Monday, October 27, 2014

And the beat goes on.....

Another school shooting in Seattle, the third in the last two years. Since 2010, these type of shootings, killings, have increased threefold in the US.

I read an article in the Seattle Times this morning, the most recent update at the time. Then I went to the comments, at that point there were 714. The first, last and 90% of those between were variations on 'it isn't guns' , 'it's our morals', etc. Most were laced with 'this is just another example of the liberals trying to disarm us.'

The current rate, nationally, is one like this every three weeks. So, 18 days and counting.

I read a column in the NY Times today, the writer made the point that even if we instituted much more stringent gun control laws little would change for 5 years, and it would take decades to match the statistics of deaths per populations of Europe. Yet, they did it. We're saying that this is acceptable, the deaths of our children, it's an acceptable loss.

What I'm saying here is nothing less than a Canadian/UK/Germany/Japan style of gun control will actually work. Handguns need to be under such strict control as to be almost impossible to possess. It will take decades, decades. But if not us, who? If not now, when? (I feel I can use RFK's words, I was 15 feet from him listening to his words 6 hours before he was killed).

Yet, here we are, unable to have banned assault weapons that have no purpose except to kill lots of people quickly. Two years since Sandy Hook, and here we are. So just wait, less than three weeks.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Movies and taking my meds.

Ok, I'm back. Taking my meds again, and aside from a minor face twitch I'm fine.

The subject today is movies. Odd movies you like that no one else does. I'll list a few, then you do the same.

1. Two Lane Blacktop.  Most have never heard of it. The characters have no names, and there are only a few of them. We got James Taylor as the Driver, Dennis Wilson as the Mechanic, Warren Oates as GTO, Laurie Piper as the Girl, but the real scene stealer is a '55 Chevy. The movie has no discernible plot line, and simply ends by the film catching on fire.

2. What's New Pussycat.  It has not aged well, made in '65. Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, and the first movie Woody Allen was in, along with several actors and actresses from that period. I saw it at least 5 times in 1965. A friend of mine and I rented it, she'd heard me say what a good movie it was. She snickered all the way through, and not in a good way.

3. Once Upon a Time in the West. How many times have you seen Henry Fonda as a really evil bad guy? And Jason Roberts has a great role. Charles Bronson plays pretty much himself.

4. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.  It's directed by David Lynch, says it all. Get a damn good cup of coffee and watch it.

5. The President's Analyst. Released in 1967, James Coburn as a shrink to the president of the US. First movie I ever saw that forecast the privacy concerns of our era, with the phone company as the bad guy.

Ok, you're turn.

Friday, October 24, 2014

To the new people reading, let's be clear.....

I've noticed some new readers, some from a blog that I read occasionally, commenting seldom. I don't comment on this blog often because most of the time I'm 180 degrees away in opinion.

So....I'm a liberal, capital L. I'd like to amend the 2nd amendment considerably. I oppose all laws limiting abortion. I like government....I like my roads, my water system, I pay my taxes happily.....and I'd wager that before I retired my taxes were more than your entire block. Or row of trailers, if the case.

I think the nra (not in caps on purpose) has perverted their mission from decades ago, and should be taxed like any company representing the gun manufacturers.

I'm a gun owner who would gladly give them up. I think the 'open carry' movement is sponsored by the nra at the manufacturers behest, and the people who support it are at best misguided. I don't think there is a 'bad guy' around every corner, and I don't think I'm going to meet one in K-Mart. Unless it's an open-carry nut.

I'm not religious, not one little bit. I think most of them are perversions of what we should aspire to.

I believe in a good curve ball, the line going out in a tight loop, the fly landing lightly on the water. I believe in the CT scan, the feeling of walking into a rural bar at night, the bartender nodding in recognition. I don't think all the GOP are bat-shit looney, just the ones since Eisenhower.

Just so we know.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

River, the beginning

This was intended to be the first installment, but it got sidetracked. Think of it as an introduction, not a guide, but perhaps it will explain some. The story, which had kept popping up in my mind for some time, was prompted by older relatives, dad, the uncles and aunts. Life on the Oregon coast in the 30's, 40's and 50's, and my knowledge of the coast since then. In these stories, my wife appears in the upriver section, and like the upriver, she's never vanished. My friend Quinn, died in a boating accident on the Rogue in '63, chatted with me in a dream once and approved of a description of the river.  You may have to go back to the stories to understand. Anyway, here 'tis:

River, the beginning

I began each day like this, as though it were the last. I know the last days will be here, where the sun runs into the ocean, that I will see in a movement of sea birds and hear in the sound of water beating against the earth what I now only imagine, that the ocean has a sadness beyond even the sadness of herons, that in the running into it of rivers is the weeping of the earth for what is lost.

By evening, when confirmation of those thoughts seems again withheld, I think of going back upriver, up to the log jam, past where the stump is jammed, or even beyond, to the headwaters, to begin again.

I will tell you something. It is to the thought of the river's banks that I most frequently return, their wordless emergence at a headwaters, the control they urge on the direction of the river, mile after mile, and their disappearance here on the beach as the river enters the ocean. It occurs to me that at the very end the river is suddenly abandoned, that just before it's finished the edges disappear completely, that in this moment a whole life is revealed.

It is possible I am wrong. It is impossible to speak with certainty about very much.

It will not rain for the rest of the day. Lie down here beside me and sleep. When you awake you will feel the pull of warm winds and wish to be gone. I will stand somewhere on the beach staring at the breakers, the scampering of sanderlings, thinking I can hear the distant murmuring of whales. But I can as easily turn inland, and go upriver.

When you awake, if you follow the river into the trees up the valley I will be somewhere ahead or beyond, like the herons.

When you are overwhelmed with feeling,  when your fingers brush the soft skin of a deer-head orchid , or you see a house ahead, near the river bank beyond the falls, you will know a loss of guile, and the beginning of the journey.

Come find me. We have much to see.

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.


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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's Root for Fiona Day

I've mentioned before that my youngest granddaughter was born with what could have been a critical medical problem. A portion of her liver was outside her abdomen, and it took a year for it to gradually ease back inside. Omitting a lot of procedures and care here. For around 3 years she got her nutrition via a port in her abdomen, a complicated procedure requiring many hours each day. For the last year she's been getting all her food orally, and doing very well.

Today she's getting the port taken out. My daughter assures me that it's a very minor procedure. Personally I want to pull DeBakey and Al Starr out of retirement and have them do it.