Monday, March 30, 2009

Last week I participated in a medical meeting and was too busy to write a blog. It was an interesting meeting for Physicians Assistants in Orthopedics. One of the other speakers at the meeting was an orthopedic surgeon who had been a trauma orthopedic surgeon in Iraq and treated many wounded during his tour of duty. We talked about the types on injuries he treated and I recollected the type of injuries during Viet Nam.

He treated practically no gunshot wounds in Iraq. Most of the injuries he encountered were horrible extremity injuries from explosions related to roadside bombs. The soldiers had on body armor and helmets that protected the trunk of their bodies and heads. Because of the armor they survived injury that would have caused immediate death. The extremities were so mangled there was hardly any tissue to work with, and amputations were his main operation. In Viet Nam, the lack of body armor resulted in injury to vital parts of the trunk and head. Death was primarily the result of gunshot wounds.

Each war has its unique way of reducing the population. It started with clubs and has gone all the way to the atomic bomb and guiding missiles by computers. World War I had some of the greatest advances and introduced the airplane, machine guns and poisonous gas. World War II, of course, introduced us to the atomic bomb. Several counties have this ultimate weapon of mass destruction and, fortunately, are reluctant to use it. The worry is that some of the insane fanatics may develop the weapon. We now have the ability to destroy the planet.

The Civil War was one of the most interesting and most deadly of wars. Over 600,000 men died in that conflict. Over half died of disease and wounds. Doctors had no idea that germs caused disease and they operated with dirty hands and instruments. As a result of the contaminated wounds sepsis developed and the poor soldier died. Medical ignorance was the main cause of death. The gunshot wound was the primary instrument of death. The amputation of an extremity carried an 85% mortality because of sepsis.

It seems safe sitting here on the porch with the best in modern medicine not far down the road. It also seems like a long way from a war zone. I try not to think about the possibility of a well-placed atomic warhead being detonated in a place like Fort Hood. At least, I would probably be vaporized and not have to endure the mangling, suffered by our poor troops in Iraq.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It was recently reported that the birth rate in the US was up last year. There were 4,317,119 births in 2008, which is the largest number since 1957. There is good news and bad news in this number.

The good news is that each woman in the US has an average of 2.1 babies. This is the magic number necessary for a population to replace itself. I don’t know if any of these kids will ever work but they are the ones who will be paying the huge national debt we are rapidly accumulating. They will, hopefully, be able to fund things like Social Security and National Healthcare to take care of the old folks. Countries like Japan and Italy, where the birth rate has fallen, are going to have difficulty in the future without enough workers to pay for all the social programs.

The bad or sad news is that many births are following the lead of Sarah Palin’s daughter. 40% of the births are out of wedlock. Marriage is just not the in thing anymore. Most folks have the morals of an alley cat or act like some of the primitive societies. Guys just don’t seem to accept responsibility for becoming fathers. The guy who was going to marry Palin’s daughter said that they just need time to grow up before consider marrying. What about the poor baby who is left without a father? Guys like this should be taken out and shot and not be allowed to pray before the execution.

It’s pretty phenomenal with modern birth control and abortions that the birth rate is increasing. There must be a lot of breeding going on out there. I have heard people, who have visited refugee camps where people are starving and covered with flies, say that they see these folks copulating in the open before they die. It’s an amazing emotion and drive by all of us in the animal kingdom. The monkeys and other animals of the jungle are often more dignified and responsible about the act than the human species.

Anyway, I encourage the young folks to keep up the good work. I was beginning to worry that I would have to leave the porch and go back to work to help pay off the national debt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How arrogant and greedy can you get? The AIG executives who got the big bonuses for bringing their company to its knees and precipitating the world financial meltdown take the prize. After the government multibillion dollar bailout at the taxpayers expense these guys make off with millions while the rest of us lose our lives savings.

US Senator Charles Grassly, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, has suggested that the AIG executives should do like the disgraced Japanese and commit suicide. The main difference between the executives on Wall Street today and those during the crash of 1929 is that no one is jumping out windows today. That’s unfortunate. We should have buildings like in the old days when the windows opened.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also under fire because he should have known what AIG is doing with the money. The government is 80% owner of AIG and Geithner is really the boss. Geithner is good about overlooking things. He’s the one who failed to pay a large chunk of income tax last year.

