The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, November 30, 2009


It is now the end of November. The end of the official hurricane season (of which a total of none struck us here) and the beginning of Snowbird season. On the lower east coast of Florida, it is called the "Tourist Season". We have nothing to tour therefore we cannot have a tourist season in this part of the state.

We do, however, get visitors who spend the winter months with us. These people come down each year to escape the bad weather up north and to fill our highways, restaurants, and golf courses so that we, the year round residents, are inconvenienced. These people are called Snowbirds. A name which always seemed a misnomer. They are more aptly called Sunbirds since they come down here for the sunny climate. We have other names for them but I do not like to use profanity on this blog.

Prior to this annual migration, we can pop out to dinner at just about any restaurant in, or around, town at dinnertime and not wait for a table. We can go to the local Wal-Mart and not have to hike a block and a half from the closest parking space. We can get a doctor's appointment within a week of calling. Banks have no lines. All is right with the world.

But now? That is all over. Eden has been violated. Again. We enter into a period of purgatory where lines seem endless, roadways are clogged with the hopelessly lost, parking spaces are fought over, and restaurants are packed.

I should not complain. I have several friends who come down each year and I enjoy seeing them. These men are avid golfers who contribute their share to the betting pool. Some of them take from that pool also but not all that often. I enjoy their company and appreciate the fact that they help our businesses prosper well enough to survive the lean months of summer. Without them, this town would wither away.

It is a bittersweet time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Feet Are Cold!

Here I sit, firmly planted on my sofa, wrapped in a robe and wearing fleece lounging pants and socks. It is cold. Not by the standards of my early youth, when I was living in a more northern climate, but by Florida standards. The little temp gadget on my screen says the temp outside is 54 degrees (that's Fahrenheit) but inside it is 72. And 72 seems cold to me now.

I want you to understand why I do not use Celsius numbers. Simply put, Celsius is not definitive enough. I could get used to calling 54 degrees 12.22 but why do I need to think in decimal points? A half degree makes little difference in Fahrenheit but a big difference in Celsius. Not to mention that 30 doesn't sound very warm to me but 86 does.

But let's get back to cold. I don't like it. It's that simple. I have never really liked it, not even during those early days in New York. When winter came, it meant bundling up until I was practically immobile so I could go outside and get pelted with snowballs. Once back inside (a full 30 minutes later), it was unbundle and lay the now wet or damp clothes on the radiator. In fact, we kept socks on the radiator all during the winter. Putting those on gave us a short period of time when our feet would be warm.

Many of you may not know what a radiator is. In the days before central air and heat, people had furnaces which heated water to almost boiling. This water was piped into radiators which then heated the rooms they were in. At least in theory. It wasn't very efficient. But those radiators really kept socks toasty.

Fortunately, for me, my mother convinced my father to move the family to Florida. It only took me a year to adapt. After that, I got used to "winter" being a few a few days here and there between mid-November and the end of March.

Right now, we are experiencing "winter". Yesterday, I went to play golf in the morning and found the thermometer in the car reporting 40. This is intolerable to me. I almost turned around and went home. But this will pass. In a couple of days the highs will break into the 80's again and I will have thawed out.

I hope.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nostalgia And Dave Barry

I like Dave Barry. He is funny, creative, clever, and successful. In short, all the things I am not. But I am not jealous. A little envious maybe but not jealous. I subscribe to a feed from the Miami Herald, a terrible newspaper which dominates south Florida for no reason other than they ran most other papers out of the area. The Miami Herald was where Dave Barry first achieved success and fame. They, of course, stole him away from another newspaper, brought him to Miami and spoiled him rotten. The feed provides me with irregular links to archived columns by Dave (I am assuming he would not mind if I referred to him by his first name... mostly because he likely does not read my blog and wouldn't know, my being a nobody and all).

The reason I like Dave's work is because he views life in much the same way I do. He just expresses it so much better.

If you are unfamiliar with his writing, here is a link:

Go read it. But come back. Or, better yet, read it later after you have finished with mine. After all, you may forget about me soon after getting a taste of true talent.

In the link above, Dave writes about theme parks in Orlando. I have a special relationship with Orlando. I knew it when it was a virgin. That is, before Disney snuck in, ravished it, and left it with an addiction to theme park developers.

I lived in Orlando in 1963. At that time, Orlando was a nobody. A town primarily concerned with dairy farms and citrus groves. And a lot of very short teenage girls. It was a quaint place, even had some brick streets. We lived on the outskirts in a trailer park situated between a dairy farm on the east and a pig farm on the west. The interstate ran along the north. A wonderful place.

I immediately found friends who were of ill repute. It wasn't hard. I went to a high school which lost all its football games the year I was there and whose star football player was tossed out of most games for "unnecessary roughness" after attempting to beat up the first guy who tackled him. My friends were not the worst kids in the school. But they were close. My friends knew which bars would sell beer out the back door to the underaged and where the best hangouts were.

Even so, it was like purgatory to me. I was not in my normal surroundings. There was no beach. No motel/hotel strip where tourist girls could be found. No pool hopping, no game rooms to ply my trade as pinball hustler. Instead, there were things called "teen night clubs" where there would be local bands playing mostly Beatles songs (it was the first year of the British Invasion, after all) and soda served at the "bar". These were popular places mostly because of all the drinking of alcohol that went on outside in the parking lots.

