Thursday, March 14, 2019

Why I waited to have a colonoscopy tho it was a good experience

Over a decade ago, I turned 50. The age people say it's time for a colonoscopy. I didn't schedule one immediately and my doctor wasn't too pushy about it. Yes, it's a good diagnostic tool, but my doctor agreed that what's most important is good diet, healthy lifestyle and lack of colon cancer in my family history. After those things, one might view the colonoscopy as just "icing on the cake." Both me and my doctor were avid bicyclists. His favorite quote, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

13 years later, I did finally go in for the colonoscopy. It wasn't bad and the diagnosis wasn't that bad either. In my case, waiting wasn't a problem. This isn't necessarily an argument for everyone to wait. It's just my situation. When I did finally get the procedure, they found one polyp which was removed. It was non cancerous. They say I'm good to go for at least another 5 years.

Here's the story of what lead me to finally getting that exam and what the experience was like.

What's called the ick factor is the main reason I waited. It's kind of an unpleasant thought. Still, quite a few people, I know, go in for their colonoscopies. One hears the stories. They say, it doesn't hurt, the prep is a bit inconvenient, the worst part is the prep, the whole process can be an interesting experience in a positive way.

The most reassuring stories were from folks that were awake during the procedure. I guess it wasn't that uncomfortable. Still, most people go for being sedated.

There's also the politics of medicine. Another reason I waited. From what I gather, colonoscopies are less common in Canada. Everyone gets healthcare in Canada, but that means they tend to be more sparing on the costs of procedures. In Canada, they often use another, much less expensive test as the first line of defense against colon cancer. The Hemoccult Test. In Canada, they may have a lower cancer rate than USA partially because they can afford healthcare for everyone.

The Hemoccult Test is where one places stool on a card and sends it into the lab. If blood is not found, one is probably good to go. Some circles say this is almost as good as getting the colonoscopy. Maybe that's why Canada can afford to offer healthcare to all. It's less of a Cadillac treatment, but good enough. From what I hear, hemoccult is coming back into style, at least in some circles, down here in USA.

For several years, I took the hemoccult test each year. It's better than nothing. I eat lots of apples, salads and have an active lifestyle.

Around the time I turned 63 the hemoccult found some blood. At first I thought I had made a mistake on the test and my doctor even allowed me to take it a second time. That hemoccult required a prescription. The second test also showed blood so I decided I'd try the colonoscopy. That's the hemoccult doing it's job.

I quickly went to the clinic for colonoscopy and set up an appointment. Due to my good health and no other symptoms, it took quite a while to get scheduled. A busy appointment book. The appointment was scheduled around 6 months in advance.

The various stories I heard, from other folks who had the procedure were reassuring as far as the ick factor is concerned. Also it was covered by my insurance. Maybe it would be interesting. Might as well think of it in that way. Lots of technology. Sort of an adventure.

After the procedure, I wanted to eat my first meal at the nearby Saint Joe's Hospital here in Bellingham. It has a large cafeteria that one can just go to without having to be "in the hospital." One reason I wanted to go there was that a cafeteria provides a wide variety of foods. The prep cleans out your colon so I though it might set back one's internal microbiome. My theory is that a good way for the first meal to rebuild the biome is this. Just sample a little bit of what one normally has as their diet throughout the day. The cafeteria provides lots of choices. Rather than just having one type of food, like for instance what you always have for breakfast, sample some of what you eat all throughout the day. In my case, a bit of chocolate milk, salad, apple, main course, snack food and so forth.

It seemed to work okay and it was fun to check out that cafeteria; a place most people wouldn't think to go for local restaurant fare.

To do that test, one needs to fast for at least a day prior. There's instructions one follows. Then there's the drinking of the prep fluid. That's to clean out the colon so they can see what' there.

I was a bit apprehensive. Would it upset my stomach. I'm a sissy about my stomach as I never get stomach aces. Everyone assured me that it doesn't upset the stomach, normally. They did say, kind of jokingly, have fun you'll be living in the bathroom, its diarrhea.

I gradually drank the first bout of the fluid and waited. Even that wasn't too bad. Eventually I had a few liquid bowel movements. No stomach problem. After a few trips to the bathroom, it was just a matter of waiting. Watching videos or whatever. I wasn't necessarily living in the bathroom. Just close to the bathroom, but after while the fluid had passed through.

Then there was the second bout of drinking the prep, around 8 hours later. A few more trips to the bathroom.

