Behind the Back Ugly Juggling Trick!

I have been diligently practicing the juggling behind the back trick daily and may have just turned the corner. I started practicing the behind the back trick along with the under the leg trick because the throws, mistakes, and corrections are similar.

I usually throw the trick ball too far out and the video will reveal it. I throw the left-hand ball (the one just before the trick ball) a little too high or too low. Both throws have to be darn near perfect.

The behind the back throw is difficult to get just right. I start off by practicing what I’ve seen described and shown as the trick and catch, which means I don’t try to incorporate the trick throw back into the 3 ball cascade. On the other hand, I’m sometimes able to sneak an extra throw or two in the game.

I also found out that my juggling balls glow in low light. They’re advertised to do so (UV reactive), but I just found out that it actually works today.

One thing is clear—this is still ugly juggling!

Today is National Opposite Day!

As we were listening to the Mike Waters Wake Up Call radio show on KOKZ, we were disoriented when he gave the temperature as “83” degrees and that it’s “Wednesday evening”. The more he talked, the more bizarre he began to sound and I wondered if KOKZ was for whatever reason broadcasting a past recording of his show.

Then he announced that it’s National Opposite Day, which occurs on January 25th annually. It’s not a holiday on any calendar, and when I looked it up on the internet, I found out it arose from a kids game. It dates way back to the turn of the 20th century.

You get the idea. What would be opposite goal of a game of tag? You’d have to try to catch each other, of course!

This holiday creates a paradox for itself. You’re supposed to declare that it’s Opposite Day, but that would imply you would have to not observe it. Huh?

We had pot pie for breakfast today. Does that count?

More Crazy Announcements!

Here are crucial announcements.

Sena bought me Bigfoot pajamas. They clearly show Bigfoot doing the Patty walk, which refers to the historic sighting of Bigfoot caught on video decades ago in the Patterson-Gimlin film.

The Amaryllis leaves have grown to about 11 inches! There is no flower.

Cattle ranchers are now putting diapers and masks on their cows to reduce methane emissions. Soon there will be statutes requiring humans who fart and belch in public to take Beano gummies several times daily. You know who you are.

Some Robins Can Be Sunbirds…Sort of

We always thought of Robins as birds who are the harbingers of spring. On the other hand, we’ve seen Robins in the middle of winter. We saw them today.

I realize that you technically can’t call a Robin a Sunbird. There is a species of Sunbird. It’s a small tropical forest bird. And you could call a person who travels from hot, humid parts of the country to cooler parts a sunbird—sort of the opposite of snowbirds; those who migrate from the cold north to the warm south in the winter months.

And so, I think you could call the Robin a sunbird—sort of. They’ll stick around all winter as long as the berries hold out.

Chef Jim Makes Pizza!

It had been around 3 years since I actually made a pizza (see YouTube video “The Path to Pizza.”)  rather than just sticking a frozen one into the oven. Yesterday, Sena and I put together a video of me (with more than a little coaching from the boss) making a whopper pizza.

Sena bought a new pizza pan for the occasion. In fact, she got a few new cooking pans, saying firmly it was high time for a change. We used to call the old pizza pan “well-seasoned.” But it was out with the old and in with the new.

Because I’m a guy, it was safer to let me use a ready-made pizza crust mix. I was sort of used to that, anyway. It’s a Great Value brand and it was pretty good—after Sena jazzed it up with a few things like a little sugar, sea salt, garlic powder, and Himalayan Pink Salt preferred by all the Yeti chefs.

We used Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil spaghetti sauce, which I understand is legal.The spices we used were garlic powder, basil, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, along with a couple dozen other things. You use what you like.

Sena also “suggested” different kinds of cheeses (“I woke up feeling the cheesiest!”) There was a shredded Italian variety made up of 3 different cheeses including parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, romano, and asiago. and we topped that with a different brand of provolone. Sena really likes added provolone.

Corn Removal Comedy

Sena does a lot of gardening, which means she uses a shovel frequently. She has quite a few corns on her feet for which she’s tried a number of remedies that run the gamut from scraping with a variety of simple tools to—sand paper. There, I said it and I’m glad.

Maybe a little foot scrub?

The old shovel probably contributed to her developing a number of corns on her feet. She got a new shovel with a special footstep which we hope will cut down on corns.

Amaryllis and Zygocactus Repotting

Remember that gorgeous Christmas Amaryllis flower? After it leaned over so far, we had to retire it, so to speak. We didn’t throw it out, but Sena kept it and performed some kind of miracle.

Apparently, she resurrected it by giving it a little water. A couple of new leaves grew a few inches overnight.

She knows that gardeners tell you to bury the Amaryllis bulb outside after the flowers die. I guess in the following winter you dig it up, put it in a new pot and a new set of blossoms should grow. She wanted to transfer it to a different pot instead, one with holes that will let the excess water leak out.

