Following Blogs

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I have very little spare time. It always seems to me that should not be the case. I don’t work outside the home, but taking care of a house, yard, a husband, a cat and a dog do take up quite a bit of time. Because my husband still works a full-time job, I essentially do everything else.

Right now, my writing is my job. Trying fit in several hours of writing each day on my books and blog and still getting all the other things I need to do done can often be difficult. When you add in working out and reading, it becomes nearly impossible. And I’m not going to give up the working out. So the reading suffers.

Having my blog hosted by WordPress is wonderful. I really appreciate the ability to connect with other bloggers, read their work, and have them read mine. I get a thrill when someone likes what I’ve written. I get an even bigger thrill when I get a message that someone is now following my blog. And I also feel a sense of guilt.

There are only a few blogs that I follow. I’d like to follow more, but even with the few that I do, my inbox is flooded daily with new posts to read. I can’t possibly read them all. I look at the list as it gets longer and longer and wonder what I am to do about it. And then the guilt sets in.

How can I expect others to read my blog if I don’t read theirs? And it seems only polite to follow the blog of someone who is following my blog. But I don’t have that much time in the day. I guess this is sort of an apology.

There’s an answer to my dilemma out there somewhere, I suppose. But I haven’t found it yet.

You Can't Legislate Away Stupidity

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Do you ever wonder what’s next? I do.

I have read reports that a significant number of emergency room visits are due to individuals taking over-the-counter medicines that contain acetaminophen and then also taking acetaminophen by itself. The overdoses were the cause of the emergency room visits and led to death in a number of cases.

In an effort to cut health care costs, will legislators decide that over-the-counter cold remedies and sleep aids and the like can no longer contain acetaminophen? I don’t necessarily think that it is a good idea to put a pain reliever in anything other than something intended to be taken to relieve pain, but that aside, you can’t legislate away stupidity. And I frequently wonder what choices and liberties we might lose in government’s attempts to do just that.

I’ve always felt that it is my responsibility to know what I am putting into my body in what amounts and what constitutes a safe dosage. And I’m not just talking about medications; it’s just as important with the food that I eat.

I learned early on that one quarter of the usual adult dosage of an antihistamine was all that I required and that I should never, ever eat squash. I also learned that the full, recommended adult dosage of an antihistamine would knock me right out … for hours. Decongestants in any dosage are a complete no-no.

My point is I don’t want government trying to tell me what and when and how much of something I can or should take or eat. And yet, that is the direction in which we seem to be headed. I’ll say it again, you can’t legislate away stupidity. No matter what you do, some idiot will find a way to use something in such a fashion as to make themselves sick or outright dead. I don’t think that the rest of us should have to suffer because of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have just as much compassion as the next person, maybe more, but the necessary information for making good decisions is printed right on the packages of these sorts of items. If someone wants to believe it must be safe to take different medicines in haphazard combinations simply because they are offered for sale, they are sorely mistaken. The crazy numbers of these items that are offered for sale are offered for one reason, and one reason only … to make money. Why anyone would put their health and safety in the hands of that often cited “they,” I will never understand. As in, these must be safe if they put them on the shelves.

I know that it might be nice if there were some way for us all to stay as children in our parents homes where our parents always make all the best and right decisions for us (yes, I know, there are homes in which this does not happen). But that is not the case. We grow up, we become self-sufficient and we get on with life. To expect or even desire that government take the place of our parents is naïve and, in my opinion, ridiculous and not at all a good idea.

I don’t know what they cover in health classes anymore. Or even if they have health classes these days. But in my day, they did not really cover nutrition, nutrition labels (well, okay, we didn’t have nutrition labels when I was really young) or how to read the labels on packages of over-the-counter drugs.

You can’t legislate away stupidity, but you can educate it away. A course on the safe use of over-the-counter drugs alone would be helpful. So, all you movers and shakers out there in government land take note. The key to cutting health care costs and making lives better in general is to have a better educated populace. End of lecture … or maybe that’s end of rant.

I Don't Watch the News

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Some years ago now, we cancelled our cable television subscription. We did not replace it with any other kind of reception. At the time, we had dumb phones, so there was no watching of old TV show (my husband’s current favorite is The Rifleman), or YouTube videos (I like amusing cat and dog videos).