Orlando is now a huge city, surrounded by theme parks, full of over-priced hotels and overwhelmed with traffic. Simply put, it is worse now than it was then. Something I couldn't have imagined being possible at 17.

Progress is not wonderful at times.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Being and Nothing(ness)

Today, my friends, is about nothing. Now that I am retired, nothing is important. There is nothing I must do and there is nothing I want to do. It is as if I have found my calling. I was born to do nothing. And, as often as possible, that is what I have done.

I have worked all my life, when not doing nothing, to arrive at this point. Even while working, I tried my best to accomplish nothing. And, for the most part, I was successful. Oh, there were some failures along the way where I actually achieved a short term goal or finished a project or some such thing but these were minor and of no real consequence. They hardly set me back at all.

I have been told, from time to time (mostly by ex-wives and disappointed former girlfriends), that I am good for nothing. I would just smile and thank them for the compliment. This seemed to just make them angry. For some reason, they did not understand my appreciation of their recognition of what, to me, was what I wanted out of life. It was nothing which concerned me, however.

Some men search for something all their lives. I learned early on that nothing is all around you and, therefore, much easier to find. To achieve nothing is simple but elusive. Even a little effort often accomplishes something. The trick is to deny responsibility and eschew credit when that happens. Eventually, people come to understand that you stand for nothing, that you desire nothing, and that you need nothing.

Early on in life, I took the adage "nothing ventured, nothing gained" to heart. Whenever I found myself struggling to achieve something, I would remember that wonderful phrase and redirect my efforts elsewhere.

And now I have arrived at the point in my life where I can look back and take pride in nothing. I now hold dear the proverb...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Distant First Cousins

I am off to West Palm Beach today. Why, you ask? To meet with a cousin whom I have not seen in many decades. I am not sure why. It just seems like a proper thing to do.

We weren't close. In fact, we may have only met once or twice in our youth. I only remember one time. And not much of that. I suspect it had to do with our fathers not being all that close as brothers. This is something I have learned over the years. That my father kept his distance from his siblings. The signs were always there, I suppose. We had lots of contact with my mother's side of the family, including regular visits to her mother's house, but little contact with relatives on my father's side.

Even when my father's brother Alex lived within a couple of blocks, I rarely saw him or his family. Of course, I had long since left home by then. I was off on my own own life and not visiting my parents all that often either.

So it was strange when I received an email from Tom a few weeks ago, introducing himself and asking if I was a relative. We exchanged a few emails and then agreed to meet when he next came to Florida for a visit with his wife's relatives.

I am not going to prejudge this encounter. I am sure it will be pleasant enough, though maybe awkward. It is not like we have old times to talk about or common memories to relive. I wonder if his life has been like mine. If he is closer to his brother than I am to mine. So there will be things to chat about but it might be about the gaps in our lives rather than the common moments.

My father's side of the family, much like my father, has always been a mystery to me.

Families are odd constructs. Some seem to expand with each marriage, absorbing new members, but most seem to have a dominate side. Either the maternal or the paternal relations seem to take precedence. Some even struggle with loyalties to one side or the other. Mine was, as I have said, always leaning toward the maternal. Both of my marriages have had closer ties to my wives' families than my own. I have always attributed that to my estrangement with my own siblings. But there may be something more involved.

Who knows? It may be a common thread in my DNA strand...

Monday, November 23, 2009


Let me begin by saying I AM FINE. No, not that kind of "FINE", ladies. Well, maybe I am but that's not the kind of fine I mean. I mean healthy. In good shape. However, I just spent the last 24+ hours in a hospital.

Sunday morning, I woke up with mild chest pain and pressure. Also a little shoulder pain. It persisted... for a few hours. Thus making me a little nervous. I wasn't sweaty or clammy or nauseous but I got no relief from an aspirin and I was feeling just a tad light-headed.

I would have ignored it but I figured it would ruin Faye's day having to deal with a lifeless body in the living room. Especially a quiet one. The one she usually has to deal with tends to snore (lightly, I insist) while occupying most of the couch.

So, I didn't and had Faye drive me to the emergency room. There, they hooked me up to machines, stuck an oxygen tube in my nose, took my blood pressure, temperature, and generally made a big fuss.

Everything said "no problems." However, once these people get you in the door, they want to hang onto you. Standard procedure, they tell me, is to monitor me for 24 hours. Personally, I think this is simply to maximize revenues but Faye seemed in favor of my staying overnight. She may have figured she could spend a night on the town.

The last place you can get any rest is in a hospital. Every few hours, someone comes in and wants to get your "vitals" or draw blood or do something humiliating to you. It keeps them from falling asleep at their nurses' stations, I suppose. And maybe gives them something to chuckle about.

Someone pops in at 6 PM and gives you some airline food. Well, if it had any flavoring it would be airline food. Since it has none, it must be fit for hospitals. But, since you have no way of snacking as you would at home, you are hungry enough to eat paper. Which has the same flavor but better texture than what I was served.

Just as that gourmet meal is served, in comes two nurses to attack each arm; one drawing blood with a blunt needle, the other squeezing your arm to drive your blood pressure into the stratosphere (while also sticking a terrible tasting thermometer in your mouth).

They leave soon enough, though. I suspect they time this so you will assume the food is cold because of that delay rather than realize it started that way. It was some kind of fish. With piece of cauliflower on top. Covered in some kind of bland cheese sauce. All at room temperature. Wonderful!

