Facebook has Become a Disease,

25 September 2017

Facebook has become a disease.

About two weeks ago, I started “friending” all sorts of old dudes who, like me, play Santa Claus. I thought I’d get greetings and comments that would be kindly, cordial and in keeping with Santa’s reputation for benignity. Wrong. While I suppose most of these old guys were the kindly souls, in keeping with their calling as Santa, a depressing number were bitter, bilious and hateful. I was treated to obscene, intemperate, emotional and illogical rants often accompanied by slogans of the basest sort. This stuff was all political and spoke almost exclusively of grievance. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to harbor such cankerous thoughts without them doing profound damage to your soul. These men have become curmudgeons of the worst sort, the kind who will swat children with their canes and kick small dogs. How such men could put on the red suit is beyond me.

In general, I find people who use Facebook to spew are censorious and intolerant, and too often that has included me, sorry to say. Facebookers will post ignorant, illogical and factually wrong propositions, making them available for all to see like a leaper displaying his sores. Obviously, they expect their nonsense to go unchallenged so when someone replies with a comment that points out the errors, they get the vapors and blame the respondent for the ructions that follow. promptly “unfriending” the interlocutor. In so doing, they cut themselves off from contrasting and contradictory views, thus contributing to some increasingly isolated and unrealistic views of the world.

On the other side of the coin, when the comments [to a post] are agreeable, the comments almost always ratchet up the intemperance and silliness of the original posting until the whole concatenation of posting and comments have worked themselves into a silly froth. This is the “echo chamber” which Facebook has become. Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social medium to have become an echo chamber. Please include Twitter and Google+ as well as all single-issue message boards and so-called “news” sites.

Well patient reader, I took action. Saturday afternoon, while beholding the whole deplorable display scrolling down my screen, I clicked the three little dots in the upper righthand corner of all political bullshit and deep-sixed the whole damned lot.

I strongly urge everyone to do as I have done; purge your feeds of political crap. All political crap, even when the crap dovetails with your own views. The only way to restore a semblance of civility to the USofA is to dial it back. Stop trying to score points with one outrageous statement after another. You aren’t persuading others to your point of view, all you’re doing is pissing them off. Also understand that when you put a posting up on Facebook for all to see, you are, perforce, inviting criticism so you really have no call to bitch when the criticism comes.

Also recognize the political bullshit may be coming from someone who wishes us ill.

-Merlin-

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Bad Day at Gault’s Gulch

19 August 2017

Hank had awakened at his usual six A.M. Dagney had already gotten up so she could fix bacon, eggs, corned beef hash, fried potatoes along with a generous helping of biscuits and gravy, all washed down with three glasses of buttermilk.  Yum.  It was the way Hank liked to start the day — after taking his morning constitutional, that is.

Hank and Dagney escaped to Gault’s Gulch the previous year when they felt the world and all its parasitic untermenchen were about to come-a-cropper. Hank and Dagney had turned up their noses as these “little people” as Hank liked to call anyone who wasn’t a . . . well, swell.  Self-made people, were Dagney and Hank. Hank having invented green steel, made bazillions and took Dagney as his loyal punch.  The people who actually made the green steel in Hank’s filthy sweat shops (they deserved no better. In fact, Hank felt they deserved even less so he and Dagney could have even more) were simply expendable ciphers and meat machines who looked with covetous and envious eyes on Hank, Dagney, Judge Snaggert, the Latin Lothario and, of course, John Gault.

Like Scrooge before him, Hank delighted in making life as miserable as possible for the men and women who toiled on his behalf. “Please, Mr. Reardon,” sniveled of the men from down in the Stygian depths of the metal fabricating shops,”Can I have a raise?  It’s tough to make a go of it on $7.50 and hour.  The wife and I would like to have a pizza once in a while, after all, fatback and beans doesn’t provide suitable nourishment.”

“The fuck it doesn’t!” roared Hank. “You’r just trying to get at my hard-earned money and suck me dry.  Well I’ll teach you to expect altruism from your betters.  As of this moment, you pay is reduced to $7.25 and hour.  Now get your ass out of my office. I have to count my money”.

It was shortly after that that talk of unionizing was heard on the shop floor.  “Goddamned rotters,” Hank seethed,  “I ought charge the bastards to work here in order to make money for the superior people — people like me, goddammit!”

