Following up on my two previous posts, I am posting an excellent TED talk here:
I thank my friend Julie for sending this to me.
Following up on my two previous posts, I am posting an excellent TED talk here:
GMOs are the product of biotechnology, but it was the science of biology that made them possible. It is a scientific approach which can help us examine how GMOs work, whether their use should be better controlled,or whether they should be used just the way other seeds and plants are used. It can shed light on some possible consequences of their use. A good scientific approach can help us understand their risks as well as their benefits. It can also help us to refine what we are looking for. This may all seem obvious, but it's altogether too easy to forget in the flames of hysteria which surround the HMO issue as well as a lot of other hot button topics.
It's easy to forget the importance of using science to evaluate arguments and hard to remember to, because to do so means we can't just throw out slogans and side with our friends and political allies. It means we can't just assume that the people on the right and the arguments on one side are ipso facto stupid, ignorant, racist, whatever, or that the people on the left are communists, godless, smart asses who manipulate data for their own ends.
And the media leads the band in presenting most things as if there are only two sides to an issue and that the two sides are polar opposites.
In the face of my own ignorance, I decided I'd better learn some stuff and review other stuff before I started telling you folks what I think we need. I have to say that for non-science types like me, it's close to impossible to understand well or thoroughly what goes on with GMOs. I am trying. As an important part of my effort, I decided to (re)educate myself with some kind of review of biology. I looked up college biology texts. where else but on Google and decided that I might be able to cope with Campbell Biology, a well-regarded college text book, as a much needed aid. I have to tell you, biology has sure changed since I took my last course in high school (gulp) 55 years ago (that's no typo.) It has changed since I struggled through botany in college where I discovered some chemistry had crept into it; it was no longer just classifying and describing things and drawing pretty specimens (I'm exaggerating).
This opacity that science has, its complexity, its vastly greater store of knowledge does make it extremely hard for lay people like me to try to understand what's going on in any number of areas: global climate change is a biggy. How much easier it is just to jump on the band wagon that denies global warming or on the one that paints doomsday scenarios that lie just around the corner. Why are we so eager to be extremists?
So from Cambell Biology I've drawn out the basics of what science is. I am trying to use these basics to understand what GMOs are, how they are brought about, and how they may be the same or different from other forms of plant modification. I'll condense and share my findings with you and hope that you read what I say with a critical eye. Don't give up!
So what is written below is drawn from Cambell, at times word for word, pages 18-24.
The word SCIENCE comes from the Latin verb TO KNOW. Science is an approach to understanding the natural world which developed because people are by nature curious and strive to understand the world around them.
INQUIRY is at the heart of science. Inquiries are the questions we ask as we search for information and explanation. The search for information often focuses on specific questions. For Charles Darwin, for instance, the main question was how species adapted to their environment. Evolution lies at the heart of modern biology, by the way. No getting around it.
So how do you go around inquiring in a scientific way?
You make observations
You form logical hypotheses
You test your hypothesis thoroughly. If observations don't support a hypothesis, perhaps the hypothesis needs to be modified or thrown out.
You hope with each go-round you get closer and closer to the truth: to the laws that govern nature.
According to Campbell, in biology, scientists are looking to describe natural structures and processes as accurately as they can.
Today a lot of biology involves studying things on a micro scale. GENOMICS for instance is the analysis to help us understand biological unity and diversity at a molecular level.GMOs are created on a molecular level though the results we see can be on a macro level.
As we read in Campbell Biology, Science is much less structured than people realize, and there is no single "scientific method" with a rule book that researchers must follow. There is no fixed formula for successful inquiry though many of us remember being taught that there was. On the other hand, the looser approach to the scientific method definitely does not mean a looser approach to testing hypotheses, retesting them,and opening oneself up to evaluation by others.
