The Olympics

10 August 2016

Well, it’s that time again: the Olympics.

Jo and I, accompanied by our friends and neighbors, sat down to watch them Monday night.  What did we see?  Swimming.  OK, so we watched the Olympics Tuesday night and, again, what did we see?  Swimming.  Nothing but goddamned swimming.  Swimming, swimming, swimming and more goddamned swimming.

Oh, we also saw a bunch of pixi-like children jumping and rolling around on the floor and swinging like monkeys from the parallel bars. Meh.  But I did get a glimpse of Volleyball, beach style, with all the hotties in their little 2-piece swim (gaaack, there’s that word again) suits. Yum.

What I want to know is where’s the Greco-Roman wrestling?  The hammer and discus throw? Archery? All the good stuff? I’ll tell you where; in the daylight hours so no one can watch them. All we get is a force-fed diet of swimming.

I hate swimming, and if you read my post of long ago, you’ll know why.  But in that post, I was talking about a pool, like in the Olympics but the really hateful version of swimming is in a lake. The water is like pea soup – green and opaque – and foul things float in it.  You get swimmer’s ear, pink eye, itchy skin, athlete’s foot from the changing room and you stink like dead and dying fish. To ice the cake, there’s always some debris on the bottom, lurking just beneath the sand and scum, and you invariably cut you foot on this stuff and end up with a raging infection. The beach is no better.

Of course, in the lake, just as in the pool, there is the sacrament of pissing in the water.

To close out this observation on the Swimlympics, did you see the male swimmers?  To a man, they looked to have been manhandled by a squid. Red sucker marks all over the place. What’s with that?

Just before they go in the water, the male swimmers slap themselves silly like flagellant monks and begin to quiver as if hit by a Taser.

Finally, the big moment arrives and they jump in the water.  Once in, they kick and thrash their ways across the pool, back and forth and back and forth until one of them touches the pool’s wall ahead of the others and the officials measure this timing down to a gnat’s ass. I saw one fellow beat another to the wall by 0.01 seconds – one one-hundredth of a second – and on the basis of that infinitesimal difference, one man goes home a hero with innumerable offers to endorse everything from jetliners to prophylactics. The other guy, the one who touched the wall just one one-hundredth of a second later, goes home a nere-do-well hump with his tail between his legs. The one man gets the gold and the glory (and all the women and all the money) while the other gets the silver, which means nothing.  Its like the difference between a rib-eye steak done to perfection over an open flame, and a hamburger patty desiccated to a crisp on a McDonald’s griddle.

Christ!

-Merlin-


The Sexiest Man in the World

2 August 2016

Weight check:


A Morning at the Cancer Center

17 July 2016

As I may have mentioned earlier, I have a case of advanced prostate cancer.  I’ve two of my three bites at the apple and now it’s time for the third — my urologist dispatched me to an oncologist for further treatment.

The cancer center is on the third floor in a shiny new building, built for this purpose.  It’s a nice place.

In visiting my urology guy these past sixteen years, I could sit in the waiting room, check out all the other waiting patients and imagine what brought them to this place.  Ah, the woman in pink, bet she has a bladder infection.  Over there, that man with the pained expression has stone.  The young man next to me might have gonorrhea or possibly syphilis.  Ah, the old dude; bet he has cancer too.  It was a nice little game to play while awaiting my turn.

But the Cancer Center is different, and I knew it the moment I walked in the door.  It was in the air: An earnest and somewhat anxious solicitude on everyone’s part.  They gushed kindness.  Peace be upon you, my son.

When we got on the elevator, we encountered an emaciated woman in a wheelchair accompanied by a man her age and a younger woman.  Probably her husband and daughter.  She looked like hell: Veins showing through a darkened, blotchy thin skin and a face ravaged by wrinkles.  When the door opened Jo and I stood aside; Oh, please – after you madam. Was she here for chemo? X-rays? Maybe some of the new medicines that seem to actually stymie, if not cure, cancer.

The registration desk was set in a quiet area (everything there was quiet) with a room full of large comfortable looking chairs.  Most of the chairs were already occupied.  It was a somber tableau, for everyone I saw had failed the standard treatments and now here they were, ready to take the last and final stab at averting death.  Me included.  No bladder stones or syphilis here, everyone within eye-shot had terminal cancer.  Everyone.  It was a strange feeling, and not a good one, let me tell you.  This was the City of the Walking Dead.


