well, this time I didn't get much of a choice.

I have a couple of chronic conditions that make it necessary to visit the doctors fairly often. A 30-some-odd mile round trip to Bellingham is out of the question in midwinter. A 17 mile round trip to Lynden is just ridiculous. Why? Seems all the practitioners in Lynden are stonewall Christians who belong to these profit driven, drug company-sponsored 'treatment management' programs. On the one hand you get to listen to Dr. Apostles' witness while he does your PAP smear, and on the other you end up getting convinced you need all the expensive drugs and treatments that 'Big Drug Corporation, Ltd.' is pushing. That is a WHOLE 'NOTHER POST. Suffice it to say, that WON'T do.

When we got news of the new practitioners' opening shop here in town there was much rejoicing. Rejoicing tempered with the realization that we were going to be dealing with some 'C' students, mind; this is American medicine after all. But at least it's a foot in the door and close, right?

Doctor #1 is an elderly gynaecologist who decided, once he'd moved here, that he wanted to be a General Practitioner. Just because. Try something new; what the hey. Never trained for it. Not qualified. The guy spent the last 30 years talking to tuna; suddenly he's magically able to diagnose throat cancer and cataracts and Alzheimers? Sure! Why the fuck not?
This is the same guy who basically tried to kill my Yummy Biker by prescribing him a combination of drugs that even I know is LETHAL.

Prior to that I had to go in and have a talk with ol' Doc Tuna about how reading your patients' goddamn charts beforehand is a good idea? Since-and I could be wrong here; after all I didn't go to medical school like he did (back in the Pleistocene) -a patient with a previously diagnosed sleeping disorder should probably NOT be given medication proven to increase the likelihood of OPERATING MACHINERY, EATING AND DRIVING IN ONES' SLEEP.

The other doctor is a youngish guy....hardcore Christian but not obnoxious about it. He operates independently of the 'treatment management' Mafia, and so I figured why not give him a chance?

The upside of this is that he's a good guy.

The downside of this is that he's a typically overworked American GP who has compounded that whole issue by having six kids AND being a member of Doctors Without Borders.

Kids are good, and I believe in this program, and I admire the guy for being part of it.

What I don't like is the fact that he has a standardized packages of speeches he delivers on any given medical issue, nearly word for word each time. The man isn't seeing individuals; he's seeing conditions.
The guy is right on the verge of burnout.

This past winter was possibly the worst winter for me, health-wise, on record. I spend more time sick than I did well, and I had a nearly constant respiratory infection going. I went through over-the-counter rescue inhalers by the metric shitload. I needed to go out and be active. It's vital that I do so, now that I have diabetes. And I wanted to get out and be active too...but every goddamn time I did the infection came back, or I caught another cold, or got bronchitis, or ran onto a fungal bloom someplace or a cat or some feathers and had a huge allergic reaction. My system was under constant, constant attack and the asthma was just RAGING.

But oh yes, I did go to see my doctor. Three times.

Each time I received the same standardized speech about 'viral infections are untreatable with antibiotics and I should wait and let it run its course and then come in only if it persists'. ('Persist' being the infinitely definable operative term here.)

Now, were I a younger person I would have bought this unquestioningly. As an older person with a medical phobia, I let myself trust that his experience would be recent and that maybe he knew something that I hadn't heard. All the while, what I should have been doing is trusting MYSELF.

I've had this shit since 1966. I KNOW the goddamn difference between a viral infection and the usual crap I get. I have allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, polyps and asthma. I know that the standard cortisone-based treatments for the asthma actually makes the other stuff worse in the long run because steroids suppress the immune system. I KNOW that the only recourse, in my case, given my etiology, is to take the goddamn antibiotics and heal up and then work like hell and get strong. Now that I'm diabetic this only goes double, since inhaled corticosteroids make diabetes WORSE.

So next week I get to go in and tell Mr. 'I Donate My Skills Worldwide for the Greater Glory of Christ' that he's full of shit.

Basically I fucked away an entire winter believing someone else and letting my fear of doctors give me an excuse to listen to the WRONG ADVICE. That's time I will never get back. I screwed the pooch bigtime and I've got nobody to blame, ultimately, but ME.

And then I get to go find a new doctor!!!


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More quaint freakin' vignettes from my rural idyll, which is still charming.


