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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Socratic Dialog In Law Schools

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If you read your Plato, you know that Socrates arrived at the truth by asking a series of questions of the person he was trying to convince. This is hard to do, but it is the way most law school classes are taught, and, if done right, is a splendid way to teach students how to think about legal issues as well as learning the legal rules and the policies behind them.

I always found such an exchange great fun if the student was receptive to the conversation. But if he/she was scared or unprepared or whatever, and did not participate with any enthusiasm, I would first make an effort to solve the problem (“Ms. Smith, you are thinking about how I just called on you, and what your classmates will think about your answers, but forget all that. I want to know what you as a thinking human being can make of the issue at hand. For example, if you were on a jury and the verdict depended on whether to believe the used car dealer or the consumer, which would you favor? And why?”) If that didn’t work, I would ask the class, “Ms. Smith needs co-counsel. What do you all think?” and move on.

It would be easy to be cruel and persecute a student who is uncomfortable with the interlocutory instruction, so, with the two exceptions mentioned below, I have never pressed a student who was in Socratic trouble. That doesn’t mean that I took it easy on the students if they could handle the pressure (which most could—you don’t go to law school if you are terminally shy), and this led to some very interesting exchanges through the years. I got better at such dialogues too. In the beginning I made the mistake of focusing too much on myself: was this the right question, how will I respond to what the student says, am I looking confident, etc.? Eventually I learned to stop that and experience the whole dialogue from the point of view of the student. What is going through his/her head? Why did he/she say that wrong remark? Is he/she aware of the underlying policies at work here?

I became very impatient with students who, because they were confused, just gave up and quit thinking about the matter. When this happened I would say things like, “Mr. Brown, you are paying me to teach you this subject, and I want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth. Now I’ve managed to confuse you, so let’s go back to the point where there was last a clear understanding. Is it moral to take the witness stand and lie?” The teacher evaluations that the class members routinely filled out revealed that some students didn’t like being pushed this hard, but I didn’t change my tactics as long as the students were learning the material and becoming better lawyers (and it was reassuring that teaching awards were also piling up). Since the subjects I taught were heavily tested on the bar exam, at the “After the Exam Party” the law school routinely hosts for the recently graduated students just exiting, exhausted, from the bar exam, I would be fawned upon and stroked like the “2001: A Space Odyssey” apes with their monolith.

My two exceptions to not pressing the uncomfortable student:

When I had been at Ohio State just a year or so (around 1977 therefore), I learned from a student at a party that some of the students in my Commercial Paper course (the law of checks and promissory notes) liked getting high on marijuana and coming to class! That made the steam start pouring from my ears, and even though the students were not named, the next day in class I had no trouble picking them out. I called on their obvious ringleader, Mr. Jones, and he promptly replied that, alas, he was unprepared. “Ah, a virgin mind! Good!” I replied. “Well, Mr. Jones, you’re in luck. I’m going to tell you what the rules of law in section 3-405 of the statute mean, and then you and I are going to work through a series of problems illustrating those rules.” To Jones’s credit he didn’t panic, but, after some hesitation, applied himself to the task. If you are high on marijuana (I know this from personal experience, the subject of a future post) you can concentrate on only one thing at a time. It might be the hairs on the inside of your nostril, or, as in this case, it might be section 3-405 of the Uniform Commercial Code. Jones and I explored it for the entire 50 minute period (at one point he muttered, “Are you sadistic?” and I replied, “In this case, yes, but now let’s consider subsection (1)(b) of the statute.”). The class ended, and the next day I called on Smith’s friends and everyone was fine and paying close attention.

The second occasion occurred during a question and answer session following a speech on “Gay Marriage” that the Ohio State Law School’s Federalist Society asked me to make (a bold move on the part of this very conservative organization, not known for its support of gay rights). When my talk ended and the question period began, one of the students attending raised his hand and said, “Well, Professor, it all sounds good when you say it, but I think a marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

In my last post I mentioned that Jay Westbrook, with whom I went to law school, had taught me how to boil a disagreement down to its most basic point. When Jay and I argued, he would say things like, “Is this the thing you disagree with?” No. Then put that aside. “How about this?” No. And so on until you reached the fundamental point at the heart to the matter. When that was revealed, one of two things could happen: the participants could agree to disagree, or—more often—someone’s basic position was revealed to be ludicrous (too often mine), and a rethinking was in order.

