Archive for Life and/or Death

The rest is silence

Our local BBS community ranged in age from twelve to me to a few years beyond that, which was a good thing, especially since none of us had any reason to pull rank on anyone else.

We lost a member this morning. The triple whammy — first epilepsy, then Parkinson’s, then cancer — took its toll. Even those of us who saw it coming didn’t quite believe it.

More than this, I cannot say, at least for now.

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Live at the 38th

The Z Man considers the fate of North Korea:

One thing that is known is that North Korea knows they cannot win a war against the South. The proof of that is how they have organized their military. Those artillery pieces on the border are a one-shot threat. They get about 72 hours to inflict as much damage as possible, until US air power takes them out. If they play this card, they forgo their opportunity to send their infantry and armor south. Instead, the North will have to wage a defensive war, hoping the South elects a negotiated end rather than an invasion.

This means their best card to play in this game just about guarantees their destruction, either from a land invasion or an extended air campaign. It would certainly end the Kim family dynasty. That makes the threat significantly less credible. The US can pressure China or make a deal with China, to get help putting the screws to the Kim regime, knowing that the Koreans only have a doomsday card to play. In other words, the doomsday card prevents a US invasion, but does not prevent economic war.

And what of those Other Players, anyway?

Of course, it’s possible that the math has changed for the Chinese. Right now is peak China economically and demographically. Now is the best chance they will have to resolve their Korean problem. A decade from now, when China has an aging population and the North Koreans have the ability to strike Beijing, the Americans may not be interested in helping with this problem. The best time to address tough problems is when you have the resources to address them. There is no better time than now for China.

There’s also the Trump factor. Previous presidents have been willing to accept the options presented to them by the foreign policy establishment. Trump is psychologically incapable of accepting the options presented to him for anything. Everyone who has done deals with him says the same thing. Trump thrives under pressure, so he puts everyone under pressure. He’s sure he can wheel and deal with anyone under pressure, so that’s how he changes the negotiating table. He creates uncertainty and puts everyone under the gun.

That seems to be what he is trying to do with Asia. On the one hand, he is encouraging Japan to build out their military and take a more active role in policing the region. This puts enormous pressure on China. He’s helping the South Koreans get ready for war, which puts pressure on the North and on their relationship with China. All of a sudden, the US is doing things very different in Asia. Trump’s willingness to change course on a dime adds an air of unpredictability to him, which always makes Asian leaders nervous.

Maybe “under the gun” wasn’t the best possible choice of words. But that’s Trump’s M.O., and always has been.

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The next step in Media Hatred

Last week:

Walmart has pulled a T-shirt which encouraged the lynching of journalists.

The $18.99 T-shirt bearing the message “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” was listed on through third-party seller Teespring.

Walmart removed it after a journalist advocacy group told the retailer it found the shirt threatening.

This week:

A co-owner of the Today’s News-Herald was poisoned with what could have been lethal doses of thallium and other chemicals, according to leading toxicology and medical experts.

After experiencing prolonged, unexplained illness with severe symptoms earlier this year, Joseph Soldwedel sought medical treatment and forensic laboratory testing. Soldwedel is president of Prescott Valley-based Western News & Info.

“The test findings are highly suggestive, but not confirmatory, of an intentional poisoning with an intent to kill,” said Dr. Ernest P. Chiodo, one of the nation’s leading experts in forensic toxicology who reviewed Soldwedel’s test results.

Environmental factors? Not likely:

Doctors concluded that Soldwedel, 65, takes no medications that contain these heavy metals or other toxins, and had no known environmental or occupational exposures to thallium. Water tests conducted at Soldwedel’s places of residence showed no trace of toxic chemicals.

Mr Soldwedel said “he has a good idea” about the identity of the poisoner, but is not ready to go public until law enforcement has a better handle on things. The perp, I suggest, should be hanged by a person wearing a T-shirt.

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Cooler than cremation

This has been out for a while, but I hadn’t seen much of anything about it until now:

The newest comer on the eco-burial stage is a process called Promession, or put more plainly, freeze-drying. Invented by Swedish marine biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, the process involves immersing the corpse in liquid nitrogen, which makes it very brittle. Vibrations shake the body apart and the water is evaporated away in a special vacuum chamber. Next, a separator filters out any mercury fillings or surgical implants, and the powdered remains are laid to rest in a shallow grave.

With a shallow burial, oxygen and water can mix with the powdered remains, turning them into compost.

