Friday, July 31, 2009

Fools Like Me

All of us have our shortcomings, one of  mine, contrary to the age old expression, is that I can’t see the trees for the forest. I thought about that on my morning walk today  as I was looking at some neighborhood trees. I am 75 inches tall and most of my vision is focused straight ahead about 72 inches off the ground. I tend not to notice my surroundings unless they are in the form of a car bearing down on me.. The medical profession calls this shortcoming a “torpedo”, you give a third year med student instructions and she puts her head down and charges straight to the target, without any variance for any reason, and reeks destruction when she gets to the calculated  point of impact.


But unlike most mornings I was noticing the individual trees in my neighborhood. Some are clearly more than a hundred years old and quite majestic. Some bend toward the street, forming  a beautiful canopy of shade for those who walk in the morning. Some are dying, some are probably dead. At least one was transplanted in the front yard of one of our more affluent neighbors and looks as if it has been there since it broke through the ground during the Hoover administration. I thought a lot about trees on the walk.


When approaching the subject of trees you must start, if you believe in evolution, as I do, with the fact  that you and  the tree in your front yard  have a common ancestor. You are both a couple of carbon based life forms whose  ancestors made decisions about the kind of life they wanted to live and adapted accordingly. If you believe in evolution, like me, you believe that when the tree’s ancestors made their  decision it was the most logical decision to make at the time for the long term survival of its species. It no doubt was. For eons, it was clear that trees took the correct turn at that critical Darwinian fork in the road, and the earth, at least the tree’s fellow carbon based life forms, benefited from that decision. Oh, there were occasional issues, the lack of mobility sort of hurt individual tree’s survival chances in any  given forest fire, but all in all, it was a happy choice.


Then one day one of the tree’s cousins figured out how to use tools and that was the beginning of the downfall of the trees, both literally and figuratively. It did not take the tree’s cousin very long to understand that there was a great benefit to them  from  cutting trees down and cutting them up to use in various way for the cousin’s general comfort. Fire, chairs, houses, boats, fences, even antibiotics came from trees if you cut and shaped them properly. Worse than that, the tree’s cousin’s population exploded and more and more of them used trees in more and more varied ways. By the time of the settling of  America, “clearing of trees” became synonymous with the advance of civilization and the conquest of nature itself.


After a good deal of the trees in many nations had been cleared, a realization came upon the tree cousins that maybe they had not thought the whole tree thing through. This thought was begun  by certain leaders who liked to hunt and realized that a forest was a necessary part of hunting forest animals, so conservation societies were formed and large tracts of land were put off limits from tree murder. Since that time, the tree’s cousins have begun to understand their dependence on trees, at least in some theoretical sense. Most of that thinking has come from countries where most of the trees were already cut down. But wisdom must not be discounted merely because of its late arrival.


When the author was in law school, he studied a case where Justice William O. Douglas, in a dissent, suggested that  the trees be appointed guardian ad litems to protect their interests in any  law suit involving them. At least  in the authors class, 125, mostly liberal, students had a good laugh. These students knew that the tree lacked the one critical component in the hiring of a lawyer for such activity, legal tender. But in some ways the tree has had the last laugh. In many places, including Austin, Texas, people no longer really own the  trees which are on their property. You may think you own them, but you don’t. A budding George Washington cannot  march out into his own backyard and curt down a cherry tree, not without the permission of the City Arborist, and you better have a pretty good reason to want to do it. One fellow in our town was given several years in jail for the murder of a particularly important tree, and that was only because the citizenry was not allowed to lynch him. The Austin Tree is given more protection than the stray Austin cat or dog, and is much less likely to be put to death by City officials or private citizens.


When I was young ,my father, who loved trees and poetry read me some Joyce Kilmer. He later  told me a story of how, as a boy, he had chopped down a tree in his backyard. While this act was not exactly shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, it bothered him all the same. He said that his conscience began hurting him about halfway through the job. I don’t think that he intentionally ever killed a tree again unless it was the obnoxious banana tree in our back yard and even that was just  a case of attempted murder because it grew back every spring, much to his great consternation. Most of us have been sensitized to trees and will do what we can to protect them.