I started using this process with the student who didn’t think gays should marry. Was marriage important to society? Yes? Was it appropriate when two people were in love? Yes. Does marriage help stabilize that love? Yes? Is that is society’s interest? In this manner we worked to the very real problems that unmarried couples can have (losing the house to inheritance taxes, for example, or no visitation rights in hospitals, or being cut off from attending the partner’s funeral, or not getting health benefits, or legal problems arising from the children such couples often have these days), and I realized that the student was getting closer to having to say what was really his point of disagreement: he didn’t think homosexuals should have the same rights at other people. Why not? Okay, he didn’t like homosexuals, who repulsed him. Normally, as I said above, I wouldn’t push a student to such a statement, but here I did make him, very reluctantly, say it aloud. As he did so he was glowering at me in a way I had not seen before, and perhaps I should be sorry I forced him to paint himself into this uncomfortable corner. Oh, well. At least his admission was now on the table for all to stare at and ponder, and the lecture on gay marriage had reached down to the very core of the dispute. For how many lectures is that true?

To those of you reading this, let me know if you think I was wrong in either of the two cases just described. Post a comment or write me at dglswhaley@aol.com.
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Related Posts:
“How I Became a Law Professor,” January 27, 2010
“Clickers,” March 17, 2010
“The Summer Bar Review Tours,” June 15, 2010
“The Sexy Promissory Note,”August 17, 2010
"Mortgage Foreclosures: The Disaster of Unintended Consequences," October 27, 2010
"Update: Mortgage Foreclosure and Missing Notes," November 16, 2010
"Women in My Law School Classroom," January 8, 2011
"The Exploding Alarm Clock," February 19, 2011
"One More Story From Law School," February 27, 2011
"I Threaten To Sure Apple Over an iPad Cover," April 8, 2011
"Bob Whaley Goes to Law School," June 3, 2011
"The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver," April 11, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom," September 10, 2011
"What Non-Lawyers Should Know About Warranties," October 11, 2011
"How To Write and Effective Legal Threat Letter," October 19,2011
"Funny Law Professors," January 15, 2012
“How To Take a Law School Exam,” November 30, 2012”
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How I Became a Law Professor

Becoming a law professor was largely the result of an alphabetical accident. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland (long story as to how I got there), my parents (Dad still being a colonel in the Air Force) were stationed on the island of Bermuda (where I also spent a year, another long story), but then in my senior year at Maryland Dad was transferred to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. Since I had not seen them often when they were half an ocean away, I asked my Maryland Faculty Advisor if there was a good law school near Texas, and she replied that Texas was a very good law school. So I applied to the University of Texas and was promptly accepted, with a starting date of September, 1965.

At Maryland (and indeed during all of my education to that point), I could make A’s if I applied myself, which usually I did only in the courses that I liked. The others I could make B’s in without much effort (except the Microbiology disaster, which required me, a night owl, to do two hours of labs at 8 am twice a week, and I couldn’t get out of bed to do it, leading me to flunk the course, and then have a very interesting discussion with my father). Consequently, I graduated from Maryland with an almost perfect B average.

I figured at law school I would just do what everyone else was doing and that would be enough to see me through. At Texas everything is oversized, and the entering class had 500 people in it (almost all men in those days); compare Ohio State’s law school class, which is typically around half of that.

What I didn’t count on was being seated next to Jay Westbrook (an alphabetical accident) in each one of my first year courses. Jay would eventually graduate number one in the class, and since he and I became close friends (rooming together for the last two years of law school, me being best man at his wedding, and this year he and his wife, Polly, and I are discussing a vacation together), I simply did what Jay did. That led me to graduating 14th in that class of 500. Without grades like that I would never have qualified to become a law professor.

