Monday, October 25, 2010

A Flight of Comorants

It is not unthinkable to propose that any given person's, say for example, musical talent, lies along a gradient. Some people are naturally very good musicians, Mozart probably being the best example of one born with supreme innate musical ability. Similarly, some people are good ball players and some people are not.

I would consider that the ability to change your mind also lies along a spectrum. At the upper end of such a scale there are people who change their minds quite easily as new evidence presents itself. Scientists do this. And at the other end of the scale there are people who cannot change their minds at all.

Such people may even be able to hold two contradictory ideas at once in their heads; even their own beliefs will not persuade them to change their thinking. We all know such people. We see them on television all the time. Often we put these people in positions of leadership in political or religious matters.


Your fellow citizens do not all like you. Sorry. Some of them would slit your throat for fifty bucks; others might do so just for kicks. They do not care that your children receive access to education. They would ship your job overseas to pay a third-world laborer mere pennies if they could. Many already have. Of course there are some nice people. Like nurses, who generally are a supportive and social lot. But aren't they the exception?

We seem to villify and hate one another. What's the point of even having a country if we are all behaving like self-centered greedy little monads? The very idea of having a country for such people seems ridiculous. I have to wonder if "countries" even present our species with evolutionary disadvantages. All the better for us to kill one another off.


Consider this news:

"A 9-year-old boy was flown to a hospital after he was found lying unconscious in a street in Gilbert Sunday afternoon.


It was unclear whether the other occupants of the car knew the boy had fallen out or if they had left the scene."


Cross Bayou Elementary School is just down the street from the hospice that treated Terri Schiavo back when that was all over the news. A man called the school one day during the protests and said that he was going to hold the entire school hostage and kill a young student every ten minutes unless feedings were resumed for Schiavo.

School officials just couldn't take anymore and over that weekend they abandoned Cross Bayou Elementary.

Things are back to normal there now.


Hilary Hahn's new recording of the Higdon concerto, which was written for her, coupled with the Tchaikovsky. Talk about talent. This music is a treasure. I'm especially fond of the Higdon. If you knew me, you would already know that.


We had brunch yesterday at St. Francis. It was excellent. Outside and down a few seats from us a hipster and a young woman were getting to know one another. "I feel sorry for people," I said to my spouse, "Because they have to get to know one another. It's so much easier with a person when you already know them." The orange juice was freshly-squeezed.


Nursing stuff:

We were in the car waiting at the corner of 19th Avenue to turn onto Camelback. A woman staggered through the crosswalk in front of us. She looked to be about fifty, or maybe thirty-five-going-on-fifty-five. Her blue eyes stared blankly ahead. "What's she on?" my spouse asked me. "Probably just alcohol," I replied.

When a staggering middle-aged alcoholic woman looks at the sea, how does she look at it and what does she see? Is the ocean a repository of memories for her? Does she, like Citizen Cane, see Rosebud? or does she see herself merely drowning?

"How do you look at the sea" is the question I silently ask of the patients I work with.


Girls surfing in Gaza.

“What do you wear when you swim in America?” she asks. I hesitate before replying, “Not much.”

Rawand nods sagely. “When you surf in America, do people stare at you?”

“No,” I answer.

“They do here,” she sighs.

Surfing in Gaza. That is so cool. It might just save the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Chattering of Starlings

The Greek hoplites, ountnumbered at least 20,000 to 10,000 at Marathon, had to attack the Persians early in the day. They were basically done slaughtering them by about 9 a.m. which gave them time to run 25 miles back to Athens to protect it from invading Persian ships. The famous "marathon run" was not made by Phedipides. Instead, the Greek army made the run. Phedipedes did however run from Athens to Sparta, about 140 miles, to implore them for help. That, amazingly, took him about a day-and-a-half one-way. The Spartans, being sticklers for religious observation, said they'd come help fight when the moon was right. 6,400 Persians will killed at Marathon, while the wildly outnumbered Greeks lost 192 men and their allies the Plataeans lost 11.

Knowledge is constantly subject to revision. Belief, not so much.

Everyone must drink their own tea. But the cat you pet belongs to no one.

Twenty-six out of the approximately 8,600 species of birds use tools. Even then only a few individual birds have been observed to do so. Good for them.

The Greeks made a thorough counting of Persian bodies on the Marathon plains because they had promised the goddess Athena that they would sacrifice a goat for every enemy soldier killed. 6,400 was way too many, so they made arrangements to offer the goats on an installment plan of 500 per year. That's still a lot of goats.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Trip of Dotterel

When I am inserting a peripheral venous catheter into someone's vein, I am doing nothing. When I am in love I am doing nothing. When I am picking up groceries I am doing nothing. This is how I survive. By doing as little as possible.

The ancient Persians carried large wicker shields that protected them from arrows and spears. They would march their line to within about one-hundred meters of the opposing army and set up their shields like a wall. From behind this they would take to their bows and darken the sky with arrows. After this initial attack, the cavalry would ride in among the enemy and do battle with those who had not been killed or injured by the archers. Meanwhile the foot-soldiers would again attack but now with their spears and swords. They were usually successful.

We are repeating a more recent past.

It looked like asystole to me. I was assigned to the defibrillator so I figured the doctor would call it done and I could leave and get on to other things. "It could be fine v-fib," he said and he asked me to shock the patient again. We all looked at each other. "Clear?" I said, and then I pressed the button for 360 joules. The husband of the patient was standing in the corner of the room. Nobody was explaining anything to him. I could see that he was on the verge of tears.

Rachel Podger is my favorite Vivaldi player and her solo Bach is great, too. She specializes in Baroque violin, but I'd really like to hear her do the Beethoven concerto someday.

An omniscient and omnipotent deity would know what he was going to do next. Indeed, he would have to do what he was going to do next, and he'd know it. He would be like Sisyphus.

It pleases me that dogs dream.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

White Roof Walk Us

We live smack in the middle, geometrically, of Phoenix.

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As you move east from Central Avenue, every fourth street is zoned for retail. 12th has the car wash, a nice restaurant, a convenience store, a liquor shop, and a coin laundromat. One of the bays of the do-it-yourself carwash has been fenced and converted into a "dogwash." Shrimpbowl and friends can always make a few bucks by sudsing up the dogz.

Atrios came to our house and in the interests of energy reflection painted the roof white.

16th street has several gourmet restaurants as well as fast food. There's a running store, an electronics trade and repair place, a couple coffee shops including a drive-through Starbucks, an excellent butcher shop, a Japanese bakery, and many other delights. The Italian grocer and the Polish bakery are also nice to have around.

The next major corner north (a few streets up and about a ten-minute walk from home) has a large local chain grocer and a drugstore that mostly sells wines and spirits; I assume that because half the store is occupied by such. You can eat sushi while the woman at the dry-cleaners fixes buttons missing from clothing you dropped off to be mended there.

The other way down 16th leads to the corner with the school and Senator McCain's office, outside which is encamped a group in support of the Dream Act.

I like the idea of universal education. It should be free or at least easily affordable to all who work to pursue it to any level they wish. What would result? Would we end up a nation with bus-drivers who held doctorate degrees?

Who's to say.

I am convinced of one thing though: education makes us better.


That's another thing that education can make us.