In the past, I have met with a certain amount of opposition when trying to explain why I express myself so colorfully...
To recap:

1. Why do you have such a dang ol potty mouth, Nations you wacky broad you?
Because I'm from Oregon. I fuckin' grew up talking like that. Can't think of a noun? 'Shit' will do nicely as a replacement! As in 'My shit is so fuckin' tired of grownup people complaining about my language."

2. Well, I grew up in Oregon and I have no idea what you're talking about. We never talked that way.
Oh please go fuck yourself. Don't try and be all 'real estate' on me, Portland, you swear like a cat and you twang like a banjo. Makes no difference where you grew up. Milwaukie? Hell yeah. Healy Heights? You too! And Heaven save us from you nasty St. Mary of the Valley private school hoochies; y'all are just VILE.
Well done!

The reason for all this celebration is that there is now DOCUMENTARY PROOF FOR ALL TIME that I'm not making excuses....and it's in the form of a Discovery Channel reality series called 'Axe Men'. It's about loggers. It's filmed up around Vernonia (oh go look it up on google/earth; I ain't your dirty map bitch) and lemme tell you, the 'motherfuckers' be flying thick up in them thar woods. Those boys are flat freestyling.

Remember that trip back to Oregon I just took? Yeah, you'll be hearing a lot more about it too. Anyway, once we'd crossed the state line and were in Oregon, we stopped in Clatskanie (no, now I told you I ain't your goddamn google/earth bitch! go look it up yourownself!) to top up the tank and stretch our legs. Inside the mini mart I walked past a couple of ordinary lumber-type guys, covered in sawdust, waiting in line to buy something out of the hot case.

One says' You talk to him recently?'
The other says 'I aint seen that motherfucker in months.'

And I knew I was back home.

In Washington it would have been "Have you talked to him recently?
The other would say "Iyant seen him in months."

Now I'm going to get a bunch of comments saying "Well, I live in Washington and nobody talks that way. 'Iyant'? What's 'Iyant'? No 'Iyants' here; too many doubleshot lattes have addled your speech centers, grasshopper."

To which I reply "Maaaaaaaan, fuck all y'all. AND the horse you rode in on." Because I'm right, and now I'm moving on to another subject.


Yesterday was my first official day out in the garden overdoing things. Yay! I got the front yard mowed and trimmed, and mowed as much of the back yard as I could without pissing off the ducks or having to don scuba gear. I got my vegetables started a whole month late, took the asparagus hay to the compost area (now nicely rotted down!!!) and eyed the shrubbery critically.

This has become something of an obsession with me now that I have a professional arborist in the family. He carries his clippers (Felco, bypass) in a leather holster for heavens sake. He can prune a tree and talk at the same time, snap snap snap, oh yes, acers have some trouble with botrytis, clip, snap, clip. It's intimidating. I guess probably moreso if you're an acer, though.

Now that I'm back home I'm looking at my poor weeping alder and cringing in shame. Sure, once it leafs out it looks fine, but geeze the awkward cuts. The red osier by the bedroom window is not exactly a triumph of the art either. Because of it's location I've had to damn near pleach it; and really keep after it so it doesn't scrape against the house and freak my shit out in the middle of the night thinking that zombies are trying to claw through the siding. Still, every time I knock it back it does something else objectionable. Just to be difficult. I know it.

Do not even look at my staghorn willow; just do NOT. It is SAD. It is CRYING.

My Magnolia Stellata should bloom forth TODAY. Yesterday I was looking at it while I was sweeping the sidewalk and I thought 'Oh yeah. Give it another couple of hours of sunlight and those buds will open right out." And sure enough:

...I was dead wrong. There you go.

This is such an excellent can stand up to the Northeaster, and it has a nice structure too. The blossoms are white as swans feathers! Big enough to call attention to themselves; gracefully made yet unusual. It's really obliging; you can train it to any shape you like. The blossoms last for a long time and the wind doesn't tear them off. When they do fall they turn very small and brown; they don't lie there in a big soggy heap, looking all weird like spoiled salad, like the petals of a tulip magnolia do. In the summer it shows a nice leaf and provides lots of gentle shade, and in the fall the leaves turn a magnificent hot yellow. For me this is a 4 seasons plant.

