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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Monday, January 31, 2005
What Is It?
Many of my writings concern ways in which my training did not prepare me for the realities of medical practice. This is no exception.

In medical school, we were taught to begin a patient interview with a completely open ended question like "Tell me what brings you in today" or "So, what's been bothering you?" We are then to listen to the entirety of the monologue that follows before asking more specific questions, like "how long ago did the cough start?" This approach is supposed to give the patient an uninterrupted opportunity to tell her whole story in her own words.

This approach frequently fails, and it frequently fails the same way. It fails because many patients have no idea what a doctor needs to hear and because of the singular impersonal pronoun "it".

Here is a typical encounter.
Me: So, tell me why you're here today.
Patient: Well, I'm feeling pretty sick. It started when I was over at my sister-in-law's house, and, you know, the whole family was there, and for all I know someone there had it first. And we all overate, of course, and that night is when it started. And first I thought it might have been because of her cats, but I'm at her house all the time and it's never happened before. Anyway, the next morning it was much worse. I felt really bad. So I took all this over-the-counter stuff, and during the day it got a little better, so I figured that I'd get some sleep and in the morning I'd be fine. But in the morning I was much worse and that's when I figured that it couldn't have been her cats. Then, even though I was really miserable, I thought I'd wait it out a couple of days because, you know, these things sometimes just get better on their own. But each day, I felt worse than the day before, and I finally called your office.

Note how well I followed my training. Note also how I was punished for this. The patient believes that he is telling me lots of information, and he’s certainly talking a lot. He’s telling me a whole lot about his life at the time of his illness, but he’s telling me nothing that will help me diagnose or treat this illness. What he doesn’t know, or hasn’t slowed down enough to consider, is that what I really need to hear to diagnose his problem is the symptoms he’s having. He hasn’t mentioned a single symptom so far. A cough, a fever, and loss of appetite are all symptoms, while being with the whole family, taking over-the-counter medicines, and blaming the cats are not. Pretty simple, no? You’d think so, but so far I don’t even know which organ system he’s having the most problems with. Is he having digestive problems? Respiratory? Urinary? Your guess is as good as mine. He never actually refers to any of his symptoms or his illness except for with the word “it”.

At this point, I’m looking at the patient with an increasingly puzzled look and my forehead is more wrinkled with every unhelpful sentence. I haven’t recorded a single word yet in the chart, since he hasn’t said anything worth recording. I’m trying to figure out how to redirect this runaway train with a more focused question. Unfortunately, this pause is frequently misinterpreted as an invitation to continue.

Patient: So after I called your office, I called my sister-in-law to tell her how bad I felt and she said that two years ago she had the same exact thing and that her doctor had to try three different medicines before she got better, but she’s in an HMO, so I’m sure you’re smarter than that. Anyway, she agreed that I should see you right away, and she was a little offended that I even thought it was her cats, but I felt too sick to be embarrassed.

Then, frequently, the patient will close his information-free soliloquy with a question.

Patient: So, do you think it could it be Strep?

What? Not only have I not examined you, but you’ve just used up a quarter of the visit telling me nothing, and now you’d like me to take a stab at the diagnosis!? That usually comes at the end of the visit. Do I think it could be Strep? Sure. It could also be schizophrenia or colon cancer. How ‘bout you throw me a bone here and actually let me in on the big secret. What is it? Sore throat? Vomiting blood? Headache? Voices telling you to kill the President? Am I getting close?

Early in my career I would at this point fantasize about leaping out of my chair and knocking the patient to the floor while screaming “WHAT IS IIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!?” I was mostly restrained by the certainty that the California Medical Board frowns on that sort of behavior. Eventually I learned through trial and error ways to get the interview back on track.

Me: You haven’t told me what’s actually bothering you. What’s “it”?
Patient: I thought you were gonna tell me.

SECURITY! Have this man removed. Ahem. Sorry. Let’s try again.