Cancelling our service made a profound change in our lives. Chief among the changes was that I completely stopped keeping abreast of the news.

It wasn’t until I stopped keeping tabs on crime (local and national) and international doings that I realized how much stress that had added to my life. I found an inner calm that, before then, I had thought was not possible.

But, I got to thinking that perhaps I was remiss. Everyone else seemed so wrapped up in who did what to whom, celebrity doings, political intrigues, and that like that I thought maybe I was shirking my civic duty in some basically unfathomable way.

I lost touch with the latest sports scores. I had no idea about what new movies were coming out or what the new season on television was bringing to the small screens all over the country. Eventually, I figured out that it was not my civic duty to keep informed and I stopped worrying about it.

These days, when someone walks up to me and says, “Hey, what do you think about … ?” I don’t automatically cringe inside and feel like apologizing for not knowing a dang thing about it.

And you know what, it hasn’t mattered one little bit that I don’t know who won America’s Got Talent or Dancing With The Stars. It doesn’t even matter that I don’t have a clue about the latest stupid thing that Trump has said. Truly, none of it affects my day to day existence.

I also don’t miss the commercials. For a long time before we cancelled our cable service, we had been recording the few things we wanted to watch so that we could fast-forward through the commercials. I have never been a fan of them and never will be. I think they are harmful with their fear messages:  heaven forbid your house should smell like your house and not like a spring morning, what will people think if you have damp spots on your clothing under your arms, blah, blah, blah.

Think about it. When our country was new, there were small local newspapers and really slow snail mail. People in the northeastern part of our country had no real idea what was going on in the southeastern part on a day-to-day basis. Did it change their lives significantly? I can’t know for certain, but I’m willing to bet that they just went about life, scratching out an existence as best they could, and didn’t worry too much about the rest of it. And seriously, why would I want to know that there is a chance some dumb country will lob a nuclear missile at the good old United States of America in a fit of utter pique? Such an event will either be thwarted or not. And if not, that’s the end. Would the knowledge it might happen change anything about what I might do that day? Nope.

Did I tell my husband that I loved him? Check. Did I send my sister and email in which I told her that I loved her? Check. Did I walk Maddie and see to her comfort and happiness? Check. Did I feed Bonfire and brush him and love on him? Check. So, nothing to worry about. One of my mom’s favorite sayings was that we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I think that can be applied to most of the things that might go wrong in your life. Her point was, did worrying about it make it better. The answer was always no.

Today, both my husband and I have smart phones so we are a little more informed than previously. My husband has more interest in the news than I do. I prefer to read about the latest discoveries in physics or astronomy or the newest information about health from the medical perspective (not the crazy rantings of devotees of this stupid diet or that new cure for toe fungus). Some of what I read can be presented in a fairly sensational manner. But none of it is akin to television commercials or the sensationalism that seems essential to “selling” the news. And the ads that pop up on most sites, well I just ignore them. They are not what interests me.

I’m not advocating completely disconnecting. I’m not saying we should throw away our cell phones, unplug our TVs and completely ignore the world at large. I don’t think that’s entirely possible in this day and age. And I like my cell phone. It gives me a sense of security when I drive from place to place. I know that help is only a phone call away. It might in reality be a false sense of security, but it’s what I’ve got right now.

So here’s my suggestion. Try not watching anything even remotely newsy for a week. See if it doesn’t make a positive change in your life. I’m willing to bet that it will.

Do Not Try to Sit on Your Coke Bottle

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Have you ever wondered what engendered some of the seemingly ridiculous warnings and precautions in instruction manuals? Every time I buy something new and read through the instruction manual, I have to shake my head. Mostly I imagine they are occasioned by the American tendency to sue anyone and everyone else for their own stupidity. I once wrote an article to the effect that you cannot legislate away stupidity. Maybe I should take another look at that.

That aside, product instructions, no matter how prescient the manufacturers might be, are probably of little help as well. Nevertheless, they do try; rather amusingly at times.

My husband, Bernd, recently purchased a Bissell Steam Shot. He likes to have things sparklingly clean. The shower pan in our master bath has resisted all of our efforts to get and keep it bright and shiny. Enter the Steam Shot.

