Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Friday, February 23, 2007

News from New York is Always Worth Watching

I really need to look up a friend of mine, a quondam fellow swim team parent who went to college in West Texas. He used to say that there were two ineradicable differences between Mexican food there, and Mexican food in the Northeast.

1) Here, there is no sand in the food, on the table, and on the floor.
2) Here, if you happen to see something walk into the kitchen on four legs, you can be pretty sure it will walk out again.

After today's Taco Bell news from Manhattan, it looks like we're down to the sand.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Betcha Thought This Was New

Let's hear it for the pinko lefty Washington Post, also The Agonist, which covers Walter Reed's inpatient and outpatient fuckups in one neat package.

Nobody ever wants to think about the wounded. Media in general, and broadcast media in particular, are too impatient or too stupid to understand that "casualties" is not a synonym for "deaths." My entertainment had around 53,000 killed (varies depending on how you count). It had over 225,000 wounded, who were expected to be grateful to be alive, fade invisibly into the civilian landscape, and trouble the armed forces no more. The current festivities have had (as I write) 3144 killed...ah yes, our fallen heroes. One of them was a Marine helicopter pilot from the next town over, 28 years old, a week away from the end of her third tour in Iraq. (Aside: nobody, ever, should do three successive combat tours, least of all a chopper pilot.)

Care to guess the number of wounded, the ones you're not supposed to ask about?

32,544 . As of this writing.

Things are a fucked up mess at Walter Reed, we're told, because they didn't expect the numbers. Jesus H. Christ: they didn't expect the numbers.

Evidently, they didn't ask the right people for advice on that. Instead of Administration spin doctors, they should have asked the clinicians and patients who endured the meat grinder that was the Vietnam war's attempt at medical treatment. They are the ones who know what modern weapons do to a human body. There was little or no armour then, so there were many more limb and belly wounds in that war than in this one. Still, you could have anticipated the increase in TBI cases with a moment's thought. Nobody thought.

They didn't think in my war...or my father's...and go back as far as you choose, the politicians and the bureaucrats have never, ever, thought about the wounded. How to care for them, how to be there for them through the rest of their altered lifetimes.

Go check out the Post's series. The link is to the latest, detailing the Army's late response and bureaucratic hand-wringing. (Sorry, it's another one of those fricken login sites.)

On the News Hour tonight one of the co-authors of the series, Dana Priest, admitted that she went home at night and cried over what she had seen and heard.

Dana, Anne, bless you for covering a story no one else wants to cover, but you have just started to cry. It won't happen all the time, of course, but you'll remember this forever. Every once in a while the tears will blindside you. You'll get used to it and remember, there are a lot of others who cry for the same reason. Maybe, thanks to you, a lot more people will cry and, in between, will be mad as hell with the stupidity that makes these things happen. Maybe then we can change it.

I won't say anything nasty about reporters for at least a week.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Unasked Question

OK, Deval got a Cadillac instead of a Chrysler or a Crown Vic. When last I looked, the price point spread between the options is minimal. What we're talking about is reputation: a reputation that had mostly died out by the time I became old enough to buy grown-up cars instead of beaters, say 35 years ago.


The exception makes me ask the question that I have not seen posed elsewhere. If Deval Patrick were white, would we care if he chose a Caddy over a Chrysler?

Infant Amnesia, or not?

I've been interested in the concept of infant amnesia since reading Carl Sagan's discussion of it in The Dragons of Eden. (There is a better review here, but I refuse top billing to anyone who indulges in the spreading idiocy of calling any book a "novel" if it is larger than a comic. Sagan's slim masterpiece is speculative science, but it is not fiction.)

At one point in the Dragons, Sagan recounted his very young son's effort to recall his earliest memory. It sounded very much like a literal birth memory, and is one of many passages in this engaging work that stay with you. Some years later I recalled this, and asked my daughter to do the same (She was perhaps five at the time). She said, more or less, "I was with Mom, in a big bed, in a big dark room with a picture on the wall." This, with a few more details she added, was a fair description of the room at the Beverly Birth Center where she was born. A few months later we went to a function there. I found my recollection of the room tallied with Emily's.

I wonder if we must lose these memories, or if the act and effort of recalling them at an early age helps implant them in the memory. I have not asked Emily recently if she remembers the question or her answer, and perhaps should. Neuroanatomy is now central to her profession, and she might find the question as interesting as I do.