Promessa, the firm founded by Wiigh-Mäsak to promote the technology, has a Web site.

(Suggested by our own Holly H.)

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Yellow and porous

Clearly this explains the absorbent little fellow’s enduring popularity:

Didn’t take too long to find this one:

Whelk Attack: He and the rest of Bikini Bottomites are eaten by infected whelks.

This, however, is something to savor:

Jellyfishing: A jellyfish stings Squidward while he is riding his bike, causing him to lose control and ride off a cliff, with an unusual and unexplained nuclear explosion as he hits the ground. The incident leaves Squidward in an electric wheelchair with a full body cast that prevents him from any body movement. And during the welcome party SpongeBob and Patrick had thrown, Patrick blows piping hot soup in his face. Then during when SpongeBob, Patrick and Squidward are at Jellyfish Fields for jellyfishing. Patrick stabs a jellyfish net through his casted hand and when Squidward got a jellyfish he got zapped by a giant jellyfish. This leaves Squidward in an even fuller body cast on an electric bed and at the end of the episode the giant jellyfish returns and zaps Squidward again breaking his body cast.

Littlest Pet Shop, it isn’t.

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It has come to this

The hardest of hard luck befalls some of us:

Melody was in a car accident. It was a hit and run. This is where she had to get a rod in her leg. When that failed, she had her leg amputated. With all the medical bills, she was left homeless. From here she got a flesh eating bacteria virus. She made it though, but after that she had to start getting dialysis every week. Her ports continued to get clogged, so she was always going through alot of surgeries and complications. She passed away from a massive heart attack. At this time we are unsure of the cause of this.

Any help would be great. Thank you.

Melody was a cousin of mine; her mom was my Aunt Nena. She was fifty years old, and that’s too early to say goodbye.

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Pretty much petered out

Merely being dead doesn’t make you immune to peepers and gawkers:

A Denver nursing staff obsessed with another staff got suspended after they opened a dead man’s body bag to look at his staff one last time.

Five nurses at Denver Health Medical Center (who apparently are charter members of Necrophilia, Inc.) were vitally interested in the size of a man’s genitals, and not only uncovered him while he was incapacitated but even opened his body bag after he was dead to take another look.

The nurses’ actions, conducted between March 31 and April 3, were reported on May 8 after another nurse who was not part of the peeping group heard one of them make a comment about what had occurred. The nurse then reported the remark to hospital staff.

That prompted the group of nurses to be suspended for three weeks, according to Denver Health Medical Center spokesman Josh Rasmussen. He added that the nurses received discipline considered “serious,” but four nurses later returned to work. The discipline would be recorded in the nurses’ personal files, he said.

The late Milton Berle was not available for comment.

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Ferret out (almost)

The black-footed ferret was declared extinct in 1979; two years later, their condition was upgraded to Not Quite Extinct when Lucille Hogg’s dog brought a dead black-footed ferret to her door in Meeteetse, Wyoming.

The road back has been long, with many a winding turn, but progress has been made:

The black-footed ferret population near Meeteetse, Wyo. is getting a boost. Last July, 35 black-footed ferrets were released on the Lazy BV and Pitchfork ranches. Now biologists have found wild born kits at the site.

McG remembers those ferretless days:

[Wyoming] Game and Fish biologists were having to release captive-born ferrets to bolster the numbers of the wild population, but ferrets kinda know how to make more ferrets on their own, so it was only a matter of time before they stopped needing the fold-out couch in dad’s basement.

All this material should be considered NSFPD: Not Safe for Prairie Dogs.

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Meanwhile on the Gulf

Several Facebook friends with Houston connections posted this. I’m not sure of the original source.

Things non-Houstonians need to understand:

1. The streets and many of the public parks here are designed to flood. We sit just 35 feet above sea level, and most of the city is as flat as a pool table. We average about 50 inches of rain a year. The streets and parks serve as temporary retention ponds, accommodating slow, steady drainage through our bayous.

2. We average about 50 inches of rain a year, but in the last 48 hours, many areas of greater Houston received 25 to 30 inches of rain. That’s six to nine months’ worth of rain, in two days. The drainage system, which works well in normal conditions, was overwhelmed. Officials are calling this an “800 year flood”: that means there was a one in 800 chance of its occurrence. Even with advance notice, there was little means of preparing for this.

