Sunday, April 29, 2007

We have been in our favorite place for the past week, Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Missouri. Caught up on some reading and only attended one show. The show will be featured in an upcoming blog.
Wanted to say a word about a great book I read on the trip. The Speed of Dark is a remarkable book that puts the reader inside the mind of an autistic young man. Lou Arrendale is a highly functioning autistic, as a matter of fact he is near genius. The reader sees the world from his point of view and amazingly it’s a refreshing perspective. He works for a drug company, is an expert fencer, a lover of classical music and learns complex subjects at an astonishing rate. He lives in an orderly world and sticks to a very ridge routine that allows him to function in this chaotic world of “normals.” He is not hampered by many of the human emotions that affect “normals”, such as jealousy, competition, hatred and anger. He has been trained in many social skills but he often raises questions about their meaning. He is, however, falling for one normal emotion, love. He has been stricken by the love bug for one of his fellow fencers.
Darkness does disrupt his wonderful existence by a very threatening individual. This forces him to cope with many unpleasantries that play havoc with his established routine and perplex him in understanding why something like this would happen. A very demanding boss at work also complicates his life. The greatest disruption comes when he is confronted with an ethical and life changing decision about taking a drug, developed by his company, which will make autistics normal. It is an experimental drug and Lou and his fellow autistic workers are coerced into making the decision about becoming human guinea pigs to become normal. The book is great portrait of an autistic but it is also the story of the dilemma of changing a human live to so called “normal” and the ethics for using humans as subjects for experimentation.
I was a little astonished at the conclusion. As for me, I was greatly enlightened about the world of an autistic. In many ways it is far better that the world of the so called “normal.” It would be nice to be as pure at heart and as focused as Lou Arrendale.
As far as the Speed of Dark is concerned, that is one for the theoretical physicist. It is said that darkness is the absence of light. Before light comes into a place it is dark, so darkness was there first and must be faster. Lou said, “dark is always there waiting ; it is, in that sense, always ahead of the light. He said he was glad, because it means he will never come to the end, chasing the light.
The book is by Elizabeth Moon a well-known writer of science fiction who lives in Florence, Texas. Her husband is Dr. Richard Moon who acquainted me with her writings. They are most interesting people and the parents of an autistic child. Her web site is definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The monstrous tragedy at Virginia Tech, which occurred yesterday, was the largest school massacre in US history. It was not the first and will, unfortunately, not be the last. The violence is certainly occurring more frequently. The Columbine High School massacre is the one that most quickly comes to mind. More recently an Amish School in Pennsylvania was the site of another slaughter of innocent children by a madman. Outside of the school setting, the last big massacre in the US was at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen in 1991 where 23 people where slaughtered.
The massacre that came closest to my family is now all but forgotten. The bombing at the Poe Elementary School in Houston Texas (pictured above) on September 15, 1959 killed one of my cousins. He became a hero and later a school in Houston was named in his honor. He was James Arlie Montgomery and he is buried in our family cemetery, The Union Groove Cemetery in Montgomery County.
The Poe massacre killed six people including the perpetrator and his son. The deranged killer came with his son to Poe School on the morning of September 15, 1959. He wanted his son enrolled in school but was told he would have to return with a birth certificate for the child. He went onto the school ground during recess and approached a teacher. He handed her a piece of paper and muttered something about the will of God. He was carrying a brown suitcase. The teacher became suspicious and called for the principal and for Arlie Montgomery, the school custodian, and the only male on the campus. The man asks for all the children to gather around in a circle. Arlie Montgomery, recognizing that there was potential danger, ushered the children inside the building. He returned to the site where the teacher was now talking to the man. The madman opened the suitcase that detonated a bomb, killing six people including Arlie Montgomery, a teacher. the perpetrator, his son and two other children. The bomb exploded under a maple tree. The tree was completely denuded of leaves and a six-inch deep hole was made in the asphalt. Body parts were scattered for over a block. The bombers hand was found in a scrub a block away and his shoulder found on top of a building across the street. Later he was found to have served a couple of terms in prison and was a safe cracker.
