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?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Opaque signage

Now and then either area media, Massachusetts drivers or, especially, visitors will raise objections to what are called directional signs in this Commonwealth. Most of them seem to think the purpose of directional signs is to, well, direct. Our highway authorities seem to think their purpose is to carry on what may be the nation's oldest running practical joke.

Today it was balmy enough for me to venture a couple of errands. En route I found the following proof that this joke may have gone on long enough:

This may be a riff on the old Maine joke that you can't get there from here. Perhaps —considering my town—it is an effort to one-up Concord, MA in the area of "if you don't know, you don't deserve to know."

But no, this was a state highway sign, back in the time when it had legible information on it. That makes it pretty certain that it's part of the hilarious Massachusetts highway tradition of directional signs that direct drivers nowhere, simply taken to its logical extreme.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thanks...I theenk

To the best of my knowledge, I have not quite kicked the bucket. Spouse and I were up betimes to wield shovels and snow blower. When we were done, I nipped out for groceries whilst my wife went to work. When I came back, the evil street plowfolk had returned. I shoved the car through the mess and headed for the snow blower with something between a shrug and a sigh. At that moment a neighbour's high-school age son showed up with a modest snow thrower and attacked the crud at the end of the driveway. What could one do? I waved, shouted my thanks, and hobbled my geriatric self into the house with the groceries.

This is the same sort of mixed feeling that I've had when well-meaning people offered me the senior seat on the Blue Line. But thanks to my young benefactor, I got to stay inside and keep the Beast at bay.

Random signs of cabin fever

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac (the paper kind that we keep in the john), it's now raccoon mating season.

It's possible, reader, that you find this absurd. However, when one checks around, this bit of outhouse wisdom appears to be scientifically sound.

That's more than one can say for the attempted revival of the political doctrine of nullification, of which secession and civil war are mere bastard offspring. That this potentially deadly and suicidal idea can get news coverage shows the increasing backwardness of the "United" States, which is busily dredging up old ways to break apart just as the other nations of the world are stumbling toward devising new ways to come together. Once again, Grampa, you should have followed the relations to Canada instead of following your drinking mates to the USA.

The start of raccoon mating season is also a sounder premise than the one filling scores of cardio wards around the country: that Jay Cutler is (or is not) a wimp. And why, ask the football-challenged? Because he left (or was removed from) the NFC Championship game without actually leaving one of his limbs out on the playing field. And, having left, he didn't look hurt enough. Read a few lines of interwebz logic on this subject and you'll begin to see why health care is such a difficult concept for a certain part of the American population to grasp. The outraged fans on either side of this scrum may, if we're lucky, die in the ER waiting room whilst proving how manly they are. The amount of air time, ink, and pixels devoted to this subject prove beyond doubt that most of the media have no clue how many people simply don't give a rat's arse one way or another.

The few local ones who grasp the popular apathy about Cutler have dug up the statistic that the greater Boston area will have received 50 inches of snow by the time the current fall ends in the morning...that is, in 30 days. They're the ones who think this can interest or amuse those of us in a dull haze of denial, which makes them as deluded as the pro-or-anti-Cutler fanatics.

My neighbour has a raccoon pair tucked into her oak tree about 30 feet up. I wonder if they have room to let?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coming down to common sense

I'm repeating myself a little. A few days after Gabrielle Giffords' shooting, the interwebz rumour mill decided to practice medicine without a licence. The annoucement was that Gabrielle Giffords had got out out of bed and was sitting in a chair.

Regular readers know I have a daughter in the neuro rehab line of work, who happened to be home during the start of all this, and that I have a few healthcare creds of my own. My kid confirmed my skepticism at once.

Now, some days after, we have credible people willing to define the reality of what Ms. Giffords faces. She may be able to conduct activities of daily living (read, sit, stand, eat, eliminate). She may be able to speak. She should be able to interact at some level with her family.

Will Giffords be able to sit in Congress? When you consider the intellect of some people currently in Congress, that seems more likely.

My daughter deals regularly with the disappointment of families who must adjust to the idea that these limited goals are successes, and the biggest successes their loved one may ever have. To suggest that victims of traumatic brain injury will be just as they ever were is the cruelest form of hypocrisy. They'll be the best they can be, nothing more or less.

I'll leave it there, and avoid HIPAA violations.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Despicable he

I've been scrounging my anatomy and physiology books, but they're not much help with my question du jour. They deal in medicine, not metaphor, and my question is metaphorical.

Can someone like Dick Cheney, who doesn't appear to have a heart, get a heart transplant?
Further, as a potential organ donor myself, could I insert an exclusion clause saying that only people who already have a heart can have mine?

