Friday, August 31, 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What They Say Says Something About Them

Years ago I was watching Thomas Sowell hawking his latest book on C-SPAN. In response to a caller or perhaps the host, Sowell went off on a mini-rant extolling the virtues of a competitive free market. He lamely argued by analogy that "it's like the immune system, in which white blood cells attack and compete, helping to maintain a healthy body" or something along that line.

I was stunned by the ineptitude of this. His choice of analogy actually completely undermined his argument against presumably "socialistic" cultural and market controls in the public interest, because the immune system is a fantastically intricate system of cooperation between various kinds of cells and chemical responses to things that don't well serve the body.

What a lousy example he chose. If that's how he portrays his own thinking on television, I vowed then and there that I would never reward his creepy apologetics by ever paying money for anything he wrote. What a maroon.

A revealing mental slip-up; it inadvertently told me more about Sowells' sour thinking than he likely wished me and other C-SPAN viewers to know.

Which brings me to a recent post by Eli at Deep Thought:

My own Rick Renzi story from that barbecque [sic] is this: I asked him whether he supports continuing to maintain a selective service registration data base. He said he did. I asked about his opinion on gays in the military (knowing that he wouldn't be for it.) He said he supported the current, 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. So then I pointed out that if both policies were in place and there were ever a draft, people who wanted to dodge it could claim they were gay. Renzi obviously was surprised, having not considered that before. He stammered around, and said 'the recruiter could tell.' I asked on what basis, and then mentioned that in a draft there is no recruiter, you just show up and if you pass the physical you're in. So then he suggested a polygraph. I answered that I finally got it, that these young men and young women would all show up for the draft, and the first thing we'd do is hook them up to a machine and ask them questions about their sex lives. Renzi turned purple. I didn't think that such an idiot could possibly be elected to Congress so I let him go.

The idiot Eli verbally skewered was now-disgraced Arizona District-1 congressional representative Rick Renzi, who really lives in Virginia.

Such people just aren't very smart. They can only be motivated to put a few coherent thoughts together by large amounts of money, power, and perverse gratification. Otherwise they can't be bothered to think methodically.

Even then sometimes they do not manage their thinking in a logical and respectable way. Why not?

Perhaps they can't.

Eli, who blogs from the northeastern corner of Arizona, also posts at the venerable Night Bird's Fountain.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Poetry: Premonitions


The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans
Atop the broken universal clock:
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

Out painted stages fall apart by scenes
While all the actors halt in mortal shock:
The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans.

Streets crack through in havoc-split ravines
As the doomstruck city crumbles block by block:
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

Fractured glass flies down in smithereens;
Our lucky relics have been put in hock:
The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans.

The monkey's wrench has blasted all machines;
We never thought to hear the holy cock:
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

Too late to ask if end was worth the means,
Too late to calculate the toppling stock:
The idiot bird leaps out and drunken leans,
The hour is crowed in lunatic thirteens.

This was written by Plath in her early years sometime probably well before 1955. The villanelle scheme fascinated her and she employed this format many times when she was young, and continued to sometimes use a rather modofied terza rima even in her later Ariel voice.

It is included in the juvenilia section of Ted Hughs' 1980 The Collected Poems, Sylvia Plath with the caveat that Plath herself would probably never have been much concerned with its publication.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Lie Trail

Here we go again. Neil writes:

I think the light-rail system will be next on your list of flops. Because it is a subsidized transportation system, you at the newspaper and our esteemed politicians will probably never admit the folly. We, the taxpayers, will pay for it.

It's the highways and airstrip-wide surface streets that will flop. All of which, by the way, are tax-payer subsidized. There's crazy talk out in the west Valley about widening I-10 to allow for more cars and trucks. Because fossil fuels are renewable and without limit in availability, I suppose.

Here's a grade-school math problem: Bob and Betty and their 2.4 children buy a nice new home in Verrado.

Since they can't make enough as barristas and pool maintainence workers to pay their mortgage they keep their jobs in central Phoenix, a marathon-distance of 26 miles away. They have two vehicles, both sticker-rated for 20 miles-per-gallon on the highway, but every morning on their way downtown the 101 jams up and traffic crawls. Often it stops altogether. So let's generously presume they each average 13 miles-per-gallon to make the math simple enough.

They each then burn two gallons of gas going to work, and two coming back, for eight gallons a day. They combine trips, shopping and carting the kids around as economically as possible. Toss in another gallon a day for that.