Within the safety instructions for the gizmo were a number of bulleted warnings … 27 of them to be exact (although two of them, “Do not leave the steam cleaner connected to an electrical outlet when not in use” and “Unplug from outlet when not in use and before conducting maintenance or troubleshooting”) would seem to say essentially the same thing.

One of the warnings that really got me wondering was “Do not use appliance in an enclosed space filled with vapor given off by oil base paint, paint thinner, some moth proofing substances, flammable dust, or other explosive or toxic vapors.” What did some silly person do and then have the audacity to complain about it so that the manufacturer felt compelled to add that warning? It gives me visions of singed hair and a cloud of noxious smoke and people screaming and running from their house.

The best warning of all, however, is “Do not attempt to use without water in the tank.” Frankly, why would anyone even think of doing that? The whole point of the appliance is to make steam. They also warn consumers to “Avoid contact with hot surfaces.” Of course, they do not spell out explicitly which surfaces may become hot. Guess you just have to learn that from trial and error. And above all “Do not allow to be used as a toy.”

Bernd also had occasion to purchase a new universal remote control not too long ago (he wears them out regularly and rapidly). It was touted as being very easy to program. Even so, the instruction manual that came with it was 45 pages long! And it was all in English with no foreign language translations; 45 pages of English! The manual did not, however, have the usual list of numbered warnings such as “This is not a toy” (obviously they know better) or “Do not immerse in liquid.” It does, though, discuss the benefits of the “Couch Mode” which automatically shuts of the remote if a button is pressed continuously for more than 30 seconds. This prevents the battery power from being depleted should the remote accidentally slip between the couch cushions.

Instead of listing them for easy access at the very beginning, the remote’s manual sneaks in the warnings throughout the instructions as in “Programming WR7 using the Learning Method” where they have written: “IMPORTANT: You have 30 seconds to perform the next step while you are in programming mode. If you do not press a button within 30 seconds, the component LED light will turn off. The remote will exit the programming mode and you will have to start over.” Better not dither or be in any way undecided.

Once when I was quite young, one of my cousins had an accident. My sister and I were visiting for a week or so during summer vacation. We had just spent a hot and dusty afternoon cleaning up after their horses and my cousin’s mom brought us all some nice cold Coca Colas. They were in bottles because that was the way they came in the 1950’s.

One of my cousins, in a fit of absolute stupidity, decided to try to sit on her (thankfully) empty Coke bottle. It did not go well.

Her mom decided not to try to remove it herself and we all piled into the station wagon (my cousin had to lie down in the back) and went straight away to their family doctor. The doctor didn’t laugh but he did remark that this was the first time he’d seen that.

I haven’t looked at a Coke bottle in years, but the last time I did, it did not bear a warning about not trying to sit on it. Clearly, my cousins did not even think to sue Coke for not warning one to never attempt to use a Coke bottle as a chair.

Why We Make Mistakes: A Book Review

the dust jacket was purposely made incorrectly

Written by Joseph T. Hallinan, “Why We Make Mistakes,” is a clear and well written look into some of the inner workings of the human mind. While he does devote one small chapter at the end to advise us on how to make fewer mistakes, that is not the main concern of the book. So if you are thinking of buying it as a simple fix to improve your averages, don’t. It will take a little more work to ferret out the advice that is implicit in the whole of the text.

The secondary title for the book is:  “How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We are Way Above Average.” And the book delivers on the promise to explain these things.

Joseph Hallinan has been a newspaper reporter for more than two decades. He writes that he has made a small hobby of collecting stories about errors people have made. He says his favorite comes from his home-town paper, the Chicago Sun-Times. It involved an incident in the village of St. Brides, in South Wales. A mob of angry people attacked and vandalized the office of a prominent children’s doctor, because they had confused the word “pediatrician” with the word “pedophile.” I would have to guess this was a case of looking without seeing.

