Saturday, May 29, 2010

A sentinel event is defined by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) as any unanticipated event in a healthcare setting resulting in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient or patients, not related to the natural course of the patient's illness. These untoward events change the method of practice and can certainly change the life of the patient involved.

I could use the same term in describing events in history. These are events that changed our nation or the world. Good examples are Pearl Harbor that ushered in World War II and the World Trade Towers destruction on 9/11 that led to our War on Terrorism and the unstable conditions in the world today.

Today, May 29, is the birthday of President John F. Kennedy and his assassination on November 22, 1963 was also a sentinel event in the history of our nation. Regardless of how we fell about his politics and personal life, when he spoke or even made an appearance it gave us a sense of pride and confidence in ourselves and our nation. The nation seemed to have changed after Kennedy’s death. We have lost confidence in our government and the President.

The sentinel event of history doesn’t have to be a tragedy or catastrophe. The two major scientific events of my life were the Manhattan Project for the development of the atomic bomb and the space program that put a man on the moon. These events spawned many other scientific achievements. In my field of Radiology the major event was the development of the CT scanner.

I wish that we could have at least one other major sentinel event before I depart the planet and that would be the development of another reliable source of energy. That would solve many problems like our dependence on foreign oil and giant Gulf oil leaks.

Meanwhile, all I can do is sit on the porch and watch the giant oil leak expand in the Gulf. It may run up the Brazos into the Leon and then seep into my yard. It could then kill the remaining foliage in my yard and the deer would starve. That would be a bad sentinel event turning into a good one.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The oil spill is the dominant news item this week as the disaster has worsened. The flow of oil from the blowout has remained unchecked for over thirty days. The beaches of Louisiana are now coated with oil and the black stuff has made its way into the marshlands and is destroying precious wildlife. The tourist industry has been crippled and the fishing business devastated. The economy of the whole place is in peril.

The news coverage is interesting. CNN seems to have more people on the scene. CNN stresses the negative and sensational. Anderson Cooper is always in the middle of a disaster. The emphasis on the coverage is on the blame game. Everyone was initially blaming BP and the BP people were blaming each other as well as the folks who make the cement and everything else associated with drilling. Now the blame is focusing on the government and Obama is taking heat. Poor George Bush has even been blamed because of allowing offshore drilling. Fingers are pointing in every direction. I can’t find out what is happening with the spill because of the shouting and finger pointing.

The coverage by Fox has been poor. The world could be ending from the hit of an asteroid and Glenn Beck would be talking about how we are becoming a socialist nation and Bill O’Reilly would be listening to himself talk. The major networks give only limited coverage at 5:30PM and through the local channels. The world could be ending and the major networks would still be airing things like Dancing With the Stars and CSI.

Radio is basically worthless as far as news is concerned. They have the programmed country music and nothing interrupts that. I have heard the tornado sirens blasting away and the local stations are oblivious to a disaster.

I don’t know why I even listen to the news. The stuff that comes over the air just disturbs the tranquility of the porch. I’m sure the oil leak will eventually stop just like all bleeding eventually stops.
I just wish Bush and Obama would not have let this happen

Monday, May 24, 2010

It seems like it takes a long time for the Church to learn or get a message from God. Sometimes I wonder where these theologians in authority get their information and who they communicate with.

Nicolas Copernicus died in 1543. He was a brilliant Polish astronomer who was the first to figure out the earth revolved around the Sun rather than the other way around, as the church believed. For that he was excommunicated. This past weekend, after several hundred years, he was reburied as a hero. The church had finally realized its error and that the earth does revolve around the sun. Copernicus made his observations without the aid of a telescope.

Almost a hundred years later, Galileo used a telescope to confirm the findings of Copernicus. Galileo also discovered the phases of Venus and the moons around Jupiter. The church considered him a heretic and confined him to house arrest for the remainder of his life. In 1992 Pope John Paul expressed regret for how Galileo had been treated and admitted the errors of the church.

Michael Servetus, a Spanish theologian and anatomist, discovered the circulation of blood a hundred years before the Englishman William Harvey, who got the credit. Servetus published his findings in a book that contained some remarks that challenged the teachings of the Church. He was critical of infant baptism and had some dispute regarding the concept of the Holy Trinity. He, along with his books were burned at the stake. Three of his books survived.

