Heavy Traffic Got You Down? It’s Worse Than You Think!

While channel surfing the other day, I happened to land for a few moments on a program where a lovely twenty-eight-year-old Pakistani woman named Nelufar Hedayat was being interviewed. She spoke about a series titled The Traffickers on the Fusion Channel. My interest was aroused, as I had just finished the fourth book in my Aimee Machado Mystery series.

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In my book, titled Spine Damage, a fifteen-year-old Portuguese girl goes missing from her home on an Azorean island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after she makes the mistake of accepting an invitation to a yacht party.

I can’t reveal here what happens to my character, a lovely, naïve and headstrong teenager named Liliana Ferrera, as that would be a spoiler, and the book isn’t due for release until May of 2017. What I can say is that I wish more attention were being paid to the devastating impact every sort of illegal trafficking makes on countries around the world, including the United States of America.

Not once during the recent, seemingly endless presidential campaign, did I hear a candidate express a workable solution to the problem of trafficking, whether the merchandise is drugs, stolen art, rhino horns, or human beings (often children) who are sold for purposes of slave labor or for sex. Nor did I hear any reference to the illegal trade in black market organs.

Yes, there was mention of building a wall. Of course, Paul Revere could have reminded us that not all invasions come by land. A wall will not stop drug boats from reaching our shores, or freighters from docking in our harbors laden with containers (only a fraction of which are searched). And how many airplanes touch down in our country on remote landing strips? What about autos and foot traffic arriving from the north? Will we build a second wall from coast to coast along the Canadian border?

I hold the fictional answers to lovely Liliana’s fate, but what of the thousands of real-life human souls who have been taken from their homes and forced into a black-market world, or the flood of other illicit trade that feeds the appetites of criminal buyers in this country and others throughout the world? For more on this subject, watch Nelufar Hedayat on the Fusion channel on Sunday nights at 10:00 p.m..  http://fusion.net/page/the-traffickers/

Will an innocent, trusting young teen be rescued in time? Find out when Spine Damage, book four in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, is released in May of 2017. And in book five, we’ll continue the theme with a mystery surrounding illegal organ harvesting. Meanwhile, the first three books in the series are available in print and e-book versions by shopping online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or upon request at your local bookstore.

HOSPITAL PHOBIA: WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

When you anticipate a trip to the hospital, does your pulse quicken? Does your blood pressure rise? Does your throat go dry with dread? Then you’re probably hospital-phobic.DSC_4332 When I set out to write this post, I did an online search of the term hospital phobia and found 480,000 results. I knew the phobia was real, but I didn’t know it had a name. The medical term for this condition is a mouthful. It’s called nosocomephobia.

What is it that strikes fear in the heart? What causes that panicky sensation? If you’re about to be admitted as a patient, it may be the latest headline about deaths caused by medical errors. If you’re a visitor, it may be something as simple as the thought of all those nasty germs floating around. Ick!

Even worse, you just watched a TV show about a crazed shooter running amok in the corridors of a hospital.

So what are you to do? If you’re a potential patient, you need to be admitted. Your appendix is about to burst, and it isn’t going to heal itself. Or perhaps your loved-one is in the hospital, needing you there by his or her side. You have little choice but to face your fear and go into that terrifying place filled with germs and other potential threats.

Let me try to reassure you. I worked in an acute care hospital for seven years. My administrative position sent me to every floor and every department in the hospital complex. The worst danger I faced in all of that time was . . .

Actually, I’m having trouble thinking of even one example, but I can think of endless examples of how hospital administration and staff are involved in keeping patients and visitors safe.

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The welfare of patients involves a complex system of safety protocols designed to cover not just the care provided by physicians and nurses, but by every department and hospital worker. These include: emergency, pharmacy, radiology, pathology, dietary, infection control, and many more. Safety protocols are in place for every aspect of patient care.