Me: I mean what actual symptoms were you having?
Patient: Symptoms? Oh, mostly my stomach really hurt.

HALLELUJAH! The clouds part and the angels sing. At this point the actual substance of the visit starts and much health care is delivered, but for that part I can actually rely on my training.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
The Other Side of No Late Fees
And now for something completely mundane:

I was at Blockbuster today using one of my two free monthly coupons (you know, the ones that come along with that $15-a-month online dvd rental service). There were plenty of copies of the Care Bears movie my kids insisted on renting so I didn't have a problem, but other patrons were grumbling that since the end of late fees there are no titles available on the shelves.

Tee hee.

The People Have Won
Mohammed and Omar at Iraq the Model post this eloquent and inspirational report of election day in Iraq. Highlights:
The first thing we saw this morning on our way to the voting center was a convoy of the Iraqi army vehicles patrolling the street, the soldiers were cheering the people marching towards their voting centers then one of the soldiers chanted "vote for Allawi" less than a hundred meters, the convoy stopped and the captain in charge yelled at the soldier who did that and said: "You're a member of the military institution and you have absolutely no right to support any political entity or interfere with the people's choice. This is Iraq's army, not Allawi's". This was a good sign indeed and the young officer's statement was met by applause from the people on the street.
From the early hours of the morning, People filled the street to the voting center in my neighborhood; youths, elders, women and men. Women's turn out was higher by the way. And by 11 am the boxes where I live were almost full! Anyone watching that scene cannot but have tears of happiness, hope, pride and triumph.
Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not.

I still recall the first group of comments that came to this blog 14 months ago when many of the readers asked "The Model?"… "Model for what?" Take a look today to meet the model of courage and human desire to achieve freedom; people walking across the fire to cast their votes.

Could any model match this one!? Could any bravery match the Iraqis'!? Let the remaining tyrants of the world learn the lesson from this day.

The media is reporting only explosions and suicide attacks that killed and injured many Iraqis thus far but this hasn't stopped the Iraqis from marching towards their voting stations with more determination. Iraqis have truly raced the sun.
Read it all. What can a lying blowhard like Michael Moore say to such heroes? What would Ted Kennedy dare tell them? That he favors getting America out before the Iraqi military is ready to keep order? That he's happy to sacrifice Democracy in its infancy so that we don't lose another soldier?

Update: James Lileks weighs in with a great Bleat.
A New Day Dawns in Iraq
Iraqis queuing to vote at a polling station in the centre of Az Zubayr, Southern Iraq. (AP photo)
All around the country, Iraqis defied threats of violence and cast their votes. Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission initially estimated that 72 percent of the country's eligible voters had turned out to cast their ballots but an official later said an estimated eight million Iraqis - or 60 percent of eligible voters - turned out to vote.
Obviously the next few months will be fraught with danger, and we are a long way away from resting on our laurels in Iraq. Nevertheless, who is willing to tell these women and men -- standing in line for hours, some carrying their older relatives -- who is willing to tell them that American sacrifices to bring them to this day were not worth it, since we've found no WMD? Who can face this woman -- proudly displaying her ink-stained finger proving that she has cast a ballot, tears in her eyes, her card reading "Elect Iraq" -- and tell her that self-determination is just for us, not for you?

Friday, January 28, 2005
Short video on why they hate us
Why liberals (well, okay, radicals) hate us, that is. Seems they're upset about W's re-election.

Key quote:

"There's gotta be something else 'cause I don't know that voting is actually working."

You can't make this stuff up - is that perfect or what?

[hat tip: Galley Slaves]
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy
This is pretty freaky. The article discusses the danger of dulling the sanctity of human life by creating hybrids. What I want to know is, at what point will such a creature suffer (this is being done for research purposes, apparently). Animals don't suffer in the way humans do, which makes it moral to do certain kinds of experiments (in my opinion, stuff like developing life-saving medicines, as opposed to hypoallergenic mascara). But how much of the human brain will it need before it has the capacity to suffer - and how can we possibly ever know the answer to that?