She was very industrious. She also repotted the Zygocactus. That’s the holiday cactus, another houseplant she got for the Christmas holidays.

And the most important question: how are extraterrestrials involved in this urge to repot? ? By the way, I was not involved in the repotting project because I’m allergic to gardening. I did make a YouTube video of her working on it, though.

An Old Post on Breaking Bad News

I’m reposting a piece about a sense of humor and breaking bad news to patients I first wrote for my old blog, The Practical Psychosomaticist about a dozen years ago. I still believe it’s relevant today. The excerpt from Mark Twain is priceless. Because it was published before 1923 (See Mark Twain’s Sketches, published in 1906, on google books) it’s also in the public domain, according to the Mark Twain Project.

Blog: A Sense of Humor is a Wonderful Thing

Most of my colleagues in medicine and psychiatry have a great sense of humor and Psychosomaticists particularly so. I’ll admit I’m biased, but so what? Take issues of breaking bad news, for example. Doctors frequently have to give their patients bad news. Some of do it well and others not so well. As a psychiatric consultant, I’ve occasionally found myself in the awkward position of seeing a cancer patient who has a poor prognosis—and who apparently doesn’t know that because the oncologist has declined to inform her about it. This may come as a shock to some. We’re used to thinking of that sort of paternalism as being a relic of bygone days because we’re so much more enlightened about informed consent, patient centered care, consumer focus with full truth disclosure, the right of patients to know and participate in their care and all that. I can tell you that paternalism is not a relic of bygone days.

Anyway, Mark Twain has a great little story about this called “Breaking It Gently”. A character named Higgins, (much like some doctors I’ve known) is charged with breaking the bad news of old Judge Bagley’s death to his widow. She’s completely unaware that her husband broke his neck and died after falling down the court-house stairs.  After the judge’s body is loaded into Higgins’ wagon, Higgins is reminded to give Mrs. Bagley the sad news gently, to be “very guarded and discreet” and to do it “gradually and gently”. What follows is the exchange between Higgins and the now- widowed Mrs. Bagley after he shouts to her from his wagon[1]:

“Does the widder Bagley live here?”

“The widow Bagley? No, Sir!”

“I’ll bet she does. But have it your own way. Well, does Judge Bagley live here?”

“Yes, Judge Bagley lives here”.

“I’ll bet he don’t. But never mind—it ain’t for me to contradict. Is the Judge in?”

“No, not at present.”

“I jest expected as much. Because, you know—take hold o’suthin, mum, for I’m a-going to make a little communication, and I reckon maybe it’ll jar you some. There’s been an accident, mum. I’ve got the old Judge curled up out here in the wagon—and when you see him you’ll acknowledge, yourself, that an inquest is about the only thing that could be a comfort to him!”

That’s an example of the wrong way to break bad news, and something similar or worse still goes on in medicine even today. One of the better models is the SPIKES protocol[2]. Briefly, it goes like this:

Set up the interview, preferably so that both the physician and the patient are seated and allowing for time to connect with each other.

Perception assessment, meaning actively listening for what the patient already knows or thinks she knows.

Invite the patient to request more information about their illness and be ready to sensitively provide it.

Knowledge provided by the doctor in small, manageable chunks, who will avoid cold medical jargon.

Emotions should be acknowledged with empathic responses.

Summarize and set a strategy for future visits with the patient, emphasizing that the doctor will be there for the patient.

Gauging a sense of humor is one element among many of a thorough assessment by any psychiatrist. How does one teach that to interns, residents, and medical students? There’s no simple answer. It helps if there were good role models by a clinician-educator’s own teachers. One of mine was not even a physician.  In the early 1970s when I was an undergraduate at Huston Tillotson University (when it was still Huston-Tillotson College), the faculty would occasionally put on an outrageous little talent show for the students in the King Seabrook Chapel. The star, in everyone’s opinion, was Dr. Jenny Lind Porter, who taught English. The normally staid and dignified Dr. Porter did a drop-dead strip tease while reciting classical poetry and some of her own ingenious inventions. Yes, in the chapel. Yes, the niece of author O. Henry; the Poet Laureate of Texas appointed in 1964 by then Texas Governor John Connally; the only woman to receive the Distinguished Diploma of Honor from Pepperdine University in 1979; yes, the Dr. Porter in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame—almost wearing a very little glittering gold something or other.

It helps to be able to laugh at yourself.

1.       Twain, M., et al., Mark Twain’s helpful hints for good living: a handbook for the damned human race. 2004, Berkeley: University of California Press. xiv, 207 p.