Gasoline is going for well under $3/gallon at this time, but it's safe to assume it will hit that mark again. And besides it makes the math easy so it comes out to $27 per weekday for gas expenditures. $135 per week, assuming that they do no other auto travel.

That of course is completely unrealistic.

Instead of burning through $540 a month on gas they likely spend considerably more. Let's round it up to $600/month guessing that Bob and Betty each consume another half-tank of gas every four weeks. That's not much.

Will gas peak out at $3 per gallon? Of course not. Within a few years it will hit the $5 mark, then inexorably continue to climb. There will be bumps and shocks along the way. Perhaps one soon as a result of hurricane-related temporary production difficulties at Mexico's Cantarell oil field, which is slowly dying anyways. The Saudis have been pumping out all they can since 2004.

Maybe the Russians will discover a billion-barrel oilfield under the North Pole arctic seas and, you know, just give it to us for free. Probably not.

Anyways, the point is that gas will within the forseeable future cost $6/gallon here and that makes the math simple again, elegantly doubling Bob and Betty's routine transportation costs to way over $1000 per month assuming they cut down a little. Carpool maybe.

The cost of groceries and evrything else they buy will increase with transportation costs. We don't grow much to eat here in the Valley. It's all trucked in.

Neil complains:

We are off on the right foot in ruining beautiful Central Avenue and putting many small businesses out of business. The coup de grace will be the unsightly overhead wiring, the "no U-turn" signs, "no left turn" signs and the limited crossing of the new rail line.

But light rail is the current fad, and we in Phoenix will now have one along with another tax that will go on forever.

He's wrong, of course, because it's exactly those businesses along the rail route that will continue to have a steady flow of customers. We can only hope that our metropolitan planners will soon see the light and expand rail to all parts of the Valley.

We can use the empty highays as skateboard ramps.

Even though we in the United States transport a lot material by rail, James Kunstler is right on the mark when he says that we have a train system even Bulgaria would be ashamed of.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Knife Rack

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Carry the Day

As I walked down the hallway to place my bag lunch in the refridgerator in the staff lounge, I peeked into each patient room as I strolled by. One had a patient who was already up in her chair, and even before my stride took me far enough in front of the door to her room I could hear the tell-tale sound of her using her incentive spirometer. Out of bed, neat and clean, waiting for breakfast.

"That would be a good patient," I said to myself.

Then I heard the beeping of a bed alarm and a couple of the night-shift nurses quickly went to a room up ahead. As I neared that room door I could pick up on the smell and I heard the nurses coaxing the patient back to bed and talking about cleaning up.

"That one not so much," I thought as I wondered how my day was going to be.

After doing my little morning routine I received my assignment, which included both of those people. Even before getting report I was in with "the jumper," helpng to put Humpty back together again.

He'd pulled out his intravenous line and bloodied himself. His catheter had become disconnected from the drainage bag and urine leaked onto the floor along with IV solution; a "banana bag" of fluid that included riboflavin, which is yellow. Alcoholics get that and other vitamins such as thiamine and folic acid added to their regimen. Then there was the loose stool.

A yard sale.

He had Korsakov's Syndrome as well as pancreatitis and a constellation of other ailments. When the residents tried to explain to him that his pancreatitis was due to years of alcoholism, he would shortly thereafter ask them "how did I get pancreatitis?" and they'd explain it again but he'd forget.

When they also told him that his liver was severely damaged he asked them "Well what about my other ones?" not realizing that he only had just the one, He was under the impression that he had seven or eight other livers which would carry the day for him.

Korsakoffers also confabulate sometimes.

After a few hours he was doing better. Often such patients have difficulties on the night shift that do not manifest during daylight hours. People with various kinds of dementia can also have this sundowner's syndrome.

Anyways, I got another IV line into him and the doctors decided to have him go without the urinary catheter. I fed him enough Librium to stop an elephant stampede but he was wide awake all day.

Sometimes he would walk out to the nursing station wheeling his IV pole with him to ask us questions like "when would the doctors be here?" after, of course, they had just left his room.

The other patient was recovering from the removal of a five-centimeter spindle-cell tumor from their right lung. Her chest tubes were out, we pulled the epidural line and placed a little dressing over its insertion site, and she was doing well but had developed atrial fibrillation. She spent another night and converted to normal sinus rhythm after a few bouts of aberrantly-conducted a-fib in the 160's.

