Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Please just send me an email!

If The Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me.  ~Song title by Jimmy Buffet

They always say (don't this sound like a cliché, though!) that confession is good for the soul. In some cases, maybe it is good for more than that. So, here goes: I really don't like to talk on the telephone. There. I said it. Don't know just when this dawned on me, but it has been there for a good while……funny, I don't feel any better for having said it. Maybe later.

Here's the thing. I spent a lot of time on phones during my working life, especially the ten years I spent as an investigator for the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, and the years I spent as a Telephonic (I guess that might just say a little bit right there, huh?) Case Manager. To make matters worse those last nearly four years also involved being lied to by just about everyone I talked to on the phone, so you can see I might just be a bit leery of using the damn thing.

But, you know, I think it goes deeper than that. When I grew up, we didn't always have a phone in the house, and our parents' generation had a totally different attitude toward not only general phone use, but proper telephone etiquette. Their generation used to have to pay for most calls by the time used, and/or had to depend on mostly party lines, where several households might share the same line, so there was always a rush to complete a phone call, in order to avoid tying up that line. Therefore, the natural standing order in our household was that personal phone calls were limited to three minutes (I really don't know why this was the magic number, but that is what it was; maybe, in the truly old days, the first three minutes were free, and then Ma (grandma?) Bell started charging?). Then, again, maybe this just has to do with the fact that studies have shown that the average phone call does indeed (and has forever) last(ed) only three minutes.

I know that a lot of folks will find this hard to believe, but do you know that you can indeed finish most conversations in less than three minutes? Yes, you really can! I know that there are folks who can spend an hour or more easily, but the sides of those conversations that I have heard are mostly about nothing, with a serious amount of repetition thrown in. Worse, and here is where my wife really shines, I have seen her spend a whole day with her mother or her sister, and then come home and call them on the phone, and still talk for an hour! Wonder what they did all day long, while they were together………

As you may have heard before, I spend a lot of time on the computer, and that means online. I long ago learned to use, and to appreciate the use of, email. It can be as detailed as you might want it to be, or as short and sweet as a couple of words, maybe with some emoticons thrown in for good measure. (I hardly ever use emoticons, since I think they are a strange affectation, and no, I didn't use the old style keyboard creations, either). But, email does it for me. Creating a message, and receiving replies within minutes is – to me – pretty cool. I get that nice warm, fuzzy feeling of being in close contact with someone important to me, and that is enough to keep me going.

I expect that I will continue to make do very well without giving in to texting or tweeting, or whatever the next big social network thing might turn out to be (or, is more likely already spreading around the globe, but I don't know it 'cause I'm still stuck back here liking email). And, that's OK. As a matter of fact, it is pretty good. Although I have noticed lately that some folks seem to already be abandoning email as a primary method, or even a casual method of communication. I say that because I recently sent out some blanket emails to everyone in my address book, partly as a test, and mostly to inform all of those folks of some plans that I had. Part of that message informed all and sundry that their failure to respond to my message in some manner or form would result in their being deleted from my address book. I did in fact dump some folks, and so far nothing disastrous has occurred as a result. So, maybe I did a good thing.

Any way I look at it, I can say that telephoning as a means of communication isn't my favorite, and video conferencing is no better. A big part of this may well be the fact that – with my lousy internet connection – Skype no longer works for me, and our landline is really poor quality. This has caused all phone calls to be such a chore as to be more trouble than they're worth, simply because it is so hard to understand and to be understood with a bad connection. So, after all that, if it is all the same to you, please send me an email, and I'll get right back to you……….Now, I just hope that my family is reading this, and understands why I don't call.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


This old newspaper column was first written about 1985, by a man named Charlie Reese. It has been edited from time to time since then, to keep parts of it relevant, and I am reprinting part of it here, since it now circulates freely via the internet. Charlie, who recently retired, by the way, was a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel:


Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them..

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?


Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?


You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.


You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but PRIVATE, central bank.


I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits..... The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who was the speaker of the House? Nancy Pelosi. She was the leader of the majority party. She and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red ..