A word about Jay Westbrook (now himself a law professor at U. of T., and the world's leading expert on international bankruptcies). Jay is the most intelligent person I have ever known when it comes to handling an abstract idea (and not when, for example confronting a spider). I would be sitting in our rented apartment happily reading Mad Magazine, and he would come bursting through the door saying, “Doug, agency law is flawed at its basic core!” I would beg him to let me alone, but the excitement over his discovery would lead to a two hour discussion of the myriad problems with agency law. By the time we got to class, we were both loaded for bear. He also taught me how to boil an argument down to the fundamental disagreement, which proved hugely valuable latter in life, and about which I will devote a subsequent post.

When I graduated in 1968, I went to practice law in Chicago with a major firm. In the fall of 1969, I received a letter in the mail from the Indiana Indianapolis School of Law (Indiana has two law schools---the other is in Bloomington), asking if I was interested in interviewing for the position of Assistant Professor of Law, with a starting date of Jan. 1, 1970. The letter was signed by a “Melvin Poland,” which made me suspicious that it was a fake (surely no one was really named Melvin Poland, and, it being Chicago, there were a lot of Pollack jokes going around). On the other hand, the letter was on letterhead stationery, which was hard to create in those days without great expense, so I did reply, was interviewed, and hired. It turned out that Indiana had a sudden need for someone to teach Contracts, a basic first year course, and my former Contracts professor at Texas had recommended me for the job. It was a course that I taught for decades, most recently in 2007-08.

I had never even thought about teaching law until this happened, and I wondered if I would be good at it. Dad always said that Whaleys make their living through the gift of gab (at which he was a master, regularly appearing on TV, giving speeches, etc.), and once I thought about it, I was very interested.

So my starting paycheck dated from Jan. 1, 1970, forty years ago this month. Once I got into the classroom, it was “duck discovers water.” I had a very fulfilling teaching career, winning numerous teaching awards, publishing a large number of casebooks, etc. The biggest reward was in influencing the leaders of tomorrow, many of whom are in Congress, on the bench, deans and faculty members at law schools, or running major law firms, corporations, or non-profit organizations. There are thousands of them.

But if Jay Westbrook had been named “Jay Smith,” I would probably be practicing law somewhere, oblivious to the enormous pleasure of standing in front of a room filled with bright minds eager to learn law.
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Related Posts:
“The Socratic Dialogue in Law School,” January 31, 2010
“Clickers,” March 17, 2010
“The Summer Bar Review Tours,” June 15, 2010
“The Sexy Promissory Note,”August 17, 2010
"Mortgage Foreclosures: The Disaster of Unintended Consequences," October 27, 2010
"Update: Mortgage Foreclosure and Missing Notes," November 16, 2010
"Women in My Law School Classroom," January 8, 2011
"The Exploding Alarm Clock," February 19, 2011
"One More Story From Law School," February 27, 2011
"I Threaten To Sure Apple Over an iPad Cover," April 8, 2011
"Bob Whaley Goes to Law School," June 3, 2011
"The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver," April 11, 2011
"Adventures in the Law School Classroom," September 10, 2011
"What Non-Lawyers Should Know About Warranties," October 11, 2011
"How To Write and Effective Legal Threat Letter," October 19,2011
"Funny Law Professors," January 15, 2012
“How To Take a Law School Exam,” November 30, 2012”
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Sunday, January 24, 2010

About That Heart Transplant

I realized that I began this blog without saying much about the heart transplant itself. The reason for that is that most people who would read the blog already knew the story (and now may allow their attention to wander). But for the rest of you, here goes:

I have had a failing heart since 1999 when I developed atrial fibrillation and an enlarged heart. For the next ten years I was treated by a cardiologist at Ohio State University’s Ross Heart Hospital, and it was clear that my heart was failing. In January of 2009 I qualified for the heart transplant list, but because I was still able to get out and about, I was not high on the list. As recently as October I was told that the transplant would likely take place in 2010, probably in the spring.

It is one thing intellectually to think you are getting a heart transplant in 2010, and quite another to have a morning phone call (I was working at the computer) on Nov. 23: "Mr. Whaley, we have a heart for you." It was the most startling sentence I have ever heard in my life! Of course, the old heart started beating very fast indeed. The caller asked me how quickly I could get to the hospital, and I replied, “Twenty minutes—oh wait, I have to pack (I had spent some time in hospitals and knew all the things I would need to take with me)—how about forty minutes?” “That would be fine,” I was told, so I ventured to stretch it to, “How about an hour?” “Forty minutes,” came back the stern reply. I threw things into a suitcase and got in the car.