Campbell points out that what is important to the search for scientific knowledge are reasoning, planning, creativity, cooperation, competition, patience, persistence, and the ability to withstand setbacks. Withstanding setbacks means to me being able to face the truthl: to not falsify data because of pride or laziness or looming deadlines or the desire for money or fear of academic standing. Today, our society has a problem with being able to accept scientific data not because we are troglodytes (although we may be that, too) but because false data has been presented to us by supposedly reputable scientific sources a little too often. And it's just technically too hard for untrained people to investigate for ourselves claims that might look a bit odd. Untrained doesn't mean ignorant: it means that understanding very complex microscopic processes is not an ability to be picked up by quickly reading a book or taking a course. We have to depend on people being honorable.
Scientists should be aiming to describe natural structures and processes as accurately they can after observing and analyzing their observations. The stuff they get from their observations is DATA.
There is quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative is data that is counted, basically, that aims to prove something with quantities of information. Qualitative data is gathered from observation of a single or a few subjects. For instance, you might say that a certain medicine is useful for treating measles because it has had successful results in 500 cases of measles and did not have success in 6 cases. Qualitative data might be to look at, say, an insect and note his physical characteristics, his environment, his diet, etc. The scientist might want to ask what happens when the insect is exposed to a toxin.
Some DATA might lead you to form a hypothesis which would be asking what causes something or/and what explains it. A HYPOTHESIS is a tentative answer to a well-framed question. It is testing whether the explanation you have is true. It can be considered a "rational accounting of a set of observations." It leads to testable predictions.
Reasoning can be INDUCTIVE: You generalize from a large number of specific observations. For instance, you've observed the sun rises in the east. You could decide to prove that by observation over a period of time, maybe five years of observations. You'd then analyze the data and finally make the generalization your data warranted. Hopefully, the generalization would be that the sun rises in the east. (I know, I know, the sun does't really rise. But it appears in the east every morning.)
Deductive reasoning is generally used after a hypothesis has been developed. It involves logic developed from the general to the specific.From general premises, you extrapolate to specific results.For instance, if all organisms are made of cells and humans are made of cells, then humans are organisms. This is "if....then" reasoning.
Here are some important characteristics of hypotheses:
No amount of experimental testing can prove a hypothesis beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is impossible to test all alternative hypotheses.
Hypotheses gain credibility by surviving multiple attempts to falsify them.
Hypotheses gain strength as alternative hypotheses are eliminated.
A hypothesis MUST be testable. There has to be some way to check the validity of an idea.
A hypothesis must be falsifiable. Huh??? This confuses me, too. So let's see if I can explain it. While there is no ultimate way to prove the truth of something, you should be able to create a NULL HYPOTHESIS which if proven would absolutely prove the original hypothesis false. A common example: If I hypothesize that "all swans are white", we would have to find every last swan and see that they are all white to prove the hypothesis absolutely true. A null hypothesis might be: There is at least one black swan. So if you come up with a black swan, then you have absolutely disproved the original hypothesis.
SCIENCE's hypotheses are actually not a bunch of absolutes. Nothing scientists propose and prove is absolute. BUT the proofs of hypotheses must be replicable by INDEPENDENT efforts. You don't have to and should not accept someone saying you should accept something because I or the Bible or God's prophet says you should.
Scientific research has become so technical, so dependent on stuff I didn't even know existed, that I have to depend not on evaluating the science so much as evaluating the articles I read. And this is also a challenge. But as you plough through research papers, you'll get a feel for what makes for a good research article. But who has the time? Ideally we'd have research paper groups the way we have book groups so we could read articles and then discuss them and then challenge each other.
Anyway, a very good article on evaluating research papers and articles can be found here. This is on a blog called The Skeptical Raptor (skeptical raptor.com) which is a chatty, easy to read site dealing with scientific research.
The take-away from all of this is that laypeople are kind of up a creek when it comes to understanding the science of GMOs and a lot of other things. But here are a few quick and dirty hints: articles should appear in well-established journals. How do you decide? Who writes for the journal? Are the articles in the journal peer-reviewed? This means the research article should have been read by at least three independent scholars/experts. Reviewers and authors should be anonymous to each other. Then you can find out how often the article has been cited and by whom. And....