3. It is impossible to evacuate a city the size of Houston. Harris County is 1700+ square miles, with a population of 6.5 million people. How do you evacuate 6.5 million people? During the hours leading to Hurricane Rita’s landfall, tens of thousands of Houstonians attempted evacuation. The traffic jams lasted for days. One hundred people died. So far, six Houstonians have died in Hurricane Harvey, all of them (as far as I have heard) drowned in their automobiles. For more than a decade, the local mantra has been “shelter in place and hunker down.” That’s hard, but it’s the right approach.

4. Some outsiders are treating this disaster with schadenfreude: Texans helped elect an anti-big government president, and now we’re going to need big government help. Houston is one of the bluest spots in Texas, and voted Clinton in 2016. Suggesting this is karmic payback for backing Trump is as inaccurate (and offensive) as Pat Robertson’s suggestion that Hurricane Katrina was God smiting sinners. We really aren’t thinking Red or Blue right now. We are taking a royal beating, all of us. Disasters don’t care about ideology.

5. You are going to feel this. Gasoline and other oil-refined products (everything from PVC pipe to dry cleaning fluid) will rise in price. The stock market will take a hit. New Orleans is a fantastic city, but it’s not a major economic force. Houston is the center of the nation’s energy industry. It’s home to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. And 85% of it is under water. It may be this way for weeks.

And in the meantime, there’s baseball, somewhere:

I checked this with a sports guy at Fox 26 Houston:


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Plenty of longevity

It took a while for this to sink in:

The Civil War may have ended 152 years ago, but for Irene Triplett, it still continues in a way far more tangible than recent fights over Confederate monuments.

For Triplett, 87, the Civil War means a monthly check for $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Triplett is the sole surviving person receiving a Civil War pension from the VA.

Her father Moses Triplett (1846-1938) served in the Confederate army, but deserted right before Gettysburg. His first wife died in the early 1920s, and he remarried in 1924, at the age of 76; his new bride, Elida Hall, wasn’t yet out of her twenties. They had one child: Irene.

According to the VA, 84 surviving spouses and children receive benefits tied to the Spanish-American War, which was fought in 1898.

Still, this is nearly as weird as the revelation that John Tyler (1790-1862), 10th President of the United States, has two grandsons still living.

(Via Fark.)

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N-word, indeed

I remember reading this when I was younger:

The line following that one got Dick Gregory hired by the Playboy Club in Chicago by Hugh Hefner himself, circa 1961:

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

At least once in the retelling, he specified where he kissed that chicken.

And then there was this:

The first time I was called “nigger” was in a little town called Mishawaka, Indiana, which just sounds like something’s going to happen. Guy yelled, “Get off the stage, nigger!” And I said, “Wow, did you hear that? He just called me the Lone Ranger’s horse, Trigger. That got a big laugh and then people were comfortable. I put it into my contract: Every time you say that I make another $50,000.

Trigger was actually Roy Rogers’ horse, but no matter. There was no one quite like Dick Gregory, and he kept doing live shows right up until the end. (Alas, he’ll never make it to his scheduled fall date at Oklahoma City’s Tower Theater.)

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Goodbye, Charlie

File this under “She told you so”:

Remember when Mrs. Palin said she didn’t want some death panel deciding whether her son lives or dies? (Trig was born with a genetic condition as well … who gets to decide whether his quality of life is sufficient to fight for?) she was derided and laughed at. Oh, that dumb hick! (how non-judgmental and tolerant!). The words “death panel” do not appear anywhere in the document! Ha ha! Ho ho! (Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon … where did I read that? Hmmm.)

That would never happen, they said. You’re just fear-mongering. LIES!

So in one of their most vaunted examples of Medical Utopia™, exactly what Mrs. Palin was talking about actually happens, the response is “Stop talking about it.” “Shut Up!”

As Mr. Klavan pointed out years ago, “Shut Up” is typically the central thesis of their argument when anyone argues back.

It’s all they have. And they know it.

And through it all, it was almost lost that what they’re really exposing here — when you read between the lines — is not so much that they thought Mrs. Palin was wrong. No.

It’s that they were OK with the death panels from the beginning.

Of course they were. Were it One Of Them, the outcry would be loud and furious. But Those Other People? Screw ’em. One more carbon footprint erased.

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You can’t take it with you

But this guy says he’s going to try:

I’ve decided I’m going to try and take it all with me. The cars are to be crushed and buried in plots next to me (at the executors’ expense), my bank accounts will hopefully be cleaned out by me prior to my demise and any other remaining trinkets (automobilia, LPs, tapes, Quad stuff, etc) is to be burned.

