"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Monday, October 31, 2005

Weird, strange, sick and twisted

Happy Halloween!

I'm not sure which is scarier - this:

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or this:

Question of the day: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Answer: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb. Its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The wheels are coming off the trolley

Reaction to the "Scooter" Libby indictment from conservatives has been predictable. They’re either dismissing the charge as politically-motivated hypocrisy (tell me what in Washington isn’t) or too "minor" to bother with (I’ll have to try that defense if I’m ever in court charged with a crime), relieved that Rove and Cheney got off the hook (it ain’t over yet, folks), or claiming that old shop-worn standby of the right, "liberal media bias".

They still don’t get it.

What this clearly reveals is an administration determined to justify a war with Iraq at any cost. You’ve heard the cliché before: "my mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with the facts". Read this Newsweek article for a brief yet informative run-up to how we got to where we are today.

It’s my personal belief that Dubya decided to invade Iraq as a personal vendetta against Saddam for the attempted assassination of George Bush Sr. some years earlier. He was willing to stop at nothing to get the man who tried to kill his daddy. Of course he needed a plausible excuse for this, so a number of ever-changing reasons were cobbled together including the now infamous "Weapons of Mass Destruction". The outing of Joe Wilson’s wife Valerie was a ham-handed attempt to punish a critic who knew the truth and spoke publicly about it.

Besides this explanation, there is a darker theory as to our current sad state of affairs. It holds that Bush is simply too dim-witted to be the leader of a complicated conspiracy, and that our nation is being secretly run by a cabal of neo-conservatives headed by Dick Cheney. Some might find this a little far-fetched, but no political intrigue at this level of government is out of the realm of possibility. In any case, the American public has a growing sense that something in Washington is fundamentally broken and can’t be fixed. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan writes:

In the past I have been impatient with the idea that it's impossible now to be president, that it is impossible to run the government of the United States successfully or even competently. I always thought that was an excuse of losers. I'd seen a successful presidency up close. It can be done. But since 9/11, in the four years after that catastrophe, I have wondered if it hasn't all gotten too big, too complicated, too crucial, too many-fronted, too impossible. It's beyond, "The president is overwhelmed." The presidency is overwhelmed. The whole government is. And people sense when an institution is overwhelmed. Citizens know. If we had a major terrorist event tomorrow half the country--more than half--would not trust the federal government to do what it has to do, would not trust it to tell the truth, would not trust it, period”.

I feel it too. Do you?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sorry, I couldn't resist..

Quick - what old-time TV sitcom does this make you think of??

Why, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, of course. Duh!

And on that note ... have a great weekend, y'all!!

Miers debacle, Photoshop 'till you drop

Bye-bye Harriet. Bush was handed a golden opportunity to save face by accepting the premise that insistent calls for the release of legal documents prepared by Miers during her 5-year White House tenure would "undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel". What a crock. The WaPo's Charles Krauthammer saw this ploy coming as early as a week ago. I would have more respect for Bush if he just went on TV and said, "You know what? I screwed up", but we’ll hear that come out of his mouth when pigs sprout wings. Admitting failure has not been a hallmark of this administration. Personally, I prefer Scott Ott's explanation better:
Miers Withdraws To Spend More Time With Humans

Harriet Miers today withdrew her name from consideration as a Supreme Court Justice so she could “spend more time with family and friends, and just humans in general.”

“During the weeks since my nomination,” said Miss Miers, “as I made the rounds on Capitol Hill, I have missed the fellowship of human beings that I enjoyed on earth. So, I’m returning to the mother planet.”

Miss Miers said her withdrawal was also prompted by a desire “to pursue other interests…like picking at my cornea with a dental instrument.”

The wise thing for Bush to do now would be to make sure the next candidate is someone of unquestioned devotion to constitutional ideals rather than to any individual, party or "wing" of the political spectrum – but don’t count on it. Instead, look for Bush to try to appease the ruffled feathers on the right by picking someone with solid conservative credentials. Unfortunately, this will all but guarantee a divisive political fight, just what America needs right now. The Supreme Court belongs to all of us, red and blue states alike, and Bush should make his selection accordingly.

Meanwhile, you’ve no doubt heard about the flap over the doctored Condoleeza Rice photo on the USA-today web site. I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you. Those nasty editors took this revealing natural photo of Condi (below):

and altered it to make her evil demon eyes appear "normal":

Good Heavens, has the press no shame? Everyone knows she is the She-Beast From Hell, so why beat around the, er, Bush?

Next thing you know, they'll be telling us this isn't a real picture of Rummy:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy HNT!