But what about the safety of visitors? How are they being protected? From fire? From shooters? From other disasters? Fire and disaster drills are conducted regularly. Each department knows its procedures and assigned duties, and stands ready to assist. Hospital security protocols are in place, and personnel are constantly on alert for the very rare occasion when a patient or visitor becomes unruly or dangerous. As an added protection, more and more hospitals are requiring visitors to show photo ID and wear a visitor’s badge during their visit.

If you’re hospital-phobic, don’t give up or give in. There are treatments that can help. You can find a wealth of helpful information by doing a search using the key words hospital phobia.

Here is just one of the 480,000 links I found for information about this condition.

http://www.allaboutcounseling.com/library/nosocomephobia/

Book 3 Cover00020002In BREACH OF ETHICS, the third book in the AIMEE MACHADO MYSTERY series, the issue of patient and visitor safety is on the mind of Timbergate Medical Center Administrator Jared Quinn. His concern for the wellbeing of patients and visitors results in a locked room murder mystery for Aimee and her team of amateur sleuths to solve.

The first three books in the AIMEE MACHADO MYSTERY series, published by Camel Press, are available in print and eBook formats from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, or by request from your local bookstore.

 

DO THEY COME ALIVE AT NIGHT? ASK A TAXIDERMIST.

CIMG1315It is possible that the practice of taxidermy dates all the way back to the beginning of man. Although there is no clear record of its start, it is known that the art form has  been around for centuries. A mount of a rhinoceros in a museum in Italy, believed to have been done in the 16th century, is said to be the oldest in the history of taxidermy.

Long before that time, Egyptians were mummifying their cats, dogs, and other animals at their death. This practice was actually a form of taxidermy.

CIMG1319Outdoor sports enthusiasts who enjoy fishing and hunting make up a large part of the taxidermy business. Many invest enormous sums of money and risk life and limb in remote and treacherous parts of the world.

In some cases, a hunt is a means of eradicating an animal that is doing great harm, as in the case of feral hogs that now do two billion dollars annually in agricultural damage and related problems. As one hunter explained it, “Taxidermy helps to preserve the memory of an experience that may happen only once in a lifetime.”

Hunters and fishermen are not the only clientele of taxidermists. Moviegoers who have enjoyed the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM franchise will recall the vast assortment of animals that came to life each night. Museums give taxidermists a great deal of business, and will continue to do so.

CIMG1321Modern taxidermists use forms placed inside the preserved skin of the animal instead of the original method of stuffing with straw or other materials. The forms have realistic shapes that are designed to look how the animal would appear if seen in the wild.

Taxidermy remains an art form that people continue to enjoy, either as reminders of memorable hunting and fishing experiences, or as displays in museums.

A word of caution though. It’s probably best to exit the museum well before closing time. That wild boar isn’t looking too happy.

Taxidermy plays a role in CHECKED OUT, book two of the Aimee Machado Mystery Series. Published by Camel Press, it is available both in print and ebook format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or by order from your local bookstore

What is a Medical Staff?

119543789489042057caduceus_ryland_sanders_01.svg.thumbNot a question that comes up often in conversation, but when it does, many people will envision the caduceus, a staff associated with the messenger god, Hermes, in Greek mythology. With two wings at the top and entwined with two snakes, it is often mistakenly assumed to be a symbol of healing. In fact, Hermes, known as the  god of commerce, moved between the world of man and the world of gods, acting as a messenger and the link between mortals and the Olympians.

Sodownloadme may be familiar with the more correct, but lesser-known symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which is entwined with a single serpent and wielded by the Greek god, Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. In spite of the symbols carried by these gods, there is a more down-to-earth meaning to the term medical staff.

When a health crisis occurs, most patients put their lives in the hands of the doctors in the nearest hospital. They do so in good faith, without knowing what goes on behind the scenes in order to protect them from unqualified medical practitioners.

If you’ve ever been a patient in a hospital, you were probably admitted by your primary care physician. And that’s where the hospital’s medical staff comes in.

