Thursday, July 31, 2008

This picture was sent to me by a friend as part of an e-mail message. The figure is probably and angel ready to lead us up the stairs out of troubled waters into heaven. It made me think about angels. I think they are mentioned about 273 times in the Bible, so there has to be something to them. I usually picture them as a divine being with wings, flying around playing a harp. Usually we think of them as a chubby baby. The Bible doesn’t talk about the wings so I don’t know where that came from. The Bible even calls a couple of them by name, Michael and Gabriel. Michael is no baby, as a matter of fact he is frequently depicted in paintings with a sword. Michael is also known as the Patron Saint of Warriors. The best I can figure it; angels are messengers of God sent to earth to do his work.

I think I have known a few of them on earth and they are in the form of flesh and blood. If the folks I’m talking about are not angels, I suspect they will quickly gain that status upon entering heaven. I went to the funeral of one of those individuals this week. He was certainly no baby. He was an older, somewhat rotund gentleman who was a physician. To me he was what I perceive an angel to be. He was one of the most caring, kind and gentle people I have known. I never heard him complain. He didn’t have an arrogant bone in his body, which is exceptionally rare for a doctor. He always had a smile and his patients and coworkers loved him. The only hint of a complaint I ever heard from him was about the new praise music in church. He loved to sing and preferred the old songs sung with hymnals in hand. He was a traditionalist as far as the church service goes and I believe he was frustrated with the way they have deteriorated into rock and roll concerts. Perhaps that is one of the reasons he was called home a few years early.

My college roommate who became a public school band director was one of the other flesh and blood angels I have known. He was a quiet, calm individual who did only good for the kids he taught, the folks in his church and for all those with whom in came in contact. He didn’t seek material things and certainly gave more in life than he received.

So, I think angels take various forms here on earth and are sent to do God’s work and may be messengers. I can name a few more folks who might fit my description but unfortunately most of them are not ministers. I can think of no other doctors who fit the bill, other than for the one I have described. I’m sure there must be other angels among ministers and doctors. I must admit that my experience is limited because I have only met several thousand doctors and ministers out of the multitude who are out there. There are certainly no angels among thieves, politicians and others in that trade.

On the porch, I have encountered many angels in the books I read, so I suspect they are even more common than the 273 times mentioned in the Bible.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

While in Santa Fe, I worried about what the deer would do to my yard while I was away.. I had abandoned my outpost on the porch and was not there to defend my plants. When I returned and surveyed the damage I was surprised that the loss was not more extensive. They had managed to finish off my potted geraniums and leaves on the pepper plants. Most of my deer resistant plants are working. At least they didn’t break into the house and eat the food in my pantry.

I have now become acquainted with another pest. The evening of my return I noticed a big juicy pepper on one of the plants near the street. The next morning when I put out the trash, the beautiful pepper was gone. None of the leaves were disturbed on the plant. The deer eat the leaves but never the pepper itself. It was obviously something else that picked the pepper. Our street is very popular for walkers because it’s shady and is a place for a beautiful stroll. I’m certain that the thief was a two-legged creature out for exercise. Now homo sapiens has been added to my list of pest.

My porch sits more than 100 feet from the street. It’s an interesting phenomenon that folks who walk past and see me frequently wave. They wave whether they know me or not. I see folks in the grocery store and other public places like the mall and they hardly ever wave. I don’t know what it is about the street and the porch that prompts them to be friendly. I’m always waving when I’m driving and pass someone on the street even if I don’t know hem. I wouldn’t think of waving at them in any other setting. It’s strange.

I have always been encouraged with this friendly disposition of folks walking along my street. The wave is a nice thing. But now the real truth comes out; some of them are thieves. Even the most church going, friendly person will steal you blind if given the chance. I try to be on the positive side and overlook the faults of my fellow man, but it’s hard when they steal the peppers right out of my yard. It makes me want to turn into the Hulk. As an experiment, I’m gong to start leaving some tempting morsels in my yard near the street and see how fast they disappear. If the pepper thievery continues I may have to station myself with the BB gun on the porch and have creatures other than the deer in my sights.