Well, enough of the backstory.  Let’s pick up where we left off – Hank’s sitting on the commode.  While listening to a rerun of Rush, Hank hit the flusher.  But instead of the toilet’s contents gurgling down the drain, the feculent water began to rise finally wetting Hank’s scrotum.  “What it fuck?” roared Hank.  “Dag, call the goddamned plumber.”  A few minutes later, Dangney called out to Hank, “He won’t come out.  When I told him our name, he told me to go fuck myself, then hung-up”.

Hank ground his teeth.  “Dag, ring-up Judge Snaggert, Tell him I’m coming by and we’re going into town to give that parasitic wretch the what-for”.  With that, Hank dried his yam sack, dressed and closed the bathroom door to keep the smell inside.  With the Judge sitting beside him in the Bentley, Hank put the car in gear only to find it wouldn’t move.  Smoke and smell filled the passenger compartment; the transmission had taken a shit. “Motherfucker!” bellowed Hank as the Judge made sneers and deprecatory comments about how the little people who built the Bentley were out to screw their betters — a common theme, here in Gault’s Gulch.

“Let’s go see John Gault.  He’ll know what to do,” so the two of them hoofed it over to the stadium-sized mansion that was Gault’s “country home”.  Ah, but things weren’t going so well there, either.  “Can’t help, guys,” said Gault with  shrug.  “The Roller has two flats and I haven’t a clue how to change either one.  Besides, when I called into town for a tow truck and told him who I was, the leech told me to eat shit”.

Just then the Judge’s phone rang.  It was Dagney to tell Hank their power went out and when she called an electrician, the bloodsucker told her to kiss his dick.  “Hank,” Dagney whined, “The little people, the sponges, the idlers and hanger’s-on, they won’t come out and care for us.  What’r we gonna do?”  Do?  Why nothing, because it was The Gulch’s little atomic power plant that croaked.  The residents of The Gulch put it in when they built the place and today, when the Judge called the company that made it, he was greeted with the snarl “Fix it yourself, motherfucker” and the line went dead.  Of course all the food in the freezers around the Gulch thawed out and had to be taken to the compost pile.

Oh, oh.

The last we saw of the swells, the captains of industry and the rest of the ubermenschen, some were mowing lawns to earn their daily bread.  Others toiled in a factory making illuminated beer signs.  One, rather than suffer the ignominy and disgrace of manual labor, blew out his brains.  Dagney?  She flew a cash register at the local Red Owl.  As for Hank, he’d gotten a letter from his lawyer announcing the grievous fact that some young whipper-snapper who’d worked for Hank and just invented a red steel that was stronger, lighter and (above all) cheaper than Hank’s green stuff.  “Sorry to tell you, Hank,” wrote the lawyer, “But the bottom dropped out of the green steel market.  You’re broke!  See you in hell, you stingy piece of shit!”  Hank went to see Dagney’s boss at the grocery store and got a job as a bag-boy — minimum wage, natch.

Well, there you have it.  Looks like the Law of Unintended Consequences just bit the Reardon and Snaggart and the rest of Gault’s Gulch, right in the ass.

Karma’s a bitch.

-Merlin-

 


Vladimere’s Visit.

24 July 2017

This how The Great Pumpkin looked before Vlad came to visit.  Ready, willing and able.

 

And this is how he looked after Vlad went home. Owiee, owiee, owiee.

.

 

-Merlin-


More on The Subject de Jure

14 July 2017

When my dad came down with a hyper metastatic nephroma, the only things they had were surgery and mustard gas.  Yes, you heard me right, mustard gas, the stuff they used in WWI to kill the enemy.  That was it.  As for diagnostics, there was the X-ray and exploratory surgery.

Now, in 2017, we have:

CT scans
MRI scans
Colonoscopies
Stereotactic X-ray
Proton beams
Open heart surgery
Heart valve replacements
Hart/lung/kidney and, yes, penis transplants
Retinal reattachment
Nerve grafts
Burn treatments and reconstruction
Hip/knee/shoulder and other kinds of joint replacements.
Laparoscopic surgery
Robotic surgery (e.g., the Da Vinci machine)
At least 300 medicines for cancer (but no mustard gas)
Statins for the heart
TPA for stroke
Bone density scans
Pacemakers and defibrillators
PSMA scans for metastatic prostate tumors (still experimental)
Cochlear implants
Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo treatments
Dental implants
Root canals
Brain implants to control seizures
Bone implants

These are but a few. They all have come on the scene since my dad died. They all cost money because the people who develop and implement these treatments shouldn’t have to work for free — hell, would you? No? Didn’t think so.

