Medium Articles

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Public Domain Pictures 
Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Will This Be My Last Doctor’s Office Visit?


From my articles on Medium.

I usually go to the doctors office about four times a year, but with my respiratory and sinus problems not under control I have been going more often. When I go to my primary care physician I am accustomed to having to wait for quite a while as he is often overbooked. I usually get called from the waiting room after only a short wait and them I am led to an examining room where I have been known to wait for almost an hour! I get very upset and my blood pressure skyrockets, but it is a small office and I know I can leave at any time, if I really want to.

the doctor would be right in

This afternoon I had an appointment with my new allergist at a rather spacious asthma and allergy clinic. I checked in on time and only had to wait about 5 minutes until I was called and led through a labyrinth of offices, exam rooms, treatment rooms and supply closets to my destination. About 10 minutes later a nurse came in an administered a pulmonary function test. After this she said the doctor would be right in. I felt very good that I would not be stuck in the office all afternoon and would be able to head for home without getting stuck in traffic. I checked the clock as I started my wait.

As the minutes went by my mind started to wonder

I listened for footsteps passing in the hallway, hoping to see the door open. The door knob didn’t move. 15 minutes went by and the door remained closed. As a half hour drew near I grew more restless and more irritated, quietly cussing under my breath. I could hear people talking and laughing as they walked passed my exam room door, but no one touched the door knob. As the minutes went by my mind started to wonder. “Did they forget I was in the room”? “Were people getting ready to go home”? It was after all 4 o’clock already. “What happens if I have a reaction to some of the medications they gave me”? “Will anyone know if I collapse and lose consciousness”? The hallway goes silent.

I live to see the doctor one more time!

I can hear the clock tick the seconds away as I near the 45 minute mark of my exile to the exam room. Now I can envision that everyone has gone home and forgotten all about me. I can now see the cleaners coming in late at night to discover my lifeless body lying on the floor with one hand on my inhaler and the other stretched out toward the once closed door. I died waiting for medical help in a doctor’s office! I didn’t even have my life pass in front of me! Suddenly at the hour mark the doctor opens the door and enters the room. I live to see the doctor one more time!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Funny Thing Happened at the Gym Today!

This may not be funny to everyone, but I thought it was not only funny, but a sad commentary of what is happening to our country. I was at small gym I belong to, which is part of a physical therapy practice. I was working out with three friends, as we do three time a week. At this time of day we usually are the only ones there.
An older gentleman came in and started working out on one of the machines. He didn’t acknowledge us and we didn’t acknowledge him, as he had always done before on those previous few occasions that we all interacted, or not. We really didn’t pay much attention to him and continued with our routine, while we chatted among ourselves. One of my friends made a comment about how he could never be nominated by Trump to sit on the Supreme Court because he had a positive attitude towards women and minorities. My friends and I share the same political views and often discuss what’s happening in the world while we are exercising, but we usually wait until we are alone, or with other like-minded people. Except for this time!
As my friend uttered his remark I noticed the elderly gentleman became visibly angry. Turning red, with a clearly obvious scowl, he immediately got up from his machine, grabbed his water bottle and stormed out of the room. I watched him from the window as he hurriedly walked to his car, got in and peeled out of the parking lot! The three of us looked at each other in sheer amazement. What has happened in our country!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Why I Can’t Support Republicans.

It’s Personal!

People I know, both friends and family, often comment as to why I hate Trump and most members of the Republican party, especially after seeing some of my posts on Facebook and Twitter. I tell them that it is personal. I grew up in a middle class family, when the middle class actually lived a quite comfortable life. My father was a machinist and a labor union member who had always supported Democrats, as they supported labor unions and the middle class. The town I lived in was very conservative, very Republican, very white and very protestant. I can remember people saying very proudly “we only have 37 Negroes in our town”. I could never see why it was important to say or even know that, until I got older. I grew up with Nelson Rockefeller as governor and I can remember that my parents actually liked him. Looking back at what he accomplished as governor I would say that according to today’s standards he would be considered a moderate or even liberal Republican. Even though he was wholeheartedly supported by the wealthy, he took care of the poor and middle class. He expanded the State University of New York, established Medicaid and fought for civil rights. He also was an early supporter of equal rights for women and gay rights, way before they became popular as important social issues. Along with the good life that many people of New York enjoyed came the higher taxes, which somehow were blamed on Democrats years later.

It’s Becoming About Me!

When I was in high school I was energized by the campaign of John F. Kennedy and became aware of the social injustices that many people in our country were suffering from. Needless to say I was deeply affected by his assassination, but I never lost the compassion for fighting for civil and human rights. It was around the time I was in college that I realized that my strong emotions surrounding civil rights not only centered around the rights of others, but also around my own rights. It was at this time I began to realize that I was gay and I was actually fighting for my own rights!

Then Comes Reagan!


I went on to graduate from college and finally grad school receiving a master’s degree, in hopes of working in the mental health field. I survived the craziness of the Nixon era and the Vietnam War, which I was against, but I still supported those who fought in it. I lost a few friends in the war and saw the suffering of others who came back alive, but were severely damaged, either physically or emotionally. Because of my severe asthma and allergies I was not allowed to serve. Years later I wished I had. I remember seeing kids my age who were also exempt from serving, but they were rich, white and connected. To me the war was a rich old white guys war fought by poor disadvantage young kids with little or no future! I can still remember Watergate and the day Nixon resigned in disgrace. That was a time when both parties valued the country over their party. It’s hard to believe that the Republican party of then is the same party today. I started to view the Republican party as a party of old rich white guys who loved wars, as long as us poor young guys fought them. In 1980 Ronald Reagan, the Conservative idol of the Republican party was elected President. For me that’s when this country started going downhill.
One of the first things Reagan did was to defund Community Mental Health Clinics, something that has had dire consequences even until today. Much needed mental health services were no longer available to the thousands of people suffering from mental illness. With the closing of many of these clinics hundreds, if not thousands of mental health workers were out of jobs and thousands of suffering people were forced into the streets without a glimmer of hope. I was one of those mental health workers who had a hard time finding work in my chosen field, thanks to Republicans. With Regean’s plan to limit government came the Republicans’ attempt to force government into the lives of America’s citizenry. This was when I, as a gay person, realized that my government was trying to limit my rights.
During Reagan’s campaign Reagan stated “My criticism is that [the gay movement] isn’t just asking for civil rights; it’s asking for recognition and acceptance of an alternative lifestyle which I do not believe society can condone, nor can I”. There were no civil rights legislation supporting the LGBTQ community during all eight years of Reagan’s tenure! He has also been criticized for ignoring and purposely failing to fund programs aimed at the growing AIDS epidemic which eventually cost thousand of lives!