The book is full of clinical study information that is presented in an interesting manner and not at all boring. He gives the reader lots of facts that I found to be fascinating and quite memorable. For example, my favorite color to wear is black; it’s so easy to accessorize around. But teams that wear black uniforms are penalized significantly more than average. Good thing I’m not into team sports. There is also this:  most people who change their answers on a test improve their test scores; which is the exact opposite of what my mother always told me. And while talking about the fallacy of multi-tasking, he has this to say: “Workplace studies have found it takes up to fifteen minutes for us to regain a deep state of concentration after a distraction such as a phone call.” He makes the point that a significant cause of mistakes is related to our perceptions of the world around us and our perceptions of ourselves.  I found this book to be all together quite enjoyable.

The book is only 283 pages and that includes the acknowledgements, references, bibliography and index. It goes quickly, but deserves a second look because the information is so dense. I will probably read it again and see what I missed the first time around. Hey, I’m not perfect. I make mistakes and will probably continue to do so. After all, as Hallinan points out, it’s in our nature.

Revenge at What Cost

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My husband works at an eye care facility. He’s been there for about nine years and he’s done the same work for over 20 years. He’s a dispensing optician; the person you see after your exam. He helps people select frames that will work with their prescription, shape of head and face, and also with the patient’s sense of esthetics. He adjusts the glasses so well that people come to him when others have failed. He’s very good at what he does.

The corporation for which he works is a small one by some standards. It encompasses eight offices throughout the state and employs a lot of people in various areas. The technicians that assist the various doctors in each of the offices with the exams are probably the most numerous of the employees. There is staff for the front desks in all the offices, at least one and sometimes two opticians for each office, and the billing staff is quite large. The main doctor who performs the cataract and eye lid surgeries (when the eye lid droops so much that it impairs vision) also employs surgical nurses and anesthesiologists. Plus there are all the people who manage the business.

There are a few employees who have been there longer than my husband, but not many. The company has a fairly high turnover rate. Partly this is due to the fact that often the technicians are studying to themselves become doctors. The corporation is known as an “institute” because it does provide internships.

On Thursday last week as my husband was taking some trash out to the dumpster, he saw the surgical physician being placed in handcuffs and loaded into a vehicle. The doctor hollered to my husband to have his second in command, the corporation’s general manager, call his lawyer. When my husband first told her, she thought he was joking. When he impressed upon her that he was not, she got very busy.

The doctor has been charged with insurance fraud. He is accused of defrauding Medicare and a state run health care cost containment system as well as several privately held insurance companies. It is alleged that he instructed 46 former and current subordinate employees to falsify patient records and maintain them in such a way that they would pass an audit.

It is also alleged that he performed medically unnecessary cataract surgeries. In short, a cataract lens that is not hard and ready to be removed cannot actually be removed. Many of their patients complain about having to wait for the lens to be ready for removal because they are having such difficulty seeing.

It is alleged that the fraud has been going on for nearly the last ten years and that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been defrauded. For a business that takes in several million a year, that seems unlikely and hardly worth the risk. My husband has said there have been times when a patient was pressing him to do something regarding the patient’s insurance and he has called his supervisor for permission and been told that he cannot because it is illegal and they could lose that insurer. The ability to accept all insurances is critical to the success of any medical practice.

A little less than a year ago, shortly after a certain employee was fired, the company was raided. Employees were told to step away from their computers. My husband reached down to close the page he was on because it’s a HIPAA violation to allow anyone to see patient information and was just about arrested for it. They did a deep audit and found nothing amiss. The whole thing was dismissed at the time. But now there is the new claim that they have somehow managed to make everything that is wrong look like it is okay.

The conjecture is that the disgruntled employee was thwarted in the first attempt at revenge and has now made another one. Whether the allegations are true or not, the doctor’s name has most likely been ruined.

 Personally, knowing what I know about the corporation and its practices and the people who have been there a long time and their intolerance for illegal practices, I think the claims are baseless. Also, if my husband were even remotely aware of shady practices, he would have quit a long time ago.

Since the surgical physician is the main driving force behind the corporation, chances are good that even if he is acquitted, the entire corporation will suffer.

It employs a lot of people who are all affected by this. Right now. Conceivably, all the offices might have to be sold or closed. For sure, business will suffer and with a drop in business, people will have to be let go. I foresee many jobs being lost.

