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Three score and ten or more

Thursday, May 29, 2008


These are not personal things or things about my family, and I am trying hard not to get into politics, but for a thinking person, this has been a hard week.

I have taught rhetoric for years, and much that deals with rhetoric has to do with motive and with ethos or character as perceived. Psychologists have, for years, dealt with motive in the analysis of action, and from Mazlow up and down the line one of the chief motivations for action has been the ethos of the speaker, and the way that the proposition advocated would improve the sense of honor and well being of the audience. (This is why, sometimes, that giving a reward - plaque, trophy- for actions is sometimes more effective than giving such an obvious thing as money. The recipient of money will be joyful, but he/she will run out an spend the money, but the trophy or T-shirt that was awarded for an act will sit on the mantle or hang one the wall for years.) We all (well, maybe not bank robbers or thrill killers) like to think of ourselves as "good" or "honorable". The title "honorable" makes folks accept what we say more quickly (though it can be used against us. For those who read Shakespeare, think of Mark Antony's funeral oration and the use HE makes of the phrase "and Brutus is an 'honorable' man.")

Regardless we make excuses, sometimes tell lies, sometimes work very hard in difficult situations, or participate in "run -walk for life" events just to make us feel better about ourselves (and sometimes make others feel better about us).

With all this in mind, think about Scott McClellan. Thing about the lies he must tell himself each day to convince himself that Scott McClellan is an honorable man. Look at the pain in his face as he is interviewed on TV that reveals that he no longer really thinks of himself as an honorable man. I don't know if he has a wife or children but imagine what he must say to them to try to maintain the fiction that Scott is an honorable man. It is a little sad.

It reminds one a little of Peter as he repeated near the trial of Jesus "I never knew the man", and the horror he felt as he ultimately realized what he had done. Let us hope that, like Peter, there will be some other acts of valor and honor on the part of Mr. McClellan to overcome that horror, and that the realization of the failure of personal honor will not affect Scott as it did that "other apostle" who went out and destroyed himself.

Off that subject and on to my other pet peeve, bureaucracy and bureaucrats and the ultimate CYA that motivates them all.

There is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army who was stationed at Ft. Stewart in Hinesville, Ga. who retired from the military in February, but has not yet received a penny of his 2000 plus dollars to which he is entitled due to retirement. I wanted to put a link to the article in last Tuesday's Savannah Morning News which explored this situation, but my computer ineptitude seems to have made it impossible. Any of you good souls who can access that article, read it. If you have a heart, it will tear. If you have a temper, you may be a little profane.

It seems that he started to retire a couple of years ago but was not able to do so because of the military stop-loss program, and the dipstick bureaucrats who deal with military pay can't seem to get the almost retirement and the real retirement tied together.

I was interested that military pay people who should take care of this have even ignored the angry voice of Congressman Jack Kingston who is on the committee that deals with military finance.

I don't know of many bureaucrats, anywhere, in government, in education, in churches of all types, who shouldn't occasionally receive a brain enema (if there could be such a thing) that would blow out the need to create paperwork to justify existence, the millions of stored excuses that justify incompetence, and the generally superior attitude that seems (to them) to justify their silly existence.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I really am not going to begin posting on politics again, but I really have to comment on some of the media stuff that I see that fits into my professional background. The first is the press conference given by Senator Obama in which he wished his opponents and the media (mostly, of course the more conservative media) to quit picking on his wife for what she says and does in public. Michelle Obama is a graduate of a prestigious university and sits (or has sat) on the boards of both major corporations and not for profit corporations, some of them educational. With that kind of background, she should already have learned the lesson that I learned as the moderator of a college radio/TV program when I was a sophomore in college.

The lesson is this "When microphones are around, and television cameras are on, either shut up, or turn on your brain before saying anything." Microphones and television cameras make your most stupid, off the cuff comments permanent parts of the public record.

