Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Every year I’m always searching for the first signs of spring. The weatherman is not always a good forecaster of spring and is frequently wrong. The appearance of Robins in the yard is an indicator, but frost commonly occurs after they have made their appearance. The blooming of fruit tress can be very misleading and they are always jumping the gun and getting zapped by a late frost. Wildflowers, like the bluebonnet, are a pretty good judge but they can be wrong.

This coming Sunday is Easter and most believe this day is officially spring. Easter is a religious holiday that varies each year and is determined by the lunar calendar. It occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The vernal equinox is on March 21st. So, Easter is on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21. That means it can be on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25. Easter doesn’t mean that it is the end of winter and the end of freezes. To me, winter ends with the last freeze.

So, what is a good indicator of spring and the official end of winter. The absolute most reliable indicator is the budding of the pecan and mesquite trees. Today, I noticed the pecan in my backyard is budding; so, you can count on it, winter is over. Spring is officially here. Salado and points south will have no more freezes.

We will have a few more cool days and a lot of wind and thunderstorms but it’s almost time for me to move to my open front porch. It will require some washing away of the yellow oak pollen and the trash blown up by the wind but it will become my fortress of solitude until the baking sun of summer drives me back inside. That porch is a beautiful place and reminds me of what heaven might be. The porch may even be a little better than heaven because there are no Muslims with their virgins, and none of my snooty Christian friends who think they are the only ones there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I attended a medical meeting last week and came away with my head swimming over the rapid advances in medicine. It’s good to be retired because it’s almost impossible to keep up with the rapidly changing science of medicine. Healthcare reform may slow this down because reduction in funding for research may have a significant impact on medical progress.

In my specialty of Radiology the practice has completely changed since I started. The plain film is now almost nonexistent and has been replaced by CT and MRI. Interventional procedures now provide more precise and rapid diagnosis and have replaced many surgical procedures. We can now offer much more to the patient with better results than in years past. Unfortunately, science seems to have separated the physician more from the patient.

At the meeting there was also much discussion about healthcare reform. Some of the things that I have mentioned in previous blogs were addressed such as self-referral, fraud and defensive medicine. Nothing has been done to contain these monsters that are a big part of the cost of healthcare. There was an interesting look at some of the statistics that have been used to support healthcare reform such as life expectancy, infant mortality and cost in the US compared to other countries. The life expectancy is 78 years in the US and is lower than many other countries. The US counts accidental deaths, homicides and suicides while these are not counted in other countries. If you took those numbers out then we would be the highest. Cuba has one of the best or lowest infant mortalities because their abortion rate is so incredibly high. If we could abort all the teen and high-risk pregnancies then we would have the best figures. Our cost in the US is high and accounts for 17% of the GDP. Americans pay more for everything including jogging shoes. We have the best healthcare in the world and people are willing to pay for it. Most of the development of new drugs and procedures come from the US. So, things are not so bad. We do need to expand the availability of care so that we can take care of all the illegal aliens and others who are unemployed and cannot afford insurance.

Anyway, things are changing so fast in medicine, I’m just thankful to be on the porch. It’s just too hard to keep up. I can’t even handle my current jobs of taking out the garbage and emptying the dishwasher.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The healthcare reform bill passed. Yea, for Nancy!! Now maybe the President and Congress can do something about the economy and putting folks back to work. We needed healthcare reform but I’m very worried about how my grandkids are going to pay for all the entitlements being granted to Americans as we become a welfare state. All this reform is great if everyone would have a job. Fewer and fewer people are working to support all these entitlement programs.

Anyway, I’m going to take advantage of this new coverage. I’m calling to make a doctors appointment but it will probably take until 2014 before the first appointment time is available. That’s the year when everything kicks in. There are just not enough doctors to cover everyone and many of them don’t accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. The Medicaid number is going to increase significantly so I’m going to have to fight to get an appointment. The doctors and others are also busy filling out fraudulent claims on studies and procedures they didn’t perform in order to supplement their reduced income. They don’t have time to do the legitimate stuff because the pay is so bad.

Closing the donut hole drug coverage for seniors is also going to help. Medicare has been paying the initial $2,700 for drugs then I have to pay the full amount until $4,500 when Medicare again kicks in. This is called the donut hole and it’s great this will be closed. I’m going to ask my doc to prescribe some more medicine. I may even start taking Cialis if I can get the government to pay for the two bathtubs needed when you take this stuff.

I’m also going to try to get my grown children and grandkids back on my policy. The fact that they are over 26 shouldn’t make any difference and if they don’t let my grandkids on then it’s discrimination against seniors and children.