If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it's because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan ...

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way. (Editor's Note: this is not exactly true. Members of Congress do pay into social security just like everybody else, since about the time this column was first written).

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power..

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees...

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Editor's Note: Funny thing is that we thought that they had been voted out of office, first in 2008, but not much changed. So, then, just a few months ago, another sweep was conducted, remember? I don't know about you all, but I'm still looking for some significant change……….

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brother, can you spare a……..dollar? (adjusted for inflation).

If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion. - George Bernard Shaw

You know the economy really sucks, and has been in the doldrums for a good little while now. And, no matter what anybody has said or done, it is not exactly all better yet, now is it? All the bail outs have come and gone, and I guess some of them may have helped, but I'm not sure who was helped, are you? I know that the reports are that Ford and GM are both doing better now, but I really don't know that. I know that there seem to be fewer banks, fewer big companies in general, fewer mom & pop establishments, and ever bigger conglomerates (as in, monopolies) than there used to be. I can't see that as a good sign, though, for the life of me. For there to be bigger companies with less competition does not fit my idea of good. Not for the consumer, anyway.

We moved here to Costa Rica because we became convinced that we could not afford to live in Texas on our little pensions. That has turned out to be a questionable decision, since we hit major inflation here, and the first year here, we saw the dollar lose a serious amount of value against the local currency. You see, the dollar was running as high as ¢590 (Colones) to the dollar just a couple of months after our arrival here last year, and now is averaging less than ¢500. That means that just for our mortgage payment alone we are paying $170 a month more than we were a year and a half ago. Add to that what we pay for everything else (gasoline somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.50 per gallon), and, you might get an idea of what we are facing.

Something else that is costly, and I don't know why, is tires for the car. I put a set of new tires on our 2005 Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7 in February of 2010. I already had to replace two of them late last year, when one had a blow out. The two that are left from that full set already show serious wear. We cannot have put that many miles on the tires, because nothing is really that far away from us! I have no choice but to conclude that this is a combination of poor quality tires (for way too much money) and really bad roads.

So, back to the economy: what is it going to take to fix it? I would certainly hope not another war. Not any kind of increase in foreign aid, surely. Not more expenditures for pork barrel programs, and stupid government programs. No more bailouts, please. No more subsidies for big oil, big energy, big coal, or any other big anything (all of which pretty much suggest to my mind nothing more than friends of the GOP, and/or huge lobbies).

And this brings us to one logical fix, suggested by a reader of the St. Petersburg (FL) Times, just over a year ago, in response to a request by the newspaper for ideas:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. Pay them $1 million apiece severance with no taxes due on it, for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.

2) They MUST buy a new AMERICAN Car. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members of Congress pay their taxes.

There was a bit more to the idea, but that is the gist of it, and I – for one – think it would be a good place to start. I would, of course, like to see them extend this offer to some of us who were forced into early retirement through loss of our jobs, as far back as, say, 2008. Speaking only for myself, I'd say it was not at all pleasant to lose not only my job, but our home, and two cars, simply because we could not keep up with the payments on my very small (at that time) pension. And, I would be delighted to promise to go out and buy a house and a car. So, how about it? Any lobbyists out there interested in taking on a good cause for a change? How about just a PAC? Anybody?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Physician, heal somebody else…………… please!

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. - - Abraham Lincoln, (attributed)

A recent online report from NPR got me to thinking. The report had to do with an international effort, over the course of one weekend, for people all over the world to deliberately consume mega-doses of homeopathic remedies, to demonstrate that not only are these so-called medicines quite harmless, but they are apparently anything but effective. One aspect of the report had to do with people who took massive quantities of whatever it is that homeopathy recommends for sleep, with not only no one falling asleep, but with no visible effect whatsoever. The report certainly piqued my interest in this subject, one which I must admit I had never paid much attention to, so I did some research, which led me to the following (this was taken from: )

About homeopathy:
Homeopathy is a system of medicine which involves treating the individual with highly diluted substances, given mainly in tablet form, with the aim of triggering the body's natural system of healing. Based on their individual symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to each patient.