I hate to try to tell Senator Obama anything about public communication, because, as I have stated many times publicly, he is one of the most masterful public communicators I have ever seen or heard, but if he wishes to keep the folks from doing what he called "low rent" business on his wife, he is going to have to quit allowing or encouraging her to stand up before microphones and TV cameras in his behalf. Perhaps he should provide her with a Burka or keep her in a closet. Campaigning against Hillary Clinton he should be constantly reminded that the off the cuff or on the cuff statements by a president's wife are going to be publicly analyzed by that presidents friends and foes. (and though I am not thrilled about it, I deeply suspect that he may be the president and have to cope with this fact)

I have very mixed feelings about what is going on in the courts, the press, and in general, relating to the folks from the Yearning For Zion Ranch, in Texas. I don't have any fondness for the FLDS types that were there, and I agree that the toleration of some of the things that the press says happened there must be difficult or impossible if the press reports are true. On the other hand, it doesn't take much of a legal or constitutional scholar to know that acting on what now appears to be a fictitious complaint by one young girl against one man (who has been identified and was not at the ranch at the time, or at any recent time) is darn poor grounds for going in and traumatizing hundreds of kids. (I personally think that the actions of the Texas authorities seem much more in the line of abusive than any thing that has been evidentially demonstrated to have happened on the ranch.) I think all of us who hold strong opinions, politically or religiously should feel a chill when that stuff comes on the air.

Having said that, I want to get to the point. The other evening I tuned into the Nancy Grace show on Fox TV. I listened to that obscene little monster orgasmically drooling over her quotation of the Texas Judge to one of the mothers in question. The mother of eight children stated to the judge that she would follow all of his instructions in order to regain custody of her children, but she hoped that those instructions would not cause her to violate her commitments to God and to her religion. The judge was quoted as saying something like "My judgements trump those of your God and your religion".

Nancy Grace (misnamed, she has no grace) was bouncing up an down in her chair screaming the judge's words, and commenting further on what else he could have done. I wonder if she doesn't wake up at night sobbing that she was born too late to have been around for the Salem Witch trials where she might have been able to personally hang, or light the fires under a burning "witch". Talk about drooling, there's something with which that ugly little (apparently female) obscenity could have "got it on" .

When I was doing some amateurish work on a college radio/TV program in the fifties, I got cut off the air because one of the politicians I was interviewing called one of the others a "Son of a Bitch" on the air. He said the words and I looked at the monitor to see the flag waving and the sounds of "Oh beautiful for spacious skys, - - -" ringing out to our stations. Nancy Grace opens her mouth and obscenities stream out (though she is careful to couch them in non-obscene words. I believe in Freedom of the Press as I believe in Freedom of Religion (both Constitutional guarantees) ,but both the FLDS and Nancy Grace give me pause in that belief.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Gas prices are getting ridiculous, and it is interesting to see what programs, scams and innovations pop up to try to solve the problem.

A week or so ago, one of the news channels interviewed a guy who was selling a gas pump (yes, a gas pump) that one could put in his/her back yard. It sold for five thousand bucks or so, and, according to the interview (and the reporter seemed to have used it on a vehicle) it produced ethanol. What one had to do, was to pour granulated sugar and water (has anyone priced sugar lately) into the machine and out came ethanol. The guy did state that if one had any left over booze after a party, particularly gin, but even beer, it could be added to the mix with no problem.
I suppose you could google the thing and order one of your own. (The machine, not the booze.)

Day before yesterday, I saw an interview of a mechanic who had invented a "gismo" that you could attach to your fuel line, into which you poured distilled water. His "gismo: theoretically separated the hydrogen and the oxygen in the water, added it to the fuel as is was injected (or carburated, I lost that detail) and it would burn with the gasoline. He claimed that in his own car he got seven to ten more miles per gallon, depending on what kind of driving he was doing.

This brought back a memory. Back in 1962 or 3, when I was teaching in Rhode Island, one of my very close friends was an industrial engineer. At the time, he was managing a plastics factor (that manufactured, mostly, the little flip top lids that you got back then on shampoo bottles-- and almost any bottle that dispensed liquids. His company had a patent on the design and made them for almost everybody). He told me that he had a friend (He swore it was the truth, and he never lied to me about anything else) who had invented a hydrogen/oxygen converter that could power an automobile. My friend said that he had driven the prototype. In this vehicle, you simple put clean water into the gas tank (He said it had to be filtered) and drove the car.

