Friday, November 30, 2007
Not so this year.
Who knows how or when you can get it? The flu virus can sit there on a doorknob for several days, just waiting for an unsuspecting hand to grasp it and then touch their eyes or nose. And then you show no symptoms for a few days, so you have no clue where you picked it up, but you can be very contagious.
And pick it up she did.
By Monday she was starting to feel a little odd. She went to work anyway, thinking it was just a cold, but came home by noon feeling pretty lousy. She'd called the doctor and they were going to call her back. They actually did call back, but she wasn't there in the afternoon, and they left a message on her voicemail. A swing and a miss.
By Tuesday morning, she was beginning to feel achy and was starting to cough a lot. The doc called her in an Rx for a nasal inhaler to help her coughing which I picked up after work for her. By Tuesday evening, she had a splitting headache and was feeling really weak.
By Wednesday, she was in hell. Every part of her body ached, even her skin. Her cough was rough, productive and frequent. She couldn't lie down comfortably. She couldn't sit up for any period of time. In the few moments of sleep that she could catch, she would moan and groan over and over. It ripped my heart out to see her in such pain and to hear her moans. I stayed home from work to be her caregiver/husband. Caregiver is a LOT of work! It's like being a mother or something. Cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, empty the dishwasher, sanitize this and that, all the while watching the sick one with trepidation.
I'm not a praying man, hardly religious at all, but I found myself asking the universe to make her better. Did the universe respond?
At first, the doc didn't want to see her. There's been a lot of this going around. But then when she began exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia, he called her in for an appointment. He wasn't sure if she had pneumonia or not. She has a history of colds leading to sinus infections, and that's a simple path towards pneumonia. Now she had an Rx for a penicillin antibiotic, a codeine cough syrup, plus the inhaler. If she didn't get noticably better within 24 hours, he said, we should do a chest X-Ray.
There really is no treatment for the flu virus, except bed rest and lots of fluids. With all the miraculous medicines we have today, we still have no cure for some of the most-common ailments, like colds, flu or cancer. And we have the best medical system in the world?
Wednesday was her worst day. She wanted to die. She began to cry, it hurt so bad. It was torture for me, and even worse for her. She began to make sarcastic remarks to suggest that I should call 911 - dementia? - but her symptoms were not pneumonia. Besides, her fever never got above 101, and going to an emergency room with a temperature of less than 101 would probably just get you laughed at and kicked out.
I re-discovered that WebMD (that's a link) is an excellent source for medical information. They cover everything under the sun there in an unbiased way. Sometimes it does conflict with itself, however. I guess a lot like medicine. Again, perhaps this is why they call it "practicing medicine." One section of WebMD said that a fever of 104 was "high" and another said that 106.5 was high and dangerous. Sometimes you don't get a straight answer. Such is life. Still, it's a great resource.
Somehow, I think I have escaped catching the flu. WebMD helped me remember to sanitize anything and everything that we use in common: bed sheets, telephones, doorknobs, light switches, etc. I washed my hands so often they were becoming chapped.
By Thursday morning, she was feeling good enough to come downstairs and have a bite of food, but got totally exhaused climbing the stairs back to bed. Her cough was getting better and she no longer had a constant headache. The body aches were lessening too. She was on the road to recovery.
By Friday morning she felt good enough to take a shower, thinking that she just might go to work. (Her Catholic upbringing, or something, has instilled an incredible amount of guilt in her, which I do NOT exploit. Really, I don't. Oh, I sure could, if I was that kind of person. OK, I do now and then, but only when I'm horny. Just kidding.) She wanted to go to work badly. She felt bad about missing the whole week of work. But the mere act of showering totally exhausted her and I easily convinced her to skip work again and she'd have the whole weekend to rest up.
Moral? Wash your hands often. Sanitize everything. Be a good caregiver.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
This is one of the breakthroughs that is needed in the battery industry. With enough R&D, I have no doubt that there will be many more to come.
Exxon says film may lead to car battery like laptop's
By BRETT CLANTON
Exxon Mobil Corp. believes it has found an answer to a problem that has bedeviled the auto industry in recent years: using rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, like those found in cell phones and laptops, to power cars and trucks.
This weekend, at a conference in Anaheim, Calif., Exxon Mobil will unveil a super-thin plastic sheeting the company says can improve the power, safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries for use in automobiles.
Exxon Mobil considers the film a breakthrough because it allows battery makers to build smaller and cheaper battery systems — removing key obstacles that have kept automakers from building hybrid and electric vehicles on a wide scale.
"That desire to use batteries that are more powerful and lighter is something that the auto companies have yearned for for years," said Jim Harris, senior vice president at Exxon Mobil Chemical Co., a Houston unit of the Irving-based energy giant.
Today, most vehicles have toaster-sized nickel-metal hydride batteries under the hood. But battery makers and auto manufacturers have begun turning their attention to lithium-ion batteries because they are smaller, lighter, able to hold a charge longer and have a higher energy density.
