Category Archives: Thoughts @ Large

Thoughts @ Large: 69

It doesn’t seem right that the days are already getting shorter in our fair Hemisphere. I’ve never been a fan of the summer solstice, the buoy in the bay that marks the turn of the sun’s race back to its winter harbour.  But the prospect of ever-diminishing daytime hours seems especially depressing this time around.  I wonder why.

I have gradually lost respect for the coordinator of the White House (emphasis mine) Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx.  Her public statements seem designed less to inform than to market the effectiveness of Trump administration actions.  I like to give health professionals the benefit of the doubt, but Birx has become the Susan Collins of our government’s pandemic response.  You really can’t count on what she has to say.

For-profit hospitals should award their patients points for emergency room visits and overnight stays.  You would earn 1000 points for every hour spent waiting to be seen in the emergency room, 100 points for every minute between the time you push the call button and a nursing assistant arrives, 2000 points for each time you had to tell a doctor or nurse what was wrong with you instead of the other way around, and 3000 points for trying to understand anything a doctor says to you while you are laying there weak and exhausted.  You would earn one free night in a semi-private room upon reaching Silver status, or a private room if you reach Gold, along with a voucher for a complimentary breakfast and a delicious cookie.

No policeman arrests himself…. except that one time in Mayberry, North Carolina.

My high-school English teacher annotated my final report card with a two-star review: negative attitude.  Yes, I did write and circulate a mocking and disrespectful school-satire magazine among my classmates, but to this day I’m not sure how my attitude should have affected my English grade.  It’s not like I was making crude jokes about Dickens — because those wouldn’t have been very funny.

The Great Saharan Dust Cloud of 2020 has arrived here in the Carolinas. Looking out our family-room window today, I figured our visibility is about 3000 feet. And even with our doors and windows closed, our eyes have begun to smart. What’s next, locusts?

It is time for a poet to step forward.  Poetry has the power to make people “hopeful as a rainwashed hill of moonlit pines.” [Carl Sandburg, “The People, Yes”, 1936].  I hope we are not in a post-poet era but I fear that is the case.  Maya Angelou died six years ago.  No one has replaced her.  Who can name one candidate?  (Please, no votes for Taylor or Beyonce.)

One would like to be optimistic, especially if one is an optimist.  One would like to think that the course of human events can indeed be bent in a favorable direction, if only one makes the effort.  The rest of this thought is left for one (you) to complete.

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Thoughts @ Large: 68

• You know you are watching a bad movie when… the protagonist opens her eyes to find herself wandering through a bizarre and disorienting landscape, after which she proceeds to act out a violent subconscious wish, and then it is revealed that the scene was a dream.  Or was it!!

• “Let’s agree to disagree” is something said by those who won’t admit they are wrong and don’t want to be confronted with it.

• You know you are lucky when… you dip into this bowl of coleslaw your wife has made and you say to her, wow, this is delicious.  And you eat and eat until the bowl is clean.

And then there is more coleslaw the next day.  And you notice there is a lot more coleslaw in the refrigerator.  Looks like an eight- or nine-day supply of coleslaw.  And you say, I love coleslaw but maybe luck has its limits.

• For some mysterious reason, the maker of Kleenex doesn’t bother to advertise half the ways that its product is useful besides blowing your nose — such as capturing millipedes and stink bugs; degreasing the butter dish before it goes into the dishwasher; temporary blood-clotting aid for nuisance skin wounds; and wiping off the dipstick before you check your engine oil.  These uses all add value to your purchase of Kleenex.  That said, I think Kleenex engineers should work harder on the product’s usefulness as emergency paper.  Kleenex sucks as emergency paper — ink bleeds on it and the product rips apart with the slightest pen pressure.  Really, they could do a lot better.

• Until then, I have an idea for states like Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota — and all other ultra-conservative government-gutting tax-hating states — that you could save a lot of money by printing your election ballots on Kleenex this November.  Just a suggestion!  Think of all those hard-earned tax dollars saved — not to mention how your hard-working citizens could use those unreadable ballots to dry their tears after the election.

• You know you are getting old when… your notion of things lost overwhelms at times.

• Cities have limits; counties and states have lines; nations have borders.  These invisible markings have different names but serve the same function: to define areas where people within may make and enforce rules to their liking.  This penchant for those in power to draw imaginary lines and make self-serving rules can be seen in factories, stock exchanges, ladies’ neighborhood book clubs and police precincts, among countless other places.

• You know you are in a hospital when… things are done to you in a non-linear fashion with little or no explanation, followed by long stretches of inactivity, anxiety, uncertainty and discomfort accompanied by sleep-killing background noise, and then a Doctor-God shows up and makes some pained and undecipherable pronouncements, after which you are hesitantly allowed to get dressed and leave, with less of a nod to your stay than when you check out of a Comfort Inn.