His tale was that one of the oil companies bought his friend's patent and paid him millions of dollars not to publicize it or show it to anyone else. His friend, he said, was now living in a mansion and puttering around in a very well equipped shop inventing other things. He mentioned some of the inventions that were things of which I had heard (but can't remember anymore) but they were, he said, strictly sidelines because he didn't HAVE to work any more. The only condition of his payment was that anything he created that concerned fuel, or automotive parts had to be offered to the oil company first.

It is strange how many memories like that crop up. I flew on an airplane once (back in the sixties) when I got into a discussion with the guy sitting next to me, and he stated that he was retired ( he was in his late twenties or early thirties) because he was living on the profits of a patent. When I asked what that patent could be, he grinned and said "You won't believe me. After I assured him that I would, he said that he was the guy who had invented twist ties. He was trying to fasten some small bags shut and when stapling wasn't working, he tried wrapping thin wire around the top of the bag.. The wire cut the bags open when they were moved, so he put the wire between two layers of scotch tape, and it worked beautifully. He thought it was marketable, got a patent and leased the rights to just about everybody. I have no idea whether it was true, but he certainly had money, and it sounded good.

Who knows what the next deal will be. Maybe the mechanic with the water gizmo (I changed the spelling to keep it exciting) will put the Saudis out of business. If it is true that necessity is the mother of invention, there certainly seems to be enough "necessity" type things to go around.

To those who wonder about Jan, she is feeling much better. She is eating well and getting a little (not enough) exercise. The doctors told us that they don't think she is a good candidate for traditional surgery because she has a lot of scar tissue left from her first surgery and there could be problems with incisions and with healing. The still want to do (if I understood the word correctly) an intravascular procedure. The problem, if I understand it is that this surgery is usually used to repair relatively short segments of aneurysms in the aorta, and Janet has a whole series of aneurysms extending most of the length of the descending aorta. We just pray, live our lives and take it one day at a time. We have a time share at Panama City Beach which is wonderful, and our week begins nest Friday. We are just trying to get a yes or no whether we should go or not. (Some of our kids have volunteered to fill in for us if we can't go>)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Nothing New

I just had to say something. When one is all tied up with serious problems as Janet and I have been, I think that the result is something like constipation of the brain. For days and weeks I have been fretting about Janet's health, and it has made me a grouchy old--- whatever a constipated person is (my vocabulary is shrinking). I haven't been able to think about much else. Then, finally, I wrote a couple of posts, got information out to friends and family alike and find myself (still fretting about health) thinking about and analyzing the stuff that goes on around us.

Today we (Janet and I and two of our sons) went to the old house and collected flower pots, then went to the store and bought flower pots, then went to the nursery, to Lowes, to as many places as Janet had the energy to go (and probably a little more) and we bought impatients (or however those flowers are spelled) jasmine to plant around the pergola that was built last year, some lovely yellow flowers that I have never seen before, some ferns, some other flowering vines (Mandevilla and Bouganvilla) to climb the other parts of the pergola, and we planted and potted and hung baskets and (well I spent some time trying to get the hot-tub hot, for some dumb reason, since I got it wired it just wants to be warm, not hot) generally worked in the yard skimmed the pool, and decorated like mad.

I think that it is a sign that we really expect to be around for all the blooming and smelling and sitting in the shade.

When your brain is no longer constipated, and you get the things that trouble you out in the open you can think of other things. ( I think you folks that read this thing and either comment or email me probably, if things were fair in this world, could send me a bill for counseling, or whatever.) I am so glad the day went well. When we woke up this morning Janet could hardly walk and had a fierce headache from almost no sleep last night (I need to get her to blog too.) but as she showered (she has written a song about her love for hot water) and I surrendered to her desire NOT to go to the doctor, the day just got better and better.

( I probably, in spite of my no politics pledge, will write a grumpy post this week about the combination questionnaire and pledge letter I got today from the National Republican Party , but I'll save it for awhile.)
Good night

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Waiting is one of the most difficult things to in this world, especially when it seems that the waiting may be for word that could change your life. We had gained the impression that we would receive a call on Monday, (two days after the night of falling down) from the thoracic surgeon in Augusta. Monday came, and no call. Tuesday went the same way. In the meantime we had contacted our local GP about Jan's difficulty in eating and in walking, and she went in for an examination. He changed her blood pressure medicine, and took both blood tests and gave her an occult (strange word) set of tests to see if she was bleeding internally. He found her pretty anemic, but with no internal bleeding and a normal white count, and gave us a couple of days to check the effectiveness of the blood pressure meds.