If this is indeed the work of a disgruntled former employee, does she not see the harm she is doing to all the very many completely innocent people the corporation employs. How can a person put a personal vendetta before the welfare of so many others?

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Dietary Supplements are Good for Only One Thing

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And that’s giving you very expensive pee. I’ve heard that a lot over the years and chose to ignore it.

I’ve been an advocate of dietary supplements for many, many years. I always figured they couldn’t hurt and they just might help. But that is maybe not the case. Recent research is beginning to show that they may be more harmful than helpful.

I won’t deny that the CoQ10 that I take daily helps me to have more energy. I tried going without it for a few weeks and I felt tired all the time. I started taking it again and in a few days, I felt more like my regular self. Energetic. Motivated.

But all the rest of what I used to take never had as much of a noticeable effect. And I took a lot of supplements. To be fair, some of the pills, capsules, caplets, tablets and soft gels that I took were of the spice variety. Turmeric for inflammation. Ginger for digestion along with bromelain (not a spice, rather an enzyme from pineapple). Cinnamon for better blood glucose management. That sort of thing.

But then there was the cranberry soft gel for urinary tract health. Lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health. Chromium picolinate for glucose management. Vitamins C (immune system), D (bones), A (vision) along with E occasionally because someone once told me it delayed the graying of hair. How stupid is that.

I also took magnesium every other day. Too often and diarrhea would result. I took chlorella for help with eliminating heavy metals. And iodine for thyroid health because I don’t add salt to anything in order to control my Meniere’s Syndrome. Actually, I don’t eat anything with salt or sodium on the label.

I’d take a potent B complex and additional biotin because I read that biotin helps with the hair. I lost a lot of it after being kicked by that horse and having surgery and all that entailed.

Then there was the selenium and fish oil and collagen and the stuff I take for my bones and I may not be able to remember it all.

Recently, in light of my research, I’ve pared it down to what I consider to be the basics:  a less potent vitamin B complex, lutein/zeaxanthin, chlorella, kelp (iodine), cranberry, collagen, bone builder, CoQ10 and vitamin D (although I do get plenty of sun). It’s still a lot compared to the majority of the population. Or at least I believe it to be so.

What prompted this reassessment? A couple of things. Esophageal stenosis made it impossible for me to swallow certain large supplements. The stenosis has two causes: scarring from GERD and scarring from the nasogastric tube after my surgery. And more recently, new information on the role of free radicals and their nemesis, antioxidants.

I’ll pick on vitamin C. In a nutshell, the process of producing energy relies on oxygen. Oxygen is a very reactive element. In the creation of energy, oxygen loses electrons (becomes a free radical) and to fix itself, it strips electrons from whatever is around it; proteins, DNA, cell walls, etc. That’s the reason free radicals are dangerous.

Enter vitamin C to the rescue. It gives up electrons to the free radicals so that they don’t take the electrons from more bothersome sources. But … and it’s a big but … this turns the vitamin C itself into a free radical. Reductase to the rescue. It returns vitamin C to its former self. See, our bodies in all their wisdom, have a system in place for dealing with all this. But what happens if the vitamin C load in your body outstrips the available reductase?

Also, they have recently discovered how it is that macrophages within our blood stream kill invading bacteria. It was thought that the phages engulfed the bacteria and this killed them. But that is not the case. Within the macrophages are a lot of free radicals and they do to the bacteria what free radicals do to our bodies. They essentially shred the bacteria, stripping them of electrons and thereby killing them. So, perversely enough, free radicals are an essential part of our immune systems.

One study done on people who smoke tobacco had to be abandoned half way through its planned four years due to the fact that a larger than normal number of the participants were developing lung cancer and a larger number than normal were dying. Why? They were being given antioxidants.

It has to make you wonder what else we think is good for us that just might not be.

On a completely different note, I fairly regularly make updates to the static pages under My Novels in the main menu. Take a peek at them now and then to see what’s new with my various projects.

Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona

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I love rocks … just about any kind of rocks. And the bigger the better. When we first moved to the Tri-City area (now the Quad-City area of Prescott, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley and Dewey-Humboldt), people would tell me about the Granite Dells and Watson Lake. So that was one of our first forays.