Hospital-based television shows are unlikely to demonstrate the rigorous process your doctor went through to earn the privilege of admitting you to a specific hospital. It would not pass as entertainment.

The process began when your physician was required to provide proof of medical education and training as well as letters of reference from any former hospital where he or she possessed privileges. A credentialing committee then scrutinized the request for membership and privileges and verified the physician’s credentials. Once privileges were granted, the physician spent a period of time being monitored by a senior member of the medical staff. And that’s just the beginning.

To remain on the medical staff, your doctor must regularly fulfill continuing education requirements by attending pertinent educational programs. To retain treatment privileges, he or she must serve on medical staff committees and must attend mandatory medical staff department meetings. On top of that, all physicians who are granted medical staff membership must abide by the medical staff bylaws and are subject to having the quality of their patient care scrutinized by their peers.

The next time you’re in a hospital, either as a patient or a visitor, rest assured that hospital’s medical staff organization is working in the background. Let the television version of hospital life entertain you, but be grateful for real life, where the less entertaining work of upholding the quality of the medical staff goes on, ensuring that you and your loved ones are in good hands.

checked_out_300 (1)CHECKED OUT, book two of the Aimee Machado Mystery series, will be released October 1, 2015. Available for pre-order now, it introduces Aimee’s colleague Cleo Cominoli, Director of Medical Staff Services at Timbergate Medical Center. When Cleo becomes suspicious of a controversial and potentially dangerous woman surgeon on the medical staff, she enlists Aimee’s help and the excitement begins.

Discovering the Azores

When I bring up the subject of the Azores Islands in conversations about vacation destinations, most people I know respond with a blank look. They may have heard of the archipelago, but in most cases, have no idea where the islands are located.

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That response changes when conversing with someone of Portuguese descent. Portuguese Americans whose great- or great-great-grandparents emigrated from the Azores know exactly where the islands are. They’re situated in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 900 miles off the coast of Portugal, somewhere in the vicinity of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. More than one theorist has explored the possibility that the Azores Islands are the remnants of Atlantis. But that’s another story.

In contrast to today’s typical island tourist traps, the Azores are relatively untouched by commercialism and have retained their charm. Tourists are welcome and find it very easy to enjoy the many lovely features of these islands. A four hour flight from Boston brings visitors to a refreshing world of islands with diverse vacation pastimes. Hiking, swimming, sailing, whale watching, or simply lying on a pristine beach under a Mediterranean sky.

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The visual feast alone is worth the trip. Green hills bordered by giant hydrangea hedges, rocky slopes dropping to a shoreline dotted by rustic villages untouched by time. Harbors filled with yachts making this ideal pit stop on their way to or from faraway destinations.Horta Marina

The gustatory feast is one to be savored and remembered long after the experience. The subtle green wine and the cheeses made from the truly happiest cows on earth would be enough to sustain most travelers. But that’s just the beginning. There is nothing as delightful as Portuguese cuisine. Fresh-baked breads, chicken prepared in succulent recipes, myriad seafood dishes, of course, and roast beef flavored with secrets handed down for who knows how many generations? Perhaps from the inhabitants of Atlantis.Atlantis

For folks who dream of finding that mythical location, the Azores Islands might be the next best thing.

The Aimee Machado Mysteries feature a protagonist whose parents have retired and moved to the island if Faial in the Azores. They are very happy with their new life. So far, they are unaware of Aimee’s tendency to get caught up in solving murders that involve her job as a hospital librarian in northern California.

Many websites feature visits to the Azores. One good example is www.visitazores.com.

A Vacation Getaway

Have you ever longed for a few days without computers, television, do-everything phones and devices? It seems ironic that most luxury getaways offer to keep us plugged in and turned on, even when we’re paying a bundle to get away from life’s constant demands on our time and attention.