You have a TV which gets some of the channels you like and you settle into a marathon of L&O:SVU reruns which should put you to sleep but doesn't. So, you watch a little, read the book Faye thoughtfully brought along for you, and drift in and out of little naps.

The little naps are good practice for the rest of the night. Because starting at midnight, nurses will pop in every hour or so to annoy you and take those "vitals" or draw blood or give you pills you don't want or probably need. That will stop a little after 6 AM.

You were told the evening before that the doctor who finished at the bottom of his class will be handling your case because your doctor is too clever to show up at this particular hospital. He will coordinate with the cardiologist in regard to getting your a stress test even though everything points to heartburn or just random pointless symptoms. And you wait for this paragon of medical knowledge from then until you start whining and begging to be released from captivity to any nurse dumb enough to drop by several boring hours later.

You never do see this alleged doctor. But you do get released eventually once the nurse assigned to you has had enough of your infantile mewling and convinces the doctor to put down his pitcher of Vodka long enough to sign the forms.

And you are sent off with a couple of over-priced prescriptions for things you do not need and will likely never take and admonished to avoid infection of the IV site (which was never used but the rookie nurse needed practice inserting anyway) after it has been yanked out of the back of your hand with all the flourish of a bullfighter waving his cape.

I need to take a nap. This has been a rough day.

But I repeat, I AM FINE!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Can I Say?

The title says it all. I try to write something clever and witty each day. Except Sundays, I gave up on Sundays. Not that I don't get ideas on Sundays, it's just that I save them for other days now. I pretend it's because I need a day away from blogging but that isn't true. I'm just lazy and I have decided that Sunday is a good day to be lazy.

But today is a special day. It's Saturday. Saturdays have always been special to me. When I was young, they were a day off from school. That, alone, was special enough to make Saturdays their own special holiday. But you also could just sleep in, except your older brother would never allow that. And you got to watch cartoons on the TV all morning. Not those jerky, almost comic book ones you see today but real cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig (what's more fun than a stuttering pig?), Daffy Duck (A duck with a speech defect, of course), mostly from the War Years. There would also be Three Stooges shorts and maybe some old Red Skelton movies later on.

Yes, I and my fellow early Boomers grew up watching cartoon characters shoot, bludgeon, and playfully maim each other (followed by weird looking humans doing much the same) repeatedly and without any lasting harm. This might explain the Peace Movement of the 60's, or at least the rampant drug use. Have you ever watched the Three Stooges while high on LSD? I don't recommend it. Anymore.

But today, this Saturday, is truly special. Someone else is going to post my musing on his blog. I have no idea why Ian likes my writing. But he seems to (or pretends to, I don't care which) and that's enough for my overwhelming ego (the Thing Which Must Be Fed). And the truly special thing about this is, he is featuring it today, a Saturday. That special of all weekdays!

So, you two or three folks who are so warped (or desperate) as to read this blog, head on over here to read the incredibly boring stuff I wrote on one of the finest blogs I know.

Oh, and read the other things that have been written for his Turkey Palooza. Those are actually entertaining and some good will come from this.

And tell Ian "Thanks" for me, will you?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eat up, People in China are starving!

I've been thinking about food lately. I do this around this time every year, what with Thanksgiving approaching and all. Not that I do not think about food the rest of the year. I do. Daily, in fact. It's just that those are more mundane thoughts, You know, food as survival or to satisfy hunger pangs, that kind of thing.

Faye and I go out to eat 2 or 3 times a week. We don't have to, of course, Faye doesn't demand it. We would just not eat dinner on those days otherwise because she would not cook and I am too lazy. And inept. I haven't cooked since I was single (or separated). I have no idea how I survived. I do know I weighed a lot less than I do now.

I have noticed a trend over the years in restaurants. The traditional vegetables have all but disappeared. In their place, we now see "vegetable medleys" which are made up of all the things most All American males (and just about any child) will not eat unless forced to. Waxed Beans? Cauliflower? Asparagus? Other things whose names I do not know (or want to).

What happened to corn? And peas? And string beans or carrots? Sure, you can get these at your local Denny's or Village Inn but why not at your local steak house? Where they do not recruit the cooks at the parole office. You know, nice places.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The View From Inside

At some point in my childhood, I began to realize I was different. I mean other than the usual brown eyes and brown hair not being like the red or blond hair and blue/green/hazel eyes of the kids in the neighborhood. Or thin when others were, well, fat. Or poor at sports while others were agile. None of that, those were all understandable.

I realized I was all alone in my head.

I don't know when it happened for the first time but it came to me that I lived inside a skull and peered out through these little portals called "eyes". It would be many years before Timothy Leary would describe the human body as a "robot" we manipulate and sometimes control with our minds. But I knew that in childhood, way before LSD became popular.

I realized that each of us is alone in that same way. We have no idea what anyone else is thinking. I had all these thoughts going on inside my head, all these fantasies ('daydreams', they call them) entertaining me when I had nothing else going on, and no one else seemed to know about them unless I told them. And that was discouraged.

My brother would make fun of them, my father frown at my lack of industry (wasting time with daydreams), my mother would listen to them but dismiss them. No one seemed to think they were important. But they were... to me.