"It's the natural next step for advanced battery technology," said Brian Corbett, a spokesman for General Motors Corp., which is developing models like the Chevrolet Volt that incorporate lithium-ion batteries.
First introduced by Sony in 1991, lithium-ion batteries were designed to help slim down portable electronics devices. But automakers have struggled to adapt them for vehicles because of operational limitations, high costs and safety issues.
Last year, 6 million Sony lithium-ion batteries in Dell and Apple notebook computers were recalled because of overheating that in some instances resulted in fires.
That recall gave a boost to companies working on improving lithium-ion batteries, including Exxon Mobil Chemical, which has 20 years of experience in the field, and Boston-based Optodot Corp., which has also developed a separator film for lithium-ion batteries.
Separator films are membranes that keep the battery's positive and negative fields, which are wrapped in a jelly-roll configuration, from touching.
Exxon Mobil developed its film with Japanese affiliate Tonen Chemical. Invented in research labs at Exxon Mobil's Baytown (TX) complex, the film is the first to squeeze multiple layers of plastic into a single white sheet the width of a human hair.
The added layers enable the batteries to run at higher temperatures — and produce more power — while still protecting them from overheating, company officials said. It also incorporates features that cause it to shut down if there is a short circuit in the battery.
Exxon Mobil sees the separator film technology as more than just a chance to green up its image. Company officials said there is a legitimate business motive for pursuing the technology.
"Clearly, hybrid and electric vehicles are going to play a role in the future, and we want to be a part of that," Harris said.
This year, Americans will buy 354,000 hybrid vehicles, accounting for about 2 percent of total U.S. auto sales, according to J.D. Power and Associates in Troy, Mich. By 2012, hybrid sales will grow to 1 million, or nearly 6 percent of the market, the firm projects.
A hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, combines a gasoline engine with an electric motor to achieve better fuel economy and lower emissions than vehicles with only a traditional internal combustion engine.
But hybrids still cost roughly $3,000 more than their gas-powered counterparts, and can weigh up to 900 pounds more, leading to sluggish performance.
If Exxon's film separator can reduce the costs and weight of battery systems, then hybrids could become more than a niche market, said Erich Merkle, auto analyst with IRN, an industry research firm in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Quite honestly, that's the type of thing that's going to make hybrids much more practical, because right now there's some real economic factors that hold hybrid sales back," he said.
Exxon Mobil is working with the leading battery manufacturers to incorporate its film separator technology, Harris said. To date, the company has only produced test batches of the film but has the capability to begin mass production through its affiliate in Japan, he said.
Among the biggest lithium-ion battery manufacturers are Japan's Sony, South Korea's Samsung and Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, Wis.
But when asked if Exxon Mobil had contracts with those companies, Harris sidestepped, promising only that there is more news to come.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I try to avoid politics, really I do....I'm just not that successful at it.
Good column by Joseph Galloway, from McClatchey Newspapers. I've never heard of him either.
There was little for the unindicted co-conspirators of the Bush administration to give thanks for this week as the clock winds down on the 14 months they have left in power.
With former White House press secretary Scott McClellan spilling the beans on who told him to lie to the American people and cover up the White House's responsibility for the criminal act of revealing the identity of a covert CIA officer, it clearly was time for some folks to begin drafting their requests for presidential pardons.
What we've witnessed and endured during seven long years of the Bush presidency is the inevitable consequence of bringing vicious and unprincipled but successful political campaigners - attack dogs - into top White House jobs.
We don't beat or torture confessions out of prisoners in violation of our laws and the laws of the civilized world. We don't lock people up and hold them incommunicado for years without charges or trials. But this administration did and does.
We don't applaud and cheer an administration and a Congress that make the rich vastly richer, the middle class less secure and the poor even poorer. But this administration has done just that, in violation of our principles and the principles of love, peace and charity that are engrained in the Christianity that these rogues and charlatans embrace so publicly but violate every day.
It will be a good day when they are gone, and good riddance to them all.
Friday, November 23, 2007
I read in the papers about the Freedom Train
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Candlelight vigils aside, this is a very mysterious life we lead on this gorgeous planet of ours, so you just never know....
Camel, and Andrew's beautiful guitar playing, were formative for me in my "youth." Below is a note from Susan Hoover, Andrew's wife, about his condition. I wish him all the best and hope that he can once again get back on stage and send chills down your spine, like he did for me. (Or maybe it was just the drugs??)
Check out some of Camel's music in the video box on the right side of this blog. (That is, if the net cooperates. Posting pictures isn't working right now either.)
Andrew is progressing very well. Thus far, he has tolerated the treatment exceptionally well, but we still take it one day at a time. So far, he has not suffered any serious side effects and his spirits are positive and strong. Today is transplant day...