The idea of treating 'like with like'
Homeopathy is based on the principle that you can treat 'like with like; i.e. a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat those same symptoms.
For example, drinking too much coffee can cause sleeplessness, agitation and even palpitations, but when made into the homeopathic remedy Coffea it can be used to treat all these problems. You may already have come acress this concept in conventional medicine e.g. the stimulant Rilatin being used to treat ADHD, or small doses of allergens such as pollen being used to de-sensitise allergic patients. However one major difference in homeopathy is that substances are used in such tiny doses that they are completely non-toxic.

Scientifically it cannot yet be explained precisely how homeopathy works, but new theories in quantum physics are going some way towards shedding light on the process. What we do know is that a carefully selected homeopathic remedy acts as a trigger to the body's healing processes.
By the time I had reached this last paragraph I was confused. I asked myself, and now, I suppose I am asking anyone, how can we believe such a convoluted statement as one that first admits that something cannot be explained, and then suggests that quantum physics (a topic about which very few of us know anything) might possibly help us along the way to see how it works. Then, we are told, that even though no one can explain how this works, some collective 'we' do know that homeopathic remedies trigger the body's healing processes!? How can that be? If they can't explain how it works, how am I supposed to believe that it does work at all? And, exactly what kind of healing is involved in going to sleep, fa cryin' out loud!?
As for comparing their rationale to the use of a drug as controversial as Ritalin or to the use of pollen in attempts to treat allergies, please don't ask me to go there. Not only is the use of Ritalin highly questionable for any purpose (look at the history of law suits involving this drug), but so is its use in the also highly controversial area of ADHD, a so-called diagnosis that may finally be coming under some serious scrutiny. As for the use of pollen to treat allergies, the statement provided by these folks is, to say the least, just a bit disingenuous. When pollen is administered, as in immunotherapy provided by a Board Certified Allergy Specialist, it is not ingested by mouth, or in pill form, as are the homeopathic remedies. Instead, together with other allergens, it is injected, and not just once, but over a period of time, sometimes lasting for years, until the body has developed a higher tolerance to the specific allergens that have caused the patient's symptoms in the first place. (from NPR's report):

And, now there's a $1 million challenge on the table to makers of homeopathic remedies from magician and professional skeptic James Randi. If a rigorous double-blind, controlled study finds the remedies work better than plain water, Randi's educational foundation will fork over the money.

[Recently, earlier this month,] hundreds of skeptics in more than 25 countries took megadoses of the remedies to demonstrate they do nothing. It was the second annual event organized by the 10:23 Campaign. One bunch in West Virginia took 1 million times the recommended dose of a homeopathic sleep remedy and didn't die — or even fall asleep.

As the federal National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine put it in an overview:

Homeopathy is a controversial area ... because a number of its key concepts are not consistent with established laws of science (particularly chemistry and physics). Critics think it is implausible that a remedy containing a miniscule amount of an active ingredient (sometimes not a single molecule of the original compound) can have any biological effect—beneficial or otherwise. For these reasons, critics argue that continuing the scientific study of homeopathy is not worthwhile. Others point to observational and anecdotal evidence that homeopathy does work and argue that it should not be rejected just because science has not been able to explain it.

So, imho, we are left with more questions than answers about this fairly common method of health care. But, hey, if anybody out there thinks they can meet that million dollar challenge, I'd sure like to see their results. Ultimately, since there is no existing scientific proof of its efficacy, I'd say it would probably be best to avoid such 'therapy' altogether, and stay with methods that are known to work. Frankly, I think I'd sooner accept treatment from a good local curandero/a.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It Is Never Too Late, You Know…….