In any case, the article contains a great quote about some scientists' attitudes towards bioethics:
Anybody who puts their own moral guidance in the way of this biomedical science, where they want to impose their will - not just be part of an argument - if that leads to a ban or moratorium. ...they are stopping research that would save human lives.
See, you can't have moral guidance in science. And anyone who wants it is free to be "part of the argument," so long as their argument does not lead to popular initiatives or laws passed by elected officials. Either of which, of course, constitutes the imposition of one's will.

[Hat tip to The Corner.]
Bomb Shelters, Part II
Give careful consideration to the following as you design your new bomb shelter:

Major cities and military installations are likely targets for a nuclear attack. The closer you are to ground zero, the stronger your bomb shelter needs to be. If you are near a potential target, your bomb shelter should be built underground and reinforced to protect you from the blast effect, the thermal radiation, and the nuclear radiation of a nuclear explosion. If you are far from a potential target, you may still need a bomb shelter to protect you from the radioactive fallout following a nuclear explosion. For a list of targets in your state, click here.

Half of the energy from a nuclear explosion is expended in the blast effect - a tremendous increase in air pressure radiating outward from the point of detonation in all directions. The blast of a one-megaton nuclear device detonating at surface level would destroy everything within a half mile, including underground bomb shelters. At three quarters of a mile, strong underground bomb shelters may withstand such a blast. Structures at the surface would be subjected to the following overpressure:

Distance from epicenter - pounds per square inch - wind velocity - effects

1.7 miles - 12 psi - 300+ mph - everything blown to pieces
2.7 miles - 5 psi - 165 mph - only the steel skeletons of buildings stand
4.7 miles - 2 psi - 70 mph - moderate commercial damage, severe residential damage
7.4 miles - 1 psi - 35 mph - mild commercial damage, moderate residential damage

The blast effect deteriorates quickly over time. At least ten feet of earth above underground bomb shelters will absorb and deflect much of the blast load. Concrete reinforced with compression steel is a good building material for bomb shelters because it has ductile properties - that is, it is more likely to bend rather than break under a blast load. At a minimum, bomb shelters should support a load of 40 pounds per square foot (this from the building code for public fallout shelters).

Thirty-five percent of the energy in a nuclear explosion appears as thermal radiation - visible, infrared, and UV light. This radiation heats a sphere of air around the detonation point into a luminous fireball typically measuring 20 - 100 million degrees Fahrenheit. The fireball is a thousand times brighter than the sun and can easily blind anyone looking at it. The intensity of the heat is such that, for a one-megaton detonation, any exposed person within five miles of the epicenter would likely die from his burns.

The pulse of thermal radiation lasts for no more than a few seconds. It emanates from the center of the fireball in a straight line until it strikes matter. If the matter absorbs more thermal energy than its burning point, it will combust. Obviously bomb shelters should be built with thick, flame-resistant walls, ceilings, and floors. The outside surfaces should be light-colored or shiny to reflect radiation.

Fifteen percent of the energy in a nuclear explosion goes into nuclear radiation, of which two-thirds is comprised of alpha and beta particles; the remaining one-third is gamma rays and neutrons. Alpha and beta particles can do serious damage if swallowed or inhaled, but they do not travel far in the open air and cannot pass through thin layers of solid material. Gamma rays are a graver threat because they can travel up to a mile in the open air and penetrate deep into solid objects. Once inside a human body gamma rays cause serious damage to tissues and the blood-forming cells.

The nuclear radiation produced by an atomic explosion of more than 50 kilotons has a much shorter range than the blast effect and the thermal radiation, so it is relatively insignificant. However, all material that is vaporized by the fireball (rock, earth, concrete, steel, whatever) is fused with fission products and thrown up into the atmosphere as an enormous mushroom cloud in the case of a ground detonation. This radioactive debris can be scattered over thousands of square miles by the winds, and once it has fallen to the ground it continues to emit radiation. This indirect nuclear radiation, or fallout, is very significant, as it can pose a hazard for days, weeks, months, even years.