I have always been a little scared of walking down a dark alley or going into the bad part of town for fear of being robbed. I am also very careful to look for suspicious characters in the parking lot of Walmart or the mall. Fortunately, I have never been robbed in any of these scary places. I have been robbed just sitting here on my sacred and secure porch. The greedy white-collar guys on Wall Street have made off with a large chunk of my savings and never even held a gun to my head. I was just too trusting and ignorant to defend myself.

I’m afraid there is no safe place to go. I thought about cashing everything in and taking it to the church safe but from the recent fund raising activities at my church it’s less safe there than in the hands of the AIG executives. I need not worry. I’m being depleted so rapidly there is really nothing to hide. Just hope the deer keep coming to my back yard. They can provide me with a source of food when times get really hard. In the meantime, I hope the AIG executives are having a good time at my expense.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The news stories from the big networks like CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and FOX are all bad in this time of recession. They only make matters worse by constantly making us panic about how the sky is falling. Just hearing about the greedy lot on Wall Street and the executives of the big banks and industries makes my blood boil. Today the New York Times reported on the big bonuses the AIG executives are about to receive. They are about to hand out 170 Million of our bail out money to their executives and they justify their actions by saying that is what they need to do to have the best and brightest in their organization. Pardon me for having to stop writing for a few minutes while I go throw up. If they have such bright people how did they get into their current mess.

I think that one of the best things we could do for our future is close the Harvard MBA and Law School. These arrogant jerks must laugh all day as they take and squander our money. I would like to put most of the bunch in the crowded cell with Bernie Madoff and with some big black dudes craving for sex.

Even the news folks are disgusted with the stories from big business, Wall Street and the government. A story today says the networks are turning to ordinary America and local stories for the news. Veteran newsman Tom Brokaw is about to travel around the country in hopes of getting some decent stories from the common folks. The program is going to be called “Dispatches from the Road.” “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt was one of the best shows of all time. I have visited some of the places he wrote and reported about and they are most refreshing and leave you feeling good. We need to feel good again and I hope Tom Brokaw finds some great stories.

I wish Tom Brokaw could visit me on the porch. I could entertain him with stories about the Harris Clan in Cut and Shoot and some of the folks I knew growing up in my small town in Texas. I’m pretty sure I could entertain him with some of the stories from my time in General Medical Practice years ago. People would also enjoy hearing about a couple of my uncles who made their living off small plots of ground in the piney woods back in the 30s and 40s. I could also let Brokaw see the herd of deer in my back yard and he could learn how it would be possible to feed my family and the neighborhood if I could open fire. All these stories would sure beat the depressing stuff I hear on the nightly news.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The teacher of the Mark Twain course, my spouse and I recently attended, did a great job of discussing Twain’s works. I got a kick out of us discussing Tom Sawyer’s church behavior and what kids do to occupy themselves in church. The teacher talked about his own experiences and how his brother embarrassed, but made everyone laugh when he gouged the glass eye out of a fox head on a fur stole draped over the church pew in front of him. People used to wear the furs of animals, with the head intact, to ornament the piece. It was the fashion to wear one of these expensive pieces around the neck or as a part of the collar of a coat. Our teacher’s brother was sitting behind a lady in church with such a fancy collar. She slung the garment over the seat during the church service and the young boy began to fiddle with the glass eyes of the dead fox to amuse himself during the service. An eye just popped out and rolled along the floor to the horror of some and the amusement of others.

The whole story made me think about the way people dress and the unusual way they ornament themselves. Body piercing jewelry is one of my favorites. Some kids have multiple ear and eyebrow piercings and look like a walking pin cushion. The metal rings are placed all over the body including the umbilicus, nipples and other secret places meant to amuse or give pleasure. Tattoos are another of my favorites. It used to be that the most appropriate place for a tattoo was on the arm or perhaps the chest of the male. Now females have them. They started putting small ones on the ankle then they moved up to the breast and now a favorite spot is on he lower back just above the crease of the buttock.

