Friday, November 7, 2014

Ok, here's what we need.

You, all 37 of you under the best circumstances. Nearly 0.0000000007 percent of the US population, so I have an audience. So listen up.  Yeah, I might have left a couple zero's out, nevermind that.

Writer pauses here, hoping people will pay more attention than his kids did, Realizes this is a futile hope, wonders how much beer is in the fridge

Here it is: We need someone to comment on the news, in the blogs we frequent, daily. Or at least every couple days. Ok, once a week would work. But someone. You, yeah you out there! I'm talking to you. Do it. Feature the top stuff, put your spin on it. The small stuff too. We'll not criticize, or at least not much. Ok, there might be a few 'suggestions', or possible 'alterations' to the piece you might have made, but it's all made in a helpful way. "You fucking idiot' can be spun several ways, eh?

So one of you, step up. Don't think of yourself as a sacrificial lamb, please. I'm assured the readers will whisper kind things in your ear as they draw the razor across your throat.

Some suggestions for you, as that guy in black and white said, Rod what's his name... "For your consideration"....things to offer your opinion on:

From the NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/opinion/pregnant-and-no-civil-rights.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region

Or here, from a blogger I found through another, a good outdoor blog. It's interesting to wonder about her, and the blog. It's just one of many posts, she has time to write a lot.
http://mausersandmuffins.blogspot.com/2014/10/posts-from-road-danger-real-and.html

What I'm interested in is your opinions, what you think.

Abortion?

Racial differences, real or imagined? If so, what does that mean?

Can I just quit trying, or is this something that has some legs, if short ones?

It's starting winter here, nothing else to do. Give me some slack.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Post in Two Parts

Why watching a Anthony Bourdain show on Rome isn't a good idea before having dinner. 

Last evening was a football evening, I was going to watch my Ducks in their yearly dismantling of the Huskies, so I needed a easy-to-cook dinner. Some linguini from a package, a jar of marinara sauce with garlic and peppers added. Perfectly adequate. Then, while waiting for the game to start I played a episode of "No Reservations", it was on Rome. As you're aware, it's mostly about eating. The pasta and various Rome specialties. When I got my dinner and looked at it, I could only sigh at the ordinary looking plate of pasta.

Rome

So I got out the folder of pictures taken when my daughter and I were there last, just to re-capture the feeling.




















Friday, October 17, 2014

"Joy is converted, to bittersweet tears"


If I could spend a day and evening anywhere in the world, this might just be it.Play it full screen size.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ebola and the vectors of transmission






There has been a lot of news and opinions the last couple days about the nurse in Dallas who has been infected with the Ebola virus.

The outbreak in West Africa where her patient contracted his virus is currently the largest by a huge margin since Ebola was first identified in 1976. Prior to this the deaths were limited to smaller villages, and the total deaths would be around 10. This time it's above 4,400, and increasing. Current thoughts are that the number of infected is at or above 10,000, and rising at a current rate of 1,000 per week.

Consider that the mortality rate in those who are diagnosed is around 70%. We're talking 700 deaths per week, and it could increase through November. These are all stats from the CDC and Doctors Without Borders.

There is one major train of thought in the current outbreak as to the contagion, and another that has few numbers supporting it, but has not been ruled out by the majority.

The predominant theory as to why this one is exponentially larger is it's origins in cities, rather than the small villages, which were largely isolated. This coupled with their inability to handle the isolation requirements to protect workers at the hospital. This is supported by the fact that the alpha case, Patient Zero, was treated at a small hospital in a city, undiagnosed for a day. Of the 4 doctors that initially treated him, 3 died of the disease. All the phlebotomists also died who drew blood from him.

The alternate thought is that is found a way to mutate, to develop other vectors of transmission. An example given is that it has a respiratory/ventalitory means of transmitting the disease.

In understand the issue, and assessing the potential for threat, one needs to know the virus.

In order for a virus to transmit to others by their breathing, it is necessary for the virus to be present in the infected person's throat, large and small bronchi, or the lungs. Currently the Ebola virus have not been found in that area on those infected. The protein coating each virus has been identified as having the ability to adapt in blood, to disguise it's self and fool immune systems, allowing it to multiply.

So how did this nurse, in full contamination regalia, become infected?  I can think of a hundred ways, everything from a near-microscopic hole in her gloves, to a small tear in her sleeves, on and on.

Here's where Ebola is scary:  the concentration of virus per unit of blood. HIV, smallpox, the viral load in the blood. The higher, the worse in any virus. Comparing HIV, Smallpox and Ebola, the first two shrink to microscopic images, compared to Ebola. Over a million times greater concentration of virus per unit.

This means, if I can speculate, back in the day I and many, many other had direct exposure to HIV. Treated a lot of them, at some point I'm sure I got blood on my skin, saliva, etc. I never got it. Were it Ebola, I'd not be here.

The really scary part is scientists are hedging their bets on how fast it is mutating. The fact is, we don't know where this current outbreak is going, and how many it will kill. Or if it can successfully spread to a northern climate.

I guess we'll find out. Just an evening's thoughts.