In the 20th Century, John Rock invented the birth control pill. Dr. Rock was a devout Catholic but believed in hormonal control of fertility. The Church was very opposed to this idea and the Church harshly criticized Dr. Rock. Dr. Rock stopped attending mass.

It’s not just the Catholic Church. I was brought up being taught that it was a sin to dance, and now the Baptist church even promotes and sponsors dances. Lots of folks believe the world was created 6000 years ago and dinosaurs and other ancient creatures such as Neanderthal and Cro Magnon Man have lived since that time.

It‘s tough handling some of these concepts. I have no problem with God. I just wonder about those receiving the message. I’m not sure a collar and a robe help serve as a conduit or antenna for the information any better than the rocking chair on the porch.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May is the month for end of year school programs. We attend several every year to gloat with pride over the achievements of the grandkids. The programs cover a large spectrum of activities such as choir, orchestra, talent shows, recitals, awards, and graduation. Often, we have to sit on gym bleachers that kill my back and then listen to every grade level perform until the crowning moment when our grandchild is on stage or is recognized. It’s all worth it, because nothing else in the world gives us more pride and joy.

A few nights ago we heard the intermediate school orchestras perform and one of our granddaughters was given special recognition. I felt as if I had won an Academy Award. At recitals when they are on stage playing solo, I bite my nails and say a little prayer. They have never let me down with a bad performance. I have been honored with going to an All State performance and that was like winning the Nobel Prize. A very special honor is that I have been the guest speaker on several occasions for academic honors and graduation ceremonies where my grandkids were recognized.

At each of these programs I am reminded of a verse of scripture from Ecclesiastes that is used by Ernest Hemingway at the beginning of his book, “The Sun Also Rises.”

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh;
but the earth abideth forever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down,
and hasteth to the place where he arose
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full;
Unto the place from whence the rivers come,
thither they return again.”

My generation passes like the sun setting, but in my case the rising sun of the grandchildren is much brighter than for my time in the sky. That’s the most comforting thought I have on the porch.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I’ve been reading this great book called “Mark Twain and Medicine.” Twain had a great time poking fun at the terrible state of medical practice in the 19th century. The world would have been better off without doctors until the early 1900s. There are still problems but nothing like the slaughter carried out by physicians in the 19th century.

Mark Twain referred to the doctors as assassins and said they were more effective killers in war than the soldiers. He suggested replacing the troops with doctors for greater efficiency in killing. Looking at the statistics, Mark Twain was correct. Of the 618,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War, two thirds died of disease and treatment by the doctors. The doctors had no idea of the germ theory of disease and performed operations with unwashed hands and contaminated instruments. Dysentery and other medical conditions were caused by filth and were treated by blood letting and purging. Calomel was a standard treatment for almost everything. This was a powerful cathartic that further complicated the dehydrated state of the patients and the calomel contained mercury that was poisonous. Ipecac, used to induce vomiting, was also a standard treatment.

As many as 400,000 of the Civil War causalities could have been prevented if the doctors had known what they were doing or simply left the patient alone. For example, the mortality for yellow fever was about 30% if untreated and 60% if the doctor applied his deadly skills and went to work with his poisons.

Twain also hated the practice of Christian Science. This practice was set up to always be a winner. If the patient had enough faith then their disease (which was self limited to begin with) would be cured. If the patient died then it was because the patient didn’t have enough faith. It wasn’t the fault of Christian Science.

Twain also attack patent medicines that were very prevalent in his time. Most of these medicines were primarily alcohol with a little flavoring. They were totally ineffective except for making the person who concocted the solution rich.

Fortunately, much of this witchcraft and unrestrained charlatanism no longer exist; however, much harm to the patient still occurs in medical practice. We still need a Mark Twain to show us the error of our ways with good humor. This would be more effective than the current practice of litigation that only makes the lawyers rich and still allows medical mistakes, fraud and poor practice. The lawyers have now joined the ranks of the assassins.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The recent elections in England are a little confusing. I’m not sure why anyone would want to be Prime Minister there anyway. All they do in Parliament is yell at each other and heckle the Prime Minister as he gives his speech.