In a lot of ways, I was a lonely child. These daydreams became my escape from that. Some kids had imaginary friends, they say. I never did. There were few others in my daydreams and, if any others were there, they were seriously second tier players in the drama. The stories were always about Me.

And I was Perfect. I was strong, I was agile, I was talented, I was error-free. In short, everything I knew I wasn't in the world outside my head.

Things were so much easier before I grew up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I tried, really!

I have been sitting here trying to come up with something today and have failed. I allow myself to get distracted with crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and a number of solitaire games... just to allow some thoughts to free themselves from the muck that is my subconscious... but to no avail.

Nothing. Not even an inkling. I am an empty well. Or swamp. Or quicksand pit.

And I am running out of time. I have only 10 minutes before I must get ready to play golf this afternoon.


I'll get ready now. Why bother wracking an empty brain?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things Once Tried

Oil pressure OK... Manifold pressure OK... Fuel low but should be enough...Controls are stiff, lot of vibration... handling like a truck in mud...Still about an hour before I'll be able to see the carrier. Assuming this holds together that long... Don't worry "Sweet stuff", we'll make it just fine. Just hope your landing gear isn't shot up. Water looks cold, though, hope I don't have to ditch. Deep blue, almost black, ain't exactly like that pond I used to go skinny-dipping in back home. Where is that carrier?

The bright red bi-plane dropped 100 feet so quickly, Danny thought he was weightless and felt his stomach rise a bit. Still, he had a smile from ear to ear... he was flying! The noise of the engine and the air rushing past drowned out most of what the pilot was saying but Danny didn't care. The crowd, which had looked so small just a few seconds ago, was now large and he could recognize a few of the people down there with his father. Everyone was looking up at the plane, staring at him and the pilot while the plane dipped and climbed and turned. He was having the time of his life. The pilot yelled something Danny didn't understand but he knew what was coming. The ride would soon be over, they were making their approach to the pasture that served as the landing field. Danny felt a knot in his stomach as the ground came up quickly, the plane smoothly floated a few seconds more and then touched down on the ground. The rough surface rattled the little plane and made Danny bounce around against his seat belt. This was more fun than anything he had ever done. The roar of the engine, the wind, the speed, the feeling of weightlessness were all still in his head as he climbed out of the back seat of the Curtiss "Jenny" and ran to his dad.

"Can I go up again, Poppa? Can I please?"

"No, son, not today. We've got to get home now, your Momma will be worried." William "Big Bill" O'Donnell told his 10 year old son. "Besides, supper should be on the table soon and I'm hungry, aren't you?"

"Yes sir, I guess...", Danny replied. "Did you see when he flew between those two big trees? I wish he'd done that while I was up there! Or a loop, I really wanted him to do a `loop-dee-loop'!"

All the way home in the old farm truck, Danny made plane sounds and described his flight while his father just shook his head and wondered if he'd done the right thing letting him go on that plane ride.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Word, A Phrase, Perchance to Write

I thought about taking today off. After all, as a blogger, I am my own boss and that makes it up to me. And it isn't like I have to worry about missing a day's pay since I get no pay for this alleged job. But I already take Sundays off and you might think I was (a) stretching my weekend or (b) nursing a hangover.

My weekends already stretch from Sunday to Sunday since I am retired. And I was too ill to consider drinking for the past several days. Though now I am thinking I may have overlooked an opportunity to feel a little better. And I could have mixed it with the codeine laced cough medicine the doctor prescribed.

So, those would be false assumptions on your part, readers. No, the real reason for my lack of posting would have been a lack of something clever, fascinating, intriguing, or enticing to write about.

Sometimes I get ideas from what I read and, currently, I am reading Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. I have meant to read this for some time. As a child, I watched just about every Frankenstein movie ever made. And there are many. But Hollywood never did justice to most classic horror novels. You just cannot capture all the nuances the author inserts into his (or, in this case, her) work. References are lost because they do not have a modern counterpart. A Pre-Victorian mindset cannot be understood in more liberal and modern times. Modern day humans cannot relate to the poor state of medicine and human health of the early 1800s.

Ah, but the prose! The beauty of the phrasing and the dance which is the polite exchange between the characters! The difference between the privileged classes and the common people was vast and we have only the writings of those people of privilege because they were the only ones who could write. It is a distorted view, therefore, of the time. But still so beautiful.

[From a preface "letter"]

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday; and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare, and increased confidence in the success of my undertaking.
[about his goal, the North Pole]
There, Margaret, the sun is for ever visible; its broad disk just skirting the horizon, and diffusing a perpetual splendour.

No one writes like that anymore. Modern phrasing seems so drab, so stilted, compared to it (though my Friend at Irish Gumbo makes it sing and reverberate in the soul). I would listen to Shakespeare being read (or acted) and would not understand much of it because I was lost in the music of a language so eloquently expressed. I watched Deadwood because it was done in Shakespearean style, in spite of the rampant profanity, and not for the story.

And now we have texting, which is a sort of unruly shorthand.
Does the advancement of humankind mean the advancement of coarse cheapness of language?

I hope not.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Snakebites

Medusa seems pleased with her new look. The Stepchild behaved and did not raise a ruckus while all this went on. The process was long, though, because I needed to do a backup for safety before starting the upgrade. That went well but ate up a couple of hours.