When I was a kid everyone dressed in their Sunday best to attend church. Men always wore a coat and tie. My mother said ways look your best when you go to worship the Lord. Now days people wear stuff I wouldn’t even wear to do yard work. Faded jeans with holes in the knees, sloppy tee shirts with weird writing and pictures that make some kind of statement are now the most popular attire. I recently attended a couple of funerals. Everyone at the funerals was dressed like they used to dress for church. All the men had coats and ties and the ladies looked great. These same people go casual on Sunday. I just wondered how dead folks deserve more respect and better dress than the Almighty himself. I am told that God doesn’t care what you look like or how you behave when you go to worship him. I can’t buy into that one. Why don’t we just go nude and defecate on the altar.

As I look at National Geographic on the porch, I think how it was the only porno publication when I was a kid and now it is a fashion magazine.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

My spouse and I finished the Mark Twain course we have been taking through Baylor continuing education, sponsored by the Alumni Association. The course was great and we learned a lot about Mark Twain. Twain became pretty irreverent and caustic in his old age and I have always wondered if he became so disgusted with Christianity, and the people who claim to be Christians, that he became an atheist. Our teacher, who is a Twain scholar, said that no one really knows the answer but he thinks that Twain was a Christian and continued to study the Bible and theology until the end of his life. Mark Twain simply had the same questions about religion that any thinking person has. Twain hated hypocrisy and was critical of the behavior of many, so called, Christians. He was also troubled about the inconsistencies in the Bible and how a loving God could apparently be so harsh. Twain was especially critical of Mormons, Catholics, and Christian Scientist.

Mark Twain’s greatest works were Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The setting for these books was his small hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. He felt that the real character of an individual is best revealed in a small town and these folks are more interesting to write about. City folks have a crust masking their character and are less interesting. They are more difficult to know inside and out. City people also seem less aware of what’s going on out of their very restricted area. I sure agree with all that because the most interesting characters I have know are small town people.

In our last session of the class today, we read a letter Mark Twain wrote to his wife. In the letter he talked about the various characters he had observed in church. He was constantly observing human nature in every setting and recorded what he saw in great stories. He was also a master of transcribing the dialects of his time onto paper. Our teacher said he talked and talked as he wrote and this enabled him to get the dialect just right for the printed word and for the reader to enjoy.

As Ernest Hemingway said, “all of American literature starts with the book Huckleberry Finn.” Mark Twain’s work is certainly the best literature I have for my porch reading. It gives me great insight into many things but most of all it makes me happy and laugh a lot.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

My spouse and I continue to enjoy our adult education course on Mark Twain. This week we read “Tom Sawyer.” This is about my fourth time to read the book and I learn something every time. This is the story of a boy growing up in a small town in Missouri located on the Mississippi River. Much of it, I’m sure, is autobiographical. This boy is a good friend of Huck Finn’s and is a mischievous character. Mark Twain takes the reader into the mind of a young boy who has a great imagination and a desire for great adventure. Unlike the structured world of today’s youth, Tom Sawyer has the time to pursue the dreams of his imaginary world. He wants to be a pirate or a robber and is able to play out these games with his friends.

The simplest things can make Tom happy. He can get a thrill out of tormenting a tick or a beetle or just observing a fly. He is a master of conning his friends into things like whitewashing a fence. He explores ways to remove a wart like burying a bean with the blood from the wart or taking a dead cat into the cemetery at night to throw at the devil who has come for the spirit of an evil person. He falls in love with Becky Thatcher but most of all loves his adventures as a carefree youth. Tom is not as carefree as Huck Finn but they make a fine pair and the best that can be found in any book.

Tom is bored with the adult world and especially things like church. It’s in church that he carefully studies the act of a fly preening itself or the effort of a beetle to right itself from being on it’s back. School is also a bore and Tom uses every trick in the book to skip the misery of the classroom and the very harsh teachers of the time. Tom preferred fishing and swimming to his books. I suspect that Mark Twain was much like Tom Sawyer. He was an autodidact or a person who was self taught. School is for people who do not have the great genius and talent of Mark Twain.

Tom Sawyer was a great believer in witches, devils, spells, remedies and other things superstitious. Some of his favorite things were; Robin Hood, pirates, robbers, haunted houses, and buried treasures.

I guess one of the things I like most about Mark Twain is that I have a secret desire to be a Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. I can sure identify with these great characters and they are some of my regular visitors on the porch in my world of imagination.