In the meantime we received an appointment with the surgeon at the Medical College. It was a week after we had expected to go, and we had mixed feelings about that. It is good to think that maybe it is not such an emergency that we have to run to the hospital RIGHT NOW, but, as I said waiting is difficult. Our appointment was for a Friday, and we received a call the night before the appointment that we had to be in Augusta by 9:00 AM to have a whole new set of CT scans. (Augusta is seventy nine miles away, and if you are having sleeping difficulties it means you have to get up, what seems to be VERY early if you make it through traffic and parking and arrive at the CT room on time.).

We jumped (well, stumbled maybe) up early and made the appointment. According to our telephone message, the appointment with the Cardio-Thoracic doctor was to be at 3:00 P.M. so after CT ing for awhile we went to the car and spent some time looking for the Office of the Cardio-Thoracic section, which is "off campus" a little way. Fortunately I have a little GPS and though it had some trouble believing we were in Augusta and needed a different satellite, it got us to the office. It was then about 12:30 so we went to kill a little time. (Had an soft ice cream cone at McDonalds which I have come to prefer over my previous addiction to Dairy Queen, then I went to Harbor Freight to look at tools for a minute while Jan napped in the car , etc.) As we were trying to thing what else to do to kill time, my cell phone rang. It was my son in Statesboro informing me that the Cardio Thoracic office was in a panic trying to figure out why we had made it to the CT scan buy not come to our appointment at 1:00 (Never believe what they say on the phone, even if you write it down as they talk.) So we rushed to the office and made the 1:00 appointment at about 2:00. I was pleased that they didn't seem as upset about the time as we were. They were just pleased that we showed up.

We first met with the Doctor's assistant (She may have been a resident, but I got the impression that she was a physician's assistant.) She was a very beautiful lady who asked us both a lot of questions, following up the answers with more questions, they she left and the Doctor came in. He was, to say the least, very impressive. He was the kind of Doctor who gives you a sense of confidence.

He explained that Janet's aorta was about twice the diameter it should be, and was (his words) "full of bubbles from top to bottom.." We got the impression that her aorta is, more or less, on long aneurism from the heart down to the base. We also received the information that, where the aorta divided to feed blood to the kidneys, one side was completely blocked so that one kidney was sort of "desiccated". This may have been so most of her life.

At any rate she is scheduled for surgery in "five to six weeks at the most". The length of time is involved with the nature of the surgery. They want to repair the aorta "intervascularly", (which if I understand correctly is sort of like laprascopic surgery only on the inside of the aorta. ) We were given to understand that this is a new process, and one reason for the amount of time we wait is to be sure that "We have all the equipment and materials ready, and in place to match the aorta." "Of course," the doctor said, "If something unexpected comes up, we may have to rush you here and do it the old fashioned way." (That's encouraging.)

We expected a call last week, and finally received one Friday, from the assistant, who reassured us that the doctor was working on this every day (now that’s both encouraging and scary) and that they would be in touch about the schedule "very soon". Of course, we have learned that "very soon" seems to mean different things to different people.

We left the office very encouraged and went to one of our favorite restaurants in Augusta, Logan's Steak House where we had our favorite salad, the "anything and everything: salad" with masses of crumbled bleu cheese, dried cranberries, a couple of kinds of lettuce, pecans, boiled eggs, lots of other cheese, grilled marinated chicken and a variety of other things that I can't remember. I finished mine, and I am pleased to say that Janet ate almost half of hers which was the most she had eaten in a couple of days.