Oh, and Ebola and The Vectors of Transmission might be a good name for a rock band.....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A few hours early: Friday Flashbacks

Karen (taken down by request, should have asked her first.)






Me, to the right





1968. I guarantee everyone there would have rather been somewhere else. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rainy night, the prelude to the last story

It was 2000, November I think I was in Portland, staying at a friends house, there on business. Evening, maybe around eight, I took a walk from her house around the neighborhood in SE Portland. Raining, like much of the winter in the Northwest, a light rain, but constant.






A half hour later, walking along in my gortex hood I was lost in thought. Work, the project ahead up on the hill, the kids, life. Dim light, the streetlights on the corners near gone by the middle of the block. Walking, looking down.

The next happens in time measured by milliseconds, or in a lifetime. Depends. As I walked, looking down a branch across the sidewalk appeared. Four or so inches off the concrete, straight across. My foot moved toward it, 6 inches away, swinging forward in a stride.

The sidewalk wasn't concrete, it wasn't a sidewalk. It was a path through the jungle. The branch wasn't a branch, it was a wire.

As my shoe continued on it's journey to the branch, time changed. It was no longer 2000, and I wasn't planning on how to exploit the upcoming worry about what would happen to medical computers. It was 1967, and my foot was about to hit a wire that would trigger a mine.

A quarter-second passed, my foot nearing the wire, and I went over in my mind what would happen next: The mine would go off, my lower legs would be gone if I was lucky.

The thing was, I couldn't stop my leg from moving, my foot from completing the journey.

As it hit the wire I knew I was gone. All was lost. Despair I'd never felt before, all the things I thought I'd do (knew I did do) were gone.

I walked on, the rain still falling.

Then I remembered the boy, losing his legs, then his life. The nurse who helped him with the process, made his passage easier.

The next morning I was in my best Nordstrom's suit up on the hill, shaking hands with a primary investigator of a study. In my mind, tucked away, was the memory of Karen, and all she did.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Last day until June

Last day of the Farmer's Market, I should say. It runs during the summer, featuring local produce and the other things one sees at these things.....handcrafts, etc. It's our only opportunity to get really fresh produce and fruit. Odd that city-dwellers like Seattle can get quality vegs year round, while country bumpkins like us have basically 2-3 months.

In the later months, August, this guy brings the melons he grows, Dixon melons. Sort of like a cantaloupe, but much, much better.






The best produce is at the Hmong farmers from over by Missoula. They came here in the 70's, during the turbulence post VN war era.





So I was up at 6 this morning for the mandatory 2 cups of coffee and read the newspapers about my miserable ducks of Oregon's football team. It's 31 outside, a nice fall day.

This is looking east from town, up at the aspens on the hillside.





Have a good weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Memorial Day, when it just isn't enough.



The boy, he was really a boy after all, looked up from the gurney. "Where am I?" he asked, rasping voice. "Back at Da Nang, marine." the corpsman said, pushing the gurney toward the makeshift ICU. It had served as a holding unit for incoming for the last 12 hours. It was New Year's eve, noon.

He had 4 hours before been in a bunker when the first wave of infiltrators had swept across the first perimeters of Da Nang airbase. He'd been manning a section facing north, towards the gate. A young man his age had tossed into his bunker a satchel charge, landing at his feet, removing most of his legs from the knees down.

The corpsman in a bunker across the street had seen the hat less black clad young man go by, toss a parcel into the narrow space in the sandbags and run on. He tracked him with the open front sights, then put the M-16 down, running across the road to the smoke pouring out of the slots.

Inside,  both legs were shredded above the knee caps, remnants of the patella, fibula in shards. Blood was spurting out from the artery just above the knee. He tied his belt around one leg, the marine's around another, and sat back. The kid's legs above the tourniquets looked larger, the vessels were damaged above the wraps.    He remembered a  package the station hospital had gotten from  Bethesda shortly before. 

In the office of the station hospital a block away was the package. MAST trousers, compression pants that would cut off circulation below the waist.

He got them on the kid, one of the legs buckled at the knee, the kid passed out, but he got them on and inflated them. Slowly the young man regained color. Two IV's were in, ringers lactate and the equivalent of today's packed cells. He regained consciousness. The corpsman watched other stretchers go by out the window, looked at his patient, measured the chances, decided he'd stay. After all, he'd seen it all go down. He started pulling the litter across the pockmarked roads to the station hospital.

Karen was there by then, a nurse, a lieutenant in the Navy nurse corps. He'd gotten the marine over to the pre-op, a long canvas tent with sandbags around.

"Hell happened, Mike?"

"Parcel I think, dunno. He's lost a quart or more, got these on him, it stopped it."

Stepping back he watches two surgeons move in, look, shake their heads and leave. He sits down on a folding chair. He'd been up 20 hours since the first blaring alarm had gone off. Most of that time he'd been in an emplacement firing over sandbags at vague shapes, not knowing who he was anymore. Who was he anyway, the guy doing the damage, or the one on the other end?

