Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Aide (Draft) Chapter 2

Click here to read chapter 1.

He sat in a wheelchair in a dingy room facing a mattress on the floor where his son's prone form lay sleeping, or unconscious, or dying, or dead; Hopewell couldn't tell. The room was familiar, and raw emotion was rushing through his brain like a strong wind. All he wanted to do was kneel down and learn his son's state, but he couldn't move his arms. Then panic started to set in.

He awoke from the dream to the same tiled ceiling above the hospice bed, and he could hear people whispering. He turned his head toward the source and saw Jessica and one of his daughters, both seated and leaning close to each other, so that they could hear one another. He didn't want to disturb their conversation, because his daughter's face was very stern, so he stared in their direction, patiently waiting for it to conclude. As he lay there, he wondered how aides were able to make such whispering sounds without using air, which wasn't being expelled from the lungs they didn't have.

His daughter's name was Sandra, and she was always serious. Folks used to say that she had her mother's sense of humor, meaning of course that neither of them had one to speak of. Her black hair and makeup were always in place, and her clothes were always clean, free of wrinkles, and pressed with severe creases. He couldn't see her shoes, but he had no doubt they weren't scuffed or worn. She was wearing a black suit today, which meant that she was going to court afterward, probably to argue some dreary corporate lawsuit. He had never been all that happy about her choice of profession, wanting children who would stick up for working stiffs like him instead of arguing the minutia of corporate law.

When she was a child, he had repeatedly tried to get her to answer to “Sandy,” but even then she always insisted on being called by her given name.

When they stopped whispering to each other and Jessica again straightened up, Sandra began looking for something in her purse. Jessica said, “Good morning again Mr. Hopewell.”

“Bert,” he said. “I keep tellin' ya ta call me 'Bert.'”

Sandra looked up and closed her purse. As she was moving her chair towards his bed side, Jessica said, “I'm sorry, Mr. Hopewell, but it would be difficult to comply. The rules of the hospice in regard to how clients are to be addressed are very clear.”

“Well, ya should make an exception f' me.”

“No, she shouldn't, Dad,” said Sandra, still pulling her chair towards him. “If a supervisor heard her addressing you that way, it wouldn't reflect well on her.” She situated herself, making sure nothing was out of place or in danger of being wrinkled, and continued, “How are you this morning?”

“I'm great,” he teased, “The aides say that I'll be goin' back home soon.” She rolled her eyes but didn't say anything. “OK,” he continued, “I won't be goin' home soon. My body's fallin' apart, and the only way I'm goin' anywhere is feet first. Ya happy now?”

“Dad, please, this isn't easy for me either.”

“Well, a little laughter would make it easier all around, but you'd never do that, would ya?”

She decided to let it go. “Are the aides treating you well?”

“Yeah, Jessica's been great.” He acknowledged the aide with a nod of his head. “Ever'one here is won'erful, and the derms on my skin keep the pain away. Better n' it was in dat hospital, when they was tryin' ta keep me alive alla time.”

His ear-phone started to twitter. He grabbed the device and fumbled its fitted form into his ear. Immediately the twittering stopped and a soft female voice told him that “Jim Crenshaw, director of Client Relations for the Westfield Hospice Center, was calling.” He said, louder than his normal voice, “I'll take the call,” and he immediately heard a man's voice say,

“Hello, Mr. Hopewell?”

“Hello Jim,” he continued loudly. “What's up?”

“I have your aide, Jessica, on the line with us, and she has told me that you have requested that we make a special exception to the rules governing how you're to be addressed by the aides. Is that correct?”

“Yeah, I'd like Jessica 'n the other aides ta call me 'Bert' instead-a 'Mr. Hopewell.'”

“That's fine, Mr. Hopewell, consider it done. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Yeah, you can call me 'Bert,' too.”

The other emitted a short laugh and said, “OK, um, Bert. Will that be all?”

“Yeah, that's it, thanks.”

“You're welcome. Goodbye.”


The call immediately disconnected. He looked to the aide, still sitting up straight, hands in her lap, and said, “Thanks, Jessica.”

“You are most welcome Bert,” she responded.

As he was taking the device our of his ear, Sandra said, “Dad, it works best if you keep it in your ear all the time.”

“Why? My ears are fine. I don't need a hearing aid.”

“It's not a hearing aid, Dad. Well, yes, people do use it that way, but that's not it's primary purpose. It has to learn the sound of your voice, so that it can connect them with your brain waves. It can't do that unless you keep it in your ear.” She paused for a moment. looking at her hands in her lap. Speaking to them she said, “It's embarrassing hearing you speak when you're on the phone.”

He waved his hand in disgust. “The only reason I got the damn thing was 'cause they stopped sellin' cell phones.”

“Been a long time since those days, Dad.”

“Yeah, and I'm-a man-a them days. Mark my words, someday, when you're around my age, there'll be some new tech that ever'one'll be usin' 'cept you, 'cause ya won't be able ta get used to it. Your kids'll tease you about not using it n' all.”

“I doubt I'll ever have kids.”

“Then your sister's kid will. Either way, you'll know how it feels ta be so old you can't learn new things anymore, and ever' new thing is just a reminder that yer left behind.” He turned to Jessica. “Ain't that right, Jessica? Your chassis' a thirty-three-ten. That makes you much older n' me. We're just a couple a old farts, ain't we?”

Without missing a beat, Jessica rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and said, in a spot on Yiddish accent, “Oy, gevalt, eer bito bey'deh meshuga.

He giggled immediately, but Sandra's face took on a look of mild shock. “Dad, I think she may have just insulted us.”

“No, she didn't. She's teasing. ”Turning his head towards Jessica, he continued, “Ain't cha?”

“Of course I am.”

Twisting to the aide, a confused Sandra asked, “Why was that funny?”

Her father immediately exclaimed, “Pfft--if you have to ask, it ain't gonna be funny.”

Turning back towards him, she said, “I'm not interested in the joke itself. I just want to understand why you found it funny.”

“I dunno, I can't explain it. It's just funny.”

Jessica said, “Shock is often a driver of humor. The last thing anyone expects from an aide is an exasperated call to the heavens in another language. And Yiddish phrases, more than any other, seem to elicit the most mirthful reactions.”

Sandra turned toward the her, “Except for me.”

“Yes, except for you. . .”

“Yes?” Sandra prompted.

“I don't know if anyone has made a study of this, but I've noticed that the use of Yiddish has been declining and I suppose that people of your father's generation will be the last who will find humor in--”

“Hold on,” Sandra exclaimed, “I've got a call.” She turned her head, looked at her lap, and was silent. After a few moments, she looked at her father and stood up, adjusting her purse on her shoulder. “That was my legal aide reminding me that we have to leave now if we are to be in court on time, so I've gotta go.” She kissed her father on the cheek.

“But you jus' got here,” he said.

“I've been here for quite awhile, Dad, but you were asleep for most of it. I'll be here tomorrow morning, and Patty will be in this afternoon.” To Jessica, she said, “See you tomorrow.” The aide nodded, and they both watched her briskly leave the room.

Bert said to Jessica, who was still peering through the doorway, “Saved by the bell, huh?”

She turned toward him, “Indeed.”

“Where were you going with that line-a bull?”

“Out onto a high-wire without a net, I suspect.”

“How's that?”

“My 'line of bull,' as you put it, is known as a 'white lie.' It is a set of strategies used to get out of situations where speaking the truth would not be socially appropriate.”

“I thought aides couldn't lie.”

“I was not, strictly speaking, telling a lie. The use of Yiddish in the comedic arts has been declining for years, and I was using that fact to try and redirect her attention from a discussion of her sense of humor--but you are correct in that we are incapable of deception.

“But ain't that still tellin' a lie?”

“Yes and no. There is one exception when it comes to maintaining cordial relationships. Admittedly, it is an ethically fraught strategy, and is to be avoided where possible.”

He thought about this for a moment and said, “You ever done that wit' me?”

“No, I have not.”

“You tellin' me the truth?”

“Yes.” Raising her right hand, palm out, and while making a crossing motion over her chest with her left, she added, “Cross my batteries and hope to power off permanently,” and smiled.