In reading other people's blogs on this site, I've discovered something called "Half-Nekkid Thursday". The premise is that every Thursday, you post a picture either of yourself or a photo you have taken of someone else that reveals some skin. Therefore, in the spirit of communal blogginess, here's my first contribution to HNT:

Pretty scary, huh? Now, some people who are not familiar with HNT may confuse "nekkid" with "sex". This is a total misconception. If you get even slightly aroused by this shot of my size 15 clodhoppers, you need some serious psychiatric help. The fun is in seeing how interesting and creative folks can be. Sorry my pic is neither, but hey - you've got to start somewhere.

Oh, and to momentarily change the subject, I've got just one word to say regarding the Houston Astros: "choke".

Happy HNT, y'all!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ya gets what ya pays for

I'm sure you've seen this little applet before on other blog sites, so follower of the herd that I am, here it is on mine:

Well. Doesn't that make me feel better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The elephant speaks again

Foreword: In Part One, I introduced my lung condition (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis) and my preparation for a possible transplant. The adventure continues:

I’ve just seen my pulmonologist at the Methodist Hospital today, and received a bit of a shock: apparently, I’m too healthy to be considered for transplantation at this time! This means that I will not be placed on the official U.N.O.S. transplant list for at least another three months. Of course, I was elated to learn that the numbers objectively confirmed what I had been feeling subjectively (i.e., “better”) since last May, but at the same time I was somewhat disconcerted about the decision not to list me. After all, that’s been my goal since I started the evaluation process last February. Once we made the decision that a transplant was the way to go, I basically wanted to “get it over with” as soon as possible and try to move on with the next phase of my life – whatever that may be. Being in limbo like this is very frustrating. However, things became clearer after my doctor explained the new process by which patients are qualified as organ recipients. Up until earlier this year, donor lungs were allocated strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. The sole criteria was how long you had been on the list. Because of this, wait-list time nationally averaged two years or more until the transplant surgery took place. Unfortunately, many patients who desperately needed an organ died while waiting for one to become available. As a result, UNOS changed the organ allocation process to an intricate “scoring” system in which a numerical value is calculated based on a number of factors; esentially, it comes down to how sick one is. Time spent waiting still weighs into this score, but it's no longer the sole measure. This has resulted in two significant improvements to the system; the most important is that people who are most in need of a transplant are the most likely to get one first. The second is that once your name is placed on the list, the waiting time is much shorter – on the order of three to four months. My doctor did reassure me that once my need becomes greater, I’ll be able to have the surgery in time. So, by any analysis, the news is good, not just for me, but for everyone who requires transplant surgery.

Figuring out exactly when to transplant a patient is a delicate balancing act. On the plus side, you have to be sick enough to need one in the first place. But on the minus side, you don’t want the person to be so compromised by their condition that they will have trouble surviving the surgery or the long recovery afterwards. The ultimate goal, then, is to be perfectly centered between needing the operation and being healthy enough to recover from it. In the last six months, I've apparently gone from just slightly negative of center to far enough positive that I’m not currently a candidate. This is very unusual for IPF patients, as nearly everyone continues a downward spiral once diagnosed.

So what, exactly, is going on with me? At least two factors might be contributing to my general improvement. The first and most obvious thing is that I have lost a considerable amount of weight recently as a result of dietary modification and a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Gradually, my exercise tolerance has increased; and while I’m still on continuous supplemental oxygen, I don’t seem to require as much to stay saturated as I did when I was heavier. This is all to be expected, and in fact my doctor thinks I could stand to lose another 15-20 pounds (groan!) which might help things even more.

But there’s an “X” factor that can’t be as easily explained or predicted: since last June I have been taking an experimental drug called Pirfenidone. This is one of a new class of drugs now undergoing clinical trials, and has the potential to be a real breakthrough in the treatment of IPF or other similar illnesses involving uncontrolled fibrosis. I was fortunate to be one of a limited number of people selected to participate in an “Early Access Program” to test the efficacy of this medication. Researchers, doctors, and most of all patients have been hoping and praying for years for the discovery of a “magic bullet” to provide a reprieve from the virtual death sentence imposed by a diagnosis of IPF. Perhaps this is it. But from what I have heard and read elsewhere, the results are far from conclusive – so only time will tell.

Enough for now. If you’ve read this so far, I thank you for your interest; I'll continue later.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Hangin' in "Big H"

Something a little different for the post today, as I'm in somewhat of a subdued mood and not feeling up to my usual sarcastic self. :^) Monday night finds me in Houston, with plans for an early visit with my transplant team at Methodist Hospital tomorrow morning. They're supposed to give me yet even more pulmonary function tests ... groan. But I'm hoping the last hurdles to being placed on the organ recipient list will be removed after this. It was hard getting a hotel room due to the world series game being played here tomorrow. I guess I should be excited for the Astros (after all, I did live in Houston for nearly 15 years) but I can't say I'm too thrilled about it one way or the other - never have been much of a sports nut. Anyway, here's the view from my hotel room balcony:

Pretty damn scenic, ain't it? That's the lovely Southwest Freeway in the foreground, with the Galleria area behind it. The rather erect tall building on the right is the Williams Tower (formerly called the Transco Tower when I lived here), and is still better known by locals as the "Giant Phallus of The Galleria". It's always been one of my favorite architectural features of the city; I recall many a pleasant spring Sunday afternoon spent in the park-like setting of the building's grounds and waterwall. One of the downsides of Houston has always been the horrendous traffic jams, and this trip has been even worse than I remembered it - no doubt due to all the baseball fans in town. I'm looking forward to getting back home tomorrow evening.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

More proof the end is near: Anti-Christ will be in auto sales

Hot on the heels of my earlier post in which Pat Robertson opined that the spate of recent natural disasters was an omen of the end times, comes that other respected global theorist and religious scholar ... Alice Cooper. Um, yeah, him. Last week the aging shock-rocker stated on contactmusic.com that he believes the apocalypse is imminent.

"Everybody is aware of the end of time - the floods, the tsunami, the hurricanes. It's Revelations. It's all supposed to happen," Cooper said. "I know where it's going because, according to the Bible, it's like this for a while and then we'll see the Antichrist, who's going to be the smoothest car salesman you've ever seen in your life."

"He's going to be like Gandhi. He's going to be the guy you never expected, because he's saving everybody. That's the guy you've got to worry about."

The "School's Out" icon claims that current world conditions match the forecast presented in the Bible's prophetic Book of Revelation. And Cooper's qualifications for this insight are.... er, that his father was a preacher. I'm not making this up.

OK, I don't know about you but I'm convinced. If someone tries to lowball me a loaded cherry Coupe DeVille, I'm heading for the hills. Talk about your Buyer's Remorse.

Beware! Vehicle Of Doom!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Is your printer ratting on you?

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it isn't. The pages coming out of your color printer may contain hidden information that could be used to track you down if you ever cross the U.S. government. Last year, a computer magazine article pointed out that printouts from many color laser printers contained yellow dots scattered across the page, viewable only with a special kind of light. The article quoted a senior researcher at Xerox Corp. as saying the dots contain a digital "ID tag" for use by law-enforcement authorities to track down criminals.

The content of the coded information was supposed to be a secret, available only to agencies looking for counterfeiters who use color printers. But now, the secret is out.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer privacy group, recently revealed that it had cracked the code from a widely used line of Xerox printers. The code revealed the serial number of the printer as well as the date and time a document was printed. With the Xerox printers, the information appears as a pattern of yellow dots, each only a millimeter wide and visible only with a magnifying glass and a blue light.

The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer. The U.S. Secret Service acknowledged yesterday that the markings, which are not visible to the human eye, are there, but it played down the use for invading privacy. "It's strictly a countermeasure to prevent illegal activity specific to counterfeiting," said an agency spokesman.

Xerox's Bill McKee also confirmed the existence of the hidden codes, but he said the company was simply assisting government agencies, competing manufacturers and a "consortium of banks". McKee declined to provide further details.

Source: Mike Musgrove, The Washington Post. Read full article here.

Fun with Fotos

As you may know, Tom Delay was arraigned yesterday in Austin on money laundering charges. I think he looked entirely too happy in his traditional mug shot, like he was posing for a college yearbook photo...

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Not only that, but the photo bears a disturbing and uncanny resemblance to J.R. "Bob" Dobbs...

Personally, I think my Photoshopped version below is more appropriate:

Finally, after the hearing DeLay's advisors and legal team took time out for this group shot:

More "serious" posts to come next week.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Place Right Out of History

As I am writing this, Hurricane Wilma is churning towards Florida, apparently drawing a bead on my former home town of Sarasota. I still have a number of friends there, and I certainly hope that they are spared the ravages that Katrina and Rita heaped upon other parts of the gulf coast. The most recent name of course conjures up the image of Wilma Flintstone, and I think it would be interesting to have an entire hurricane season consisting of only names taken from cartoon characters. Let’s see: we could have hurricane Dilbert, Elmer, Fred, Homer, Lisa, Maggie, Popeye, Yogi, etc. The biggest problem would be the letter “B”; it would be hard to choose from Betty, Barney, Boo-Boo, Bugs, Bart, or a host of others. I can see the headline now: “Hurricane Butthead Threatens Florida Keys”. It might be hard to take that one seriously.

But we should not be distracted by Wilma’s cutesy namesake. This cyclone has the unenviable distinction of being the strongest Atlantic-basin storm in recorded history, adding to an already devastating hurricane season. A lot of people can’t wait until it officially ends on November 30, and there’s a palpable buzz in casual conversation that this year has been something different. Has our mucking with the environment reaped Mother Nature’s retribution?