I say most of us, I realized this morning that I almost never look at trees.  The ones in my neighborhood were beautiful. I have missed a lot ,walking with my eyes straight ahead, as does  the third year medical student. I realized that when you are not looking at trees, you are not seeing birds, and when you are not seeing birds, you are not looking at the sky, and if you are not looking at the sky, you are cutting yourself off from the greater part of the wonder of your existence. So I’m going to start looking at trees. After all, they are part of my family.





Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'll Speak With Your Mama Outside

When you have the President commenting at his press conference  on the arrest of some guy in Cambridge, Mass for “disorderly conduct” you look into it. Henry Gates apparently went ballistic when a cop asked him for his I.D. when responding to a 911 call. Gates is one of the top scholars in this country and runs the African American Research Centre at Harvard. You don’t get credentials much better than that in academia and Gates deserves our respect for that. He also deserves our respect for coming up with a great line. After the Cambridge cop asked him for about the third time to step outside of his home he responded by saying (according to the Police report). “Ya, I’ll speak with your mama outside”. After that statement he was arrested.


I wrote a blog awhile back about being polite to the Police. I am polite to the Police and most anyone else who is carrying a handgun. Then  again, I’m not a big shot like Gates who can tell a cop “You don’t know who you are  messing with”. The cops who stop me have a pretty good idea who they are “messing with” and it strikes no particular fear into their hearts. But for a guy with  PHD, he sure said some foolish things and apparently said them quite loudly(if the Police are to be believed). I don’t think that you should be arrested for saying foolish things, but even an eggplant knows not to scream at a cop. The President said that the cops reacted “stupidly”. The President was not there and so I don’t know how he knows this and it strikes me that the President responded “stupidly” to the question. This, especially in light of the sensitivity of the issue. The resume of the arresting officer was not too bad. He is the one who performed forty minutes of CPR on Reggie Lewis, the great African American basketball player in a vain attempt to save his life. He also once ran a Police Athletic League which cops use to try to get kids with troubled backgrounds into sports instead of gangs.


What the president should have said was this, “Look, all the facts have not yet come out so I’m reserving judgment, but that does not mean that we can’t use the incident to highlight  the important issue of racial profiling among our law enforcement agencies. We can all agree that that is wrong and is something we as a society should work on.”  When the dust has cleared, and the Gates case is dismissed, which it probably  will be, we can focus on the individuals at issue. I assume that the arrest was illegal. It is hard to be  disorderly at your own front door. The Police report shows the actions of a highly intelligent man reacting foolishly, make that very foolishly, but probably not illegally. If you could arrest someone for being disorderly in their own home, I would be arrested every time one  of my favorite teams blows a late lead, which is a lot of the time. But again, the police do stand for some type of order in the community and it is highly foolish, even if it is not illegal ,to make a huge scene while they are talking to you. As I always tell my friends, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you never pull the mask on that old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Friends Worry as Local Blogger Celebrates Obesity Rating

A smiling Wade Porter was announcing to friends this week that his recently instituted diet and exercise program had carried him well below the “morbid obesity” category and into the more comforting “obesity” level. “This proves the value of my diet and exercise plan” crowed the still portly Porter as he displayed a belt which he claimed that only two weeks ago had required the use of an additional hole in order to tighten. Many of Porter’s friends were concerned that he might be making too much of the achievement. At the top of the worry list is Porter’s Doctor, Austin Internal Medicine specialist Hans Haydon.


“Wade takes these categories too seriously.” said Haydon, who had been promised that he would not be named as a source in this story . “He understands  that the term “Morbid Obesity” is a medical term much like “terminal illness”, but  he thinks “obesity” is merely an esthetic term.  I tried to tell him that he still has to make it through the plain obesity category before he can even get to the “overweight” category. He is miles from a normal weight for someone of his height, but he focuses on the word “morbid” thinking that he is out of medical danger. “


Porter, interviewed at his favorite Mexican restaurant, Juan in a Million, said between bites of cheese enchiladas, “It was really my family that got me through this. It was two weeks of pure hell, but their encouragement made it all worthwhile.” I look at myself in the mirror now and say. “You are not “morbidly” obese. The waiter at the barbeque place last night was very supportive and insisted on bringing out extra sauce for the celebration dinner, I feel like I’m walking on air.” Continually referring to himself as a “recovering” morbidly obese person, Porter said in a very serious tone. “I know that you are never out of the woods, it is no different than alcoholism”, here he ordered more tortillas from the grinning Juan. “The body mass index can never be very far from your mind. You are always only a binge away from morbidity.”