Many of you have written to us encouraging us to hold an Hour Candle vigil for Andrew and we were thinking the very same thing. If you are able, please light a candle for Andrew, today, 21st November, at 1600hrs GMT. That is when Andrew will receive his bone marrow transplant. Spend an hour 'with' him, thinking of him in your way, perhaps listening to your favourite Camel album or spending time with loved ones to celebrate the good things in life. I have seen the strength Andrew has derived from the love and support he has received from family, friends, and the kind words of support so many of you have sent. That support has strengthened not only his physical, mental and emotional state, but it has strengthened his resolve to get well and get back on stage. So please light an Hour Candle for him today. If you don't get this until after the transplant hour, light a candle for him anyway, whenever you can. Light that candle and send the strength of your feelings to him at any time.
Thank you for your energy, your good wishes, prayers, thoughts, candles, messages, and for your love of this wonderful man who has much yet to give in return.
Until our next newsletter, I send you all our Fondest Regards,
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
What is a tragedy?
Our social conditioning teaches us to interpret events like the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a permanent disability as tragic. To experience emotional pain when such things occur is considered perfectly normal behavior.
There’s even a process we’re expected to follow: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages were defined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying as the 5 Stages of Dealing with Catastrophic Loss, later popularized as the 5 Stages of Grief. You can find many variations on this, but the basic pattern is that we must experience the pain of the loss and then (hopefully) get over it and move on.
Of course, many people never complete the “getting over it” part. For some people a tragic loss becomes a death sentence. They simply give up on their lives. Game over.
What defines a tragedy? Nothing but our thinking makes it so. A tragedy is a form of attachment to circumstances. When you become attached to circumstances and then experience an outcome that runs afoul of your expectations, emotional pain is the natural result. And the greater the attachment, the greater the pain.
Suppose your favorite pet dies suddenly. For many people this is a tragic experience. But is it the loss of the animal’s life that defines the tragedy? Not at all, especially considering those pet owners who’ll happily pay someone to put their dinner animals to death before eating them. What’s the difference between the pet and the meal? Emotional attachment. Where there’s no attachment, there’s no sense of tragedy.
I was taught from a young age that it’s appropriate to be attached to circumstances. Moreover, I was taught which level of attachment was appropriate for each set of circumstances. I was conditioned to feel a certain way when certain events occurred.
Death of a loved one = tragedy. Death of a stranger = news.
Killing a dog = cruelty. Killing a pig = dinner.
Americans killed = terrorism. Americans killing = heroism.
Current social conditioning still encourages us to think in terms of our emotional attachments. Consider the “Support our troops” slogan that you’ll often see on car bumper stickers in the USA now. Support our troops… but not theirs. We’re supposed to be attached to one set of human beings but not the other. Us vs. them. Me vs. not me.
On average over 150,000 people die on this planet every single day. That’s more than a million a week. Given those figures why should the deaths of people we know be any more tragic than the deaths of people we don’t? If we’re going to eventually confront the 5 Stages of Grief, why not do it up front? Move past denial and over to acceptance right now.
The dead do not require that we suffer upon their departure. All the pain we create is our own — by allowing ourselves to adopt a disempowering, fear-based context
Read more here
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
One was Zappa Plays Zappa ("ZPZ"), where Frank Zappa's son Dweezil's band is playing Frank's music; and two was The Austin Lounge Lizards ("ALL").
Perhaps the only common thread running thru both bands is sarcasm: both Frank Zappa and The Austin Lounge Lizards swim deeply in the sarcastic pools of language. Beyond that, however, the acts couldn't be much further apart.
ZPZ is your classic arena rock act. About 1,000 fans showed up at The Verizon Wireless Theater, which holds around 2,500.
ALL is your classic small-room, near-acoustic act. ALL played to a packed McGonigel's Mucky Duck, but "packed" at the Duck means there were about 100 people present.
Walking into the Verizon, the house lights were up and sitting in our seats was like being interrogated under harsh lights. When the show began, the sheer volume of sound coming from the stage was deafening. Our ears were ringing for two days afterwards.
Walking into the Mucky Duck, with their cozy subdued lighting, felt more like visiting a friends living room. Only the Lounge Lizards bass guitar was amplified, but it must have been turned up to about "2" on the dial. The other instruments, banjo, steel guitar, acoustic guitars, violin, etc., were not amplified, but it didn't really matter, since we were sitting only 20 feet away from the stage.
ZPZ was mostly about Dweezil playing guitar. For the opening tune, Frank himself was cast upon a giant video screen, and Dweezil and Frank traded licks during the tune, the name of which I can't even remember. But the effect was chillling and awesome. But then they turned off the screen and didn't use it again for the rest of the time we were there. Since this is your typical arena rock atmosphere, the crowd was separated from the stage by an orchestra pit of sorts. In other words, you will not get close to the stage.