All text copyright ©2013 Peter K. Levy

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Aide (Draft) Chapter 1

Bert was sitting with his wife at their kitchen table, drinking coffee and talking about the day, when her face became very sad. “What should we do about Billy?” she asked. They hadn't been in contact with their son for many years. To get through his days and to be able to sleep at night, Bert had resolved to stop thinking about him. His wife, a constant worrier, couldn't seem to think of anything else, and asked him this question at least twice a week. He was sick of it, and her constant worry was taking its toll on her.

“I don't know,” he said; it's what he always said. He was afraid to say more lest the whole useless conversation start up again, going over the same rutted road. Looking at her, over his coffee cup, a strange burst of rage washed over him. He slammed the cup down, spilling some coffee, grabbed her by the shoulders with both hands and, shaking her violently, yelled, “Bill's as good as dead to us! You gotta stop doin' this to yerself, or you're gonna die young, and I ain't gonna be left alone without you!” He started to weep, tears flowing down his cheek. His wife's face was struck with shock and fear, and he awoke with a sudden start, to the sight of drop-ceiling tiles above his bed.

He was breathing very heavily. That was a bad one, he thought.

“Are you alright, Mr. Hopewell?” he heard the medical aide ask.

He knew where he was now, in a room at the hospice center. “Yeah,” he said. More deep breaths, “'Cept for these bad dreams, I'm OK.”

“Some of the pain alleviation derms can cause an increase in vivid nightmares. I can apply an anti-anxiety derm, if you need it.”

“Nah, I'll be OK, just a nightmare. Nothin' ta worry 'bout.”

“If you change your mind, just let me know.”

“OK, thanks,” he said.

When his breathing slowed to normal, he looked to his left to see the aide sitting in one of the chairs, staring in his direction but not really seeing him. It was a pleasant face to look at. She had a young and healthy appearance, with long brown hair tied into a pony tail in the back. She was sitting up straight with her hands in the lap of her crossed legs. The rest of her was clothed in the blue scrubs that the aides were always wearing, including blue shoes on her feet. A name tag was clipped to the left side of her shirt, with the single word “Jessica.”

He'd tbeen here less than a week, and he already knew the look on her face. She must be reading something, he thought, she always has that look when she's reading. He observed her for a little while, wondering momentarily why all aides were always she. Eventually he asked, “What'cha readin', toots?”

Without moving or changing the focus of her eyes, she responded,“I have a name, old man, and you would be well advised to use it.” Her voice always had a soothing quality, but this time there was a touch of menace.

He gave a short snort of a laugh, “OK, what'cha readin' . . . Jes-si-ca?”

“Parts manifest for a U-S-R model thirty-three-ten chassis that I recently acquired.”

“Wow, that model's older 'n me.”

She looked at him and said, “I have positronic nodes that are older than you.” She went back to her reading. “I acquired the chassis yesterday. It was not expensive.”

“I should think not. Whadja pay?”

“None of your business, old man.”

“Hey, I got a name too, toots, 'n you better learn it good afore I tell yer supervisor.”

She uncrossed her legs and stood up, hands at her side, glaring at him. “You would not dare do such a thing.”

“Why 'n hell wouldn't I? In fact, ya know what? Ah think I'll just call the prez of this hospice right now and complain. Her dad 'n me went to school together, so your goose is as good as cooked.” He slowly reached to his left for the ear-phone on his bedside table.

She approached him, hands still at her side. “If you know what is good for you, you will cease this useless braggadocio and come to your senses . . . Robert Eugene Hopewell.” She put her hands on the bed rail, leaned over so her face was very close to his, and continued in a hushed voice, “We know where you live.”

They glared at each other. Then, at about the same moment, she smiled and he started giggling.

When his merriment had died down, he asked, “Where'd you get that hundred dollar word? What was that, 'brag-a-do-shia'?”

Straightening up she said, “Brag-ga-do-cio, it means boastful or arrogant behavior.”

“Yeah? Sounds foreign. What language did it come from?”

“English, actually.”

“I don't believe it.”

“It was coined by the English poet Edmund Spenser in his poem The Faerie Queene, which was published in 1590.”

“Ha! It's from England. I knew it was foreign.”

“Italianesque words were popular in England at the time, so he took the word 'brag' and made it sound vaguely Italian.”

“That makes it even worse.”

“How so?”

“I dunno. I'm tryin' ta bust yer chops, but yer not playin' along.”

“Aides of my generation are not so good at recognizing all of the social cues that make up the art of teasing. . . . No doubt you will be needing one or more of my services this morning, beyond obscure etymologies?”

“I dunno. Whatever's happened below ma waist is a mystery.”

“No mystery to my acute senses. I will clean you, and then we can talk about what you would like for breakfast.”

He turned his head away and looked at the ceiling. “I hate it.”

“There is no need. I do not pass judgment on anyone.”

“I can't help it. It's disgusting.”

“Disgust is not in my repertoire. There is no need to feel shame.”

He cheered up a little and turned his head to look at her again. “There ya go again, wit' them hundred dollar words. What's 'repator' mean, eh?”

“Re-per-twar. It is a French word, and it has several meanings, but I used it in reference to the whole range of emotions that you and I are capable of feeling and exuding.”

“There ya go again.”

All text copyright ©2013 Peter K. Levy

Click here to read chapter 2.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Case for the Minorities

by Wendell L. Willkie
The Saturday Evening Post
June 27, 1942

Today we are living once more in a period that is psychologically susceptible to witch hanging and mob baiting. And each of us, if not alert, may find himself the unconscious carrier of the germ that will destroy our freedom. For each of us has within himself the inheritances of age-long hatreds, of racial and religious differences, and everyone has a tendency to find the cause for his own failures in some conspiracy of evil. It is, therefore, essential that we guard our own thinking and not be among those who cry out against prejudices applicable to themselves, while busy spawning intolerances for others.

In addition, as citizens, we must fight in their incipient stages all movements by government or party or pressure groups that seek to limit the legitimate liberties of any of our fellow citizens. For government, which should be the very guardian of these liberties, is frequently, through excess zeal or desire for quick accomplishment of a purpose, the oppressor. And political parties, overanxious for vote catching, become tolerant to intolerant groups.

I have noticed, with much distress, the excessive wartime activity of the investigating bureaus of Congress and the administration, with their impertinent and indecent searching out of the private lives and the past political beliefs of individuals. Such methods, of course, are employed with the excuse of protecting the nation from subversive activities. So are those of the Gestapo. I have been appalled at the callous indifference of high officers of the navy to the obvious and undemocratic discrimination against Negroes, and disturbed to find similar discrimination too often in the ranks of industry and labor. I have been shocked to read that the Department of Justice seeks to revoke the citizenship of naturalized citizens suspected of foreign allegiance, rather than forthrightly to prosecute such persons for whatever crime they may be guilty of.

The course it is pursuing casts doubt on the rights of all naturalized citizens to the same treatment before the law as is enjoyed by their fellows who were born here. I have been sickened to see political parties flirting with remnants of anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klanism and hesitating to denounce the anti-Semitism of Coughlinites and others.

For now more than ever, we must keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that whenever we take away the liberties of those we hate, we are opening the way to loss of liberty for those we love. Our way of living together in America is a strong but delicate fabric. It is made up of many threads. It has been woven over many centuries by the patience and sacrifice of countless liberty-loving men and women. It serves as a cloak for the protection of poor and rich, of black and white, of Jew and gentile, of foreign - and native-born. For God's sake, let us not tear it asunder. For no man knows, once it is destroyed, where or when man will find its protective warmth again.

Source: Spartacus Educational (UK). The above was part of the research I did for the Quote of the Day for November 17, 2012. This one was pretty tough because Google Books, normally a very good resource, wasn't much help. The one source I could find had the wrong publication date. (Surprisingly, getting the publication date wrong for periodicals happens quite a lot.) I was actually very lucky to have found it at this UK website and I wanted to post it here so that there was at least one other place on the web where this missive could live online.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Will

Mom and her older sister, 1937.

The conference room was ample
The lawyer droned on and on
The aide made endless copies
Which the accountants set upon.

We came to meet the men
Who bill by the hour
Who passed out streams of paper
And looked entirely too dour.