To the irritation of many, Porter announced that his blog, “Mills of the Gods “would be featuring a series of articles tentatively titled “How I beat Morbid Obesity” which according to Porter would, “chronicle my every step at the Barton Creek Mall which helped me achieve my goal.” He will also be featuring some of his favorite low calorie recipes which he claims that anyone can adapt to. “It turns out that if you change white bread to whole wheat bread and substitute mustard for mayo on a turkey sandwich you are more than half way home. I know it sounds disgusting, but you get used to the taste fairly quickly and it least it prevents you from ever wanting two sandwiches. I am going to try this change with pastrami and provolone for my next dietary phase and perhaps even substitute mustard for ketchup on my cheese fries.” Porter promised (or warned, depending upon your view point) that he would  report back "in exquisite detail" on what he calls his “drive through mere obesity”in his blog reports. " I just want every morbidly obese person out there to know that with hard work and support they can make it to mere obesity.This blog can be their guide and their solace." said Porter, wiping a tear from his eye and frijoles from his mouth.



Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon plus 40

It took eight years to get a human on the Moon ,from the time President  Kennedy threw down the gauntlet. I  did not know one person who did not believe that we could do it. I admit that most people I knew in those days also believed in the Easter Bunny and slept with recently pulled teeth under their pillows, but I recall most all adults believed that it would happen too.


There was a lot of optimism in those days. Very little of the cynicism which was brought on by the Vietnam War and Watergate and never left America. It was a very cool time to be alive if you did not mind waking up every morning wondering if this was the day that a nuclear war was going to start, turning you into ashes at your school desk. That was the bad part. The good part was that we always thought we’d win the war in those days.


I digress, as I said it took eight years to get to the moon and we have not been back in 37 ! I always thought that after we landed on the moon we’d end up traveling there a lot and I believed that by the year 2000 we would be able to stay in a hotel up there and bounce around like kangaroos. It never happened. We went up there and looked around a bit and then forgot about it. In a way it was like climbing Mt. Everest. Once you prove you can do it, why go back? The view will not have changed much. Still, that was an awful lot of time, effort and money to pull the plug so fast.


Nothing, I repeat, nothing that has happened since 1969 has been as exciting or satisfying as the moon landing was to Americans. Mostly it was a relief. We had to overtake the Commies in the space race and beat them up there. That was a huge deal. A Soviet flag on the Moon would have been the most demoralizing thing that could have happened. It so demoralized the Soviet Union that they gave up their plans to go and have never been up there. Only Americans have been on the Moon. No Soviet will ever make it for the simple reason that no Soviets are left. I suspect that the next human on the moon will be Chinese. Hopefully at the time of the Lunar New Year, so we can have one of those big parties snake dancing down the street, setting off fire crackers, behind a paper Mache dragon. I have always wanted to do that.


Interestingly, a summer storm in Houston had knocked out lights all over our neighborhood. But our house’s lights were still on. Consequently, numerous  friends from the affected areas came over that night to our home. That made the event very memorable. Lots of friends cheering and enjoying themselves. All of us watching those ghostly white figures plant a flag on a world with no wind and listen to Richard Nixon talk to the Astronauts on the “longest long distance phone call in history.” One of the sad byproducts of the moon landing was the fact that the first object left behind on the moon with a name on it, bore the name of Richard Nixon. Oh well, you take the good with the bad. Nixon presided over all of the moon landings and then cut NASAs budget so that they could never do it again. I guess he wanted his name to be the only one up there. Although the truth of the matter is they sort of ran out of things to do on the lunar surface. The last guys took to sneaking golf balls up there to see how far they could drive a ball in a non atmosphere. That kind of signaled the end as far as I was concerned. I recall children crabbing at that time because moonwalks were interrupting the regularly scheduled T.V. shows. It was, perhaps, time to move on.