The upgrade itself took longer. Longer than I thought it would (or should) and there were times I thought it was "stuck". It tried my patience. For a lazy and indifferent person, I have amazingly little patience.

Before I do an upgrade, or any major change, I search the net for reports of problems and the experiences of others doing the same. There was only one problem that seemed to warrant an official response from MS regarding my particular upgrade situation. And that problem did not arise for me.

A few things look a little different, some have changed considerably, and it will be a little while before I am comfortable with this new operating system.

For example, I like to use Wordpad to write my blog posts. It's simple, uncluttered, and does the job for me. Well, of course they have changed Wordpad and cluttered it up a bit. If I used it to write letters, I might like it. It's much more full featured, closer to a real word processor now. Though you won't confuse it with a full word processor.

You can rotate your wallpaper now without installing a third party utility. That's a nice feature, though setting it up was a little confusing to me.

I am not enthused with the mail program it supports; Windows Live Mail. This is actually part of a suite of programs, most of which I have no use for either because I have perfectly good substitutes or because I have no interest in the purpose of the program. I liked the old one. In fact, I liked Outlook Express from way back. Yeah, I'm pretty hopeless. But it seems like everything is geared toward connecting to as many others as possible and on a practically constant basis. That is definitely not me. I like my privacy, my own space, not MySpace or Facebook. I confess, I don't Twitter either.

All seems well here, though, so I suppose that means I have two more machines to upgrade. I learned nothing special from doing this upgrade that might help others perform one smoothly. I did install Windows Live Mail ahead of time, just so I wouldn't have to do it later. And I did run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and got (and installed) whatever driver updates it thought I would need.

And it all went without any profanity being spewed. Day-um!

Giving Medusa a Perm

I am feeling so much better today that I thought I would do something dangerous and possibly mind-boggling. Upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. I have no problem with Vista, it seems to run remarkably well but I have been exposed to Windows 7 and like what I see.

I am not so foolish as to upgrade all three Vista computers at the same time so I have selected a guinea pig, my laptop. Of the 4 functioning computers in the house, it is the most expendable. If I mung it up, I can do a recovery on it and, hopefully, restore it to its previous glory. If I can't restore it completely then it is no loss since it contains nothing that does not already exist on two of the other desktops.

There is a reason its name is Stepchild.

I have done upgrades before and they have gone well so I likely have a false sense of security here. But I also know that the odd disaster can strike at any time. So, I am making my recovery disks (a task I ignored when I first got the laptop) and then doing a full backup to an external HD. This will take a few hours.

If things go as planned, I will be fully a third of the way through my household upgrade plan by the time the Dolphins beat the Buccaneers this afternoon.

But then things never go as planned, do they?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A New Day Dawns

Photo by Sam Javanrough

Today appears to be better. Life has possibilities again.

Getting sick has always had mixed messages for me, conflicting thoughts and meanings. Some part of me likes being ill. Perhaps it reminds me of the attention my mother lavish on me when I was ill as a child. She was not inattentive at other times, of course, but was more so when I ran a fever. At the same time, I do not like being even a little helpless.

I do dream better when I am sick, especially if I run a high fever. The dreams are long, dark, convoluted and mysterious yet filled with lunacies. I wake without feeling much rest physically but mentally refreshed. Unless I take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) quickly after waking, the dreams and their possible meanings quickly dissolve back into my subconsciousness.

I know I dreamt last night and I know it was one of those dreams but I have no idea just what it was. Like shadows from someone, or some thing hiding behind a tree at the edge of a deep and dark forest, bits and pieces almost take shape but are just as quickly lost in the sunlight.

I am sure that dreams like these have some purpose in healing the body. At least I hope so. I'd hate to think they were glimpses into the malevolent beast which we wall up behind civilized behavior in order to live among others.

One has hope on such mornings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Still Ailin'

After spending a mostly sleepless night of drowsing for an hour, hacking and coughing for a few minutes, back to drowse mode for a half hour and so on for a grand total of maybe 3 hours' sleep, I made an executive decision to go to the hospital in the sad delusion that they might actually be able to do something for me.

They could, and they did. They could take 3 hours to check my vitals and get an X-ray of my chest. So they did. They also took a nasal swab. This last made the trip worthwhile. It is basically a cotton swab which they gently, but firmly, ram up your nostril until it reaches your frontal lobe. Or your eyeball. Whichever stops it first. They do apologize so that makes it all just fine, right?

The X-ray is the second fun part. First, you wander a half mile or so to radiology. Radiology labs are always far away. I suspect they are concerned about leakage. Or explosions. Radiology is also the coldest place in the hospital. This makes all metal and plastic surfaces about the temperature of the average refrigerator interior. Your chest will verify this when they position you for the procedure. The radiologist also apologizes.

In the positioning, they make you push your shoulders unnaturally forward until they make contact with the metal or plastic and then tell you to relax your shoulders. No, I haven't figured out how to do that either.

After everything is ready and you are in the most uncomfortable position possible for the body part being X-rayed, they dawdle for a bit while the real tech teaches the novice trainee what to do. After a couple of orders to take a breath and then hold it, they bombard you with radiation that your body isn't properly equipped to handle. Then they turn you sideways into another equally uncomfortable position and take another picture.

The above process is even more fun if they are trying to get a good 3 or 4 pictures of that broken bone you managed to sustain doing something stupid. Fortunately for me, I had no broken bones and the process was only mildly annoying.