Some people think that all the recent global disasters are a sign from God that the end times are near. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer actually asked this question of American Ayatollah Pat Robertson the other night, and Robertson said:
"Wolf, I might say you're very perceptive to pick up the key in this. If you read back in the Bible, the letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Thessalonia, he said that in the latter days before the end of the age that the Earth would be caught up in what he called the birth pangs of a new order. And for anybody who knows what it's like to have a wife going into labor, you know how these labor pains begin to hit. I don't have any special word that says this is that, but it could be suspiciously like that. These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity."
Robertson rambled on.
"What was called the blessed hope of the Bible is that one day Jesus Christ would come back again, start a whole new era, that this world order that we know it would change into something that would be wonderful that we'd call the millennium. And before that good time comes there will be some difficult days, and there will be likened to what a woman goes through in labor just before she brings forth a child."
Blitzer nodded, as one might when confronted with a raving lunatic, and asked "So you think we're at that moment right now, perhaps?"
"It's possible, Wolf," Robertson replied. "I don't have any special revelation to say it is, but the Bible does indicate such a time will happen in the end of time. And could this be it? It might be."

Wow. There you have it. I guess we better start making preparations.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

GOP: Down, But Not Out

We’re hearing the word schadenfreude
a lot these days, which for anyone who may not know, means “a malicious satisfaction in the misfortune of others”. It comes from the German words for damage, Schaden, plus Freude, or joy, and is applied most often to Democrats who are delighting in the glorious self-destruction in and around the Bush camp. It's not nice to kick someone when they're down, but awfully hard to resist when they deserve it so much. Between the administration’s dismal handling of Katrina, increasing public dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Iraq, the DeLay and Frist affairs, and other assorted misadventures, the White House is by all accounts not an especially happy place right now. Bush’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in history, and a lot of folks who voted for, um, you know, the other guy in 2004 – whassisname? – are crowing “I told you so”. However, the vultures may be circling a bit prematurely. I am not a big fan of #43, to put it mildly, but neither am I gloating at his misfortune. I get no joy out of watching our great country deteriorate right before my very eyes. If you study the polls, you find that a decrease in satisfaction with Bush’s job performance does not equate to an increase in affection for his rivals. If there was a clear and viable alternative it might be a different story, but who ya gonna call … Hillary? John Dean? Joe Lieberman? The Democratic choices don’t inspire, and the lineup hasn't changed significantly since last November. Then, they had every right to take their best shot at an incompetent incumbent, and the best they could do was John Kerry. No doubt Bush’s dirty-tricks campaign helped sour Kerry with the voters, but it was hard for most folks to work up any real enthusiasm for the man even in his best light. Had anyone possessing true leadership, coupled with a JFK-esqe charisma and vision run against him last year, Dubya would have been sent packing back to Crawford with his tail between his legs. You’ll note that he’s still in Washington, still very much in power, and still cracking that smug frat-boy smirk at us every chance he gets. Also keep in mind that an animal is most dangerous when it's wounded. Bush knows how to play political hardball, and this lame duck can still bite. No matter who the Republicans nominate as his potential successor three years from now, unless the Democrats come up with a truly magnificent challenger it's going to be business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So while it's tempting, keep a lid on the schadenfreude for now. Maybe if we’re all very lucky, it will come in handy in 2008.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A little close to home

After yesterday's heaviness, I think today's post could stand some comic relief. Literally. Something tells me this Zits strip is being widely circulated in the Blogosphere. Credits: created by Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott; syndicated by King Features.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Introducing the elephant in the room

I have a terminal illness.

There, I’ve finally said it. I’ve known that I wanted to write about this since I started my blog, but have put off doing so because I wasn’t quite sure how to bring it up or how to frame it. As you might expect, this fact has become the hub of my life since I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis in April of 2003, but I don’t necessarily intend for it to be the focus of this journal. My illness does not define who I am or nullify my other thoughts and feelings, and that’s what I want to write about – everything: the world as I see it. I’ve asked myself, and if you’re reading this you may be wondering, why I would want to share such intimate details of my life with complete strangers in a public forum like this. I want to be careful to not be all “woe is me” or expect anyone to feel sorry for me. Lots of things may deserve your pity, but I’m not one of them; there are plenty of people on this planet in much worse shape than I am. Fortunately, I have good medical care, close friends and relatives who are helping me to cope with this, and (I hope) a positive attitude towards whatever the outcome may be. But it also occurred to me that one way I might be able to make the best of a bad situation is to express my thoughts and feelings so that anyone else who may be in this position, or know someone who is, can have another frame of reference to perhaps better understand their own feelings. It’s not that I have any expectation of being either inspirational or profound, but as anyone facing adversity realizes, there is strength in numbers. I hope my experiences, as they unfold during the journey I am taking, might be useful to someone else. If even a single other person finds something I might write to be in any way helpful, it will serve to provide deeper meaning to my own life. I’d like to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is some reason for all this.