Time for the appointment a kind friend took me to the clinic and agreed to pick me up afterwards. The clinic I went to requires that.

Then there's more waiting. One goes into an area with many sections divided by curtains. It's a busy clinic and people are being processed through. It's interesting, in a way, how it's all choreographed.

They put a needle in my arm for later inserting an IV. It's not painful, or at least it's kind of like getting a blood test. Nurse were friendly. Talking to the nurses helped me deal with being nervous. I was less nervous than I had feared.

One nurse stuck around for a while and we got into a conversation about the Mars Rovers. She was asking me questions about it. That helped to pass the time.

Part of the time, the nurses were busy at other stations, but I survived.

In a bit over an hour, I think, it was time to be rolled in to procedure. The whole thing is, basically almost over at this point.

I remember being rolled in and then I remember being back in the room where they were I started. Two nurses standing by the bed saying, "we're done."

Pretty impressive. It was like they had flipped a master switch and turned me off, then back on again. When I came to, I wasn't even groggy. They said I was good to go, but should take it easy the rest of the day.

Other folks might have a different experience, but I was impressed how alert I was as soon as I came too. It was like, "we're all done." Time to check out that cafeteria. The friend who brought me to the procedure treated me to lunch where I wanted to go. The St. Joseph's Cafeteria.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Maybe the best Brexit strategy now is hard exit and then try and get an easy path back into EU if Brexit is too painful

The deadline for Britain to leave European Union is coming closer. March 29. I think it was a bad idea all along and now they can't decide what type of Brexit they want. Looks like they will get the so called "Hard Brexit" by defalt; an exit without a deal. Maybe they will ask for another delay, but I doubt a delay would change anything.

If they don't cancel Brexit, I guess they should just have the hard exit. See what happens. I think they should try and get a deal from the EU where they can easily rejoin the EU if it doesn't work out.

Looks like the UK parliament may chicken out and try to extend the deadline, but the EU has to approve this also. EU may not go for anymore procrastination. I like the old phrase, "be careful what you ask for cause you might get it."

Monday, March 04, 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

My cautious support for Trump Administration's global effort to end criminalization of homosexuality. Important reservations and questions also.

There could be at least some good things coming from the Trump Administration. Trump administration launches global effort to end criminalization of homosexuality. The administration is responding in part to a reported hanging of a young gay man in Iran, Trump’s top geopolitical foe.

At the same time, there's quite a bit of reservation about the motives and whether this administration is up to the task.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday (Feb. 19 2019) evening in Berlin.

Some people fear that this could be mostly a ploy to get European nations more on board with scrapping the Iran nuclear deal and further ratcheting up the sanctions against Iran. In my mind, there is an important question here. A question over what the best strategy is toward a country that threatens its neighbors and abuses human rights. Should there be engagement or isolation? Maybe Obama's nuclear deal with careful engagement was a better strategy than Trump's plans for total isolation? Who knows for sure.

Folks also question why so much focus on Iran when gay rights is also not respected in close US allies; such as Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration is doing some things toward reform in places like Saudi Arabia, but why a much more isolating strategy with Iran? I'd ask, are we taking sides in the Sunni Shiite conflict?

Then there is the questions about the Trump administration's record on gay rights and transgender issues at home. Do the problems of the Trump administration on a wide range of issues discredit any good initiatives that come out of that administration?

I continue to hope for the best.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Forward Washington Transportation plan sounds a bit similar to my gas tax / carbon tax combo idea

They are thinking of combining the idea of a carbon tax with the gas tax. Almost like the idea I was conjuring up last summer. See my blog entry from August. This bill isn't the same as my idea, but it's surprisingly close. Called the Forward Washington Transportation Plan introduced by state Senator Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

There's a need to raise money for Washington's roads and other transportation systems. Much of the need is environmental. US Supreme Court has recently ruled that our state must take out a lot of culverts under roads. Widen river crossings under many roads to enhance salmon habitat and maybe save the whales.

Carbon tax and the gas tax are sort of like cousins.

Follow above link to my blog entry from last August with a somewhat similar line of thinking.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I am hoping the governor of Virginia can be forgiven. In 1980 a gay rights activist friend of mine was still in the closet trying to pray the gay away.

I'm hoping the governor of Virginia, who supposedly did black face at a party in 1980, can be forgiven. A friend of mine, who is a gay rights activist, pointed out that in 1980, he (this friend) was in a Pentecostal church trying to pray the gay away. Since then, my friend came out of the closet.