The thievery really shouldn’t surprise me. Homo sapiens can never be trusted. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve stealing the apple off the tree even though they had been warned by God. They are even worse than the deer and it’s going to be tougher defending my plants against this vicious species. Some of them even have brains. I made the mistake of putting my herb garden next to the street, so it’s doomed. I think I may start irrigating with water from my septic tank. Maybe the e-coli will be a good deterrent. The problem is that it will spoil the plants for my own use. I guess the best thing for me to do is give up on growing anything. You can never win the battle against homo sapiens; history has proven that to be impossible. I’ll just sit on the porch and pretend to be friendly with the deer and homo sapiens by waving. They will never know what I’m really thinking behind my smile and friendly greeting. All I can do is find where they live and steal some of their peppers; I think that’s the way humans usually do it. It’s called revenge and works well for entire nations as well as individuals.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Every time we go to Santa Fe I am reminded of one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time that occurred at nearby Los Alamos. The Manhattan Project with the resultant development of the atomic bomb has to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. This project ushered in the nuclear age. Even though the resultant bomb hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles this was; nevertheless, a crowning achievement in the history of science and of mankind.

Each year when we are in Santa Fe I think a lot about this phenomenal project and read a little more about it. I have always loved physics and I think I know enough to construct a bomb if I had the necessary fissionable material. That’s the rub. Acquiring enough U235 or Plutonium to create a chain reaction is no easy task and is something Iran is currently trying to do. The construction of the bomb is otherwise fairly easy. It takes tons of U238 ore to yield a tablespoon of U235.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, a true genius, was the mastermind of the Manhattan Project and is the father of the atomic bomb. I’m currently reading a book about his life. He completed Harvard in three years then got his PhD at age 22. He never even took a course of physics as an undergraduate and was admitted to graduate studies in physics because of his knowledge through independent study. He could speak multiple languages and was a true intellect. His other great love was camping in the mountains of northern New Mexico where his family owned a ranch. His love for that country is one of the reasons the remote area of Los Alamos was chosen to build the bomb in secret.

The Manhattan Project could never be pulled off today. It was one of the great top-secret projects of all time. The press and Congress didn’t know about it and even Vice–President Harry Truman was unaware of the project until Roosevelt died. Oppenheimer had unlimited resources and the very brightest minds in science came together at this remote outpost with a highly focused purpose; to build the bomb and end the war. Can you imagine that happening today? The news media would be all over it and there would be massive demonstrations against the project. It would be the subject of constant debate in Congress with Oppenheimer and the other scientist spending most of their time testifying on Capitol Hill. World War II would still be going on or we would have lost most of the young men in the US trying to invade mainland Japan.

What we need today is another Manhattan project to develop a new energy source and end our dependence on the Middle East. The news media, Congress, Oil Company Executives and the business tycoons don’t need to know anything about it. Just the top scientific brains with unlimited resources, shut up in a remote spot like the mountains of New Mexico, is what we need to achieve another scientific miracle of a magnitude even greater than the bomb.

Poor Oppenheimer is now considered the American Prometheus. He was considered the scientific genius of all time after the bomb and even became Einstein’s boss at Princeton. His life ended in tragedy. He was like the Greek God Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man. For this, he was punished by Zeus. Oppenheimer stole something as powerful as fire. During the McCarthy investigations in the 50’s, Oppenheimer was accused of having communist leanings because of his left wing beliefs in the 1930’s. Even though this was false he lost his job and secret clearance. He was destroyed and never recovered from these accusations. He died of throat cancer at age 63.

I sure wish we had another Oppenheimer to conduct another Manhattan Project to solve the energy problem. From my reading on the porch, I figure Oppenheimer already made the discovery when he invented the bomb. It’s called nuclear energy, but we are too stupid and controlled by the wrong people to put it to use. We don’t know how to use the gift of energy from God given to us through Oppenheimer. We still handle it in its most evil form like so many of the other gifts from God.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The newspaper in Santa Fe reported today on a survey by AARP about the 10 healthiest cities in the US. Santa Fe is ranked number 4. Number 1 is Ann Arbor, Michigan. Others are: Honolulu, Hawaii; Madison, Wisc.; Fargo, ND; Boulder, Colo.; Charlottesville, Va; Minneapolis, Minn.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Naples, Fla.. These places are supposed to be the healthiest and best places to retire.

People in these cities have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and less diabetes. Some on the list are a big surprise to me. For example, I’m surprised that the folks in Fargo even completed a survey because they don’t come outside but for about 10 minutes every year. The remainder of the time they are frozen in. The survey must have been conducted on line or by mail. There is only one city in the South on the list. Houston would be on the unhealthiest list because it was recently found to have the highest number of obese folks in the US. San Francisco was a surprise because I thought most of their population had AIDS.