Now I can say no more. I have to walk the dog, fortunately.
It's Friday. First, we took two dogs on one walk and the other three on another. Rita who is 17 1/2 years old had been languishing without a walk for a couple of weeks. She looks old now with her fur without luster and seeming to grow in mats, But she is still cheerful and eager and loyal. We took Jocko, too, and just went up as far as the park and walked around it and then went back the way we'd come. Both dogs seemed satisfied.
The next walk with Hank, Happy and Lil Guy was longer. The neighbors were surprised to see us a second time. It was hot and dusty. Hank got in two swims and the other two wet their feet in the rio where it crosses the road and Paul Barber's property. Paul is the English gardener who is a naturalized Mexican. He was clearing an area up near the road for more garden space.
I heard thunder. I hate being outside in thunder. It's one of the few things that still strikes fear in me. I don't mind it if I'm inside. I like storms as long as I'm inside.
As we turned to retrace our steps home, the heat seemed to reach a peak. The air was still. Dark clouds gathered as if at a starting gate, waiting for some signal. There was a puff of wind, just a puff to stir the leaves. Clouds poured down from Cofre de Perote into the valley just beyond us. Suddenly leaves whipped against each other in a strong gust. The sky blackened, ominous. We quickened our steps back into the village. But we got no rain then or later that night.
In and around our Colonia people still use horses and mules for transporting crops and firewood and long poles and themselves. We saw quite a number of horses today, some with dogs running along side. One had a boy and a load of grass for forage on its back. The boy looked as if he had fallen asleep. Maybe he had. He was wearing shocking pink rubber shoes. Those rubber shoes are quite popular and quite useful for working and walking on dirt that turns quickly to mud when it does rain.
There are lots of kids in our neighborhood. I wish our grandchildren would come and stay long enough to make friends with some of them and learn a bit of Spanish. When we walk by with our dogs, a lot of them call out, "Hello!" in English and ask us a bunch of questions. "How do you say my name in English," or "Which dog is Jocko?" Some of the kids and I have developed extravagant arm motions for greetings. They can go on for awhile, kind of as if they were choreographed.
Life spills onto the street. Three men sit on chairs under an overhang and gossip, I imagine. One of them doesn't think we understand any Spanish at all and gestures to us without making a sound. I thought that he might perhaps be mute, but when I passed closer to him and his friends, I could here him clearly. A group of kids, boys and girls of different ages suddenly form into street soccer teams. Dogs weave in and out and bark at our dogs menacingly but don't come close. A line of people waits outside the community DIF store waiting for the free fluorescent bulbs the electric company is giving out if you bring a regular, working old fashioned one and two paid receipts from bills. A couple of old women pass by, piles of neatly arranged leña, firewood, on their heads. One of our neighbors swirls past on his motorcycle: he is letting his younger brother sit in front and drive it. Two or three people clip-clop on horseback. A young woman trudges past with bags from the supermarket, Chedraui, though she probably bought her stuff here in the Colonia. A burro is tied up at someone's front door. A couple wave. They sit and watch their little black dog play with a rag or something similar. If it's not raining, if it's not very cold, if it's not late at night, the streets are busy. A guy with a cart attached to the front of a bike attracts people with the smell of the guisado cooking in a pot in the cart. Bottles of salsa line the rim. People lean in doorways and look out of windows, their elbows resting on the sills. We reach our gate and bring the dogs inside.
A couple of headlines in La Jornada some months ago caught my attention. One warned that approved crops created and grown which were genetically modified organisms (GMOs) tolerated a component of Agent Orange which, if you remember, the US used during the Vietnam War. The other headline warned that the Mexican department of agriculture had approved over 100 lines of agricultural products grown from transgenic seeds for import from the US. The two US companies involved were Dow and of course Monsanto. Now I admit that I have few if any good feelings about industrial behemoths making their millions in agriculture, especially, Monsanto and Dow.
