Monday, June 30, 2008

I recently visited with some high school friends. To say they are high school acquaintances naturally means they are senior citizens. We get together a couple of times a year and their faces are very familiar to me, so they really don’t look old. As they speak, I still visualize them as being eighteen years old. On this occasion, there were acquaintances from the distant past that I hadn’t seen in over 50 years. I didn’t recognize these folks at all. They had grown old, grey, fat and wrinkled and when I compared them to the pictures in my high school yearbook there was no resemblance to the person I once knew. The lack of change associated with familiarity is a strange phenomenon. The same idea applies to many things we live with including furniture and cars. In my case it sure applies to many of the books I own. A high school annual I looked at this weekend seemed like it was issued only yesterday and I expected the people to look the same.

I like to meet with these old high school friends. We don’t brag about our accomplishments because they already know who we are and don’t need to be impressed. We talk a lot about our mutual friends who have passed on and reminisce about the way it was. These conversations bring into sharp focus the difference in life in our small town of today and times past. In the 50’s the small towns built around a courthouse square were the center of activity. Most of the shopping was done in the stores around the square and there was everything, ranging from groceries, clothing and medicines to hardware. The banks, doctor’s offices and even the lawyers were located around the square. The malls and Wal-Marts changed all this forever. The buildings are now empty shells or boarded in front with not even an echo of a solitary footstep. It’s a haunted place, especially after dusk. Not even the homeless frequent the place; even they are afraid of the ghost who occupies the dwellings which stand like the remains of an ancient civilization.

None of my high school friends are wealthy folks. Their greatest wealth is in the richness of their memories and their moral fiber. They have all worked hard and are now retired. Virtually all are conservative in their thinking and represent Middle America. The topics of conversation are not only about the past but about the concerns for the future. They are not especially critical of the lack of government action to solve things like the energy crisis. They are not quick to blame the government like many folks who are from the mold of Huck Finn’s father at one end of the spectrum and the intellectual at the other end. They are more concerned with the loss in the moral compass that America has followed since it began.

Our ramblings are just talk and there is probably nothing substantive that will change anything. Even if we came up with the solution for the energy crisis or a good way to end the Iraq War, I’m sure no one would listen. No one seems to represent us but they sure don’t mind taking or tax money. The best thing we can do is to continue to appreciate what we once had and what we once looked like. I keep the high school yearbook on the porch to remind me of those more pleasant times. I am more fortunate than most, because my partner was also my high school sweetheart and I am reminded of those times daily. I really don’t live in the past. The past lives with me in the present.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

It’s the time of year that I give my annual lectures to the medical students. I have been giving the lectures for over 25 years and they are still fun for me. I try to flavor them with a few stories from my experience in medicine and also stories of medical history. The stories are usual meant to be humorous and to illustrate a point. For the most part, I think the students enjoy the lectures as indicated in their evaluations. I continue worrying that I am going to get into trouble with some of my remarks that push the envelope regarding political correctness. The Anglo- American male is now in the minority in the class so my opportunity for making some offensive remark is now wide open. I occasional make reference to something in the Bible, not in an attempt to convert anyone, but to illustrate a point. This is bound to offend some of the atheist and Muslims in the audience. Since I am retired and am not even compensated for my lectures, I don’t care much about political correctness anymore.

One of my favorite authors is a fellow named Ferrol Sams, a retired family physician in Georgia. He is a great storyteller. He has written several books and short stories. He started writing at age sixty and most of the stories are autobiographical and draw on his vast experience. I’m pretty sure Ferrol Sams would say something politically incorrect to the students but I’m also sure he wouldn’t care.

This may have been my last year to lecture and I still have a lot more stories to tell as well as a few facts about radiology. I would like to work in stories from my general practice days like the man who was trying to reassemble his family in bottles on a shelf at home. He had his wife’s gallstones, and her fibroid uterus in bottles nicely displayed on the shelf with his son’s tonsils. We were going to remove the wife’s cancerous breast and he wanted that in a bottle. That’s were I drew the line. He was satisfied with the cancerous breast mass rather than the entire breast. I have often wondered what happened to his path specimens which were becoming enough to start a med school.

There is also a great story I would like to tell about the young man who married a girl and moved in with her family. He managed to impregnate the wife, her sister as well as her mother. I delivered all these babies and to this day I have not figured out the proper relationship of these offspring. A kid could have someone who was his brother and uncle as well as a brother who was also his cousin. The surprising thing about this whole affair was that the people lived happily together. I believe they were the first rednecks.