On second thought, if I shuffle off, Dick's welcome to mine. It's not warranted for many more miles, although its owner was, at one time, a better shot.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Doomed by unfriending

Sometimes I think we, the world's crazees, represent the last bastion of actual sanity. This is on my mind because, first, I googled how to "unfriend" someone on Facebook. What you get in this thread is enough to convince anyone that one is the last sane person on earth. Look, pilgrims, we are just clicking a button here to remove someone's access to one's information. We are not fighting a duel. Nor, as this item suggests, are we making (necessarily) a political statement that we should consider carefully. We just do not want to communicate with this person any longer. For our own reasons.

I suppose it's part of the warm and fuzzy new Facebook that their Help no longer warns users against unfriending people, suggesting that they can't ever again be friends. Instead, they give a straight answer to the how-to question. Any former suggestions of dire consequences are gone.

The person I unfriended had irritated me several ways: first by ignoring me a number of times and most recently with a piece of tactless comedy that went over several lines. Although it seems like time to end what little was left of the actual friendship, I would probably not have unfriended her were it not for all the thou-shalt-nots. Those are not the best thing to wave in front of a card-carrying contrarian.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More shooting...of the foot

One trouble with the American left is its penchant for enabling the cowardice, excuses and ignorance of ranters, usually (not always) of right-wing persuasion, We are in the midst of a fit of hand-wringing over Sarah Palin's testy comment that American media had committed a "blood libel" by linking her violent rhetoric to the Gifford shooting. That includes me.

Come on now. Given this woman's lexical history, why on earth is anyone wondering whether she meant to use a reference to Jewish history, a reference that is a tad obscure even if you are Jewish? Those who wonder are giving her a degree of credibility she couldn't muster herself. She's doing what Limbaugh did in 1995; what every loudmouth before and since has done. It's called whining. Every bully who ever lived has whined just like this when they've been caught out. Let her whine. Take the lesson of his horrid act and learn from it, and let the bullies zig and zag and try to avoid their part of the responsibility.

There is a lesson and it is not entirely Palin. This is apparent from the inability of many on the left to figure out the lesson in any but partisan terms. The lesson is that when people who ought to know better start using vituperation as the core of their daily discourse, people who don't know better are listening. The vituperation goes in one ear as daily rants, and it comes out the other as fact. It does not matter if it is Sarah Palin or anyone else. What matters is that for every listener who knows that hyperbole is a literary effect, there are ten who do not. At least one of those ten is going to be nursing a psychotic rage that the hyperbole will direct. If they hear enough of the vitriol, they will act on it. They don't need a gun, just a truck loaded with fuel oil and fertiliser.

That's why it is unwise to wring one's hands and blather about Palin's free speech rights. We've had that discussion:

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing panic.... The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Schenk v. United States, 1919).

We come daily closer to the threshold Holmes had in mind, and it's time the whining about it stopped. The last time we permitted vituperation to get this far out of hand, it ended in a was that cost 600,000 lives. In proportion to population, such a war today would cost 30 million lives and leave the entire country in ruins. So stop it.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Shooting one's mouth off

I've commented before on my daughter's occupation. She's been home this week, and we had a chance to talk about Gabrielle Giffords' wound. Not its social or political dimensions, but its clinical dimensions. She sees trauma of this level daily.

We hear--we hope--that Ms Giffords will live. That is just one part of the challenge.
In the opinion of one traumatic brain injury specialist, she will be very fortunate if she can ever again function at a Congressional level. After high-caliber injuries at short range, the brain suffers massive trauma. As a rule, complete recovery happens only in Hollywood movies.

As I scribble, the leading figures of right-wing vitriol are doing what they did after the Oklahoma City bombing: running and hiding. Now, of course, we have in addition a vendor of right-wing vitriol who pretends also to be a legitimate candidate for high office.

In 2005, I thought it would be meet and just if Terry Schaivo had been able to appear before Congress: simply because, just possibly, there might have been enough people in Congress and the media capable of feeling ashamed at the act.

Today, I should like to look forward to a day when the vitriol vendors could visit Ms Giffords en masse. If she is very fortunate, she may be able to form a coherent sentence when they do. It isn't likely, but rehab must cling to hope or fail entirely. I am not in rehab, so I hope only for those who run away from their responsibility to have their noses rubbed in it.

Sleep well, Sarah Palin.

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Score to date, 9-5

That's 9 to 5 in the first fortnight, favour of the Beast. This could be worse. There are shortcomings, however. One is that four of the five days without significant pain came in one group, after the first visitation. We then had eight days of amusement, which included the belated family holiday.

There are those who seem to think that people who live with chronic illnesses get something out of it; that we kind of enjoy the attention. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but I find this business of spoiling family gatherings very embarrassing. I could do very well without it, thx.

I wouldn't even bring it up now save that there seem to be a few readers out there who understand this business. They deserve to hear that other people see things their way.