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?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Excessive correctness

If you ever doubted the influence of agribusiness, consider how "swine flu" has begun to vanish in less than 24 hours, replaced by "H1N1 influenza". This does not roll trippingly off the tongue, and it provides little fodder for jokes. It is another sign of the aporkalypse.

When the WHO announced it was going for the medically precise name, one shrugged. But then, one by one, the broadcast media obediently followed suit. Meanwhile, there appear to be miracles happening in Mexico, since the number of reported deaths has dropped by something like 90 percent. All those resurrected people may cause a glut in the miracle cure market.

On one joke site, A hypersensitive person of Mexican extraction was excoriating some New Zealanders who were having a bit of fun with the s****e flu and its country of origin. Now now, imagine if we still used the old nomenclature, and stuck the name of the alleged country of origin on the outbreak. Mexican flu? Yikes! There are already enough problems dogging Mexican tourism.

OK, let's see. I give the hysteria a working life of ten more days, tops. That doesn't mean that influenza of all kinds stops being a source of concern: it just means an end to the complication of witless panic-mongering.

From my Dorland's

Which is one of the standard medical dictionaries.

Pan-dem-ic (pan-dem-ik). A widespread epidemic of a disease.
Epi-dem-ic (epi-dem-ik). Occurring suddenly in numbers clearly in excess of normal expectancy.

For further reference, epi is the Greek for across, pan for the whole, and demic comes from demos, the people or population. That is what pandemic means. Nowhere does it say anything about "we're all going to die," which would be from the Fox News dictionary.

Curiously, my Dorland's offers this clinical definition on the same page as pandemic:

Panic (pan-ik). "Acute, extreme, and unreasoning fear and anxiety."

Medicine is in the business of containing one clinical disorder, and broadcast media are in the business of spreading another. As you sit glued to the news, waiting for the latest swine flu bulletin, remember that it comes to you from a medium which has succeeded in making an inch of snow a paralyzing crisis, and is trying to do the same for rain showers.

What we have here is an inch of snow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back behind the bow

With milder temperatures and all, I've been trying out the archery spasmodically for the last few weeks. Last Sunday, temperature and schedule came together and let me drive into the hinterlands for a formal practice.

When I started post-shoulder-surgical PT last fall, I mentioned the archery (of the traditional sort, for the uninitiated) as a priority. My PT was intrigued by the challenge. She and the PTA assessed my progress with that in mind. They noticed, and helped me to correct, a succession of muscle behaviours that were the body's natural reaction to 20-plus years of life with one ruined shoulder. F, the PT, even invented an archery exercise that you won't find in any textbook (yet) to work the muscle sets specific to archery.

This week, I must stop and give her a report. Trying a few ends (six-arrow sets) in the yard isn't quite the same as full-blown drill at 15 to 40 yards, slow-paced but nonstop, for three hours.

I have never shot so well. By the end of the morning it was clear how much the old damage had crept in and interfered with everything I was trying to do. I hope she hasn't patented the exercises, because I want to show them off to the rest of this creaky band.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It says "blog" on my to-do list

I've been slow, chiefly because of a growing concern that I really ought to give up writing. Unlike most bloggers, I have written for most or all of my living for close on forty years. Recently, the day-job part of my writing was beginning to be a problem.

When one writes for money, it's often like the old story about the man whacking his head against a brick wall: it feels so good when you stop. Trouble was, with responsibility for three monthly print pubs and one weekly e-zine, it never stopped. Lately, I had begun to notice that the brief satisfaction that comes when things look as they should had begun to disappear. This takes a good deal of the fun out of the business, because 90 percent of us don't do it for the money.

Alert readers will notice the past and past perfect cropping up in that last graph. That is due to the fact that being laid off last Thursday has spared me any further moral anguish over this. It has also revealed that I was simply sharing the reaction of most of my peers to having too much to do, too little time to do it, and no chance of ever finding the trifle of satisfaction that keeps a writer going.

The choices are now:

- Write, or not write. Writing in this particular space isn't going to happen, save for freelancing. I can count the competition to my late employer on my fingers; I can count the northeastern competition on my thumbs. That doesn't rule out re-ratting, as it were, and going back to tech writing.

- Go into health care for real. I have actual credentials now...along with a sharp appreciation that health care isn't recession-proof. I lingered over one job today for which I could very nearly qualify. I've also spent the last three months writing about, or hearing about, patients literally dying in the streets rather than obtain unaffordable care, which in turn has begun to starve hospitals past the breaking point. One has to ask if that is a future, either.

- I'm now eligible for Social Security, which would cover rather less than half my most modest needs. On the other hand, I could retire to, say, the Dominican Republic and live like a prince on that.

My late and much-respected writing professor, Donald Murray, used to tell his students that writing was not so much a profession as a disease. As I look over the prospects I have to think that, once again, he had it right.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Modern life

Back in February, I gave up hope of finding the genuine, yellow-covered, Farmers Almanac around here and ordered one online, along with an early renewal offer.

Being used to the eBay standard of speed--two and a half days from Texas to New England being my record there--I set myself to wait.

And wait, and wait, and wait, and...

About three weeks later, the bag was full in Dublin NH and I got an email saying that my order had shipped.

Today, about three weeks after that, it arrived. It had been shipped from Dublin NH to here, about 75 miles away, by way of Oregon IL (or was it Illinois OR?)

People have walked from Dublin NH to the North Shore and back in less than six weeks. When the Almanac was young, many did. I hope they start early on shipping next year's issue.