I Begin to Come Out!

I slowly started to accept myself as being gay and at the same time I started to learn that being a gay person I could be treated differently. I learned that as a gay person I could not marry a person of the same sex. I learned that if I was in a relationship I could not legally name my partner as my beneficiary upon my death. I learned that I could be fired from my job, if my employer knew I was gay, and there was nothing I could do about it. I learned that if I were seriously ill in the hospital, my partner or significant other could be prevented from visiting me. I learned, from experience, that if I was beaten or the victim of a crime the police would do nothing. I learned that I could even be killed and little or nothing would be done. I learned that I could be denied an apartment, or service in a store or restaurant, simply because I was thought to be gay. Hell,this is still happening today, as my husband and I were not allowed to adopt a dog because we were not a family with children! I realized that in some states I could be arrested for supposedly having sex with another male in the privacy of my own home. So much for keeping the government out of our lives, right Reagan Republicans?


One would think that the end of this story is “and we lived happily ever after”, but it’s not.

Now I am older and perhaps somewhat wiser, but I haven’t softened. I have witnessed and taken part in the continuing gay rights movement. I have seen the often bitter battle for the legalization of same-sex marriage and I have seen the Supreme Court ruling which made same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states. Because of that ruling, which stated that the US government cannot deny me, in a gay relationship, the same rights granted to heterosexual couples in regards to federal benefits, including immigration rights, I was able to marry my partner and he was able to receive a green card and just recently US citizenship. One would think that the end of this story is “and we lived happily ever after”, but it’s not. When gay marriage was made legal the religious right declared that gay marriage would destroy the institution of marriage and negate their freedom of religion and they have worked steadfastly to rescind gay rights, abolish gay marriage and legislate religious liberty laws that in essence would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community and eventually others not acceptable to the religious right. Even though the fears of of the destruction of traditional marriage have never materialized and society has not changed, except for maybe more acceptance of same-sex marriage by the general population, the religious right has double down on their efforts to attack gay rights and gay marriage, all led by the Republican party. It is odd that the very religious right that has attacked the LGBTQ community as immoral has rallied behind a thrice married, misogynist, racist man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and even was in the company of prostitutes while his wife was nursing his newly born son, because he promised to appoint judges to the courts that would advance the interests of the Christian right! That man is the Republican President of our country! Soon that man will deliver the savior to the Religious right in the name of Brett Kavanaugh. In my article, “Why Does the Christian Right want Kavanaugh?I explain how detrimental this is to me and other gay people, as well as women and other minorities.
So when I am asked why I don’t vote Republican I explain why it is personal. I am no longer able to accept the bullshit from Republicans talking about how the Democrats raise taxes and force their views on people, while the Republicans fight for the wealthy rich and value corporations over individuals, while catering to the bigoted religious right by attacking me and those like me, just to solidify their minority base. When my friends tell me they are voting Republican, I simply tell them that are in essence voting for people who want to take my rights away, and if my marriage is made null and void and I am returned to a second class citizen, they are to blame. That’s why I can’t support Republicans!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Don’t Rain On My Parade


Trump’s Idol  

Glorious leader Donald Trump, a well know coward and draft dodger with 5 deferrals, for bone spurs has decided to play soldier and asked the Pentagon to give him a military parade, with tanks, missiles and plenty of marching soldiers. The only time this country has had a military parade in the style Trump has asked for was to honor our military after WWI and WWII. But now Cadet Bonespurs wants a military parade to honor him!

 Not only is this ridiculously insane, it is extremely expensive. Play soldier boy Trump has just submitted a budget cutting Public Television and radio, as well as Medicare and food stamp programs, but he wants to spend millions of dollars for a parade so he can be like his idols, Putin, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler. There should be outrage at even the mention of a parade to satisfy his ego, but the Republicans are staying silent as usual. This request isn’t coming from their 5 year old grandchildren. It’s coming from the President!

 We are the most powerful country in the word, with the most powerful military. We do not need to show off or military might, for the sake of anyone, much less an arrogant, senile, old narcissist. These types of parades are for authoritarian despots such as Trump’s idols mentioned above. With Trump never criticizing Putin or other like dictators and attacking our CIA and FBI, it should be obvious that this parade is just one more piece of evidence that Trump and the GOP want to destroy our democracy. So let’s rain on his parade and deny him his fantasy!


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

How I Retired in Malaysia


From My Medium Articles


How I Moved to Penang, Malaysia (Part one)

I received a comment from a follower suggesting that I tell my story of moving to Malaysia to live after retirement. There isn’t really too much on the Internet about Americans retiring to Malaysia to live, but a great deal about Brits who have moved here, which led me to start writing a blog about my retirement in Malaysia. My blog, Retired in Malaysia was first published in 2011, three years after moving there. I will try to tell my story again in a summarized form and then publish some favorite memories of living in Malaysia

 When I decided to move to Penang (a small island off the west coast of Malaysia) I too had a great deal of difficulty finding information on exactly how to do it. I found little useful information on the web about retiring in Malaysia. Most of the information centered around moving to Central America and Europe. The expat websites that had information regarding Americans usually had one or two useless interviews with Americans living there. Often the few posts I found were written by women , who had to move to Malaysia because of their husbands’ job and involved childcare, schools and play dates. There were also blogs about Malaysia that included recipes, art and crafts, but not information about the logistics of actually moving there. No help to the potential retiree or anyone planning on moving there. The rest of the information in these expat sites was in regards to buying expensive real estate, advertising moving companies and selling books on how to move overseas.