Four feet of earth cover is sufficient to block gamma rays. Bomb shelters should contain a fallout meter to determine when the radiation outside has fallen to safe levels.

To be continued.

Back to Part I

Part III
More on Tsunami Survivors We Know
I met Beth in Israel way back in 1991. Crazy stuff.
A Class Act in a Circus Show

Welcome to State, Dr. Rice. I expect great things from you.

Oh, and if you ever run for President, ball-and-chain and I would work tirelessly for your campaign.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The Secret To Longevity
My oldest patient is 103 years old. She is a long-term resident in a nursing home, and has been there for as long as I've known her. I took over her care 6 years ago, when she was a spry 97. When we first met she nearly knocked me over with her abrasive crankiness. She was never malevolent (at least to me, she does occasionally try to hit the nurses) but she is as sour and unpleasant a character as any I've met, except for those who are actually hostile. She has no immediate family and never married. Her closest family is two nieces who support her financially (like pay for the nursing home) and make any important decisions for her and I suspect otherwise try to minimize contact. When I first met her, I thought "She's been through a lot. She's 97. She's entitled to be grumpy." Then I found out from the nieces that her personality has been the same as long as they've known her.

I’m a very idealistic kind of doctor, and I take my work seriously, so when I first assumed her care, I tried very hard to fix whatever problems of hers I could find. I was sure she was depressed, and tried several antidepressants that made absolutely no difference. She steadfastly refused to talk to the psychologists that I asked to see her. Most of the time I order lab tests she refuses, so I only order them rarely now, and I check with her first. I don’t mind people who want no medical care, but she never said that. She would tell me myriad things that bothered her, but wouldn’t accept any attempts to treat them. Finally, I came to accept that I couldn’t improve on her status quo, and that she had reached a stable equilibrium that I was not strong enough to disturb.

Compounding my difficulty in helping her was that her nieces don’t feel close enough to her (and I suspect dislike her too much) to help me make important decisions that family frequently have to make when their loved-one loses the capacity to make them for herself. About two years ago she developed a serious urinary infection for which I hospitalized her. She spent the two or three days in the hospital pulling out every IV that was inserted, trying to hide under the bed sheets, and trying to hit every nurse that came close to her. She never had the mental wherewithal to simply and rationally tell me that she was refusing further care or that she understood the consequences of forgoing antibiotics, so I had to keep her in soft restraints those few days and do things to her that she resisted at every step. I finally got the nieces to agree that if her heart or breathing ever stop (an event too happy to expect soon) we should do nothing to intervene. In medical jargon that order is called Do Not Resuscitate. At least I will spare her a week in an ICU in her last days.

Oh, and she’s pretty deaf. She called me Dr. Peen when we first met. Back then I showed her my card, to try to correct her and show her how my name was spelled, and I screamed “NO, IT’S BEAN” in her ear, but she never got it. She still calls me Dr. Peen and I’ve long ago stopped correcting her.

I see her about every two months, and do very little during those visits. She frequently only pays attention briefly, and when she’s done with me, goes back to watching TV. I last saw her about two weeks ago.

Me: Hi. How are you?
Her: [in bed, turning away from the TV toward me] Dr. Peen?
Me: Yeah. How are you doing?
Her: [with increasing volume] Bad. BAD. I WISH I WAS DEAD.
Me: I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do for you?
Her: [screaming] GIVE ME POISON!
Me: I really can’t do that. Is there anything else I can do?
Her: [Ignores me and goes back to watching TV.]
Tsunami Survivor
I was a bit taken aback this evening when I went looking for my favorite client's website. I typed his name into a search engine, and was surprised when several news items appeared. His name isn't a common one, so I clicked. Suddenly, the reality of the deadly tsunami, a half a world away, became tangible. An email he sent to the "Manchester Union Leader" was included in their article about his experience:

An early morning jog has been part of my routine for several months and since I have been in Madras, I have chosen the beach sands near the ocean as the spot for my jog (Eliots Beach). On the 26th, I was actually woken up by relatively mild tremors which caused our home to stir and shake a bit. This was about 7 a.m. (Indian standard time). Not making much of these tremors and not paying attention to any news items on this natural phenomena, I ventured out for a jog.