Move on to what ? Nothing that we were capable of doing could ever top that for excitement. Yet, thousands of things have happened in the last forty years that are much, much more beneficial to our species than landing on the moon. They always tried to sell the cost of the moon landing as something that would help us all out. I don’t know of any material way that the space race  touched my life, except for the early invention of Tang, and I have not had a glass of Tang since before the lunar landing. I suppose that a lot of money was spent and effort used that could have gone to something more valuable. What if we and the Soviets had taken all of that money and put it into fighting hunger. It would not have ended hunger, but I suspect that at the very least hundreds of thousands who starved would still be alive. We used to talk about that stuff all the time in 1969.  But no one in those days would have traded the moon for a few hundred thousand lives. I guess that’s very sad, but that’s the way it was on July 20, 1969. You could look it up.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Where They Say the Word Right Out Loud

Cancer. Say it out loud. Say it boldly. Cancer is one of those words we fear. We all fear the idea or concept of something more than we fear the real thing when finally  confronted with it. The reason is simple. You can fight a thing, but not your own idea of that thing. My mother has Cancer. Say it out loud. Cancer.


For the last several days I have been hanging around MD. Anderson’s Cancer Center in Houston for my mother’s pre-op, operation and post operation days. Three days in all. My brother and cousin (a retired nurse) have been taking care of my mother’s cancer situation for the last year and a half. They have spent hours and hours at M.D. Anderson, my time there has been comparatively short. But you can learn a lot about a place in three days.  The biggest thing I learned is that the people at M.D. Anderson help bring cancer out into the light of day where you can talk about it and deal with it. I think that , more than even the treatment, the institute offers a chance to move past the terrors of the disease and turn it into something that you can deal with. It is a great service, almost as great as the healing itself, because it is the necessary beginning of  the healing process. At M.D. Anderson they say “Cancer” right out loud ,toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball, and often as not, it is the Cancer that blinks.


For those of you who have not been to M.D. Anderson, I will say that it begins as an intimidating experience. Of necessity, the buildings of the Houston Medical Center are large and close together. One feels like one is walking through Albert Speers’ “Germania” concept brought to life. The immensity of the scale can leave you feeling powerless. For the week, my mother, a college graduate, traveled with a retired nurse from the medical center, an expert in media and public relations, and a lawyer. She needed everyone of them to cope. What would it have been like for her if she had been a non-English speaker from a small town in India or Thailand or Brazil walking these streets alone  ? How would she have coped ? On the outside, M.D. Anderson looks less like a hospital (which it is only in part) than a terrifying series of  massive steel  Department of Defense edifices, some connected by skywalks which go on for a quarter of a mile. It is big beyond belief, each building  filled to the brim with patients and medical personnel. Along the skywalk speed large electric carts each loaded with five passengers speeding from building to building, dodging the hundreds of pedestrians walking back and forth , most of them employed at the Center. How many must there be ? Yet, believe it or not, they all had something in common. They were all helpful.


I don’t mean helpful in the common sense meaning of the word “Oh, the doctors and nurses were all helpful.” I mean it in the strictest sense, the “I can’t believe this” sense, the “did you ever see anything like this ?” sense. At some point in time, and this is the only way this can be explained, M.D. Anderson decided that it was going to have a corporate culture which was the polar opposite of its physical appearance. When this culture started, or how long it has been ingrained in the system, I don’t know, but it has metastasized through virtually all of its employees. I have never at any business I have been to, witnessed more helpfulness from strangers. You never have to ask any employee where anything is, they see your face looking quizzical and they come over to help you out. Not just the security folks and the desk clerks, everyone. A trivial  example is the surgeon who saw me entering one of the buildings from the skywalk and look around. “what can I help you with?” he asked. I said that I was looking for a men’s room. He proceeded to  not tell me, but to walk with me over to a hall where he pointed out a men’s room. This kind of thing goes on there twenty four hours a day, as near as I can tell. It helps you relax. It gives you the feeling that you are never alone and that almost everyone is watching out for you and working with you.


After a couple of days, you don’t feel like you are fighting the huge bureaucracy that you have encountered, you learn to take the waiting and the tardiness of the professionals a little better. I sat in a waiting room next to a 70 year old fellow who was on his cell phone. “Oh, I’m just over here  at Anderson, getting some chemo” he chuckled. I truly believe that that relaxed outlook would be impossible without the atmosphere that they are trying to promote there. It was that atmosphere that helped this guy say “Cancer” right out loud and not shudder. I was impressed. After awhile I could say it, really for the first time in my life, I could say it properly, not whispered or said nervously. “Cancer”, it’s just another word. We respect words, we don’t fear them. We should always remember as Humpty Dumpty tried to explain to Alice, that it is a question of who is to be the master, you, or the word ?