I think Winston Churchill would approve of the new government. When he was elected as Prime Minister in 1940 he received a lukewarm welcome. On May 13, 1940 he gave his famous speech to the House of Commons and said, “ I have nothing to offer except blood, toil, tears and sweat. The speech was a call to arms against Hitler who was one of the greatest menaces the world has ever known. Hitler was running ruff shod over Europe and Churchill had the courage to stand alone in opposition to Fascism and in support of Democracy. He finally persuaded Roosevelt and the US to join the effort and Hitler was eliminated from the planet. Time magazine voted him as the most influential leader of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, most high school and college students today never heard about Churchill.

In spite of Churchill’s great leadership during WWII he was defeated as Prime Minister in the election of 1945. Churchill was a conservative and did not believe in a welfare state. He was defeated by Clement Attlee who Churchill described as a modest man with much to be modest about. Attlee was a socialist and a member of the Labor Party. He enlarged the system of social services, nationalized major industries and started the National Health Care System. He was Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951 and Churchill was reelected. Attlee was also responsible for the decolonization of a large part of the British Empire. Before Attlee the sun never set on the British Empire because of its immense size, but that ended with his time in power.

The Conservatives are back in power in Great Britian and Churchill would probably be happy. I have no idea whether this is good or bad for those folks and in fact it probably doesn’t matter as far as we are concerned. Our biggest concern with England is that they are being overrun with Muslims and this could pose a threat to our mother country and to us. Their immigration problem is worse than ours.

All this is of no concern of mine on the porch, but as always I wonder if there are lessons from history. For example, the Panic of 1837 and the resulting depression should have been a lesson for our situation today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The painting above shows Halley’s comet over the birthplace of Mark Twain in Florida, Missouri and over Stormfield in Redding, Connecticut where he died. It’s a composite painting. The comet makes its appearance every 75 – 76 years and was visible in 1835 when Twain was born and then again in 1910 when he died.

Mark Twain said, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910) and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt, now there are these two unaccountable freaks that came in together, they must go out together.” Mark Twain, did come and go with Halley’s Comet.

It was a hundred years ago this week when Halley’s Comet was at its brightest and closest to the earth. It had appeared a few weeks earlier, at the last of April, and heralded the death of Mark Twain. The comet’s most recent visit was in 1986 and it was a puny show. I could barely see it with my binoculars. The astronomers had an explanation for its lackluster appearance, but I figured it had probably been extinguished when it was overshadowed by the brilliance of Mark Twain when he departed with it in 1910.

I was hoping the comet would usher in another great personality like Mark Twain when it appeared in 1986, but so far that doesn’t seem to have been the case. It’s unlikely the world will again see someone of his brilliance. The Almighty creates someone like that only once. I wish he was alive today to comment on the foolishness that goes on in the world. He would have a lot to write about.

As for me, I will just have to be content with rereading his works on the porch. It helps me laugh at what’s going on and ease the pain to some extent.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The painting pictured above, called “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” by Pablo Picasso sold this week for 106.48 million dollars. It sold at Christies’s and set a record for the most a painting has sold at auction. The figure is of his mistress Marie-Teresa Walter and was painted in only one day. It’s bizarre to say the least and I’m surprised it took a whole day to do the painting. Picasso had several mistresses and wives, which doesn’t surprise me if they looked like the figure in this painting.

Picasso was born in Spain and is probably the best known figure in 20th Century art. He lived to be 91 years of age and turned out about 2,400 pieces of art. He died in 1973 and had a long career that spanned much of the 20th century. His style of art, called Cubism, had a great deal of influence on many painters and even writers like Ernest Hemingway.

I am pretty much of a realist when it comes to art and admire stuff like the western art of Remington. I do like other things like Andrew Wyeth and even the works of Diego Rivera and the surreal, wildman, Salvador Dali. It sounds like I have an eye for art like Helen Keller, but in a bizarre kind of way I like some Picasso. He reminds me in a way of Ernest Hemingway’s writing, which I love. I am oddly attracted to that entire weird group of people called “The Lost Generation” who lived in Paris after World War I. In many ways that generation is like mine, that is a full generation later, and also disillusioned with modern society. I guess the disillusionment will continue with the economic shocks of recent years, and this will continue to nurture unusual expressions of art and literature. It may even keep Picasso and Hemingway alive.