You then get to wander back to the emergency room and sit in the examining cubicle for the remainder of the time. In my case, that would be another 2 hours of watching my blood pressure drift up and my oxygen saturation dip lower.

About 1 and 1/4 hours into that period the doctor, who had stopped in for a lengthy 15 seconds to check you out when you first got there and after the nurses were through with the vitals and swabs and forms to sign, returns to tell you he can't find anything really bad but will give you a couple of prescriptions for drugs that will likely do nothing, but will satisfy his deal with the drug companies, with the usual admonitions about not smoking (which you have told them you do not 3 or more times already).

And then all that is left is for you to pay the bill. Since I have health insurance, it will only cost me $75 to waste 3 hours of my life and get medication that will likely do nothing. Well, the medication will cost me more money at the drugstore so let's up that figure to $89.

I don't feel better either. But I did get a nifty blue surgical mask to keep for my very own.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm Ailin' and Wailin'

I knew this would happen. I have the flu. Possibly/probably the Evil Swine H1N1 Flu. We're not supposed to call it the "swine" flu anymore. The pork industry got upset, said it was adversely affecting their sales or something. But H1N1 looks like we should pronounce it "high-nee" which doesn't make me feel any better.

Let's go over the symptoms:

Fever - Mild but there.
Lethargy - Doesn't mean much, I am always lethargic. It's a talent of mine.
Runny nose - Yeah, had to chase it down a couple of times last night.
Sore throat - Oh yeah! I have never had one this sore.
Coughing - Yes, an increase there.
Diarrhea - Not yet.
Nausea and vomiting - Also not yet.

So it isn't official yet. It may as well be. I am a basket case when I am sick. Miserable. I just want to be left alone and, when I am, I resent the lack of care and attention.

Worst of all, I will be unable to play golf this afternoon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You have an update waiting...

Every so often, my little PCs get a notification of a Java platform update. Simple little thing and Java is a useful platform for various things which I enjoy... like those daily crosswords and jigsaw puzzles online.

But each time these updates arrive, a part of it attempts to install a "Yahoo Toolbar" in my browser. I have to UNcheck the box which gives the Java update installer program permission to add a feature which I do not want.

Why is that?

Simple. If the user is not paying close attention (and most of us aren't), we just click on the "continue" button so we can get this update stuff out of the way and move on to the truly important things in life... like solving those crossword and jigsaw puzzles.

It is much later that we realize we have a new toolbar add-on that we did not want nor will likely use.

And Java is not the only one that does things like this. Many useful programs and utilities do the same, or similar, thing during updates or installations.

For instance, after setting up Frances' new computer, I added the common printer for her. That printer is one she must access through our home network and my machine. It is an HP printer/scanner/copier. To install this, of course, one needs the drivers for said printer/scanner/copier installed. I download these from HP's support site (because I long ago lost misplaced the CD which came with the printer/scanner/copier) and dutifully install them.

In doing that, I also added in two extra useless utilities. Useless to me and Frances, not to HP. One is a quick link to shopping at the HP site and the other is an HP update utility. The former can be ignored, it's just an icon on the desktop, after all and the icon can be deleted. The latter is actually a utility that goes out behind your back and checks for any possible update HP might have that even remotely has anything to do with your machine. That one must be uninstalled through one's Control Panel.

I use AVG Free currently as my virus checker. It's a nice program which apparently works well and doesn't cost me anything. I appreciate that Grisoft makes it available to me and anyone else who is too cheap to pay for some bloated virus checking suite that does more than you really need.

The only beef I have is that they upgrade the version from time to time and act like you are about to be invaded by Viral Aliens from another dimension who gobble up all your valuable data if you don't do the upgrade. And, when you do try to upgrade, they make it very difficult and/or confusing to find that Free version. You can easily find yourself loading up that Not Free, bloated, version which you do not really want for your little personal computer and sending off your credit card number out into the ether.

It takes careful reading and an agile mind to circumvent these cyber-marketing tricks.

At least, I like to think so.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Sunday Night Rituals

Each Sunday evening the family performs the "Bring out your trash" ritual. I ask the Mistress if all of the trash has been gathered and placed in, or near, the official receptacle in the kitchen. The womenfolk scurry about, harvesting the now full small bags from the various waste baskets which occupy the strategic corners of various rooms while I wait, patiently, at the official receptacle. Sometimes, but not always, I will make use of this period to prepare the sacred coffee-maker for the morning coffee ritual.

Once the trash has been gathered and put in the larger bags, tied up snugly, and transferred to the great receptacle in the garage where it waits until the morning to be placed at the curb for the first of two weekly offerings to the Giant Green Truck.

After this has been accomplished, and the sacred coffee-maker is made ready for its morning ritual, the family gathers around the Great Screen to begin the Observance.

The Observance is, of course, the weekly installment of "Dexter" on Showtime. This is when we marvel at the musings of the main character in this morality play, Dexter himself, as he decides who he should kill and how he should meld his normal family into his serial killer life.

We snicker at the potty-mouthed detective-sister, the lustful lieutenant in charge and her paramour sergeant, the disgusting and often shunned forensic investigator Masuka, the "dirty cop" Quinn, and so many more.

If you are not a Dexter Adherent, you will not understand the need to follow this story. You will think it mere entertainment and miss the subtlety of the various sub-plots and foibles of the main characters.