He sees the young marine regain awareness, look around, craning his neck. He asks where he is, how he is. Karen smiles down at him. "You're fine, marine. We've got you." His neck lifts up, he looks down. "My legs are gone?" Karen looks at him, the corpsman sees this from across the room. "Yes, they are gone. But you can do this, you can." His head slowly goes back, then comes up again. He sees the MAST trousers. "What are those?" he asks. Karen puts a hand on his shoulder. "Those are stopping the bleeding." she says.

Surgeons come in, look, examine. Words in huddle are exchanged. They move away. He sits there, watching. He felt like he had a year before when  he'd sat with Cary in a theater in DC, watching a Bergman film festival. He felt like that, watching. Cary had explained some of it to him afterward.

"I'm getting cold." the marine whispers. Karen goes over to him. "I know." she says, "We'll have to operate soon the doctors say."

The marine looks off, staring up. "It's weird, I've never been a man, you know?" His head turns and looks at the Navy nurse. "I've never been with, um, a woman. I'm not a man, like the other guys in my squad."

His eyes, from the side, 10 feet away, look pleading to the corpsman, sitting like there like silent Greek chorus. He's looking up at her. Then the corpsman sees that she smiles down at him.

Karen, the stocky 30-ish blonde nurse from San Diego looks down, her hand on his head, smoothing his hair back nods. "Yes, yes you are. A man." She leans down and kisses him on the forehead. He smiles. "Wow, can we have dinner?" Karen nods. "Yes."

Two surgeons come in, followed by a tech with a tray of instruments. The anesthesiologist puts a mask on the marines face, they deflate the trousers.

He walks back to his bunker, wondering if that nurse that gave him so much comfort, will remember in years to come, the boy she'd reassured, that she'd put together before he finally came apart.

In later years and decades, the boy watching became the man who took the nurses place. Sometimes he could do more, and that made him happy. He always remembered her though, the person who with nothing real to offer than herself, and the truth, eased someones way.

What else can we do, really, than ease someone's way?  


Friday, September 19, 2014

Bucket List(s)

Apparently after the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, this became quite the thing. I tend to not notice social phenomena, so it wasn't until a year or so ago I discovered this. So I looked at it a bit, and was surprised at some things.

The premise, as I understand it, is that one has X number of weeks/months to live. Were it years, we'd all be in the same boat. One then list what one would like to see/do before they leave this world.

Common things on the list are wishes to do things: ride an elephant, visit Bora Bora, flyboard (?). Others are visiting places not seen, going back to places, etc. The surprising thing to me is I can't find one that says "I'd like them to cure this cancer", or "I'd like to see my family get along better"...things like that.

So with that in mind, here's my 'bucket list".

1.  See a woman, leftist, feminist even perhaps but not mandatory, socialist President of the United States.

2.  See a really irritated 600 lb grizzly wander into my town on a Monday morning, around 9am.

3. Bring back from the dead Wm. Buckley and Gore Vidal and make them debate again. On Fox. Frost as moderator.

4. Have the guy who whacked my arm in the Redmond vs Bend basketball game in 1963 admit to it. I would have made that shot. It was a foul.

5. Simultaneously , across the world, whatever peas people had in their house would be in a blender. We would have 'world peace'.

6. One of my kids would have an epiphany in the middle of the night, or anytime really. They would realize what was needed in their life was....fly fishing. They would pick up the phone, call dad, pleasantries exchanged, bargains made, etc. Arrangements made. They would get a case of fly rods, fly tying materials and equipment, a check for lessons. Months later a blog would be started, showing large steelhead caught and released, plans for a trip to Alaska, etc.

Last one is stretching it, I realize. The rest, I'm still waiting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dinner and one other thing....

Uninterested in shopping today I ventured into the kitchen wondering what was for dinner. Around 5:30pm. Idle I was, not trying to put stress on the cupboards or fridge. But with certain expectations, that they, my cupboard, would be there for me, I opened the fridge.
 
Top shelf, little of interest. At the back there is a large cup I got 4 years ago, with aluminum foil partially covering it. I remember seeing it some years before, I ignored it.
Second shelf, a bit more promise. There's this wrapped pork chop I'd taken out of the freezer a day or so ago (don't press me for exact dates). The next three shelves showed nothing of promise.

Cupboard....I see one of those packages of oriental noodles, the microwave ones, you know what I'm talking about.

Over on the table I see some basil a neighbor had given me maybe last week...it had dried! Great. Then I see the braid of Hmong garlic I'd gotten a week ago hanging on the wall. Then I looked down and saw the Thai chili's I got from them. Red, pencil-thin, 3-4" long, menacing looking. I'm there. I remember that in the fridge was an onion and a couple peppers, red and green. I've got a plan now.

But what to serve the sliced-thin slices of pork, 30 seconds in the cast iron "14 pan, the onions, peppers, etc
with?The examination of the cupboard had revealed the revealed thatcarton of one of those 'oriental' noodle soup....microwave 3 minutes, etc.Fine.

The noodle thingy went in the microwave, the sliced pork went in the heavy pan, and 5 minutes later.....






Anyway, to the real point of the post:

To those readers who noticed, I have two daughters, grown daughters. They live in Seattle, both living their lives. I have no idea how often the fathers of daughters talk to theirs after they are grown. I feel extraordinarily lucky in that both talk to me. It's a very rare, very, that I don't talk to them at least 2 times a week. Now, this may be because they are both checking to see if I'm still compos mentis, dunno.

