Monday, October 26, 2009

Saving the World, one cow at a time.

Saturday morning I looked out our upstairs window into the pasture of our neighbor (he's really not - he lives in Kansas but keeps cows down here) and noticed a big lump that wasn't moving with the other cows. A few minutes later I went outside to feed our dogs and decided to go check it out.

I stared for awhile trying to decide if I saw movement or not. I finally thought I saw a chest rise and fall so I hopped the fence (getting over barbed wire at my advanced age is no small feat!) and wandered a hundred feet or so where I could definitely tell she was breathing. I moved around to see where she might be hurt and she pawed at the ground with her front legs and tried to lift her head but couldn't. I tried to lift her head but ... do you have any idea how heavy a cow's head is? I tried to move her by grabbing her legs but she was just too heavy - maybe 750 pounds or more (just guessing). I thought if I flipped her over she might get in a different position and be able to get up. No luck.

Another neighbor behind us lives on the property and sort of (used to) keep an eye on things so I tried to call him. Busy, busy signal. I kept trying and after I finished up my morning chores, I decided to drive over. Seems my neighbor is no more and the lady living there now had no idea who owned the property but sent me to the next house down the road.

I went there to find two guys fixing a roof. They did know the owner's brother and one said he would call and promptly went back to roofing.

I drove to another neighbor thinking maybe if we got enough people together we could move the cow somehow. For those farmers reading - they know that sometimes cows lay down with their heads pointed downhill and for some reason can't get back up. They also do something called 'bloat'. I don't know what she had but she was down and couldn't get up.

My neighbor took up the mantle and started making calls - she knew more locals than me and grew concerned about the poor cow.

Bottom line - a few hours later someone came and moved the cow. I wasn't there so did not see if she lived or was already dead. I hope she lived.

I realize there is nothing funny about this story and it is open ended since I don't know what finally happened. But I probably spent a couple of hours driving and or on the phone trying to help this poor girl so I have some small investment in her well-being. I really wanted to be hands-on in getting her back on her feet, er hooves and see her waddle away. She had a small milk bag with teats so she may have been close to calving also and that may have been part of her problem. Don't know too much about cows. But I'm still learning.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Must See TV!

The back page of the Oct. 26 edition of Newsweek has a chart showing when various TV programs will reach various distant locations in outer space.

This is odd and potentially scary on a couple of levels.

Odd? When we first moved into our current home in rural-land, we could barely get some channels. Combinations of rabbit ears and tin-foil strategically positioned were required to get at least one channel. OK I exaggerate but you get the picture. Aliens in outer space must get better TV reception than I do.

I wonder if they saw all the FCC mandated PSAs about the switch to digital last summer in time to get their converter box coupons?

On a more serious note – if there really are aliens out there anywhere besides Roswell New Mexico, it is scary to think what they must think of us if TV is their source.

According to the chart, Alpha Centauri, the nearest star, is just now getting episodes of Lost and the Apprentice. Wonder what they think of the Donald’s hair?

A few more light years away, alien viewers are enjoying Sponge Bob and the Sopranos.

Way way out Howdy Doody is part of the daily fare.

Imagine if they used TV as a sort of scouting report and planned their trips to earth accordingly? Imagine their surprise when they get here and find other confused aliens looking for the Lone Ranger and Tonto or the Dukes of Hazzard? And what do they find instead? Balloon Boy and his family. But then they might feel right at home!

"Klaatu barada nikto"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The (digital) indignity of it all.

If you are squeamish about medical stuff, you may not want to continue reading. If you are female, this is going to have some male stuff in it so … and if you are male then it’s going to have some … I guess nobody should read it but I’ll write anyway.

Today was my annual physical, which for the most part is pretty routine. Weight 173. Height 6’-1/2”. OK on both counts. Blood pressure OK. Blood work underway so we’ll know soon about those pesky things called lipids and LDL etc.

Lots of questions with mostly negative answers, which is good.

Why write about it?

My father has had one bout of prostate cancer which he survived but the treatment wasn’t much fun and may have caused some additional problems. His PSA count is up again but they are watching it. By the way he is 87.

Needless to say with my fathers history and an uncle who also had prostate cancer, this is something I take seriously. And for those men in the audience you know what that means. The euphemism is a digital exam and has nothing to do with computers or any electronic device.

My guess is, this part of the prostate screening is at least akin (I’m not saying equal to) the mammogram and Pap smear our wives have to endure once a year or so.
What makes mine slightly awkward yet in a strange way not, my physician is a woman. Several years ago I felt like my primary care doctor wasn’t doing much and my wife suggested I try hers, which in this case was a woman. Initially I felt strange – still do sitting there in the little bitty gown thing they give you that ties in the back … you know what I mean?

But now after a few years I’m pretty used to it. And I guess my wife – along with most other women have been having to … well you know … do their thing with male doctors … so in some small way, it’s the least I can do.

My doctor is thorough; I think she really cares about my health and that of all her patients. She doesn’t rush; she is on time etc. so I gained by switching doctors. As I age and am likely to have more concerns, she will have some history with me, which might make things easier in the long run.