Since my lecturing days are coming to a close and the memory of some of these great stories is becoming dim, they may just fade into the wind. Wish I had a little Ferrol Sams in me and I could record them while sitting on the porch, but even this might not work. Even if I had Ferrol Sams actually write my stories they would probably not be published. They are too boring for today’s reader and would be filled with politically incorrect statements. No publisher wants that kind of stuff. They are stories about ordinary people in the 40s, 50s and early 60s during the time of safe streets and schools. It was a Golden Age for many things including being a doctor. For now, I will just have to be content with reflecting on the porch and writing the stories to myself on the blog.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The whole mess with the price of oil is sure above my head. The oil executives have been saying it’s simply supply and demand. We are using more oil than can be produced; therefore, the price goes up since it is becoming more of a precious commodity. The Republicans say we have plenty of oil reserves offshore and the current laws prohibit drilling. The Democrats say that tapping the offshore reserves is only a temporary solution and we should try to conserve and not destroy the environment.

For the first time, Americans are cutting down on their driving. They are buying more fuel-efficient cars such as hybrids and ditching the SUVs. Truckers are parking their rigs and moms are car-pooling. People are even moving back into the cities to avoid the expensive commutes. Many businesses are cutting to a four day workweek to conserve energy. The pocket book is really being hit and some folks are even giving up luxuries like bottled water that cost more than gasoline and is no better than the stuff out of the tap.

Now we learn that the price of oil may be only paper pricing. Testimony in Congress this week indicated that 60% of oil prices may be speculative and driven by large trade banks and hedge funds. A complex financial market system and the major oil companies are the ones responsible for the manipulation. Names like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase are the culprits.

The whole matter of the exorbitant price of gasoline is very complex and is probably due to a combination of all the above-mentioned factors. The bottom line is that a pawn like me is caught by the short hair and I can’t do anything about the whole thing. Like Golum in Lord of the Rings, we are addicted to the “Precious.” In our case the precious is oil rather than the power of the ring. Like Golum, we have become a slithering, crawling animal, willing to do anything to get our precious. We are addicted to oil and are controlled by the tycoons who profit from our suffering.

I’m trying to stay on the porch with the lights turned off and the car parked in the garage. I’m thinking about resorting to the abundant deer in my yard as a source of food. They have eaten enough of my plants, so now it’s my turn. If I can kindle a fire in the back yard, a venison steak may go good with my tomatoes. For entertainment, I have pulled out the old chessboard. I have set up the board with me having all pawns vs. my opponent with all Queens and Rooks. Maybe, by figuring out some chess strategies to survive in a games like that, it will help me with the position I have with the oil and Wall Street barons who are trying to control my life. In this case, I think the Rook is the appropriate chess piece to select as an opponent. The name fits very well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen is a wonderful trip to circuses of the past and nursing homes of the present. Jacob Jankowski is a senior veterinary student in 1931 when his mother and father are killed in an accident. He drops out of school and hitches a ride on a circus train.

Jacob tells his story as a patient in a nursing home when he is 93 years of age. It’s the story of a young man coming of age during the harsh times of the Great Depression when small circuses were a common form of entertainment. He finds the love of his life and also the love for animals as he serves as the vet for the circus. He deals with difficult and psychotic bosses and the hard working roustabouts of the circus. It’s a world in which freaks are exploited, animals abused, and patrons cheated. The conditions are harsh for the workers who have no opportunity, during the depression, to protest their mistreatment.

It’s also the story of the elderly in today’s world. It tells how the elderly are cast aside by their children who become busily involved with their own lives. Adolescents begin to distance themselves from the family and this gradually becomes worse through the years until there is no time for the elderly who are conveniently set aside into a nursing home.

The story sounds depressing but it is nostalgic trip into the world of the circus when it was major entertainment for the family. It was an exciting world. Television and other forms of entertainment have greatly impacted the circus until only a few, like Ringling, are left today. The ending is great and very uplifting and heart-warming. The entire book is worth the last couple of chapters.

The book is filled with interesting characters. The most interesting of all is Rosie the elephant who is almost human if given commands in the proper language.

