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, December 31, 2010

Culinary rarity

When my daughter arrives, she wants to make her traditional contribution to the family festivities, chocolate spiders.

There are many recipes under this name. The one we hew to calls for

one package of chocolate chips
one package of butterscotch chips
one can of chow mein noodles
I cup dry roasted peanuts

Melt the chips together, then stir in the dry ingredients until everything is uniformly coated. Spoon out roughly even scoops onto wax paper on plates or cookie sheets, and chill. Store in airtight containers.

Simplicity itself, right? Nuh uh, not in my little Nawth Shoah town. The local markets supply saffron. If you supply the right password, you can even get truffles, I'm told. What you cannot get, for any amount of money, is butterscotch chips.

This seems to be a problem throughout the area. There is one major supermarket, whose name and location I won't mention, which lays in a stock of butterscotch chips around Thanksgiving. Em's news came late. Although she plans to bring some with her from California, she asked me to get a backup supply in case hers met with some evil fate.

I went to said store, and directly to the baking supply aisle. Deftly blocking the aisle with a shopping cart, I found and grabbed two bags of butterscotch chips, then blended into the shopping crowd.

If we end up with a surplus, I think I'll auction off the remainder on eBay.

Labels: ,

Middle name? Not much help

Once upon a time, there was a farmer in Georgetown, Mass., or someplace close by. His last name was Eliot. Because he enjoyed an alcoholic beverage or three, he apparently took to hanging out with the Irish in Haverhill. There he met an Irish mill girl and married her, thus becoming my maternal great-great (or some such) grandfather. I suppose he was then run out of his home town on a rail. Thus Eliot is my middle name.

This is gender-neutral all right: most surname-first names are. I could go by "B. Eliot" and once tried it on my resume. As much as people screw around with gender-neutral names, few women adopt the trick of initialising their first name.

No, the problem is the Yankees. You see, it's Eliot spelled the "right" way. What they mean by that is that the Eliots (think Samuel Eliot Morison) are supposed to be the ones with birth and breeding. All those Elliots and Elliotts are shabby impostors.

Anytime my middle name comes up in old-money Yankee company, they begin asking genealogical questions that I'm quite unable to answer. This offends them, and they begin to act as if my grandmother stole the name along with a few pieces of their family silver. That in turn annoys me, so I offer a short version of the story above, emphasizing the alcoholic part. None of that advances the networking in any positive way.

The Boston Brahmins and such truck have one trick that we should all adopt in the name of gender neutrality: giving their kids three surnames instead of a traditional first name and surname-derived middle names. It's very gender neutral, for one thing. It helps the Brahmins sort you out without the trouble of asking after gender: if you don't have the right set of names and can't account for the ones you have (like Eliot) then you're dirt anyway. Let's have everyone do that, using any surname they like. That will level the playing field and save prospective parents from thralldom to the cute baby name cultists.

@MA: I did check out Jezebel. The most hilarious comment was from the woman named Stacey (fine surname name) who found out she was sharing her name with a porn star. So she changed it to Bryn without, it seems, doing any homework. She was stunned when a Bryn turned up as the hero in a Harlequin romance. We would have more equality and diversity if more Americans learnt to do their homework about such things. Never mind: it provides the world with an unending source of laughingstocks.

Labels: , ,

Feigning retreat in the name wars

So yes, yesterday's comment did have me pounding my head on the keyboard. As I ponder my teachable moment, I have to consider the several options the cited naming trend opens up.

The cool business of giving babies, of one of the principal genders, names connected with the other principal gender is very decidedly a one-way street. For instance, I doubt that my neighbour's daughter Ryan (a surname really, but never mind) will need to punch everyone's lights out to defend her name in grade school. If these people had a son, and named the child Jennifer, I guarantee that boy's fists would be busy from the moment he was able to stand. A Boy Named Sue was fiction. Until gender equality is real, giving girl babies boy names simply co-opts that name for the girls. The co-opted boy doesn't get tough. He gets fucked up, beaten up, or actually does die.