At the Duck, the members of the Lizards were sitting around in the crowd and milling about before the show began. ALL is currently a five-man ensemble, and each one sings and plays more than one instrument. The recent pilot of the Shuttle was in the crowd tonight, and they tried to get her to get up on stage, but she was afraid. Not afraid to sit on top of 1000 tons of rocket fuel, but too afraid to get up on stage. Go figure.
The food at the Verizon is your typical large-venue variety: popcorn, hot dogs, beer and soft drinks. All overpriced. You don't go here if you are hungry. T-shirts were for sale in the lobby for $30; CD's for $20. You're going to pay $6 to park in the underground parking at the Verizon, and you can even valet your car for another $5.
At the Duck, they have an entire menu of all sorts of foods, and about 100 beers from around the world. You can have a full dinner with your show. T-shirts were $15, and so were the CD's. And it costs nothing to park around the Duck. In fact, there are no parking places at all. You have to park along the street somewhere. Valet? What's that?
Most of the ZPZ show consisted of Dweezil playing guitar solos. I admit that I am not a die-hard Frank Zappa fan that knows every bit of his prodigious output, but I had several of Frank's LP's back in the day (before they were stolen), but I still could only recognize but two of the tunes the band played. After about 90 minutes of the show, the wife started getting cramps in her back and her neck, due probably to the most uncomfortable seats on the floor of the Verizon. We left before they got around to playing some of the most recognizable tunes, but by that time, we were so beat down by the volume level that leaving was practically a blessing. Geez, I felt pretty old in that crowd. Not that it was a young crowd. Oh no. Much of Houstons aging hippy community was also in attendance. Haven't seen so much tie-dye since the 60's. And there was a hint of hard drugs hanging in the air. We didn't smell any weed, but the looks on some of the faces suggested hallucinogens or perhaps heroin. It was a rough-looking crowd.
The crowd at the Duck for ALL was almost the same: definately some old hippies in tie-dye or tropical shirts, but this crowd had a moneyed edge I didn't see for ZPZ. There was a lot of jewelry and some pretty hot babes in attendance, none of which I saw at the Verizon. I knew every tune that the Lizards played, and still they were funny. It's good to LAUGH during a show, which I did plenty at the Duck, but not once at the Verizon. The seats at the Duck could be moved, turned, whatever you needed. Not bolted to the floor like the Verizon, so the wife was much more comfortable. "The Drugs I Need" is the Lizards latest release, and I already posted the video for it earlier on this blog. At this point in our lives, we are pretty much beyond the arena rock experience. Give us the homey small-room venue, where we get to shake hands with and talk to the band after the performance. Yep, we're officially old.
Finally, ZPZ tickets were $50, and it felt like a rip-off, and the ALL went for a flat $20, and worth every penny.
Winner by a knock-out: The Austin Lounge Lizards!!
No more concerts planned until the Asylum Street Spankers touch down at the Duck in late December. Now THOSE guys are nuts.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Doc said that if She continues to suffer, we could progress to a CAT Scan to get a better look at her innards.
She tolerated the anesthesia drugs very well this time. Didn't get sick at all after leaving the hospital. Much better than most often.
The hospital charged $3200. Insurance allowed $1374, and covered 80% of that, resulting in Benefit Available of $1099.20. Patient Pays remaining $274.80. Doctor and anesthetist fees separate.
All that effort, all that money, all that time, and we find nothing. Finding nothing is a good thing, because you can rule out a lot more things now. But finding nothing is a bad thing, because whatever "it" is that is hurting Her, "it" is being elusive. Hey, let's spend thousands more dollars running tests and more tests and more tests......
The dreckmeisters at FOX NOISE, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, etc., and lots of rightard bloggers whip people up into a frenzy of hate. It really has become a toxic culture in so many ways.
We've heard about the harassment. Character assassination. The death threats. The random bullet(s) in your house. The car crash that wasn't really an accident. There are some real psychos out there.
In that paranoid spirit, in this article that was written about my grandfather in 1951, I am going to mask the names and places, mostly. I'll use "Pop" when it refers to my paternal grandfather, "Dad" when it mentions my father, "Mammaw" when it mentions my paternal grandmother, and "Dallas" when it refers to the actual town where Pop lived, etc...
In this article, Pop, like Mark Morford in his recent "Outrage Fatigue" (click here) column, is talking to me. Is he talking to you?
Some people have seen a one-man band and marvel at the person's ability to toot and beat an old assortment of musical instruments and whang out a tune. Maybe that's a crude analogy, but Pop, publisher of the Dallas News, comes close to it in producing his one-man newspaper every week.
Publishing a one-man newspaper means filling in the positions of editor, general manager, reporter, advertising salesman, copyreader, typesetter, composing room foreman, printer, proofreader, pressman, circulation manager, inserter, folder, mailer, janitor and anything else that needs to be filled in. Publisher Pop fills that order every week.