I have never driven so carefully in my life. The slightest traffic problem—even a fender bender—would have cost me time and possibly the new heart, which I assumed was on ice waiting for me. I arrived at the hospital, submitted to a biopsy (where they run a tube down a vein in your neck and take a small slice of your heart for lab work—I have now had eight of these, and they are such fun), and at 7:30 p.m. that same day I was wheeled off to the operating room. The surgeon who performed the operation was Dr. Sun, called by the staff “our rock star,” who last September had done a transplant in two hours! (The normal one takes five or more hours). The heart they put in had come from Riverside Hospital, which is just around the corner from Ross Heart Hospital (which was good since hearts can come from as far away as New York). The surgeon who fetched it from Riverside came by days later and told me that when he first saw it, he thought "that is a beautiful heart." A nurse who watched the operation said that the heart they took was so enlarged that it was three times bigger than the heart they put in. I was home and happy eight days later. Yes, eight days!

The whole experience has been like science fiction. I keep thinking that the more time that passes since this miracle occurred will make it seem more common place to me, but no. It still fills me with a wonder that is growing instead of decreasing. What an amazing world we inhabit in the 21st century.

I know nothing about the donor, whether male or female, or what age (the heart could be that of a teenager). But there is an organization that lets a donee write an anonymous letter to the donor’s family, and I am planning on doing that this coming week. What follows is the letter I will send (some of which repeats what I said above); I’ll let you know if I get a reply:

“I am a 66 year-old man living in Columbus, retired from teaching at Ohio State, but until right before Thanksgiving of this past year, I knew I was dying because of my enlarged heart. Then came the phone call that OSU’s Ross Heart Hospital had a heart for me, and, shocking and scary as that was, by midnight of that day, I had a new heart inside me, and suddenly I had a future again. The surgeon who did the operation later told me it was a “beautiful heart,” and he was amazed that when it was transplanted into my body, it started beating when the blood flow began without any outside stimulation. It has continued to beat steadily for over two months now and my health could not be better. I was floored to learn that it was three times as small as the old heart they removed.

“Through the kind auspices of Lifeline, I am able to write this anonymous letter to the family and friends of the donor of that heart. I wanted to wait until the grief at the death of your loved one was not so immediate, but not so long that I would seem ungrateful. Indeed, I could not be more grateful. I had stopped making long range plans, stopped buying clothes, cancelled a vacation next summer with my nephew, and then came this miracle. It is all like science fiction—unbelievable. But every day I thank the donor for his/her willingness to pass on that heart (and, I suppose, other organs) to those who so desperately needed a transplant.

“Who the donor was is unknown to me. But he/she gave me the gift of life, and that is a tremendous thing to do.

“I know this letter must be painful for you to read, and I fear it will open wounds that are just beginning to heal. But I thought it important to tell you that out of all the grief that comes from losing someone close to you, there was one life that was saved from certain extinction by the generosity of the decision to donate the heart I received. Perhaps that helps furnish some minor degree of closure.

“There is no need for you to reply to this letter, but should you care to, Lifeline will forward your letter to me. I am curious to know something about the donor to whom I owe so much. I am so very indebted and grateful to him/her. And my thoughts and sympathies are with you.”
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Related Posts:
"My Heart Belonged to Andrew," February 17, 2010
"Another Letter to Andrew's Parents," March 10, 2010
"A Toast to Andrew," May 2, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"The First time I Nearly Died," August 3, 2010
"Rehabilitating Doug," June 12, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"1999-2001: A Dramatic Story, " December 15, 2010
"Naming My Heart," March 24, 2011
"Report on Old Doug: Health, Theater, eBook, and More," June 28, 2011
"Mama Cat Saves My Life," October 23, 2011
"Walking Away From Death," February 29, 2012
"Doug Update: Health, Acting, Book Readings, and Snowbirding," September 6, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Competitive Parents


In thinking about how long my life might now last, it occurred to me that as of March of this year, I will have lived longer than did either of my parents, Robert and LeNore Whaley. They both died of cigarettes: Dad at 61 in 1980, and Mom five years later. He had a series of heart attacks, and she had an ugly death from emphysema. I miss them both very much.