As we all know, the US is not prone to having advocacy groups that deal in subtlety and compromise. Right out of the gate, people are spewing junk at us which seems designed to arouse what some call our lizard brains. There’s no middle group, no group talking quietly, it seems, no group really interested in, what shall I say, the truth even if it is mushy gray rather than black or white. Much of our internet and TV news keeps us aroused. Media seems, in fact, determined to prevent any reasonable thinking. On the internet, the left can be as loud and vitriolic and ignorant as the right and use just as many cheap tricks. But the two sides are not equal, and the tendency to see all issues in terms of left and right makes it almost impossible to actually understand them.
I hadn’t thought much about GMOs before I saw the two articles in La Jornada. But it was clear at least for Mexico that there were issues that had to be dealt with, and as I became more aware of the subject’s presence in the press, I decided I’d look into GMOs to see if I could come up with a reasonable understanding of the seeds and crops and their effects on the environment and on people, especially in Mexico.
I started out trying to find an overview, if you will. I read, and as I read, I realized (surprise, surprise) that this was no simple issue. For instance, I found that I didn’t think the concept of genetic modification by means of the introduction of a piece of a gene from one species into a gene of the other inherently bad or good. But what do I know? It is certainly an interesting process. I also was not aware of how many areas and crops GMOs could be found in around the world, and especially in the US. And of course it seemed pretty clear that mega corporations should not be doing the research into risks and benefits of their own seeds and plants. Their coziness with government, both here in Mexico and in the US does not work in our interest but rather in the interest of corporate money. I don’t think we can escape the awful consequences of that alliance unless citizens can become involved in a more fruitful way than they currently are.
And, finally, there are so many issues related to the biological, environmental and social costs of GMOs and their use. For these, I am still unravelling possible answers. I make absolutely no claim to certainty. For the science questions, I will try to use science as my guide. This, of course, means I have to explain what I mean by “science.” Science as science has also become controversial, its basic tenets challenged. Some of this is for the good, but some is just terrible and terribly destructive.
But let’s start at the beginning, or where I began.
The journey was rather like following a string that lead me through a very complicated maze. I am still not out of it.
I know people here where we live who go to great lengths to avoid even the slightest possibility that there might be a genetically modified organism in what they are eating. They pull back in horror if you say, as I have, that I’m not sure that in and of themselves GMOs are bad. Literally in horror. I imagine that in their minds soy, say, grown from GMO seed throbs a bright, ugly red that only true believers can see. In the United States, it would be hard to avoid GMO corn. Something like 88% of corn acreage is planted with gmo seed.
In Mexico as in the US there are millions of acres of industrial agriculture, that is, huge fields each devoted to a single crops owned by corporations and, I imagine, some very rich individuals. My first memory of these fields comes from a drive we took from Saltillo to Morelia a number of years ago. Huge blankets of crops covered the land from the highway to stony desert mountains which brought them to a sudden stop. El bajio, part of the high flat valley that is central Mexico has the same kinds of fields. They provide huge quantities of food, much of it for export to the US, all of it requiring irrigation which is draining the water tables as do similar farms in the US in dry areas like California. This use of a limited water source I was aware of and alarmed about.
Those fields in the desert gave me the willies: those blankets of brilliant green seemed to be floating, a result not of my imagination but of the many plumes of irrigated water soaking them, creating an engulfing mist. In those days, I imagine they were in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it was water loss and pesticide and artificial fertilizer use that were alarming: the soil was being sterilized as residues poisoned people. My brother-in-law, a bona fide non fringy agronomist said that there was no replenishing the water tables that were being pumped with such abandon. I remembered from God knows how many years earlier learning in school that mono-cropping, sowing seed for a single kind of plant over a vast area was bad farming: it depleted soil of elements that a specific crop sucked out, it lay itself open to decimation by pests that especially liked that crop and could sweep through a field and leave it devastated.