(Caption to photo at left: Pop has gathered the new stories, set up his ads and is now hand-feeding his printing press with the latest issue of the Dallas News, which he will later fold, wrap and mail.)
Pop didn't always hanker to be a newspaperman. He recalls that his boyhood ambition was to become a professional baseball player. However fate stepped in and fortune, or to Pop's way of thinking - misfortune, tapped him for the newspaper business.
His father, the late Pop, Sr., purchased the News, "sight-unseen," through a classified ad that appeared in the Publisher's Auxiliary in 1916. The publisher at that time was ol' Charlie. The News, established in 1910, has remained in Pop's family since August 15, 1916.
As a boy, Pop helped his father by working in the composing room and press room, but his blood just wouldn't mix with the printer's ink. Soon after high school, he left home and secured a position with a drug store in Oklahoma, as remote from type and presses as he could get. But it didn't last long.
(Photo at right taken in 1915 - Pop is lower right; Pop Sr upper right; LJS, Pop's grandfather in upper left; lower left is Pop's great-grandfather JMS)
In 1922, during President Harding's administration, Pop's father, being a life-long Republican, was appointed postmaster of Dallas. He called Pop home from his job in Oklahoma. "He sort of beat around the bush about it," Pop recalls. "He said he wanted to be postmaster, but he didn't want to sell the newspaper because he had an idea the Republicans were in office only temporarily. And he didn't want to lease it out because he was afraid somebody would bang up the equipment."
Being the only son, Pop resigned himself to his fate and offered to run the newspaper during his father's tenure as postmaster, which lasted until his death in June, 1928, during his second term. Thus, on April 1, 1922, after only 30 days experience, 22-year-old Pop entered the newspaper profession - "a profession that I had absolutely no desire for in my youth." Nevertheless, Pop, like many other newspapermen who curse the day they got involved in newspapering, has done little about leaving the business, since he's still running the Dallas News.
During his 30 days of breaking-in, Pop learned to set type by hand. But he could never match his sister, who could set four galleys of 10-point type a day.
Somehow, with his father's occasional help and that of his sister, Pop managed to carry on as editor and publisher of the Dallas News, oldest business institution in town. The newspaper then had a circulation of 250, an advertising rate of 15c an inch and a subscription rate of one dollar a year, "payable in cash, cucumbers or cordwood." Writing and setting ads, however, came fairly easy to Pop from the beginning, due to a background of sign painting and showcard lettering.
The News, of course, saw some changes under Pop's guidance. For 15 years it was a 4-page, 5-column handset newspaper, later going to 6-columns. After the purchase of its first Linotype some twelve years ago, the News switched to a 12-em, 7-column format and chased the ads off the front page.
Time, moreover, has changed the reluctant editor-publisher into a well-moulded newspaperman who, like many other publishers, has set out to accomplish certain goals for the good of the community. A newspaperman for some 29 of his 51 years, Pop says his chief pleasure in being a newspaper publisher has been that "of being in a position to serve the progress and best interests of the community. To speak out on the things you know to be right, and to know that you are being heard by your people whether they agree or not."
"You take a lot of country papers," he explains, "that don't take stands on things because they don't want to rock the boat. The way I see it, the hell with the boat. If it needs rocking, rock it. Some people won't like it, but some wouldn't like it if you didn't."
Boat-rocking by the Dallas News has brought results. In 1948 the town of Dallas was incorporated, and the News can claim some credit for tilting the boat in that direction. Recently the News started another boat-rocking, 20-month campaign to build a fire station and buy a fire engine. As Pop explained, tilting the boat might make a few people seasick. Nevertheless, that last campaign also paid off.
In getting out the weekly issue, there are no particular working-day habits at the News plant. "Every day is a habit with us," Pop says, "and even though it sometimes means burning midnight oil, we see to it that today's work is done today."
When Pop says "we" he means he and his only helper, Miss Billie Jean Kennard (pictured), who runs the Linotype. Pop taught her to set type on the complicated machine, which neither understands too well. Both of them learned long ago that when it stops working, it probably can be repaired by simply taking it apart and putting it back together, even though they don't know just why. When Pop purchased the Linotype in 1939, the salesman told him it would set all the News' type in half a day, leaving plenty of time for fishing and golf. "That sounded pretty good to me," Pop says, "so I bought it. I haven't had a day off since. It opened up work I never could do before, and I've been on the go hard ever since."
There is usually no hurry in getting out the News, and although his readers sometimes tell him there is nothing in it, they squawk loudly if their issue doesn't arrive on Friday. However, to Shop Foreman Pop ("It's not going to come out till I get it printed.") getting one issue out means starting in on the next. Immediately after the newspaper goes into the mail, forms are cleared of everything that is dead. Fridays and Saturdays are spent on job printing, changing regular ads, setting copy, usually the "canned stuff" that might be used the following week, and maintaining a clean office and shop.