They were wonderful people, very much in love since their marriage right after Pearl Harbor in 1941, until the end. I had a happy childhood, as did my sister Mary Beth, and we were very lucky to have been raised by such intelligent, funny, and caring people.

No one had more fun than the two of them did. They were both very athletic, being champion amateur golfers (they won the Bermuda Amateur Couples Golf Tournament in the 1960s), bowlers (when Dad, who was an Air Force officer until he retired---and I talked him into following me through law school; long story there for another day---was stationed in Japan, Mom bowled the highest score that a woman had till then ever bowled in that country: 270, for which she threw seven strikes in a row), and more. They were very competitive both when playing others, or between themselves, but it was all done with an enormous sense of fun.

One favorite story:

When we (Dad and Mom, sister Mary Beth and I, see photo) were stationed in Japan (1954-57) and I was a boy (age 11-13), at one point Dad’s squadron had a picnic. It turned into a softball game, men v. women (all wives in those days), with the men having the handicap of having to bat wrong-handed (left if they were right handed, for example). There were no gloves, so everyone had to field balls barehanded. There had also, I suspect, been a number of beers consumed prior to the game.

Mom was the pitcher for the wives, and when Dad came to bat, she started in on him with comments like, “All right, Ladies, here’s an easy out! This man can’t bat when he’s under no handicap!” To this Dad replied, “Watch out, honey. I’m going to knock this ball right down your throat.”

And that’s what happened. He hit a tremendous drive right at her, and, by golly, she caught it, breaking her thumb in the process. That, I believe, ended the game.

But the next morning at breakfast, as we were all sitting there, Mom held up her bandaged thumb and extended it, with a grin, right in Dad's face.

“You were out!” she said.
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Related Posts:
"Goodbye to St. Paddy's Day," March 2, 2010
“Bob Whaley, Boy Lawyer,” March 28, 2010
"My Mother's Sense of Humor," April 4, 2010
“The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010
“Bob Whaley and the Best Evidence Rule,” June 26, 2010
“Bob and Kink Get Married,” June 2, 2010
“Dad and the Cop Killer,” July 19, 2010
“No Pennies In My Pocket,” July 30, 2010
“Doug, Please Get My Clubs From the Trunk,” August 20, 2010
“The Death of Robert Whaley,” September 7, 2010
"My Missing Grandmother," December 26, 2010
"Bob Whaley Trapped in Panama," January 21, 2011
"The Death of My Mother," March 31, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Escape From Hospital Hell

It was like a dark comedy for me to escape from the Ross Heart Hospital at Ohio State earlier this month. This adventure had me playing Houdini, bleeding, and losing things.

Because I was running a fever in the evenings, per doctor’s orders I went into the hospital on Monday, Dec. 28th, and should have been discharged well before the end of the week. Alas, it was New Year’s week, and the labs closed down, so I was stuck there until the following Monday when the lab results confirmed what the doctors had already deduced: I had fungal infection in the lungs, treatable with pills. A prescription for the pills was sent to the pharmacy right there in the hospital, so that I could pick them up as soon as I was discharged. I had been campaigning with the doctors to let me out on that Monday, and finally, shortly after noon, they said okay.

The difficulty was that at 2:15 that same afternoon I was scheduled for a visit with Dr. Sun, who had performed the heart transplant and wanted to see my incision, which seemed to be healing nicely into a neat vertical scar on the upper part of my chest. I didn’t want to go home and then turn around and immediately come back, so I asked the nurse who brought me the discharge papers if I could leave my things in the hospital room and pick them up after I saw Dr. Sun. She said fine. I asked her when I could snip off the white ID bracelet on my left wrist, and she said to do that only when I had left the hospital building. I phoned my friend Mary Bush, who had kindly agreed to pick me up, and told her I would call her on my cell when she should leave her home to come get me. I estimated the time would be shortly after 3 pm, which seemed reasonable when I said it. Pause here for rueful laugh.

