Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hyper Hypertension Tensions

For the first half-century of my life, I've had pretty reasonable blood pressure. I've been pretty lucky with my health, and when I was donating blood on a regular basis, I was always told my BP was normal, usually around 110/80.

Recently, I got a physical, on the grounds that I hadn't had one for a long time. It went pretty well, but for two things. One thing was told was that I had prehypertension -  borderline high blood pressure that typically proceeds to full hypertension. The doctor recommended I up my aerobic exercise to 5 times a week of 30 minutes of elevated heart action, consider cutting back on salt and fat, and keep track of bp.

The other thing is that I had no idea how much this physical would cost. It cost a lot - and I still cannot be sure that I might not get another bill for another part of it.
If you take your car to a mechanic, you get a written estimate. If you buy a head of lettuce, you see a price attached. If you get a haircut, the rate is posted on the wall. In all these cases, you get one bill, even if several people work on you.

If you go to a doctor, you don't see any prices. No-one in the place knows anything about the price of their services; they won't give an estimate in writing; they won't give you an itemized bill. Apparently some of the work is done by one company and some of it by another, and no-one knows or cares about some sort of integrated up-front billing. To the employers of the doctors, techs and clerks, you are just a sack of blood and money, from with a little of the former will be extracted in order to get as much as possible of the latter.

The clinic I went to is still sending me bills. Now they are threatening to send me to a collection agency. Understand, these are not bills for services that I agree to buy at a price I was told before hand.

What happened was, I said that I wanted a normal physical. The staff said, fine. They didn't say how much it would cost. They did some stuff. Then, afterwards, they sent me a bill.

This is a scam. It may be legal, but it is basically like an auto shop working on your car and then saying, sorry, it's going to cost you a lot of money.

Maybe the individuals in the system are personally honest. The doctor is honest, the billing clerk is honest, maybe even the insurance executive who dreamed up this plan is personally honest.

But the system is dishonest. You cannot make a rational economic choice if you do not know the price of services.
I am extremely reluctant to talk it the bp system with a doctor a second time. What will it cost me? Even the doctors does not know.

So what are my alternatives?

Internet search on hypertension offer the helpful advice:
"In as many as 95% of reported high blood pressure cases in the United States, the underlying cause cannot be determined. This type of high blood pressure is called essential hypertension."
-WebMD: "Causes of High Blood Pressure"
So, thanks a lot, you guys; you don't know WTF ... so why should I pay you to tell me "I don't know?"

But where else can I go for advice on steps to reduce the problem, except to the same people who don't know what causes it? So I go back to the Mayo Clinic website for suggestions:
  • Cut sodium. I take in little salt; I eat less processed foods than most people I know. For a year or two, I was enjoying the extra flavor of kosher salt or sea salt, but for the past several months I've cut that out entirely. I never add salt to anything I cook or eat. When I need an extra zip of flavor, I add lemon juice or something else acidic.
  • Cut Caffeine. It seems reasonable that, as a stimulant, caffeine result in somewhat increased blood pressure; a Mayo Clinic article seems unsure but suggests cutting back as a precaution. I had a pot of coffee a day for several decades, but I think I can taper that off to zero over the course of a few months. On mornings that I exercise, I am sufficiently alert without caffeine, so I believe that I don't actually NEED it in any form (except chocolate ;-)
  • Limit Alcohol. As I've written elsewhere, I cut out alcohol a few months ago. BP has not improved. I might as well stick with the program but it's regrettable that the solution was not so easy.
  • Increase Exercise. This at least I an do. For about a year, I've been averaging four sessions a week; I schedule five a week but every now and then something comes up. Mayo says it should be everyday. This will be a biiiiiiiiig ajustment but I can do it, especially since there are huge side-benefits. Since I started exercising seriously a while back, I've noticed a lot of body improvements, and I'm eager to see what else I an attain.
But I'm not really satisfied with the health system as I am experiencing it. If this were producing any other product, I'm sure it would be approaching failure.