So the companies that produce GMO seeds promised that in fact they would cut the use of herbicides and pesticides dramatically. They produced studies to back up their claims, and of course opposition rose up and did the same with opposing claims.
So we enter the maze. There are so many possible routes, it seems, and in this maze, not just one that’ll get you through it, perhaps not so badly battered that you can’t survive.
NEXT at sometime in the (I hope) not too distant future, more on GMOs in Mexico. (I am all too aware that I have started other series which I have failed to conclude.)
Í used to get irritated at people who'd call where we live Paradise. It didn't seem like many of the everyday lives could seem paradaisical, if that's a word. Few people in our colonia appeared rich, maybe, when we first arrived more than nine years ago, none were. The poorer houses had walls of wooden slats the weather could stretch its fingers through to chill the inhabitants. A lot of floors were earthen even in the concrete houses in which most people live. People are careful with using electricity keeping it to a minimum. For light, most use a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. Our house is concrete, but the rooms are airy and the glass doors which stretch across the long south wall look out past our garden to the cascada and Acamalín, the small volcanic mountain straight ahead of us, and on explosions of bambu and huge trees growing up through the blankets of coffee and banana plants. We have a pale tile floor and creamy walls and ceiling lamps which hold not just one bare bulb, but five in candle-like fixtures. I used to think to call this place paradise meant you didn't understand that it wasn't that for a lot of people here. Now I think for me not to acknowledge how rich our lives are here is worse than calling it paradise.
In case you didn't know it, we have five dogs and two cats. They have slowed down our wandering away from home quite a bit. The two biggest dogs, a red-haired golden retriever and a heavy-set (!) Afghan mix don't like each other and have gotten in a couple of very scary fights. So we try our best to keep them separated. We took them on the same walk for almost a year, never letting them off their leashes the way we did the smaller dogs, and we only took walks near our house because lugging them on leashes wasn't so much fun. We not only limited our horizons, we expanded our waistlines. Significantly. So about a month ago we decided to just take one of the grandotes at a time and have more fun. If you don't think dogs can look at you with great, guilt-inducing sadness, come visit our dogs when we tell them it isn't their turn for a walk and see for yourselves.
Anyway, we drove three of the dogs a little less than a mile from our house to a walk along a river, now full of spring rain. (We drove because the road down to where we start is too trafficky for dog safety, even when they are on leashes). Below are a smattering of pictures I took as we wandered. You can click on them to make them larger. I think typepad has mucked around with its picture tools so I can't figure out how to insert text to explain them. If you are one of my facebook friends or one of Jaime Ricardo's, you should go to one of our timeline pages to see Jim's fotos of the walk we took on July 4. They are really outstanding.
The past couple of weeks have been interesting. Here's how they went. I was feeling a bit more breathless and tired than usual. Old-lady blues, I thought. But without knowing quite why, I made an appointment with the doctor for a week ago last Thursday. In fact, when I went in to the appointment, I said I probably shouldn't have made one (700 pesos down the drain, I thought to myself but didn't say out loud). I started to describe my symptoms. I was putting myself to sleep. At one point, Dr. Huesca said "I am going to recommend these tests." One was for a urinalysis, one was for bloodwork, one was for a stress test, one was for an evaluation by an ear specialist. I put them in my purse and decided to forget about them for awhile. Ho hum.
On Saturday, we had planned to visit a very eccentric friend who was prone to dramatic pronouncements and flourishes. A tall, baggy man with a kind of bloodhound face, he had been kicked out of the room he rented from a family in Coatepec because he had had several falls and at least one episode of wandering and babbling and he refused to accept that he couldn't live alone any longer. The family had been loyal to him beyond all reasonableness and finally decided they couldn't take care of such problems.