Anyway, I called the eldest this afternoon, I don't remember what it was that I wanted to say, but that's unimportant. When she answered I heard laughter, hilarity actually, and the sound of two voices. Both of them, in a car, going someplace.

The rest of the 3 minute conversation was listening to them cackling at everything I said.

What a joy it is, to hear your two daughters together, outside yourself, together, living their lives. I did something right maybe. These two women are friends, sisters and more. Without me, they are still there, together.

That is a great feeling. When I'm not here, they still will be....together.

Quite grand, really.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Adorable One starts school right

First day of pre-school she apparently believes in the adage "start as you intend to continue". From the first, TAO has shown an active mind that want's to be in control of whatever situation she's in. She's never been one to sit back and watch, she wants to lead. Add to that a certain craftiness and guile, an ability to plan several moves ahead of time and a methodological approach.

Evidence of that came yesterday in the form of an email from her teacher to my daughter and son-in-law.  (S&S is modernspeak for show and tell)

From: Rachel
Sent: Thu, 11/09/2014 06:56 PM
To: Kate  (Fiona) ; Drew  (Fiona)
CC:
Subject: Fiona's delightful Show and Share

I just have to share with you how Fiona's S&S went today. I wish, more than anything, I had had somebody filming it because it was PRICELESS! She completely commanded the class. Had lovely, interesting things to say, AND (I about died) kept pausing and asking the class to say together, whatever interesting fact she'd just shared... "Everybody say 'pteranodon'." AND THEY DID! and way better than they ever repeat anything for me! It was awesome.
Thank you for sharing your sweet girl with our class. I enjoy her enthusiasm so much!
-Rachel 
 
I foresee interesting times ahead for her mom and dad. 
 
Here's a pic from her first day. 
 
 
You can just hear her thinking "All this is mine. Mine."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Insert Ezra Pound quote here....

The weather forecast from the local rag:

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM WEDNESDAY TO NOON
MDT THURSDAY ABOVE 5000 FEET...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MISSOULA HAS ISSUED A WINTER
WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW ABOVE 5000 FEET... WHICH IS IN EFFECT
FROM 6 PM WEDNESDAY TO NOON MDT THURSDAY.

* IMPACTS/TIMING: A STRONG AND MOIST FRONT WILL IMPACT THE AREA ON
  WEDNESDAY NIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING. THIS FRONT WILL CAUSE
  SNOW LEVELS TO DROP SIGNIFICANTLY AND BRING ACCUMULATING SNOW TO
  MACDONALD AND HOMESTAKE PASSES AND ALSO HIGH ELEVATION VALLEYS BY
  MID THURSDAY MORNING.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: UP TO AN INCH OF SNOW IS EXPECTED FOR
  ANACONDA, BUTTE AND GEORGETOWN LAKE. 1 TO 3 INCHES IS EXPECTED
  FOR MACDONALD AND HOMESTAKE PASSES. AREAS BETWEEN 4000 TO 5000
  FEET COULD RECEIVE SOME LIGHT ACCUMULATIONS.
 
 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September

The sun now first peeks above the mountains east of town around 7am, it's barely getting light when I get up just after 6. It's now full dark at 8:45pm. This time of year we lose around 25 minutes of light a week. A few of the older cottonwood trees are starting to turn but the lawns are still green. From my front window it still looks like summer, sort of. Ann's flowers are gone though, my bluebells are starting to shed their seeds for next year. But there's a feeling in the air, it's in the upper 30's in the morning, and while we'll probably hit 70 again, the day's of 80 are gone for several months.

While I once loved autumn...it was my favorite time of year; the promise of skiing soon, the first snow coming soon, it's now something I just like. But enough maudlin whining. Just east of town it's lovely.







Some other pics from around the area: This one was taken a week ago, the snow is gone now.
















This last one above is the statue of 'Our Lady of the Rockies', constructed in the 70's as a community project of sorts, it looms over town from the east ridge.

And, the fishing is good for the trout that have gotten fat over the summer.






So I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Hope your season is as enjoyable.




Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

Labor Day came about as a holiday largely because of unions. The Seattle Times recently ran a column about a 'think tank', the Freedom Foundation, that want's to abolish the holiday. Here's an excerpt:


But to the Freedom Foundation, a business-backed Olympia think tank, the day is evidence of the power of unions, which to members equals the decline of America. Rather than stoop to taking a union-backed day off, they plan to fight the power by ... working all day Monday instead!
“I can’t think of a problem in society that can’t be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, so it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe.

So what exactly is so bad about organized labor? Let's look.....well, they stopped this:





Pesky unions stopped child labor exploitation, at least in the US.

Other things they were largely responsible for:





So enjoy your day off unless you have to work of course.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Termination Dust

While most of the country is still enjoying summer (or not, perhaps it's too hot) with a month or more to go, we're getting the first hints of what's to come.






Temps for the next 6 days are forecasted to be highs in the 50's, lows in the 30's. Snow in the mountains, rain in the valleys. It's been almost exactly 60 days since our last snowfall in June.