I love this entitlement stuff. I don’t have to work and still get everything I need. Now life on the porch will be great if I can just figure out how to avoid paying taxes and stay out of jail. Since I’m not rich the tax bite may not hurt as much. I will just let my grandkids worry about paying the bill.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My last blog made fun of my fellow Baptist because of their changing beliefs. The First Baptist Church in my hometown is giving prom dresses to needy girl. When I attended that same church, many years ago, it was considered a sin to dance at a prom. Now they are promoting it.

All religions have bizarre beliefs and practices that are a source of confusion and distraction from the real message of the church. I wish the Pope would forget celibacy for the priest. All that does is promote homosexuals and pedophiles to be part of the priesthood and give them protection.

Another practice among the Catholics that has been confusing relates to Right to Life and contraception. I agree with them on most issues related to abortion but the following true story I have always found amusing. I had a high school friend who was a devout Catholic. Shortly after I became a physician, he approached me about doing an abortion on a girl he thought he had made pregnant. I ask him why he had not used a contraceptive and his reply was, “that would be against my religion.” Yet, it was okay for me do an abortion because I was then the guilt party, and it didn’t matter anyway for me because I wasn’t a Catholic. I was doomed to hell anyway. He also didn’t consider that I could lose my license and go to jail. He thought he was doing right according to his religion.

I have studied the Bible and cannot find specific references to dancing, celibacy, contraception, musical instruments in the church, infant baptism, crossing oneself, covering the head in church, use of incense, confession, and a long list of worship practices that distinguish the various denominations. I’m not sure about the day of worship or Sabbath. The question is who created our calendar and how many times has it been altered and revised? Could it be that many of these practices were created by man? Of course, these folks were inspired and blessed by God.

All this business is sure confusing to folks like me. I try to figure it out on the porch but have found there is no intelligent life on this planet who has the correct answer.

I have found that the words of Emily Dickinson are pretty good:
Some keep the Sabbath going to church;
I keep it staying at home,
With a bobolink for a chorister,
And an orchid for a dome.
God preaches, - a noted clergyman,
And the sermon is never long.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I frequently read the old hometown newspaper online. An article today has made me get ready for an earthquake that may even be felt as far as the porch in Salado. The article was on the front page of the paper and is about the First Baptist Church in Conroe providing prom gowns for girls in need.

The program is sponsored by the young married couples Sunday School Class. They call it the Priceless Gowns Ministry. They say it is their way of showing Christ’s love to the girls. They want the girls to feel like they are in a boutique when they come to pick out a dress. The dresses have been furnished by several upscale shops in the Houston area. The dresses will be limited to Junior and Senior high school students.

The thing that strikes me as funny and hypocritical about the whole thing is that when I was in high school, at the same chuch, it was a sin to go to the prom and dance. We had a youth revival and a young evangelist came and preached hell fire and brimstone messages for several days. After one of the sermons he ask that everyone come down to the front who promises God they will not dance again. The majority of folks marched down to the alter, pledging not to commit this mortal sin again.

My how the Baptist have changed. They are now in competition with the Methodist in the social club category. The next thing you know, the Baptist will be buying their liquor in the open. When I was in high school, the Church of Christ also forbid dancing. They may still think it’s a sin but I’m afraid to ask my Church of Christ friends about this because they think I’m going to hell anyway and it shouldn’t matter to me.

Forget the starving people in Haiti and Africa, our first priority should now be to provide prom dresses. I guess this is a great way to show the love of Christ. I just hope we don’t confuse Christ about our changing views on dancing. Maybe God revised his list of sins since I was in high school. Maybe I need to go to church more often to keep up. I don’t cover this sort of stuff in my Bible study on the porch.

Beam me up Scottie. There is no intelligent life down here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When I was in college and the first couple of years in med school I got to know several of the doctors in my hometown. They would let me hang out with them whenever I was home for an extended time. One summer, I spent two days a week with one of them. I learned a lot; not much about medicine, but how a doctor acted. They were different in those days. Doctors were more professional in their conduct and how they were viewed in the community. They were highly respected and many were leaders in the community.

Doctors spent more time talking to patients. They couldn’t do nearly as much as today but at least they tried to make you feel better. They were sure respected for their effort and suits were very rare. The doctor was actually revered. They made house calls in those days and I remember my mother cleaning up the house before the doctor made his visit. She wanted everything to be in perfect order to make a good impression on someone of his stature.