Thanks to these people, when you or your kid gets sick, these ameliorative and curative treatments, which were undreamed of when I graduated high school in 1960, are there waiting for you.

I have a Stage 4 cancer that would have long since killed me were this the 1950s but today, I’m on a medicine named abiraterone acetate that has knocked it back by 90% in just under a month. Had the results of an as-yet experimental PSMA scan been different, I would have had the tumor burnt out by a proton beam. The abiraterone acetate costs $57,000 for a course of treatment. Don’t know what the proton beam treatment would have cost, but the machine that delivers it (a cyclotron) cost $150,000,000.

So you squawk about “paying for someone else’s healthcare”, right? Well Buster, just remember when the hammer blow strikes, I’ll be paying for your’s and you’ll get all the meds and treatments you need for as long as you need them. If you’re bitching about healthcare costs, you are one ignorant and ungrateful asshole.

-Merlin-


About the Death Penalty

8 June 2017

I’m against it. At least in the current formats: A quick buzz of electricity, the little chirp in the ear as the noose snaps the neck, the sharp sting as the needle is thrust in, the hard punch in the chest as the bullets puncture the heart. They are too quick. Here’s what I would like to see.

The convict is imprisoned 24/7/52 in a pure white cell. There will be no windows. The 4 walls, the ceiling and the floor, all white as are the bed linens. The toilet and sink are white, as are their handles and faucets. The toilet will be a bidet because a toilet can be stopped up with toilet paper. The only thing in the cell that won’t be pure white is the convict. The cell will be kept at a comfortable temperature and a white light will be kept on day and night.

The convict will not be allowed clothing as the convict might be able to make a noose. The convict will be fed through a portal in the cell door. Once a week, the convict will be allowed to take a shower and given a white towel with which to dry but during this time, the convict will not be allowed to talk with, let alone see, other convicts.

No commissary, no library, no visitation, no TV, no radio, no books.

At the end of each week, a device will be passed to the convict through the portal in the door. The device will ask the convict if he or she prefers to die, or go on living like this. There will be a colored button for Yes. The convict will have one hour to make the choice, then the device is withdrawn. Each week, the device will be presented to the convict to, again, make a choice.

When (not if) the convicts presses the button for Yes, a prerecorded message plays telling the convict the next time he or she falls asleep, the cell will be flooded with Nitrogen gas.

Sweet dreams.

-Merlin-


Healthcare in The USA

13 May 2017

With all the strum und drang about healthcare, I thought it might be a good idea to take a fairly average health problem and look at it historically.  No screaming and shouting, no sloganeering, no breast-beating, no turd-throwing.  Just the facts.  Mine.  

I’ve got cancer and my case is typical of cancer patients.  As my doctor said, “once you’ve got cancer, you’ve always got cancer”, so this is an ongoing tale — just as cancer is for 85% of those afflicted with Emperor of All Maladies.  Oh, and as I haven’t died yet, there will be more to the story.  

When my dad died of cancer in 1959, his treatment consisted of one operation then a bottle of painkillers and it took from July 1958 to March 1959 for him to die.  Let’s compare dad’s case to mine.

  • In 2000, I had the tumor shoveled out.  Cost: $32,000.  
  • PSA tests for the next five years.  Total cost: $10,000.
  • Surgery for a complication.  Total cost: $17,000.
  • Surgery for a recurrence.  Total cost:  $12,000.
  • Oncological visits for another recurrence.  Costs so far: $550.
  • Experimental diagnostic test.  Total cost: $7,500.
  • Visits with oncologist and radiologist.  Costs so far: $900.
  • Irradiation with a proton beam.  Projected cost: $55,000.
  • Immunotherapeutic vaccines.  Projected costs: $100,000.
  • More visits to the oncologist.  Projected costs: $2,000.
  • Hospice care.  Projected costs: $5,000+.
  • Painkillers and such.  Projected costs: ?
  • Final expenses – cremation.  Projected costs: $600.

That, folks, comes up to $178,500.

So I have a question for the “I’m all right, Jack” crowd as well as the smug and callous folks who say “I don’t want my hard-earned money . . .”, and the question is: Can you take a hit like this?  