Still, there is plenty of time left for fall fishing, I can see Ann's flowers on her porch from where I write, and the grass is still green. Mother nature just want's to give us a little reminder she's still there.

Hope the rest of the summer is good for all and sundry.

Monday, August 18, 2014

National Guard, does it address the roots?

This is in response to Missouri's governor ordering the National Guard to Ferguson in response to the continuing protests, after imposing a curfew on the residents, and having questions.

I don't have enough information, I doubt any people not on site do either, to say what happened to the young man who's death sparked the protests. The New York Times reports the initial autopsy shows he was shot six times by the officer, which seems excessive, but the circumstances remain unknown to us.

The National Guard has at best cursory training in crowd and riot control. We have some history of their use for this;  Kent State is obvious, Detroit, Los Angeles. The governor of Missouri had in the past few hours that they would be used for specific duties, to guard the control center of the state police.

I'm assuming they have live ammo. I expect some of them might be as young as 18. It's not the Rangers, older, experienced soldiers. The possibilities of things going south are endless. So instead, perhaps we can look at why a community would erupt like this. Here's my opinion:

It's about race. All these years later, after the civil war, segregation, integration in schools, equal opportunity, it's about race. Nothing has changed insofar as we're dealing with it today, it's aftermath in some cases. We, white people, lead our lives. They, black (hispanic and asian to a lesser degree) live theirs. The two don't often intersect, and when they do it sometimes is awkward.

150 years after abolishing slavery we're still mired in the same issue. We've gone from it being legal to own another human being, able to do what we want with them, not to sudden acceptance. Until 55 years ago, if a white person walked up to and killed a black man, in most states they would be aquitted by a jury of their peers. Their peers were all white, it being difficult to impossible for blacks to participate in either the voting process or and judicial ruling as a jury.

From there, in the last few decades to real estate blockages to blacks, to school boards, city councils, police force being dominatly white in a black majority community: Ferguson.  So here we are, facing the same issues because the white community, in part, has not really changed. They've adapted. Can't block them one way, find another way. The issue of why we (those whites who don't) can't accept them as equals, as we are making slow strides with hispanics and asians, remains unadressed.

How we change things, quicken the change, is beyond me.

Langston Hughes in his poem Harlem, opened with "What happens to a dream deferred?", the last line gave the answer...."does it explode?"







Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just a Fellow I worked with

A few decades ago in my profession I took a considered turn, from clinical to administrative. Turned out it was a bad idea, and the gig I liked less in my 45 years of working. As Director of Clinical Services I had oversee of 9 departments, direction, budgets, personnel, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. There was this one guy, though, that made it easier for me.

I posted about him earlier, about not trying to play practical jokes on a pathologist, titled I think "Don't Screw with a Pathologist". Don N., the hospital pathologist, medical examiner for the county, and a faculty at UW. A little older than me, big, hearty, funny.






I learned recently he'd passed on.

We fished together several times on his boat, out in Puget Sound. Once he took me and a good friend of mine out, we drifted off Seattle jigging herring, and got two small kings, around 10 pounds. When we got back to his dock he offered to fillet the fish, remarking he was 'pretty good at this'. Indeed he was, cleanly doing each fish in a matter of seconds. My buddy remarked on the knife he was using, it was unusual: blue handle, long narrow untapered blade. He looked at it. "Oh, I stopped by the morgue this morning and picked it up, figured we'd get some fish."

A really nice guy, leveled me out a couple times when I was about to commit professional suicide by in-considered demands in board meetings.  

The world is poorer with him gone.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Recollections of a cheap trip

When I was consulting for pharma's I was requested to go to Buenos Aires to assist 5 clinical trial sites that were 'underperforming', the pharma had put this clinical trial at the front of it's plans, and it was a huge trial. Around 350 different sites in Europe, the US, Canada and South America, they had invested around 50 million to this point.

This was when pharma's were feeling flush, and this particular one had a rule that any flight lasting over 5 hours would be first class rather than steerage. Off I went on a night flight from Atlanta, landing in BA at 10am. They had a car and driver waiting for me, and I learned this driver would be available to me for my planned 5 day visit. I had planned on spending a day with each site, figuring that would be enough time.

I had arrived on  a Sunday morning in August, towards the end of their winter. The weather was what one would expect of San Francisco in January, 65 or 70 during the day.

The driver took me to the hotel, on the edge of the Recoleta district, it had been chosen by the pharma's local rep, and was within walking distance of most of downtown BA. The lobby was very nice, marble floor and high ceiling.






After I checked in I asked the clerk, a young man in his 20's if the hotel could exchange some money for me. I hadn't had time before leaving. The pharma had asked me to take all the site's out to dinner, they wanted them to feel they were appreciated. I had been told that many restaurants in BA were similar to one's in Europe, and it was usual to pay in cash. I knew each site and several people working, so I had anticipated on spending well over a hundred dollars a night.

The clerk asked how much I wanted to exchange; I had brought 1,000 in cash, all in hundred dollar bills. I quoted that amount...his eyes widened and he told me I would not need that much. I didn't want to argue, so I asked if he could do 500. He hesitated, then said yes, if I would wait an hour or two.