In the first entry on this topic, I’d like to begin by providing a little background information. Pulmonary fibrosis is a specific type of interstitial lung disease in which a process of inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) occurs in the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs. This fibrosis results in permanent loss of that tissue's ability to breathe and carry oxygen. Air sacs, as well as the lung tissue between and surrounding the air sacs and the lung capillaries, are gradually destroyed by the formation of scar tissue. While some specific lung irritants such as asbestos have been identified as being a source of this disease, the vast majority of cases – mine included – are of unknown origin and are therefore termed idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. There is no known cure. The life expectancy following a diagnosis of IPF is two to five years. While the prevalence of IPF in this country is relatively small, it is unfortunately growing at an alarming rate. Some of the more well-known sufferers include Jerry Lewis, Evel Knievel, Marlon Brando, Gordon Jump (TV’s "Lonely Maytag Repairman" and the general manager on WKRP in Cincinnati), Sam Phillips (legendary owner of Sun records), conservationist-philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller, and former Texas Governor John B. Connally. Approximately five million people worldwide are afflicted, about 200,000 in the USA. Of these, roughly 40,000 expire annually. (Source: Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation)

Currently, there is no effective treatment for IPF. Corticosteroid drugs (prednisone) are traditionally prescribed, but only about one-third of those given the medication will respond favorably to it. Even then, their main effect is to slow, but not stop, the progression of the disease. There are some experimental medications now in clinical trial, but their effectiveness has yet to be determined. Lung transplantation remains the only other alternative, but this is a risky path even under the best of circumstances. Only a small percentage of those who apply will meet the initial criteria, and many people die each year during the long waiting period for an organ to become available. Rejection of the donated lung(s) is a significant problem for those who undergo the surgery.

In February of this year, I went to Houston’s Methodist Hospital to begin the process of evaluation for a lung transplant. A seemingly endless series of medical tests later, I have yet to be approved to be placed on the waiting list, but the chances of this happening are looking favorable. So far, nothing has been found to exclude me and the tests have revealed that other than my lung disease, I’m in pretty decent shape. I am hoping that the evaluation process will be concluded and that I'll be listed by the end of the year. Once that happens, the wait time until “the call” comes is impossible to predict. It is likely to be six months to a year, but there's no telling. I have to be prepared for it to happen at any moment. Even if the surgery does take place, my survival odds won’t improve dramatically. There is roughly a one in ten chance that I won't make it out of the O.R. alive. Survival rates drop by about ten percent each year after that, and few people live longer than ten years after lung transplantation.

So, I've had to concern myself with the very real possibility of death – perhaps in as soon as under a year, if surgery does not go well. It has not been an easy thing to contemplate, and I’ll save my thoughts on that subject to write about here another time. Thank you for reading so far.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Holy Harriet!

I’ve been following the controversy over the latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers. There seems to be a unique strategy at work here: if you can’t find a person whom everyone (whether they’re conservative or liberal) will support, at least find someone that everyone despises. Recent news articles have listed these salient points about her qualifications for the highest court in the land:

  • She “never, ever, says anything that might in the slightest way be construed as critical of George W. Bush”.
  • She’s a “fiercely competitive tennis player”.

  • In the past, she has been “known more for meticulousness, sometimes fussiness, than for great wisdom and piercing insight”.

  • She has “no record of decisions or judicial opinions or scholarly articles”.

  • She once stated that George Bush was “the most brilliant man she ever met”.

  • She is a “born-again evangelical” who shares the church’s position that life begins at conception (certain to influence any opinion on Roe v. Wade).

  • She has failed to “demonstrate in any public way that she is a passionate advocate of judicial restraint”.
There are so many examples of her lack of ability for this job from other sources, it would be unnecessarily redundant to list them here. It’s been bad enough that Bush has repeatedly stacked his administration with hacks and cronies. So far, with the notable exception of Michael Brown, few of them have done any serious damage to the nation (domestically speaking, that is. on foreign policy...er, let's not even go there). But this “pit bull in size 6 shoes”, as she has been called, has the potential to undo decades of mostly competent jurisprudence from the Supreme Court bench. While I fear that the President will respond to the wails from the right by choosing an even more conservative nominee should Miers fail to be confirmed, it was an incredible blunder to pick her in the first place. The American people deserve better.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Life Imitating Art (feline style)

I warned you about the cute cat pictures...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Just when I think I'm about to become overwhelmed by all the depressing world news of late (wars, hurricanes, earthquakes, potential killer flu pandemics, murders, political intrigue, etc.) I come across an item or two that puts a smile on my face, or at least makes me go "hmmmmmm". Here's a small sample of what turned up today:

Giant World Cup brothel opens
A giant brothel set to cater to tens of thousands of football fans at next year's World Cup in Germany is opening its doors in Berlin. According to a spokesman, "Football and sex go together extremely well."