 I did find a site for Americans living in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, but basically it was a site for wives of Americans working there. Membership was limited to women and focused on women’s activities and charitable causes. Useless for me. I contacted them, but never got an answer. There were many websites for British people living there, but their information was geared to UK citizens. You could make a post there, but you either wouldn’t get a response or more than likely they couldn’t be able help with your situation. The reason for so many British sites is that Malaysia is a former British colony and many older expats there think it still is! British English is spoken there, they drive on the left side of the road and many British customs and mannerisms are evident there. So the transition from the UK was much easier for them than the transition from the US.

 As I could find little or no information on Americans moving to Malaysia, I had to do everything from total ignorance. Luckily I had a friend (my present husband), who was Malaysian and lived there and was able to help. First of all I found the Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) website which is run by the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism. Malaysia offers a long term (10 year renewable) social visit visa. There are 2 options for applying to this program. One is a do it yourself plan and the other is to hire an agent. I went the agent route since I was 12,000 miles away and I would rather pay someone to do the legwork and make sure it was done right. The agency I used was Comfort Life and I was very satisfied with their services. In order to get my visa I had to place about $40,000 into a fixed deposit account in a major Malaysian bank. At the exchange rate of that time I believe that amount was almost $50,000. (When I use $ I am referring to USD). After 2 years you can take a large chunk of this for medical expenses, buying property or educational purposes. The MM2H site explains the other requirements. I believe the money requirements have changed considerably.

 Getting the MM2H visa was extremely easy. A very short time after I applied I was approved for the visa. I had 1 year to visit Malaysia and pick up my visa. At the time of that visit I was taken to the bank to set up my fixed deposit account at a bank of their choosing. Once I got my visa the next step was to sell my house and move. Easier said than done.

 I put my house in Boston up for sale in October of 2007 and I sweated, as the housing prices fell and the housing market went down the toilet. Finally I sold my house in May of 2008. I planned to leave for Boston on July 3, so I had a lot of work to do. I decided not to bring my furniture and appliances with me. This was costly and I was not sure if my furniture would fit in my new home, when I purchased it. The electrical system is very different there, so the electrical appliances could not be used. I decided to sell everything and buy everything new.

 The biggest problem and by far the biggest source of anger and frustration was with the American banking system. Thanks to the Patriot Act, the banking system in the United States is like no other country in the world. It works against the customer instead of with or for the customer. My biggest concern about moving to Malaysia was being able to transfer money from the US to my accounts in Malaysia. I went to the big banks with branches in Malaysia. I remember seeing Citibank and Bank of America in Malaysia, so I naturally went to these banks in Boston. They both promised me I could easily transfer money to their branches in Malaysia. They both lied in order to get me to open an account with them. One bank required me to keep a minimum of $250,000 and the other $500,000, just to be able to make periodic transfers. I didn’t know how much most retirees have hanging around in their savings account, but I didn’t have anywhere near that amount. So I went to my local Boston bank and explained my situation. They suggested I use my bank’s Internet banking system to pay bills back home or send relatives money at Christmas time or other occasions. The only inconvenient thing about using your home bank in the US is that you can’t have a foreign address. If you have a foreign address, where your statements could be sent, you would not be allowed to use Internet banking. The banks say that this is a rule of the Department of the Treasury. I checked this out and it is not true. The banks can allow foreign addresses as long as they make yearly reports of these addresses. This will cost the banks a little bit of money, so they naturally refuse to do it. Big banks only know how to take from the customers, not give in the form of services. On the subject of banking there is one inconvenient and highly unfair requirement the US government shackles expats with and that is the FBAR. This is the Foreign Bank Account Report, which has to be filed every year. ( This is the government document that got Paul Manafort in trouble). This requires the expat to report all foreign bank accounts of over $10,000. These accounts include investment accounts, checking accounts, joint accounts of any kind or any other account with your name on it. If you had an account where the balance was $10,000 for just one day, you still have to report it. The penalty for not reporting or even reporting late is extremely and unnecessarily harsh. Groups like American Citizens Abroad are trying to repeal these draconian laws and hopefully they will succeed.

How I Moved to Penang, Malaysia to Live (Part 2)


Penang, Malaysia
After I figured out the logistics of my move and settled my banking concerns I was ready to move. I left Boston for the last time on July 3, 2008.

 I arrived in Penang on July 4th, 2008 (it was strange to not see any Independence Day celebrations) to start the next chapter in my life. I had put money down and signed a purchase and sales agreement on a condo, in a complex I had seen on a previous visit. The unit was furnished and needed no renovation. It was also reasonably priced. When I first arrived in Penang, Kevin (my partner at the time) and I lived in a service apartment for a month, which was a bit inconvenient. It was not near any shopping area nor public transportation, but it did have a nice pool and a great bar. It was also quite cheap to stay there. After only a couple of weeks the seller of my unit told me I could move into the condo before final papers were passed and without having to pay any rent. I was extremely happy to say the least. At the end of August the move was accomplished. Shortly afterwards my friend in Boston mailed my few remaining possessions, so I did have a little bit of home with me.

 With Kevin’s help, all of the utilities were set up and working. To give an idea of what the utility costs were I will share what I paid for mine. The amounts are in approximate US dollars. Satellite TV with premium channels came to about $46 a month; electricity (includes washer, dryer, A/C all night in 1 room, 1 fan 24 hrs/day, TV with home theater system, 2 laptops, 2 aquaria , electric oven and a few smaller kitchen gadgets)averaged out to be about $60 a month; water was $5 every 2 months; condo fees were about $160 every 3 months and finally taxes were about $300 per year. I had bottled gas which I paid about $16 every 6 months. We ate out most of the time because local food was so much cheaper than buying food and cooking at home. It may not have been healthy, but it was good.