At this time Argentina was at the end of the worst financial crisis of it's history. Prior, the exchange rate with the US had been fixed at around a 1:1 ratio, dollars to peso's. The 'official' rate was 1:4 at this time. Turns out the 'unofficial' rate was rather higher.

The clerk told me he would exchange dollars for 8 to the dollar if I would wait until he could get the cash from home. I felt a little uneasy about it, but figured that I was in a nice hotel and probably wouldn't be robbed. Other ethical considerations didn't occur to me until later.

It went smoothly, there was a safe in the room so I didn't have to carry it all around with me.

By 6pm I was tired, and wanted to eat and go to bed. I got my second surprise: no restaurants were open at that hour, and wouldn't be until at least 9pm, more likely 10pm. They eat late there.I walked around the area and found a food van selling pizza, it would do. I was asleep by 8pm.

The next morning I met the local pharma rep in the lobby, after coffee my driver took us to the first site.





I met with the site doc and staff, we sat and had coffee and chatted. By noon I was starting to get a bit nervous about the pace of things. No one seemed in a hurry to start going over the protocols and techniques. They insisted on giving me a tour of the whole place. Nice people, the doc at trained at Johns Hopkins.





When I suggested we go out to dinner they agreed. At 2 the pharma rep suggested we go to lunch, off we went to the Recoleta district. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating.





The lunch took two hours. At 4pm  I looked at my watch and suggested we go back and start in on the protocols.  No, that wasn't going to happen; most of them had things to do at home or elsewhere. It was agreed we'd meet for dinner at 9:30 at my hotel and walk to a restaurant. I went back to my hotel with the rep and talked for a bit. She explained the pace was slower, their average work day was from 10am to around 2pm. The next day she assured me all would go better. After she left I called the pharma office in Connecticut. We agreed that this was going to take at least twice as long as planned.

For the next two weeks I had plenty of time and opportunity to explore BA. My driver was more than willing to take me sightseeing in the mornings and later afternoons.  I also found that the first night when I took a party of 6 to a dinner that lasted two hours that my cash would stretch the stay in comfort. Inflation had not yet caught up to the 'unofficial' exchange rate. That dinner included drinks before dinner, the entree and sides, 3 bottles of excellent Mendoza wine and coffee at the end. The price worked out to around 40 bucks US.

The food there was outstanding, especially if you like beef. They do it as well as anyplace in the world.







The last photo above is the largest group, the bill came to less than 100 dollars.

The Recoleta area looked more Italian than South American, the Italian influence is everywhere. The population of Argentina is less than 10% 'Mestiso', mostly Italian and German and Spanish.








And no trip to BA would be complete without a visit to the famous Cementario, or as I saw it, The City of the Dead.  And it's 'famous' cat population.  A cemetery that covers two square blocks, mausoleums like tiny houses, many had open doors that one could peer inside and see caskets, and stairs leading down into the dark. I went there on a Sunday morning fairly early and walked around. Then I started noticing the cats. All over the place, hundreds of them. Apparently it's a dumping ground for cats people don't want, and a place for people to go and feed them.





Once I got used to the slower pace and having dinner late it was quite enjoyable. The traffic was horrible though, I was glad I didn't have to drive. One thing I noticed the first day we went out was a old Ford Falcon parked. Then I saw another, and another. Ford had one of the main plants back then that produced the Falcon down there, and many of them have survived.







I recommend Buenos Aires highly, as well as the area of Mendoza further north inland.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Just stuff, errata, thoughts

I read a comment recently that started me thinking.......actually it's something I've seen before,  but I was surprised by the source.

So I thought about similar advice, in the same vein. The comment is somewhere in the 'advice' below.

1. You're being bullied in school.
     Advise: Don't go to school.
                  Don't do what you are doing at school, it set's off someone.
                  Maybe they want money, carry a 5 dollar bill.
                  Ignore them, it'll go away.

2. My child is autistic, they get hit by the neighborhood kids because they stutter.
       Advise:  Keep them in the house.
                     Teach them how to keep their mouth shut
                     Ignore them, it'll go away

3.  My child complains that someone on the bus stares at her, and makes rude comments about her skirt being short.
        Advise:   Tell her to wear ankle-length skirts
                       She shouldn't be wearing anything that shows any legs, make her wear pants.
                       Ignore it, it'll go away.

4.  I'm with my child, she's 13, in a mall. We walk by somebody who say's "I'll tap that" to somebody next to him, indicating my girl, I walk over to him. I say "It's gonna get real western in here soon, pal."
       Advise:    I should have just smiled and nodded.
                       I should have turned to my girl and reprimanded her for provoking the gentleman
                      A gentle nudge with a shoe to the genital region would be sufficient. 

5.  A woman is being, quote, "Ogled", and when she, or someone else complained, it was said: "If she doesn't like being ogled she should wear a burka". End quote.......Ok.....
      Advise:     Wear a burka
                       Don't leave the house otherwise
                       Comment, suggesting it was in bad taste, and someone deletes your comments
                       Say it to one of my girls, and take your chances......