Hypnotic bank robber
Bank clerks in Moldova have been told not to make eye contact with customers after a string of robberies by a hypnotist. The robber reportedly puts cashiers into a trance before making them hand over thousands of dollars, then leaves them with no memory of coughing up the cash.

Musical breast implants
Computer chips that store music could soon be built into a woman's breast implants. One breast could hold an MP3 player and the other the person's whole music collection. BT Futurology, who have developed the idea, say it could be available within 15 years.

According to a spokesman for the company, "It is now very hard for me to thing of breast implants as just decorative. If a woman has something implanted permanently, it might as well do something useful."

Man prefers jail to wife's nagging
A man sentenced to nine months house arrest begged a judge to jail him instead because he couldn't stand his wife's nagging. Algerian Ahmed Salhi, 24, was sentenced to a nine month curfew at home with his Italian wife in Ferrara, northern Italy. But he went back to court after a week and begged the judge to jail him because he could not bear her nagging.

"I need some peace," he said.

Patent filed for dogshit cement
A German architect has filed an application for a new type of cement made of dog shit. Friedrich Lentze, 57, from Berlin, applied for a patent for his "odourless heating and building material" made from the dog shit cleaned from the streets of the German capital every day.

He said: ""The loads of dog poo that are gathered every day actually make a great mortar with fantastic insulating properties."

Robot sex dolls
A German inventor claims to have created the world's most sophisticated robot sex doll. The sex androids developed by aircraft mechanic Michael Harriman from Nuremberg have 'hearts' that beat harder during sex. Harriman claims "They are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing, but I am still developing improvements and I will only be happy when what I have is better than the real thing." The dolls are sold under the Andy brand name.


It's stories like these that restore my faith in humanity.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Giant Monster Python Devours Miami!!

Not exactly, but things do seem to be getting out of hand in South Florida. A long time ago, I spent several years living in Miami; the nastiest critters I recall having to deal with back then were huge cockroaches, the kind you have to step on two or three times just to get their attention. But recently, there have been three separate episodes involving run-ins with large, bad-tempered exotic snakes. Earlier this month, a python tangled with a American alligator in the Everglades. The 13-foot snake and 6-foot gator both ended up dead, locked together so gruesomely that it was hard to make heads, tails or any other body part of either creature. When the carcasses were found in an isolated marsh in Everglades National Park, the gator's tail and hind legs protruded from the ruptured gut of a python, which had swallowed it whole. As an added touch of the macabre, the snake's head was missing. For reasons scientists have yet to exactly determine, the snake exploded as it tried to swallow the alligator.

So far, several theories abound,
none of them pretty and all speculative because once on the scene, Everglades National Park biologist Skip Snow quickly abandoned plans to load the bloated, badly decomposed carcasses onto his helicopter to take back for evaluation.

"We decided there was no way we were going to do that," he said. "Something was going to go wrong and it was going to be nasty."

The following Sunday, a 12-foot Burmese python showed up in a wooded area behind the home of Elida Rodriguez in northwest Miami-Dade. Her Siamese cat, Francis, had been missing for two days, and when her son, Andres, noticed a peculiar bulge in the python's belly, he said "I'm sure there's a cat in there".

There was. An x-ray of the python's stomach later confirmed that the snake had indeed eaten the 18-pound housecat.

Francis Before...
and After

The latest incident happened Monday when 77-year old Felix Azquz arrived at his chicken and turkey nursery on Coral Way to check on his birds. First he noticed one of the turkeys was missing. Then he spotted a 10-foot African rock python. It had been lean and sleek when it slithered through the fence, but after gobbling up a turkey dinner, the bulge in the snake's belly prevented it from making an escape; it couldn't fit through the fence.

"It scared me," said Azquz. "I ran outside to call the police."
Captain Al Cruz, head of the Miami-Dade fire-rescue anti-venom unit, arrived and found that the snake was aggressive and had a bad temper. "It launches at everything that tries to come near it," he said. Snake experts dubbed the turkey-eating python Goblin, in the spirit of the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving season.

What the hell's going on here?