Why? Well, five generations of my family have died without wills leaving the survivors to their own devices. This has caused many family members’ true colors to emerge what with the theft, the lying, and general ridiculousness that comes when family members feel they are entitled.

Therefore, since I have no children, no spouse and will probably be outlived by a bunch of cousins whom I care nothing for (and the feelings are reciprocated), I’m going to leave them nothing but emptiness and debt.

Well, I might leave one of them a dollar in the hopes the little ******* might finally learn the value of a dollar.

I’ve got plenty of emptiness to show, but the only debt I owe is on the house, and while it’s a substantial sum, it’s far less than the value of the property.

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When it doesn’t matter anymore

Good old Aubrey McClendon. I wasn’t intending to follow his example this morning when I floored it and headed for that brick wall. But after the smoke cleared and I was facing the opposite direction, I figured out that this was the next warning before everything comes to a permanent halt.

And having survived this instant, I began to wonder why: would it not have made more sense to take me out of the picture once and for all? This is the perfect scenario, after all: no one else was affected. I hate the thought of taking someone with me when I go.

So maybe, underneath it all, I was trying to hurry along the process, since life itself is becoming increasingly meaningless and my physical body is nowhere near the road to recovery.

Maybe it is time for me to go.

Update, 5 pm: Total loss. And it gets funnier: well, at least it’s at the body shop, right? Wrong-O, Buffalo Bob. They don’t work on crummy old salvage cars.

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Drop dead already

One year after “ambulatory” was stricken from my vocabulary, I mourn for a moment; and then I contemplate the fate of someone far worse off than I am.

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You are not out

And the umpire meant it, too:

Major League Baseball umpire John Tumpane reportedly saved a woman from a railing on the Roberto Clemente Bridge Wednesday afternoon.

According to Stephen J. Nesbitt and Steph Chambers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tumpane saw a woman climbing over a railing above the Allegheny River and went over and “locked both arms around her back.”

“At times, she dangled both feet off the bridge’s edge, putting her full weight in his arms,” Nesbitt and Chambers wrote, but he prevented her from falling to the river until police and an ambulance arrived and helped lift her back over the railing.

Tumpane had an emotional conversation with the woman, making sure to express how much he cared for her despite her protestations to the contrary.

“I was thinking, ‘God, this has got to be a good ending, not a bad ending,’ and held on for dear life,” Tumpane said. “She said, ‘You don’t care about me.’ I said, ‘I care.’ She said, ‘I just want to end it right now. I want to be in a better place.’ I said, ‘You’re going to be all right.'”

She was taken to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with non-life-threatening injuries; he went on to PNC Park, where the Pirates defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-2.

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Not at all a delight

Those of us of a certain age will hear “whipped cream” and think something like this:

Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

And then they’ll be horrified by this news:

A popular fitness blogger and Instagram model in France died after a pressurized canister used for dispensing whipped cream exploded, hitting her in the chest.

Rebecca Burger’s death from the Saturday incident was announced on social media Wednesday by her family, who warned of the potential risks of defective whip cream dispensers.

The post published on Burger’s Instagram page to her more than 150,000 followers read:

“Here’s an example of the cartridge/siphon for Chantilly cream that exploded and struck Rebecca’s chest, killing her. Take note: the cartridge that caused her death was sealed. Do not use this type of device in your home! Tens of thousands of these appliances are still in circulation.”

According to a leading French consumer magazine, two people were gravely injured by this sort of contraption in 2014. Turns out what makes it go is, um, nitrous oxide. Yep. The same stuff the kid two doors down spent the weekend installing in his Civic before he blew up the engine.

My advice? Stick to safer whipped cream, as offered by Herb Alpert and Allen Toussaint.

(Via Martin Lieberman.)

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Killers R Us

The Z Man tosses up some startling statistics:

Currently [Baltimore] is on pace for over 360 murders and we are just getting into peak killing season. Usually, the winter tamps down the murder rates as it is just not as much fun to pop a cap in an ass when it is snowing sideways. Similarly, the spring has been very rainy and gangsters tend not to like going out to murder people for their sneakers when it is raining. In other words, it’s possible there is a lot of pent up demand for murder that will now be unleashed with the summer weather.

To put this in context, Boston has about 650,000 residents. People think the city is much bigger, but that’s because of the surrounding cities and towns bunched in next to Boston give the feel of a much larger metropolis. Baltimore is around 600,000 people, if the census is correct, which no one thinks is true. Baltimore has a strong incentive to overstate their numbers as they get more Federal money as a result. Boston is on pace for about 40 murders this year, while Baltimore will have 350.