That's why a cute trend that enables gender-based bullying and youth suicide doesn't seem terribly cute to me, a person with an unusual name being steadily co-opted. Celebrities don't concern themselves with such details, because they don't seem to concern themselves with other human beings at all.

OK, I've lost this fight. I ain't quitting, as they say, but I've surrendered and I'm looking over my options.

Option 1. Move back to Wales, or New Zealand, or a few other parts of the former empire less afflicted with celebrititis, where the range of available names is wider than it is in the bible-toting US of A.

Option 2. Assimilate. (This is the preferred solution of the job-hunt gurus, by the way.) Go to court and change my name to Bryan-Byron-Byrne (I can toss a coin to choose). When I've done that, I should also adopt a red-blooded American nickname—say, Butch or Buzz— and use that on my resume.

Option 3 has the greatest appeal. If someone has been blessed with a gender-neutral or gender-ambiguous name, I think they should take that as licence to be gender-neutral or gender-ambiguous. Since adults are useless in such matters during one's formative years, the gender-ambiguous child may want to consider recruiting a bodyguard.

If celebrities take it upon themselves to enhance the ambiguity of your name, remember that celebrities are authority figures too, in their fatuous way. You must keep control of the situation and stay one step ahead of them

You might even parlay your gender neutral identity into a celebrity of your own. This would not be a cop-out, if you used your position to make gender equality something more than lip service. Only then would a name become just a name, and not an immutable signpost of gender identification.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

See, it's a losing battle

One of the blessings of rarely watching TV is that I have to Google the idiots who are enshrined in the celebrity cultosphere. Finding my own name amongst the five favourite celebrity baby names of the year was only a slight surprise. Finding that the unfortunate infant is a cute baby girl saddled with a most masculine Welsh name was, after that, no surprise at all.

Once in a while, someone will gurgle to me about how a relation has named their daughter Bryn, or tried it on with a non-Celtic feminine suffix. (I'll get around to linking to a previous rant or two on the subject.) When I hear these gushings, I am not tactful, and the doting relation generally wanders off somewhat deflated.

As far as I can see, both these parents are a few floors short of a hotel. (Who are these people and what, if anything, do they do?) I wonder if they can pronounce the name correctly, and I do hope they avoid both Wales and New Zealand: one of the leading sports figures in the latter is a rugby bruiser who bears no resemblance to this little girl. But I may live long enough to hear news of her gender reassignment surgery.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chiefly for me

These pages sometimes function as a pain diary: something an involved patient keeps for the guidance of his/her clinician. That's today's purpose. The interested are welcome.

The trigeminal neuralgia has been approaching differently this year. In past autumns, there have been occasional sharp twinges that only qualify by their location, which have gone on for two or three months without interfering with much of anything. This is called precursor pain. Then the Beast arrives suddenly, with full force.

This year, there has been an observable escalation over the past four to six weeks. Using the Mankoski pain scale, the trigeminal sensations have been rising from the usual Level 2 or 3 of precursor pain to levels around 5. The duration of the pain has steadily increased from a sudden, intermittent stab to the persistent "trip hammer effect" characteristic of my TN. Even those haven't lasted very long...20 minutes at most.

The Beast—a full-blown TN episode—arrived this morning after I went out and ran the snow blower for about 40 minutes in piercing cold wind, despite wearing a balaclava, a hoodie, a flapped fur hat and hooded parka. As usual, onset was very sudden—within two minutes—and escalated to the trip hammer effect at Level 6 to 7. Being at home, I took 1 mg Klonopin immediately and was down for two hours. I was able to eat some lunch, then was down again, mostly in pain hangover mode, for another hour and a half.

So welcome back to another lovely winter. I used to love winter, and it seems especially bad karma to have that pleasure taken away.