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It’s easy to get to but not well marked. And truthfully, you’ll see it well before the turnoff while driving on State Route 89. Actually, you can see it from many different vantage points along SR89, SR89A and Pioneer Parkway. Pioneer Parkway even has a scenic overlook where you can get a good look at the Dells, the lake, Chino Valley and the northern part of Prescott Valley. If it hasn’t been too windy and there isn’t a lot of dust in the air or if it isn’t too cloudy, you can even see the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff from the scenic turnout. This time of year, the Peaks are covered in snow and really pretty.

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See the snow covered Peaks in the background

The rounded and weather-worn granite outcroppings of the Dells are spectacular to see. And the fact that part of SR89 in Prescott winds right through the middle of parts of the Dells is just delightful. Whenever I have to drive that piece, a part of me just sort of says “Ahhhh.”

They are not specially colored … except perhaps at sunset. The granite is a medium sort of tan for the most part. It’s the shapes of the outcroppings that grab the mind and imagination evoking cowboy western movie locations from the 1940’s. And indeed, there was a movie filmed partly there released in 1945 titled “Leave Her to Heaven” starring Cornel Wilde, Gene Tierney and Jeanne Crain.

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The dam is over 100 years old

Besides the rocks, I really enjoy Watson Lake. When the wind is calm and the water is like glass, the reflections of the boulders and the sky are phenomenal. The lake began as a low spot in Granite Creek where the excess water from spring snow melt would collect. Early in the 1900’s, a dam was built by the Chino Valley Irrigation District which created water reservoirs in and around the Granite Dells. Watson Lake is probably the largest with a surface area of about 400 acres.

Early in the lake’s history it was the site of a lot of great entertainment from swimming and boating to big band music and dancing. All those concomitant structures are gone today but people still canoe and kayak and clamber all over the boulders. And they have started a new “tradition” of floating lanterns

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On our first visit, Bernd (my husband) and I spent hours just seeing what was on the other side of the next huge boulder. We promised ourselves that on our next visit we would bring gloves. While the rough texture of the granite is great for keeping your feet under you, it’s really hard on the palms of your hands and the tips of your fingers. I swear I had no more finger prints after that first visit.

There are a number of trails around the lake and into the Dells. These were mainly created from old railways, one of which was the railroad that brought people from the City of Prescott a few miles south of the lake. There are facilities for picnicking and hiking and it’s a great place to spend a few hours or the entire day. There is a fee to park, but it is minimal.

The Granite Dells sort of backs up to Glassford Hill which is the weathered dome of an extinct volcano (the granite of the Dells has been dated at 1.4 billion years old). The volcano pretty much explains where all that granite came from. Arizona’s mountains were all basically built by vulcanism. A little ways west and north of the Dells is Granite Mountain. It’s huge and there are many hiking and horseback riding trails located there. One day I will have to write about that in more detail. Especially my first time riding my horse among the boulders.

If you are ever in the Prescott area of Arizona, be sure to spend a few hours in the Granite Dells and at Watson Lake. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Weird Words, Part 6

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1973 edition


I am hoping, really hoping, that quite a few of you use this word regularly. Hopefully, too, it isn’t just the over-the-hill crowd who uses it. I frequently think that my use of such words dates me. I mean I don’t look over-the-hill yet, right? Oh well, give it up Dianne. It’s a lost cause. It’s been a lost cause for years now. And what’s with using a ten year old photo for your WordPress profile anyway. Long story behind that. Maybe another day.

So, having used this word recently, I got to wondering about its origins. I do that a lot. But first, as always, I check to make sure the word actually means what I think it means. And don’t you think it’s sad that the only way we have to define words is with other words that also have definitions? That’s a very sloppy and error prone system that doesn’t at all appeal to the little engineer inside of me. It would be so much more direct and precise to communicate by mental telepathy. But we aren’t there yet, so spoken language will just have to suffice.

Most dictionaries agree that “finagle” means to use dishonest or devious methods to bring something about; to scheme, to get something by trickery, to cheat or swindle. But I think that mostly people use it with the implication of merely bending or twisting, but not completely breaking the rules. I believe finagling to be more about clever persuasion, despite what the dictionaries say, than outright fraud.