I looked at those population numbers, and I said to myself, “Self, can you name a city with a population between Boston’s and Baltimore’s?”

Of course I can. There were 78 homicides in Oklahoma City in 2016; right now, we’re on pace for 70 in 2017.

2016 Census estimates: Boston, 673,184; OKC, 638,387; Baltimore, 614,664.

For reference, 1950 Census figures: Baltimore, 949,708; Boston, 801,444; OKC, 243,504.

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Accelerated evolution

Or maybe that’s devolution, given the outcome:

Ohio is apparently on pace for ten thousand overdose deaths this year.

Ten thousand.

Bear in mind that Michael Bloomberg and all his concerned Mommy minions go completely off their nut at thirty-something thousand firearm deaths nationwide, and a good chunk of those are suicides who meant to die. Meanwhile ten thousand people in just one state inadvertently offed themselves trying to catch a buzz.

Solutions? What, are you nuts?

I don’t pretend to have a solution. We’re still warring on drugs as hard as ever, and the bodies keep piling up. It’s almost as much hassle to buy a packet of cold medicine now as it is to buy an AR-15, and that doesn’t keep the Montgomery County coroner from giving interviews in a walk-in fridge full of Fentanyled corpsicles.

At this point I’m half tempted to suggest we take all the money we spend on the War on (Some) Drugs and use it to buy narcotics. Pile the dope in every intersection in America, declare a one-week business holiday, and let America get all its fatal overdoses out of its system all at once.

Heck, half those deaths will come from traffic accidents, as all the methheads and such floor it on the way to pick up their share of the contraband.

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Warm up the oven, Louie

This little box appears on top of the obituary page in the Oklahoman every day, an advertisement from a local mortuary:

Ad for John M Ireland and Son funeral home

“Overspending,” notes the advertiser, “is not a symbol of devotion.”

So do you need to save that $400? Katrina Spade, in a TED Talk, says no, but not for the reason you might expect:

In some places, you can’t buy a plot no matter how much money you have. As a result, cremation rates have risen fast. In 1950, if you suggested your grandmother be incinerated after she died, you’d probably be kicked from the family deathbed. But today, almost half of Americans choose cremation, citing simpler, cheaper and more ecological as reasons. I used to think that cremation was a sustainable form of disposition, but just think about it for a second. Cremation destroys the potential we have to give back to the earth after we’ve died. It uses an energy-intensive process to turn bodies into ash, polluting the air and contributing to climate change. All told, cremations in the US emit a staggering 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. The truly awful truth is that the very last thing that most of us will do on this earth is poison it.

Then again, those of us in the Exhaling-American community cough up a good thousand pounds of CO2 annually. That’s over 300 billion pounds of the stuff. Obviously they need to shoot 500 of us into the sun just to balance out that one family trying to save $400. (We’ll ignore, for the moment, the carbon footprint of the rocket.)

This argues for the Final Disposition recommended by Lou Grant, former news director of WJM-TV Minneapolis: “When I go, just stand me up next to the garbage with my hat on.”

(Suggested by Holly H.)

Note: Had WJM been licensed to St. Paul, it likely would have had a K as its initial call letter.

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Gone far too soon

An email sent to contributors to her medical-treatment fund, which raised somewhere on the far side of $60,000:

We regret to inform you about this sad tragedy.

On Friday January 7, 2013 at 1:30 PM our loved daughter Kiki took her last breath as her heart stopped. She experienced no pain.

It was unexpected and I don’t really know what went wrong. We had hopes that she will recover since progress was made. A few days prior to her leaving us she had issue with “out of range Potassium and sodium levels”. We tried to balance it with proper drugs which also increased her heart rate and lower her blood pressure. The medical team here at CHOC Hospital in Orange County has tried to increase her blood pressure rate with different medication but without success. Around 11:00 Am on Friday we experienced a drastic drop in her heart rate which basically symbolized the end for the medical staff.

I was standing next to her talking, massaging, kissing and hopping that the heart rate will climb back up. I called my friend Tara Strong and together we have tried to encourage Kiki to keep on going. When the heart rate kept on dropping we realized that this is the end. I asked Tara to sing for Kiki the “My Little Mermaid” song since Kiki loved Tara and this song. It was a magical moment; a few of the nurses in the room whispery joined and sang with Tara as Kiki has taken her last breath. Thank you Tara Strong for everything you have done for Kiki.