Actually, the last one has a lot of supporters. A lot, the Taliban, Al Queda, various Islamic militant groups, the Tea Party in their wildest dreams, most of the current GOP.

Y'know, I've thought about blogs a bit lately........there are some out there that propose various agendas, philosophies, and the one's that are interesting are the one's who have people, in the comments, who go 'wait a minute here....", "no, you're wrong...." and "oh for pete's sake......", not the one's who just validate what you say, and support you for reasons unclear. Those are boring.

It's like life, who liked 'yes' men around them, I like people who think for themselves, and speak their mind, truth to power. My wife wouldn't have it any other way, though she's been gone 20 years now.

We're about, in the next two months, to decide whether or not we're going to continue to have a democracy, or something else.

Let's decide wisely.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In My Little Town


It's high summer here, a time to savor the last month of warm weather. The view from my front yard up the hill towards the 'M'.






A flower that grows each summer everywhere around here. No idea what it is, but it looks pretty along my fence.





And finally, a place to get a great burger.





Matt's is apparently the oldest 'drive-in' in the state. Summer is the only time that it's dependably open; other times of the year he opens seemingly at random, on whim.





His burgers are about the best I've had, and for 4 bucks a real bargain.





I'll leave you with the headline from today's local newspaper, from the category of 'I can't make this shit up'...


Police: Drunk woman runs naked and jumps into stranger’s pickup

 


Friday, August 1, 2014

River, the last. The Falls

I did three other stories about the river; all somewhat connected, the same river on the Oregon Coast, the people, the occurrences. This, I think, is the last. 




Someone must see to it that this story is told: you shouldn't think that his man just threw his life away.

When he was a boy there was nothing about him to remember. He looked like anything else-like the trees, the other people, like his dog. Sometimes he would change places with the dog. For a week at a time he was the dog and the dog was himself, and it went unnoticed. It was harder on the dog, but the boy encouraged him and he did well at it.

This is what happened. The boy grew. Visions came to him. He began to see things. When he was eighteen he dreamed he should go up in the Crazy Mountains, near Bozeman, to dream. He went. He was careful hitchhiking, he took rides only from old men, old trucks. He was old enough to be careful, but not to know why.

He got a job down there around Beatty, in Oregon, and I didn't see him for two or three years.  The next time was in winter. It was the coldest one I had ever been in. Birds froze. The river froze solid, all the way across. I never saw that before. I picked him up hitchhiking north, he had on dark cotton pants and a light jacket. He had a brown canvas bag, and a hat pulled down over his ears. I pulled over right away, he looked sorry as hell.

I took him way up north, all the way to my place. He had some antelope meat with him and we ate good. We talked. He wanted to know what I was doing for work. I was cutting wood. He was going to go up to British Columbia, Nanaimo, somewhere in there.

I woke up the next morning when it was just getting light. I could not hear the sound of the river and the silence frightened me until I remembered. I heard chopping on the ice. I got dressed and went down, the earth was like rock that winter.

He had cut a hole a few feet across, black water boiling up, flowing out of the ice, freezing. He was standing in the hole naked with his head bowed and his arms straight up over his head with his hands open. He had cut his arms with a knife and red blood was running down them, down his ribs, slowing in the cold to the black water. He gave a cry, the cry was like a bear, not a man sound, something he was tearing away from inside himself. He climbed out and ran into the timber, long high steps.

He cut wood with me that winter. He worked hard. When the trillium bloomed and the birds came he went north.

I did not see him again for ten years. I was in Montana harvesting wheat, sleeping in the back of my truck (parked under cottonwoods for the cool air that ran down them at night). One night I heard my name. He was by the tailgate.
"You got a good spot." He said
"Yeah. That you?"
"Sure"
How you doing?"
'Good. Talk in the morning."
He sounded tired, like he'd been riding all day.

We worked three weeks together,the next morning someone lost their job, too much drinking.  We baled hay for days, the dust would gather in our clothes.

He came home with me, and he stayed that winter too. I was getting old then, and he was good to have around. In the spring he left. He told me a lot that winter, but I can't say these things. When he spoke it was like when you fall asleep in the woods, the breeze in the pines. You listen hard, but it's not easy.

A few summers later he was in Alaska, working at a farm in the Matanuska Valley. All that time he was alone. Once he came down to see me but I was gone. I knew it when I got home, I went down to the river and saw the place where he went into the water. The ground was soft around the rocks, I knew his feet.

I am not a man of power, but I waded into the river and shouted. "Keep going, you keep going!" My heart was pounding like the falls.

The last time I saw him he came to my house in the fall. He came in quiet as air sitting in a canyon. We made dinner early and at dusk he went out and I followed. He cut twigs from the ash, cottonwood and alder. He brushed me with the branches, telling me I had always been a good friend. He said this was his last time. We went swimming a little, there is a strong current there, I had to be careful.

I woke in the morning, just as light was seeping into the sky. I went to look at his bed, he was gone. I got dressed and walked the path to the falls. I see him all at once standing at the lip of the falls. I heard that bear-like cry, and his hands went out. He was in the air, turning over and over, the last moonlight finding the silver-white of his sides and dark green water before he cut into the river, the sound lost in the roar.