Most of these cities have a low percentage of minorities, which may have influenced the results. These poor folks are always the sickest even though they spend a large part of their time in the Emergency Rooms around the country. I guess there are a lot of affluent folks in most of these cities and maybe that has something to do with it. The median cost of a home in Santa Fe is $499,000 and it’s over $900.000 in Honolulu. You have to be rich to live in those places.

I don’t think the availability of medical care has a lot to do with the findings. Santa Fe has a hospital but specialty care is limited. The folks in Santa Fe have to drive to Albuquerque for a lot of their care. Also, the air is pretty thin in Santa Fe which makes it a little difficult for old folks to breath. Most of the places on the list don’t have big time medical centers and that may be a factor in making people healthier. A few years ago the doctors in Canada went on strike for about three days and there was a precipitous drop in the death rate.

The survey probably doesn’t mean much. They are often wrong, especially when they involve medicine or politics. Many of my relatives are from around Richards, Texas. When I was a kid, it seemed like the average age of the folks around that town must have been near a hundred. They had an old time doctor who did a few home deliveries but not much else. The folks seemed pretty healthy because they worked all the time. I’ll beat the survey people never heard of Richards and things probably haven’t changed much there thought the years. Richards hasn’t had electricity or running water for very long and I’m not sure they have TV yet. I figure Richards has to be a healthy place to retire. In my book it would sure beat Fargo ND and some of the other places up north. I’ve often thought about moving the porch to Richards. I could probably stop taking my high blood pressure medicine and there I would even be allowed to shoot the deer and raise my tomatoes in peace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One of the major events for our family each year is attending the Suzuki music camp with the grandkids in Santa Fe. I have written about this on the blog before but there it’s always a new adventure every year. The music camp is on the campus of Santa Fe College. The temperature is ideal. The only hot part of the day is between 1:00PM and 4:00PM. It’s the rainy season in Santa Fe, so the dark clouds move in about 4 in the afternoon and the temperature drops whether it rains or not. By 6 you need a light jacket to be comfortable outside. The evening and mornings are just ideal. It’s cool and the humidity is very low. I walk around the campus every morning and even enjoy the exercise.

All the buildings on the campus, like the rest of Santa Fe, are adobe and the landscape is desert. We stay in the student apartments that are somewhere between camping and a Holiday Inn Express. It’s a far cry from a five star hotel, but I like it more than any of those places. The apartment units are adobe and are built in a rectangle around a courtyard. The courtyard is a great place for the grandkids to play and have a cookout. One of our neighbors each year is a magician who is part of the faculty of the music school. He comes down to the courtyard and we all just sit around telling stories and he entertains us with terrific magic tricks and tall tales of the many places he has been. He can cut a rope into with his fingers and then completely restore it to the original length and he can tear a newspaper into shreds and immediately unfold the pieces into a totally intact paper. He is a traveling magician who performs at school assemblies all over the Southwest. He also plays the mandolin and we may go to bed while hearing him strumming on one of the songs he will play at the faculty concert. His kids play with our grandkids and one of his preschool children is well on his way to being a magician in the future.

Shakespeare said that all the worlds a stage. Our apartment is indeed a stage where we live all the experiences of the grandkids from the nervousness and high anxiety before a solo recital to the elation and pride we all feel after they have performed. There is a constant parade through our apartment to appear on our stage and relate the experiences of the day.

The week is filled with mishaps. The apartments always present interesting and challenging problems. The bathroom door locked and wouldn’t open so we had to take the lock apart to gain entrance. The garbage disposal stopped up and the air conditioning was broken in one of the units. Maintenance people are as scarce as an honest politician so we have to fix most things ourselves. The schedule for one of the grandkids was incorrect and it was a crisis to get her into the right slot for her level. Another grandkid had a piano accompanist who was like someone from another planet and in rehearsal butchered his part for her difficult piece. This problem was finally solved and her solo was performed like a seasoned professional. Meanwhile our coronaries were in major spasm until the final note was played.