After reading this book, I’m going to take a break from the porch to attend the next circus that comes anywhere near Central Texas. I may have to pry a grandkid away from the TV as an escort.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pictured above is one of the fruits of my labor and great gardening skill. Of even greater importance, it is a symbol of my triumph over the deer, birds, insects and drought. It is not an easy task to raise a beauty like that in such a hostile environment. The good news is that there are a number of others well on their way.

It could have been larger but it’s good enough for me. No other words are necessary because the picture is worth a thousand words.

Life is good on the porch as long as I watch the tomatoes and not the TV.

I attended a funeral the other day where the minister read several statements written by the deceased a few days before he died. It was like a voice from beyond the grave and was a little eerie. He thanked those who had been involved in his care even though the chemotherapy didn’t work. He also thanked everyone for coming to the funeral service. He made the statement that in one hundred years no one would know about us. I have thought about the last statement a great deal in the past few days. It’s sad but largely true. Most people don’t have any idea where their great-grandparents are buried. Many don’t know where their grandparents are buried and some with dead parents don’t even know where they, hopefully, rest in peace. The really sad thing is that many don’t know their parents who are alive.

I try to keep the memory of my ancestors alive by dabbling in genealogy. My great-grandfather was an early settler of Texas and fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. I have brainwashed my children and grandchildren about this hero of our family. So, some people are remembered over 100 years after their death. Unfortunately, you have to be famous before folks pay much attention to you after a couple of generations have passed.

Sometimes, it might be best to forget our ancestors if they have committed a wrong. The sins of the father may be passed on from one generation to the next. Our origins date back to Abraham. When Abraham’s wife Sarah was unable to have a child, Abraham had a son by Hagar, Sarah’s servant. His name was Ishmael. Then God allowed Sarah, at age 90, to become pregnant. Isaac was born and became the main heir of Abraham. Hagar and Ishmael were even booted out of Canaan when Isaac came along. God took care of Hagar and Ishmael and build a mighty nation from Ishmael, called the Arabs. Ishmael was, nevertheless, hacked off with the way he was treated. His descendants have been mad at the Jews ever since and are constantly threatening to blow them off the planet. In this case it would be better if these groups forgot about their ancestors and try to realize that the stuff with Sarah, Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael happened about 6000 years ago. That’s long enough for a feud.

In my genealogy probing I have found a couple of skeletons in the closet. My great-grandfather apparently owned one slave and I’m still paying the price for that one. The one thing I haven’t found is a rich relative. It’s probably best I stop digging into my family tree because more undesirable skeletons may be found. I might end up on someone’s hit list to pay for the sins of my forefathers. It’s going to be hard for me to stop probing because I love the digging.

Perhaps my deceased friend is right and no one will care about us 100 years from now. That really doesn’t apply to me. I enjoy learning about people who lived greater than 100 years ago more than most of those who live today. My simple, honest, God-fearing ancestors are sure more appealing to me than the Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohans, Paris Hitons and Barack Obamas of the world today.

As I sit on the porch and look at a 100 year old picture of one of my grandfathers, I am happy to know where he is buried and that he lived.

Monday, June 16, 2008

During our recent trip to Galveston we went to an IMAX theater that featured a show about dinosaurs. It’s something to see these monsters on a multi-story screen coming right out into the audience in 3D. I was more scared than the grandkids. The film was very informative. Dinosaurs date back millions of years. The famous Jurassic Period dates back 200 million years but the dinosaurs were around even before then. The greatest finds by the paleontologist have been in the Gobi desert in Mongolia and at Ghost ranch in New Mexico. They think that dinosaurs were at first crawling creatures and then began to walk upright. They finally progressed to developing feathers and flying. It is felt that birds are modern relatives of ancient dinosaurs but much smaller than the multi-ton creatures of the Jurassic Period. In the Gobi desert it was discovered that dinosaurs hatch from eggs just like their cousins the birds. These parts of the earth, containing the remains of the dinosaurs, were once lush forest before global warming started many years before the automobile.

Meanwhile, when we got back to the condo we started talking about the creation. Genesis says that God created day and night, the sky, oceans, land, vegetation, animals and finally man in 6 days. Doing a timeline, it was 1,656 years from Adam to the Flood and 427 years from the flood to Abraham. From Abraham to Jesus and then on to us amounts to about 4000 years. That makes it about 6000 years to the time when man was created, according to the Bible. The other incredible thing is that the ark was 450 feet long compared to over 800 feet for the Titanic. Noah was able to get two of every kind of creature into the ark with enough food for the 1 year and 17 days they remained on the boat. The excrement from this group of animals for that period of time would have been enough to fill the Titanic. The other interesting thing is how long folks lived back them. Adam lived 939 years and Noah 950 years. Methusleah set the record at 969 years. They had multiple sons and daughters who disseminated through the earth after Babel, all with different languages. In those days a woman would have to have at least a hundred pregnancies during her lifetime unless they practiced some unusual method of birth control or phenomenal abstinence. With that number of pregnancies a woman’s uterus would have been hanging down between her knees. I suspect the guys may have had multiple wives and the whole thing would make the polygamy business in San Angelo look like Vacation Bible School.