We, who understand and relish, forgive you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Odd Thoughts and Phrases

I have noticed that I write some of my best "stuff" while commenting on someone else's blog. The other best "stuff" comes in small bits and pieces that pop into my mind from time to time but which I can never flesh out into complete blog articles.

Here are some examples:

This is always my problem, I write something, think it's wonderful, post it pridefully, and then browse about the blogs finding talent so far above me that I get depressed and contemplate mass murder and suicide. I never actually carry that last bit out because, essentially, I am lazier than I am fanatical.


I lay quietly in my bed, trying to sleep, Faye snoring softly beside me (or it could be someone with a chainsaw in the bathroom... except that a chainsaw would be more rhythmic).


I envy the British style of wit. I don't know why, it just seems so clever. That and the accent seems to permeate it even in the written form. That accent, by the way, apparently appeals to Americans in such a positive way that it is used in commercials to sell all manner of things.


Americans are suckers for foreign accents. A talking Gecko using some odd combination of Australian and British has made a certain insurance company quite happy and well known. There's the Outback commercials, of course. And all sorts of lesser ones from possibly Russian ("breathe, my friend, breathe!") to Indian (Asian, not American). Sometimes the admen use Brooklynese (which is practically foreign anyway) or New Englander. I would add in Canadian but I am not sure if that is foreign or domestic.


I have been awful clumsy lately. Yesterday I stubbed my toe on a protruding corner when attempting to exit the bathroom. This culminated into a stumbling sort of lunge through the doorway, scraping my right arm across the doorjamb and finally tumbling onto the bed in severe pain. Oddly, nothing was broken or even sprained.

This morning, as I closed the door to the screen porch behind me managing to scrape my left heel in the process. I haven't been this clumsy since shortly after entering puberty.


A footnote:

I will likely be hopelessly compelled to disjointedly tell the story of The Cough over the next couple of weeks. Just a warning.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Cough - The Picc Line Story

Once upon a time there was The Cough. It was a nasty cough, this one, and it bothered its owner enough to actually ask his doctor about it. It got worse. Much worse. And over the next two years became the controlling factor in his life.

The owner was/is me. The full story of The Cough would take many blog articles. After all, the entire saga played out over two years. It was quite a medical drama. It shouldn't have been but it was.

The story of its origins will have to wait for another day, this one is about Picc Lines.

A Picc Line is long, slender catheter that gets inserted into a vein and pushed up through said vein until it is within a few inches of the heart and is used for the delivery of antibiotics over an extended period of time. Because The Cough was caused (or made worse) by a bacterial infection and the offending bacteria was situated deep in the lungs (and may have been somewhat resistant to many routine antibiotics), the Picc Line was the delivery method of choice.

In the course of the two years of The Cough, I had two Picc Lines inserted. Within a year.

This is the story of the second.

I had been getting along quite well actually. I was using two inhalers (albuterol and Flo-Vent) to keep my airways open along with excessive doses of Ciprofloxacin (antibiotic) and small doses of prednisone (a steroid and all around wonder drug). I had just returned from a visit to San Diego and Las Vegas and was feeling fine. My infectious diseases specialist decided I should try a different antibiotic, one that allegedly was supposed to be designed for our suspect bacterium.

So I did. Three days later, I was headed for the emergency room with severe breathing problems. My O2 saturation level was 61% which is not very good. It took them some time and three nebulizer treatments to bring it up to where they felt comfortable putting me in a room where I would spend the next 6 nights.

The next day I was scheduled to have a Picc Line inserted. This time by a surgeon, guided by a fluoroscope.

I was wheeled down to the radiological rooms where I met the illustrious surgeon. I was stretched out on a table, machines put into place, left forearm swabbed with antiseptic, and told how simple the procedure was.

I had already had one inserted less than a year before. That time by a nurse who merely made a small incision, inserted the catheter and ran it the distance her previous rough measurement indicated. I was then wheeled down to the X-ray folks who confirmed she had done a great job.

This time, the surgeon chose to do it a little differently. After the small incision, he inserted a guiding catheter, which has a larger diameter than the actual Picc Line catheter, into which he intended to insert the actual catheter I would be using. All guided by watching the fine gray scale picture of the inside of my arm and left chest area shown on the fluoroscope. A safer procedure, he said.

So, naturally things went wrong.

The guide sheath failed to insert properly and then had to be removed. It had slipped further in than it should have. That is, the near end had moved into the vein rather than staying at the opening. This was one of those "oops!" moments you do not want to have happen when a procedure is being performed.

In the process of retrieving this sheath, the sensation of having my arm turned inside out was felt. The small incision got a bit larger. And my anxiety sharpened.

After the alleged surgeon finished torturing me, he informed me that "we'll have to insert it in the other arm."

To which I replied, "Not now and not by you."

Three hours later, the Picc Line was neatly and painlessly inserted in the right arm by a nurse in less than 3 minutes from the time I entered her room.

While waiting for X-ray to confirm the nurse did the job properly (she had), the alleged surgeon happened by, saw me, and profusely apologized for the problems and discomfort he caused me. Whereupon I informed him of the quick, painless, and excellent job the mere nurse had done not long before.

He walked away in a huff.

I still have the scar on the inner elbow area of my left arm. Necessitating that all future intravenous procedures be done on my right.