It first appeared in American English (as opposed to English English or whatever the heck the Brits call what they speak, I’ve never been clear about that) in the 1920’s. But its exact origins are not clear. It has been traced by some to the Old English dialect word “fainaigue,” meaning to cheat, renege or shirk work. Others who profess to know where our words come from suggest also that it might have its origins in the word “feign.” Feign would seem to mean: to give a false appearance of, or to make believe with the intent to deceive. And here’s something that has always bothered me, why do we have so many words that say the same thing? Seems unnecessarily ponderous and inefficient to me. Another gripe from little inner engineer.


Fin is not that unusual a word if you are talking about fishes, rockets, or cars from the ’50’s. And it wasn’t until I finagled an extra five bucks for myself recently that I got to wondering why “fin” is also a five dollar bill.

As it turns out, “fin” is short for the Yiddish word for the number five (“finf” in the case of Yiddish, in German it is “fünf”; yes those are two little dots over the “U”). But then I got to wondering about why we call paper money “bills.” That was an interesting journey; to me anyway.

There are about 20 modern nations whose currency is called the “dollar.” Dollar derives from “taler” or “thaler.” Both are pronounced as the former and that would be just like “taller.” The Germans are very regular in their pronunciation and generally, once you learn the rules you can accurately pronounce any new word you might read, but for some reason or other, they put the letter “H” into words and then sort of completely forget that it is there. At any rate, “taler” comes from “Joachimsthal,” (you would say that something like yo-OCK-heems-tall) the name of a place in Bohemia (that bit of territory that was sometimes Poland and sometimes Germany) where the taler (a silver coin) was created. “Thal” means “valley” in German. The modern German spelling dropped the “H,” which explains the new spelling of Neandertal (but we Americans still say Neanderthal). But not everyone has hopped on that particular spelling bandwagon because I’ve seen it spelled both ways. Don’t ask me how any of that relates to the real issue. What was that again? Oh yeah. So anyway, it looks like we have “dollars” because someone, a long time ago, made a certain kind of coin in a certain valley.

Taking this a bit further (was there ever any doubt?), “sawbuck” comes from a kind of saw horse with crossed legs that form an “X” like the Roman numeral for the number 10. Or so those in the “know” would have us believe. I don’t really get the connection, though. Lumber? Money?  So anyway, a sawbuck is a ten dollar bill and one dollar is sometimes referred to as a “buck.”

But this still doesn’t explain the “bill” in five dollar bill. Okay, so here is what I found out about “bill.” Paper money originated in two forms. One was drafts which are receipts for value held on account (whatever the heck that means). Bills were issued with a promise to convert at a later date. Convert to what? Gold maybe, or silver? I remember once being gifted a bill of some denomination that actually had something to that effect printed right on it. I might still have it somewhere.

Here are a few more slang words for money (just because I can):  bacon, bread, dough, cabbage, lettuce, kale, folding green, long green, rhino (hunh? really?), jack, moolah, oscar, pap (oh my!), plaster (why is it when someone is really drunk they are said to be plastered?), rivets, scratch, spondilicks, rutabaga, ace, bean, boffo, bone, bullet, case note, clam, coconut, fish, frogskin, lizard, rock, scrip, simoleon and yellowback (what about greenback?).

Mickey Finn

Because, with me at least, one thing always leads to another, Mickey Finn just sort of popped into my consciousness and while I was sitting in front of the computer anyway and because it is just so darn easy to look things up these days, I had a go at this odd saying. That’s one really long sentence and because you are not really supposed to make a paragraph out of just one sentence, I had to add this one.

I think we all know what a “Mickey Finn” is, but I’ll remind some of us who may have forgotten. I’m just generally considerate that way. A Mickey Finn or just a Mickey is a soporific or hallucinogenic (although the latter might not have been the case when the phrase was first coined) drug added (unknown to the imbiber) to an alcoholic beverage. Usually this is done for nefarious purposes.

This doped up alcoholic beverage is supposedly named after a character from 19th century (that would be the 1800’s for those of you who don’t know how that works) Chicago. Finn was the keeper of the Lone Star Saloon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was alleged to have drugged and robbed his customers. There are a couple of U.S. newspaper references from December of 1903 that allude to this. Long ago, it was also a generic name for any Irishman; much like “Paddy” today. And because it was used in that way, one has to wonder how much truth there might actually be in any of this despite the reputed newspaper articles.