With all the trials and tribulations the Santa Fe week is a major highlight of the year. The music instruction for the kids is the best to be found and it’s all in the splendor of Santa Fe. With all the turmoil I get to relax a lot and consume several books. It’s a great learning experience for everyone and almost as much fun as just staying on the porch. I’ve seen many prairie dogs but not one deer, which by itself makes the trip worthwhile.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

At my advanced age I try to remain young by staying in tune with my grandkids. I read many of the books they read and go to some of their favorite movies. I have read all the Harry Potter books and many more, including “Twilight” which is about a good teenage vampire. This weekend I went to the latest Batman movie with the whole gang. I think I crossed over the line in trying to stay in tune with the young crowd. It is rated PG 13 but deserves an R for ridiculous.

Technically, it is an incredible movie. I have never seen so many special effects. It makes the other Batman movies and Starwars look like elementary school movie projects. It’s hard to believe that special effects could ever become more sophisticated. It makes films that were made only a couple of years ago look like the Keystone Cops. I guess the next advance will be actually putting the audience into the exploding cars.

The acting by the late Heath Ledger is some of the best ever captured on film. Ledger died of a drug overdose and I can understand why. If the character of the Joker infected the personality of Ledger, it is enough to have pushed him over the edge.

The Joker is a victim of child abuse and his distorted, evil and scheming mind is set on creating chaos in Gotham City and bringing down Batman. The plot is very convoluted and somewhat complex and disguised by all the special effects. Even though Ledger does a super acting job the real star of the movie is Explosion. The movie consists of one explosion after another. There are great car chases and even an 18-wheeler turning end over end. Batman swoops down from tall buildings and is retrieved by planes in flight that come by just at the right time. My favorite scene is the blowing up of an entire hospital. That reminded me of what is going to happen with national healthcare. There is a scene about spying on everyone that is a reminder of the Bush Administration. The car chase scene in the tunnels of Gotham City takes us back to Princess Diana’s accident and death.

Batman wants to create a White Knight image in the District Attorney so his services as the Cape Crusader will no longer be needed and he will be able to marry his true love. The Joker’s diabolical scheme turns the District Attorney into a Dark Knight by killing the one he loves and reducing him to a grotesque figure filled with revenge and hatred. Batman turns the tables on the scheming Joker who seems to be in control of everything. Batman’s high tech gear makes James Bond look like Kindergarten stuff. The Joker cares nothing about money: his joy comes from creating chaos and producing a rein of terror in Gotham City. The joker almost succeeds but Batman comes to the rescue; I think. The story leaves a few loose ends about what ultimately happens. The Joker may be waiting for another return. Warner Brothers hopes he returns because this has turned out to be the highest grossing weekend for any movie to date: 155 Million so far. I suspect much of the overwhelming success of the movie can be attributed to a memorial for Heath Ledger.

The Batman of this movie is a far cry from the one I knew when I was a kid. I learned to read from the DC comic characters. Batman and Superman were my heroes along with Captain Marvel of Marvel Comics. These guys were no match for the high tech hero of this movie. I’m just getting too old for the stuff in this violent movie. I will have to be content to read my old DC comics on the porch or see reruns of Adam West as Batman.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Our current economic problems remind me of the problems facing the nation in the Great Depression. The ups and downs of the stock market, our addiction to oil and the automobile and our spending habits are largely psychological and problems of our own making. All of these have profound effects on the economy. It would do us all good to read the excerpts from the Ist Inaugural Address of FDR, which are written below.
This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

While sitting on the porch and listening to the bad news and watching my retirement dwindle, I have thought a lot about these great words of FDR. Just wish I could do something about it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

As everyone knows. the economy is in bad shape. Most of it is our own fault. The main culprit is oil. As the price of oil goes up, so does everything else. Corn, which is used to make gasoline, has made the price of food go up. Agricultural land is now used to produce corn. There is less land for food, so there is less food, which means higher prices. Everything is going up because oil is the standard.

Today, I heard that even the chicken business is affected. Food for the chickens is higher, therefore the price goes up. Today, Pilgrims of Pittsburg, Texas, the chicken tycoons, announced that they are closing a plant in Arkansas and there will be a large lay off of personnel. They said the chicken industry is having difficult times. In my opinion, not all the chicken problem is related to the price of feed. Chicken just isn’t as good as it used to be and it’s the breeder’s fault.