Many pythons, which are native to Asia and not Florida, are former pets that end up in the wild after being abandoned by their owners once they grow too big to handle. Steamy South Florida provides an ideal environment for the reptiles to grow and breed. Before this week, Miami had an average of three to four python sightings per year, so this dramatic upswing in the number of encounters has many people worried. Sooner or later one is going to get ahold of a small child. Hollywood screenwriters take note: this would make a great plot for an icky made-for-TV movie.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Name, New Layout

My blog-identity crisis has been solved. After chewing on it for a while, I’ve decided to rename this sucker from “Name This Blog” to “Wind in the Wire”. The name slipped into my brain as I was drifting off to sleep the other night, and the more I thought about it the more I liked it. It’s sort of abstract so it can mean whatever you perceive it to mean, and has a slight alliteration to it which makes it a bit easier to remember. Of course, after Googling the name, I discovered that it’s not exactly original, having been the title of a 1993 made-for-TV movie and album by Randy Travis. But dammit, I thought of it before I ever knew this, so I’m using it anyhow - unless Randy threatens to sue me, at least. Really, it’s been said that there’s no original thought left in the world; every philosophy is a slightly-altered regurgitation of something that’s been expressed previously (and usually better) by someone else. Still, I think most all of us continually wrack our brains trying to come up with our own unique perspective on life.

The phrase “Wind in the Wire” means a variety of things to me. Free thought is like the wind, and the wire is the internet link that connects my mind as I write this to yours as you read it. If you’ve ever been out in the country and heard the sound the wind makes as it blows through telephone lines, it’s haunting, lonely, yet beautiful. Another piece of music that comes to mind is the seminal country-pop tune “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. Frankly, I’ve never much cared for the song itself but I do like the image it creates. And of course I have to mention Warren Zevon’s farewell album “The Wind”. I was very moved by this record when it came out in August of 2003. As you may know, Warren suffered from a terminal lung illness and knew he was dying as he recorded this work; through determination and sheer will he stayed alive long enough to finish it. It was his way of saying goodbye to the world, especially to the people he loved. It’s not likely that I’ll leave a Grammy-award winning album as my legacy after I’m gone, but I hope I’ll have at least some of the grace and dignity Warren had. God Bless you, my friend. I'll really try to enjoy every sandwich.

Monday, October 10, 2005

National IPF awareness week

Even though it's now over, I wanted to mention National Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis week. This is an annual awareness campaign sponsored each October by the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, an organization seeking to educate the public about this incurable and mostly overlooked disease. You might say that I have somewhat of a vested interest in this subject, but I'll write more about that at another time. For now, rather than me trying to fumble with the words, please click this link if you're interested. Thanks.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Columbus, Shalumbus

So why does Christopher Columbus get all the glory? According to most people, Columbus was not the first to discover America. In fact, today, October 9, is Leif Erikson day as decreed by no less an authority than President George ("W") Bush hisself. Look here if you don't believe me.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Wisdom of Anna Quindlen

One of my very favorite writers is Newsweek's Anna Quindlen. Few people put things in clear perspective with such eloquence as Anna does. This column appeared in the September 19, 2005 issue, and its message bears repeating.

Don't Mess With Mother

The long view is not about patching levees, or building houses, or assigning blame. It's about changing the way we all live now.

By Anna Quindlen

The dark aftermath of the frontier, of the vast promise of possibility this country first offered, is an inflated sense of American entitlement today. We want what we want, and we want it now. Easy credit. Fast food. A straight shot down the interstate from point A to point B. The endless highway is crowded with the kinds of cars large enough to take a mountain pass in high snow. Instead they are used to take children from soccer practice to Pizza Hut. In the process they burn fuel like there's no tomorrow.

Tomorrow's coming.

The cataclysm named Katrina has inspired a Hummer-load of rumination, about class, about race, about the pathetic failure of the Feds after four long years of much-vaunted homeland-security plans. The president made himself foolish, calling for an investigation into who fouled up, perhaps ignorant of Harry Truman's desk plaque reading THE BUCK STOPS HERE. The press rose to the occasion, awakened out of its recent somnambulant state, galvanized into empathy and rage. The public was remarkable, opening their homes and their wallets.

But the failure by government, in the midst of a hurricane season forecast early on to be a monstrous one, illustrates once again the lack of a long view. The long view at the moment is not about patching levees, or building houses, or getting oil rigs back up and running, or assigning blame. It's about changing the way we all live now.

Both the left, with its endless talk of rights, and the right, with its disdain for government oversight, suggest that you can do what you please. Americans have taken the message to heart, and nowhere is that clearer than in the mess we've made of the natural environment. How many times do we have to watch homes cantilevered over canyons surrender to a river of mud or beach houses on stilts slide into the surf to know that when we do high-stakes battle with Mother Nature, Mother takes all? Once I heard a businessman at a zoning-board meeting say, "Well, a person can do what he wants with his land." Actually, that's not true; that's why zoning exists. Is any city, town or state brave enough to just say no to waterfront development that destroys dunes, despoils water and creates the conditions that will, when a storm strikes, create destruction?

New Orleans lived for 80 years with the granddaddy of all environmentally misguided plans, the project that straightened out the mighty Mississippi so its banks would be more hospitable to homes and businesses. Little by little the seductive city at the river's mouth became like one of those denuded developments built after clear-cutting. It was left with no natural protection, girded with a jerry-built belt of walled-off water, its marshland and barrier islands gone, a sitting duck for a big storm.