Fuck this.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 27, 2010

Unchristmas, and a shuffle with the idiots

In the end, we worked out our own unchristmas. First, the early show at Loew's on Tremont in Boston (The King's Speech, which I recommend even if you're not a Brit). Then, instead of Chinese, we did Middle Eastern at the Black Seed, which is up the street and a steady favourite of mine. Home again, holiday nap, chat with the daughter and a French-Canadian film (betcha didn't know there were such things, eh?) Les Doights Croches.

Since my spouse was working today, last week I began to plan a Boxing Day dinner. Nothing remarkable, except that we don't cook a lot of whole chickens around here. On Thursday, it was clear there wouldn't be room in our modest fridge for the chicken and everything else, so I decided to put off buying some of the ingredients until today.

This wasn't a good idea. Although there was snow on the horizon Thursday, the weather media panic machine had yet to work itself up to a berserk frenzy. By the time they hit that level of stridency, it was already christmas day and finding a roaster in these parts would have to wait.

For a moment, I considered running over to Stop and Shop, where you get the vintage sort of panic disaster shopper. These are the people who go as a couple and fill two shopping carts: one has twenty bags of potato chips and one bag of ice-melt. The other has two dozen two litre bottles of soft drink, a snow shovel, and three pounds of deli meat. For whatever reason, I thought I'd have better luck at our local, regional-type market.

Things were probably worse at Stop and Shop, but only because they have more floor space. I can't say this is true of all affluent towns, since I've only lived in this one, but the Stop and Shoppers with the soft drinks and chips were one up on the average person in this scrum: they had a clue what they were about. It was clear, from the various overheard conversations, that most of these people hadn't seen the inside of a grocery since the last weekend disaster: hmm, that would be the water thingy back at the end of April. That one was simple, because all they had to buy was water. This one required them to make choices. The line moved along all the same, and it was enlivened by the utter helplessness of so many of these people. It probably didn't occur to them that they already had all that they needed in their homes: they would need the help to explain that to them.

Each winter's first serious snow has always been good for some unintended comedy, but it used to be out on the roads. The winter storm disaster culture has ensured us hilarity indoors and out.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bottom rail on top, Julian

When you're Don Quixote, life kind of sucks, sometimes. Early on in Julian Assange's tilt against the windmills of western politics, I wondered what would happen if somebody began to leak his little secrets.

Well, now we know: or at least, we're beginning to find out. It is hilariously hypocritical, and rather what one would expect. How dare they!! The name of this game is that Don Julian gets to criticise everyone, but nobody gets to turn the tables on Don Julian.

This would be sharper still if the media who enabled Wikileaks in the first place (you know who you are) were capable of showing some spine as the tale of his Scandinavian amusements unfolds. Some are...that is, some are still able to smell news and go after it. Others are being, well, craven.

I'm working my way through the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography, whose unexpurgated version is appearing as he intended a century after his death. At one point, he expands on the amount of time, energy and hot air devoted to the sensations of any particular moment, sensations which aren't likely to merit more than a footnote when the histories come to be written.

Not long ago, the pundits hinted that Wikileaks would be a game-changer. Now we perceive a self-inflicted shift, and perceive prescience in Twain. If we really expected a sea change, we would need an instrument as powerful as the Internet, but a mastermind less weak than Don Julian.

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We passed a milestone this week

Really. As of Tuesday, the sunset began to come a little bit later each day. Depending on what time of day you're on the move, you may not have noticed, because the sunrise will also be getting a little bit later every day for another three weeks before it changes it a more positive direction.

This is one more in the eye for deities, who should certainly have arranged things so that at the winter solstice, everythings hits minimum at once and then gets better. but noo: first the sunsets get better, then the sunrises, and meantime the really cold weather hasn't even shown up yet.

At any rate, this, tiny increment of positive change shows that summer will come back...eventually.

Happy Festivus!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I didn't take the pledge

The no-baseball talk until February pledge, that is.

I'm mostly approaching the question of Jesus Montero's future with the Yankees organisation as an exercise in headline possibilities, especially for the New York Post and the New York Daily News.

Assuming they do bring him up from AAA, we can look forward to Yanks Bring up Jesus or some variation thereof.