At the end of the three days, we took my mom home. None of us had had much fun least of all she, but I think that we all thought that it had been handled as well as it is possible to do. My mother said to me, “You know, it all happened so fast, it’s like it never happened at all. “ Well, it happened, as she knows and feels, but the fact that she could say something like that just a few hours out of a hospital bed said a lot about the process. It is not perfect, no one really likes it, but I think that they may be onto something over there. Say it with me, without fear, “Cancer”. That’s a big first step.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Man versus Machine

I have always had trouble with anything mechanical. “Mechanical” to me has a broad definition. For instance, it includes can openers and corkscrews. I was the last person I know of to get an ATM card because I never thought I’d learn the machine and therefore would lose all my money. We were the last family to get a VHS when they came out. A young “runner” at my law firm  once  left a TV with a VHS attached to it in my office for me to watch a deposition . I had never used one before as they had been on the market for only about eight years, and I  had to call him to ask about it. “It’s just like your one at home.” He said. “I don’t have one at home” I replied. He had to come back and put the tape in the slot for me. I am told that most people believe that action to be intuitive. I could talk about my work with  computers and cell phones ,but we’d be here all day.


So I was more than a little upset when my doctor told me that my blood glucose tested a little high and he wanted me to check it for a couple of weeks and report back. I tried to get out of it. The nurse whispered to me, “it’s really not that high. He just wants you to lose weight “ and if we could have put the thing to a vote, I’d have won two to one and not had to do the test. The doctor did not favor a vote. Fascist.


Me: What’s the big deal, don’t some people have blood sugar that’s higher than others  ?


Doctor: Sure, diabetics do.


Me: Oh.


So I had to set an appointment with a “Duty Nurse” for this last Monday to be given a machine and taught how to use it to check my glucose. The fact that they were giving it to me ,and not selling it, made me think I was probably not getting the state of the art equipment. I worried that it was some old fashioned thing and that the needle prick would hurt like hell. But mostly I worried that I would have to use a machine which meant that I would never use the machine, at least properly.


When I got to the Dr’s office for my appointment with the nurse, I was kept waiting. I had gotten there 15 minutes early and after twenty minutes past the appointment time I was still sitting around a waiting room among various people who all looked and sounded like they had the swine flu. Finally a very young blonde, slender nurse called my name. “Kelly” was maybe 27 years old and I was in a foul mood  form the wait when she called for me. Fortunately for Kelly she weighed me first and we found that I’d lost five pounds over the last six days  (I know, I know, water weight, but don’t  ruin my high). At any rate, I was as nice as I could be after that.


Kelly sat me down in an examining room and told me in a manner normally reserved for fourth graders that she was going to teach me how to test my blood.


Kelly: Now a lot of people are squeamish about this, but the needle is nothing. It feels like a bee sting.


Me: (not particularly comforted )  A bee or a wasp or hornet because I got stung on the back by a Yellow Jacket once and almost wrecked a car at 75 mph.


Kelly: No, a bee, just a bee


Me: What kind of bee, a European bee of one of those African killer bees ?


Kelly:  European Bee


Me: What kind of a European  bee, Honeybee or Bumble bee. ?


Kelly: I’m not exactly sure, I have never been stung by a bee.


Me: Then how in the hell do you know that it feels like a bee sting ?


Kelley: That’s what  the manufacturer reps  tell us to tell people.


Well, this was going to be just great. Kelley then proceeded to show me the infernal machine and its parts, which included  needles. She patiently explained the workings of the device and how I was supposed to prick myself and stick this little piece of cardboard that I bled on into this computer gizmo which would then, if I had done it right, give me a reading which I would record in a journal. The journal had pictures of an apple and an eaten apple in it. If you took the blood before eating you recorded it next to the apple. Even I could guess where you recorded it after you ate. Through all this Kelley continued  to talk to me and treat ne as if I was about 10 years old. This was about two years above the level I needed her to use and so I slowed her down. Then, I actually put the machine together and took a sample myself. It all worked well and would continue to work well as long as Kelley promised to move in with us and supervise every morning. She would not so promise. But she gave me a step by step booklet. She said. I did not look at it.