Anyway, the grandkids didn’t question the Bible version and just discounted the facts of Science. That’s called faith and like the Bible says we have to have the faith of a child to believe. As for me, I’ve tried to have a little faith and also look at scientific facts. I always thought that God has a different clock than us mortals. In a couple of places in the Bible, Psalms 90:4 and Second Peter 3:8, it says that to God a thousand years is like a day. So, maybe the creation took a lot longer than the 24 hour day used by us humans. There is no double that man was around a lot longer than 6000 years ago. Cro-Magnon Man lived over 45,000 years ago and Neanderthal Man over 100,000 years ago. Maybe those guys didn’t have a soul and Adam was the first of the species to develop a soul. Genesis 2: 7 says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Maybe the cavemen were just a warm-up act for Adam and Eve, and hadn’t become a living soul.

Anyway, those are some of my explanations from the porch, but probably the best thing to do is just accept the stories like the kids. Have faith. The only thing I wish is that Noah wouldn’t have included deer on the ark. If Noah had included the dinosaurs on the ark, maybe it wouldn’t be illegal for me to shoot a giant Brontosaurus if they were caught eating my tomatoes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I found this treasure of a book in the Midsummer Bookstore during my recent Galveston visit. It would have gone undetected in one of the mega-bookstores and probably wouldn’t have been in stock. “A Land So Strange” is the story of Cabeza de Vaca’s epic journey through the southwest and his miraculous survival. He was the first, so called, civilized man to explore Texas and the southwest. The book is a work of nonfiction but reads like an exciting adventure novel. I, literally, couldn’t put it down as I followed the harrowing experiences of Cabeza de Vaca and his many near death experiences with the Indians and the hostile land.

It all started with the expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez who left Spain in 1528 hoping to explore and colonize the Northern part of Mexico. His rival was Cortes who had established himself in the more southern part of Mexico and who had plundered the area and controlled the indigenous people with the sword. Narvaez missed his mark largely because of a hurricane and poor navigation. His group of 300 landed on the West coast of Florida. After landing it was a major struggle for survival. The group wandered along the entire Gulf Coast and discovered the mouth of the great Mississippi. Finally they made rafts and again set out to sea and four rafts landed along the Texas coast. Everyone finally died except for Cabeza de Vaca and three others. One of the men was an African who had a remarkable knack for languages.

Cabeza de Vaca landed on Galveston Island in 1528 and wandered through south Texas and northern Mexico and the southwest for 8 years. They finally made contact with other Spanish Conquistadores in 1536. During their sojourn they were enslaved by the Indians. The Indians provided them with food and shelter and made it possible for the four to survive even though they were subjected to incredible hardships and starvation. They were even forced to eat dirt and deer dung.

I have always been taught that the Indians who captured Caba de Vaca were cannibals. According to this well documented account that was not the case. Some of the Spanish survivors, who reminded on the beach and didn’t follow Cabeza with the Indians, were later found to have become cannibals in an attempt to survive. When later discovered by Cabeza and the Indians the Indians were appalled to see that the Spanish had resorted to cannibalism. So, it was the other way around from what has been traditionally taught in the history books.

Cabeza and his three other colleagues moved from one tribe of Indians to another. On one occasion Cabeza removed an arrow from the chest wall of an Indian and this is thought to have been the first surgical operation in North America. Cabeza and his men were perceived as healers among the Indians and were permitted safe passage along the way. They prayed over sick Indians and made the sign of the cross which the natives thought to be mystical with healing powers. De Vaca learned the ways of the Indians and made friends with them.

Cabeza de Vaca’s peaceful ways proved successful and were key to his survival. He became convinced that this was the best way for the Spanish to colonize the area rather than with the sword as used by conquistadors like Cortes and Guzman.