When news needs to be brought in, Reporter Pop pushes out his motor scooter and scats around town picking up a few items. He finds it's cheaper to run his scooter than his car because of the many stops he makes in digging up stories for the News. "I get about 50 or 60 miles a gallon on this putt-putt," he says. "Once I drove into a filling station and had the oil changed and the tank filled. It only holds two gallons of gas and a quart of oil. Feller worked on it an hour and I owed him 60c. He told me not to come back."
Pop married the former Mammaw Houston in Dallas on May 25, 1922. They have two sons, Navyman JLS, a Machinist's Mate 1/c on the USS Copahee, and Dad, Navy veteran of World War II and now director of the high school band in Dallas.
When the new fire truck rolls out, Reporter Pop can usually be seen flying along behind it in his scooter to cover the story. As most country weekly editors, however, Pop is interested only in news that affects Dallas. "We don't worry about anything but local news," he says. "We let the Houston Post and the Chronicle print all that heavyweight stuff."
Summing up pretty well the attitude of most of his fellow country newspaper publishers, Pop says, "We don't compete with any other newspaper and there is no newspaper in the world that can compete with us."
Thursday, November 15, 2007
As today's NYT chronicles, the United States Bridge Federation was not amused. Its president, Jan Martel, and executive board are pushing for tough sanctions against the entire team--a one-year suspension, plus a one-year probation, 200 hours of bridge-related community service and a formal apology. Bridge Federation lawyer Alan Falk threatened team members with "greater sanction" if they reject the Federation's offer. Team members have been accused by other players of "treason" and "sedition," according to the NYT. On message boards they've been compared to the Dixie Chicks and Tommie Smith and John Carlos--US sprinters who raised a fist in salute to Black Power at the 1968 Olympics and were subsequently ejected from the games.
This is not your grandmother's card game! I've dabbled in the world of bridge myself, and as anyone who's played a tournament can tell you--bridge is ruthless. Little old ladies, so sweet pre-game, will mercilessly ruff you up once the cards are dealt. But what are the folks at the Bridge Federation thinking? The game's logic is punitive (you get spanked for bidding too high), but the game itself should not be--particularly on matters of free speech. Nothing makes the game look more backwards, small-minded and elitist than punishing a championship team for using their moment of glory to send a political message well within the mainstream of American society. What's next? Banning certain t-shirts? Buttons? Maybe bridge should only be played in uniform?
But take heart, the fabulous ladies at the center of this controversy aren't ready to make nice, and I'm glad they're putting up a fight. All across this country the common but courageous dissent of citizens is being censored and attacked. Anti-war vets calling for withdrawal from Iraq were banned from a parade in Long Beach, CA. High school students in Chicago are threatened with expulsion for staging a peaceful anti-war protest. More than a dozen anti-war protesters, fittingly wearing gags over their mouths, were arrested outside of Boston's city hall.
And the list goes on. As individual incidents, each provoke a momentary pang of sympathy, a head nod, maybe an exasperated email to your bridge buddies. But taken as a whole, I suspect it adds up to a more disturbing picture--of a nation that went quietly mad, except for a few who spoke up and were ostracized for it; of a country where politics became so estranged from everyday life, that the ordinary expression of it was called treason.
If you're mad as hell and want to support the US women's bridge team--email Jan Martel (President, United States Bridge Federation) at firstname.lastname@example.org and the board at email@example.com. Left-leaning, free-speech loving bridge players are especially encouraged!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I know how it is. You've had it up to here. There are only so many stories about blood and death and pain you can take, only so many times you can hear about random shootings and corporate malfeasance and how BushCo's squad of scabrous flying monkeys have, say, supported torture or endorsed wiretapping or gouged the nation for another $200 billion to pay for a failed war. Your nerves are raw and your heart is tired and the media will just not shut the hell up already about the sadness and the war and the mayhem and the Cheney and the doom doom doom.
Torture? Are you kidding? Allegedly the most civilized, the most morally aware nation on the planet and we are still debating, in the highest courts and government offices in the land, about whether the United States should strap human beings to gnarled metal benches in rancid foreign bunkers and inflict such inexplicable terror and fear upon them that they confess to things they didn't even do just to get us to stop? Is this the Middle Ages? Are we regressing back to the goddamn cave?
Oh my, yes, plethoric are the reasons you should be outraged indeed, and torture just might be one of the most incendiary reasons in the past few years. If nothing else, its disgusting return to U.S. political dialogue certainly means it's no time to be laying down arms in exhaustion, no matter how tempting it might be.
Take this fine example: Keith Olbermann, as is his wont, executed another pitch-perfect bout of outrage recently on his excellent MSNBC show, taking BushCo to task on the issue of waterboarding like you never hear in major on-air media anymore.
