Monthly Archives: August 2010

Medical Practice

For years, I’ve been curious as to why a doctor’s profession is called a medical practice. Having had a number of medical issues over the last few years, however, helped me clear up the mystery. I have experienced one misdiagnosis after the other, one specialist after the other, one medication after the other. Finally, it occurred to me that the reason doctors call their professions medical practices is because that’s exactly what they do. They literally “practice” on their patients. They seldom have concrete answers, only speculation. And forgive me for saying this, but a scary number of them don’t know what the hell they’re doing. I swear that a few doctors I’ve consulted had a dart board in their private offices. And when they’d say, “I’ll be right back,” they went into this private office, tossed a dart at a board with randomly scattered ailments, and whatever the dart hit, that’s what became my diagnosis.

Sound harsh? Over the top? Based on my personal experiences and the issues I’ve witnessed with family and friends, I think I’m justified in saying that not all doctors graduated at the top of their class. In fact, mathematically speaking, 50% of all doctors graduated in the lower half of their class. And here’s a scary thought. Somewhere out there is a doctor who got the lowest passing grades possible, like a D+, and still got their medical license.

It seems to me that in this day and age, a doctor’s best friend is their prescription pad. Just about every time I see my primary care physician, I’m halfway through telling her what’s ailing me and before I finish my sentence she’s reaching for her prescription pad. Seriously. The last time I consulted her, which, by the way, was the last time I’ll ever consult her, I complained of a mysterious rash on my lower legs. Her first comment: “Wear long pants when you’re outside in the sun.” Wow. After years of medical school and training, this is the best she can do?

My wife has been dealing with an overheating problem for years. She always has a low grade fever. While she’s sitting in front of the TV in shorts and a tank top, I’m next to her with sweat pants and a flannel shirt. I can’t begin to tell you how many specialists she’s consulted because we both lost count. Bottom line: not one doctor can tell her what’s causing the overheating or how to treat it.

Not convinced yet? A good friend of mine is suffering with severe headaches. Her father died of a brain tumor, so naturally she’s hypersensitive. She has been trying to convince her doctor to order an MRI for months, but her doctor refuses to do so because she feels the headaches are migraines.  Now keep in mind that prior to a few months ago she never had this condition. She finally got a referral to a neurologist and she asked him to please order an MRI. You know what he told her? “MRI’s are very expensive so doctor’s use discretion when ordering them.” Are you friggin’ kidding me?!

To make this situation even more absurd, when she told the neurologist that her dad died of a brain tumor, he told her that family history was not relevant! What?

I keep hearing that there are lots of great doctors out there, but I have yet to bump into one that dazzled me. Yes, I know that they’re human and they’re not Gods. But come on, can they get it right just once in a while?

In all honesty, I’m ready to try some alternatives to orthodox medicine. Maybe acupuncture. Maybe voodoo. How can it be much worse than what I have experienced thus far? Anyone know how much a plane ticket to Nairobi costs?



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You Mosque Be Kidding

Both CNN and Fox News reported that 85% of the American people are closely watching the controversy associated with the proposed Mosque to be built a few blocks away from ground zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks. Few newsworthy issues have captivated so many people. Except, of course, when Tiger Woods got caught in bed with half the women in the free world. We do love dirty laundry. 

I don’t know the exact numbers, but the country is pretty much divided on the Mosque  issue. On the left, the liberals are pointing to the Constitution and quoting the freedoms all Americans enjoy. On the right, the Conservatives are having a coronary, claiming that building a Mosque so close to ground zero is tantamount to treason. 

Both sides have valid arguments. And both sides are right. Here lies the quandary. Muslims do have the right to build a Mosque anywhere they please, provided they comply with all City of New York ordinances and legal guidelines for construction. On the other hand, it’s hard for anyone to ignore the emotional relationship between 9/11 and Islam. How could any New Yorker not be infuriated? So, what’s the answer? 

I’m huge on rights, freedom, and anything related to the Constitution. In fact, sometimes I wish we would reinstate the original document without all the amendments and modifications. What started out to be one of the most brilliantly-drafted documents in history, has been tattered and torn by our elected officials. But that’s an issue for another post. 