The point of this is – if you are a guy, bend over and get it over with.

An added comment: Normal PSA levels are 4 but my doctor said she watches for increases in PSA even if the numbers stay below normal. Last week she examined a guy and his PSA was 1.8 which is well below normal (good) but he had a small nodule on his prostate and it was cancerous. So the numbers don’t lie, they just don’t always tell the whole story. It also points up the importance of the old fashioned but slightly uncomfortable way of having this checked.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OK I tried.

I mentioned a few days ago about my (failed) attempts to read some older (classic and maybe not-so-classic) books. I keep hearing and reading how Flannery O'Connor was what most of today's Christian writers should aspire to be. What a master of her craft she was etc.

I got Wise Blood from the library and tried - twice. I just couldn't plod through it. I'm sure it is me and not her writing but I still can't get through it.

Anybody know an easier Flannery O'Connor book to try?

Monday, October 12, 2009

gas again?

Running an errand today and noticed somebody changing prices on a gas station sign – never a good sign. I turned my head every which way as I passed and could never get a clean shot of the price in my mirror. Later I passed another station and whoa! It had jumped from the almost manageable $2.16 early this morning up to $2.27! What’s up with that? Either OPEC is not as happy as the rest of the giddy world that Obama got the prize for peace or the Hunt Family (see Hunt Petroleum in Texas) who own the KC Chiefs are mad about losing to Dallas on Sunday.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Don't ask me what that means. It's the title of a book I just finished by Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) It's a sort of rambling book but there are plenty of nuggets in it to make it a worthwhile read. I think some people dismiss him because he might smack of something akin to the Emerging or Emergent sort of theology but I found it interesting on a couple of fronts.

Since I am in the midst of writing umpteen stories in some stage of incompletion or another along with my long-suffering screenplay idea (up to 30-40 pages, a bunch of scenes but nowhere near solid yet) he offers suggestions on stories, what makes them work etc., helpful for me as a writer.

I really enjoyed chapter 29 and wanted to just scan and include the chapter here but could not easily get permission from the publisher so you are just going to have to do what I did and find it at the library - or Amazon (only $12)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Either I'm dreaming or this is the Onion.

Driving to work very early this morning in the rain and with only one cup of coffee down, I heard the news, ‘Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize.’ And thought surely this is a joke or the Onion on the radio or something but sure enough he got it.

I’ve been reading comments and quotes from around the world and find, yes, a few supporters but by and large most agree it was premature at best. At worst it reflects on the Nobel folks’ credibility and a host of other things.

I don’t have much to add to the discourse except I was reviewing a list of former winners and noted a few things: about half of the names listed I have no idea what they did, who they are etc. But some I do recognize.

• 2002 - Jimmy Carter – like him or not he does have a record of achievement.

• 1999 - Médecins Sans Frontières – seems like a worthy group to me.

• 1997 - International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Jody Williams – another worthy recipient

• 1994 - Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin – hello? What kind of Kool-Aid were they drinking in Norway that year? Arafat?

• 1993 - Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk - can’t argue much about name #1

• 1988 - United Nations Peacekeeping Forces – this one must have been a joke too!

• 1986 - Elie Wiesel – probably long overdue.

• 1983 - Lech Walesa - heard him quoted today as wondering why Obama got it so early?

• 1979 - Mother Teresa – no argument here.

• 1964 - Martin Luther King Jr. – I’ll bet this one upset a few people back then.

• 1906 - Theodore Roosevelt – here are some of his words when he accepted the prize:

“The gold medal which formed part of the prize I shall always keep, and I shall hand it on to my children as a precious heirloom. The sum of money provided as part of the prize by the wise generosity of the illustrious founder of this world-famous prize system, I did not, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, feel at liberty to keep. I think it eminently just and proper that in most cases the recipient of the prize should keep for his own use the prize in its entirety. But in this case, while I did not act officially as President of the United States, it was nevertheless only because I was President that I was enabled to act at all; and I felt that the money must be considered as having been given me in trust for the United States.”

Bottom line I don’t see how Obama’s name belongs on this list. If years from now we look back and find that during his administration Iraq has emerged successfully from this disastrous episode. Afghanistan is restored and maybe (although highly unlikely) there is some sort of peace in the Middle East, then his name might rightfully come up for nomination.

A couple of tidbits. I read that the deadline for noms was back in Feb. What in the world had he even done by Feb.?

A baseball analogy: To get into Cooperstown – the Hall of Fame – players have to be out of the game for awhile (several years I think) and maybe part of this is to make sure their record was not some sort of fluke – no asterisks by their achievements etc. and then they can come up for a vote. Sometimes they don’t make it in on the first ballot.

Obama hasn’t been playing in the big leagues or on a world stage for even a year yet. It was silly but understandable when people idolized him during the campaign. No one really knew him but he gave some people hope. But as of now, the jury is still way out on how people will look back on his Presidency in a few years. He might not even get re-elected in 2012.