However, if the Evil Empire signs Russell Martin, the question becomes what to do about Montero. I gather not everyone in New York is happy with the prospect of the older Martin as starting catcher, while keeping Montero in the wings would be increasingly difficult. What then could be a more devastating headline than Yankees Trade Jesus?

What a pity Miroslav Satan doesn't play baseball. Then the Yankees could trade Jesus for Satan, as is right and proper.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Excuses, excuses

The actual, and threatened, attacks upon various and sundry sites, compounded with a somewhat unrelated attack on Gawker, have one good effect. They bring the noble and principled defences of Wikileaks back into the cyber gutter where they belong.

Whatever Wikileaks' original motives, the attacks make clear that Assange's defenders are chiefly commonplace hackers, reckless troublemakers who don't really care what sort of trouble they make or who gets hurt, as long as they get to make trouble and hurt someone. Their claim of hacktivism is spoilt by their recklessness. With friends like that, Assange hardly needs his enemies.

The Gawker attack, evidently made for entirely puerile motives, shows characteristic hacker ineptitude. "I want my revenge and I want it NOW!", they scream, oblivious to the the fact that their message crossed wires with that of Wikileaks' hacker "friends," leaving many people unclear about who was responsible for what: even hacktivist supporters. This is not exactly the way to make a statement.

As with the sort of terrorism that actually kills and maims innocent people, the world goes on, perhaps annoyed, possibly inconvenienced, but not paralysed. Nothing could better illustrate the impotence of both activities.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Where are you, Grampa?

Americans in general, and American media in particular, are shocked to their foundations by the UK's riots against 300 percent tuition hikes. I'm afraid my undiluted, aboriginal British y-chromosome is delighted. I've been racking my brains, trying to recall the last time Britons stepped out of queue to this extent. I keep returning to the period of social unrest that followed the Napoleonic Wars, and culminated in the Peterloo Massacre. I doubt that one American in 10,000 ever heard of this event, or could even imagine their pet English behaving in such a way.

My Welsh grandfather, an unreconstructed British radical socialist, would have understood and applauded the current unrest in all of its manifestations. At a certain point in her life, so would my grandmother. However the further way she got from actually being ruled by a royal family and permanent upper class, the more sentimental she got about the whole business. She tended to forget the permanent disadvantages that go with a system based upon inherited privilege, and go for the trappings and panoply.

The trappings are good, because they help the unruly identify their targets. And at last we discover the benefit of having a royal family. If they didn't exist, people might have to direct their anger at the government instead.

What say we let the people run the UK, and hire out the royal family and hangers-on as performers? This idea works very well at Renaissance fairs in the USA.

Labels: ,

Here we go again...or not

For many years, one of the most reliable cliches of what now passes for journalism has been the man (or woman) against the sea nautical tragedy. Vessel goes to sea; vessel is lost; crew is rescued (or not); broadcast journalists queue up for the rights to the stories of the survivors (if any). Survivors cash in to try again.

In the wings, people who know something about the subject in general or the tragic vessel in particular quietly gnash their teeth and tear their hair out in clumps. Behind every such tragedy of modern times there stands an idiot, who acted despite numerous and well-informed warnings. In the worst situations, the vessel sinks and everyone dies, including rescuers. In the next worst case, the tragedian survives to acquire more headlines and, perhaps, funds for another quixotic venture.

The curious case of the sailing vessel aptly named RawFaith may prove that one can play the game once too often. The tragic sinking of the (not really a) "pirate ship" is rendered less tragic first, because for once, no one died. Second, the replica has to be the ugliest watercraft ever found this side of a Cracker Jack box. Evidently, the tragedy is further diminished by the owner's somewhat spotty record with the Coast Guard and nearly every other form of nautical authority. This link will take the curious to a representative thread of seagoing opinion.