Chickens have been bred so that they are nothing but a big fat breast. The breast is the predominant piece of the chicken and the drumsticks and wings have been reduced to scrawny tiny slivers of meat. The thigh is a throw away and not worth cooking. Restaurants are peddling wings off under a new name called buffalo wings, which are tiny fragments of tasteless meat covered in a sloppy sauce for disguise. The drumsticks are mostly fat. Turkeys are the same. I heard a turkey breeder give a talk recently and he spoke about the poultry industry. The turkeys have been bred until they are, basically, a huge breast walking around on tiny legs. They are so big breasted they can’t copulate to reproduce by themselves. The poor hens must me fertilized by artificial insemination.

These huge breasts are tasteless chunks of meat even when prepared by the best of chefs, including my partner. They just don’t cut chicken like they used to. When I was a kid my favorite piece was the pulley bone. My grandkids don’t even know about the pulley bone. That’s the scrumptious morsel from the front part of the breast that is now included with the mega-breast. I haven’t had a pulley bone in years and would pay the price for a
big steak at a fancy restaurant for one pulley bone fried in Crisco.

We raised chickens when I was a kid. For a meal, we would select one from the yard, ring its neck, then dip it in boiling water to remove the feathers. After removing the entrails, the bird was cut into beautifully dissected pieces, rolled in a secret flour batter then placed lovingly into the skillet for frying in a heart unhealthy shortening. It was great. It was probably the yard-raised chickens that were nourished from worms and other goodies on the ground that gave them their incredible taste. Frying the bird fresh was also a major factor affecting the taste. None of our fryers ever spent time in the freezer to be burned or have the taste deteriorate with time. Even the thigh was good on these chickens and the neck was favored by a few. I was spoiled with the pulley bone and drumsticks and occasional a wing. I always left the breast for the adults. I never thought that the breast was the best part of the chicken and, unfortunately, that is the piece now pushed by the breeders. No wonder the chicken business is in bad shape.

Old fashioned chickens may be another market niche for me with the depressed economy. They would go great with fresh tomatoes and watermelon. I can give the chickens free rein of the back yard and they are something that, hopefully, the deer will not eat. Maybe the chickens may even serve as a deer deterrent. I can have a whole farm in my backyard and this can all be under my watchful eye from the porch. This bad economy may turn out to be great. At least I might get some good food again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

As a young boy, I loved to visit my uncle and aunt who lived in the country. I’ve written about them before, but it’s great to revisit them in my memory from time to time. That memory is like traveling the country back roads of my mind.

My aunt and uncle had an outdoor privy and no plumbing. The water was hand drawn from a well or colleted into a large cistern that caught the rainwater drainage from their tin roof. They didn’t get electricity until I was out of high school. My uncle was a very bright and humorous individual with a limited education. He loved to read, but his reading material was restricted to the Reader’s Digest. In those days the Reader’s Digest contained some good stuff. We hunted squirrels together with his excellent squirrel dog. The squirrels were fried or mixed in with some great dumplings for delicious eating. I really enjoyed those visits and still think about them a lot.

My uncle farmed for a living and had all sorts of animals and a great garden. In his latter years, when I was grown, I would still go for an occasional visit. On one occasion, I found him sitting on the porch in his rocking chair with the usual dip of snuff in his mouth. It was a hot day and he was just passing the time rocking. He said he was just waiting for it to rain so he could get a drink of water since he was too lazy to get up. On another visit he was sitting in the chair with his shotgun across his lap. This time, he was just waiting to shot the birds that invaded his garden.

Today, I was reminded of those great visits with my aunt and uncle. Even thought it was a scorching hot day, I sat on my open front porch that has a great view of the oaks, shrubs and other plants in my yard. This is one of the places the deer love to graze. I sat with my Daisy BB gun across my lap waiting for a deer to approach the yard. I’m not allowed to shoot my shotgun or Winchester 270 in the neighborhood. For a while, I traveled back in time and pretended to be my uncle. Only one deer appeared and I got off a good shot but missed, as I usually do. Even though it was hot, it was just fun sitting there thinking about my uncle and the good visits we once had.

There is always a great breeze blowing across the porch, so the temperature wasn’t all that bad. At one point a few clouds darkened the sky and I could smell the fresh scent of rain that never came. The wind was as still as a tomb and not a leaf stirred. All I could hear was total silence and it was the most peaceful sound I had heard in many a day. The only thing that moved was my memory, which raced back through the years.