As great as these doctors seemed to be, they were very limited in what they could do. Most of them had their office on the second floor above a drug store. I ask one why they had their office on a second floor with steep stairs and no elevator. His reply was that he figured if a patient could make it up those stairs there might be some hope in his being able help them. These docs were general practioners and would do most everything that could be done from delivering babies, and reducing fractures, to doing appendectomies and tonsillectomies.

These docs are a vanishing breed. They are now called Family Doctors and don’t do surgery. Most don’t delivery babies. They now confine their practice to the office and check your blood pressure and cholesterol. They tell us to lose weight and stop the bad habits that kill us, like smoking. They can treat many minor illnesses and follow patients with chronic conditions. Many have a physician’s assistant who does much of the work so the doc can spend their time filling out all the paper work and instructing the other office help to make it hard for patients to get an appointment.

Most medical school graduates don’t choose Family Medicine for a career because they are paid less that specialist and don’t have the same degree of respect by the public. With healthcare reform upon us, these docs are going to be in greater demand. The question is, where are they going to come from? All the uninsured who will now be insured are going to have trouble finding a physician. The emergency rooms may become even more crowded to care for the sick and worried well.

The only thing that may help with the patient overload is that folks will be unable to pay for the gas to get to the doctor because of their higher taxes and increase in insurance premiums. I’m just going to try and stay on the porch and eat salads in an effort to be safe and healthy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A few days ago, I wrote about the courthouse in my old hometown and mentioned playing on the lawn the night of the election returns. I didn’t know much about politics at the time but it was exciting stuff for my family. It was big entertainment to go down to the courthouse on election night and watch the returns posted on a big board on main street across from the courthouse. The only thing as exciting in those days was to hear about a rape trial or to listen to a Joe Louis fight on the radio. I didn’t even know what rape was at the time, so that never attracted my attention.

I had no idea about the political offices except for Sheriff. I knew FDR was President but that was too remote for me to pay any attention. I heard about our representatives to Congress but they were totally unimportant as far as I was concerned. As it turns out, my views as a child regarding Congress have not changed that much with my advanced age. When I was a kid, the Sheriff was the kingpin. I had been influenced by all the cowboy movies I saw. As far as I was concerned, the Sheriff ran the town. He also carried a gun and wore a badge, which identified him as the headman.

Before the election, we would also gather on the courthouse square to hear all the political speeches. We would hear from all the candidates including the County Treasurer, Judge, Commissioners, etc. The main speeches, for me, were the ones by the candidates for sheriff. They would mumble a few words and we would giggle but, as far as I was concerned, they were still like hearing an Inaugural Address or a State of the Union speech. Even when Lyndon Johnson came, in his helicopter, campaigning for the Senate in 1948 his speech was not as important as the sheriff. A senator wasn’t important to me. He didn’t even carry a gun.

The world has changed a lot since I was a kid. The Sheriff is not very important anymore. We have the FBI, CIA, ATF and huge police forces with swat teams and the like. I don’t know what the sheriff does anymore. The polls close at 7:00 PM and the TV has a projected winner at 7:01 with 1% of the votes reported. All the pundits are blabbering and I just get disgusted hearing about it. Many other things have changed since those election days in my hometown. I never heard of a Republican, especially since I grew up in a house with yellow-dog Democrats. Republicans were considered in the category of Yankees and Catholics.

Anyway, it’s nice to just sit on the porch and think about those times. It would have been fun to have been Sheriff, wear a big hat, a starched white shirt, have a big belt buckle, and a nice pair of boots. Most of all it would have been great to have a gun in a hand-tooled leather holster on my hip and a shiny badge on that white shirt.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I’m reading an interesting book by David Grann called “The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.” It’s a collection of true stories about murder, madness and obsession. The first story is about this guy who is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and the author A. Conan Doyle. There are a number of societies dedicated to the study of Sherlock Holmes. Some people are so caught up with the master detective they believe he is a real person and the author is only someone who chronicled the events of his life. Some actors who have played the role of Holmes have become possessed by the character and it has ruined their career or driven them crazy. Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett are examples.

All of this got me to thinking about stereotypes. Many folks are the stereotype of a particular profession or belief. The manner of dress stereotypes people. We know it is an Indian if the person is wearing a feathered headdress and carrying a tomahawk or a cowboy if wearing a ten-gallon hat and boots and has a big belt buckle.