I'm sure David thought he was important and completely undervalued. Maybe in his mind he stood apart from and above the rest of us. Paradoxically, he really struggled with his sense of himself, and with his failure to live up to his ideals. I was not the most sympathetic friend he had. I would decide, with some frequency that it was time to tell him what I thought of his rambling writings. Then I would feel I had been too harsh, and I would backtrack. He would respond with regal graciousness saying that I shouldn't worry, he knew I was moody. He'd say I was feisty and that he only wished he could see more of my husband, our pets and me.
I needn't have worried. He had many admirers, most of whom he communicated with on the internet. He was a prolific contributor to Facebook and wrote a multitude of emails to a list of friends and acquaintances who knew him, perhaps not well. He spilled his heart and head out, often repetitively, as if absorbed repeatedly in rituals he couldn't avoid or recognize in his postings. His style was consistently nineteenth-century grandiose. Some of his expressions were puzzling, not to say intriguing, one of his favorite words. He would write "intriguing" in some subject headings, "please read carefully" or "wistfully significant" in others. Sometimes he would trumpet the status of his health as if he were a head of state. He often referred to us, his audience, as dear hearts and gentle readers. His struggle with life he told us he blamed on strokes he had had a number of years ago. He said that he had been a published writer in the 60s and 70s and early 80s. Now at 69 he lived alone in a room filled with books and papers and a computer someone had given him. He told us he spent hours and hours of his time when he wasn't on Facebook or creating emails writing and rewriting and rewriting again pieces most of us never saw. He wanted, he said, to get his work published soon so that he could pay back the debts he owed to friends. He spent the past five years working on his writings, which Babs, a professional editor, loyally typed up for him all the while despairing of his chances to have anyone accept his work.
David was, to say the least, ambivalent about what he referred to as allopathic medicine. This fell into the collection of practices and ideas he considered bourgeois and distasteful and responsible for the decay of society. He also frequently railed against government, corporations, consumerism, science and established religion. He often reminded us that he was both extremely conservative and extremely liberal and bemoaned the fact that people with extreme right and left wing ideas weren't taken more seriously.. His medical care was a hodgepodge of allopathic, traditional, holistic, whatever, medicine, and he did not necessarily follow through. He broke his ankle some months ago, however, and did, I believe, stick with the huesero, who treated him, and he recovered. Hueseros, by the way, are roughly equivalent to chiropractors but more truly bone specialists who do not talk about manipulation as a cure for non-bone diseases. Hueseros in the past, at least, inherited their positions from their fathers. I've seen them be quite effective.
Before his solitary existence, he had lived with a woman in Xalapa who had been a successful caterer in San Miguel. They had what appeared to be a mutually satisfying relationship with each other and a number of cats, a dog named Beethoven and a parrot. When she died, David began his existence as someone clearly in need of the kindness of strangers and friends. He lived first with a Mexican family at the edge of Coatepec, practically in the country. He had his own room and apparently taught some English to the children in the family. I don't remember why he moved from there, but then he found himself living with the family I mentioned which was enormously kind and generous. Ultimately, and recently he had to move from there, as I said, because he absolutely refused to live with a roommate or an assistant which he clearly needed. He had had an increasing number of falls and faints and seizure-like episodes and had begun to, at times, wander from his room uttering what seemed psychotic nonsense.The family was frightened.
So on this particular Saturday, the 2nd of May, a couple of days after my own doctor visit, David had just moved to another room that a friend of a friend had found for him. It was in a row of rooms along a wide passageway that people rented, a bit shabby, but cozy and pretty much what David needed and felt comfortable in. Babs, the most incredible woman I know, had helped him move, supervised getting the stuff he'd left behind, and made sure other people would come and visit him. Jim and I were lined up for this particular Saturday morning.
We walked down the passageway towards his room and noticed that the people who worked there were standing around looking stern. I knew there was a good chance he would be kicked out again. The owners had insisted that David have someone with him in his room all the time because he had had some episodes already. Babs's friend Jose Luis, truly Babs's right-hand man, had dug up a relative to spend the night and Babs had arrived early so this relative could leave. David had paid for a month in the room, but it wasn't clear he'd be able to stay that long. We were all thinking of what to do with him, where he could go.