We have lost the war but not without a fight. There was NO MEDICAL TREATMENT for the type of cancer Kiki had, especially because of the late diagnostic by the hospital in Los Angeles and the Misdiagnosis of the tumor type by the same medical professionals. Without a doubt I feel that Chemo would have been fatal (32 month ago the doctors told us that Chemo may buy us 1-3 month may be a month or two longer if we are lucky). As parents we cannot deny medical treatment to a child if doctors feel it will be effective. Science and the medical industry went a long way but at this point of the game there is no cure for many illnesses including cancer. As parents we must try anything because a cure can come from any one.

And now, the fight goes on:

This fundraiser is to support legal justice for the wrongful death of our daughter Kiki Havivy.

On January 4, 2011, at the age of 5 years old, Kiki Havivy had surgery at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles and was diagnosed with a tumor type called PNET. On January 13, 2011, 9 days after her surgery Kaiser doctor Jerry Cheng informed the parents that Kiki had a Highly Malignant cancer called Glioblastoma stage IV. Dr. Cheng gave Kiki up to 6 months to live with a (0) zero chance of survival. While later it was discovered that Kiki’s tumor was misdiagnosed by Kaiser and yet, no one at Kaiser ever questioned the discrepancy in her diagnosis nor did anyone ever do a third opinion as to what the correct diagnosis should have been.

Most of that original $60k came from the brony community; I am somewhat surprised that they haven’t rushed in for this new endeavor. Tara Strong, voice of Twilight Sparkle, duly reported the story to Twitter, and I thank her for that. Maybe I can awaken a few memories in the ponyverse.

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In case of tragic birth

Florida is gearing up to provide birth certificates for miscarriages:

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Wednesday that will allow the state to start issuing “certificates of nonviable birth” beginning July 1.

Under the Grieving Families Act, the state will issue the certificates only if parents request them.

It would be available to women whose pregnancies end after nine weeks and before 20 weeks of gestation.

After 20 weeks, it’s legally no longer a miscarriage, but a stillbirth, and while the birth certificate may still be requested, a death certificate is required.

Not everyone thinks this is a swell idea:

Were these certificates mandatory, I might raise that eyebrow myself. But they aren’t — at least in the bill as passed and signed. Anything, however, can be amended.

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Plants vs. humans

Tucked into a corner of The Alnwick Garden is a subgarden which you visit at your own peril, if they’ll let you visit at all:

Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, added this little slice of death during general renovation of The Alnwick Garden in the early 21st century. Her Grace was undoubtedly familiar with the facts of the matter:

[E]very garden is a poison garden. The plants in the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden, with a very few exceptions, can be found in most domestic gardens or in parks and the countryside. We’ve lived with these plants for a very long time so it is important not to create unnecessary fear about their potential effects.

Just the same, you should probably bring a hazmat suit.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Of remembrance and forgetting

It gets a little harder each year.

I am the son of a sailor and a sailor who had been a soldier. I had a brother who was a sailor, and a sister who was a soldier’s wife. By the mercy of God or an accident of timing — we’ll never, of course, know for sure — none of them were taken as a direct result of enemy action. But they were taken just the same, as all of us some day must be.

Memorial Day, it occurs to me, is the most solemn holiday of the American civic religion, unconnected to any organized denomination, with its own rituals and myths:

What we have, then, from the earliest years of the republic is a collection of beliefs, symbols, and rituals with respect to sacred things and institutionalized in a collectivity. This religion — there seems no other word for it — while not antithetical to and indeed sharing much in common with Christianity, was neither sectarian nor in any specific sense Christian. At a time when the society was overwhelmingly Christian, it seems unlikely that this lack of Christian reference was meant to spare the feelings of the tiny non-Christian minority. Rather, the civil religion expressed what those who set the precedents felt was appropriate under the circumstances. It reflected their private as well as public views. Nor was the civil religion simply “religion in general.” While generality was undoubtedly seen as a virtue by some … the civil religion was specific enough when it came to the topic of America. Precisely because of this specificity, the civil religion was saved from empty formalism and served as a genuine vehicle of national religious self-understanding.

Which is not to say that everyone embraces it; there are those who are content with empty formalism, and those who might dismiss even that as a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” And for some, Memorial Day is simply the beginning of summer, nothing more.