But just when I'm getting all grumpy and tense about health, her come Billionaires for Wealthcare with a nice show tune to sing us out....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Global CATspiracy: are the Felines For CATastrophe?

DARING to ask the QUESTIONS that few have BEFORE, Project Savior reveals ...
"At first glance you would think the Evil Minions would be all for a Warmer Climate, as they like laying in the sun....

(solar powered minion)
However, if global temperatures rise just a few degrees, sea levels will also rise leaving the Evil Minions stranded.

As the sea levels rise they will use anything they can get their paws on to use as a floatation device. ..."


Monday, October 19, 2009

Oct 30/Seattle: "Pro Bono Workshops: Hope and Help in Hard Times"

Here's a program at which I am presenting; I hope you'll find it interesting.
"Pro Bono Workshops: Hope and Help in Hard Times"
An ABA "Celebrate Pro Bono Week" Event!

Calling all lawyers, paralegals, and law students interested in making a difference in your community! Join us October 30 for a day of pro bono workshops on:
  •  Information on how to get involved in local pro bono activities.
  • The basics of setting up a pro bono practice and working with pro bono clients.
  • Pro bono incentives and ethics
  • CLE Credits: 6 for the full day, including 1.75 Ethics.


The reception will honor Bill Gates, Sr., winner of the prestigious ABA Medal, and include featured speakers Washington State Bar President Salvador "Sal" Mungia and Perkins Coie partner Harry Schneider, Jr.

Friday, October 30, 2009
8:00 AM–8:45 AM
WORKSHOPS: 8:45 AM–5:00 PM
RECEPTION: 5:00 PM–7:00 PM
Seattle University School of Law, Sullivan Hall

Lawyers, Paralegals, and Law Students
Register Now:
For questions, contact Roxanne Mennes, Director of CLE Programs, at

Sponsored by Washington's Celebrate Pro Bono Coordinating Committee.
My contributions to this program are small but, I hope, effective. Over lunch I will be part of a Pro Bono Fair, in my case showing off the Pro Bono FAQ and other features of the ProtoType Bar Association, such as the simple search across multiple Washington State Legal Community websites. In addition, I am organizing and presenting a panel on using social media to facilitate recruiting, retention and rewarding volunteers in pro bono programs, based on my experience with AACF and with PTBA's twitter. I hope to get one person interested in each opportunity; not to precisely replicate the work, but at least a-fire with the possibilities and willing to move forward. It will be a test of the crowd: who among them signs on to the concept that we can end the justice gap?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seattle Urban Agriculture experiment continues

This year's Seattle Urban Agriculture project has been a lot of fun, and I also learned quite a bit that made our private growing efforts more effective.

The plants are definitely slowing down as the days shorten. On the plus side, we don't have to water anymore, as the deluges of the last few days make excess moisture the concern, rather than the reverse. I guess we'll have to clear out some of the tomato foiliage to encourage evaporation, discouraging mold. The plants seem to be cooperating, by shutting down some stems.

As long as we're not getting frost, we'd like to keep trying to pink up the tomatoes that are still green. Eventually we'll have to bring the greenies indoors still on some long pieces of stem, and try to finish them in a box on top of the clothes dryer.

The greens which were the 2nd crop in the Tower greens tub needed quite a bit of thinning, which produced some nice baby greens. At the Court, the greens had started spottier, not as thickly sewn I suppose, and grew into adulthood more quickly; we took a batch of adult greens from there. Some had aphids, which I tried to brush off, but I suppose we'll have to assume the recipients will rinse the greens before using.

The crops we've been getting may seem small, when expressed in pounds and ounces. however, in practical terms, the food bank has been able to give out the makings of several nice salads, all organic too! Our private patio pot garden has been keeping us in tomatoes for about a month, which is very welcome, especially considering the flavor and nutritional superiority of our product.

The benefits of these small gardens go beyond the culinary. Checking the health of the plants was a nice quiet activity in the evening; the morning watering was also a pleasant ritual (...not to mentioned delightful on the hot days!) While the primary purpose may be food, the recreational benefit should not be overlooked!