Oddly, the skepticism that pervades the thread seems to have been picked up, here and there, in the broadcast media. Perhaps for once the facts speak for themselves, even for the thickest. Two men set sail from New England southward in December. They are aboard a 300-ton vessel that might be handled by a crew of six in genial conditions. From reliable testimony (the Coast Guard's), their safety equipment comprised one rubber raft, one survival suit for two men, and a hand-held radio suitable for a one-design dinghy of 16-18 feet. Two independently produced TV news items I saw tonight seem to have stumbled onto the idea that this voyage was, perhaps, a tad irresponsible.

Perhaps one good thing that Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm contributed to popular culture has been the fact that stupid and irresponsible sailors put the lives of their rescuers in deadly peril. Further, efforts to rescue the idiotic may come at the expense of those who are at sea to make a living, who are not weighed down with romantic delusion.

At any rate, one gets the impression that this tragic survivor may not get the favourable media impressions that some of his predecessors have got. With any luck, he can be persuaded to relocate to someplace between Gallup, NM and Kingman, AZ: an area both high enough and dry enough to keep him out of seafaring trouble.

Apt, did I say? RawFaith might better have been named Blind Luck.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Something to say about WikiLeaks

Oh hell, why not? Everybody and his dog has, so far.

The difference, in my generation, may be that I actually held a Top Secret clearance. For excellent--though now declassified--reasons. My day job, so to speak, in the Navy was in communications, at a time when the Cold War was really, really cold. It seemed plausible then that a screw-up could end with the incineration of the planet. So, even as far down the food chain as we were, people in my division took the security part of our job very seriously.

I never worked so hard to keep my native curiosity in check. For instance, at irregular intervals during every watch, we would receive cryptic--though not encrypted--secret messages. I knew enough to know that they referred to the several classes of Soviet submarines active in the Atlantic and to nautical plots with a certain consistency. It certainly seemed as if we knew when any given Soviet submarine exited into the open Atlantic, give or take a few minutes of time and a minute or so of latitude and longitude. I also knew that excess curiosity on the topic might ensure that my next tour of duty would be in Leavenworth.

Now we know how that worked. So deeply ingrained are the habits I acquired then that I won't dwell on that knowledge here. Assange and his compeers strike me as the sort of arrogant assholes who simply grab at information without any thought for consequences. indeed, the Swedish sex crimes charge seems of a piece with the whole thing. It is another play of the "laws are for little people" thing, another instance of the utter failure of the Western left, and the American left in particular, to maintain a sense of perspective. Successful revolutions use privileged information to overthrow governments. People who play at revolution use it to get onto TMZ.

What can we say though of the people who feed information to such parasites? More, what can we say about those who were supposed to be watching the people who handled the information? We had no flash drives in 1970. Indeed, we had no computers that could be transported in anything smaller than an 18-wheeler, but our supervisors knew enough to see that we had no parallel opportunity to remove information from a classified space. Now, it seems that an sufficiently motivated Pfc or GS-2 can walk into work with a 16 Gb flash drive and download the works. I could not have done such a thing at any of several employers or clients I've worked for, even if I had wanted to.

There was also a fairly well-understood priority for classifying information, and that seems to have eroded over the years. Secret messages--of the sort processed by peons like me--were serious business. Top Secret messages, of a sort I handled but never decrypted, were deadly serious. It does seem now as if any piece of diplomatic cattiness gets rocketed to the top echelons of secrecy, to the detriment of the entire concept. If the peons don't understand there's a value in silence, whose fault is it? Theirs, or their superiors, who can't tell an indiscretion from a real security risk?

It has been hilarious this week watching the actual diplomats make fools of eager-beaver broadcast journalists as all this has unfolded. One quoted a senior diplomat of an affected country as saying "never mind: you should see what we say about you." Only people like Assange, with that singular combination of arrogance and naivete, would think that their more newsworthy disclosures are news at all. Only the current crop of broadcast journalists would be their enablers. The trouble is that these two lots, between them, may also disclose items like the one I mentioned, of no consequence to them but of considerable military value, and never know it. And that sort of information can and should remain secure. You should not do magic you do not understand.

