We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Recently, while Bird Dog was lounging in the Caribbean, I was sent to do a presentation at a conference in Palm Desert, California. Since I was a featured speaker, the conference was paying for my hotel, and as these things are typically boondoggles held at high-end resorts, I asked my wife to join me and she reluctantly agreed. It took a tremendous amount of arm-twisting, two lines of text at a minimum.
My presentation meant a day in a ballroom with 200 of my closest industry competitors. It provided a great opportunity to discuss issues at the heart of my business and I managed to deliver a 30 minute presentation in what seemed like 5 minutes. I'm still learning to present well, though I was pleased to hear my work referenced several times by the speakers who followed me.
Once I got past the fun part, it was 'boondoggle on' and the wife and I availed ourselves of the surrounding region. We took a bike tour of Palm Springs, headed out to Joshua Tree National Park and did an hour's hike up Ryan Mountain for some spectacular views. I highly recommend a visit to Joshua Tree, if you're ever in the area. It has a beauty which is very hard to describe. It may not be for everyone. I found it fascinating. I also wanted to visit the Salton Sea, but time didn't permit.
As we were preparing to leave, my wife noticed an article about Mid-Century Modern architecture in a local magazine. What caught her eye was a house owned by the Kaufmanns, a family I recently wrote about. Apparently, this family was rather innovative in their tastes. Successful in the business of retailing, they expanded the American cultural landscape by contracting with ground-breaking architects, in this case Richard Neutra. Success really does breed success. Their home in Palm Springs is considered the premiere example of the Mid-Century Modern home.
We do not seem to have very many Olympics fans, or even TV-watchers, among our commenters here. However, the closing ceremony music was by Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin*, a Russian Jewish composer who emigrated to America and became one of the most distinguished and best-loved music writers of Hollywood. He won a hallowed place in the pantheon of the most successful and productive composers in American film history, earning himself four Oscars and sixteen Academy Awards nominations.
The music was composed for a movie celebrating independent capitalist values as they developed and matured over 25 years in rural Texas. The movie was Giant with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Carol Baker. You can listen to some of the theme in the trailer below. Think Vlad Putin knows?
When France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, announced he was leaving over France's new 75 percent super tax on the rich, he got the journalistic equivalent of a kick out the door.
"The full headline in [the Leftist newspaper] Liberation was, 'Get lost, you rich b***d,'" Moutet recalled. "In this country the general attitude in the media, on television, etc., is that bosses are wrong, companies are wrong, and creating business is dubious at best and dishonest at worst."
France is being battered by both a brain drain and capital flight and risks becoming one of the poorer nations in Western Europe.
Big Sky seems like a popular place to ski these days, especially for very experienced skiiers. A friend sent me a pic of him skiing off-trail last week, explaining "I am the tiny blue dot in the photo."
It's fascinating how crowded Everest is becoming these days, with queues of mountain tourists for the rope lines. The highways are all mapped out, ladders installed, ropes installed, sherpas hired, etc., so it's almost like a rich man's chilly Disney World.
The medical part - and the risk of bad weather - seem to be the greatest challenges. First World Problems, if you will, because nobody needs to do this. However, if it is made too safe, where's the credit?
As with the Olympics, I think it's wonderful that some people want to try these sorts of adventures in life, but I do not admire the amateur tourists. Good film:
Unbeknownst to you, I am surrounded by people who claim to identify with the tea party and/or go to the meetings. Most of my family , extended family, friends and associates for starters. When I ask them what they are willing to do to stop the runaway federal spending, they have nothing to offer. Well, they want their taxes reduced a bit. Maybe ease back a bit on defense spending, maybe. But not the veteran's benefits. Most of them resent the welfare queens and food stamp recipients and most of them won't say so out loud. Most are not thrilled with the bank bailouts. But, not one of them is willing to stop paying taxes. None of them would touch 95% of the federal budget. None of them would surrender any of their own federally funded benefits. So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with the conclusion that the members of the tea party want their goodies and are willing to pay enough tax dollars to keep them. But they don't want to pay for some of the goodies other people get. It's just simple logic.
It may be that you don't quite grasp the extent of the gravy train. Or maybe you have so much money, it just doesn't matter? The federal spending train subsidizes nearly everything in this country. And I mean everything. Would you really put all those people out of work - at one stroke? If so, the anarchists would love to have you join their group.
Roughly as I predicted, our blackbirds arrived sometime last night - over a week late. They all made a racket at 5 am on my way to the gym. That's proof of global cooling.
Also at my feeder today along with the usual (Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Titmice, W-T Sparrows, Blue Jays, and House Finches, and an occasional Carolina Wren) a handsome Fox Sparrow. Haven't seen one in quite a while. A pleasure to see the guy on his way to the far north.