 Once I moved in to our new condo, and had it painted with vibrant colors, instead of the all white walls, we got some plants and hung pictures after we had drilled holes n the concrete walls. We were all set. The move was officially completed.

 I retired early when I moved there and did not receive Social Security until after living there for a couple of years. I applied for Social Security online with the US Embassy in Manila and they called shortly after receiving my application to interview me. This took less than 15 minutes and was painless. I chose to have my benefits deposited into my account in the US. I was reasonably concerned about filing my federal and state income taxes from Malaysia and had a great deal of trouble finding answers from the IRS or other government sites. If you look for information you only find results pertaining to people working and living abroad, not retirees. I did find out that you MUST have a US address to file electronically with Turbo Tax and other major commercial companies. I settled for a free site suggested on the IRS website, using a US friend’s address. I had to file my Massachusetts tax using the the downloaded forms from the Internet.

 If some American retirees are reading this and they are contemplating moving to Malaysia I would like to offer a few suggestions. If you decide to move there I would suggest to visit a couple of times and when you finally decide to move, look for a nice rental place before you buy. Property there is nothing like in the US. When buying properties that are being built you will be paying a good deal of money up front before the building is completed. The price may sound cheap, but remember you will still have to pay between 10 and fifteen thousand to renovate to make it livable. Window and door screens that are standard in the US do not exist there, so you will have to get used to that. There is no central gas or hot water there either. You can have small hot water heaters in the kitchen installed and the bathrooms have water heaters for a hot shower. Local people there do not wash dishes in hot water, but cold water. This goes for food courts, coffee shops, hawker stands and most restaurants too. Western style kitchens with ovens are becoming a little more common in the newer built condos. These are always electric. The stove tops are mainly gas and are powered by bottled gas, which is cheap and easy to get.
 The hardest thing for me to get used to was the Asian style bathrooms. These bathrooms are small, with no electrical outlets. They consist of a sink, toilet and a hand held shower. When you take a shower, everything gets wet. And I mean everything. I found it quite annoying to walk into the bathroom in the middle of the night and find a still wet floor. Using the toilet caused my pant cuffs to become wet, which really annoyed me. Many times I dressed to go out, including socks, and then find that I had to use the toilet again. So I had to take my socks off, go to the bathroom, dry my feet off and put my socks back on. I had 2 bathrooms and I quickly converted one to a Western style bathroom. Most newer units do have Western style bathrooms now, however. If you have to convert a bathroom make sure you go to a reputable contractor, as most local contractors do not understand the concept of a dry bathroom. Most condos do not have enough or convenient electrical outlets, so you may want to have more installed. This is not too expensive, but it is messy as the walls are all concrete and a good deal of drilling has to be done.

 These are only some annoyances or inconveniences you will either have to get used to or try to remedy. You must realize that Malaysia is a country of only a little over 50 years of age and thus cannot be compared to the US and other developed countries. Malaysia has some beautiful buildings, beautiful scenery, great food and most of all beautiful people. If you do move there don’t make the mistake that many expats make by just sitting on your balconies drinking and enjoying the view, socializing only with expats and not getting to know the locals. If you want to just socialize with other Americans and expats and eat at high end Western restaurants, there is no since in going there. Stay home.

Why Don’t Doctors Listen ?

 From my articles on Medium.

Why Can’t I Breathe?
I recently returned from seeing a specialist in asthma, sinus and allergy disorders, in hopes of getting some answers for my chronic sinusitis and constant shortness of breath, which I have been dealing with for over 11 years. For years I have been searching the internet for answers and have published my thoughts about my condition in articles such as, The Scourge of Chronic Sinusitis and GERD Combination and I Just Can’t Catch My Breath. I have been to many different specialists in hopes of defining my disease and finding an eventual cure or at least finding a way to help my breathing, including cardiologists, allergists, pulmonologists and ENT specialists. Unfortunately no one has been able to help. I have a very good primary care specialist who has encouraged me not to give up, but keep trying to find some medication or some specialist who may be able to help. With his help and support I have tried numerous inhalers and nasal sprays to no avail. Some of these not only did not help my symptoms, but on the contrary made them worse.
One Last Hope!
On the verge of defeat I doubled down and did an extensive Internet search for asthma specialists in my area. I wanted to find some place where instead of just calling for an appointment, I could contact someone and explain what I have been going through for 11 years. I was literally sick and tired of going to a doctor and spending most of the appointment explaining, over and over again, everything that I have done for years and seeing and feeling that they paid absolutely no attention. Finally I found the website of a allergy specialty clinic where I could actually write a lengthy description of my condition and request an appointment. I took my time and wrote a full explanation of my symptoms, what made them worse and the results of specialist visits I have had and then patiently waited for a response.
When I was just about ready to accept that my latest and perhaps my last attempt to find help may have gone unnoticed, I received a phone call from the clinic. A nurse called explaining that my request was reviewed and it was determined that I could be seen by a “nationally known” specialist in sinus related asthma conditions. Needless to say I was elated. At last I might be able to find out what was wrong with me and I might be be to breathe freely again. I didn’t even have to wait month for an appointment! I got one the very next week!
Finally the time came for my appointment and I walked into the doctor’s office, admittedly with low expectations, but with a hidden glimmer of hope. I once again had to describe my past 11 years of suffering, my treatment and my disappointments. I did emphasize that I was very upset that some of the doctors I had seen did not even listen to me when I explained my symptoms and what made them worse. After seeing the results of a pulmonary function test and after a nebulizer treatment the doctor formulated a treatment plan and explained it to me in detail. I felt that finally something useful would be done. The doctor gave me some drug samples and prescriptions for when the samples ran out. I was floored to find out how expensive one of them was going to be, but if it worked I would have no choice but to find a way to pay for it. When he described the ingredients of the medications I noticed that one of them, the expensive one, had an ingredient that I had tried a couple of times before and had severely worsened my symptoms. However, the doctor said it was worth another try and suggested I give it another try. I reluctantly agreed. I also pointed out that I could not take one of the nasal spray medications because it was contraindicated for men with BPH. He agreed saying he did not notice my BPH in my records!
Not So Fast!
I left the doctors office with a copy of my treatment plan in my hands and hopes for a somewhat better life, starting tomorrow. I faithfully began taking my medications according to my treatment plan the very next day and was anxiously expecting to see improvements. Not so fast! Within three days the prednisone had knocked me for a loop and the nasal spray that I had explained worsened my symptoms had indeed made my symptoms much worse! My head felt as though it would explode at any moment and I was struggling to take a deep breath. I was much worse than the the day I visited the doctor and had hoped for some help. I called the doctor and spoke to the nurse, telling her I can no longer take the medication which was worsening my condition. She agreed that I should stop immediately, but she also suggested that I go to the emergency room or urgent care to help with my breathing. I refused, explaining that every time I had done this in the past, they gave me the same damn medications that were either ineffective or made the symptoms worse! I thanked her for her help and told her I would keep my next appointment and hope for a new treatment plan.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Finally the offending drug is wearing off and I am feeling much better, physically. My once optimistic outlook for being able to breath better and looking forward to a more active lifestyle has all been destroyed. In three weeks I will return to this “nationally known” doctor and basically start all over again. I honestly feel at the next visit he will tell me that nothing can be done, even though I still harbor a sliver of hope. I sincerely hope that this time he will really listen to me!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Getting a Good Night Sleep with BPH