Thanks a lot, Doc.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I'd like to write something light-hearted, even funny, today. It might even be what we need. But I can't. You see, I know what it is like to be in the military. I know what a military base is like. There is no other place where you can feel as safe, as secure, as a military installation. Access is controlled, weapons are only in the hands of those maintaining the security of the base. And my time in the military was at a time when we weren't worried about terrorism. Security is even higher now.

But you cannot defend against craziness. Reportedly this major, a military psychiatrist, was harboring deep anger and mental conflict. Reportedly, there were earlier signs of this but they were overlooked. There will be inquiries, and finger-pointing, and all that 20/20 hindsight that goes with these things. Nothing will come of that. Except maybe more rational people will be inconvenienced by alleged "safeguards" implemented to prevent future incidents.

They will be of no real utility.

I do not directly blame this man's religion. I do wonder about the military's illogical handling of him if the reports of his past behavior and allegedly expressed feelings are true. But I understand the military's unwillingness to admit to error in personnel matters.

My heart goes out to the victims and to their families.

Please give to service related charities.

Please thank a serviceman when you run across one.

Please seek counseling if your anger and frustration grows to a point where it consumes more than 10 minutes of your waking hours.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Musing Further

The other day I posted an article about relationships. It wasn't especially good and, like much of my writings, failed to be clear on what my thinking was. Fortunately, the two commenters grasped it, possibly unwittingly.

We don't seek out the most successful of our relationships. We just find ourselves in them.

We pursue our interests, our hobbies, the things that give us satisfaction or pleasure, and we find ourselves around like-minded people. From that common ground grows our finest crop. Especially if the common ground is deep and rich. For example, I made some good friends at work but these were rare because my view of what I did was quite different than most of my peers. Only those who had strong similar outside interests became my friends. The rest remained just acquaintances.

Another thought was brought up and that is how we view ourselves. I know that many of the bloggers are gregarious, outgoing, friendly people. But some of us are quite introverted. I know I am. There are reasons why I am and there is little I can do about those except try to understand them.

I will never find common ground in bars, at dances, and social gatherings. I am at my most uncomfortable there. I am that proverbial "wallflower" (a strange way to describe a man), I hang back on social life and let others mingle.

I wonder how many more are like me in the blogosphere?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Easily We Err...

The things people send me are often amusing. Being lazy, I thought I would pass this latest one on without comment....

Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn't you say?

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter

This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this. It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!!! They put in a correction the next day.

I just couldn't help but send this along. Too funny.
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
No crap, really? Ya think?

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Now that's taking things a bit far!

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
What a guy!

Miners Refuse to Work after Death
No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
See if that works any better than a fair trial!

War Dims Hope for Peace
I can see where it might have that effect!

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
Ya think?!

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Who would have thought!

Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
They may be on to something!

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?

Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge
He probably IS the battery charge!

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Weren't they fat enough?!

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
That's what he gets for eating those beans!
---------------- ---------------------------------

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Do they taste like chicken?

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
Chainsaw Massacre all over again!

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
Boy, are they tall!

And the winner is....
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Did I read that right?

Monday, November 2, 2009

On Relationships

Human beings like to form relationships. Well, most do. Those that don't we call anti-social or hermits or recluses. And we shun them. Which may be exactly what they want us to do.

But all of us run into a problem when we move to a new town or get a new job. We need to build new relationships, form new friendships, fit in to our new environment. We are, after all, social animals.

Since I have moved around a lot in my life. Mostly just avoiding that moment when the unruly crowd with the tar, feathers, and rail show up. I think I have become an expert of sorts on the subject.

I have determined there are 4 factors that we need to address when considering relationships:

1. How do you determine what people are the ones you want to form relationships with?

2. How do you meet those people?

3. What is the secret of being "popular"?

4. What should you do to "fit in"?

Number 1 is easy. And it ties in with factor number 2. The people you want to meet are people with like interests. For instance, if you like to bowl, go to the nearest bowling alley and chat with the people behind the counter. But only if they are your age. If you are, uh, "mature" and the person behind the counter has acne, various piercings, and purple hair then you might ask where the manager is. Chatting up the local punks will not lead to satisfying relationships. Ask about bowling leagues. Join one. If you play golf, check out the local golf courses, ask about leagues or groups. There will be more than one of these, try each of them out. Some group will have several people you will find you like. All will have several you can tolerate and a few you cannot stand. Only you can decide if the balance is in your favor.

Don't go to places that are not of interest to you. Atheists are seldom welcome at fundamentalist churches, for example. Strip clubs may seem like friendly places, and they are certainly popular, but I have rarely found lasting friendships in them.

Do not crash parties you see as you drive by. That may have worked in high school (and college) but there comes a time when it is not productive.

Do not be afraid to discuss politics, religion, or anything else. Controversial topics are often said to be taboo if you want to fit in. But if you feel strongly about certain things, you won't be happy with people who don't. You may get along with them because, well, it isn't hard to get along with those without passion. But you will be bored and they will not become close friends.

Factors 3 and 4 are inter-related. Being popular should never be a goal. You either are, or aren't. If people like you, it's because you are a good friend, you are honest without being cruel, and you tend not to drool much. But you really shouldn't try to change anything about yourself in order to fit in. Change only those things about yourself which annoy you. Like that drooling problem.

Nobody likes droolers.

Trust me on that one.