Whether you accept global warming alarmism or not, on the face of it it makes no sense for the average sensible taxpayer to subsidize others' living or building in recognized flood zones, whether on the NJ coast, the Mississippi, the North Carolina barrier beaches, or anywhere else. It's like pitching a tent in a Western river gulch which is prone to flash floods. Periodic flooding in coastal areas and on flood plains is natural and environmentally-beneficial. The unpleasant consequences for people are entirely predictable. I would neither live in a flood zone nor in a wildfire zone without calculating that I could lose it all. People do not act this stupid unless they are paid or subsidized to do so. At the least, let the owner pay the full cost of the insurance. Caveat Emptor.
Yes, I do remember that Al Gore just built one of his new mansions in an ocean flood zone in San Francisco, but that's Al Gore and he can hold back the water (or was that Moses, or Obama?).
From the Google-only bus that bypasses the heralded “public mass transit” to pick up the richeral in his overpriced, Hetch Hetchy-fed San Francisco Victorian, to the tony private academies that richerals’ kids attend, to the Mexican national help that cleans the floors and watches the toddlers before going home to the crammed garage in Redwood City, to the big money that always seems to find exemption from the redistributionist tentacles — such hypocrisy and self-righteousness sermonizing have done more harm to the culture and social fabric of the U.S. than any ideology of the last half-century.
"Decisions, decisions, decisions!" This often is spoken in a mixture of ennui and smug irony for decisions such as "should I buy the Audi, the BMW or the Lexus?" But this piece is nothing like that, it is about the general confusion and questionable value of our medical establishment.
The three "decisions" are apt because the diagnosis and treatment of three major illnesses have been called into question in the past year and this is disconcerting if not alarming. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Dr. John Ioannidis I recommend you find him on the web. His view of the state of medical research is summarized as "Lies, damned lies and medical research."
The original quote actually was by the British prime minister, Gladstone: "There are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies and statistics."
The recent study out of Canada declaring the value of mammograms in women under fifty without value is noted. One doctor at Sloane Kettering has already balked and we have yet to hear from the Susan Komen foundation. The other disqualifying report identified antidepressant medication as simply placebo with no valid clinical evidence to the contrary. As a clinician my experience does not support that position, but there are facts that are hidden from us. For example, the FDA requires two "positive" studies to approve a medication for the treatment of a condition. That there may be six negative studies is not required to be revealed to us, and, as Ioannidis points out, many of the "successful" studies measure the new product against drugs that are known to be less than effective, if effective at all.
But it is prostate cancer I want to focus on. To PSA or not to PSA, that is the question. (Excuse me Prince Hamlet.) I have learned a great deal about this question from a man whom I have known for many years and who has had prostate cancer diagnosed. There was a series of articles in the popular press questioning the need for and value of the PSA test around the time his PSA began to increase incrementally. "You will more likely die with the prostate cancer than from the prostate cancer." This is very reassuring, unless you have witnessed a patient or a relative die the excruciatingly painful death of metatstatic prostate cancer.
The concerns expressed, in our behalf, is that the PSA can lead to biopsies which can be painful and prone to serious complications. While I am not a urologist, I can say I have seen one man who complained of persistent pain following a biopsy. That is all. What most of the articles failed to make reference to is something called the Gleason Score, an assessment of the aggressiveness of the tumor's malignant cells. The numbers of the score range from low to high but what you need to know is that a score of Seven is at the dividing line of could be serious and is serious. Eight and up are without question serious. Without that information one cannot make sensible judgements about how to proceed and one can only have that with the prostate biopsy. You can see the circularity of this process. With that information in hand one is then given a menu of treatment choices to consider. Watch and wait, radiation, surgery - robotic and standard supra-pubic surgical removal of the prostate gland, proton beam treatment, cyberknife, aggressive sonic ablation - more than most doctors, let alone lay people, can assess when in a state of some anxiety. Every treatment brings its own list of complications and ill consequences. "5%" risk of whichever one sounds reassuring but, if it is you who experiences that ill consequence it is 100%.
And what is most important is, as my friend learned, there is no evidence that any treatment is superior to any one of the other treatments and there may never be a study to pit one against the other to determine which is best. He chose surgery and has done well now for a few years. His PSA is zero and hopes it will remain that way. So, we ponder these three conditions, each afflicting roughly 10% of the general population, and we are asked to act or not act on the basis of flawed and insufficient information. What else are we missing?
This year’s conference theme is “Vulnerable Times.” MLA president Marianne Hirsch explained the concept a few months ago: “The Presidential Forum [one among many panels on the topic] will theorize vulnerability’s complex temporalities. Discussing embodiment, poverty, climate, activism, reparation, and the condition of being unequally governed, forum participants will expose key sites of vulnerability and assess possibilities for change.”
Ahh, the wonders of the Liberal Arts and those darn complex temporalities.