It's taking the place of what I'd originally wanted; some cornus florida (pink flowering dogwood.) Sadly, that goes tits up here as soon as the first Northeaster blows. Although it is weirdly site-specific-it will live and grow happily on the protected south side of a structure, even up in Abbostford. But one hard blast of dry cold does the whole thing in. So if you were to tear down the house or the wall thats protecting it, no matter how mature the tree is; it's days are numbered. Yes, even the hybrids. I know. It's sad.

We have a cornus kousa over the Spud. It came through the winter without even noticing. (Good thing, or I'da had to beat down some Dutch ass.) It had to be hardy; it's sited right in the path of a venturi effect; where the Northeaster comes cracking through and ramps off the corner of my house, which makes the wind gust even faster and adds some turbulence. This same nearly beat my poor armandii clematis to death, but the kousa never even lost a twig.

Come to think of it, I have a fair working knowledge of what works in a cold, windy site. Here's a map of mine:

...and that does not make me your map bitch; it just means I'm helpful. Sometimes.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

REVEALED!!! The secret of Freemasonry is....

Masonic meatballs!
...and because I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a country that has normal measurements which make sense, here's your conversion site* down in the footie notes.
This one is worth it, kids.

meatball recipe:

1/2 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup of plain white flour for dusting, set aside in a bowl. Save what you don't use for dusting, you'll need it for the gravy!

2 lbs ground pork, 2 lbs ground beef. (beef can be extra lean; the pork will make up the fat.)
1 cup dry white bread crumbs
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
nutmeg 1/2 tsp
allspice 1/2 tsp
3 tbls minced shallot
1/2 cup (after cutting) fresh minced parsley

mix this together very very well, and let chill, covered, overnight in fridge.

The next day, form into ping pong-sized balls.
dust with flour, roll between hands while shaking off excess
and then bake on a lightly oiled sheet pan for 20 minutes at 400f.

Once they come out of the oven, let them sit for 20 minutes or so, then dump them into a baking dish large enough to hold them 1 layer deep. You can use two dishes if you have to; it doesn't matter.

Gravy recipe:

4 cups beef stock
1/2 cup lager beer

1 cup milk +the mixture you used to dust the meatballs, whatever there is left of it, to make a slurry with the milk.

1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup white breadcrumbs, toasted brown VERY IMPORTANT
1/4 cup minced shallot
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
(optional-a few shakes of ranch dressing sprinkles)
(optional-salt up using powdered chicken bouillon instead of plain salt)
1/3 tsp. white pepper
1/3 tsp. nutmeg
dill spice-be careful

Dump it all in a pot on the cold stovetop and bring it up to 'high' while you stir. Not like a windmill in a high gale, just enough to keep it mixed and off the bottom of the pot.

A word of caution: when you first mix this sauce up it will have a really strange, sourish backbite to it, and you'll think 'Nations, you're nuts.' I am, but not when it comes to this sauce. It tones way down and finishes by being let to cook in for a long time in the oven with the meatballs.

When the sauce kicks, take off the fire and dump it over the meatballs, and make sure you coat each one. (If it seems like its on the watery side, stir in another half-cup of breadcrumbs before you dump it over the meatballs. Better to err on the side of too thick now; you can thin it down with milk or bouillion later before you serve it.)


Replace the meatballs with the gravy in the oven, and turn the heat down to 275. Yes, 275f.

Hold it there for at least 3 hours.

Yes, really.

If you were to bake this like a standard casserole (at 375 or 400 for 30 minutes) it would turn out tasting completely weird. And don't even think about trying it in a crockpot. No, baking it long and low like this makes everything kind of get all brown and cooked in and good. It's absolutely necessary to developing the flavor. I don't know why this works but it does.

As it bakes it will get cracked and brown on top and look kind of ugly. Check it a couple times to see that it doesn't get too dried out, though; float a little milk on top if it looks like its getting too shallow. I had to about 45 minutes before I took it out.

Before you serve it, mix it all around gently. It will then turn a nice yellowy-gold color.

Now serve it with riced potatoes. Noodles would be great too!

to recap:
mix up meatballs, chill overnight
make meatballs
bake meatballs
make sauce
dump over meatballs
put in slow oven
catch a Mythbusters marathon, crack a few beers, nap