The will was probated months ago
The taxes were yet to be paid
The extensions were filed in triplicate
The piles of folders needed a spade.

Endless questions for these priests
Who control the language of our lives
Who scribble out the sacrifices
That are demanded by our gods.

These are the chores of the living
The ones who are left to grieve
All of us must persevere
Or so we all believe

She was more to me than parchment
More than life insurance and deeds
But the entirety of her financial life was
Spelled out on this pile of leaves.

I felt her last in her empty bedroom
Bereft of any evidence of her life
She must have been that spirit
That touched me in my heart.

My cousin and I shed tears that day
Remembering her endearing charms
But today she did not visit us
In that wainscot paneled room.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Content to Sleep

As the lights dim and the covers float
They settle down around me.
I begin to feel the faint weight
of feline paws as she walks towards
me imperceptibly light.

When she nears my waist she sits and
I can hear, mixed in the rattle
of the heating vent, her faint purring.
Telling me that she loves me.

I no longer reach out to pet her,
To feel her rub her cheek
against my fingernails,
because every time I do,
she is gone.

So now I just lie there
listening to the rattle of
her purring and feeling the
imperceptible weight of her,
lying next to me, and
I am content to sleep,
hoping that she'll stay.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Real Story

There's a real story here and anyone who isn't paying attention is missing it. Of course I almost missed it too, because like everyone else, I got attracted to the conflict and gossip:

But first the dishing: The last thing I expected, when I posted a link to a NY Times article about Obama getting interrupted while reading a statement, was that one of Grover Norquists's lackeys would be trolling Google+ looking for liberals to tweak with pithy comments. (see image to the right.)

Seriously, he doesn't have better things for them to be doing? My little corner of Google+ (a cyberspace backwater if there ever was one) is a bastion of angry liberalism and is in need of a terse bit of text to set me on the path of the straight and narrow? Who are they kidding? Is it an attention getting scheme? Will armies of conservative agents be descending on cyberspace to wreak havoc in the liberal-sphere just to draw attention away from the real stories?

And getting back to real stories: Yes, in this case the real story here is not Neil Munro's boorishness, Tucker Carlson's clueless response, or that legions of Grover-bots might be trolling the backwaters of cyberspace (as well as the halls of Congress, but I digress). The real story is that President Obama is committed to giving the children of illegal immigrants, who have grown up here and call the USA their home, a chance to become legal residents. At some future date we may even allow them to attain citizenship.

That's the real story.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Tears Won't Come

Morning Tears by Paul Binnie

The tears are not coming.
They have sent their regrets.
The weeping is on hiatus.
And yet I am so upset.

My sadness will not abate
Without an emotional release
But the S.N.R.I. I'm taking
Makes it hard to attain that peace

I used to cry quite often,
Others must have thought me weak,
But I regarded it as a blessing;
A badge of sorrow flowing down my cheek.

This day we celebrate mothers.
They who nursed us with great care.
Who praised and nagged and fed us
And told us what to wear.

The metastasized foreign colonies
Flourished under small domes.
Like little stationary marbles,
Up and down her arms.

My mother was so afraid
Of dying in great pain;
We spoke of it so often that
It's seared into my brain.

It was a kind of blessing
Among all the emotional boil
That the anesthesia induced dementia
Unraveled her mortal coil.

I really have to concentrate
As method actors do
To darken my mind even further
And bring the tears to fore.

But even if I succeed
In satiating this grief.
I know it'll be back again,
Bundled into sheaves.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Birthday Wish

For Dollface's birthday I gave her an extravagant and intangible gift. Placed in a small box, light as air, and wrapped in Sponge Bob birthday paper. In the accompanying card I wrote another poem to express my love for her and with her permission I'm posting it here:

"Erato, Muse of Poetry" by Edward Poynter

I don't know what to write.
I am at a loss.
My muse has up left me.
The writer has been blocked.

A birthday wish should be ethereal.
Light and full of joy.
For this, your birthday, I wish
To you, not a care in the world.

Such days are reserved for pleasantries.
Lighthearted fun and toys.
Candy, cake, and ice cream.
And other trinkets of joy.

Algea, goddess of sorrow,
is not welcome here.
Nor her mother Eris,
the spirit of discord.

We are gathered here to celebrate.
And to open a gift most fair.
For the birthday of my cherished love.
The Dollface that I hold most dear.

So have some cake and icing
And maybe a cookie or two
And open the gift before you.
From he, your love so true.

And remember these words I've written.
And remember the love we both feel.
For while the offering is intangible.
The extravagance is very real.

Have a little cake with your icing

The image at left is called "Rabbit's Delight" and it's the birthday card that I gave to Dollface. You may not be able to tell from the small image, but the rabbits are eating the icing flowers off of a birthday cake. The endearment inside reads "Have a little cake with your icing."

It was created by Maili Poag and you can see this and more of her beautiful anthropomorphic cards at Toadstool Designs.

Pre-Birthday Wish

Dollface had a birthday coming up and wanted something extravagant, so I came up with a gift that was both that and intangible. Because it was going to rain on her birthday we decided to have a dinner a day afterwards. I wanted to give this extravagant/intangible gift during dinner so I wrote a little pre-birthday poem in a kind of Dr. Seussian style to give to her on her actual birthday. (It's not as good as the least of his verse, but it was received warmly.)

"Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss

Dollface has a birthday that is significant,
so how did I choose to cel-le-brate it?
With bows and trinkets
on Jewelry and ingots?

Maybe some friends
will pay us a visit,
And accompany us
to a gallery or exhibit.

I might have sprung
for off-Broadway tickets.
Or bluesy music with rough hewn lyrics.
Or maybe even a museum of hieroglyphics.

On the other hand I can assure you that
it won't be furniture with rivets,
Or Gravy and biscuits,
Nor will it be Tofurky and giblets.

Whatever it is you'll
need to have patience.
And quietly, to yourself,
count down the minutes.

So no crying or screaming or
threats or ballistics.
Or the whining that
such conditions elicit.

For I won't reveal it.
No matter how much
you threaten or kibitz.

Until the appointed time
at where ever it is
that we're filling
our stomachs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Friday, January 01, 2010

HBO Real Time Health Care Reform Report by Dana Gould

Good video. Well worth watching. I am often amazed by the gullibility of the angry right that they would believe the nonsense as depicted in the first part of this video.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Evangelical Silliness

Pokemon is being used by Satan's minions to work their evil on otherwise innocent children? Wow, that's something I never realized, that badly animated cartoons and cheap cardboard circles about fictional fantasy characters can cause demon possession.

Did you also know that Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street can cause kids to turn gay? It's true, because pastors like this god-fearing man to the right have noted that if children watch Sesame Street they can grow up thinking it's OK for two male puppets to live together.

Lest we forget that one kid back in the '70's who killed himself because of what his doctor called "clinical depression." What do doctors know? He played D&D and as we all know it encourages people to play with evil and to think about worshiping pagan gods, so it must have been D&D that drove him to kill himself. No other explanation makes any sense.

In Praise of Doubt, by Richard S. Gilbert

It is not that we are not believers.
It is that our belief
Has to be passed through the fires of skepticism
And boiled in the crucible of doubt.

You have heard it said,
"Ours is not to reason why,
Ours is but to do and die."
But I say unto you,
Ours is not to doubt and die
Ours is to seek the reason why.

When in doubt, we affirm the importance of reason
And our confidence in ourselves as centers of religious authority.
When we doubt, we affirm the seriousness of the religious quest.
When we doubt, we recognize that truth was not engraved in stone 2,000 years ago
When we doubt, we acknowledge that our understanding of truth is imperfect.
When we doubt, we strengthen our faith.

For the faith of doubt we give thanks;
For the doubt of faith we make glad thanksgiving.
For the courage of adventure
That welcomes questions
As much as answers;
For the beloved community of seekers,
We sing our alleluias into the silent darkness.

Monday, November 09, 2009

If I Hear the Word "Yankees" Again I Think I'll Scream

My problem is that I was traumatized by a sports jock in the family when I was a small child. Because of him I can no longer see any redeeming value in anything that involves any kind of competition surrounding small round objects.