My oncologist is a nice young fellow from Ceylon or India or someplace in that part of the world.  I’d checked him out on the internet and the clinic’s website and he looked to be an OK doc.  Of course I brought Jo with me.  She’s good at remembering details and would absorb far more of them than would I, for I was primarily busy asking question after question after question.

I’m seventy-four so I know I’ll kick the bucket in the next 10-12 years.  Now Jo, and buddy Dale and friend Debbie, all know they are going to die too, but they don’t know where, when or, most importantly, from what.  Not me, I know that absent an intervening heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, maybe even a car wreck, I will definitely die of cancer and, as everyone in the doleful group sitting around me knows, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

After a forty-five-minute consultation, Jo, the doctor and I arrived at a plan of action — a plan that should keep me going until one of the aforesaid maladies takes me out.  The plan is this:

In November, I get another PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test to gauge how fast the tumor is growing.

Based on its growth rate, I can opt for a treatment called Provenge TM, which goes for about $100,000 and if not that, then a different, less costly treatment that gives equivalent results.  I also insisted on an experimental treatment, should one come in over the transom between now and November.  Doc said he’d keep his eyes open and call if one comes in. Doc said the labs are hot with new medicines and that new treatments are coming in almost daily.

Doc says he believes in the cutting edge.  So do I.

My tumor, or tumors, are small.  Maybe 3-4 cubic millimeters altogether. and Doc says the earlier I start on some new protocol, the better my chances for a long-term remission.  My timing, Doc said, is propitious.  Outside of insurance coverage, the determination of which to use first will depend on the PSA test.

I also told Doc I won’t go for any of that chemotherapy stuff. I don’t want to be shot full of a sub-lethal doses of various poisons. I don’t want to spending a week puking out my guts, shitting blood, losing all my hair, bloating like a dead fish and getting messed up by chemo brain.  This last is when the poisons will have damaged my brain such that I’ll spend the rest of my life sitting in a corner, twiddling my hair, not knowing whither to shit or blind.

Well, patient reader,that’s about it I just wanted to share.

-Merlin-


Death of a Child

10 July 2016

There’s a website named Quora on which people post questions and the readers and members are invited to comment.  A few days ago, a member posted a question dealing with a child’s death.  The author wanted to know what to do to rebuild her shattered life.

The author’s teen-aged son had died suddenly of a hemorrhagic stroke. Now, three years later, the parents were as bereft and devastated as on the day he died.  The author want to know when — if ever — the pain might go away.

These parent are locked in a stasis.  They are in profound pain without comfort nor surcease.  They are deeply depressed and stricken by grief.

I believe they’d like to move forward, but move forward to  . . . where?  I can say, from personal experience, the quickest, surest cure for this kind of depression is action.

If you too have lost a child, here are some things to consider.

Step One: I strongly recommend you both call Big Brothers/Big Sisters and volunteer your time.  The children for whom you would serve as elder siblings are not young toughs that might murder you in your sleep.  No.  They are oftentimes kids who’ve lost a parent of the same sex and are suffering from the loss of that parent’s influence.

Back in the mid-1980s, I volunteered for Big Brothers but the shrink who evaluated my suitability found I didn’t have sufficient respect for authority so I was rejected.  She suggested I volunteer for the county’s Guardian ad Litem program (a.k.a. CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate), acting on behalf of abused and neglected children — an activity from which I gained the knowledge to give this advice.  I say this because the pecksniffs and Big Siblings can be excessively picky.  Which means you might want your first contact with Big Siblings to be made through the filter of an officiant at your temple, church or mosque.

If you try the program and find you aren’t ready for this kind of involvement, you can easily drop out.  If you like it and do well at it but still miss your kid like crazy, there’s Step Two.  Call the offices of your county and tell the person answering the phone you want to find out about becoming foster parents.  Yes, foster parents.  They will be weepingly glad to accept you and will welcome you with open arms.  Again, there’ll be various evaluations to make sure you have the moxie, stamina, right motives, right thinking and basic decency to do the job.