What could be a greater luxury than to disconnect from the cyber world and reconnect with the natural world we’ve nearly forgotten? Thanks to our country’s protected mountain wilderness areas, it’s still possible to get back to basics—and to remember that we were once, not so long ago, creatures of the earth who used more parts of our bodies than just our thumbs.

Travel Arrangements:

My favorite luxury getaway is one where the only sound of civilization is the distant murmur of a commercial jetliner passing overhead. And speaking of travel, the mode of transportation in the wilderness is as basic as it gets. It’s called walking, and requires nothing more than a well-fitting pair of boots and proper socks designed for hiking. The movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, does a great job of demonstrating the problems encountered with incorrect footwear.

Hiking accessories can be minimal, with everything necessary fitting in a backpack. Smoke packingAgain, Witherspoon’s character went far overboard with her pack. With the load she carried, she should have taken along a llama or two.

A few words about llamas: they are great pack animals, but only if the hikers are proficient llama packers. I have it on good authority that hikers with no llama handling experience should not try to rent these extraordinary animals for packing. According to my source, who has seen it happen, it can turn into a “horror show.”

Accommodations:

TentBe cautioned that there will be no maid service. Wilderness hiking requires that visitors leave their accommodations as pristine as if they were never there. Nothing is more disheartening than arriving at a campsite and seeing empty beer cans and cigarette packs scattered on the ground. Fire rings should be dismantled, and broken fishing line, particularly dangerous to wildlife, should be packed out along with all other trash.

Pets:

Dogs may be allowed on your trip, but check ahead to be sure. Outdoor outfitters sell doggy backpacks, so Rover can carry his own food, water, and bedroll. If your dog does come along, check leash requirements. Owners who do not respect these rules may be subjecting their animals to a heap of trouble. Dogs who spook passing llamas or horses on the trail could end up the victim of a vicious kick severe enough to spoil the outing.

Entertainment:

All in all, the preparation involved in wilderness hiking is well worthLake it when the destination is reached. There’s a special joy in sitting on a fallen log after a dinner of fresh trout, sipping hot cocoa while watching moonlight rippling on a clear mountain lake. No TV, no Internet, just human to human communication around a glowing campfire. Ahh . . . time to book a trip.

For information on wilderness hiking throughout the U.S. contact: http ://www.fs.fed .us /organization/506

Checked Out, the second book in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, finds Aimee and Nick llama packing in the northern California wilderness to track down a witness to murder. Due for release in October, 2015.

Heard any accordion jokes lately? Who Hasn’t?

CIMG1304The accordion has been much maligned throughout its history. Each time I hear someone belittle accordion music, my hackles rise. I must come to the defense of my late mother, an extraordinary musician who made beautiful music on her accordion. Have the detractors of the accordion never heard the romantic and evocative strains of Lady of Spain or a haunting accordion rendition of The Third Man Theme?

Maybe not, those musical delights are from a bygone era. But there are other more modern musicians who have incorporated the accordion into their repertoires. The instrument brings its subtle but enchanting sound to the music of a variety of artists, from the fifties up to the present day. Those delightful notes and chords often go unrecognized, leaving the accordionist an unsung hero of many musical hits. Superstar musicians who have used the accordion to enhance their musical numbers include The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Billy Joe, Bruce Springsteen, Grace Jones, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Tom Waits and many, many more.

One of my favorite Pandora Radio Stations is the one I created when I discovered Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra. It is reminiscent of the music heard in Paris bistros of the twenties. It set the perfect mood when I was writing the second novel in my Aimee Machado Mystery series.

Aimee and her co-workers sometimes have lunch at a restaurant near the hospital where they work. The character of Margie, the restaurant’s proprietor who sometimes plays accordion solos for her patrons, was inspired by my late mother. So here’s to Mom and her lifelong love of the accordion. May she live on musically in the pages of the Aimee Machado Mysteries. And whenever I hear an accordion, I’ll continue to say, “Thanks for the memories.”