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.
  - Ernest Benn

And, now, some more questions: What is wrong with us? The rest of the world is leaving us behind in so many important areas like education, health care, scientific development, industrial strength, and I suppose I could go on, but I hope you get the picture. We used to be so proud (at least we were when I was a boy) of our factories, and our work ethic (remember the American Work Ethic?), our inventiveness, our good-old-fashioned-that's-the-American-Way. Have you seen the acres and acres of abandoned factories that still exist in cities like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Akron, or wherever (pick a city; pick a state)? One word fits these places: sad (well, a lot of other words fit, too, but I'm going with that one). How have we let this happen?

Damn it! We led the world in just about everything! Now, take a look, if your ethnocentric-ly brainwashed mind can allow you to do so, at the rest of the world! First, most of those countries we grew up feeling sorry for have surpassed us in many of the more significant areas usually referred to as 'quality of life.' And, we are now pretty much a joke among those who used to be our friends and allies. If that is not bad enough, we are universally considered to be stupid, rash, brash, overbearing, aggressive, uninformed, uneducated, and, incompetent (OK, it is nothing new to be thought of as rash, overbearing, aggressive, uninformed, etc., for Americans, but it is so much worse today, and we all know it). While we have been distracted by what amounts to so much BS (the senseless wars on Terror, Drugs, Poverty, et al), our educational system has gone to pot ('no child left behind, my A$$'!), and that means that our ability to create, to discover, to invent, and therefore to exceed, has gone with it.

And, you know one aspect of all this that really gets me is this: should I dare to suggest that maybe right about now, we need to take a very close look at who and what we are, and maybe, just maybe, we as a nation might need to consider that some of the old educational methods were not so bad, I will be jumped on as reactionary, resistant to change, obstructionist, and all kinds of other 'bad' things. I know that it is always thought to be 'bad form' to ever think about reverting to something old, you know, anti-progressive, old-fashioned (as if that is a dirty word), etc. But, you know what? If a thing works, why does it need fixing? If our generation received a good public education, and if the greatest generation (that would be our parents' generation) received a good public education, why did our generation have to start trying to change everything? I mean, it was our parent's generation that developed so many marvelous things (have you seen that list of things that are commonplace today, but did not exist along about 1950? It is mind boggling!) that simply did not exist when they were born. And, they did this while surviving the Great Depression and fighting the biggest war in the history of the world.

People from all over the world wanted to attend an American University, and while many still do, what is the quality of the education that they receive today, compared to just thirty years ago? Pretty lousy, from everything I've read and seen. Today's high school graduate is physically retarded as well, and barely literate, and why? Let me count the ways…… discipline in the schools, or at home; no manners taught to anyone; no concept of etiquette; no physical exercise; no real content taught in any school; no abilities or talents developed (due to limited or nonexistent budgets) for any arts, or for that matter, anything requiring the use of the hands (as in no metal shop, no wood shop, no drafting); kids no longer learn anything by rote, because that is too taxing on their poor little psyches, or some damn thing.

You know what? I'm tired of it! I say, it is indeed time for change. Let me go farther. It is a time to ask some hard questions, and face some hard facts. I know that it has for too long been common in the U. S., when confronted by a problem, to simply throw money at it. What a waste! Or, the politicians' other (stalling tactic?) answer: maybe we need to appoint a committee to study the situation. Bull Shit! Or, worse, let's hire a 'professional' consultant to look at the situation, and offer us some 'professional' recommendations for improvement. Isn't professional just another word for whore? Who needs that sort of consultation or the recommendations of a whore? Not us. As I said, look at what worked, or what works. Consider reverting to some of those methods, if whatever crap we're stuck with now is not working.

One small suggestion here, by the way: maybe instead of pouring all those billions of dollars "overseas" (foreign aid), we should end all those handouts to others, and keep some of our money at home, to help ourselves. Now, I know that some folks will say that the amount of our dollars that goes to foreign aid is only 1% of the overall national budget, but I would ask them to consider this: 1% of how many Trillions of Dollars has to add up to a significant amount of cash, now, doesn't it? Just a thought, you know……….? After all, we damn well got ourselves into this fix, and we damn well cannot count on anyone else in the whole wide world to help us get out of it. All we have to do is start.