It may not be the amnesia of infants that makes our early memories disappear, but that of adults, immersed in the crises of the present, who do not think to ask children the questions that may stimulate their recall and the implantation of very early memories more firmly in memory.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Let's see. Now I am supposed to panic because a proportion of the technologically dependent cannot use update packages, write their appointments in a notebook, or pay their bills on time while we change the date of Daylight Savings Time. Evidently, a number of these people can't do this stuff now.

I repeat the mantra I used from 1996 to 1999: Bullshit.

My favourite Y2K story is guaranteed to annoy geeks who took the panic seriously, or at least pretended to. You may recall that at one point, the panic-mongers assured us that traffic lights systems around the world were all going to fail. Somewhere amid the panic, it occurred to someone that centrally-controlled traffic light systems hadn't been around all that long, and that there must still be some engineers around who had designed them.

There were, of course. A flock of panic-stricken geeks descended on one of them to ask how many date states were programmed into traffic light systems: two, or four?

Well actually, he replied, we used seven.

Seven? Why seven? What were they for?

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Although I'm glued to the computer screen and use a cell phone, I retain enough of a Luddite streak to keep appointments and grocery lists on paper. I'm also fond of paying my bills a couple of days ahead of time, to guard against electronic snafus whilst getting most of the float.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

OK, This Explains Everything

In the latest bit of research by people with far too much time on their hands, we learn of the link between vasectomies and dementia.

I'd have more commentary, but I just can't find the words.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Every Silver Lining has a Cloud

A couple of years back the offspring did a clinical affiliation in Oswego, NY. Two things in particular caught my attention when we went for a visit, in the summer. One was the best cask IPA I've ever had, the other was the low real estate prices. I was all set to move there, until I reflected on the weather.

I guess we all know now why the real estate is so cheap. Ten feet of snow may explain why they need good beer, too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

On a Strange News Day

The news from Tennessee gets my unintended comedy award.

Bill sponsor Councilman Eric Crafton and his supporters said the change offers an incentive for immigrants to learn English.

"This bill says we'll simply do the governmental business in English," Crafton said. "If we shouldn't do it in English, I'd like for somebody else to stand up and tell us what language we should conduct our business in."

Well, Mr. Crafton, I'll stand up. English would be an excellent choice, far better than whatever language it is that you are speaking.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What we need hibernation. It is simply too goddam cold. Even as I write that, I recognise the debilities of age. I ought not to be deterred by still-air temperatures in the teens, and wind chills that are merely in the single digits below zero. I've been down south here in the flatlands too long.

I have made arrangements to be hauled off to an insulated corner if I write, in earnest, anything that starts with "when I was a boy."

The phrase is pregnant with opportunities for parody and I will be thinking about that.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Giving Good Stuff Away

Mass Marrier was irresistible, so I just used tonight's raw commentary there instead of here.

It is worth considering what we'd do without all these clowns on the payroll. It reminds the cognoscenti of Wolcott Gibb's "The Comic Genius of Calvin Coolidge." (I hope I have that title right: my copy of More in Sorrow isn't turning up.) Tom Menino has provided us with our comic genius, but where today is our Wolcott Gibbs?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Spreading it around

I'm fresh from a half hour watching NECN, during which a Mooninite with raised finger was the most prominent graphic feature of the backdrop.

While we're portioning out blame for yesterday's panic*, let's not forget our crack news media. Channel 7, for example, has never met a scare story it didn't like. I came onto their coverage rather late, but they made clear they had been on it like a rash from the first whisper. I was sitting there when they finally accepted that there were no bombs and (reluctantly) no hoaxes. They immediately broke for commercials, and the story had dropped about five levels in their presentation by the time they came back. The rest were no better: you could almost see the skid marks as they changed direction.

What persisted, and what has made me chuckle ever since, was the obsession with calling a raised finger "an obscene gesture." Give me a break: is this 1913? Tom Wolfe used to write stunningly about the hypocritical public morality of the broadcast media. It has seldom been so obviously on display.

* My apportionment of responsibility so far:

The several municipal governments and their law enforcement, for three weeks of failed observation and eight hours of hysterical overreaction, 30 percent.

Turner Broadcasting et al., for failing to realise that unauthorised boards with wires were probably going to offend somebody sooner or later, 25 percent.

A witless broadcast media that has surrendered all pretence that it possesses a critical faculty, 25 percent.

A dense, sheep-like populace that has tacitly agreed to be scared on cue, 18 percent.

The actual perpetrators, two percent. Unfortunately, these poor sods are likely to take the hit while the biggest idiots get no penalty at all.