Cabeza de Vaca and his three colleagues were the only four who made it out of the original 300. The epilogue tells what happened to them when returning to civilization. Unfortunately, Cabeza’s peaceful approach to colonizing was not adopted and has never been accepted throughout history. We continue to act like Cortes and the other conquistadors.

In my armchair on the porch I was transported back to 1528 and explored the wild land that was to become Texas and met the indigenous people who, in many ways, were more civilized than those Christians who conquered them. The author, Andres Resendez is a great historian and an even better storyteller. I highly recommend this exciting and informative book

Friday, June 13, 2008

Another interesting spot in Galveston for the senior crowd that is definitely off the beaten trail is Star Drug Store. This is no longer a typical drug store because the typical drug store doesn’t exist anymore. Star Drug is a trip back in time and a place to reminisce. It’s located in old downtown on 23rd St.. We went there because it was the place where my partner went each morning for coffee and bought our few drug needs when I was a medical student. She worked directly across the street. It was truly a trip back in time for us and we wanted to better acquaint our grandkids with our time. We also wanted them to see what a real soda fountain looked like and to see the tile floor of an old drug store.

Star Drug is the oldest drug store in the state. It was built in 1886 and renovated in 1909. A horseshoe shaped fountain was added in 1917 and is still the main feature of the store. It operated until 1998 when a fire partially destroyed the place. The current owner purchased it in 2001 and the place has been restored almost to its original state.

Star is called a drug store but they don’t sell drugs there anymore. It’s a tourist place now that serves meals and all of the old time fountain goodies. There are a lot of cabinets displaying antique sit-abouts and old jewelry for sale. I ordered what I used to have years ago when I frequented drug store eateries, a grilled cheese sandwich. I then committed the ultimate sin with my three grandchildren. I ordered us all a banana split but shared mine with the youngest granddaughter. I hadn’t had a banana split in over ten years and, boy, was it great.

Drug stores just aren’t like they used to be when my brother worked in one as a soda jerk. Drugs are now sold at big places like Wal-Mart and the Super Grocery Chains. The dedicated drug stores like Walgreen’s and CVS are just mini Wal-Marts. You pay more for the merchandise at Walgreen’s and CVS but it is much easier to get in and out of these places than the Wal-Mart Supercenters. None of these places would think about having a soda fountain. Dispensing the ice cream and fountain goodies is just not as profitable as the drugs.

The old drug stores in my hometown usually had a doctor’s office located on the floor above the store. The poor patient had to climb the stairs to get medical help and when they came down to wait for their prescription to be filled they would order refreshments from the fountain. I once asked one of these old time docs about having his office upstairs and the difficulty for patients making the climb. He said, he figured if they made it to the top of the stairs there was some hope for him being able to help them. It was sort of like an old fashioned stress test. The doc didn’t have to fool with all that expensive technology like Nuclear Medicine and CT to test your heart.

After the visit to Star Drug, I’m thinking about splitting one of the bananas in our kitchen and putting a few scoops of ice cream on top with strawberry and chocolate syrup and a little crushed pineapple. I can then spray some of that fake whip cream on top along with a few nuts and a cherry and I will have a delicacy for the Gods. Eating that on the porch will indeed be like heaven. It will probably be as good a stress test for the heart as the stairs were in the old drug stores. If I can survive another banana split then maybe even the modern docs can help me.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Most normal people who visit Galveston, Texas enjoy the beach or places like Moody Gardens. Some even enjoy waiting to eat at the Rainforest Café. After my recent visit, I’m not sure there are any normal people visiting the place. It is the spot for fat people in bathing suits. The morbidly obese in bathing suits don’t really stand out there because everyone looks that way.

I sure can’t be characterized as normal and would more likely fit into the weird or eccentric category. When in Galveston, one of my favorite places to go is the Midsummer Book Store. When it comes to a bookstore, I’m like a kid in a candy store. How Midsummer got its name, I’m not sure. It’s located across from the Tremont Hotel on Mechanic Street and is a unique, upscale, neat place to browse and buy books.

Midsummer has just about everything ranging from fiction, nonfiction, history and kids books. It has a great section on Texana and just about everything written about the Great Galveston Storm of 1900. You are not overwhelmed like when you go into a Barnes and Noble store. Barnes and Noble is like the big grocery chains who try to push their brand off on you and everything else is hidden. Barnes and Noble forces the American public to read what they are selling by sticking it in your face with all sorts of marketing and display gimmicks. Some of that is okay, but you can miss some good stuff.