Hemingway was inspired by Picasso’s style of painting called Cubism. They both presented their creative visions about modern life in this graphic manner of art.

I guess, as I sit on the porch and conjure up visions of this modern world, in which we live, I might express it like Picasso if I could paint and like Hemingway if I could write.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Arizona is in an uproar over a recently passed law that allows police to check people to determine if they are illegal aliens. The Hispanic citizens think this will promote racial profiling and discrimination.

Currently, illegal aliens flow across the border. They are demanding healthcare and all other rights offered to American citizens. The sad thing is that these are the folks who come to do work Americans refuse to do. It’s too bad the government can’t secure the borders so those who wanted to come to the US could do so in an orderly manner. They could work and be expected to return home unless they became a US citizen or remained with permission. The other option is to annex Mexico and offer their citizens all the benefits of US citizens. The problem with the last option is that none of the Mexicans would then want to work and would just become welfare recipients.

Anyway, I don’t see anything wrong with checking the status of citizenship. Sorry that some legal Hispanic US citizens will have to show proof of citizenship. Sorry that people of the Middle East have to be suspect when they board a plane. It was a middle easterner who recently parked a bomb-loaded car in Times Square to blow up the place. Why would they be looking for someone like me; a bald headed, beardless, pot-bellied, wrinkled old man? It’s unlikely someone with my profile would fly a jet into a building or be boarding a plane to the middle east with a one way ticket for which I had paid cash.

I am told that the famous outlaw, Jesse James was a distant cousin. My wife is also related to the famous Ike Clanton who had the gunfight at the OK Corral with the Earp brothers. Now, if it were in the mid 1800s I would expect to be stopped by a posse because I might look like my cousin. I sure wouldn’t look like the guys pictured above. They wouldn’t have been the type to have robbed a bank in Missouri and made a get away on a horse. I would be a more likely suspect and my kids would be on the terrorist list because of their relation to Jesse James and Ike Clanton. We should be stopped for an ID check and even questioned about the whereabouts of Jesse and Ike.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, maybe it is a duck. I say stop all ducks if they fit the description of a suspected group of criminals. I guess I’m pretty safe on the porch. The only thing I might be suspect of, is an escapee from a nursing home.

My spouse and I found a jewel of a place in Central Texas this past weekend. The source of all knowledge is the beauty shop where we heard of this old home in McGregor, Texas where a couple will serve a delicious meal to a party of between 6 and 50 people. It’s located in this old historic Mansion on the outskirts of town. We arranged a birthday party for my spouse that included the kids and grandkids. I simply can’t describe what a good time we had and how unique the entire experience was.

This old home is called the Mansion and was built in 1892 by a farmer and entrepreneur who was prominent in the growth and development of McGregor. It was made of native stone from a quarry near Pat Neff Park. The current owners remolded the place in 1993 and have filled it with all sorts of collectibles. It is stuffed full of every imaginable antique and some look like they came from a flea market. The emphasis is on the American Presidents. There is a nice little library filled with volumes about the Presidents and there are many pictures of every President decorating the walls. The gentleman who owns and operates the place with his wife is retired and worked in Washington with every President, starting with Nixon. He has first hand knowledge of the Presidents since Nixon, and although he tries to keep the place apolitical there is little doubt, after a brief interview, who he thinks were the best.

The wife is an incredible hostess and a superb chef. Every little touch of eloquence graced the table and we felt as if we were at a White House Dinner. They only entertain one party at a time, so we had free run of the house. The grandkids entertained us with their string instruments and a President has never experienced anything so grand at one of his state dinners. When we arrived, we were greeted with a refreshing nonalcoholic drink. We sipped on this brew while touring the house. Next was the Mansion Salad followed by a meal of pecan roasted chicken complimented by Driskill Potatoes and Green Beans Adolphus. The Mansion baked rolls melted in your mouth and the tea was a special brew of sweet tea laced with vanilla and almond extract. It was all topped off with hummingbird cake.

It was even worth leaving the porch for an experience like that. I felt as if I had stepped back into a simpler and more eloquent time and for a while was dining with the Presidents. We are going again.