Arlie Montgomery had no idea what was in store for him when he left home on the morning of September 15. He was a kind, innocent man who loved children and did not deserve to die the way he did. Arlie Montgomery is one of my heroes.
School massacres are not new and will continue as long as we have disturbed people running loose. Unfortunately, there is no good way to contain or even identify the disturbed people or those who are fanatically radical like the terrorist we now fight against, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives, because they think they are right in killing the infidels.
For now I mourn the death of the innocent victims at Virginia Tech along with my cousin James Arlie Montgomery.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

One of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, died today. It makes me very sad to lose someone like him. He was very funny and a master of satire. Kurt Vonnegut was the modern day Mark Twain. He loved Mark Twain almost as much as I do. Both used humor to keep the awfulness of life at bay. We sure need someone to replace both of these giants in this day and time, but unfortunately there isn’t anyone of their caliber on the horizon.
Vonnegut wrote such great books as Slaughterhouse–Five, Breakfast of Champions, Cat’s Cradle and Galapagos. I especially loved Galapagos. It’s about a boat-load of people who were touring the Galapagos Islands which is famous for Darwin’s book and his theory of evolution. The people on this tour boat were the sole survivors when everyone else in the world suddenly died. The time jumps ahead a million years and the descendants of this handful of people had evolved backward, so they could fish with big jaws which they had developed and they would dive for their food. They no longer needed big brains to survive and constantly referred to their “big brained ancestors.” The book was classic Vonnegut, making fun of us today.
He viewed the environmental problems of today with greenhouses gases and global warming as the immune system of the planet being activated to purge and cleans itself from the disease know as mankind. Vonnegut was considered to be a Humanist. As a matter of fact he was Honorary President of the American Humanist Society. He said,” a humanist is someone who tries to behave as decently, as fairly, and as honorably as they can without any expectations of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. Like Mark Twain, he poked fun at our views of religion but he also said, “ if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with it’s message of mercy, and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.
I don’t know were Kurt Vonnegut is now. He said, “if anyone said he was in heaven it would be the world funniest joke.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he is not doubled up with laughter now as we are all enjoying the world’s funniest joke.
I know I will miss his writing. I plan to read a lot of it again when I retire. My reading list is really getting long but his books are going to be on top. At least I feel a little better now after writing about him. It was kind of like going to a memorial service to say thank you.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I have decided, it’s time for me to move to India. Most of the people have apparently left that country and are now living in the US. Most of the doctors and high tech people in the US are now from India. The few remaining in that country are doing the outsourcing jobs from US companies. Whenever I have a problem with my computer or some high tech piece of equipment to support the computer I am put in contact with someone in India who is speaking from a cubical, surrounded by many others performing the same function, talking to stupid Americans. I can barely understand their nasal, high-pitched voice, spoken with a rapid staccato like the sounds made by plucking a string instrument. For me, an old, partially deaf, dummy Texan, it is unintelligible.
The other day when we had a freak snowstorm in Central Texas, at Easter, my electricity went out. I tried to call TXU. I was connected to their automatic answering machine and found myself punching 1 for this and 2 for that, all the way up to what seemed like a hundred options. I would then get looped back to 1 or they would say thank you for calling TXU. I had to give them my account number which I couldn’t find in the dark and certainly don’t have memorized. At my age I have trouble remembering my birthday and social security number. After about an hour, I was lucky enough to get a human, I think. She was in India trying to help me get my electricity on in Salado, Texas by a company called Texas Utilities. I wasn’t sure she understood a word I was saving because I sure didn’t understand her. The only thing she kept repeating was, “estimated time of service 2 AM.” She answered every question with, “estimated time of service 2AM.” I might as well have been talking to my granddaughter’s talking doll. I looked around to see if I was on Candid Camera, but it was too dark for a camera to see anything.
Everything is being outsourced to those folks in India, even my job of reading X-Rays and they don’t have to worry about getting sued. They may already be doing robotic surgery from India.
The only thing that keeps me from going is that I love beef, to eat. I also hate snakes, especially cobras and I don’t care about bathing with everyone else in the Ganges River. I guess for now I will just stay at home and enjoying hamburgers and bathing in a cold shower because I have no electricity.