But seriously, I was never cut out to participate in such activities. My dad insisted that I had to play baseball and football, never mind that I had no interest. I hated practices, I was way out of shape (well, I was a shape, ... a spherical shape, but I digress), and I wasn't any good at either of them.

I lasted two seasons in T-ball and one season of football, the latter of which I spent much of my time warming the bench. When I was allowed to play, the opposing team had no problem running right over me. At which point the coach would pull me right out again. It was pathetic.

As it turns out I was never cut out to watch sports either and I find it humorous that people get so emotionally attached to what is ostensibly a corporate entity that has little or no loyalty to its fan base. If you think that last assertion is without merit, then what about the many so-called "clubs" that have picked up and left one city or another for better offer$ somewhere else? My dad is still grieving over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Anniversary Poem

It was a beautiful day
all those years ago
as I stood outside
awaiting your arrival

All the worry about the storm
ruining our day were gone
And I was filled with a
contentment that I couldn't explain

The sun was bright
and rain soaked lawn sparkled
The air was cool
and there wasn't a hint of humidity
I stood outside and
breathed deep that fine air

As I sit here remembering
all those feelings I had then,
I can feel them welling up
inside me now when I think
of you,
on that day

If I had it to do all over again
I would gladly take your hand in mine
And say the vows all over again
For you are the only one for me
My darling love.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Orly Taitz is a Loony.

I know, I know, Obama isn't eligible to be president because he's not a citizen of the U.S. yeah, yeah, yeah, and The Bush administration blew up the World Trade Center, the Clintons murdered Vince Foster, The U.K.'s MI6 branch assassinated Princess Diana, Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by an exact double, fluoride is a plot to control our minds, the moon landings were faked, the government is conspiring with the U.N. to usurp the sovereignty of the U.S. to advance the "New World Order", the FBI and ATF are nothing more than jack-booted thugs who want to take our guns away, the Air Force is suppressing evidence of outer space aliens because they're helping us in Area 51, the CIA & the Mafia conspired to assassinate JFK, the Kennedy's murdered Marilyn Monroe, FDR knew the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor, homosexuals have a secret agenda to turn us all gay, and the Masons (in league with the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, and Opus Dei) control the world, which by the way is flat.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Pox on the "New Media"

Two days ago I listened to an interview on Fresh Air about the right's use of "new media" to divide the nation, inflame their base, and squeak by in every election so that they could rule with impunity. It's scary how efficient they were in using the "New Media" outlets (527's, cable talk shows, blogs, mass mailings etc.)

What sucks is that this appears to be the way of things now. "New Media" outlets specializing in character assasination and endless partisan spin to reach a particular end are now a permanent fixture and are driving the conversation. (Never mind the ethics/facts, full speed ahead.)

What's funny (at least to me) is that more than a century ago, before radio/TV and the mass media, partisan hacks said far worse things and drummed up much more sinister rumors to damn their opponents than anything the modern politicians did to each other today. Their best method was to use word-of-mouth, so salacious rumors having no basis in fact or even apperance were the surest way to accomplish that.

The Roves of this world are doing almost the same thing as the hacks of old, but today they have all of these willing mass media outlets to carry their tune. In the hands of the Swifties and their ilk these "methods" are almost an art form. The rumors aren't as salacious or outrageous, but they have the apperance of being possible that gets people to listen.

Even though this "new way" sucks, at the same time it also scares me that many Dems are just learning this stuff now! Some have graduated (Ned Lamont's victory in Conn was the most recent example), but most are still clinging to the old paradigmn. If the Dems don't use this "gift" and make a big show of trying to force Hastert to resign, they'll only have themselves to blame come Nov.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Liberté Frites

Recently I watched a documentary on Alice Waters. She of course is the founder of the restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley California and it can probably be said that through her efforts to run a restaurant the way she wanted to, gave birth to the organic-foods/small-farm movement in America.

Jacques Pépin was one of the people interviewed and he said that "French restaurants in America did a disservice to French cooking". In other words they ruined it for most of us. It was too fancy and too condescending. Better to eat burgers and pizza than to put up with that kinds of treatment. It soured me on all things French for many years.

That is until my wife and I went to Quebec City in Canada.

Alice Waters of course went to France decades before we went to Quebec, and we learned what she did, that the desire to cook delicious food permeates the entirety of French society. It's hard to explain fully, but the stereo-type of fancy French food doesn't exist. No matter where we ate, from the most expensive restaurants to the lowliest pizza joints, from the most complex dishes to the simplest of all foods, everything was incredibly delicious. Figuratively speaking, it's in their genes.

Years ago eating overly fancy food in a snooty French restaurant, I didn't understand that this experience didn't represent the French or their cooking. It was like someone, who throughout their life couldn't see distant objects clearly, suddenly getting eye glasses and now everything is crystal clear. It was that kind of a revelation.

This image is a Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson that was published on 03/23/1989 and it depicts three grazing cows. In the center one cow has her head up with a shocked look on her face and bits of grass falling out of her mouth. She's exclaiming 'Hey, wait a minute! This is grass! We've been eating grass!' Over time we just didn't notice that the once ugly tomatoes of our youth had through the commodification process become as round and hard as super balls, and tasted somewhat like eating super balls too. The advanced chemistry and techniques of the food and agricultural scientists had succeeded in making cheaply produced food palatable enough that Americans swallowed it whole and forgot what real food tasted like. Our experiences in Quebec opened our eyes (and our taste buds) to the truth that we'd been eating cardboard for much of our lives and didn't even know it.

I wish I could say that we've been following the Alice Waters method to the letter, but we're not there yet. Since we've spent the better part of our lives eating crap on a stick, a sea-change such of this will take a few more years to accomplish. So far we're eating mostly organic and we've re-discovered the beauty of those ugly tomatoes of our youth.

Thank you Alice.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Headless Wall Street Monster

Tom Wheatly - 02/07/2006 05:51 am

Here is the actual "fun site"

Richard Kaye - 02/07/2006 01:28 pm

Interesting site, though nothing there seems particularly new to me. This could be why I watch little TV. I don't think there's anything there for Paul F to object to - I'll bet he'd agree with most of the content. Ditto the Orwell shirt - the right likes Orwell (quite a bit!), they just don't like Republican administrations being referenced to him.

What changingchannels implies, but doesn't go far enough with is the current American obsession with record profits. As a small businessman (and thus a capitalist), I know you can't operate without turning a profit - you're bankrupt otherwise. But where is it written that every quarter must not merely operate in the black, but that profits must exceed the previous quarter's? Your stock loses value if you turn a steady profit that doesn't keep growing - what sense does that make? Can anyone corner someone with a business degree and explain this to me without blather?

Tom Wheatly - 02/07/2006 08:00 pm

In a word..."No"

I work with a guy doing his masters in economics, and when I say EXACTLY what you said here (as I have done) He will roll his eyes and get the condescending thing going. When I point out to him that infinite growth is a bogus concept and does not exist in nature, or that one look at a photo of the Earth snapped from the moon missions can tell you it's bunk (since the entirety of our bizzyness operations including ALL our resources and real estate fits within the field of the lens - he just shakes the "oogabooga stick" and goes into his "economic shaman " rap - the blather to which you refer! All self-referencing circular logic and a pile o' crap....

I heartily encourage you to pick up a copy (now in paperback) of "Wall St" by Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer (to which I subscribe) a BRILLIANT guy who explains the 3 card Monty table of the stock market and many of the economics concepts so miserably misrepresented by the Columbia Bizzyness School crowd.

Do the link bro' :^}

Joe Code - 02/08/2006 11:07 pm

Investors have been spoiled rotten by double-digit growth numbers during boom times. It's a headless monster that screams bloody murder when the growth spike starts to level off. Companies may be in the black with 1% growth during a recession, but the institutional investors start calling for heads to roll even before the economy starts to recover. Fund managers scream the loudest because if their funds tank they'll find themselves in a serious pickle.

When I was at Biz Clybern they had meteoric growth for 10 years. Nothing but good news. A Forbes magazine survey even voted their management the most admired in the their industry (number 5 among all industries). Then the recession of the early 90's hit and suddenly the bloom was off the rose. Biz wasn't losing money, but the meteroric growth hit a snag, which caused an avalanche of crticism from Wall St and the wholesale replacement of all the top executives. That's when the Dilbert principle kicked into high gear. It didn't matter that they were making mind-numbingly dopey decisions. All that mattered was the appearence of competence through cost-cutting and layoffs.