Even though I complain a lot about the deer, they give me a reason to sit on the porch and imagine I am again with my uncle with guns across our laps, waiting to make the kill. Memories are a wonderful thing and it’s especially great to have them flavored with pleasant experiences such as those I had in the country with my aunt and uncle.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The famous poet, Robert Browning, wrote a poem called Rabbi Ben Ezra. The opening lines in that poem are:
“Grow old along with me.
The best is yet to be.”

Robert Browning was out of his mind. Most of my friends are now old and we are not experiencing the best part of life. I have a hard time arranging a time to visit most of them because they are at the doctor’s office or the hospital. One of them goes to the doctor virtually every day and visits a different specialty. He even visits sub-sub specialist. For the cadiologist, he will go to the pacemaker clinic one day, then to the anticoagulant clinic for blood work, then to an interventional cardiologist for a follow up of his coronary stent, then to a general cardiologist for cholesterol management. He may be found one day at the neurologist to follow up on his stroke. The vascular surgeon who cleaned out his carotids sees him one day while he may see his ENT physician the next for a follow up to evaluate his vertigo and hearing loss. He is then off to the ophthalmologist for a check on his deteriorating vision. Next day it will be the dermatologist to remove a few more skin cancers and then to the orthopedist to check his hip and knee joint replacements. The oncologist sees him regularly for a follow up of a head and neck cancer. Of course, there is a visit to the urologist to help him void and determine the latest PSA level. He is out of commission for a couple of days with the prep and procedure for a colonoscopy. Before the colonscopy, he must go to the pain clinic for an epidural injection to ease his aching back. An endocrinologist manages his Type II diabetes and a nephrologists is in on the act of treating his hypertension. The family physician sees him at least once a week to add further adjustments to his many medications and search for another subspecialty for referral.

Recently we were going to Houston and I called a relative to see if we could arrange a brief visit. There was no time for the visit because of a conflicting doctor’s appointment. It’s just hard to see any of my old friends anymore unless I’m willing to go sit with them in the doctor’s office.

I might as well not visit with most of my friends anyway because everyone is getting too old to listen to my stories. Recently, I was telling a story to a friend who is partially blind with macular degeneration, and is also partially deaf. He has always had trouble listening to anything, even in his youth. I told him the story about another friend’s funeral. When I finished the story, he ask me how the subject of my story was doing these days. I said that other than for being dead he is doing great. He doesn’t have a worry in the world.

Another person we occasional contact is a little more available because she has had everything in her body removed or replaced so she has run out of doctors and things for them to do.

I enjoy poetry, but I have stopped reading Robert Browning. He was really off base with that, “come grow old along with me,” stuff.

On the porch, I prefer to read things like the “Crabby Old Man.” The first part of the poem is written below, but for the rest of the story look on the internet for “Crabby Old Man” poem. It’s great and where we are all heading if we live long enough. What the nurse doesn’t see is still a youthful person trapped in a decaying body. That’s what the rest of the poem is about.

Crabby Old Man
What do you see nurses? .......What do you see?
What are you thinking......when you're looking at me?
A crabby old man, ....not very wise,
Uncertain of habit ........with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food.......and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice....."I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice ....the things that you do.
And forever is losing .............. a sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not...........lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding ....... the long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes,'re not looking at me.

Monday, July 07, 2008

We have a bumper crop of fawns this year. There are about six running wild around our house and through our flower beds. The mother dropped one of them right in our front yard and within minutes it was up and on its own. They are cute but a total nuisance and this only promises to get much worse.

I have never cared about deer hunting. I was greatly influence by the movie Bambi. It really bothered me for the hunter to kill Bambi’s mother. It didn’t occur to me at the time what a jerk Bambi’s father was. He really didn’t do anything to help Bambi and the poor fawn was left to fend for himself. That’s the way it is in the real deer world. The bucks don’t do anything but strut around and impregnate the doe. The doe really don’t do much either to help the fawns. I have observed these creatures pretty closely from the porch and the fawns are own their own very early and helping themselves to my plants while the mother is off wandering around doing her own thing, which is also eating my plants or the feed distributed by our thoughtless neighbor.