The county will go to great lengths to make sure you and your foster kid are a good fit.  During this process, you’ll be presented with several candidates.  You, the kid and the county will come to an agreement the fit is right, then you take the kid into your home and you and the kid are off and running. Also, there is usually a monthly stipend from the county.  And services.  Yes, services; like psychological counselling for both you and the kid — you aren’t left to sink or swim all on your own.

And I must now say this: By being foster parents YOU ARE NOT BEING DISLOYAL TO YOUR DEAD CHILD! After all, if you had, say, three kids and one died, would you not still love, care for and nurture the remaining two?  Of course you would.  No one would think you disloyal.

And this brings us to Step Three: Adoption.  If you’ve fallen in love with your foster kid, and the kid’s fallen in love with you, adoption is clearly the right and logical thing to do.


In healing a child’s broken heart, you’ll be healing your’s too.

The pain you feel now will mellow into fond remembrances.  Not only that, but you’ll have performed a true mitzvah and be eligible for induction to The Order of the Mensch.

And your dead child will be very, very proud of you.

-Merlin-

 


Getting to the Top in a Large Organization

21 June 2016

Sometime ago, a young fellow wanted to know what it would take — what he’d have to do — to get to the top in a large organization.  Were he in a small organization, I would recommend marrying the boss’ daughter, but he wanted to know what to do in a large one so, OK, here goes.

  1. Become an obsequious lick-spittle, an abject toady and a back-stabber.
  2. Attach yourself, like a sea lamprey, to one of the more unbalanced people in upper management who can be your patron, mentor and booster.
  3. Buy a copy of The Prince and follow its council to the letter.

Do these things and you will float to the top.

-Merlin-


Guns and the NRA

13 June 2016

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has a problem: Its zeal to protect gun rights is, or will be, a factor in nutting the 2nd Amendment.  I say this because mass murders by gun-toting nuts are rapidly becoming the popular image of NRA members.  Every time some head case murders a bunch of people with an automatic rifle or handgun, the call goes out for restrictions and outright bans.  And every time, the NRA mounts a hysterical reply based on some bizarre hypothesis.  The NRA talks only in absolutes: There must not be even one circumscription of Gun Rights or all guns will be taken away by force.  In the eyes of the NRA it’s either/or.  All or nothing.

If the NRA doesn’t want its worst fears to come true, it has to get in front this mass murder problem.  If it doesn’t, mass murders will prompt a movement toward severe gun restrictions, perhaps bans — or even the repeal of Amendment No.2.  I don’t want that.  I have a small 5-shot .357 magnum revolver locked and loaded and in a place where it can fall readily to hand.  I will keep my .357 no matter what.  That said, in an effort to quench the gun/mass murder problem, I recommend the NRA release something like the following.


We at the NRA realize mass murders via high-capacity military long arms (e.g., the AR-15) must end.  We understand sportsmen, hunters and those seeking self-protection want and need long-arms with  multi-round capacities.  But not machine guns.

An automatic rifle with a 30-round clip will be useful if the country is invaded by some unwashed hoard coming ashore to kill and pillage.  But that’s not the case.  The worst threat an American faces today is a home invasion where 3-4 or maybe 5 POS kick in your front door at 3:00AM.  The second worst threat an American faces is being accosted by some animated bowel movement while out in public.  In these cases, firearms will be most useful indeed.

However.

In the first case (home invasion), the weapon of choice is a 12 gauge shotgun (open choke) with the standard 5-round capacity.  A 12-gauge is a true point-and-shoot weapon; one round fired in the approximate direction of a home invader will leave his guts sprayed all over your living room.  The second choice is a handgun of some sort, but you have to carefully aim those and you can easily miss.  Either way, you don’t need machine gun with a 30-round clip to do the job.

In the second case, crime on the street, a gun like my 5-shot revolver is the way to go.  It can easily be concealed in the back of your waist band or a small purse and within easy reach.  Not so with automatics having 13-round clips; they are large and bulky and a pain in the ass to carry around all day.  You pull my 5-shot revolver on a gang of yobs set on ruining your day and they’ll disappear like smoke in the wind.  Simply point the revolver at the leader, thumb the hammer back and say something like “OK, sport, you first”.  A 13-round handgun is redundant.