It's the same all over. The headless Wall St monster roars and the mindless jackoffs in charge cower in their corners and heap layoffs and other asinine measures on the alter to appease it. But nothing ever appeases the headless monster but endless growth. There was a time when managers and board members were motivated by more than just "stock holder equity" now that's the only thing that matters to any of them. It's pathetic.

Tom Wheatly - 02/09/2006 03:20 am

Ooooh, good rant! Nicely spewed! My hat is off to you chum :^}

I may add this from reading Doug Henwood - the saddest silliest thing is that the ordinary citizen investor thinks he is getting any genuinely useful information from the media on investing...Anybody who tells the warty truth about the competence of management or real state of a company's prospects is going to alienate their source of information and find themselves "shut out" of the information channels. Hence the endless drivel with nothing truly sharp, telling (or accurate) getting said - On this the regular guy is supposed to make investments and "win" like the the characters that inhabit the backrooms, boardrooms, and dealmaker soirees?

Joe Code - 02/10/2006 11:32 pm

Tom: Thanks. I must have been channeling the spirit of George Bailey. ;-)

Sounds like the White House press corp. If the former explains Enron and Worldcom then the latter explains the Iraq war.

The two methods of controlling information to the press have to be related. Obviously the Bushies learned it from their pals in the corporate world, 'cause this shit's been going on since at least the 90's.

I propose we strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and add an amendment that includes corporate boardrooms. ;-)

Tom Wheatly - 02/11/2006 09:19 am

Right you are sir! (highyooooh!)

Support the SEC rules changes that will FORCE transparency on executive/CEO compensation!!!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dad's in Denial

Originally sent 12/30/2000:


Dad got released from Mt Sinai today and he and Mom had a knock-down drag-out fight on the way home. I found all this out because I exchanged Mom's Ethernet card today and decided to drop the new one off at her house. Mom came downstairs crying and telling me she was so strung out she was ready to tell him to move out. She also told this to Aunt Betsy & later to my brother Lou when they both called on the phone. I'm trying my damnest to comfort her when Dad woke up and came out of the bedroom, so I high tailed it upstairs to get out of the way while they took up where they left off. I spent the time setting up her PC to use the new Cable modem and tried very hard not to listen to the harsh words emanating from downstairs. Afterwards I had dinner with them both where we discussed anything but the current dopey situation. Mom later thanked me for coming to dinner because she said it would have been very uncomfortable for both of them had I not been there.

It seems that Dad is in denial about what went down in the last week or so and was very unhappy that Mom wants to keep him from climbing stairs and such. (We put a lock on the basement door to keep him from going downstairs and he was none too happy about that as well.) According to Mom he denied that he almost died, he denied that he needs anyone's help, he denied that there was all that much blood (never mind the twenty stitches), he denied that the other three times he fell and hit his head were as bad as they were. Basically he's incapable of admitting he needs help until he gets better and Mom is incapable of letting him hurt himself. She stresses, she worries, and she doesn't get any sleep. Dad on the other hand has never looked better; mostly we think because he spent several days in a hospital bed doing nothing but resting. When he starts wearing himself out again I hope he'll come to his senses.

That's the latest from the front. Hope all is well on your side of the country. Give our love to Ethan and I'll keep you posted.

Love, Joe

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Troubling News About My Mom

Originally sent 10/17/2005:


I don't know if anyone has told you yet, but my Mom had a heart attack from blockage in a heart artery at 1:00 am this morning. They inserted a stent and she's currently recovering in ICU. Luckily she was already in the hospital when it occurred or who knows what would've happened.

Early Saturday morning she woke up with a tightness is her chest and the feeling that she couldn't breath even though she was breathing fine. She thought it was a symptom of her cancer and she didn't want to wake my Father. Around 4:00 am she still couldn't sleep and now her left arm was numb and her left hand was tingling. This time she woke him up saying she had to go to the hospital.

My Father, being doctor/hospital phobic, told her to lay down and he would rub her back telling her that she'd be fine. This didn't work and then she suddenly had a bout of diarrhea. In the bathroom she collapsed and couldn't get up. This time my Dad dialed 9-1-1.

No sooner had he hung up the phone when the door bell ran and deciding that at this point clothes didn't matter he answered the door without first getting dressed. (I don't know what he was wearing at the time, if anything, nor did I ask.) It was the first of three policemen to arrive (he must have been driving near their house when the dispatch went out) and together they got Mom out of the bathroom and onto the bed. The whole time she's telling the policemen her symptoms and they kept telling her that she should wait and tell the EMT people when they arrived, but apparently this information didn't seem to sink in. The EMT crew eventually arrived and they got her into the ambulance. As soon as they got the IV into her arm she started to feel better and the diagnosis after that was severe dehydration.

I talked to her on the phone Saturday and we all thought she'd be home by Sunday morning, but one of her doctors wasn't signing off on the release forms. This was getting Mom riled up because after all she was just dehydrated and she hated being at this particular hospital. Turns out this doctor was a cardiac specialist and he was a little suspicious of her symptoms and gave her an EKG. Turns out a tight chest and numb arm are not symptoms of severe dehydration or ovarian cancer. They're symptoms of a heart attack.

Sunday afternoon I get a call from my Dad giving me this latest news and telling me that Mom was pretty depressed. He said that she told him she was thinking of not having treatment for her heart because she'd rather die of a heart attack then linger in hospice with cancer. So BANG on go the clothes, brush the teeth, and Donna and I went to the hospital to help lift her spirits.

When we got there she wasn't depressed at all. She was walking around animated and happy and talking up a storm. Seems Dad once again talked her out of giving up and letting medical science have another go at curing her before she starts climbing into the grave. I can't tell you how relieved I was to see her that way.

They said they were going to transfer her to the other hospital, probably Monday for a dye test and eventual insertion of a stent. (The reason for the transfer is that they do both while this one only does the dye test.) So, once again we expected her to leave the hospital, but it was not to be.

This morning I'm on my way to work when my cell phone rings and it was my Dad. This isn't all that unusual. He's called me in the car before with innocuous news, so I wasn't worried. "Where are you?" he asked and I told him. He said, "can you talk while driving?" and I affirmed that I could. (I assumed he was asking if I was using a hands-free device with my cell phone, which I was.) He then told me the same thing I told you in the first sentence of this email. At that early morning hour there was no time to wait and her cardiac doctor put together a team of people who could do stent insertion. (At that point I realized my Dad was really asking me if I could handle troubling news while driving.) True to my Dad's character he got off the phone a few seconds later and I then had to concentrate on not veering off the road while my brain tried to process this news. I should have pulled over at that point, but I wasn't thinking too clearly.

In any case that's all I know so far. I'll keep you posted as events unfold.

Love, Joe

Monday, May 29, 2006

Anyone's Classmate

Originally sent 7/2/05:


I was surprised to find the post card announcing that a film about Harvey was being made. I don't know why but I wanted to share with you, the screen writers, something of my experiences with Harvey from that period. I didn't want to post them to the public forum and I'm not sure yet if I would want to be a "consultant" on the project. I just figured I'd relate some things I remembered clearly in the hope that it would help.

Harvey and I were chums of a sort off and on for many years through the cub scouts, grade, middle, and high school. We were the same age and in many of the same classes and early on he and I were the kind of geeky kids who were always teased and bullied by the other kids. Later on in high school he started hanging out with some of the very people that were the instigators of our earlier tortures and his lifestyle took a turn that didn't appeal to me, so our friendship started to wane after awhile. Towards the end of high school and over that summer in 1976 we started seeing more of each other, but it was never up to the level of our earlier years.

The first time I got drunk in my life was with Harvey along the railroad tracks just outside of our town. I think we were both in the ninth grade. He bought the beer because he looked 18. During his later teenage years he smoked and dealt pot. Once in a while I'd buy stuff from him and he would always give me a good-chum discount. He also had a very hot car which he no doubt bought with his earnings. (As you'll no doubt recall the 70's was well before the drug crack-downs of the Reagan years. At that time no one in authority cared that much about marijuana. If the police caught you with an ounce or under they would simply confiscate it and send you on your way. It just wasn't worth the paperwork to arrest anyone for that. In high school and college almost everyone I knew was either smoking it or dealing and you could buy it practically anywhere. It was very different then.)