I went back up the path, to a clear-cut area where alders have started to grow. The sun was up, warm to me as I sat down, my back against the remaining fir. Good day to go look for morels, but I fell asleep.

When I awoke it was late. I went back to my truck and drove home, wondering if I felt strong enough to eat venison.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hash browns, Vegetarians, and It's Not My Fault

In graduate school I had a couple cooking-related jobs, one was at a child development center of the university. It all happened by chance, meeting the director happenstance, and her offering me the job.

It was easy stuff, provide breakfast, snacks and lunch for around 20 kids age 5-7. It took me maximum 3 hours a day.  What I gave them varied between tossing boxes of cereal and bowls on a table, putting some fruit in a bowl, etc. Other days I put real effort into it, it was usually 2 days of slacker meals, sandwiches at lunch, etc...the other three days it was a bit more, simmered stew from scratch for lunch, french toast for breakfast. One frequent breakfast was hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, milk and fruit. I did the potatoes from scratch, grated, added chopped onions, green peppers, red bell peppers, and my secret ingredient.....a pound of finely-chopped pork sausage. It called for 25+ potatoes, so it was good sized, at least 5 parents dropping off their kids would stay for breakfast. The sausage was in tiny bits, hardly noticeable.


Which gets us to the point of this post:

One couple had an extremely interesting boy, around 5. They could be described as eco-hippy-activists...nice people, I liked them. The dad was in a history class I taught.  We often talked when they were there. Dylan, the boy, wore suits (seriously) to school often, with a tie. He carried a briefcase. He would lead his parents around, introducing them formally...."This is my mom, this is my dad." If he kept it up, these last 30+ years he's in the tea party now. I doubt that happened, the kid seemed much too smart.

I'm getting there.

One morning towards the end of my year there, they came over, eating from a plate....my hashbrowns and eggs. The dad, around my age, said something to the effect of "Your hashbrowns are the best we've ever had, they are great!" I thanked them. "What makes them so good, so special?" the wife asked in her flowered skirt. "I think it's the pork sausage." I said.

They both looked at their plates, at each other, then at me. I thought they were getting pale. "But, but-we're vegetarians!" one exclaimed. They had been eating it occasionally for a year.  "Huh." was my only response.

Heading to Seattle for a couple weeks, see you down the creek.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Slippery Slope

How on earth did I go from this:







To this:





To this:





Man, if that kid knew what was ahead.......the places he'd go, the things he'd see, the experiences he'd have.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hot weather, bare wet feet and hardwood floors.

11 years ago I spent a lot of time in Longmont, Colorado. The company I was consulting for wanted me there every week, so I rented a house in a nice neighborhood. Frankly, I hated the place, the area in general. People there were unjustly proud that one could see the front range of the Rockies off in the distance. It was flat, crowded and in the summer miserably hot. My home in Montana is a thousand feet higher, right in the middle of the mountains, and a hot day is 85, cooling to 50 at night.

I flew home often, just to escape. Maintaining two residences made the gig almost not worth it.

Anyway, one evening in the summer I was there. It was hot, over 90f at 10pm. The house had a swamp cooler in the living room that did little to mitigate the heat. A family trait is that neither I nor my kids can tolerate heat, anything over 75 is uncomfortable.

I am getting to the point of this, albeit slowly.

This particular evening I took a cold shower, a couple times. It worked for several minutes afterward, especially if I didn't towel off afterwards, evaporation and all that.

The house had hardwood floors.

As I walked, barefoot from the bathroom down the hall I turned a corner, my feet slipped, down I went,  hearing a loud 'pop' as I fell. I lay a moment, I knew I had done something, but tried to get up. When I put weight on my left foot down I went again. I looked down, seeing a shard of bone sticking out of the skin. I clearly remember thinking "bummer"....

Did I mention I was unclothed?

I crawled on the floor to the table in the living room where my phone was and dialed 911. I told them the situation, they said they were sending someone immediately. As I lay there, in retrospect going into shock, I called 911 again. The woman explained someone was on the way. I said "Listen, there's another thing. I'm naked." A short silence ensued. "Oh?" she said. "Yes, I had just got out of the shower." I explained. "Uh huh, ok." she said.

I managed to reach a navajo blanket on the sofa and pulled it over me. A few minutes later I saw flashing light reflected on the ceiling, and somehow they got in the locked door in seconds. Two women paramedics entered, followed by two male firemen. I apologized to the paramedics for my unclothed state. As they examined my ankle one said "Sir, we've seen everything. This is nothing special."

Quickly they had me on a gurney and out the door. Outside there was the ambulance and two fire trucks, and several people milling about. They had an IV in me and fluid going within a minute, and off we went to the hospital.

Turns out in addition to the compound fracture I had completely torn and separated all the ligaments in my ankle. The surgery took 8 hours.






The Fibula repair was the easiest part of the surgery; a stabilizing plate and and half dozen screws were put in. The ortho cutter said the ligament repair was one of the hardest procedures he'd ever done.





It was nearly 6 months before I got rid of the crutches. A decade later my walking is limited to a mile at the most. I can still wade in a river and fish, so there's that.