There are certain behaviors, characteristics and sets of beliefs that stereotype or define a group. Religious beliefs and practices are an example. My spouse and I starting a game the other evening of naming various religious denominations and immediately naming their identifying characteristic. Here are some examples:
Baptist - no dancing or drinking and serve on committees
Methodist – social organization that sprinkles
Episcopalians – rich folks who are more educated
Presbyterian – not as rich as Episcopalians but otherwise the same
Church of Christ – no instrumental music in Church and believe they are the only ones going to heaven.
Assembly of God - the women are pallid and pudgy with no makeup and have unshaven legs and a bun hairdo. Roll on the floor and speak in tongues.
Cults – the women look like Assembly of God but are more skinny with larger bun hairdos and dress like pioneers with long skirts.
Catholics – priest and pope call all the shots and the church members are mindless non-bible readers and the women cover their heads with scarves when in church. The priests are gays and pedophiles
Jehovah’s Witness - People knocking on your door with literature.
Mormons – guys dressed with a tie, riding bikes through the neighborhood. They end up with several wives.
Jews – pushy folks who are greedy and stingy.
Muslims – women are covered from head to toe with veils and robes and the men are covered with hair and wear turbans. Men carry machine guns to kill infidels
Hindus – people wrapped in sheets who appear to be starving

I know all the above is politically incorrect and will make many folks mad, but unfortunately this is how they are generally perceived. Unfortunately, none of these initial impressions or stereotypes provokes a response of what the religious denomination really stands for or represents.

My main sanctuary and place of worship is the porch, so I am probably perceived as a guy in a devil suit, sitting in a rocking chair with a poison pen and loud mouth. As the book I’m reading illustrates, a character like Sherlock Holmes can obsess and steal your soul. Regrettably, souls have been stolen and consumed by organized religion and have been separated from their intended purpose as defined by the Nazarene.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Recently, we took a couple of interesting day trips. One was to my old hometown. I just parked the car and walked around the courthouse square to reminisce. It was once a very active place with a beautiful courthouse. The lawn of the courthouse seemed massive when I was a kid. All of this area was my playground. I loved running around on the courthouse lawn, with the other kids on election night, waiting for the returns to be posted on a big board across the street. The lawn was also the place we gathered to hear political speeches. I even got to see Lyndon Johnson land there in a helicopter when he was running for the senate in 1948. The biggest event for me was to see Wild Bill Elliot, the cowboy movie star. He made his appearance right there on the courthouse lawn. I also had free reign of the courthouse. I would run in and out of the building, sticking my head in the district court room and even the sheriff’s office.

There is no longer a courthouse lawn. There have many additions, so the old building is now engulfed by extensions. There is now just a sidewalk adjacent to the building. It’s very sad. There is no longer the hustle bustle around the square. About half the buildings around the square have been semi-renovated into dull establishments, like law offices. The other half have been boarded and are in various states of decay.

My father was a county commissioner in 1935 when the courthouse was built. That position, and his role in building the courthouse, was always his pride and joy. There is a plaque in the lobby that has his name, along with the other commissioners. On my trip, I wanted to go into the courthouse to take a picture of the plaque. I could only enter through one door and inside was an elaborate security system and a fat guard. I had to go through an airport security check by emptying my pockets and then passing through a metal detector. The plaque was located behind the guard, so after I told him why I was there we became good friends. I told him that I once had free reign of the courthouse. This was in a time when folks were honest and didn’t care about blowing up buildings and doing other mischief. We talked about how times have changed, but he couldn’t give me any example of threats that had been made in the courthouse. I can’t imagine why a terrorist or anyone else would want to bother the courthouse in Conroe. That place has to be a pretty low priority for terrorist and other serious criminals.

Anyway, with the high security at my hometown courthouse, I’m thinking about putting something up on the porch. You just can’t be careful enough. It’s pretty scary seeing some of the folks at WalMart and Big Lots. It would probably be a good idea to place guards at every block in town and in the parking lots of large establishments to check for tattoos and other markings that might indicate a terrorist. It’s a dangerous world in which we live.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

About the only time a sports team from my alma mater, Baylor University, makes the national news is when we commit a crime. A few years ago, one of the men basketball players shot and killed a fellow player. We were in the national spotlight with that one. Now, a female basketball player punched a player from Texas Tech in the face and this morning it is national news. Yea Baylor, and thanks to the player, Brittney Griner, we are again in the headlines.

I love Baylor and am proud to be a graduate. All my kids and their spouses are graduates of BU. I have spent a lot of money there. To me it was a good educational experience and also a religious experience. When I think about Baylor it’s usually about some of the friends I made, as well as a few good teachers and courses. I especially enjoyed a course on Mark Twain and American Humor. That course was worth the whole thing.