Though I don't personally remember much about his dad, he had a reputation as a harsh disciplinarian. (There are others who would use more colorful language.) According to newspaper accounts of the time his dad was an orphan whose life was "straightened out" by a stint in the military. I recall people saying he was a paranoid gun-nut and was purported to keep loaded guns in the house including a rifle under his bed. When his dad did a stint as the cub scout leader Harvey was never allowed to play with the other boys at scout functions. He always had to stand at attention (or maybe it was "parade rest") next to his dad. (My mother was a cub scout den mother at that time and had a great dislike for the man.) Since Harvey was never up to military-specs in his father's eyes it was off to the Citadel he sent him kicking and screaming.

Like his father, Harvey was also a paranoid gun-nut, which was another reason I started applying the brakes on our friendship. One summer day before Harvey had his driver's license (probably 1975) he came over to my house on his bicycle and wanted to show me something in secret. So we walked to the side of the house and hid behind some tall shrubs where we would be out of sight from all directions. Harvey then pulled what looked like a 38 caliber handgun out of his pants and showed it to me. He'd just gotten it and wanted to show it off to someone. He said he wanted to have a gun on him at all times so that the "Feds wouldn't take me without a fight."

Years afterward I recalled that summer afternoon and remembered reading or hearing somewhere that Harvey had killed his family with a handgun. For all I know they were killed with the handgun he showed me that day, and since then I've never forgotten it.

On that Thanksgiving Sunday I was in my car traveling east on the main road through town going back to college. I had just picked up a fellow classmate downtown and was on my way to the interstate highway. When I passed Harvey's house the police already had it roped off. My first thought was that he'd done something. I figured it was probably an altercation during a drug bust. I was completely blown away when I heard the gruesome newscast on the radio halfway to RI.

Of course I, like everyone else, followed all the news stories about it and I bought the book when it was published. I remember the author didn't draw any conclusions about his guilt or innocence, but at the time I never had any doubts that he'd committed those awful murders. I can't say why. Knowing something about Harvey it was a strong feeling I had at the time.

Thanks for reading this and I hope it helped even if it was only a little. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Thanks, Joe

Friday, May 26, 2006

Nothing He Writes is Worth Reading

Originally sent 12/15/04:


I hear and understand where you're coming from. I too am fed up with the Paul Falcone bullshit. I tried on more than one occasion to reach out and be conciliatory towards him only to get my hand bit. I implore you sir not to back out of Rancho Marfil because of frustration with him. [If you do that the terrorists will win ;-) ] With the magic of the Internet you can now do what you could never do with those school yard bullies back in the day...

You can ignore him.

That's what I do now and it's made a world of difference. Anything he posts, I don't open it. Any time he responds to something I've posted, I ignore it. You'd be amazed how much better you'll feel with the conviction that nothing he writes is worth reading. The frustration and anger will just melt away like honey in warm water. If enough people adopt this procedure then eventually the lack of interaction will eventually penetrate his thick-as-boilerplate skull and he might get the hint and back off.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

On Love

I love her for her perfume.
It was the first thing I noticed.
Wafting on a light spring breeze.

It got me moving
In a way that I could never explain
How could anyone explain
Such a feeling

Her fragrance was light and inviting
And when I found her
She stared at me in silence
And she was oh so beautiful
I took her in my gaze and
She spoke a word or two
Of our mutual love

The denizens in
The white lab coats
Would have us believe
That all love, all emotions,
Are just hormones and instincts
Swirling around our brains
Making us do things
We wouldn't normally do
But we both knew better.

I kissed her on the cheek
And then her ear
She made no move to
Resist my advances
And I was overcome
With longing

How could any being
Confer dispassionate explanations
On courtship,
On love?

Her words and
Body language
Said it all
We cuddled and kissed
We moaned and were lost
In each other.

What would they say
If they were in our place?
They would forget about their
Clinical observations, their
Hypotheses and theories, their
Peer reviewed publications, and
Get as lost in their love
As we were.

Then she gave me
A look and a whisper
I got behind and entered her
She moaned while
I nibbled her neck and
Whispered in her ear.

When it was over
I exited her and my barbs
Scratched her insides
She swung around and
Swatted me, hissing & spitting
And then rolling in the leaves
Not my favorite part of love making
But feline women are like that

If we are nothing more than
The sum of our hormones and instincts
Then emotions, all emotions,
Are just nature's way
To perpetuate
Every species on the planet
There has to be
More to it than that

Emotions are the soul
If humans feel emotions then
We feel emotions too.
And if humans have souls then
We have souls too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Coming Xenophobia

Originally sent on 10/18/2001:


Too tired to write just now. Been doing some Java and such.

Here's a little poem that I hope can help to blunt the coming xenophobic period in America:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Emma Lazarus, NYC, 1883

I first heard the entire poem in a Ken Burns documentary. If you've never read the entire poem before, it sneaks up on you. By the time I get to the last line it always brings tears to my eyes. (Emma Lazarus died in 1884 after visiting Paris. In 1904 part of her poem was engraved on a plaque and affixed to the Statue of Liberty's pedestal.)

Love, Joe

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Last-Ditch Attempt

Paul Falcone - 10/07/2004 11:54 AM

Obviously, I long ago wearied of trying to change any minds around here. I started to feel like the dorky kid at the back of the bus who everybody else is throwing gum wrappers at (waaaaaah).

But minds do change. Even liberal minds.

Try to read what follows with an open mind. I challenge you.

Michael Totten, well-known self-described liberal columnist from Tech Central Station, on The Liberal Case for Bush.

And Bill Whittle, writer extraordinaire, on Deterrence (Part I and Part II).

See if these pieces don't get some gears turning (in a different direction than the one you're used to). If not? I give up, and I'll bow out of here gracefully.

I've done everything I can.

Joe Code - 10/07/2004 09:10 PM

No need to bow out gracefully or otherwise. Almost everyone on this site has been that dorky kid at one time or another in our lives. One thing I've learned about that over the years is this: In every relationship it takes two. That goes for all relationships including the ones between dorks and bullies.

I have to say that this is one of the few times you've made an attempt at reasoned discourse on a subject that is so fraught with emotion. Most of the time your posts on these subjects have been that of an angry bully and sometimes I was the dork in your line of fire and it wasn't pretty. I understand my responsiblities for this relationship, but I think you should understand yours too.

This was a good post. I would like to see more posts like this from you. Reasonable, pointed, and not a hint of bitterness. In answer to your query, I have read the articles, but the arguments weren't enough to convince me that Iraq wasn't a blindingly huge mistake.

On another tangent, in the long run the many things we say here will not affect world events one bit, so it seems like a total waste of energy to even try to effect a complete change of mind. I remember years ago having a discussion with someone, who is a long time lurker & sometime poster to this site, who observed that when we were all younger we discussed just about everything without necessarily having an opinion. As we got older we changed from discussing things to merely stating our opinions. To some degree I think this is even more so today.

One final thought. You mentioned that "...minds do change. Even liberal minds." If we in the liberal bosom of this site are going to submit to considering a change of mind. You might like to consider that maybe your mind could do with a little changing too.

Paul Falcone - 10/08/2004 02:47 PM

Well, Joe, although I can see a certain anger coming through in some of what I've written on here, it's kinda hard to picture yourself as a bully when you're completely alone in your beliefs and everyone else seems to be marching in lock-step...

Some o' you Ranchers have known me long enough, and well enough, to know that I was at least as liberal as most of you once (if not more so). Aks my brother. Four things happened over the years that changed my viewpoints (gradually): my friendship with Steve Edgerston, who was always what I'd call a practical conservative; working for the US Navy during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution; my marriage to Regina and subsequent introduction to many Russian immigrants, ALL of whom loved Ronald Reagan; and, of course, 9/11, which for me only served to cement many things I already believed by then about the nature of America's role in the world. The similarities between the present age and the onset of World War II are very disquieting. There is no doubt that we are at war with an enemy who is bent on our complete destruction, and that ultimately it's going to be either them or us. I don't see any way to finesse this, and it's not for any lack of trying.

