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, February 26, 2012

Just wondering

I've been reading about the Blue people of Kentucky. So, back in the days of segregation, which water fountain did they use? It shows the absurdity of distinctions based on skin colour, doesn't it?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feline Follow-up

I'm at work on another in the stupid hoomanz series, but occurred to me that some people who drop in here don't know what's up with Spike. Those who have heard of this (via FB) should have details.

Mr. Spike probably has either inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), small cell lymphoma, or both. At this point, the list of what he doesn't have is longer. Doesn't have renal failure, a thyroid condition, leukemia, or FIV (aka kitty AIDS). The biggest immediate problem is appetite. A cat who once topped 20 pounds is down to 11 pounds. Step 1 has been to get something he can eat and will eat. (No cat is ever too sick to give up being finicky.)

Step 2 was to weigh the options the vet presented: either exploratory surgery, which would be followed by chemo ($$$$$) if the Dx of lymphoma was confirmed. The extension of lifespan is unimpressive. Otherwise, a course of prednisone which would increase his appetite and have a very good chance of containing IBD if that's the cause. If it's lymphoma, prednisone is honestly just palliative care. We spent more time getting ourselves around the options than we did making the decision: no surgery; no chemo. Mr. Spike is not the sharpest tool in the shed, owing to a probable brain injury in kittenhood (fell downstairs). He would be even more miserable going through that than an animal of normal intelligence. So the game is just make his tummy feel well enough to be comfortable and make eating OK again, and let him see another spring.

In human years, he's just our age, which makes the experience especially sobering. Dang the critters anyway.


Friday, February 24, 2012

I fought the law and the law won

T'other day I went over to join the other ghouls watching the demolition of an $800,000-plus house. And why was this done? Because the owner had knowingly and willfully ignored, ripped down and stomped on a significant percentage of local zoning laws. He kept up his resistance for 15 years, enriching an entire generation of property lawyers in the process. That this spectacle was fueled largely by hubris isn't just my opinion. The case has been up and down the entire Massachusetts judicial system--twice--in those 15 years, with a recent attempted detour into Town Meeting. The verdict was unanimous: the house was wrong, wrong, wrong, and its owner an arrogant prick. By the time I got there, the chimney was the highest item still standing.

I live in a very old New England town, and we don't agree on much. One of the first large property owners went back to England and became one of the Regicides--the panel that voted to execute King Charles I. That feistiness is in the local DNA. Zoning ordinances require a two-thirds vote to pass Meeting. When two-thirds of us agree on anything, it ought to be respected.

Mr Prick decided that sort of consensus did not apply to him. He ignored numerous warnings from abuttors and from lawyers that he was at the least pushing the envelope. He has whined for 15 years that the town didn't warn him. I'm not privy to what the town did or didn't tell him. I do remember my father sitting on our city's zoning board. I learned then that the burden of compliance rests not with the community, but with the property owner. One can push that envelope, but not break it. That's one reason to have an architect, and one does wonder what the architect here was thinking.

Mr Prick didn't just break the envelope, he shredded it in umpteen different ways. The abuttors did exactly what they said they would do and took him to court.

I had wondered now and then if the abuttors were being hypersensitive, but it occurred to me to get a look from the conservation land behind the demolition. Close to the lot? You betcha, close to at least one. It was close to the other as well, but the trees in the shot above mask how close. It's pretty much the same setback you can see here. No wonder they were pissed.

The whining goes on. Mr Prick's current theme is that the demolition was a "miscarriage of justice," quite as if someone had forced him to ignore his neighbours and the town bylaws at gunpoint. He says he may build a smaller house (read, the one he should have built in the first place) on the lot. How he could do that without being driven by spite all around would be comic. Seems like his smart move would be to sell out, perhaps to the abuttors, but smart hasn't been an obvious feature of this drama from the beginning.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

So much stupidity, so little time

I began skiing (gack!) 59 years ago. Yes there was skiing. No, you didn't have to carve your own equipment out of a clump of birches. There were proper ski areas (gee, six or eight in all of NH) and numbers of joint-challenging local rope tows. There was only a little snow-making, no interstate highways, and a very limited number of safety procedures. (I still remember an accident involving a brain pan and a broken bamboo ski pole with which I shall not darken the light of day.) There were maybe half a dozen TV stations in all of New England. Most of southern NH could receive Boston TV, but Boston TV weather ended below the state line.

Back then, prospective skiers had some excuse for not understanding that, on average, places with high elevation get more snow than places with low elevation. Absent much in the way of snow-making, they had some small reason for tying their own urban snowfall (or its absence) to the likelihood of snow in their favourite ski area.

Today, there are scores of ski areas, all with snow-making. There are dozens of sources of electronic communication prepared to give skiers hour-by hour conditions anywhere in the world, never mind New England. I-93 can take you from metro Boston deep into the White Mountains in less time than it took to get from Boston to Manchester in 1953. Thus, any skier who judges their prospects of snow by conditions in their urban backyard is a blithering idiot.

In days of yore, we were taught to have considerable care for our personal safety, because most of the adult skiers around us had gory first-person stories to share. Few of us exited our teens without minor injury. Then there were those ill-disguised spots of pink snow where some of the casualties had happened. These influences made one thoughtful. The late ski pioneer and author Newt Tolman once wrote that, since the 1920s, each improvement in skiing technology had led to fewer broken skis and more broken skiers.

The helmet is a new arrival in recreational downhill skiing. Somehow, the learning curve on the limits of helmet use seems to be much slower for skiers than it has been for cyclists. Despite all the evidence offered by years of "agony of defeat" footage, all the international skiers carried off the slopes held together by their clothes, I suspect that far too many skiers have fallen into a false assumption that ski helmets confer invulnerability and immortality. Bike helmets reduce the likelihood of traumatic brain injury at all skill levels. Ski helmets can do the same. Consider, though, that even a novice skier can easily reach speeds three times the average speed of professional cyclists, on surfaces just as damaging as pavement. If helmets encourage skiers in the deadliest skier behaviour--skiing above one's ability--then they become part of the problem, not the solution.

Over the past two years, a depressing number of ski fatalities have included the words "...was wearing a helmet...ran into a tree." Once upon a time, running into a tree was considered prima facie evidence that the victim was skiing above his/her ability.

Helmets have instructions. Those of us who have written documentation know how futile it can be to get people to read the fuckin' manual. Possibly we need documentation aimed not at those who wear the helmets, but on those who sell or rent them, many of whom are below the age of optimum brain development.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wel, mae'n flin da fi, pawb

No, I haven't forgotten how to write English. And, Beast-wise, the mild winter has been beneficial. There is depression, though. And guess what? When one lives on a diet of drugs that can cause or exacerbate depression, anti-depressants are futile.

I used to sneer at Seasonal Affective Disorder as a diagnosis. Now I think there's something in it.

Anyhow, there's more sun and it seems to bring out more words. Not all cheerful.

I'm rather convinced that the clowns are winning on every level, and that ties my tongue.

Mr. Spike's illness, nature still inconclusive, has also become a major distraction, as I more and more prefer the company of animals to that of 99.8% of my fellow humans.

So that's that: up fer air.