The greatest fawn story of all time is “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 and was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck. In this story the father is bitten by a snake and kills a deer to use its liver to suck out the poison. It turns out that the deer is a mother and who has left a newborn fawn. The man’s son, Jody, persuades his father to let him take the fawn home since the mother has saved the dad’s life with her liver. Jody raises the fawn and names him Flag. They become inseparable. Flag grows up to be like the deer in my back yard. He eats everything in site including the crops of Jody’s parents. These folks are poor farmers in the backwoods of Florida and are facing starvation unless they do something about the deer. Flag eats a big portion of the new corn crop and most everything in the garden. The father wants the deer killed but is confined to bed and can’t so anything about the situation. Jody refuses to shoot his deer so the mother blast away with the shotgun. She seriously wounds Flag and Jody has to put him out of his misery with a final shot. Jody then runs away from home after he tells his folks he hates them and wishes them dead. Jody isn’t gone long before he is starving and finally comes dragging back home realizing he was wrong. He has become a man and the childhood of Jody ends with the death of the Yearling.

These two great stories tell us that the deer are irresponsible creatures and a nuisance. Yes, they are cute for about 10 minutes then become pest. The meat really doesn’t taste all that good compared to a nice beef steak. Some of my best friends are hunters. They spend thousands of dollars in pursuit of these pest who overrun my neighborhood. I have to drive down the street slowly to avoid hitting them. The hunters have expensive leases and have elaborate feeders to attract the stupid creatures for the slaughter. It’s all beyond my understanding.

With the hard economic times I have decided another way to supplement my income. I’m going to lease out my back yard to the hunters. I’m already feeding the deer with my plants so I am confident the hunters can get their limit each year. The only problem is that my deer are fairly scrawny, probably because of the inbreeding. I think some of them may also be homosexuals but as far as I know they don’t have AIDS, so should be pretty safe eating.

The main thing for me is that I get to watch all this activity from the porch and my garden will be safe from the Bambis and Flags of the world.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I have been involved with the Texas A&M College of Medicine since it began. The first class graduated in 1977. It has been a big part of my professional life and one if my sons graduated from the school. I have always hoped they would gain national prominence. So far, we have had no Nobel Prize winners and no earthshaking discoveries. This past week a great discovery was made, not by the medical school but by another department in the main University. This discovery may give International recognition to the University and maybe, even to the medical school by association.

The Texas A&M Fruit & Vegetable Improvement Center has discovered the miraculous medicinal uses of Watermelon. A slice of watermelon may have the same effect as a dose of Viagra. Watermelon contains citrulline that reacts with a body enzyme and is converted to arginine. Arginine boosts nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels and has many benefits to the body. One of the major benefits is to help with erectile dysfunction with a similar action to that of Viagra. It also has several other less beneficial effects on things like the cardiovascular system. It helps angina, high blood pressure and numerous other cardiovascular problems. The bottom line is that A&M has discovered a miracle drug in a slice of watermelon.

I have always been afraid that Aggie Medicine would lead to things like appendix and tonsil transplants. The watermelon development has certainly made the University proud and this deserves consideration for a Nobel Prize. At last we are on the map for a great medical discovery.

This discovery may change my future gardening plans. I am considering putting an electrified fence around the lot behind my house. This will serve as my major deer deterrent. I can then turn this lot into a very large garden. With my expertise in raising tomatoes, this of course, will have to be a major part of future crops. The other major crop of the future will now be watermelon. I figure watermelon is going to be in great demand. I will keep a few for myself, although I am now beyond the help of this miracle fruit.

The watermelon and tomatoes should be a great supplement to my retirement income, especially in these hard economic times. As social security dries up, watermelon and tomatoes will have to takes its place. All this is going to be great because the back lot is in direct view of my porch.

I’m proud of A&M and I salute them with a big slice of watermelon.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

National healthcare is inevitable. There are 47 million uninsured and the public is demanding universal coverage. Obama appears to be a shoe in for the presidency and universal healthcare is one of his top priorities. Of course this will require a significant amount of increased expense for the government. I suspect I know where the revenue will come from. Many more entitlement programs will also follow, so the tax rate will be over 50% to fund the various programs. All this can be done, but the average person will have to learn to do with less and reduce our expectations. The people of Denmark don’t smile but they are said to be a happy bunch with a socialized state and a tax rate well over 50%.

The high gas prices may be serving us well in preparation for a socialized state. We are learning to expect less by driving smaller cars and restricting our travel. The price of everything is increasing and this should cut down on our consumption of most items including food. Maybe it will even help with the obesity problem.