Actually, she converted just as one of the pharmacists was handing me a bag of Amiodarone to hang along with Cardizem. She ended up taking those medications just orally.

Her tumor biopsies came back benign. The photographs of it in the chart showed a neat little oval ball. She'd never been a smoker and did not work in a suspect enviroment. Nobody could really explain how it had developed, but it was gone now and not likely to recur.

The main difference between the two patients was that one had participated in their own healthcare, on a life-long basis, and the other obviously had made alternative plans. It hadn't worked out so well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Snail and Post

soro-soro nobore
fuji no yama

"little snail
inch by inch, climb
Mount Fuji!"

Issa, 1763-1827

But I repeat myself.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jimmy Eat Grain Elevator

Michael T. Klare has this to say in AlterNet:

Peak-oil theorists have long contended that the first half of the world's oil to be extracted and consumed will be the easy half. They are referring, of course, to the oil that's found on shore or near to shore; oil close to the surface and concentrated in large reservoirs; oil produced in friendly, safe, and welcoming places.

The other half -- what (if they are right) is left of the world's petroleum supply -- is the tough oil. They mean oil that's buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places. An oil investor's eye-view of our energy planet today quickly reveals that we already seem to be entering the tough-oil era.

The article goes to quote speculation from one John Kildruff, and analyst for futures brokerage firm Man Financial, that "we're only a headline of significance away from $100 oil."

The price of oil compounds itself, because it takes fuel to transport fuel.

It takes fuel to transport everything, and these days most people live a long way from their food sources, which is why a gallon of milk now lists for $4.99 without your grocery-store discount card.

As grain sources are diverted into biofuels production we will see yet another upward pressure on food prices, as this poor fellow notes in the Arizona Republic[an]:

Associated Press reports: "The boom in biofuels is also pushing up corn prices and, as a result, making animal feed more expensive. Farmers have responded by raising milk prices." And that, "Milk prices hit a record last month in the United States, where consumers paid an average $3.80 a gallon, compared to $3.29 in January, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It forecasts prices will remain high throughout the year."

The New York Sun reports: "The production of ethanol, which is made from corn, is one major reason classic cuts of prime beef are becoming more and more expensive."

The writer of this LTTE lays the blame for this at the feet of "fools pushing corn-based ethanol," like they have other alternatives. They don't. Our economy, as are all industrial/technological societies over the whole planet, is entirely beholden to cheap carbon fuels.

We do not really have a choice between growing corn for fuel and growing corn for food, because the corn crops themselves are completely dependent on natural-gas derived fertilizers for much of their production. It's not an either/or proposition.

When you eat a bowl of Wheaties the calories in that cereal come significantly from fossil fuels, not just from soil, water, and photosynthesis.

That's why I do not have much confidence that biofuels will in any way allow us to continue the great American automobile-based lifestyle. It takes fossil fuel fertizilers to grow corn which in turn will be refined into petrol substitutes. That makes sense?


Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food And the Coming Crisis in Agriculture,by Dale Allen Pfeiffer. I'm done reading my copy. If you want me to I will gladly ship it to anyone who'd like to read it themselves. Just e-mail me.

I rambled a bit. Essentially I wanted to again say that oil prices are going up, we depend on oil for food production, and modern agriculture is therefore unsustainable. Current world populations are therefore also unsustainable. So why am I living in a desert with five million other people?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Not So Fast

The patient was sitting up at their bedside eating breakfast. Under the hospital gown they were wearing a pair of their own shorts. I noticed two syringes protruding from the right-side front pocket. The patient turned to take the pills, including their Dilaudid, and as they shifted the syringes slipped out and fell on the bed. I discreetly palmed these as I chatted up the patient.

One of the syringes was the little insulin kind with a built-in needle. It was not of the same variety that we used in the hospital; must've been one of the patient's own.

The other item was a plain empty five-milliliter syringe. There was tape residue and remains on the end of it, for whatever reason.

Another time I walked into the room just after the patient had been up to the bathroom. They were back in bed, and there was a tourniquet still tied around his arm; the arm that didn't have raging cellulitis. When I removed the tourniquet they said they didn't know how it got there. A little wad of bloody toilet paper covered the obvious injection site at their wrist.