Shortly after 2pm, I went down to registration to check-in for the Sun appointment, and the receptionist wanted to put a new white ID band on my wrist! Since I already had one on the left wrist, which she didn’t see because there was a bandage closer to my hand where the IV had been taken out, I knew I would be in trouble if she discovered I already had a band on. (I asked a nurse later about this, and she told me that if I had two bands it would cause such a bureaucratic nightmare that I’d still be there). So I pointed to the bandage on my left wrist and asked her if it was okay to put the new ID band on my right wrist. She said fine, and did that.

Then Dr. Sun wanted me to have an X-ray done before he saw me, and, with waiting in the X-ray line involved, this took over an hour. Now X-rayed, as I was being led by a nurse to Dr. Sun’s examination room, it suddenly occurred to me that he was going to want me to take off my shirt so he could see the chest, and that would expose the two ID band problem. What to do? This led to my Houdini trick.

When we entered the examination room, the nurse sat down at the computer, facing mostly away from me. I pointed to the bandage on my left wrist and asked her if she had a scissors that I might use to take it off. She handed me one from her pocket, and I turned away from her, stuck it down inside my left sleeve, felt around for the ID band and snipped it enough that it could be easily torn off when she left. I thanked her and returned the scissors.

She left and I promptly pulled up my sleeve, ripped the ID band off, and threw it into the trash. All was well, I thought, until I noticed I was bleeding from a small cut on my wrist, and there were blood drops on the floor. I staunched the bleeding, cleaned up the blood, and managed to sit down and was calmly begin reading on my Kindle when Dr. Sun and entourage entered. He looked at the incision, said everything looked good, and so I could go. I called Mary and told her I would meet her in the hospital reception area, and then I returned to my hospital room and, with the aid of a kindly nurse, got my luggage and various bags down to the reception area, where I settled in, reading again on the Kindle.

Mary showed up shortly thereafter, and when she came in I told her I could wheel the luggage if she could handle the two shopping bags. By this time I was chomping at the bit to get out of there (“My own bed!” kept running through my thoughts---after seven nights in that medieval torture device that passed for a bed in the hospital), and with some hustling about, we got everything into Mary’s van. Tiny woman though she is, she muscled the suitcase into the back of the van without difficulty.


As we were driving away, and almost out of the hospital complex, Mary casually said, “Wasn’t there something about picking up a prescription?” I slapped my forehead and asked her to turn around to go back to the hospital pharmacy. The weather was very bad: ridiculously cold, snowing, ice on the roads, but Mary gamely turned around and parked in front of the relevant building. Then I had another bad thought.

“Mary,” I said, “there’s a new problem. I don’t have any money or credit cards with me, not wanting to have them in my hospital room.” Mary, as always, was generous and said I could borrow her credit card, which she kindly gave me. She waited in the van, while I went into the building. On my way to the pharmacy a new bad thought arose: if anyone looked at the card it was going to be very difficult to convince them that I was “Mary Bush.” Fortunately it was one of those “swipe your own card” machines, so this difficulty was avoided.

Back in the van, Mary carefully negotiated the icy streets and we made it to my home. She brought the luggage in and hefted it onto the bed (I am not allowed to lift things heavier than 10 pounds), I hugged her and gave her my thanks, and she drove off.

I luxuriated in being home, and, control freak that I am, set about putting everything in its place (my son, daughter-in-law, and ex-wife had stayed there in my absence, but things were mostly in their proper spots). Finally, I settled down (it was after 7 pm by this time), when I made an ugly discovery. I couldn’t find my Kindle, the electronic book reader sold to me by Amazon.com. This is a major loss since the device is expensive ($250), and it was my second Kindle. The first ($350---the price has been dropping) I ran over with my car in what was a very bad day, and I panicked at the thought of losing the new one. I called Mary, getting her answering machine, and asked her to look in her car to see if the Kindle was there. That didn’t seem likely, and if it was not there, that meant I had put it down on the table next to me in the reception area of the hospital when she came through the door, and then stupidly left it behind.

I phoned the hospital, got the reception desk, and, to my relief, the receptionist said that some kind person had already turned it in to him, and that I could pick it up tomorrow when I came in for my weekly biopsy. I gave sigh of relief.

So when I read that night it was from a paper book, but I did it in my own bed.

