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“Does this hurt?” I asked him, as I placed the tip of the hemostat into the small opening.

“No. I don’t have much sensation down there since my stroke.”

Thinking that rather convenient I attempted to dilate the puckered foreskin so that I could at least see the glans and then maybe even the urethral meatus.


“Sorry,” I said and then injected a syringe of lubricant into the moist opening barely big enough to accept a 12 French catheter, hoping that I might find the meatus with gentle explorations of the lubricated catheter tip and some small measure of good fortune. He hadn’t urinated in over eight hours, night was approaching, his bladder scan showed over 300 cc of urine, and I didn’t have the skill set to surgically address his problem.

I had never seen a case such as this. I had learned of it long ago, but had no reason to think of it since. I had not run across it in a movie, or a novel, or a trade journal; nonetheless, it surfaced in my mind, like a bubble released from the ocean depths, an obscure word with a funny spelling, phimosis.

“He has phimosis. Have Tala get the number for the urologist on call,” I asked his nurse.

I hadn’t been struggling to think of it. It just came. Unbidden. Effortless. And, I thought that was pretty cool–how the mind works, and how we don’t understand how it works, and that the only answer seems to be that there must be a God.

Michaelangelo’s David had phimosis.

Chia Seeds?

My April contribution to the NWTC newsletter What’s Cooking, and, it’s even about food, towards the end anyway.


My daughter came over a month ago, if not to cook us dinner, at least to make us dinner—a vegetarian dinner. She brought a giant blender and bags of plant-based products, half of which I couldn’t call by name. The blender alone was quite remarkable. I wasn’t sure if I should put food in it, or take it out on the lake and see what it could do. When she threw a bag of birdseed on the table, I asked, “What’s that?”

“Chia seeds. It’s a superfood. It swells up in your stomach so you’re not so hungry.”

“Hmmm…” I nodded, still a skeptic, “sounds interesting. I’ll look into it; maybe write a newsletter on it,” I said. “How do you spell it?”


Chia sage plant


Thirty years ago I would have settled down next to the book shelves in the basement and trickled my finger along the top of dusty row of World Book Encyclopedia volumes, coming to rest in the valley of the third volume. “C”.  A giant gold letter against the dark green spine wrapping around the front and back covers screaming pick me, pick me. I would remember, again, the nice young man who came to our house one evening long ago and sold us the rich set of guilt-edged volumes with an annual update, for only a modest fee. He looked at me and my little sister and asked us who we thought the youngest president of the United States ever was. I said, “Was it John F. Kennedy?” Who happened to be the last president I remembered because of his picture on the cover of Life magazine and my mother crying. My sister said, “me too.”

The nice young man said, “Well, we better check, hadn’t we.” He handed me the “K” volume and I reverently opened the book with an audible crack and explosion of freshness like a beam of white light reaching to heaven. I imagined a powdery-gold fairy dust gracing my finger, blessed to have come in contact with such a container of knowledge, a world of promise and expectation, an omnibus of factual data that would make me so smart that no one would ever kick sand in my face again . It didn’t take me too long to find it, being a second-grader with straight S’s, who “interacts well with others and works hard on his exercises”.

The answer, my answer, was in the very first paragraph of the chapter on President Kennedy. Now, what were the odds of that? I beamed at my parents. My sister clapped. My dad smiled, and my mom went to get the checkbook.

Well, that was then. Now, within seconds, electrons racing along a skinny wire stretching from some satellite dish in green bay to my computer, via various connections, transmits a series of 0’s and 1’s that…blah, blah, blah. It’s a new world; a different time in which Google rules, and the World Book is a footnote in history, so let’s get on with it.

There is no such thing as a super food, which is more of a marketing strategy than anything else. That’s not to say that they aren’t good for you; it’s just that it might not do everything the seller promises. All that aside, Chia seeds do kick some serious fiber-gluteus maximus. On a straight up comparison with Metamucil, Chia seeds have twice the fiber, 2 grams of protein, vitamins, minerals, and lots of Omega-3 fatty acids (good). And, it costs less at $10/lb. than the equivalent amount of name-brand Metamucil. They also have almost twice as much fiber as the equivalent amount of flax seed.

They feel like a soft, silky sand, and the first time I pinched them between my fingers I had an urge to take a Chia seed bath. They have little taste, but a pleasing texture, a gentle crunch so minute that you’re not quite sure it happened. I can sprinkle them on or in anything before I eat it. You can even soak them in water to make a gel that you can mix with fruit, or use as a healthy substitute in other dishes; and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’d work as spackling to fill nail holes in dry wall.

Chia seeds can last up to two years on the shelf. They’ve have an impressive history; being cultivated in Mexico as early as 2700 BC where one spoon of seeds in a cup of water would be used as an allotment for a day’s hard labor. It fulfilled medicinal purposes and was for a time used as currency. If there really were super-foods, Chia seeds would be a good candidate, as many other things; but, you won’t be able to leap buildings in a single bound.