We then went home to wait for phone calls., and as I said, it has been a long wait. This isn't such a bad thing. For the next four days Janet reverted to being unable to eat or keep food down and seemed to be getting weaker all the time, but now for five days she has had at least two small meals a day, enjoyed them, and is getting stronger. We even made it to the therapy pool where we did NOT do water aerobics, but we did walk back and forth for almost an hour with our little pool noodles. That isn't much to some people, but she is so much stronger than she was. I think strong is good when you have major surgery in the offing. I just wish it were over, and she would be strong and healthy again.

It makes me humble to think that, if we had lived only a few decades earlier, with my quadrupal bypass, her aneurism and strokes, and my neuropathy, probably we would both have been either dead or seriously invalided several years ago. I may gripe about Doctors and Medical care occasionally, but when I pray at night I pray with real gratitude.

More, as we know more

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I haven't posted anything here since tax day. It isn't that I haven't had anything to say, but that what I have to say is so close to home and sort of like "déjà vu all over again that I am rather tied up. My life intersects so deeply with that of my wife, and Janet had expressed some problem with me discussing both our lives in front of the world, that I just couldn't write about the stuff that is going on with us without her permission. She has agreed that if I seriously can't write about me without writing about her then "Okay."
I talked about our adventures in Finland when they happened. I wore out my pencil about the time we came home, but our lives have been so rich since we passed what seemed to be a defining moment that I have continued to write about our joy, even as we have lost friends.

We began to have a shift in gears back in February when Janet fell down in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart and broke her wrist. She had surgery to repair the wrist and has been on the mend, but we haven't been able to participate in water aerobics which has been a major force in keeping us healthy. About a month ago, just before the Orthopedist removed her brace and approved the return to exercise, she had a routine visit with our Cardiologist which included a stress test and a number of sonograms.

The day following the test, the nurse called stating that our Dr. had seen some troubling things on the sonogram, indicating a possible aneurism on the descending aorta and he made an appointment for CT scans at the local imaging center.. This, in turn, excited the radiologist enough that he said he was going to make a 3D mockup to send to Dr. Shin (the cardiologist) By this time, our moral was beginning to fade a little. When the cardiologist called to let us know that he was arranging an appointment with the chief thoracic-cardio surgeon at the Medical College of Georgia, worry became a little black cloud that surrounded us

To top it off, Janet began to have trouble keeping food on her stomach and seemed to be getting weaker and weaker. Three Saturdays ago, she began to have splitting headache and went to bed early. She wanted to be feeling better on the morrow since she was supposed to speak in our church. I ran off to Lowes for an hour to buy closers for some new storm doors we had bought, and to indulge my Lowes addiction a little bit. When I arrived home, I had a strong impulse to go check on Janet. She was not in her bed, I turned and found her collapsed on the bathroom floor. She was awake and alert, but couldn't get up. I don't know what kind of nut I am, but the first thing I did was take her blood pressure (very low) and give her an aspirin. I then tried to help her into bed, but one of the maddening things about having become a coot is that I can't lift a darn thing (Janet's not a darn thing, that’s just an expression). I couldn't get her back to bed so I called my son, and he came over (about fifteen miles) and he helped me get her in bed.
Together, we gave her a blessing (Mormons do the laying on of hands thing, a lot).

I cursed myself for a couple of hours for not calling 911, but she seemed better. After while, she indicated that she needed to return to the bathroom. This time I was present and helped her. As we were returning to the bedroom (walking with my arms around her) she stopped, groaned and virtually turned to jello in my arms. It was all I could do to keep her from banging her head on the floor or the cabinet as she fell.

This time, I did call 911, and the paramedics came, check her blood pressure, blood gasses (whatever that means) and other stuff. They put her back to bed and didn't feel that she needed transported to the hospital, but they stayed for awhile until they had another emergency call. As they left, one turned to Janet and said "If you fall down again you are going to wake up in the hospital." She didn't. She did fall one more time just getting into the bed, but I covered her up on the bedroom floor, gave her a pillow, and after she had rested for a little while, together we were able to get her back to bed.

Suffice it to say that she didn't preach any sermons in the morning (or give any other kind of talk)
This was the beginning of one of the worse couple of weeks of our lives. I have written about it about as much as I can do, but I will try to continue this tomorrow or the next day. If anyone is still reading this stuff after I have been silent for weeks, or if you are interested in the REST OF THE STORY, tune in in a couple of days.