And so we at the NRA support bans on:

  • 30-round clips for long guns — 9 will do nicely.
  • 13-round clips for automatic handguns — 9 will do nicely
  • revolvers of more than 7-round capacity

As for automatic shotguns, anything more than a 9-round capacity makes the gun simply unwieldy.

We also support mandatory reporting of troubled minds and people exhibiting behaviors of religious nuts.  The names will go into the federal registry which must be perused before any sale can be made.  This is most important for it’s not the AR-15 that commits mass murder, it’s the creature pulling its trigger.

To make this plan acceptable and workable, Uncle Sam should establish a buy-back program for high-capacity clips and, yes, AR-15’s and other guns like them as their mere appearance frightens people and adds to the suspicion and fear of guns and their owners.

While the AR-15 is anathematized in most circles a round from this 30.06 Weatherby hunting rifle, which holds 5-rounds and will kill a grizzly or a moose, but has no sinister image:

Of course any form of coercion in a buy-back program will simply be unacceptable to the NRA and its members.

Last, but certainly not least, there absolutely, positively must be a firearms education program in all high schools across the country.  Firearms will be part of American like for the foreseeable future so teenagers need to know about them, their use and the legal issues involved.  To be truly effective, these courses must be mandatory for all.  We at the NRA stand by to help design – and teach – these courses.

Finally, there cannot be a registry of gun owners.  Such a thing would simply be unworkable, take the public’s eye off the ball and breed a false sense of security.

Thank you, and god bless.

(Signed) The NRA


-Merlin-


“How Can I be a Success?”

9 June 2016

“What factors are needed for success?”  This was a question posed by a reader on a social medium (website) named Quora.  You post your question and other Quora members are free to comment.  While Quora is a good idea, it is too often pretentious and censorious.  This, I feel is due to Quora’s Downvote feature.  If a reader doesn’t like your answer, for whatever reason, the reader clicks Downvote and away it goes.  All it takes is one downvote from one reader and the rest of the Quora members are denied your pearl of wisdom.

I get a lot of my answers downvoted because some one reader considers them to be, well, trenchant and pithy.  On the other hand, too many answers that get upvotes are prolix, simpering and full of fatuous clichés.  Some are the length of a novella or a PhD thesis.

And so . . .

I’m offering this blog as an antidote to Quora.  WordPress, on which this blog is written, has some features where people can actually post original stuff, not simply tell me I have my head up my ass.  I will convert to that format as quickly as I can get Jo the Programmer to work on it but as she prefers to spend her days out in the yard pulling weeds, it may be a while.  Hopefully, not too long a while.  In the meantime, feel free to make comments on the things you see here and unless they are defamatory or libelous,  I’ll approve them and they’ll appear unexpurgated.  And keep them short.  At least for now.


Q: What Factors are Needed for Success?

A: There are several.  While these factors will be viewed as applying to business, they also apply to such things as winning the hand of your Fair Maiden or Dashing Swain.

  • Write down a precise definition “success”.
  • Define the thing that sets you apart from, and ahead of, the competition.
  • Do analysis of your competition, current and potential.
  • See if the timing is right; i.e., are you ahead of the wave, riding it or are you behind it.
  • Identify any reasonable, potential spoilers that you foresee inside five years.
  • Do a trial marking to known, friendly and honest prospects.
  • Construct a well thought out and workable plan to achieve your success. Design, production, marketing and sales.
  • Have a mentor-like person off whom you can bounce ideas.
  • Have a way to test this plan to gauge its chance of success.
  • Have sufficient resources (of whatever kind) to change horses in the middle of the stream.
  • Ensure enough in the way of resources to give you staying power when you hit bumps – as you will.

Of course there is one other factor, one over which you have absolutely no control and it will determine your success: Luck.

When you start on your quest for this success, you will have determined your luck quotient is high, but Lady Luck is fickle. She can turn on you in a moment and with no warning. If she does turn on you, the bad luck will usually come out of left field and in a way you could not have foreseen.

Always be prepared to either regroup or shoot your venture in the head and begin again.  And don’t wait until the last dog is hanged!

-Merlin-

 


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