Labels: ,

Try it; you'll like it

I buy most of my adult beverages at Vinnin Square Liquors, which is the Swampscott section of an odd commercial intersection of Swampscott, Marblehead, and Salem. They carry a highly credible selection of craft beer, but every one in a while they go off in daring and unpredictable directions.

Last spring they invested heavily in the retro version of Narragansett beer, and I can only hope they made back their investment. I did buy a six-pack, for old times' sake. My immediate reaction was "Christ Jesus! We used to drink this shit??" I soldiered on through another can, and saved the rest as slug repellent for the back yard.

Someone must drink it, because it has showed up there periodically amongst the more respectable labels.

Yesterday, it showed up in company with something new and different: Narragansett porter in 16 oz. cans. The price was down at the range of "Not even you, beer snob, can walk past this display."

Since it was cheaper than Diet Coke, I figured what the hell, and paired a six of the porter with a six of Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA. The check-out guy (whose judgment is usually good) offered a small wager that I'd like it.

Well, I opened the first one tonight. I figure that one thumb up is high praise for Nasty-gansett, and I'll give it that. It is lighter than I like in a porter, but it's also has a good deal more authority, shall we say, than I ever expected in a Gansett product. Just as certain brewers (who shall remain nameless) brew IPAs for people who don't like hoppy beer, I think Gansett aimed for a porter for people who don't like porter. Somehow, they ended up with something that is drinkable and interesting.

Keep at it, Narragansett. Be bold and you may hit on the magic potion.

(The Latitude 48 is also a move in the right direction.)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Jury drama

Actually, the title is rather dramatic, because the last people to know what the hell's going on in the jury system are the least before they're impanelled.

Impanelled: hmm, sounds like some Harry Potter spell imprisoned you in the wall. This is not so far off. I must explain that the Salem, MA, Superior Court sits in a splendid Victorian Eclectic building, which lacks almost all the amenities of 21st century life. It barely has the amenities of 19th century life. As a result, prospective jurors are herded into the basement of the UCC edifice across the street to await their fate. (One thing that unites all denominations is that imagination fails their architects and interior designers when it comes to auxiliary spaces.)

For reasons which we would find out later, Monday's jury pool actually included two days' pools, which gave the featureless room an atmosphere just short of the Black Hole of Calcutta. A room which would be crowded with 40 people now held 80. People, did I say? We more met the old saw's definition of mushrooms: we were kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

For over two hours, our lives were varied by the usual: the requisite visit from the judge, reminding us of the noble cause on which we were embarked. We had a break, followed by a video about the noble cause on which we were embarked. On my librarian spouse's advice, I was equipped with a couple of Agatha Christie mysteries. This was not so much to put me in the mood, as to provide me with entertainment that one could interrupt at any moment.

Meanwhile, in the real world, things were happening. Our trial, which turned out to be one for murder, was bogging down in the pre-trial hearing. Across the street in the District court, a prisoner was escaping. Now, at certain times of the year (like October), someone wearing a prison jumpsuit and handcuffs could just melt into the Salem crowds. This does not happen in December, and the escapee was caught soon after.

We knew none of this. At half past ten, we were excused by the judge, who simply told us that the murder trial would not proceed and that we should consult the news for the reasons. As it happened, the prisoner's escape trumped the murder news, chiefly because the escapee was a Level III sex offender, which is of course much more important than homicide. Fortunately the Lynn Item has its priorities straight (if not its online captions), otherwise I would have no idea what had happened.

My spouse believes that one is excused after age 70, so that means I should have to put up with only two more of these circuses.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Drama and comedy


If John McCain had served in the army, his bewildering animosity toward repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be more understandable. The armies of the world have probably done much to perpetuate the idea that naval tradition is nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash. The marines, as the Navy's hyper-macho bastard offspring, are probably in denial about the whole thing, hence their hostile approach. It's not like they don't have sea duty, after all.