As we approached his room, Babs came out into the passage looking distraught. In a loud whisper, she said, "I think he's dead." "What?" "I think he's dead."
And indeed he was. Jim and I went into the room. David was sitting sprawled comfortably in an easy chair. I went up to him. His skin was starting to cool, there was no breath in him. His hands, soft and graceful with their tapered fingers, lay in his lap.
"We were talking," Babs, extremely distressed, whispered, "He said something like he was tired and he took three breaths and then, nothing."
Jose Luis called the Red Cross. They came and agreed that he was dead. By that time his skin had become pallid and the bruises from his many falls stood out shockingly. The Red Cross paramedics said he probably died of hemorrhaging from one or more of his head injuries.
We learned that we had to get a doctor to sign off on his death. The trusty Jose Luis took off to search for one. What could we do while we waited? Babs, James and I went down to the little restaurant in the passageway for a cup of coffee. It was good coffee. The cook put a plate of pan dulce on the table, and we ate some. It was strange, the three of us sitting and chatting as if all that had happened was that we'd met for coffee.
The doctor arrived, a chunky, healthy looking man in a football shirt. We took him to David's room. Someone had covered David with a sheet, put a small vase of flowers on the table next to him, lit a candle there. The doctor probably poked and prodded a bit more than was necessary to confirm David was dead, certainly enough to sign the death. certificate. He said David died of a heart attack. Babs mentioned what the Red Cross people had said. The doctor said, "This is a heart attack," leaving no space for contradiction. David's mouth hung open. The doctor wanted it closed. He instructed Jose Luis to tear a piece from the sheet that had covered him. Jose Luis tried several times to tie it around David's face. His mouth kept falling open. Finally he succeeded so that David sat with what looked like a big bow on the top of his head. The doctor said it was necessary to prevent bodily fluids from draining out when he was moved. David would stiffen soon, he added, and then no one would be able to close his mouth.
Babs and Jose Luis continued with all the sad tasks of dealing with David's death. He had told everyone in a post that he wanted to be cremated. It didn't appear, however, that he thought he was going to die in the near future. Babs and Jose Luis made all the arrangements for this to happen and at 5:30 that evening, David became ash.
And what does this all have to do with my doctor's appointments and lab tests? Obviously the tests took on more importance than I'd given them at first. On Monday I called and made an appointment for the stress test the next day. On Monday I went to the lab. And I made an appointment for the ear exam. I felt a little bit as if I was following David's example because I kept sending one email at a time to my doctor reporting one result in each. Finally James said I needed to make an appointment, so finally I did, for Thursday. After all that's what the doctor had ordered. The doctor had, on Thursday sent me an email saying he didn't just want my results dribbled out: he needed to see me. I had never sensed annoyance in him before. I ended up going back to see the cardiologo on Friday afternoon, and lo and behold, went to the hospital for angioplasty on Saturday, early in the morning.
My news was the better than I expected. My arteries were clear, not caked with plaque. My problem is that I have two kinks like those in a garden hose. They act the way plaque does, but with medicine they can relax.
David, for all my grumbling about him, made his way into my heart. I like him there.
I didn't even look at the blog to see how long it's been since the last post. Endless intentions to write often, endless failures. BUT as they said in some song or some Shakespearean play, "if you don't succeed, try, try again.
I haven't been doing nothing. I finished our taxes yesterday (late, but not as late as they might be). I have been reading and reading. One of the most interesting people whose stuff I've been reading is Vamik Volkan, a psychiatrist interested (very much interested) in why people in groups think the way they do. That's too simplistic, of course. But he is concerned about the interplay of history with groups and is the first person I've read who really deals with issues about why we identify with groups and their craziness to the point that we can't see other ways of seeing things. I am thrilled that there is somebody who sees the relationship of history to identity. NOT social science generalities but the effects of specific historical trauma on contemporary groups. There will be more later.