As for me personally, I have no plans to ever become a Muslim. Most of you know that I've been a religious Christian for many, many years. I see what's happening in Europe, among the "dhimmis" who have lost faith in everything but their secularism, and I see that it's only a matter of time before Europe will be under the sword of Islam. I don't want to go there, now or ever--and I don't want my country to go there either. Think of what all our freedoms mean to you... think long and hard about it.

Joe Code - 10/08/2004 10:46 PM

I totally understand what you're saying about feeling completely alone in one's beliefs. I work in a small office that is filled to the brim with conservatives. (There just seems to be something about the freight business that brings them out of the woodwork.) There is one person there with whom I can share my views. He's about as conservative as they come but we're able to discuss touchy subjects because they're dispassionate conversations. We both recognize that there is nothing to be gained by getting in each other's faces.

Others there are not so circumspect. My boss is the kind of intensely passionate debater you often find in night clubs arguing a point whose subject shifts with the winds of the conversation. While I was a consultant there, he and I got into a near-knock-down drag-out that started out about how much money is wasted by PBS stations. It ended up with him impugning my patriotism because I dared to suggest that there are much larger corporate and governmental entities (ie. the Pentagon) that waste far more money than every PBS station combined.

My dispassionate co-worker's goal is to have friendly conversations with people no matter their stipes. He says he gets new insights into things he's never thought about before. My boss' single-minded goal (more of a pastime actually) is to utterly destroy his opponents in any discussion of politics, because he's always right and everyone else is always wrong. As you might have guessed I often engage the co-worker in conversation and avoid it with my boss like the plague; not because he's my boss, but because it's a waste of energy. (He's completely commited to freedom of speech no matter his relationship with his opponent.)

Now if I understand you correctly you feel alone in a sea of "lock-step" liberals. (I dispute the latter assertion, but we'll get to that later.) Don't take this the wrong way, but I have to tell you that from the way you respond to people on touchy subjects it would seem to me that you feel more like a cornered animal. Where others express a range of feelings and/or reaons for their diverse opinions, you tend to growl & bark (sorta like my boss). This does nothing to engage people or get them to be interested in the diverse set of thoughts you must have on the subjects at hand, and when one barks it invites others to bark back. If you respond to an article, on what many in the liberal cabal feel are very important non-9/11 issues, by writing "Who cares! There's a war on!" then you have no right to feel alone and/or angry when some of those liberals throw gum wrappers at you.

As to the "lock-step" crack: We've got every kind of liberal here at El Rancho Marfil; from DLCers to Naderites. We've got some fuzzy-heads, some bleeding-hearts, some working class heroes, some paranoid anarchists, and a smattering of moderates. Everyone of us thinks differently and if you see us as one voting block who all think the same thing then I would encourage you to dig deeper. We agree that big SUV's and McMansions are evil, but we do not agree on many many things related to Bush, 9/11, Iraq, and Islam. That's just how it is. We can be dispassionate in our discussions or we avoid each other like the plague. I for one prefer the former as it's a worthy goal that all old friends should strive towards: verbal discourse, staying in touch, and continuing to be friends regardless of our opinions.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Mom Has Chemo Brain

Originally sent 10/31/04:


> She seems to be managing, though weak
> and tires easily. What's your take?

She sure does tire easily and she is managing; both are true. It's a good think my Dad likes to cook. Chemo makes people weak and tired. Yesterday we went to deliver two loaves of wheat-free zucchini bread and she was on the couch, with golf on the TV, out like a light. Last weekend we came to give her a couple of relaxation CDs for a belated b'day gift, but we had to leave them with my dad because she was out like a light. True to chemotherapy she's been sleeping a lot lately.

On Mom's b'day Donna and I visited and she was very animated. More so than I've ever seen her in my life. It's the "chemo brain". It was as if she was a little drunk (which we both know is impossible). She repeated herself, lost track of conversations, changed subjects mid-sentence, revealed little secrets, expressed strong opinions on a variety of subjects, and laughed a lot. She said she was thinking of having a party on the day her hair is supposed to fall out. I half expected her to break out the single-malt scotch that she was "secretly" hiding under the sink and offer us a wee drink.

One of the things she revealed was that she's been a handbag & shoes junkie all her life. This was after she let us know that she really liked Donna's wide rectangular red pleather handbag. Upon getting up to leave she told Donna not to forget it and added that if she did leave it here she wouldn't get it back. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, my Mom was being mischievous. This has never happened before in the all the years I'd known her. Chemo-brain revealed a side of her that I now think has been un-consciously suppressed most of her adult life.

See you during X-mas. Give Ethan our love.

Love, Joe

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It was a beautiful morning. Nothing unusual.

It was a beautiful morning. A mild fall day with a hint of summer. Not a cloud in the sky. I was a consultant at the time so as usual I was up later than most people. I read the morning paper while eating my breakfast. Then I brushed my teeth and got dressed for work. Nothing unusual.

I expected to get to work at my usual time, between 9:30 and 10:00 am. They were located just north of the George Washington Bridge on Route 9W. I was driving down the Palisades Interstate Parkway and around exit 4 I turned on my radio to NPR's Morning Edition on WNYC in New York. They were talking about some colossal accident and the correspondent said they were switching to another reporter in Washington DC to continue the story there. Then there was dead air. This too wasn't that unusual. Radio stations sometimes hand off a story to another announcer who ends up not being there.

What was unusual was that it went on for a very long time. Normally stations realize the problem very quickly and gets back on the air to say that they would continue with the story later, but they didn't. Eventually I pushed another button and switched to WBGO in Newark, NJ. Normally they played Jazz, but this morning they were talking about an "accident" at the World Trade Center. Something about a plane hitting one of the towers. I immediately remembered that the same thing happened to the Empire State Building after World War II when an Air Force plane accidentally slammed into the building. Many people were killed and a couple of floors were demolished, but that was the extent of it.

The more I listened the more we, the radio announcers and I, realized that it wasn't an accident. That it was done deliberately. That both towers and the Pentagon had been hit. All commercial air craft were being grounded and there was a rumor that the Air Force had shot down a passenger plane over Pennsylvania. Then they announced that one of the towers had collapsed. The horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach began to grow in mine because that's when it dawned on me, that WNYC went dead at that moment because their radio antenna had been on top of that tower.

All of this news came crashing down on me during that ten mile stretch between exit four and exit one on the parkway. When I got to work everyone was in my boss's office staring at the cable news station watching that first tower collapse over and over. It was a surreal site, like the Loizeaux family had done the demolition work, except there were none of the explosive flashes running down the structural joints at the corners that is typical of building implosions. The structure just quietly collapsed from the heat of the fire, one floor on top of the other.

Most were silent throughout the whole time we were in his office, except my boss who kept up a constant flow of sputtering bursts of nationalistic invective. Eventually the moment came when we all got up at once and went back to work, except that I couldn't work. I sat at my desk with watering eyes while outside on Route 9W the sirens of every municipal fire and EMT vehicle from miles around was streaming towards New York.

I estimate that about 50% of the telephone system stopped working that morning. (We found out later that a lot of Verizon's equipment was in the World Trade Center.) The individual problems were strange, some people could call us but we couldn't call them, and vice-versa. Thankfully I was able to call my house and talk to my wife. As with me earlier that morning, she had no idea what had happened because she also never turns on the TV or radio in the morning.

My friend and fellow colleague at this account didn't make it in because he saw the news and knew that there was no way he'd be able to get near the bridge, but when he tried to call in it wouldn't go through. He was mildly shocked when I called him because he wasn't able to get through to anyone. Several minutes after I hung up a close friend of his rang his extension next to me and I instinctively picked it up. She was crying, because she couldn't get through to his home or cell phones, and was relieved to find out that he was OK.

Since I couldn't work I went home and we sat and watched the proceedings throughout the rest of the day. I tried to call every single person I knew, especially those that worked in the city. Of course many calls didn't go through at first, but over the coming days we were able to get in touch with everyone we knew.