Maybe you can, or maybe will you have to:

  • Sell the house and move into a shit-hole.
  • Trade-down from the nice, reliable car to a clapped-out unreliable beater.
  • Liquidate your portfolio (you have one, don’t you?).
  • Drain the kids’ college funds.
  • Bleed usurious interest for payday loans when the bills come due.
  • Beg.  On the internet, at work, from the friends, from the family . . .
  • And, finally, file a Chapter 7.

Of course, through all of this, there will be the strain of impending debilitation, pain and death.  Those things will be watching over your shoulder 24/7/52.  Don’t forget about them, for they will compound the worry over paying for it.  Not to mention standing helplessly by as you, or someone you love Gets. All.  Fucked. Up.

Sometimes the treatments will work and the poor afflicted soul will get some good years before the cancer resurfaces in some other place.  Or, Providence be thanked, an actual cure might be achieved.  Or sadly, in our retrogressing society, it could be like it was for my dad in 1959 — or like it was in 1917 where the patient was dumped in a bed, screaming, with wrists tied to the bed rails so as to not pull out the tubes.

But cancer isn’t the only grody disease out there.  There are thousands and they can be just as taxing, just as harrowing and just as costly.

Now I’m 75 so lots of good rock-ribbed Americans will say, “Enough!  You’ve had you life.  Don’t be a drag on the public purse.  Begone!”  But what if the person we’re talking about isn’t an old goat like me but a baby?  Or a high-school cheerleader, perhaps a young parent, maybe a 40-something who’s just hit his/her stride?  Or you?  It isn’t just old dudes who get sick, you know.

Well, dear reader, there’s only one cure for America’s terrible health care problem and we all know what it is:

Medicare For All

-Merlin-


Roger

23 April 2017

We’d moved to Richfield between my 5th and 6th grades and during that summer, I made a few acquaintances, among them, Roger. Roger was quite short for being in the sixth grade, like maybe a 4th grade stature, and while short is bad enough for a young lad, there was worse. Roger was slight of build, had an undershot jaw, had a pug nose that was more like an up-turned snout than anything, was covered in freckles and was topped by a thatch of ugly red hair.  Now red hair can be beautiful, as in the case of Leslie, of whom I wrote earlier, but Roger’s appeared to result from a miscegenation of  a carrot and a pomegranate.

Roger also had an unpleasant way of looking about.  While most people with switch their gaze in rapid movements then lock on until they’ve seen enough, Roger would sloooowly peer in one direction then another without really stopping to take it all in.  He did this while wearing an expression like someone coming out from under anesthesia.

Roger was, well, homely and in a mildly disconcerting way.  You really didn’t want to be around him.  Or be seen with him.

We really didn’t like Roger.


Anyway, the school year ran on and one day, my buddy Dave and I were talking about classmates and the name Roger came up.  We enumerated his shortcomings but agreed that, in Roger’s case, still waters could indeed be running deep, so we decided to befriend Roger and give him a chance.  Roger turned out to be just what everybody thought he’d be: Dull, unimaginative, uninteresting and unlikable. But we persevered.  We agreed that, while we’d try to avoid Roger, should he come trotting over, we’d hang out with him until dinnertime then go our separate ways.  This worked for the rest of the school year.

During that summer, Dave and I continued to have contact with Roger.  Through mid-summer, our contacts were always outside, away from home as we didn’t want him to come over and bother us.  We were afraid we’d never get rid of him.  One rainy afternoon, Roger invited Dave and me over to his place.  Well what the hell, sure, why not.

Inside, Roger’s home was austere.  Everything looked two-dimensional and unsullied by human contact.  Kind of sorrowful, in a way.  And neat as a pin.  The motif was dull earth tones.  On the wall hung a large Christian cross with dried reeds; it was the room’s centerpiece.  The whole effect was not pleasant.

His parents appeared. The only thing I remember about them is his father’s left hand got shot ff in the war and the stump was now graced by a steel pincer shaped like a hook. They were quiet and cordial and seemed surprised their boy could actually bring home friends. They struck me as though Roger, their only child, was their heartbreak and despair.  They hoped for the best and prayed Dave and I were it.

We didn’t stay long.  On our way home Dave and I began to put it all together and came to the conclusion Roger was a case of arrested development.  Roger would never be more then a child with some adult attributes.  It was a sad realization. Over the next weeks, our relationship with Roger petered out.