I awoke at 4:30 this morning worrying about the machine. Finally, my wife came in a couple of hours later and encouraged me to face my problem head on. Which I did. I opened the box and there was a product I felt that I was seeing for the first time. It may as well have been a Saturn rocket for all I could remember about it. Well, at least I had the step by step booklet. I found it and opened it. It was in Spanish. Cursing ensued until I turned it over and found the English version. This was not a lot of help. The booklet was written by the same guys who write the booklets on furniture that you have to put together yourself. It had the information I needed, but just not written in a way that I could understand it. I tried the Spanish version and it was no better.


As I fiddled around with the thing ,I dimly remembered some of the instructions and sort of put the thing together. However, I had problems with the needle, and the spring portion of the gun which was the only thing keeping me from having to test my blood with a Paring knife. I yanked the needle out of the small barrel and proceeded to put a nice gash on my right index finger. This did not feel like a bee sting, more like wound from a sword, but blood was blood and I could have used it for testing but I had forgotten how to do that part too.


I got out the little computer and the little cardboard sticks that you are supposed to put the blood on, but after I dripped blood on the stick and stuck the stick into the computer slot it registered, not my glucose level, but flashed E-3. I cursed some more, by now blood was trickling onto my hand, moving toward my sleeve. At this moment my wife entered the room, the better part of an hour had passed since I had begun a process which had taken under thirty seconds in the nurses office the morning before.


Rayda: What  level did it measure  ?


Me: E -3


Rayda: That sounds like an error.


Me: you think so ?


We pulled out another manual and found that E-3 meant that I was putting in the stick incorrectly. I tried several more times (each including a needle prick) and E-3 appeared every time. It was time to give up and call Kelly to accuse her of giving me a defective machine. I did not look forward to this because I knew that the problem was the operator, not the equipment which meant that before I went back to Kelly I had to really break the machine somehow so she would not take the test and get a perfect result in thirty seconds. Can’t stand it when that happens.


After reading the manual (in English) Rayda discovered that I had not been waiting for the screen to flash a “blood drop” picture which was the sign that the computer was ready to analyze my blood. So I restarted the procedure and by now I had pricked myself half a dozen times, not counting the initial gash. Each time, other than the first, it felt like a bee sting. Once I waited for the picture of the blood drop to appear, I shoved in the stick and a reading came out. The same reading I had gotten the morning before. Well, I’m glad we got that settled I thought to myself, wiping blood off of the floor and tightening the tourniquet on my wrist.


Tomorrow is another day, but I have got the hang of it now, and will have as long as Rayda does not leave the room.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Emailing: 18968527.jpg

The author and his new ensemble

Walk a Mall in My Shoes

I missed the celebrations of the nation’s 233rd birthday, and, closer to home, Mill of the Gods third anniversary , because I was out walking the Mall. The soaring temperatures and my waist line being what it is, I have moved my daily walks inside, which is allowing me to walk further, more comfortably and, more importantly to learn more about summer clear out items in various stores.


As a rule, I don’t go to Malls. Of late, several restaurants in a newly opened outdoor mall in town have had me violating this rule. Beginning last week though, I having actually been haunting the old fashioned indoor mall. The kind with a food court and kiosks selling Dead Sea soap and containing  Yankee Candle Company’s.

The nice thing about it (I guess) is that because of the economy, no one seems to ever be at this particular mall. Thus, I can walk a couple of miles at a decent pace by not only walking in the mall areas, but walking through the stores themselves.


For the first three or four days I simply noted items that looked interesting. After awhile I noticed that the sales that were being held really did seem like good deals. I found myself slowing down by half a step each time I walked by a particular shirt in Dillards that I admired. I probably passed it half a dozen times before I timed my walk to end right in front of the very  rack it hung upon yesterday morning.