I have never cared much about Baylor athletics because we have never had much. I liked the Southwest Conference but don’t really care for the Big 12. I listen to the news about how we lost a game but never even get disappointed. I do feel good on the rare occasion when we win. A few years ago, the ladies basketball team won the national championship. That must have been a fluke.

Because Baylor is a religious school, it does disappoint me when we only gain national recognition when we commit a crime. I guess punching someone in the face is a crime, especially when it’s a girl punching another girl.

This latest incident may not be all bad. Maybe its helped Baylor identify a hidden talent and ability to sore to the top in a sporting event. It might be a good idea to make boxing our number one sport. Baptist are good at fighting and we should be naturals for this sport. We could even start a new summer Olympics event with female boxing. With today’s society the females won’t be content unless they are matched against the males but maybe we can start with female against female. I’ll bet our females can beat those from Kansas, Nebraska and even UT. The only tough opponent would be the Aggies since a large number of their females shave and go to the bathroom standing up.

Anyway, I may be on to something for Baylor sports. Boxing may put us into the national sports spotlight without killing or hitting someone illegally. This is a sport I might even tune into on the porch.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Today is March 2nd and a day I usually celebrate along with April 21st. It’s Texas Independence Day and April 21st is San Jacinto Day. I celebrate because of my love for Texas history and because my great-grandfather fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. I’m getting a little afraid to celebrate in public because some historians don’t think Texas has a right to be independent from Mexico. I also used to enjoy studying the Civil War but all the symbols of the South are now considered politically incorrect and it’s considered un-American to pay any sort of respect to the Confederate flag or anything southern. It’s embarrassing to even say I enjoy studying the Civil War or Texas History. The only politically correct thing to study now is African-American history and history of the Middle East and Muslims. This is boring stuff and I keep falling asleep. I now restrict my celebration to the quiet of the porch and just laugh.

I’m also not going to celebrate today because it’s Election Day and I have no candidate. I don’t care for the Republicans or Democrats. The Republican candidates have had an incredible amount of negative TV advertising as they attempt to smear each other. I hate this type of campaigning and refuse to support either one. I don’t know enough about the Democrat candidates and will just have to wait until the general election before I decide. The way things are going, I probably won’t vote then. All this sounds terribly Un-American and I’m not doing my patriotic duty. The politicians are the ones who have let me down regarding patriotic duty.

Yesterday, I became one year older. The thing I have learned through all my years is that the human race is generally pretty stupid and stubborn. On the subjects of politics and religion people or dug in on their views and keep a very closed mind. Only their politics is right and it’s like we don’t even belong to the same country as far as Democrats and Republicans are concerned. Religion is the same way. Most folks think their way is the only way and everyone else who believes differently is in danger of hell fire. It’s enough to make Jesus puke.

From all this, it sounds like I’m depressed. That’s not the case with me, mainly because I have a great sense of humor. I sit on the porch and laugh a lot as I silently read Texas and Civil War history and even the Bible.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Somehow, I forgot to mention in yesterdays blog about one of the most important proposals for my healthcare reform package. Reform of the Drug Companies has to be at the top of the list of things that need reforming. Shaping up this bunch could save billions of dollars.

The drug companies spend millions on TV advertisements. These should be outlawed because they are very confusing and create unreasonable expectations for the patient. The patient comes to the doctor insisting on a particular drug they have heard about on TV. The doc is forced to give them a prescription whether they need it or not.

The main offenders are Viagra and Cialis. Enough is spent on advertising these two drugs to pay for the entire 40 million uninsured. Every time a drug is advertised the commercial elaborates on so many disclaimers and possible side effects it scares me to death. One of my favorite complications, usually listed, is an erection lasting more than 4 hours. I would classify that as a miracle rather than a complication.

Cialis has the most interesting commercial. It’s these two people sitting in separate bathtubs on the beach or in the woods. What is that supposed to mean? They are always talking about when the time is right and then the couple dance into a bedroom and close the door. That’s getting pretty close to porn.

Plavix is another one that is overdone. A daughter or son is advising their father as if they were a physician. They diagnosis the dad with possibly having peripheral vascular disease and tell him he should take Plavix. Another overdone commercial is Restasis for dry eyes. The woman in the commercial claims to be an eye doctor and says if Restasis is good enough for her it should be good enough for you. That ladies eyes are extremely far apart and she has this stare that goes right through you. I wish they could find a Cyclops for that commercial.

Anyway, if the drugs companies would just cut the commercials the price of dugs would drop significantly and we would all be happier. This additional proposal about drug company reform should complete my healthcare overhaul. I am sending the letter to my elected officials in Washingon and will wait on the porch for an answer. I will probably get a lot of rocking done before I get reply.