And the hospital hell was over.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flag Counter

free counters

The Flag Counter (first posted on January 12, 2010) turned out to be very inaccurate, undercounting steadily, and not displaying flags from countries that did visit the site. On August 20, 2010, I added a new StatCounter, which also tracks visitors (including their city and country, and itself has flag replicas). Its use demonstrated that Flag Counter was missing huge numbers of visitors each day! According to StatCounter I have around 700 new visitors each month. At that rate the real count at the end of October, 2010 should have been something like 7000, but Flag Counter hadn't yet reached 2000 at that point (and doesn't even have the flags counted correctly on its own chart, listing twelve on the chart, but if you click on the chart for more information, it then lists thirteen). As of October 31, 2010, 56 countries have visited the blog! That amazes me! Nepal? I only vaguely believe Nepal exists, much less that someone in Katmandu is reading my blog! I didn't begin counting visitors until mid-January, 2010, and since I sent out a major email when I first started the blog in December of 2009, there have to be 200 or more early visitors who went completely uncounted. For a discussion of why counting flags is important, see "Hans and the Flag Counter," July 5, 2010, and if you like, help him out with his quest. For a rough (and probably low) count of the visitors to the blog, click on "View My Stats" (top of each blog page) and then add 3000 to the number displayed. To see the countries or cities, click on the "Countries, States, Cities" tab in the column on the left. I wrote two emails to Flag Counter complaining about all this, but, annoyingly, never received a reply.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year’s Party Without the Host

In early November I started inviting people to a New Year’s Eve party at my house, and the invitations were casual: email, face to face, phone. One reason for the party is that my son Clayton and his wife Maria were flying in from Seattle for New Year’s and I hadn’t seen them in a year and a half. Then right before Thanksgiving I received my new heart (see original post if that is news), but there was no way to call off the party since I couldn’t remember who all I’d invited. That didn’t much matter as my medical advisor said I could be there if I wore a mask. I told people that at midnight I was going to have my first martini in nine years (I quit drinking New Year’s 2000-01). So much for plans.

New Year’s Eve was on a Thursday, as you know, but on Monday I reported to my doctor that I’d run a fever on 101° the night before, and he condemned me to the hospital immediately. I thought I would be in overnight (as would have been the case any other week), but no; I was in for EIGHT DAYS. With the labs mostly shut down from Thursday until the following Monday (when I was promptly released), they couldn’t get the lab work back to make a proper diagnosis. Meantime there were tests aplenty, and the usual joy of living in a hospital, medieval torture bed included.

On Wednesday Clayton and Maria arrived at noon, and I had friends who knew them pick them up. It was Clayton’s 37th birthday the day before, so my ex-wife Charleyne and her second ex-husband and his significant other (who had gone to high school with Charleyne!—long story about all of these relationships some other post) had a birthday dinner at a local restaurant in his honor on Wednesday evening. I wasn’t there.

C & M came to visit me each day for long periods, and Clayton came back twice alone (we are writing an opera together—another future post subject). On Thursday the party went on without me, handled by those mentioned above. At 11:30 p.m., I phoned the house and was put on speaker-phone. I said to them:
“Here’s the problem: you’re all at the wrong place. The real party is in room 5004 at the Ross Heart Hospital. Get down here immediately!” This was followed by some other quasi-witty remarks before I wished them all as good 2010 as I was planning on having with my new heart.

The next day was the Rose Bowl. At home I have a 60 inch TV, but the hospital’s was small and not easy to see. At least the Buckeyes won, so I’ll take that (my chief doctor turned out to be an Alabama alum!).

Everything was slow until Monday when the doctors saw the test results, decided I had aspergillus (a fungal infection), gave me pills to treat it, and sent me home. The nightmare in the release from the hospital will be the subject of my next post since it involved among other fun, my playing Houdini, blood, and lost valuable objects.

So I’m home (in my own bed again) and happy. I feel great. Once the fever was under control (Wednesday) I had no other symptoms, and felt like a perfectly well man being stuck in a hospital as if it were a prison sentence. If I’d known at the beginning of 2009 what was going to happen, I couldn’t have picked a worse week for a trip to the hospital.

So that is how I threw a party which I didn’t attend. Everyone else had a great time. As for me, after I hung up the phone, I promptly fell asleep and missed midnight.

But that martini is still in the works.