From my articles on Medium

BPH or benign prostatic hyperplasia is a condition from which most males over 50 years of age suffer to varying degrees. BPH is not related to prostate cancer and is not considered a very serious condition, but the symptoms are very annoying. One of the symptoms that can be very disturbing is having to get up a number of times during the night to urinate (nocturia). This is the most annoying symptom of BPH for me. Sometimes I get up as little as twice a night or as many times as every half hour! Getting up several times a night to urinate is very disruptive to a good night’s sleep and can affect one’s overall health.

 When you talk with your Urologist or do research online you are told to stop drinking liquids after 5 or 6 at night and stop the use of alcohol and caffeine. This sounds like good advice, but it doesn’t work! The medications given for BPH, I find have little or no effect on the frequent nighttime bathroom trips. So I decided to go the route of natural supplements. I have done a good deal of research about the various herbal supplements that reportedly relieve the symptoms of BPH, especially the nocturia. First of all I have been taking Saw Palmetto for about 35 years and found it to be absolutely useless! I have tried Maca, which other than giving me extreme gas and stomach pains did not work. I have used Beta Sitosterol, Stinging Nettle, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Pygeum, Fenugreek and others, but not one of them had any effect on my symptoms!

 There are many combinations of these supplements, some costing a fortune, which are touted to relieve almost all BPH symptoms. These are sold in drug stores and online and even promoted on TV infomercials. If you check the ingredients you will see that these so called miracle supplements contain basically the same supplements I have listed above with a few added inactive ingredients. If you look at the reviews of these products you will find that they all work marvelously! These are evidently paid reviews! I have tried a number of these products over the past few years and not one of them had any effect!

 One thing that I have noticed is that when I have a few glasses of red wine I get up dramatically fewer times at night to go to the bathroom! This is the direct opposite of what is recommended!
 I have found that diet affects BPH symptoms, especially the nocturia. I have found that eating fatty foods such as chicken wings and eating really spicy food causes more bathroom trips and more urine retention. I have also found that my blood pressure medication, amlodopine, makes my nighttime symptoms worse if I take it before bed.

 Until medical science comes up with a more effective BPH medication, with fewer adverse side effects, we older males will have to learn to live with the unpleasantness of BPH. We can learn to adjust our diets and habits, to see what works best for us. Each of us reacts differently, so what may help one of us may not help the rest of us. Just don’t give up trying!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Just Another Addiction.