This week a gas station in Louisiana was selling gas for 99 cents a gallon. The cars were lined up for miles. When something is free, people will line up for it and are willing to wait. That’s what we can expect with free healthcare. The waiting will even be more prolonged because there will be fewer providers. The lower paying field of healthcare will be less attractive for young folk and fewer will pursue this mediocre line of work. I have trouble getting a doctors appointment now and I shutter to think what it is going to be like with the single payer system. People are now dying while waiting in Emergency Rooms; this can only get worse.

It’s interesting that very few people in my area go without healthcare. They come to the free clinic or the emergency department and are never turned away. The only reason they leave the emergency department is out of anger for having to wait. It’s also interesting that most of the people visiting the Emergency Rooms don’t need to be there.

When national healthcare does come I predict that we will notice no change in life expectancy. Life expectancy may even decrease because of the lack of competence of the provider. Much of infant mortality and adult mortality is related to culture and ignorance. In our heterogeneous population, medicine is limited in its effect on breaking the barriers of culture and ignorance.

On a more positive note for national healthcare, perhaps the many unnecessary and costly procedures will diminish. The number of procedures such as CT and MRI scans will decrease when the financial incentives resulting from self-referral are removed. The number of operations performed each year should be drastically reduced as financial incentives vanish. Who knows, mortality figures may improve when the dangers of surgery are removed. One of the most positive things about national healthcare is that many malpractice lawyers will be out of work. There will be little incentive to sue when you can’t get blood from a turnip. Suits for malpractice may have to be against the government and could be a pain worse than the injury inflicted from malpractice.

From my perspective on the porch, it’s going to be interesting watching the fireworks resulting from the implementation of national healthcare. Unfortunately, I won’t escape the flames because I still have to be a patient. Goodbye, Golden Age; welcome, Universal Healthcare; hello, waiting and marginal care; so long, greedy doctors. It’s all a mixed bag, but a bag that will be opened.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It’s unbelievable how people can live in a totalitarian state such as the one in Zimbabwe. With all our problems in this country we are still fortunate enough to be relatively free even thought we can’t go anywhere because of the price of gasoline. It’s great to be able to bad mouth the president without fear of being shot.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was just reelected president for the sixth time. If you vote against him you are either, beaten, raped or shot. His opponents have to hide or withdraw from the race to keep their supporters from being tortured and killed. Mugabe is a Marxist and controls the people with an iron fist. Zimbabwe used to be a British Colony and was rich in agriculture. All the white landowners have been driven away and the country is now in total chaos. Everyone is starving and the life expectancy has dropped from 60 to 37 years. A huge segment of the population has AIDS. To make matters even worse, the country is in the grips of a horrible drought.

The differences between the extreme right and the extreme left have always been fuzzy to me. On the right there is the preservation of personal wealth and private ownership and on the left the government owns everything and there is no personal wealth or ownership. Communism and socialism are at the far end of the spectrum on the left and libertarianism with elimination of the state is to the right. Fascism is even further to the right. The writer Ayn Rand developed a right wing philosophy called Objectivism that is described in her books Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The John Birch Society is another right wing group. To me all these are forms of the totalitarian state and are dangerous.

Leaders to the right or left are usually greedy pigs. In the case of communism, people like Castro and Stalin have everything and the rest of the people are in poverty or prison. On the right, tycoons, barons and dictators have the wealth while everyone else is working to scrape out a living.

In our current political state we have Obama and the Democrats that lean to the left and McCane and the Republicans leaning to the right. Lately, both Obama and McCane have been moving to the middle. Usually, in America, whatever system is in power we want to change it. I’m just happy that we have the ability to change without being tortured or killed like those poor folks in Zimbabwe.

The main fault with our system is that the parties spend their time and energy bad mouthing each other and as a result get little done. We have been bogged down on developing a solution for the energy problem for years. I guess nothing is perfect except the porch.

The way the political system works at my house is pretty neat. I am both a monarch and a slave and my wife is the Prime Minister. She basically runs the house and handles the money. I act as her slave by taking out the garbage, emptying the dishwasher and running various errands. She also claims she is a slave but I have never been able to see it that way. My job as Monarch is much like the Queen of England. I stay primarily confined to my throne on the porch and render opinions regarding the War in Iraq, the price of gasoline and other important matters of state. It’s a great system, especially since the Prime Minister keeps me fed.