The day before we'd put an empty needlebox in the room and taped over the opening. None of us were to use it for sharps disposal, because on previous admissions this patient had somehow managed to get syringes from one of these. But somebody had dropped needles in there on the nightshift. A lab technician who didn't know the patient, or a sleepy-headed nurse, whatever.

The lock that held the needlebox in place had been rigged open somehow, so I took away the whole thing. The team of residents was at the desk outside the "dirty room" so after I dropped off the sharps container I told them these little stories.

The lead resident walked to the patient room and told them that they should read up on Munchausen's, and of course the patient took great offense. A lifetime addicted to intravenous drugs was something they could handle, but carrying a diagnosis of Munchausen's Syndrome was not something they wished to bear.

There was a needle cap on the bathroom counter in the patient's room, and later when I took in their supper there was yet another cap on the bed next to them. And their "bad" arm was looking even worse. Redder and more swollen.

During the previous admission a nurse had discovered the patient skin-popping dirty and soapy basin water with a syringe they'd scrounged someplace. They'd just had surgery to treat an arm abscess and I guess they were unhappy with its healing process; it was apparently going too well. So they fixed that.

With patients like this one I always watch them take their pills, but maybe they had cheeked the hydromorphone and later dissolved it and shot it up. Or maybe they were just booting soiled tapwater to make their arm even sicker. Maybe both. Hey, why not?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Don't Fence Me In Brownsville


A proposed fence along the Mexico-U.S. border could leave a portion of the University of Texas at Brownsville and a Texas Southmost College campus on the Mexican side of the fence, a university official said Monday.

"I don't think it would be appropriate to fence off the university on the Mexican side of the fence," Antonio D. Zavaleta, UTB-TSC vice president for external affairs, said he told a government official.

It seems like the International, Technology, Education and Commerce campus would be "affected" if a border fence were to be built. Rather inconvenient, that.

Maybe V.P. for External Affairs (WTF-ever that means) Zavaleta could have a chat with the Palestinians about this. They seem to have some experience with such things.



Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

Sylvia Plath

She wrote this in late 1959 while staying at Yaddo, a retreat in northern New York. The grounds of the estate feature damp woodlots, statue gardens, ponds, and privacy. The gardens are open to the public but any attempt to get near the residences is quickly halted by groundspeople, as I myself discovered as a teenager bicycling around Saratoga Springs.

Immersed in the the works of Ted Roethke and the fertile isolation that is Yaddo, the first hints of her "Ariel" voice emerged. The terza rima she employed in her adolescent poetry is here hysterically compressed, the wordplay sardonic, and the rhythm of it all just grabs you by the seat.

And we're in.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Flip That Box

Sprawl-Busters has completed its annual inventory of "available buildings" that the nation's largest retail real estate company is hoping to unload. We have done this scan annually around this time of the year ever since the growing problem of empty stores was brought to our attention in 1999. As of today, Wal-Mart Realty has a total of 356 buildings for sale or lease, a total of 26,699,678 million square feet of empty stores. That's enough empty space to fill up 534 football fields. This phenomenal figure makes Wal-Mart the King of Dead Air in America and the world. No other retailer has this many dead stores in its inventory.

From Associated Content:

When a Wal-Mart closes, usually to move to a bigger location and become a Supercenter, the land it previously occupied sits unused. At any given time, over 300 closed Wal-Marts lie vacant in America. Most big-box retailers put certain rules on their unused land to cut back on competition, which means another big-box retailer can't come in and use that space.

The Parthenon is empty, too. But at least it looks good.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Listen to Your Mother

From the Houston Chronicle:

More than 1,000 civilian contractors have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion more than four years ago, according to Labor Department records made available Tuesday.


The civilian contractor figures are compiled by the Labor Department's Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, which tracks workers' compensation claims by injured workers or families of slain contractors under the federal Defense Base Act.

But these numbers likely do not tell the whole story.

"The data show the number of cases reported to the (Labor Department), not the number of injuries or deaths which occurred," Labor Department official Miranda Chiu wrote in a message to Schakowsky.

Chiu seems to be saying that there are more deaths which have so far gone uncounted. You just have to wonder why casualties, especially of civilians, are going unreported. Why not get the numbers out? At this point, would numbers change anybody's opinions about this war?

From the John Hopkins study:

As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. The deaths from all causes—violent and non-violent—are over and above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion.

Like I said, one side will cheer, the opposition will jeer, everyone's already made up their mind about this already. And the truth always comes out anyways.