Some of the more popular television shows being aired these days deal with addictions or extreme behavior disorders, such as hoarding, overeating, anorexia and drug addiction and intervention. These shows center on otherwise normal people who have become addicted to certain types of behavior or have taken their interests to extremes, which place themselves or others in danger. Each of these programs often show extreme behaviors exhibited in gruesome detail, which is shocking to some viewers, who may think this type of extreme behavior is a rarity and far from their own little world. The viewers learn that in each of these programs help is offered by professional mental health practitioners, but in many cases the people suffering from these behaviors deny the severity of their actions and refuse any kind of help. One can plainly see how much families and friends of these people are also suffering as a result of their loved one’s bizarre and extreme behavior disorders.
If people do not know anyone who suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, hoarding, eating disorders or other extreme behavior disorders, they may think that they themselves are not effected in any way. But they are wrong. Look at one important practice of every day life that is present in the daily routines of most people. Religion. Every day people can be observed or heard praying. They say grace before meals. They go to mass, church, temple or mosque once a week or more. We hear people preaching in public, whether we want to or not. Out cable TV channel lineup consists overwhelming of religious channels we didn’t order, but we must endure them as they are part of our program bundle. We usually don’t give these religious presences a second thought and accept them as a normal part of life.
But take a closer look at what can happen. The Twin Towers bombings of September 11 were carried out by Muslim extremists. Suicide bombings are an every day occurrence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas of the Middle East and Africa. The Taliban has been terrorizing Pakistanis and Afghans in an attempt to force them to adhere to their archaic beliefs. These terrorist attacks are all carried out in the name of Islam. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and Isis have vowed to destroy the West and replace the governments there with their own deranged form of Islam. They kill thousands of innocent people, among them peace loving Muslims, because they merely think or pray differently. Even in moderate Muslim countries there are groups trying to force their beliefs and practices on the rest of the population. Having lived in Malaysia for seven years I saw firsthand how the government forced their own brand of Islam on the population.
In Israel ultra-Orthodox Jews known as Haredi Jews, a minority in the country have in the past attacked school girls walking to school in a small city near Jerusalem. This sect of Jewish extremists believe in strict segregation of the sexes and they are determined to force their beliefs and practices on the majority of secular Jews, even if it involves attacks on police and other acts of violence against other Jews. Peace talks in the Middle East have been a failure because of religious extremists on both sides. Even in Judaism the different sects attack each other.
Now don’t feel smug because the above examples deal with Muslims and Jews. All we have to do is take a look at some political campaigns in the United States to see many examples of Christian extremists. In past campaigns and most recently in 2016 Conservative Republicans courted Christian evangelicals, who are in reality extremists. Even thrice married, adulterous, misogynist Donald Trump professed his Christian faith and promised to bring back supposedly outlawed Christian values to America. He and his supporters even invented the “War on Christmas”. The possibility that Americans may believe in a different faith is a mute point. They threaten war against those Muslim terrorists who are trying to force their beliefs on their own countrymen, while doing the same thing to their fellow Americans in the US. What hypocrites! They value freedom of religion as long as it is their religion. We all remember the fanatical Christian extremists of the Westboro Baptist church whose hateful rhetoric and practices of demonstrating at military funerals and funerals of gays or gay friendly people. There are only a few members, but they are trying to force their views on the rest of the country. There are many sects of the Christian religion in the West and they each think they are the one and only true Christian religion.
Religious extremism is not only attributed to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. All religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and many others have their extremist members. Even atheism has its extremist elements. There are a couple of big differences between religious extremists and those extremists mentioned in the first part of this post. Firstly religion is quite often considered to be a sacred cow (excuse the pun) and people are either afraid or unwilling to discuss religion in a public forum. Therefore many extreme religious practices or beliefs are ignored or tacitly accepted. People don’t want to criticize someone of their own faith, even though they are not in agreement. Secondly, a big difference is that drug addicts or hoarders and others exhibiting extreme behavior can and do receive treatment for their disorders. Religious extremists are just as sick and unbalanced as other addicts, but no one wants to recognize this. Religious extremists are just as dangerous or more dangerous than those addicted to drugs, alcohol or extreme behaviors. No one offers or even suggests mental health assistance. Because these people’s illnesses are a result of religious beliefs, no one wants to touch upon this subject. It is taboo. The latest intrusion of religion on the lives of the American people are so called religious liberty laws which are nothing more that an attempt to allow Christian religious fanatics to discriminate against gays and anyone who may be different from their idea of what an American is. It is normal for people to want to express a belief and practice a certain religion, but when those beliefs and practices endanger other people’s lives or infringe on other people’s freedoms, something must be done. We must recognize that religious addiction does exist and it must be treated.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Melania’s Parents Jump to the Head of the Line

It was just announced that the parents of Melania Trump have just been granted US Citizenship! Their attorney announced that the category under which they were eligible to become citizens was “confidential”! I guess being connected to Trump is a new category. This has raised some eyebrows since Trump has been railing against “chain migration” which is when recently naturalized citizens sponsor their parents and other family members to become US citizens. Chain migration has been used to reunite immigrant families for years.
It still is not clear how Melania received her green card and, if she received it illegally.It has been conjectured, that she first came here on a visitor’s visa but worked as a nude model. However the White House has said that Melania received her green card under a program that gives priority to those of “extraordinary ability”. Apparently being a nude model carries the same weight as a nuclear physicist! When this accusation first surfaced during the campaign Melania promised to give the details of her immigrant status, but she never did. Just like Trump’s promise to release his taxes! If she did receive her green card fraudulently she is ineligible to become a citizen and thus she is not able to sponsor any members of her family.
With Trump’s attacks on illegal immigrants and those obtaining legal status fraudulently, the act of granting Melania’s parents citizenship is extremely hypocritical. He has especially been fighting to stop chain migration and instead favored a merit system to obtain permanent residency and citizenship. Neither Melania nor her parents were covered under the EB-1 visa since they did not possess extraordinary skills or abilities. This action has the appearance of favoring white Europeans over brown and black skinned people from Africa and South America. It is a slap in the face to those people who have been patiently waiting and following the proper procedures in order to obtain either their green card or their citizenship. With Trump’s newly proposed policies of denying citizenship or green cards to anyone who has received any kind of public assistance, even Obamacare, or the Administration’s plan to take back the citizenship from those who may have lied on their applications, this action is particularly disgusting.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Isn't the Aging Brain Wonderful?