The fact that Dillards was opened on the Fourth of July was a abomination. I will not retread the steps I have gone into before, concerning my views that holidays should not only be for those who can afford to shop at nice stores, but for those who labor there also. It used to be that way, but, one by one, the nation’s holidays been taken away from those who most need them, the non-exempt(hourly) store employee and those who toil for the tip at the restaurant. We are rapidly approaching the day envisioned by Ebenezer Scrooge who felt that just because Christmas only came once a year, that was no excuse for “picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December.”


But back to the walking path. The shirt intrigued me. It intrigued me because it looked like it came right out of the closet of my fashion hero Charlie Sheen. Maybe not really Charlie, but the character he plays on the television show Two and a Half Men. Sheen. In that show, Sheen  plays a writer of commercial jingles who works out of his condo on the beach at Malibu.  I don’t particularly envy him that, although it is nice work if you can get it. What I envy is the fact that every day of his life he wears the same type clothes, a long untucked , tropical type shirt (often resembling a bowling shirt), a pair of shorts and some topsiders with no socks. I thought that maybe if I owned this particular shirt, I could start dressing like me hero Charlie Sheen and be as comfortable as he seems to be. I realized that I could not wear these things to work, but I could wear them everywhere else in an Austin summer (which lasts from February to October).


So there hanging before me was the shirt. It had been marked down by 20%, but  those of us who walked past it twice a day knew that during the July 4 weekend, we could talk off an additional thirty percent which, means that,\ those of us with flashing calculators in our heads knew that you were paying only 30% of 80% of the  list price of the shirt. Those who might know how to reduce fractions would know even more information, but I did not have time to hunt someone like that down. I looked at the shirt, sort of beige with a two tone brown which formed some type of tropical trees. A large pineapple on the inside collar told me that the shirt was made in the warm Pacific, and it was, if you count China as a tropical south sea island. The shirt was 70% silk and 30% cotton. I took two sizes into the dressing room and tried them on. To my delight, the smaller one fit.


But I still had to be careful. Years of experience have taught me that I seldom am congratulated at home after buying clothes. I am usually greeted with “Why would you buy a shirt that looks like all your other shirts ? “  or “did you even try that on?” Leaving aside the consistent comment that “you are going to get salsa on a $60 shirt”, the most harrowing question is, “How do you think that you would wash a shirt like that ? “ Which means that I have once again managed, through my ignorance of fabrics ,to add to my already dizzying dry cleaning bill.


So I was very careful. First I thought, hard. Seemed to  me like I had brought home a silk shirt once before and gotten in trouble for it. But this was different, it was cotton and silk. That seemed promising. I know we wash cotton stuff at home. I have seen it come out of the dryer, or at least get piled up on the bed. I then did something I never do, I checked the tag. There it was, “Machine Washable in cold water.” Now instructions are not always a safe  harbor. That very morning I had followed the instructions on the back of a waffle mix to the letter and produced batter which looked like rainwater. That was easily remedied. For the shirt, I had to be sure. You can’t just add more cotton to a shirt to make it thicker.


I went up to the sales woman and after commiserating with her over the fact that she was working until 6:00 on Independence Day, I asked her how I should clean this particular shirt. She did not bat an eye. “In the regular wash with cold water, no problem.” Here she held up the shirt by its sleeves and carefully looked at it, front and back.. “Say, this is a nice shirt, sort of going for a Charlie Sheen look are you  ?” Now here was someone I could talk to. All of my fears vanished. I bought the shirt and had to restrain myself from buying several more of the same brand. Wonder what time they close today ? I took the shirt home and put on my full and complete Charlie Sheen uniform. I looked snappy. Just like Charlie, if Charlie was about 60 pounds overweight and had gray hair and was not handsome.


Within a few minutes my wife called and invited me to lunch with her and our daughter. The first test. I walked up to  a suspicious look on Rayda’s part, “How are you going to wash that ?”  she said, which really meant “How am I going to wash it because I can’t get you near the dirty clothes hamper ?” “Cold water” I raved. “Says so on the shirt and was confirmed by a highly intelligent saleswoman.” “Well, said Rayda, “the shorts don’t go with it, and don’t order anything in here which requires you to dip bread into olive oil. “  I did not, as of now the shirt is lying in a dirty clothes hamper without a spot on it. The big test to follow .Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

RE: Crash of '09? (Glenn Beck)