2.       Baile, W.F., et al., SPIKES-A six-step protocol for delivering bad news: application to the patient with cancer. Oncologist, 2000. 5(4): p. 302-11.

Men in Black Movie Marathon

Sena and I have favorite movies. We both like “Up” and “WALL-E.” My favorites are the Men in Black trilogy. That doesn’t mean I think the 4th sequel was bad. But I have lost count of the number of times I’ve watched the first three.

I haven’t watched them in the last several months because I couldn’t find them on cable for some reason. I’ve just learned that that there will be a marathon of the trilogy on January 14, 2023 beginning at 2:30 PM. They’ll be on the Comedy Central channel.

I’m a fan of comedy and I like the chemistry between the two main characters, Agent J and Agent K.

I have favorite lines from each movie. In the first Men in Black film, I like the exchange between the two agents after the recruitment scene following Edwards’ (the soon to be Agent J) first visit to the MIB Headquarters. They’re sitting on a park bench and K is talking about people and what they don’t know about them and extraterrestrials.

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

Agent K: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

Another favorite where Agent K is showing Edwards a universal translator, one of the many wonders in the extraterrestrial technology room, which gives us a perspective on how humans rank in the universe:

Agent K: We’re not even supposed to have it. I’ll tell you why. Human thought is so primitive it’s looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies.

In MIB II, the dialogue between Newton and the Agents makes you wonder what extraterrestrials really want from us:

Newton: Gentlemen, before I play the tape, there’s just one question I need to ask; what’s up with anal probing? I mean, aliens travel billions of light years just to check out our…

Agent J: Boy, move!

This is part of the Men in Black 3 dialog between Agent J and Jeffrey Price about how to use the time travel device:

Jeffrey Price: Do not lose that time device, or you will be stuck in 1969! It wasn’t the best time for your people. I’m just saying. It’s a lot cooler now.

I remember 1969. Things are not perfect now, but they are better. What we don’t need is a “big ass neutralizer.” As long as we remember what dark times were like, we have a chance to make cooler times.

New Season for Highway Thru Hell

There was a countdown on Sunday for the new season for Highway Thru Hell. That’s the explanation for the featured image. The show has been on a while; this is season 11.

Season 11, for the first few episodes will deal with the catastrophic floods that devastated British Columbia in November of 2021. It took a huge toll on everybody, including the tow truck businesses. That’s one reason why I think, out of the plethora of reality shows that are faked on TV—Highway Thru Hell is not.

There are times when I wondered about the show’s authenticity, of course. One episode featured a potential new hire named “Jack Knife,” which brings to mind what the heavy tow trucks do, which is to drag huge jack-knifed semi-trucks out of ditches along the highways. The episode actually showed a segment of Jamie Davis, the owner of the major tow truck business on the show, in which he confirms that Jack Knife is the guy’s real name. It doesn’t look like he was hired.

There is a kind of irony about the kinds of jobs I’ve had and how similar or not they were to the Highway Thru Hell type of work.

You’d think that when I was working as a survey crewman back when I was a young, I would think it was similar to Highway Thru Hell. In fact, I worked for professional consulting engineers. I had a regular schedule with set hours. I had the right equipment for the right job. When work slowed down, meaning the company didn’t have a big contract for a highway relocation or whatnot, I and other guys would fill the time and to look busy, we would tie up redheads.

I’ve set up that joke before. We didn’t tie up red-headed women. You tied red ribbon as flagging around nails to use as measuring points for property or airport runway lines and the like. It makes them easier to see. If you were lucky and had some drafting skills, like me, in the winter months you’d work on drawing up survey plots and other plans for blueprints. I worked in pretty bad weather sometimes, in the winter. I never had to do anything that was dangerous. I got plenty of sleep.

But I never worked as hard as tow truck operators. When it’s slack time for them, some are laid off, which is never a good thing. But when they’re busy, they’re up all day and sometimes all night. The calls to haul trucks out of the ditch are unpredictable. And the conditions are always dangerous.

The irony is that it wasn’t until after I graduated medical school, got my medical license, and finished my residency in psychiatry that, as I look back on it now, that my work sort of resembled the chaos of workers on Highway Thru Hell. And being on call as a resident did sometimes result in my face nearly falling in my dinner because of sleep deprivation.

Like Highway Thru Hell, working as a psychiatric consultant was a lot like being like a fireman, which is similar to towing. I got called, often to emergencies, and had to work in conditions which were dangerous, mainly because of violent patients. Like towing, the work load was feast or famine. The job often called for creative solutions to apparently impossible challenges.

Much of the time, the Highway Thru Hell workers’ worst enemy was Mother Nature, just as it was in during the catastrophic floods of November 2021. For many psychiatrists and other physicians, it seems like the worst enemy was burnout, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is no quick fix in either case. We can work together and help each other.

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