Now that I am getting older I realize that I have taken my body for granted all of these years. I now am aware of body parts I didn’t even know I had when I was younger. I didn’t know what the hell a prostate gland was when I was in my teens and twenties. But in the past few years after going to the bathroom more often, getting up in the middle of the night to pee and the loss of hydraulic pressure when going, I now know what a prostate is and what BPH is.
I never gave my knees much of a thought and after growing out of childhood asthma I never gave my lungs much thought either, as I bounded up flights of stairs. Now when I walk up a flight of stairs I feel as though I have climbed Mt. Everest as my asthma has returned in my old age. I never knew there were muscles in my back until now, when I am sorely reminded of that fact every single day. I didn’t know what my sinuses were until a few years ago, when I had teeth pulled, just to find out I had sinusitis. Now I have postal nasal drip 24/7! I never gave much thought to my bowels, as they worked whenever I wanted them to work. Now with IBS, my bowels have a mind of their own, which is usually in disagreement with my own mind. And of course my eyesight was perfect, being able to see far and near. Now after years of being glued to a microscope and the effects of aging, I either have to get longer arms or use those drug store magnifying glasses.
The one part of the human body that I never ever thought of and I think most people never think of is the brain. It has always worked, sometimes not as hard as I would have liked it to work, but it did work. As I find my other body parts are not working up to snuff, I am beginning to see my brain backfire. The other day I was having lunch with a couple of friends and mentioned that I had to stop and get milk on the way home. I stopped at 7-Eleven and got everything but the milk. Quite often I go to the store for only one specific item and return home without that item, but with many things I really didn’t want. I find many times that when people introduce someone to me I forget their names a few minutes later. I think actually I really didn’t want to know who they were in the first place. I find that I usually don’t forget big things or very important things, but the little things in life. I occasionally forget my phone, my watch, my wallet, my ATM card PIN number and the exact time I am supposed to meet someone . I think most of the time I am just not paying attention. I hope. I also, at times have a little trouble remembering what I had for dinner the preceding day. No big deal.
I guess being a little forgetful has to be accepted with the aging process, but what is odd is the things we remember. I can remember the names of every kid in my first grade class at Hamilton Street School. I can remember details of childhood birthday parties and what I received as birthday and Christmas presents. I can remember events from my childhood as if they happened yesterday. I can remember the details of shows like The Life of Riley, The Pinky Lee Show, The People’s Choice and Our Miss Brooks. They were on over 50 years ago! When it is very hot and humid I can remember sitting at home on a snow day and watching the snow fall from my living room window.
What also is strange is that I remember only the good and pleasant things. I had very severe asthma and other allergies growing up, but I have little memory of that. It is almost like these are selective memories that we consciously have no control over. Many times I will lie on the bed for a rest and daydream of playing tennis, doing gymnastics, climbing or running a race, yet there is no way in hell I could do that now. It’s another game our brain plays on us. I guess it is like the old saying, “The mind is willing, but the body is weak.” Even when I am at the gym there is a big difference in what I can envision doing and what I can actually do. So depressing .
I guessed most people see these changes when they retire or approach retirement age. I really didn’t feel that bad about it just beginning now, until I saw the results of the some research results from University College London, that brain function begins to decline at the age of 45. That means it has been happening for a long time and I didn’t even know it! Another cruel trick of the brain. Oh well. We have no choice, but to get old, but I think I will exercise my brain more, from now on. If I can remember.

Monday, July 30, 2018

How Can I lose Weight Fast?

Wikimedia Commons

How many people have Googled the question, “How can I lose weight fast ?” I am willing to bet that hundreds of thousands of people have. Well if you’re looking at this article for answers to that question , don’t be upset because you won’t find any answers here.
If you do a search for help in losing weight you will find hundreds of sites, mostly all useless. You will undoubtedly find results in sites such as “Wikihow”, “Ehow” and “Ezine” and if you look closely enough you will notice that the articles are almost exactly the same. Drink plenty of water, exercise, eat more fruit and vegetables, consume less fat and sugar and count your calories. This is information the average person would know, unless they have been living in a cave all of their life. Then you will find sites selling miracle diets or supplements, ranging from diet teas to exotic fruit from the jungles of the Amazon. Diet teas work great if you want to sit on the toilet all day and give up eating! Diet supplements usually are very expensive and consist of ingredients which have absolutely no effect on weight and can be very dangerous in many cases. Many of these miracle weight loss supplements raise your metabolism, which also raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Coffee is a much cheaper and safer alternative . You can also buy over the counter drugs that prevent fat from being absorbed by your digestive system. These work great as long as you don’t mind the occasional “accident” you have when you sneeze or cough, or when you thought “it” was going to be gas. If you take the these pills you should be very careful when you go out in public.
Aside from the supplements there are a number of alternative exercise techniques, like vibration plates that are supposed to shake the fat off you. Some of the advertising claim that you can burn 1000 calories in 15 minutes. None of the current research on these techniques have found any positive benefits for weight loss. I have known people who have tried the vibration plates and paid some hefty fees over a few months period. The only weight they lost was in their wallets!
Some sites advertise “body wrap” where they promise you can lose inches around your waist. Of course you do. The wrapping just moves the fat to another part of the body! If this doesn’t work maybe you can try electric muscle stimulation to shock the fat off your body. Once again all of the current research shows no evidence of any weight loss benefits. If you read any literature on the above techniques, you will find some extremely fine print at the bottom of brochures or customer testimonials, which say that success comes only when used in conjunction with proper diet and exercise.
The other sites you will run across will be legitimate sites which offer just that — proper diet and exercise. They offer advice on eating healthy, along with recipes and foods that will help you lose weight and keep it off. Other sites offer exercise programs and tips that will help you burn fat and lose weight in a healthy fashion. Of course there is always the tried and true methods offered by Weight Watchers. I have used that program and managed to lose quite a bit of weight over time. Of course it isn’t cheap. There are sites that advertise gyms or home exercise equipment to lose weight and keep in shape. Unlike weight loss miracles, supplements and the latest fat burning technologies, nutrition and exercise have been proven, over and over again to be effective for weight loss. Two very important factors for anyone who wants to lose weight are the proper motivation and emotional support from family and friends.
The bottom line is that for most of us, we are fat because we eat way too much of the wrong food and won’t get off our butts to do any exercise. We realize we are fat but we are too damn lazy to do anything about it except to waste our time looking for a miracle quick fix weight loss gimmick. There are really no excuses for anyone who wants to lose weight and is willing to try. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. The answer to the title question is very simple. Eat less, drink water and exercise more and don’t give up. You didn’t get fat overnight and you won’t lose the fat overnight, either!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

They Don't Make TV Shows Like That Anymore

Lately I have been seeing posts on Facebook with photos of old TV shows from the 50's, 60's and 70's, with the caption telling you to like if you remember it. I must admit that I remember all of these shows and become quite nostalgic when I look at the photos. I always "like" them and "share" the photos. So far I have seen "The Andy Griffith Show", "The Brady Bunch", "The Lucille Ball Show" and "Cheers".

Seeing these led me to reminisce about other old shows. Some of my favorites were "The Life of Riley", "Leave It to Beaver", "Father Knows Best" and "Our Miss Brooks" to name a few. There are many more TV shows that I and others around my age should remember. Not all are as old as the ones I just mentioned, but they are the ones I remember fondly.