For those who don't know, combat forces comprise about 20 percent of any modern land-based military service. One question is and remains why sexual orientation should be an issue for the 80 percent whose job it is to support the combat arms. Another is to wonder whether anyone in a combat arm would be able to break their concentration long enough to hit on a peer.

Back to McCain. Today's exchange between McCain and Adm. Mullen may hint at the long-standing family feud between McCain and the rest of the regular Navy officer corps. We've had all sorts of little dances about why this celebrity ex-POW did not advance to Rear Admiral, at least upon retirement. The most likely explanation is that he was seen as a troublemaker before he was captured and a troublemaker afterward. To this Navy veteran, Admiral Mullen seemed to be on the verge of forgetting he was addressing Senator McCain, and sliding toward reaming out Captain McCain for shooting his mouth off once again. There was just something in the respective body language. With that history, I'd bet that if Mullen said "black" on this question, McCain would say "white."


Part of my job is to search the Internet for identifying information on physicians, when their surgical and treatment notes don't make their specialty and status clear. As I was doing that today, I came across the fact that specialists in disorders of the colon and rectum now prefer to be called colo-rectal specialists, rather than the old standby, proctologists. Why, ask the laypeople?

Their spokespeople dance as much of a hornpipe as McCain did before Mullen, but it seems clear that the goal is to disarm the abundance of medical humour aimed at proctologists. Although these people seem to enjoy their work, apparently they take exception to being, umm, the butt of so many jokes. For example:

  • Q: What kind of accident did the proctologist have?
    A: He was rear-ended!
  • A proctologist is a doctor who puts in a hard day at the orifice.
  • A proctologist is a brain surgeon for lawyers.

Substitute colo-rectal specialist in any of the above and you'll see at once what they're up to: (Well, they may be up to the elbow, but never mind!)

Seeing that people in this field derive much of their amusement from their patients, it seems perfectly fair that amusement should be a two-way street.

Labels: ,

Dodged a bullet

Some while back I ranted about the absurdity of the Massachusetts "One Day/One Trial" jury system. The idea behind this was to spread the load of jury service equally. What has instead happened is that the same 20-25 percent of eligible jurors are called again and again and again, myself among them. After your first trial, there is little to it but repetition.

The hour cometh and now almost is. I was supposed to show up tomorrow, but all Thursday jurors are now supposed to show up next Monday, along with Monday's pool. I didn't like the sound of the last note of the message: "We'll need all the jurors we can get." Mind, this is for Superior Court, where the big felonies and the perpetual civil actions are heard (not necessarily in that order).

Apart from the narrowness of the actual pool, I'm annoyed by the ability of the system to glom onto people at the worst possible time. I'm at the end of my third month of part-time and fairly complex employment that could lead to better things. Had they come calling a year ago I would have been pleased to take a month or two out of my life for some show trial or other. Just now, it's extremely awkward, but not awkward enough to be an excuse.

I've been thinking over the jury questionnaire one must bring, in light of the troubling material on bullying and its aftermath in last Sunday's Boston Globe. That in turn followed much extensive coverage of the problem in the local media. Such coverage, today, begets the dirty trail of semi-literate drivel called comments.

The short of it is I believe I'll out myself as a survivor of teenage bullying on the questionnaire. I described it here once, and I'll link to it directly. My experience was in the higher percentiles of degree of violence. Degree of violence, I'm finding, is what separates the survivors and their baggage from two other, and equally despicable, sets of humans. One contains the "experts," who have persuaded themselves that bullying is merely taunting and teasing. The other contains the tough guys who think holding bullies accountable is bullshit, and that the bullied just have to toughen up. Those who experienced know better on the first count. As for the second, we're most of us tough enough to have worked out useful lives despite these shadows: tougher than you, tough guy.

I suppose the experts are in third-degree denial. But I am convinced that the "toughen up" crowd were all bullies as children and adolescents, and remain bullies as adults, co-workers, bosses, you name it. Were I placed on a jury and asked to deal impartial justice to such an individual, I would find it impossible. Resisting the chance to get even may be one toughness I don't have.