People do evolve. In Virginia, it looks like the 2 other Democrats, that could be in line for governor, are also tainted. 3rd in line is a Republican. Of course maybe being a Republican isn't necessarily an automatic indictment; if one supports Republican ideals.

One virtue in society is compassion. Zero tolerance can go too far. Given how much worry there is about global warming, it is conceivable that at some future time, politicians who had a history of flying in jet planes or driving automobiles, while fully knowing those effects on the planet, could be seen as tainted and ask to resign.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When they say where's global warming, they can't see it above the atmospheric noise

We finally got some winter. Seems like Bellingham winters have been a bit milder than normal over recent years. This is more normal. We get a hard winter every few years.

Some people might ask where's the global warming? Here's my reply.

So far, global warming only accounts for worldwide average temp rise of around 2 degrees C since 1900. It can still be snowy in the winter, but I think cold years are getting less frequent in this area. Over the long run, most glaciers are still retreating, precipitation patterns are still changing, growing seasons are still getting longer and sea levels are still rising. It's subtle so far and often still buried in the noise of normal weather variation from day to day, year to year.

Some models predict that there could be more of a temperature rise by 2100. More than just around 2 C. More like 4 to even 8 degree rise. That would really be serious. The situation could be accelerating due to population growth and growing prosperity; especially in developing nations. Also there's talk of feedback effects with methane and so forth. Hopefully these predictions will not come true. We can make some changes.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

They say 5% of population accounts for 50% of medical cost in USA.

Interesting show about the various "Medicare for All" proposals. What would they cost? How would they work?

One thing mentioned in the show that stood out in my mind is this. Only 5% of our population accounts for 50% of all medical expenses. It's inhumane, but easy to think, under our present system, that fiscal conservatives are tempted to just cut off that 5%; like euthanize 5% to benefit the 95%. For instance the situation with insurance companies and preexisting conditions.

On the other hand, Medicare for All would mean higher taxes, but for most people it could be a savings as it would also mean not having to pay health insurance premiums; a savings for low to moderate income folks.

For wealthy and upper middle class folks, it could mean a loss over the present system. They wouldn't owe insurance premiums, but their taxes would be a lot higher since taxes would likely be graduated by income.

For some medical professionals, it could mean a loss of income as single payer would be better at holding down medical costs. USA has the most costly healthcare system in the world.

In some cases, Medicare for All might still mean paying premiums as there are different versions of our current Medicare system; such as Medicare Advantage. Our current Medicare system, that is for seniors, is not necessarily all single payer. It also includes a lot of the hybrid public / private plans such as Medicare Advantage.

There are a lot of different versions of Medicare so there are various versions of Medicare for All proposals.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

UK should have another vote on Brexit now that the choices are better understood.

Since Brexit supporters can't agree on what type of Brexit they want, I think there should be another referendum. This time have the referendum be a choice between Theresa May's specific Brexit agreement, versus staying in the EU. If the British people vote for Brexit again, it would automatically be Theresa's plan. No need to consult Parliament. Less complexity. Her specific plan ready to implement. If they vote no, Britain stays in the EU.

Another idea is a 3 way vote. Hard Brexit, Theresa May's already negotiated plan, or option 3 stay in the EU. See comments for why I added the hard Brexit option.

This was an interesting show now in podcast.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The national debt ceiling. A useless alarm clock with a broken snooze button

The debt ceiling is like an alarm clock that keeps going off. "Warning, we're way in debt," like duh. It's old news. We have to keep hitting the snooze button to turn the dam thing off till it rings again.

Now it's getting even worse as there's a gremlin sitting on the snooze button making demands like, "more money for a wall." "Fork up the money before you can push snooze again."

We ought to just toss that stupid alarm clock out the window. As long as we keep increasing the military budget, lowering taxes and needing more Medicare, we're not going to heed that alarm anyway. It just adds to the bickering that leads to more anxiety and probably more medical expense.

Monday, January 07, 2019

We've had plenty of radical thinking from the right. Now it's time for some radical ideas from the left about climate change.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Proposal for a 70% tax on the wealthy to fund climate change reduction plan.

Who knows what can actually happen, but this is worthy of discussion. As she is advocating, change may need to happen faster than what we normally expect.

I'm in favor of taxing the wealthy, but allowing exemption for business expenses, such as capital expansion. If the money is invested in running and expanding the business, fine, but if it just goes to the personal wealth of the owners and executives, yes, tax it heavily.