Perhaps this is one of those times when, as the phrase goes, you had to be there, and human nature being what it is, a lot of us eventually will be. Much as I would like to endorse the idea that man can be educated out of his warlike tendencies, evidence to support such a notion is conspicuous by its absence; a perfunctory glance at the news is enough to show how easily we fall back into tribalism and other traits we fancy ourselves to have outgrown.

This old soldier will fade away in time, remembered by a few, forgotten by others, never known at all by most. So far as I can tell, this puts me more or less even with most of the human race. I can live with that.

(Reprinted from 2011.)

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This is not an improvement

We told you a couple of months ago that the world population of the vaquita, the smallest of the porpoises, is down to about 30 due to one particular fishing technique — gillnetting — that traps them alongside desired edibles from the Gulf of California.

Things are not looking up:

Tensions came to a head in March when rioters in the town of Golfo de Santa Maria burned patrol boats and attacked local environment officials. A few weeks later, across the gulf in San Felipe, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the American conservation group Sea Shepherd, whose vessels have been patrolling the gulf since 2015 to help the Mexican Navy enforce the gillnet ban. Protesters scrawled the words “Sea Shepherd” on an empty boat and dragged it to the town’s beachside promenade, where they set it on fire and cheered and jeered as orange flames swallowed the effigy.

And meanwhile:

The remains of two vaquitas … were found in the waters off the coast of California in the span of one month.

A scheme similar to the one used to rescue the California condor is planned, but:

[The] capture plan borders on the bizarre. The group wants to enlist a “dream team” of scientists, veterinary specialists and U.S. Navy-trained dolphins, which have been taught to find underwater mines and enemy divers, to seek out vaquitas in the gulf.

There are two main problems with this plan, however. For one, no one has ever captured a vaquita alive. And as groups like Sea Shepherd and the World Wildlife Fun point out, the animals could die in the process, only furthering their plight.

There are about 435 California condors out there. The rescue plan began with, um, twenty-seven. The bird is still listed as Critically Endangered, but some of them have been released to the wild. This may be the best chance for the vaquita — if it has a chance at all.

(With thanks to Holly H.)

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Let ’em die

“First, do no harm.” This is not technically part of the Hippocratic Oath, but it’s consistent with its values. So naturally, it’s got to go:

Remember that once you change the idea that docs never kill to the idea that killing is mandatory if “asked,” then you get docs (and nurses) who decide to be god and doing the killing spontaneously, or causing a person to die indirectly, not because the treatment won’t really help the patient, but merely because the patient is looked down on as useless, so why not?

An unfortunate incident to illustrate:

Once I worked a few weeks filling in at the ER at one of the IHS hospitals in the Sioux area. While I was giving report to my replacement, a moonlighting resident who worked in Baltimore but flew in to help on the weekend, one of the staff members came in to ask if we would check an x ray that the feeding tube was placed correctly so they could tube feed a lady with a recent stroke until her swallowing ability improved.

The resident, however, said: “Why don’t you just give her morphine, haha”… (implying we shouldn’t feed her but just sedate her into a coma and let her die of dehydration etc). The staff doctor said “WHAT?” and the resident repeated the same thing.

The staff doctor said quietly: “well, we don’t do things that way here,” and left, telling the nurse he would be back later in the evening to check the x ray.

I kept silent, since I had no authority here but knew my next door neighbor was a member of the American Indian movement and would have her group intervene if this was done.

But you know, I wonder how many poor black patients he cared for in Baltimore also got “morphine, haha.”

The black community already distrusts the medical community but since elder suicide is seen as a problem for rich white people, they aren’t worried about this. Yet.

“First, do nothing”?

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Ol’ Bone Face is back

Actually, Ol’ Bone Face never left; the Grim Reaper is never, ever far away. That said, I’ve used these pages several times to make fun of the Reaper; and since I am nothing if not inclined to fairness, you can consider this Equal Time for that scythe-wielding son of a bitch:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned across the centuries, it’s that the futile resistance to the inevitability of life’s end is one of the most preventable causes of human suffering. I understand why. It is has been my sombre duty to attend countless deaths that violated society’s cherished sense of justice and decency. That is why I heartily applaud traffic lights, vaccines, hand washing, antismoking campaigns, flush toilets, international diplomacy, biomedical research and all the other nifty advances that have extended life. But this benefit has been largely enjoyed by the young, so that more of you get a kick at the can to make it into old age. The maximum age at death — 100 years, give or take a few — has held steady for quite some time now. Fact is, death wins, every time. Not that I am keeping score, but the dead outnumber the living, by a lot.