I sincerely hope that you have been entertained and edified. And if you ever feel like leaving me a tip for the service, I will go on record as preferring a fin to a Mickey any day.

Losing a Tooth

My tooth

I had a tooth pulled yesterday, Friday, December 27, 2019. My appointment was for 1:30 p.m. I made the appointment on Monday morning. I had most of a week to obsess and worry about it. I excel at obsessing and worrying.

As children, we sort of get used to losing teeth. For a while anyway until the permanent ones come in. As adults … well I thought of my teeth as fixtures. Something I’d have for the rest of my life. Oh well.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that I have a dentist phobia stemming from something that happened to me when I was four years old. Yes, I know, most four year olds don’t need fillings. My parents were not too bright about the dental hygiene thing. They thought it was normal to get a filling every time they went to the dentist. Keep in mind, I was born in 1952 and people didn’t know then what we know now. And there were no rechargeable toothbrushes. I love my rechargeable toothbrush.

I’d had a tooth pulled once before this most recent one. It didn’t go well. It didn’t come out easily and it was one in my upper jaw. So I was not looking forward to the one in my lower jaw having to come out.

Several of my teeth had been damaged in a fall from a horse many years ago. The previous one I lost was a result of that and three other teeth needed extensive work to save them. The one that came out yesterday was one of those three. My dentist at that time told me that they still might “blow up” sometime in the future. Those were his words.

That dentist sold his practice and move away. So I’ve been in the market for a new dentist. It’s hard to find an office where they don’t have two dozen plug-in “air fresheners” working at all times. Fragrances give me migraine headaches. I try to avoid migraine headaches. They’re not much fun with the pain, light and sound sensitivity and the vomiting.

Oddly enough, a dentist had recently moved to a new office near the entrance to the housing community in which I live (it had previously been a real estate office). I visited that office for the first time on Monday (about seven minutes from door to door) and discovered it was hardly at all smelly. When I talked with Dr. Vallejo about it, he said he doesn’t like a lot of fragrance. Mostly, the smells come from the other patients.

He examined my tooth and confirmed my “diagnosis” that it had to come out. Oh joy. We made the appointment and I spent the intervening days in a funk pretty much sure this was the end of my life as I had known it.

I was a mess when the day and time arrived. They put me in a room and took my blood pressure and pulse. I normally run about 105/50 with a pulse of about 68. My BP was 142/58 and my pulse was 91. Not good.

I also have an injection phobia. You can stick a needle in me without a problem to draw blood, but putting something into me totally freaks me out. But Dr. Vallejo did it all with a great deal of care. I got an anesthetic gel to numb the initial injection site. He then injected just a small amount and very slowly so that it would hurt as little as possible. After that took effect, he made two larger injections and we waited again. When those were in effect, he injected the gum directly around the tooth.

When I was good and numb, he asked me if I wanted to know what he was about to do or if he should just do it. I couldn’t decide and so he opted for telling me. He said he would loosen the tooth and then when it was loose he’d use forceps to pull it out.

I was ready for an ordeal like with my previous extraction. He got started and then said, “It’s out.”  I sat up and looked at him and said, “It’s out?” He picked up the forceps with my tooth clamped in them and said, “Yup. There it is. Do you want to keep it?” I thought about it for a moment and said, “Sure. Why not? I’ll put it under my pillow.” He smiled.

It was such a non-event that I couldn’t believe it. I’d made it into such a problem in my mind. I think we always think things will be worse than they actually are. Maybe it’s a protection mechanism. Maybe not considering how on edge and depressed I’d been for days.

To be sure, I wasn’t totally unaffected by the experience. I had a hard time with the let-down from all the adrenaline and my teeth, which I was supposed to keep closed to hold the gauze pad in place, would not stop chattering for about 20 minutes.

Today, I have almost no pain. And I’m not taking any pain medication. Not even an over-the-counter one. The clot looks like it will stay in place nicely. And I figure it will heal without a problem.

Now I just have to survive the antibiotic that I have been taking since Monday.