Saturday, March 19, 2011

Only one of ten die in the dentist's chair

I come from a family of dentally challenged. I was the one with the perfect teeth as a kid. But every time another member of the family came home from the dentist there seemed to be a new horror story. I was threatened with braces when I was 11 and was so terrified that I chewed gum to develop my lower jaw and read books with my head leaning down against the heel of my palm to push my upper teeth back.

I was ecstatic when family circumstances sidelined my dental checkups until 16. Then I had four cavities which the dentist filled all at once on the same day without word one of explanation or preamble. I only had my father's joke of only one of ten die in the dentist's chair for company during the ordeal. I managed to tap dance around dental health issues until my late twenties and a couple more cavities and a root canal.

The root canal was done by Igor in a office that looked like Frankenstein's laboratory without a word of preamble or explanation. I fainted. I had a huge infection which was into the sinus cavity and inner ear upsetting my balance. I got absolutely no sympathy or rest because my significant other at the time had a knee injury. I had to fetch and carry for him and work days. I remember thinking death would be easier as I waited for the infection to clear so the huge hole in my tooth could be filled.

The dentist that sent me for the root canal was thrilled when that day arrived because now we could "attend" to the impacted wisdom tooth. That is a horror tale for another day but it is when I discovered that when I am under I am never quite under and my memories of having my tonsils out were memories and not dreams as my parents insisted. I can repeat every single word ever said in an operating theater where I am the main course.

I am at constant war with myself over the need for regular dental checkups to insure dental health and my total animal brain need to run for hills. And ever present is that memory of Dad saying, "Don't worry, only one of ten die in the dentist's chair. Yesterday sitting in the plush examining room of a man that makes his living pulling teeth I read through the release from I had to sign which included the list of all things that could go wrong. I stopped at number 12: Broken jaw. The extraordinarily sunny disposition hygienist assured me that would not happen to me. And I smiled while thinking: They lie to you all the time.

All that said the oral surgeon knew his business. The tooth was out in three minutes. Numbing me up took longer. He explained every step before he began it but not so far beyond I could escape. He probably earned about $100 a minute for his time but I walked out. I was not one of the ten.

I am totally broke till payday but out of pain, and find myself wondering about dental costs, why they are not covered by medicare, and why there is not an affordable dental insurance option out there for us Yanks. Anyone know?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unclear on nuclear energy?

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant
While everyone is worrying about an earthquake generated meltdown at a nuclear generator (or three) in Japan the nuclear energy people here in the United States are all upset that it will cause negative reaction (pun intended) to plans to expand nuclear plants in this country. Like it is all our fault?

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California sits on top of one of the most geologically active (read that as earth quake prone) areas in the United States. And one plant in California was shut down because of earthquake activity. The 63 MW Boiling Water Reactor at the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant in Eureka was in operation by PG&E from August 1963 to July 1976. It was the seventh licensed nuclear plant in the United States. It was closed because the economics of a required seismic retrofit could not be justified after riding through a moderate earthquake.

California law now prohibits the construction of any new nuclear power plants in California until the Energy Commission finds that the federal government has approved and there exists a demonstrated technology for the permanent disposal of spent fuel from these facilities. California's existing nuclear power plants provide a significant amount of California's non-fossil fuel based energy and power but produce significant amounts of spent nuclear fuel. Continued operation of these plants will require substantial investments in replacement steam generators, turbines and other major pieces of equipment, ongoing recruitment and training to maintain an experienced nuclear work force, and accommodation of evolving federal policy regarding nuclear technology, in addition to other requirements.  

All, well and good, especially since everyone wants to store those spent nuclear rods in caves in New Mexico and Nevada.

However, this 1978 action, makes no mention of the San Andres fault and the tendency of power companies to build their plants on such unstable and shifting bases. And in high population areas. On the map below white is where it would be safe to build. But when I was living in Missouri we were fighting to shut down the building of a plant on the New Madrid fault. That is that red oval on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

The track record of companies proposing to build nuclear power plants is not good. The old joke was would you want to go on a rocket ship to the moon built by the lowest possible bidder? The bidding system on construction projects in the United States is about cheap. That New Madrid Fault plant was using substandard materials and rusty rebar. It does not inspire confidence. And some of the problems that occurred in the Three Mile Island near melt down was due to inadequately trained personal hired on the cheap.

So if we here in the United States are seemingly anti nuclear power may I suggest the fault is not in us but in the companies that build and maintain these plants. Look not at the population but at yourselves. Show us you can be responsible and also that you won't lie to us.