Many solutions to address the carbon footprint do effect lower income people. Average folks can consume lots in their cars, home heating and even putting food on the table. That's why it's hard to pass things like carbon taxes. These type of taxes tend to be regressive. Lots of low income people, who drive and so forth, feel strapped.

To really get people to do something about climate change, we may need to create the impression that the wealthy are paying also. Yes, raising income taxes on the wealthy is a good compliment to some of the things that ordinary people need to do to lower the carbon footprint. Remember, it is ordinary people who drive the markets, to a large extent, but ordinary people aren't likely to change unless they feel they are being treated fairly.

These big changes don't have to be seen as sacrifices. Maybe using things like public transit and bicycles can be better than addiction to the automobile. Depends on circumstances and attitudes. I does work for me. I'll admit I am a bit unusual.

There's also new technology such as electric cars that are charged from a power grid based on solar energy.

Ending fossil fuel emissions in 10 years is a tall order, but maybe it can happen.

The wealthy corporate owners often blame average people for the way things are. The corporations say they have to follow the market which is made up of average people who are just trying to get by. Just trying to raise families. Corporations also blame regulation. It's kind of a vicious cycle that keeps us from solving climate change. Keeps us in the status quo. Average people living their consumptive lives and corporations promoting and profiting from that. Laws which hold people into it.

We are entering a time when the whole thing is starting to unravel and maybe change more radically. Hopefully for the good.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Some mistakes that unions have made in the past. Could unions make a comeback?

I think unions kind of shot themselves in the food back in the 1970s and 80s. Now they have little clout, but could make a comeback. I remember when unions mostly cared about raising the wages of their members; like the auto workers, but didn't seem to care about workers outside the union. It was almost like the union was an exclusive club. Meanwhile, more and more workers fell through the cracks and weren't in a union. They fell through the cracks not having healthcare and so forth. Back in the 1980s, it seemed like it was hard to get into a union. I heard rumors that you almost had to have relatives in the union or some special in to get an apprenticeship in some of the local trade unions for becoming a plummer or electrician. This may be easier now as there is more o a shortage of skilled tradespeople.

Maybe a height of union hypocrisy was when the Air Controllers Union endorsed Reagan for President in 1980. Soon after that, they did go on strike and Reagan fired them. That was a famous issue, back in the early 1980s. My guess is, they regretted endorsing Reagan after he fired them. He fired them as part of his push to crack down on domestic spending and what he saw as out of control government employees. The Air Controllers may have had some legitimate grievances about working conditions, and so forth. I'm sure they regretted thinking Reagan would make an exception for them. Members of other unions, during that strike, ask "where were the Air Controllers when we needed you, back when you were endorsing Reagan?"

Unions need to be more than just exclusive clubs for their members if they want political success at the ballot box.

Another problem with unions was the rigid work schedules and lack of adjustment to the needs of part time workers. Lack of flexibility. A big problem for transit systems where they need lots of bus drivers during the morning commute and less in mid day. Also a problem for individual workers who needed flexible schedules for other things outside the job like travel or schooling. Unions would worry that allowing for flexibility would make it easier for employers to cut back on people's hours, thus cutting their livelihood.

I think union thinking has improved over recent years, but their power base is diminished. What's left of unions, today, are doing more to support all workers by caring about things like universal healthcare and minimum wage. Caring more for people beyond just the members of the union, but it's a bit late. Union influence has declined, but could it make a comeback?

These things I wrote on Facebook after listening to this segment of On Point. Unemployment Down, Wages Stagnant, Retirement Difficult: An Economic Survey.

Wages still lagging behind the economic recovery, tho they may be picking up slightly. Why is the trend toward economic growth not reflected in wages? This interview on WBUR's On Point Radio presents a few ideas, but not my own idea. I'll mention some of the ideas and my own idea in comments. Each of the ideas is valid in its own way. The interview blamed a lot of the decline in wages on the loss of unions over past decades.

Here's another idea I come up with that doesn't directly relate to unions.

One of many things effecting wages is how technology and globalization has put downward pressure on prices in many sectors, such as in journalism and food production. At the same time the value and cost of homes has skyrocketed. Low prices can mean abundance of things like food and crowd sourced journalism, but companies can't pay higher wages in those sectors if they can't sell their products for more. Meanwhile things like healthcare costs, go up. Wages for certain professions like lawyers and hospital executives go up and get out of line with the rest of society.