A few years ago I was browsing in Midsummer books and ran into “Life of Pi,” just sitting there quietly on the shelf. It was a great story. At that time I also found a couple of books about Richard Feynman, the eccentric nuclear physicist genius who helped develop the atomic bomb. The selection of books about Galveston and Texas are fantastic. Many of these are out of the ordinary and can’t be found in just every bookstore. All the books in the store are new and it doesn’t have a musty smell like a lot of bookstores. The musty smell is okay for a bookstore like Cactus Books in San Angelo that has one of the best collection of westerns on the planet. Cactus also has every Elmer Kelton book printed. Anyway, for a first class place Midsummer can’t be beat.

My great find on this trip was “A Land So Strange.” This is the story of the epic journey of Cabeza de Vaca who landed on Galveston Island in 1528 and spent 8 years wandering across the Southwest with three other guys before he again ran into his own kind. I will have to write about this fantastic tale on a separate blog.

Stories like I find at Midsummer Books or the Cactus bookstore are what makes life on the porch so exciting. With companions like these, there is never a dull moment.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Great Tomato Panic of 2008 may be a windfall for me and help pay for the expensive gas required for my recent Galveston trip. Tomatoes have been pulled from the shelves and even McDonald’s has cut them from their meals because of the recent scare over Salmonella contamination. This is going to make my few homegrown tomatoes worth a fortune. I’m thinking about putting up a little stand in front of my house to sell some of the red gold fruit. I figured it cost me about $100 each for the tomatoes I raised, so if I follow the example of the oil company CEOs I should be asking about $200 for each tomato as a fair sale price.

My sales price is really not that outrageous considering the work and research I have put into producing this precious fruit. It has been a great effort just to defend the crop from the ever-present deer in our back yard. My latest effort in deer protection is the fence, which is pictured above. This is a masterful combination of wire, duct tape, crepe paper, plastic stakes and traffic cones.

I have had all kinds of advice regarding deer deterrents. I currently use Cayenne pepper. There is so much pepper on the plants that the deer start sneezing from 100 yards away. I figure that the Cayenne pepper won’t hurt us humans if a little remains on the tomatoes after harvesting. This pepper is known for its medicinal uses. Cayenne pepper has been used as a circulatory tonic, for sore throat, for arthritic pain and as a powder in socks to prevent frostbite. It’s also great to rub on a wound to stop the bleeding. I keep some in the bathroom to use for my nicks and cuts inflicted while shaving.

Many have advised me about other deer deterrents. The guy who exterminates our place and keeps us free of cockroaches and ants suggested tobacco juice as the best deterrent. That stuff is hard to find now days. In years past you could find tobacco juice in spittoons in barbershops, hotels and other public places where it was in abundant supply. These no longer exist and I’m sure glad. The idea of tobacco juice on the tomatoes is not too appetizing. It was also suggested that I spread human hair over the plants. The human scent drives the deer away. I’m pretty sure this would work, especially if it was from some of the people I encountered on my recent trip to Galveston.

Anyway, with all my effort to improve production and the expense incurred for deer deterrents, I figure that the tomatoes at $200 each are a bargain. I might even put my tomato stand next to the service station in our neighborhood so when folks fill up with gas they will realize that $200 for a precious tomato isn’t all that bad.

I’m also thinking about expanding my tomato crop. That’s work I can do from the porch, since watching them grow and keeping an eye out for the deer is one of my biggest jobs. I should be able to get some tax break for operating the porch because it’s my business site. Also, in case the deer or insects eat my crop there has to be some sort of government subsidy for this loss. The tomato business is a lot of fun. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it years ago.

Monday, June 09, 2008

My partner and I started our journey together when I was a medical student at UTMB in Galveston. That was 52 years ago. Many waves have hit the beach in that period of time. We have recently been on a little trip to Galveston with some of the grandkids. We walked along the beach and reminisced as we watched a few more waves wash ashore. We went to see the beach, Moody Gardens and other sites. Even drove by the place where we lived when I was in school. The house looked surprisingly like it did 50 years ago. Galveston is a mixture of Victorian and dumpy houses with dumpy predominating. They built Galveston to look like that after the 1900 hurricane. It never recovered from that hurricane.