Olbermann only barely held on to his trademark fierce hyper-articulation against the sheer disgust he/we have to endure at the idea that a sitting American president obviously thinks medieval torture is a gul-dang swell idea, no matter what psychologists, military experts, ethicists, the United Nations, the Geneva Convention and Jesus himself all say.
It was wonderful, powerful stuff, a razor-sharp, highly informed media pundit who dares to presume an unusually high level of intelligence among his viewers, speaking truth to power in a way most liberal media-haters complain never really happens anymore. And of course, his subject was one of the most deserving of our moral outrage in recent history.
But then I read some of the reaction to Olbermann's diatribe on various political blogs and on some news-aggregate sites, with many saying, gosh Keith, lighten up already, who cares, enough with all the outrage and the spittle, wow I'm so sick of all this ranting and raving and gosh I'm tired of these smarty media people telling me how to think and hey maybe torture is good let's kill us some more, haw haw haw snort.
On the one hand, it is, you can argue, generally the way of the meaner-than-thou blogosphere, with all but the most professional and intelligent and positive-minded of outposts seeming to suffer an undue percentage of reactionary chyme in their comment areas, hordes of Net-drunk twentysomethings and extremists and shut-ins who have way too much free time and merely chime in to see their sneers "published" and to prove how much more jaded and apathetic they are than the next person, while adding zero to the conversation.
But maybe it's worse than that. Because this is where it can happen, where you can get sucked into the vortex of whining and bitterness and where you might feel part of yourself wanting to wallow too, desiring to avoid doing the actual moral and spiritual work of dissecting and researching and analysing something as politically messy and morally ugly as torture for yourself, opting instead for the easy path, for closing your eyes and sticking your fingers in your ears and going, nyah nyah nyah shut up shut up SHUT UP! Hey, it sure beats thinking.
Or maybe we can flip it around. Maybe, with the right intent, the exact reverse can happen, and you see this ocean of nasty ennui, this pile of oft-misspelled, poorly punctuated reactionary effluvia as, in and of itself, something to be a bit livid about.
Maybe, in other words, you can enjoy, as one blogger put it, a big dose of "fatigue outrage," the feeling of disgust you get when faced with all those people who think mental lethargy and laziness is, like, way funny, dude.
In other words, enough with the childish, frat-boy-grade complaints about media overload and too many rants and outrage fatigue. You have to earn that sort of thing. If you never give a crap about engaging the world, if you never want to think deeply about complex issues and care about ramifications and see what truly resonates with your own informed spirit and then stand up for what you believe, this pretty much eliminates your right to sneer at others who do.
It is, for me, all about modulation. It is about remembering that outrage does not necessarily equal misery. Outrage does not mean you must wallow in fear and fatalism and yank out your hair and wake up every morning hating the world and hating yourself and hating humanity for being so stupid/numb/blind and wondering how the hell you can escape it all.
Outrage is rich with humanistic understanding. It is not some evangelical Christian parent "outraged" that her kid saw a woman's nipple on TV. It is not some right-wing Family Council "outraged" that someone put S&M outfits on Barbie, or that some art gallery is displaying Jesus as a woman, or that scientists dared to say that stem cell research does not equal abortion, or that the mayor isn't taking care of all the potholes and stray kitties. That's not outrage, that's reactionary whining.
True outrage, like Olbermann's, like (occasionally, hopefully) this column's, like what you should ideally be experiencing on a daily basis while Bush is in office, is honed and sharp and poignant. It contains a powerful sense of deeply informed decency, and therefore has a true feel for when that sense has been violated. Outrage has meat and substance and intellectual nourishment. It is actually healthy.
Smart, informed outrage engages you and fires your heart, your mind. It is fuel. It is the reason you claim you enjoy being an American, to question malevolent government actions and take a stand and demand accountability where there has, for the past seven years, been none. Bottom line: We simply cannot let them convince us, by way of an all-out assault on science, sex, love, et al, that the good fight just ain't worth fighting.
After all, the flying monkeys are far from done raiding the closet and stealing your babies and making a mockery of everything wise and calm and open-hearted people hold dear. And baby, if you ain't outraged about that, something is very wrong indeed.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
This is the same General Ricardo Sanchez that personally gave the order to use unmuzzled dogs against Abu Ghraib inmates. He also approved the use of temperature extremes, sleep-cycle reversal, and bread-and-water diets. Perhaps "Rick" thinks that we have not been nasty ENOUGH on the Iraqis. This guy blames everybody and every institution except his own sadistic self.
Good article on him here, in the American Prospect.
This guy, from a poor childhood growing up in Rio Grande City, is a traitor to his race, his state, and his country. With Generals like Sanchez, it's no surprise that this is one fucked-up country.
John Nichols of The Nation on Norman Mailer's passing at the age of 84.
Mailer did not hesitate to suggest that Bush and his compatriots were setting up "a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America" and he saw the war in Iraq as an imperialistic endeavor destined--as all such attempts are--to diminish democracy at home.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Define EMG-NCV - Electro-myo-graph and Nerve Conduction Velocity. Here is a good explanation of the two procedures.