We didn’t see Roger for all of 7th grade, but beginning with the first day of 8th, we did.  We assumed he’d moved away but on the third day of school, as we waited for the bus, who should we see coming trotting down Park Avenue but Roger.  The homunculus was just as we’d last seen him over a year ago, nothing had changed.

During that time, a new fellow moved into the neighborhood.  Brad Turnquist, by name.  Brad was a year ahead of Dave and me but this bus stop served all of the grades, so here he was, watching Roger come town the street in his little boy gait.  “What the fuck is that!” Brad said with a mean-spirited curiosity.

“That’s Roger,” said Dave with a smile.  I said nothing.

There were maybe a half-dozen of us at the bus stop. A few were making chit-chat, a few had books open, some other were looking at the sky but no one paid any attention to Roger.  We kind of regarded Roger as one of those lawn elves you see stuck in the snow at Christmas time — noticed, but ignored.  Brad, however, kept looking at Roger in a predatory sort of way, then in a few moments, turned his gaze elsewhere.

A week or two later, we discovered something we’d never noticed about Roger; he loved food.  One morning, Gail Bostrom had a doughnut and on this treat, Roger came alive. “Oh, hey. Gimme some.  Come on, gimme some” and he all but reached for Gail’s doughnut the way a puppy would when it saw a morsel.  Gail tried to avoid him but Roger would not be denied.  “Come on.  Gimmee some”, he whined.  Brad Turnquist decided to save the damsel in distress.  Tapping Roger on the head, Brad said “Hey, nerd.  She ain’t gonna give you Jack Squat.  Now fuck off.”  And so Roger did.  He moved to the periphery of the little group and looked down the street toward his house.

A little later, Roger approached Brad and called him a dirty name.  “What the fuck you call me, you little shit?” asked an astonished Brad.  That Roger could have such effrontery was, well, beyond imagining.  “I called you an ishy-poo”, said Roger through his little squenched-up pink mouth, then he took a swing at Turnquist. Of course Roger missed by the proverbial country mile but never say die, Roger advanced on Turnquist while he flailed his arms in windmill-like arcs, never getting even close to Turnquist’s nose. Turnquist began to laugh as he backed away from the wildly swinging Roger.  The rest of us joined in the merriment.  But Roger wouldn’t stop, so Turnquist reached forward, put out his hand, grabbed Roger by the head and held him at bay as Roger kept on swinging.  The group howled with laughter.


Fast forward to the tenth grade.

I’d not seen much of Roger the last few years and was glad of it.  One afternoon, Dave Olson, a large bumptious fellow and I, were talking as we pulled books from our lockers.  “That goddamned Knutson,” he said.  “Little fucker won’t leave me alone.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“You know how I always have a Hershey bar close by, Right? Well Knutson, whenever he sees me with one, comes up whining ‘Gemme some, gemme some’.  Well, I finally figured out how to get rid of him.  I got an Ex-Lax bar — looks just like a Hershey bar, don’t it? “. Olson held it up as if were a great prize, and in a way, it was.  “I’m gonna re-wrap it in my Hershey bar wrapper and when the little fuck hits me up again, I’m gonna give him some.”

“Oh, Christ, Olson,” I said with a laugh, “Just don’t give him the whole bar.  Fuckin thing might kill him.”

A few days later, I was taking with Dave and he told me that Olson finally gave Roger the faux Hershey bar.  It was a big dose too, about half a bar, Dave thought.  Olson gave Roger the Ex-Lax just before the first period bell rang.  The next morning, it was the talk of the school: During an English class held in the in the last period of the day, in which Roger was a pupil, Roger began to squirm around in his seat then without asking permission, bolted for the door while holding the backside of his trousers as something within them made a soft burbling sound.  The Ex-Lax had done its magic and Roger had shit in his pants.

After shoveling out his pants and cleaning his bum as best he could, Roger went to see the school nurse who sent him home in a Taxi.

Roger’s mortification was complete.

We didn’t see much of Roger for a while and that was OK because nobody missed him.  In fact, I don’t recall seeing him at all.  He’s not entered in the year book so I’m not sure he even graduated.  However, the class website has a Dearly Departed page and, sure enough, there’s Roger’s name.  His was one of the first entries.

RIP Roger.

-Merlin-