Michael, it is very easy to generate a boom when you have no taxes to speak of. All it creates is deficits. In Reagan’s case, the largest in history until now. We only pulled out in the Clinton era, not because of anything  Reagan did, or Bill Clinton did, or anyone who worked for him did, I never thought Clinton knew what he was doing, but because of the Tech Bubble, followed by the Bush housing bubble which shook off the 9/11 doldrums. Your view that Obama is a buffoon is wrongheaded, you just don’t like his solution ,which is to pick inflation over deflation. I think that the economy is so fundamentally fucked up that either one (or both if we get some stagflation) will be a disaster and I would not know how to handle it. I do think that you may get what you want though because (deflation), unlike you, I do not think that the economy is recovering. It appears to me that China’s economy is recovering some (durable goods orders up) and that may help, but I really think that no matter how we approach this, we are looking at a lost decade. It all goes back to the introduction of the revolving credit card in the early 1960s. It changed the psychology of the consumer to where they felt that they never had to save or wait for anything. That was followed by politicians who took that to a macroeconomic level to guarantee their own elections. Everyone is to blame.


From: Michael Klein []
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 9:24 PM
To: Wade Porter
Subject: RE: Crash of '09? (Glenn Beck)


Well, you conveniently forget that the Reagan tax cuts generated the biggest economic boom since WW II, if not in US history. When Clinton was pres, this boom actually allowed him to have a budget surplus. They actually were predicting that we would pay off the national debt within a decade. Then came the tech bust and 9-11. We could survive Bush's screw-ups, but I don't know where this Obama crap will leave us. But hyper inflation seems more likely all the time. As the economy recovers (not due to the stimulus at all), consumers will start spending. With the competition for goods from consumer spending and the stimulus, hyper inflation is a virtual certainly. Obama is a buffoon who has no idea what he is doing.


From: Wade Porter []
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 3:50 PM
To: Michael Klein
Subject: RE: Crash of '09? (Glenn Beck)

Actually, if you are on gold standard you can’t pump enough money into the economy to prevent deflation. FDR did not act quickly enough or decisevily enough to pump money into the economy. It is true that if we want to live with deflation we ought not to print money. It’s a judgment call for each of us as to which will benefit us (individually) more. In my opinion, the problem is not so much the money being used now as the fact that it is added to forty years of runaway spending on both domestic and military programs. The problem started under FDR, reached its zenith under Reagan (where we kept spending but stopped taxing creating the highest deficits in our history and decided to forgo any regulation on moneychangers in New York). The last administration got talked into a drug program for social security completely out of whack with the country’s ability to pay and then launched not one but two wars because everyone knew that we were not spending enough over what we made. The current administration appears to be completely held captive by their political constituency which, if I understand Barney Frank’s “logic”, must be the most irresponsible individuals who ever were issued credit cards.


The thing that George Washington was most correct about was the fact that he felt that the forming of political parties in the country would lead us to ruination.


From: Michael Klein []
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 3:37 PM
To: Wade Porter
Subject: RE: Crash of '09? (Glenn Beck)


You are correct about the gold standard. FDR knew he couldn't pay for all his programs if we were tied to a gold standard, so he got rid of that.


From: Wade Porter []
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 3:35 PM
To: Michael Klein
Subject: RE: Crash of '09? (Glenn Beck)

It is somewhat disingenuous because it does not compare apples to apples, i.e. gross national product 1929 vs. today vs. level of debt for each.  But putting that aside, it is , of course something to be terrorized about. Beck says that Jefferson felt that a national debt was immoral and yet Jefferson held scores of slaves, including at least  one he had a number of children by who then became his slaves also. I am not overly impressed with Thomas Jefferson’s definition of morality. He also died a pauper because he was never able to get out of the tremendous private debt he incurred by living beyond his means. At the time of his death they were organizing a lottery for him in a desperate attempt to keep his house. Beck is also incorrect about the gold standard, FDR took us off the gold standard in 1933. What Nixon did, as I recall (and I am quite ignorant on this subject) was let the dollar “float”.


From: Michael Klein []
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2009 3:18 PM
Subject: FW: Crash of '09? (Glenn Beck)







This is a very good example of how the government (both parties) are ruining our nations economy. It is a really “need to watch”. It is a very good way of describing our economy as a nation.






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