Muslims worldwide are trying desperately to segregate themselves from the extremists that promote violence, and to build a bridge to span the differences between Islam and western nations. They claim that they are a peace-loving religion and that Islam does not support terrorism. My question is this: of all the possible sites for this Mosque in New York City—and there are many choices—they decided to build it only blocks from ground zero, knowing full well that over 8 million New Yorkers, not to mention more than half the country, would go berserk? Isn’t this decision a little “in your face”? 

If Muslims truly wanted to promote peace and mutual understanding with the western world, wouldn’t it have been a noble gesture for them to say, “You know what, the site near ground zero is an ideal location for our Mosque. However, knowing the sensitivity that all Americans feel toward 9/11, out of respect, Islam will not consider this site for our Mosque.” 

I’m 100% for freedom. But in extreme situations, common sense and respect must trample all over our rights.


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Novel Writing 101

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that lots of things piss me off in politics, healthcare, the environment, and of course, in the business of writing, and that I don’t mind whining about them. I’ve been told that I am way too critical of other writers and that I need to chill out and forget about the technical stuff when I’m reading a book and to just enjoy the story. I try to. I really do. But when I come across a New York Times Bestselling author whose novels read like the work of a tenth grade high school student, how can I let it go? 

Without mentioning names, let me tell you about the thriller I’m struggling to read right now. This female author has had 10 bestselling novels. I will admit that the story is interesting and the plot is compelling enough to keep me engaged. However, it drives me nuts and distracts me from enjoying the story when I see fundamental technical errors throughout. 

When you write dialogue in a novel, the author must pay very close attention to what we call “dialogue attributes”—he said, she said, following a statement. Here’s an example. “I love your red dress,” he said. In this case, “he said” is a dialogue attribute. The first commandment of writing dialogue is to minimize “ly” adverbs. It is the novelist’s job to show more than tell, so in most instances, overusing “ly” adverbs exposes a weakness in the writer’s ability to show action. It’s the lazy author’s way of telling instead of showing. 

The other issue here is that a constant flow of these “ly” adverbs distracts the reader. If a writer is truly doing his or her job, and is crafting crisp, clean dialogue, then throughout an entire novel, “he said” and “she said” are sufficient. The only reason to use a dialogue attribute is to identify who’s speaking. Period. 

Here are a few examples of the dialogue attributes I found on page after page of the “bestselling” novel I’m currently reading. 

He said softly.

She said briskly.

He said quietly.

She said immediately.

He said abruptly.

She said tersely. (Are you kidding me?)

He said gently.

She said testily. (Testily? What an awkward word)

He said grudgingly. (This particular adverb appears repeatedly)

She said shortly.

He shrugged modestly. (Huh? Is it possible to shrug modestly?)

She said honestly.

He nodded glumly. (How do you nod glumly?)

She said supportively.

He said dryly. 

All I can say is that I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly doubt that I’ll be able to finish this book.


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My Brain is Fried

As you know, or maybe you don’t, I’m feverishly working on Resuscitation, the sequel to They Never Die Quietly. Every writer approaches writing differently. Some work with comprehensive outlines, some write by the seat of their pants, some set word quotas every time they sit in front of the computer screen, some write loosey-goosey first drafts, then beef them up during the editing process, and some just go with the flow. 

One thing I try to do is to write just about every day, and I try to write at least 1,000 words. As you might imagine, there are times when the old brain just ain’t cooperating and I have trouble putting two sentences together. And there are other times when the words are just pouring out of my head. For the last week, my creative juices runneth over.   

Over the last week, I’ve written just over 7,000 words. As of ten minutes ago, I’m at 66,576 words. Now because it’s a first draft, it might be total crap. Well, maybe not total crap, but nothing worthy of publication. However, once I write, “The End”, I can take a breath and perform a comprehensive rewrite. And for me, rewriting is easier than writing. 

Look at it this way. Compare it to building a house. First you lay the foundation and block, install the deck, frame the house, put in the windows, and put on the roof. Now that your “shell” is complete, you can install the interior studs, insulate, install electrical and plumbing, hang and finish drywall, paint, lay your floors, install the fixtures. It’s the same with writing. When everything is done, you’ve got a finished product. 

Once the first draft is complete, you add description, tighten dialogue, flesh out the narratives, add a few plot twists, clean up the language, check the sentence structure.

So, at this point I’m reasonably happy with my progress thus far. All I can hope for is a continued flow of those creative juices. 

 However, it’s Friday. My brain is toast. And I need a nice glass of red wine.


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