I continue to plough through stuff on GMOs and Mexico and the rest of us.
Now it is Monday.
Last night the neighbor kids whom we hadn't seen for awhile came by for a visit. Graciela, Claudia and Jesús and their amazing nephew Vladimir. We have watched Graciela grow from a beanpole into a swan. Claudia is on her way there. Jesús is a bit younger and of course Vladimir is the youngest. He's barely three. I think he will be able to play US football when he's six. He's tall and sturdy and totally winsome. Knowing kids in the neighborhood has a lot to do with making this place our home. Especially when they just come by. I am, bu the way, one of Graciela's madrinas, or godmothers. There are two boys with bikes who stop by for Jim to help with bike adjustments and repairs. A teenager up the street is the owner of a dog named Chapo. Chapo looks pretty much like a bona fide beagle. The boy is cousins with Estebán and Carmen, across the street from us. He'd kind of lent Chapo to the couple, why I'm not sure, but Chapo developed some problems. So we called Mauricio, the Xico vet to have a look. Mauricio does home visits which is kind of nice especially since most people around here don't have cars to transport their animals in.The diagnosis: parasitos in sufficient quantity to threaten to starve Chapo even though Chapo did get fed fairly regularly. Uff! The teen's name escapes me. I'm sure I'll remember as soon as I post this. ANYWAY, Chapo went back home where his friend the horse lives and is doing much better.
Mauricio is a tall, handsome man from Mexico City who has, with his wife, Valeria, studied in Spain, among other things. Estebán's grandmother has a dog named Sombra (shadow) who looks like a black lab mix. She loves Sombra and when the dog developed some oozing from the very old surgery scar from her esterillización and had in fact lump near it, we called Mauricio to the rescue. He came and picked Sombra up. Jim and I brought her home. Aside from a little (and I do mean little) problem with infection, Sombra is also doing well.
I am now charging my smartphone (I do not get along with my smartphone and use it mostly to take pictures) so that I can take some pics of our garden's bounty. Especially I want to take photos of our carrots. They look a bit like cartoon characters. Guillermo is the total master of the garden. Although the carrots look odd, they are definitely edible and crunchy. And we have or have had this spring radishes (rabano), chard (acelga) cilantro (cilantro) and peppery lettuce which I let go to seed because it seeds itself and because the small yellow flowers are so delicate and pretty. They grow in bouquets at the ends of slender branches. We also have an interesting version of spinach. Photos are definitely in order.
Never do I quite get used to the loss of that hour hour in the morning. I really need my cup of coffee when we are enduring DST. Although it's not terribly hot here where we live very often, it can be a bit uncomfortable during the middle of the day. (And who knows what will happen as the climate changes.) So I have to wake up very early (CST) for us to get our walk with the dogs in before the sun is too high. Suppertime rolls around too soon. And if it has been a hot day, we have to wait an hour longer for the sun to start to set and the air to cool.
And then all of a sudden it's bedtime! Pet peeves rather than serious, I know. But still....
Here in Mexico, we change our clocks in the spring about a month later than in the US and about a week earlier in the fall. It was decided quite sensibly to leave things as they were and not to follow those Merkans up north who for some unknown reason decided to make DST season even longer than it had been a few years ago. And mercifully (a little bit) we turn back the clock about a week earlier in the fall. Some countries did not follow suit at all, like Chile. But of course Chile doesn't lie along an uneasy border shared with the US.
The photo above is of workers changing the time on (I think) Big Ben that I stole from this article on the time changes in BBC News online including the bit on Chile which just decided to reject, cast off, DST this year.
Some Time Change facts, courtesy of the BBC article, bits of which I translated, below:
And I grew up thinking it was to give farmers an extra hour of light for work during the farm season.
You folks up north are already on DST. Down here, don't forget to change your clocks on April 5.