It hurt like hell. In the middle of the tests, I was lying in a sweaty heap and crying. Not a pretty picture, huh. Sweating comes easily to me. Fortunately. But not excessively, OK? But when I'm tortured, like today, I can cry pretty easily too. That's how my body reacts to intense pain. The good thing for me is that I knew the torture was going to end, and if it got too intense, I knew that I could stop the tests and that would be that.
Now, I would not want to steer anyone away from such tests if they could help you, but they hurt like hell.
Q: Does an EMG hurt?
A: Yes. (mu-hahahaha!)
I showed up for a "EMG-NCV Bilateral Lower Extremities." The slender, young female doctor was startlingly attractive. She strode confidently into the room where I waited in my surgical gown. Her full lips parted slightly as our eyes met and she placed her tiny hand in mine in greeting. My gown fell open and I placed her hand on my.....uh.....Oops, wrong audience.
I did have to shed the pants and don one of those surgical gowns that opens in the back. But I figured that, even as hot as she was, I was not going to have to worry about getting a woodie, because I knew I was about to suffer some fresh kinds of pain. Pain, for me at least, tends to, uh, diminish my sexual urges. Your mileage may vary.
She performed the NCV (aka "torture" loosely defined) test first, which means they run an electrical current through your body, via two Nazi-era-inspired "pain pads" hooked up to the generator. I mean, hey baby, amp that mother up and you've got one nasty pain machine there. She was jerking me around with between 100 and 500 milli-amps, and she could have gone much, much higher. This sexy doctor wasn't looking so sexy anymore. Was that a brownshirt she was wearing?
She jolted me about 100 times per leg. Most of them were not so bad, but some of those areas, like under the knee or between the ankle and the heel...already tender there. Ouch. Major fucking ouch. And when she'd crank it up....yee-ow.
Imagine that thing hooked up to your testicles. Or your nipples. Oh my omniscient cloud-being!
Finally she was finished with all the shocking details. Now it was time to move on to the NEEDLES portion of our funhouse.
For the EMG, she placed very sharp needles in several muscles on my legs and feet, one at a time. Felt like getting a shot. Everyone likes getting a shot, right? I couldn't bear to watch all this. I diverted my eyes to the ceiling for both tests, to the wall, the computer, especially when the needles were going into my body.
Besides sweating and crying easily, I get a pretty intense vasovagal reaction to needles being jabbed into my body, especially when they're withdrawing blood. I get that cold flush thru my body and, if I were to stand up rather quickly, would most likely faint. It was a good thing I didn't go into medicine.
I couldn't see them, but those needles had wires running from them into the computer. We were also wired for sound. She would insert the needle and a sound would be produced. Then she'd "wiggle" the needle around a bit, producing different sounds. She directed me to relax and flex the muscle, producing quite different sounds. I think she stabbed me five times per leg, and we went thru the cycle of relaxing and flexing the muscles.
I suppose that some slightly demented artist might take this technology and produce music (of a sort) by flexing and relaxing his own muscles. A veritable symphony. In fact, I'm sure someone has already done it. Some performance artist like Laurie Anderson perhaps. Or even stranger.
So now I have a baseline, at least. Maybe I'll take this test again in five or ten years (not likely!) and we can compare it to the 2007 results. And speaking of results, I go to talk them over with myMD next Monday.
Monday, November 5, 2007
GOP State Rep Resigns Amid Sex Scandal
Elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004, Curtis has voted against bills that would grant civil rights protections to gays and lesbians, and against a bill that created domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Both measures are now part of state law.
House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt said that as more details began to emerge, it was clear that Curtis "can no longer effectively represent the constituents who elected him."
Thursday, November 1, 2007
We had our candy all ready to go on the first floor. Left the lights on. And nada. Not a one. Zero. Zip.
The next-door neighbor has one of those 8-foot-tall inflatable Homer Simpson dolls (doesn't everyone?) and he put that on his roof. But nobody came.
It was a little sad.
Remember the old days? Back when we'd get all dressed up in wierd costumes and just head out the front door. The parents would glance up from their triple scotches and slur, "Just watch out for the cars!" Ah, memories.
OK, I exaggerate. It was simple vodka.
Can't do that anymore, I guess. So many crazies running around, preying on kids. But is that really new? The internet may have made it easier for pedophiles to find kids, but I think the sick urge has been there for many, many years. Just look at the church.
When we stop to think about it, we really haven't seen that many children around the neighborhood at all. Just about all adults, walking their dogs now and then. No screaming children anywhere. Total bliss.
November 1, Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) seems more "normal." Rather than celebrating spooky and silly things on Halloween and stuffing yourself with candy (like American kids need any MORE candy?!), remembering those who went before us and are now dead seems like a much more civilized behavior. Maybe I'm just old.