• The Confederate States lost their racist, craven war and surrendered to the United States 155 years ago.  It is possible that someone alive today once met a participant in that war.  Let’s say a 15-year-old boy was conscripted into the Confederate Army in 1865 and lived to be 100.  That Civil War vet may have told his stories to a great-grandson born in the 1930s. The great-grandson would be near 90 today.

However — current support for Confederate symbols, statues and tenets is being voiced by young and middle-aged people, not 90-year-olds.  Evidence enough that, unlike love, hate is a story taught to younger generations unfamiliar with the events.

• Not incidentally, I support the removal of any statue or monument in the U.S. honoring persons who were “heroes” of the Confederacy or who supported slavery.  So, given that George Washington was a slave-holder, what do we do with the Washington Monument?  Here is my idea: paint the monument black for 77 years, representing the time from when our Constitution was ratified (with its abhorrent three-fifths-of-a-person language) to the time when its 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified.  That could serve as a symbolic first paragraph of any reparations act.

• On a mildly positive note, NASCAR has announced that Confederate flags will be banned from the grounds of its future events.  But take heart, Southern Men:  you can still cheer the wanton burning of fossil fuels in car engines… there will just be a less-racist exhaust.

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Thoughts @ Large: 67

•  I have no desire to kiss an animal.  Zero.  I may pet a dog, nudge a frog, pat a horse, let a ladybug crawl to the top of my finger.  But that’s it.  No animal kissing — or (ugh) licking!

•  Speaking of… How lucky is it that humans do not have beaks!  “I would like to kiss you, but unfortunately I have a beak.”  What a downer that would be!  Though it would be offset to some extent by one’s proficiency with sunflower seeds.

•  Speaking of… Birds feed their babies and birds feed each other.  Given that, I think it is more than plausible that wild birds understand the idea of a bird-feeder, i.e., that a feeder is not just some prolific seed-bearing plant but a way for someone to feed them.  I am also convinced that squirrels know bird-feeders are meant to feed birds, not squirrels, and that squirrels know they’re getting away with something when they raid them.

•  The statute of limitations for issues between couples should be one week.  If a grievance isn’t urgent enough to mention in seven days, the aggrieved should forfeit his/her right to bring it up.  This dictum, when observed by both parties, has the early benefit of bringing to light issues that may bear on the happiness of a relationship, and the later benefit of keeping grudges and resentments from growing.  Not that my spouse and I ever formally agreed to this but we have evolved to something like it over the past 50 years.

•  Certain people think their mission in life is to extract money from other people’s wallets, cooking up business schemes to exploit cracks in the system and personal vulnerabilities.  These entreparasites (my coinage) are not only OK with their chosen role in the economic food chain but can’t fathom why anyone would pass up the chance for such easy money. 

We have encountered a few such operators here.  They present themselves well and speak impressively of their careers.  They tell you they are the CEO of this, or the founder of that, or the chief medical officer of some testing lab set up expressly to run gratuitous (that is,  expensive) tests ordered by their affiliated nontraditional medicine practice, of which this town has many.  Most scammers do not hail from Nigeria — they work and live among us and regard what they do as success.  Ain’t capitalism great?

•  My current primary care physician is wonderful, but some PCPs don’t seem to want to deliver primary care.  I hate getting triaged to specialists for things I know a PCP should be able to handle if they were willing to work with me.  It’s akin to going to your car mechanic and saying “My car won’t start” and the response is like, “OK, so we need to send you to a battery specialist.”

•  “We need a bio-molecular physiologist in here!  This man is dying!”  Hard to believe that this line could be said with a straight face by any actor, even one portraying a surgeon in a Star Trek: Next Generation episode.

•  Hypothesis: Humanity is becoming increasingly fractionated.  Sub-populations choose to divide themselves into smaller and smaller socio-political units, i.e., tribes.  This may (or may not) be due to deep-seated intolerance for diversity and an innate preference for being among “people like themselves.”  It also may (or may not) reflect an unwillingness of pluralities to share social and economic benefits with minorities.  The United States may (or may not) be exceptional in this regard.  Perhaps this report, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” (More In Common, 2018), will provide us some insight.

•  Here’s a public service announcement from The 100 Billionth Person Department of Mental and Spiritual Health.  It’s a serious one, so go ahead and send your kids/yourself out of the room if you feel like you need to do that.  Although many readers of this blog are grandparents, this message goes out to parents and grandparents alike.  Don’t give your children/grandchildren cute names for their private parts.  Later in life, they may recall such names at inopportune times and the remembrance will be unwelcome.  So just refer to their parts by anatomical names.  Also, refrain from giving your children/grandchildren pejorative nicknames related to their bathroom habits, smells, etc.  Trust me, that is not how anyone wants to remember you remembering them.  Thank you.

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