Honestly I was never a fan of Bill Clinton but at face value alone he deserves it more than Obama. He must really have some major heartburn; first his Veep Gore gets it and now this.

But also a perhaps a bigger issue here is somehow this prize, I thought, was about the world at large and efforts – while not always successful, to bring about World Peace. But when you look at the names, often the peace was much more confined and often never even achieved. Many of the former recipients lived and worked on a very small stage and what they did might have impacted only a country – not the entire world. But I get the symbolism that what they did could serve as a model to the world.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Impenetrable Prose

We all get lists, read lists, make lists. Sometimes I look at them and think I should do something with the information; in this case one with a bunch of books and authors we should read – probably should have already read them but …

Every so often I look them up at the library and figure I’ll try to add a little culture and class to my otherwise drab and dreary reading list. Of late I’ve reads tons of non-fiction; just can’t seem to find much fiction that holds or compels me to go on.

My rule of thumb is usually 100 pages. If I’ve invested that much reading time, I should stick it out. Often I find myself giving up after just a few for a variety of reasons. With some of the new stuff that is understandable. Years from now people will just consider much of it drivel anyway.

But what about people like Flannery O’Connor? William Faulkner?

I’ve tried, really tried to get into their books but I just can’t. I know Faulkner is considered THE greatest southern writer. But I’ll swear when he learned to write, they didn’t teach him what a period was. Some of his sentences run on and on and … I need some time for my eyes to breathe. Then my brain can catch up with what is being said.

I read a lot and I’m not a lazy reader but much of what folks consider great fiction of the 20th century (remember we are now in the 21st), I just can’t penetrate.

But I will continue to give it a shot.

Right now I have another O’Connor book, “Wise Blood” which showed up on someone’s ‘best-of’ list so I got it from the library.

I’ll report back in a few days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Goldman Sacks Us

You can’t believe everything you read but I think this article (the Great American Bubble Machine) should be required reading for everybody who owns a home, buys gas for their car, has heard of the bailout and might have concerns about global warming. Does that leave anybody out?

Rolling Stone
issue 1082/1083 (July 9-23, 2009) has this article by Matt Taibbi. I first heard of Taibbi on Imus. Now why Rolling Stone is investing in dense articles on financial hijinx alongside reviews of Lady Gaga I’ll never know but I’m glad somebody is doing it.

So far you can’t read Rolling Stone on-line unless you are a paper subscriber so you’ll need a friend who does or perhaps visit your library. OK I've included a link to the actual story above but who knows how long it will be active. Took some doing to find it)

Read it and find out that going back to the early 90s we’ve been getting screwed. Some of us may feel like it started before then but …

Read about tech stocks and their overvaluing and at least one culprit in this run-up to the bursting of the bubble of Internet stocks, IPOs and all that. Notice the involvement of Goldman Sachs – prominent Wall St. bank with friends in high places.

We’ve heard about the housing market, sub-prime mortgages, Countrywide – and all the loan defaults of the last few years. A major player in all this? Goldman Sachs.

How about 2008’s $4/gallon gas? Everyone I knew blamed it on the problems in the Middle East or the old “supply-and-demand” situation. According to the article, demand was at slightly lower levels and supply was slightly up. What gives? Seems Goldman Sachs was at least part of a massive and profitable (for them anyway) commodities speculation market, which was driving the price up. Bottom line? Our price at the pump goes up. Goldman Sachs makes a tidy profit.

One scary part about it is that politicians have to be involved at some levels and knowledge of what is going on. Rules were changed or exemptions were granted.

Read on about the coming “cap and trade” legislation moving through the Senate now. Supposedly this is to reduce global warming by taxing producers of carbon (utility power plants will likely be hit harder that anybody and who will pay for that? Not the utility directly but folks like you and me who use electricity made by burning coal) but this article lays out how this boondoggle of a program could become just another commodities market where people can buy, trade and sell the right to produce more or less carbon. Goldman apparently is in the catbird seat to take advantage of this new regulation whenever it comes into play.

I’ll back up to mention one more thing if you’ve read this far and can’t or won’t read the article. How come Bear Stearns (big Wall St. firm) is rescued last year and Lehman Bros. (former big Wall St. firm) is not? Lehman happened to be a competitor of Goldman. You do the math.

The Feds give umpteen billion to bailout AIG who in turn pays back Goldman $13 billion it owes them. Goldman re-does their books and promptly declares a profit early in 2009.

Without the money from AIG, which was taxpayer money from the bailout, they’d not have had any profit whatsoever. Did I mention that Goldman paid out $4.7 billion in bonuses and compensation in the first quarter of 2009?

Sad to say there isn’t anything we can do about this and it’s not a Democrat v. Republican or liberal v. conservative issue. There seems to be plenty of finger pointing to go all around. But it does seem odd that so many people in the govt. now under Obama have ties to Goldman in their very recent former lives.

Again if you can – go read the Great American Bubble Machine by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. Somewhere at your public library today.