When I think about watching these shows I think of a simpler time when I was younger than 12. I had nothing to worry about and nothing to fear, except for maybe not getting my homework done on time. I can remember sitting in front of the old black and white General Electric television in my living room and watching these shows with my parents and older brothers. The plots were simple, usually nothing more serious than getting a failing grade in school or not getting the chores around the house done. There was no sex. The parents slept in separate single beds and  heck I don't remember even seeing the parents' bedrooms until "The Dick Vandyke Show". There were no drugs, no swearing or profanity and no violence. The only gun play was in the westerns, but there was no gore or mass shootings. In all of these shows the neighbors were all friendly, well dressed and  well to do middle class people. They were nothing like my family, or the family of anyone else I knew.

None of these shows portrayed poor families, homeless people, handicapped people, Blacks, Asians or Hispanics. Everybody was white. No one was Catholic or Jewish and certainly not Muslim.  There were no gays or even people who could have been gay. Everybody seemed to be married or widowed. None of the mothers worked, even though the very young and  older women worked as either librarians or teachers. Even though these shows took place during the Cold War, there was no mention of it.  There was absolutely no mention of any social issues whatsoever. It was a perfect world of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans, undoubtedly all Republican too.

We may look back and think about the old days, when everything was peaceful and simple, with no problems and no worries. In reality though these TV shows portrayed an America where everyone was hiding their heads in the sand. The plights of minorities, such as Blacks and Women were ignored and not talked about in public. Children were going hungry and being physically and sexually abused and there was a great deal of domestic violence that was ignored by everyone, including the authorities. There was gang violence, there were drugs , race riots and all manners of discrimination that was legitimized by looking the other way. Everything was perfect only if you were White. The only reason life was so simple was the fact we did not know about all of the suffering taking place, not only in our country, but in our own neighborhoods of our home towns.

I look back at my childhood and have warm memories and feelings when I think about these old TV shows. I wonder if , no I hope, that all people my age can look back at their childhood, when also thinking of old TV shows and feel the same warmth as I do.

Adam and Eve: The First Dysfunctional Family?


I grew up Catholic and attended Catholic schools through high school. So naturally I had to attend religion classes where the Bible was the central textbook authority. I can remember being taught about the Creation and the story of Adam and Eve, just like every other Christian, Muslim or Jew has been taught. We were taught that God created Adam from the dust of the earth and then created Eve from a rib taken from Adam. The Bible also teaches us that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. That was it. No questions asked, just believe it.

 Now that I am older and have completed my formal education and am still being educated in life, I have developed numerous questions. I actually think about these questions quite frequently. Years ago in biology class I learned that in order for the population to increase and be healthy, men and women must reproduce, as in the union of egg and sperm. I also learned that in order for humankind to flourish there must be diversity in the gene pool. This means that the offspring of closely related parents can and will be genetically defective.

 I have also learned through history and civics classes that in most cultures it is illegal to marry first cousins or siblings, even though this may be common in some parts of Appalachia or some third world countries. Marrying close family members is called incest and is considered immoral by all religions and societies, regardless of whether or not it is part of a country’s laws.

 This is where problems with the story of all humankind descending from Adam and Eve arise. According to the bible Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Some religious scholars say that the Adam and Eve had as many as many as 56 children (poor Eve). So did the rest of humanity come to be as a result of Cain and Abel fathering children with their mother, Eve or all 56 of these children fornicating with each other and their mother? Many hard core fundamentalists argue that somewhere in the Bible it mentions that Cain had a wife and could not have had an incestuous relationship with his mother, but where did he find his wife? Did he share her with Abel, his brother? And did they have children? Strict fundamentalists, wearing blinders, insist that the Bible is correct in saying Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were the first family, and refuse to entertain any other ideas to the contrary.

 The stories of Creation and Adam and Eve are very confusing, unless you accept them blindly like many people do. I accepted the stories of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus until I became old enough to question them and see the faults in these myths. Even though I knew they didn’t exist it was fun making believe. I think that instead of believing that Adam and Eve were incestuous and the Bible was promoting such a relationship, I would rather believe that the story is just another fun myth, which was used by the authors of the Bible to teach an illiterate and uneducated populace lessons of religion. Just like Santa Claus, making believe Adam and Eve was real can be fun and educational.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Myth of Saw Palmetto

     I have been taking saw palmetto for over 20 years.  I first started taking it when I read that it prevented prostate problems, including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer.  Before I started taking the supplement, naturally I did some research on it to determine it's efficacy and safety.  At that timeI learned that it had been used for years in Europe to treat prostate problems.  Much of the research added that it is as effective as  prescribed medications, such as Avodart and Flomax.  If a Google search is done one can also see that saw palmetto can also reduce the size of the prostate gland which would reduce the annoying symptoms of BPH. 

    Now that I am 70 years old I am one of the millions of American men who suffer from the symptoms of BPH.  These include frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, weak urinary stream, urgency and incomplete bladder emptying, among others.  Apparently saw palmetto didn't work, at least for me!  Each of the primary care physicians and urologists I have visited over the years knew I was taking saw palmetto, but never advised against it or even mentioned it. I continued taking it , I guess in the hopes one day I would begin to see a benefit.

   In the past couple of years as my nighttime trips to the bathroom became more frequent I began once again to research the efficacy of saw palmetto treatment for BPH.  As before I saw the same testimonials regarding how great the herb was for millions of sufferers.  But unlike before I discovered that there is actually very little scientific research to substantiate the claims that saw palmetto can be beneficial in the treatment of BPH or any other prostate conditions.  I came to doubt the claims of the relief of symptoms offered in reviews of prostate support supplements containing saw palmetto, which I read on prostate health forums and Amazon product review pages.  I found more and more people like me who found no benefit from taking the supplement.  So finally I decided to stop my daily regime of supplementing with saw palmetto and other prostate health supplements.  It has now been over 2 months since I have stopped the supplements and my condition has not changed a bit!  I'm not saying that saw palmetto may not help some men, but for me it is of no use.
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