If you ask me, many of those privileged with the resources to entertain the likes of head transplantation, or its little sister, cryonics (don’t get me started!), fail to enjoy their lives to their fullest precisely because they are so ill-equipped to deal with death. The longest life is nothing but a flash in the course of time. Even when plagued with regrets and failures, it is to be lived forwards and not backwards. Each moment is a precious gift. Savor as many of those as you can, because at the end of the day, there will be no do-overs.

(Via Signe Dean.)

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Some weird grasshopper/ant hybrid

Perhaps that should be a model for how we conduct our financial affairs in our middle years:

I’m busy taking steps to insure I at least have my house paid off, my debts gone, and a bit of money around when I’m in my 60s. I drive an Accord and I’ve sold two of my three Porsches. I’ve spent more money on bicycles for my kid in the past year than I’ve spent on Italian menswear, although admittedly in both cases I’ve laid out more cash than was strictly prudent.

Still. I’m trying to think about what I’ll have in the future. It won’t be anything like what I’d have if I had devoted the last 15 years to saving money and living within my means. I didn’t do that. I devoted the last 15 years to having unprotected sex with random women, most of whom were already married, in the carbon-fiber-clad cockpits of leased luxury vehicles. I don’t want to say how much money I spent in that lifestyle. The sum would be inconsequential to Sheryl Sandberg but it would make the average American dry-heave.

You know what? I don’t regret it. I don’t regret any of the money I spent on cars. I don’t regret any of the money I spent on hotel rooms, expensive meals, linen Kiton sportcoats, last-minute flights, or arrive-and-drive expenses. I might be 45 years old but I’m not stupid enough to think of that as “middle-aged.” That implies that I’ll live to be 90. Let’s say I’d saved all that money and I retired at 65 with $5 or $10 million bucks. What would I do with it? Would I go back and sleep with all those women I’d missed out on because I was driving a seven-year-old Sentra and pinching my pennies? Would I enter all the races that I’d skipped in the past to save money? Would I buy my son an expensive bicycle for his birthday, even if it’s his 35th birthday?

And how would I feel if I wound up with a late-stage cancer diagnosis of my own at the age of 61? As I lay dying in a semi-private hospital room, watching my savings disappear at the rate of two Brioni sportcoats a day for amenities to include one IV drip and three assisted trips to the toilet per day, how would I feel about all those days I’d spent behind the wheel of a Sentra, waiting for the future that would never actually arrive?

The most specific advice here, I think, is to avoid the Nissan Sentra at any cost.

Still, settling down a bit and taking a wife — his own, not someone else’s — might buy him a few years at the far end. Maybe. My relatively sedate existence isn’t likely to buy me a ninth decade, or even an eighth. And the only way I’m going to retire with five or ten million bucks is if some wacko billionaire decides to bestow twenty million on me. It’s times like these that I appreciate the wisdom of Katie Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Oh, and my son is already thirty-five.

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Watching it all fold out

Our days are numbered, every last one of them, and the only thing we know for sure is that one of them will be the last. Between Now and that indefinable (but final) Then, I’d hoped to have developed a different voice: still recognizably my own, but imbued with the sort of off-hand eloquence one supposedly develops after coming to grips with The End.

Which, it turns out, means that I wish I’d written this song, but Gordon Lightfoot got to it first:

It was 1974. I was just turning twenty-one, and I fancied myself world-weary. How much I had yet to learn.

(Track six on the Sundown album, if you’re looking.)

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Forget the Alamo

This one, anyway:

Imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo has died more than seven years after he was sentenced in federal court in Arkansas to a 175-year prison term, authorities said.

The Bureau of Prisons said the 82-year-old Alamo, whose real name was Bernie Lazar Hoffman, died Tuesday while in custody at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C. Further details about his cause of death weren’t immediately known, though Alamo was reported to have suffered from health problems, including diabetes and a 2011 heart attack.

Goodness. Whatever was he imprisoned for?

Alamo was convicted in 2009 on 10 counts of taking young girls across state lines for sex. Some of them, as young as 8 years old, had been forced to become Alamo’s “wives.”

“Consent is puberty,” Alamo told The Associated Press in September 2008, during the same weekend that state and federal agents raided the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in the tiny southwest Arkansas town of Fouke in an investigation of child abuse and pornography.

Historical note: When they refer to the “Fouke Monster,” they don’t mean Tony Alamo.

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