The next day I got the morning paper as usual, and tried to eat my breakfast as usual, but the front cover was a picture of the 2nd tower with a massive fire-ball. I felt even sadder that morning than yesterday and after eating a little I crawled back into bed with my wife and we both cried for a long time. Nothing would ever be the same again and I think in some respects we grieved over that as much as we did over the massive loss of life.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Partial Birth Abortion Ban

The following image is a political cartoon by Ann Telnaes that was published online on 10/21/03:

This image is a political cartoon by Ann Telnaes (10/21/05) it shows a caricature of President Bush seated at a table facing the audience and behind him is a phalanx of dark suited grinning men. Each of the men behind the president is labled 'GUY' and the caption reads 'The PARTIAL BIRTH ABORATION BAN signing ceremony'.

I sent it to Tom, among others, and got a quick response:


This one I can't get with you bub! I support the ban...I have read a good bit about this "procedure" and the occurrence of its legitimate use is rare - the occurrence of its use as an after-the-fact abortion of an inconvenient child is a dirty little secret. I am more ambivalent about abortion in general, perhaps because I have a kid, than I was in my youth. Could also be the 2 abortions that occurred where I would have been a father... One done with my consent, the other done without my knowledge (and a different relationship).

I really am big on the RU486 approach and wish america would "get with it" as the only ethical after-the-fact birth control method. I do not want to see a wholesale overturning of Roe v. Wade, and personally doubt this will happen. Too many rich republican women getting abortions just like po' demmicrat ones!

Your pal, Tom


Some thoughts on the subject:

  1. I'm pretty sure that the courts are going to strike it down, because as usual there isn't an exception for legitimate medical emergencies, thus rendering all the shouting moot. This was just an exercise in appeasing the religious right, nothing more. Sometimes I think they leave that exception out on purpose knowing it won't pass muster in the courts.

  2. There is another 3rd trimester abortion procedure which is never mentioned in any of the P.B.A. bills. I forget the clinical name but it consists of killing the baby in the uterus, cutting it up, and extracting the pieces through the cervix. To me this one is a lot worse than P.B.A. It's also harder and more dangerous, but if the ban isn't struck down in the courts then that's the procedure they're going to start using. Since legislatures consistently leave this procedure out of those bills (and Dr Bill Frist oughta know) this to me is further evidence that conservative politicians aren't serious about banning 3rd trimester abortions.

  3. Partial-birth abortion may be rare but that doesn't mean it's never necessary (as opposed to voluntary). As far as I'm concerned banning the procedure is wrong when what you're trying to do is ban the behavior of choosing to have such an abortion when there is no medical reason to.

  4. Although I too believe the fetus in the 3rd trimester is pretty much a human being and shouldn't be aborted if it can be helped, I'm also not the one who's pregnant. In my humble opinion (and with all due respect to your feelings & experiences on this subject) when, where, & how a woman has an abortion is nobody's business but her own. If men were the ones who got pregnant these bills would never pass muster must less both houses of congress.

I've become very cynical lately. Education is the key. Education would empower women and allow them to take the necessary preventive steps so that P.B.A. will someday be the rare procedure it should be. Education to empower women has been shown to work in 3rd world countries, but something like that for sex education will never happen here. I'd like to see RU486 dispensed by school nurses along with honest sexual advice. I'd like to see condom dispensers in high school bathrooms. I'd like to see health education nationwide realize that teaching abstinence is silly because Pandora's box on this subject was opened almost 40 years ago. I'd like to see the Catholic Church take its collective head out of its collective ass on condom use to fight AIDS. I'd like to live in a society that doesn't think kissing a woman's breast requires an "NC-17" rating while cutting it off gets an "R". There are so many preventive & educational steps we as a society could take, but they're never going to happen.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sarah Kaye at Rutgers

Originally written 02/04/06:

All of the discussions of late about the Kaye elders moving to Texas and being near Sarah brought back a pleasant memory for me recently that I wanted to share with my fellow Rancho Marfil members. Around 1979 I was 3 years out of high school and I had just returned to the Livingston College campus at Rutgers in Piscataway. There's always a certain amount of excitement and trepidation at the start a new school year. This time though was different because this was the year that a close friend from the neighborhood would be there too. Sarah was starting her first year at Rutgers on the Cook College campus in eastern New Brunswick.

I had just gotten back from dropping off the van that I'd borrowed to haul my stuff down there and was sitting at my desk looking out the window and wondering how I was going to get in touch with Sarah. Dope that I was I'd never gotten together beforehand to discuss how we'd meet up. Being a freshmen the thought obviously never crossed her mind. She no doubt was dealing with all of the attendant feelings that goes with leaving home for the first time and wasn't aware that we'd be like two islands unable to see or communicate with each other. I on the other hand should've known better.

Thinking about it today I suppose I could've called Mrs. Kaye as she would've known where Sarah was. The reasons I didn't were probably numerous (men never asking directions, no change for the payphone, etc.), but the main one I think was the demon that was sneaking up my arm to sit on my shoulder. It was a time in my life where I was just beginning to understand how to be more social, to curb my negative thoughts, and to swat the demon off whenever I realized it was whispering in my ear.

The welcome letter from the school always included instructions on where to find the dorm assignments and where to pick up one's room key. It also included the obligatory map of each campus at the university. At Livingston that year the location of the room assignments were at the student center. The walls inside and out were plastered with mimeographed pages of the endless lists of every student and the location of their dorm and room number.

That of course was many hours ago when I still had the van. Now I had my car back, I was alone at my desk awaiting the arrival of my new roomie, thinking of ways to contact Sarah, and staring out the window while the demon tried to lull me into a stupor. That's when it hit me. Cook College, being part of Rutgers, probably did it the same way as Livingston, mimeographed sheets on the walls of their student center.

I grabbed the pseudo-map of the Cook/Douglas campus and took off on a new quest. I say "pseudo-map" because as it typical of these kinds of things it wasn't drawn to scale. The roads in and through were not very clear as it's purpose was mostly to identify parking and building locations. Needless to say finding the student center wasn't all that easy and when I got there the walls were bereft of room assignments. A quick inquiry at the coffee shop told me that that Cook probably posted their room assignments at the library, but the student cashier wasn't sure. Off I went again, studying the pseudo-map and picking my way through the byways of the campus to the Cook library.

The lists were posted on the outside on the walls of the buliding and they went round, on the columns, and on one or two bulletin boards. Quite haphazard, but I finally found Sarah's name. According to the map her dorm's location was in a clutch of buildings that had only one identifier so as to which building she was in was anybody's guess. When I finally got there I picked the building I thought was most likely her dorm and went inside.

Past the door was the common room and right in front was a receptionist's desk with a student sitting behind it. This was a new experience for me. Of all the campus dorms I'd ever been in this was the first one with a receptionist. Thinking that since her desk was right in front of the door that meant that I was obligated to speak with her before doing anything else, I greeted her and said that I'd come to see a friend of mine. She responded by saying that I wasn't allowed in the dorm. I asked her how was I supposed to see my friend and I think she said something to the effect that I should have called my friend first so that she could have met me at the door.

As I leaned on the desk to contemplate how I would find my way through this latest obstacle I heard a conversation coming down a hall beyond. The voices were both female and the first voice said something like "...but how are you going to find him, the university is huge" and the other more familiar voice responded with "I don't know but I have to try..." and then when they entered the common room a very loud "JOE!" I looked up and Sarah was running towards me and she gave me a big hug.

Turns out she had been sitting in her dorm room terribly home-sick thinking the same thing I was. What a coicidence running into each other in the common room of her dorm. Had I arrived a few minutes later we would have missed each other completely. Later she told me that the receptionist was only there for the Douglas students who were housed in the right half of the dorm. (Douglas was an all-female college that shared the campus with a very co-ed Cook.) When I stopped at the receptionist's desk she just assumed I wanted to see a Douglas student. Had I just walked past her into the left side of the dorm she wouldn't have paid me any mind.

We walked around the campus, and later drove around to see the sites, just talking and laughing. I seem to recall there was a lot of jumping up and down on her part along with a near constant Kaye grin. I'd never seen anyone so happy to see a familiar face. I of course was very happy too. Having a close friend from home in the intimidating environment of the university was most welcome. In-between classes and studying Sarah and I would be able to share some quality time and needless to say my demon was squashed flat.