But it was not alone. Everywhere in the country, wetlands disappeared and parking lots bloomed during the past half century of mindless growth, in which bigger was always assumed to be better. While the streets of European cities were filled with tiny compact cars, the SUV took over American roads. Show houses sprang up that will soon present an interesting lesson in what happens when cathedral ceilings meet sky-high fuel prices. In the aftermath of Katrina, one displaced person after another told TV reporters that at least they were alive, their family was safe, the stuff didn't matter. If only that were the ethic for the long haul. Consumption used to be the name for a mortal wasting disease. It still is.

This administration of big-oil guys is the last place to look for leadership on conservation. Many Bush supporters scoff at global warming as a lefty myth, and early on the president made his position clear when he made the United States one of two industrialized nations to reject the Kyoto Protocol, the plan to curtail climate change by cutting down emission levels. But there has been no powerful national leadership from either party on this front in recent memory. Political officials have bowed to the public's thirst for more, more, more.

The effects of disaster fall disproportionately on those who have less, as they did during Hurricane Katrina, when poor families had no cars to flee in, when there were no immediately available means for a second act in another town and another home. But between the blackouts, the fuel costs, the eroding coastlines, the disappearing open spaces, it is going to become harder and harder to overcome the effects of blind overgrowth even for those of means. Get ready for the $100 tank of gas, and an Armageddon of our own making.

New Orleans will be rebuilt, but rebuilt how? In the heedless, grasping fashion in which so much of this country has been built over the past 50 years, which has led to a continuous loop of floods, fires and filth in the air and water? Or could the new New Orleans be the first city of a new era, in which the demands of development and commerce are carefully balanced against the good of the land and, in the long run, the good of its people? We have been crummy stewards of the Earth, with a sense of knee-jerk entitlement that tells us there is always more where this came from.

There isn't.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Psst! Hey, you! Wanna see a photo of my cute, hairy little pussy?

Now that I have your attention (you were expecting ... what? get your mind out of the gutter), this is mainly an experiment to try uploading and placement of images in this here blog. If you're into cute cat photos, I've got a boatload of 'em but I'll spare you - at least for now. I have two cats, and tend to take pictures of them when either (a) they do something adorable, which is fairly often, or (b) i'm totally bored, which also happens on a regular basis. So, a cat pic may crop up here and there on occasion. Blogger makes this pretty easy, and overall I've been quite pleased with how this thing works. Leave it to Google to take blogging to the great unwashed masses. It used to be that long ago (i.e., last month), publishing a blog was an arduous process that required a degree in computer science, so only those who really really had something important to say went to the effort to do one. Now, if someone of my ilk can blog with only a few lazy-ass mouse clicks, that's gotta mean something, and I'm not sure it's all good. The ten-horned beasts may not be far behind.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Just a-lookin' for a name

OK, now that I'm here, the first order of business is to pick a name for this puppy. This is an exercise that I'm sure anyone who has started an online journal before has gone through. Sure, maybe some folks have pet names they've nursed all their lives, or something that's been revealed to them in a blinding flash of inspiration. But I haven't been feeling particularly inspired lately so I'm stuck searching for a name that's unique, clever, memorable, but not too damn cutesy. None of the names I've thought of so far really click. I've gone from banal ("Bob's Blog") to oblique ("The Electric Pillow"). I originally was going to call it "The Toasted Times", but the more I thought about it...ehhhh. I live in East Texas where there's lots of pine trees so maybe "The Pine Tree Times", "Journal O'The Pines" or "Behind The Pine Curtain" might work. Dunno. I suspect musicians go through this sort of thing when they first get together and try to come up with a name for their band.

Anyway, knowing that far greater minds than mine are out there, I thought I would use this first post to ask for input. Does anyone like any of the names I've thought of so far, or care to offer a suggestion? I've found a couple of random blog name generators online, like this one but the results have been pretty lame ("Empty Confessions"? Sounds more like a soap opera.) Then there's this site that generates a name based on a single word input. And my blog identity crisis is evidently not an uncommon occurance, as this guy has tried the same approach. ("Birth of A Notion"? "Grump Up The Volume"? I don't think so.)

So please, suggest ... something. Anthing. And if this blog goes on to achieve international acclaim, you will feel the thrill of knowing that YOU helped christen it. Now wouldn't that be more satisfying than a lousy royalty check?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And so it begins...

Oh boy! My own freaking blog in cyberspace. How exciting, how original, how unique. Yes, just me and 6,047,292 other blogs out there. Whether I have anything to say that will be even remotely interesting to any other human being is debatable, but I'm gonna give it a shot and see where it leads. Thanks for reading ... more to come!