We had our first meal at the popular Rainforest Café. This is a place the kids love. It’s decorated like a jungle rainforest with all sorts of fake trees, undergrowth and mechanical animals that roar and screech during the meal. Every few minutes there is a simulated thunderstorm with lightening and thunder but fortunately no rain. We sat next to the elephants who were constantly moving their heads and letting out loud trumpeting sounds so that we never heard each other talk or what the waiter had to say. Just as we started to eat our mediocre meal, a giant cockroach climbed over the back of the seat in our booth. At first the kids thought it was part of the animal effects and a fake creature of the jungle. When it retreated at our screams and swatting we knew it was real. It made an appearance several times during the meal and soon became like part of the family. It did dampen the appetite of everyone and I double-checked my food to make sure none of its kin was in my entrée. We complained to the waiter about our visitor. The manager came to our table and apologized and offered what sounded like free river ice. She kept repeating the offer and finally between the screams of the elephants I understood her to say free river ride. We accepted and sure enough they have a fake river that runs through a jungle setting with big cats, monkeys and poison dart shooting natives. That was the most fun part of the experience, but we probably won’t eat there again.

Moody Gardens was exciting with the rainforest and aquarium. We saw three IMAX movies on the subjects of the Grand Canyon, the Titanic and dinosaurs. The movies were very educational for the kids and seniors. There was a special exhibit on the Titanic that was fantastic.

The problem at Moody Gardens and especially at the beach is the massive number of people. I don’t think the price of gasoline has affected tourism in Galveston. There is a constant stream of cars parading on the seawall. The appearance of the people in skimpy clothing is gross. Most are morbidly obese and I thought there must be a Sumo wrestlers convention on the island.

After learning about dinosaurs, I’m pretty sure it would be safer living with them than with the humans I encountered. I think a herd of Raptors would be more pleasant company than the folks who stayed at our motel. As far as our initial encounter with the cockroach, that was really no big deal. I attended school in Galveston and become very accustomed to the cockroach. I think this pest actually originated in Galveston and then spread to the remainder of the world.

I loved the trip with the grandkids but it is good to be back on the porch. Global warming, that has been going on for thousands of years, eliminated the dinosaurs as a threat and the exterminator makes the porch relatively safe from the cockroach. What I worry about most is the ever-increasing population of the morbidly obese. Maybe global warming will make them eventually go the way of the dinosaurs.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I just read Michael Crichton’s book “State of Fear.” It’s a techno thriller and a page-turner. Although a work of fiction, it has a great message about global warming. Crichton doesn’t deny that the surface temperature of the earth is increasing and that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased. There is a lot of information that has been distorted by the media and celebrities and we don’t know the real answer regarding the cause of global warming which may be the continuation of a process that has been going on for many years. Some even conclude that we may be near entering another ice age.

Crichton’s message is that anytime we try to politicize science we mess it up. For example, by misdirected efforts to help nature in the National Parks we have upset the balance of nature. Several years ago the Park Service thought that the elk may be endangered and had the wolves and other predators including the American Indian removed. As a result the elk multiplied and over grazed the area, which predisposed to the naturally occurring fires to burn hotter than usual making it impossible for the trees to reseed themselves. The balance of nature was disturbed by our own, so called experts, the Park Service. They are now reintroducing the wolves. Maybe they will let the Indians off the reservations.

The government and a few misdirected celebrities are trying to scare us to death with the idea that the planet is melting and that most of the land not covered by the rising ocean will be reduced to a burned out cinder. All my life, we have had fear of something instilled into us. For me it started with the Great Depression followed by World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and threat of nuclear destruction by the Soviet Union, Viet Nam, Muslim terrorist and now global warming. We live in a state of fear.

Several years ago the pesticide DDT was banned because of the fear that it was causing cancer and upsetting the balance of nature. DDT was a very effective pesticide against the mosquito, which carries the malaria parasite. Since the ban there has been no good scientific evidence that DDT causes cancer and in the meantime it is estimated that about 20 million children in the world have died from malaria and approximately 1 million die each year. That is better than Hitler’s rate of extermination.

Anyway, Michael Crichton in his well-crafted novel, that is as exciting as Jurassic Park, gives some interesting information about global warming. The oceans are not rising and the ice in the Antarctica is even getting thicker. Global warming, like the energy crisis, needs more scientists working on the problem rather than so many lawyers, politicians and celebrities looking for a cause.

I just wish we didn’t have to be scared out of our wits all the time. Like FDR said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s one of the nice things I like about the porch. In that Fortress of Solitude, fear stops at the door as long as the TV is turned off.