Cash Black

Georgia O'Keefe: "Drawing No. 9 is the drawing of a headache. It was a very bad headache. Well, I had the headache, why not do something with it?"

More purple, blue, and black. There are many many shades and tones of black and a plenitude of odd shapes that resemble nothing but other odd shapes.

But with shimmering black snow.

From the American College of Occupational and Enviromental Medicine:

"Analyses were run for both a major financial services corporation and a representative U.S. company. The major financial services corporation, with 87,821 employees, is projected to lose 538 person-years annually, at an estimated cost of $23.8 million. A representative U.S. company with 10,000 employees is projected to lose 46.0 person-years of productive effort annually as a result of migraine, valued at approximately $1.94 million."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


He was sitting up in his chair, newspaper before him, watching television. He looked good on the monitor and his last pressure was beaucoup normal. I don't know what he was even doing there. I guess it was just too late in the evening to discharge him.

His was a fairly routine heart attack. Chest pain, a ride to the hospital, labwork and EKG in the emergency department. Toss in an aspirin, nitroglycerin, morphine, and a trip to the cardiac catheterization lab... Next thing you know, it's suppertime.

While I checked him over he seemed rather focused upon the television. It was a documentary.

"I was there," he said. The television program was about the Cuban missle crisis.

"I was on that ship," he said, indicationg one of the boats shown in old black-and-white contemporary news footage. He added that later on, after the whole thing had blown over, JFK had boarded and presented commendations to the crew.

I was amazed and told him so. I also said that I was very proud of him for his service. He said that it was nothing; really nothing, and that he wasn't even frightened by the prospect of nuclear confrontation because he knew that Krushchev wasn't that crazy.

"They didn't have any missles," he said, and he went on to say that he believed that at that time, the U.S.S.R. had a very limited arsenal of nuclear weapons anyways and we'd blow them off the planet if they started anything.

I said he should probably write a book about this, but he said "That's all the world needs is another book about politicians getting into pissing contests with each other." He was very grateful that "nobody got hurt," though, and that was the thing about it that pleased him the most.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Something You Probably Only Do Once in Your Life

She said that she couldn't use a baby carriage because then everybody would want to see "the baby." So the plan was to sneak it in by the end stairwell in a backpack.

All the staff was in on this little scheme; even Luanne the unit manager gave it a wink and a nod. Janine stopped in and let me know that Mary was outside the back stair entrance from the visitors parking lot with her secret package. The doors were locked from the outside, but we could open them from within for emergencies and all that.

Janine held the door open to our unit while I went down the steps and let Mary in and up we went to the ward.

"He's so quiet," I said, and Mary replied that she'd given him a box of crackers to keep him busy. "Animal crackers," she said, "His favorite."

Mary was an LPN who had worked with us for a couple years. Her father was an itinerent fair worker and she didn't see him very much, though she said that they were really very close. She was always "daddy's little girl" even though his life lately had pretty much revolved around his "little boy."

He was working the local county fair when he became weak and fell. At first dehydration was suspected but it turned out to be a massive stroke which left him paralysed and unable to speak. It would be impossible for him to resume his work and it was expected that he would round out his years in a long-term-care facility.

He'd worked the fair circuits for years, going from state to state, town to town, year after year, but that was all over for him now.

He was an organ-grinder. He did a comedic patter while his monkey collected money from onlookers and he played corny tunes on his music-box. And he earned about twice as much money that nurses did in any given year of full-time work. We nurses had agreed that he deserved higher pay than us because he was "a specialist."

We were smuggling his monkey into the hospital so they could be together for maybe the last time.

They Bring Futures

Talking To Little Birdies

Not a peep out of you now
After the bedlam early this morning.
Are you begging pardon of me
Hidden up there among the leaves,
Or are your brains momentarily overtaxed?

You savvy a few things I don't:
The overlooked sunflower seed worth a holler;
The traffic of cats in the yard;
Strangers leaving the widow's house,
Tieless and wearing crooked grins.

Or have you got wind of the world's news?
Some new horror I haven't heard about yet?
Which one of you was so bold as to warn me,
Our sweet setup is in danger?

Kids are playing soldiers down the road,
Pointing their rifles and playing dead.
Little birdies, are you sneaking wary looks
In the thick foliage as you hear me say this?

Charles Simic, Poet Laureate

(Image from The Birds.)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Water Features