At about 8 to 8:15 in the morning, I witnessed the receding of the ocean waters. I knew immediately what was coming. Having watched tsunamis on Discovery Channel for years, I knew this was it. I started to walk quickly when I heard the rush and gush of water. I turned for a second and noticed a 30-foot tidal wave approach. There were about 100-odd people other than myself, with small children playing the game of cricket on the beach. I yelled at all to rush for the high land and started running myself. As we all ran, I watched the small children getting swallowed by the sea, people getting caught in the fishing nets on the beach and unable to run, and some pacing right past me.

Just as I felt I was safe, the wave caught up with me and pulled me back with a couple of other people right next to me. This is when my swimming skills came to use. (I have none.) I just decided to float myself on top and let the waves from behind push me back out. The strategy worked and just as the second wave pushed me toward shore, I pulled a couple of other people along with me to safety — no act of bravery, just sheer adrenaline, pushing people close to me to safer havens. I myself returned home physically unscathed and moved my parents and belongings to higher ground.

Fear of death was never a problem for me — I expect death any minute. However, the scale of human and property destruction was something that was heart-wrenching and still something I am unable to comprehend.

The whole article:

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Breakthroughs in Iraq
Took this off RCP's daily list. A good read:

Breakthroughs in Iraq

There you have the deepest fear of oppressors everywhere. Whether dictators or assassins, they dread the free choice of free people. Terrorists know they can't win elections. Nor will many people vote to impose religious law on themselves.

The only hope the terrorists have is the tyranny of the bomb, the gun and the lash.

Time flies
Since we're on the liberal media topic...

Received the first issue of my complimentary six-month subscription to Time magazine yesterday. Cover story: "How soon can we get out"? Meaning, of course, from Iraq. Which leads to a few other questions:

1.) When we do get out, how far between our legs can our tail get?

2.) How big a victory can we give Islamic terrorists?

3.) How many of said terrorists can we let into our country?

4.) May we wipe their bottoms while we're at it?

5.) How soon can we abandon those for whom we are there only chance of an existence even remotely resembling one of freedom?

6.) Can we silkscreen the cover of this issue of Time onto our white flags?

Do feel free to add your own.
Israeli Army to disband religious-only hesder units by March
This story does not say the program is being dismantled altogether, as Yossi Klein-Halevi has warned. It's just that, for the military portion of service, they will be integrated into regular units. I'm a little on the fence on this one, but I think I'll come down on the agreement side. I had a rabbi in Israel who had served in a regular unit - I think it's good for all parties involved.

This I don't buy, however:

"Asked whether it is not a coincidence that the decision comes at a time when many in the religious community call on soldiers to disobey evacuation orders during disengagement -scheduled for summer 2005 - Stern said the two matters are not related. "
Tim Graham on George Stephanopoulos on National Review Online
OK, the liberal media thing is well-known, blogged to death, but I like this line:

"The media can remind the average TV news-watcher of a liberal version of the Verizon cell-phone commercial, with a pollster constantly asking, 'Are you against the war now? How about now?'"

Monday, January 24, 2005
Bomb Shelters, Part I
Ever since the Russians exploded an atomic bomb on September 3, 1949, safety-minded Americans have built bomb shelters to protect themselves from the effects of nuclear explosions. President Eisenhower createdthe Federal Civil Defense Administration which provided do-it-yourself bomb shelter plans. President Kennedy recommended "a fallout shelter for everybody, as rapidly as possible." Many public buildings of the period were built with large bomb shelters that could protect hundreds of people. Those who built personal bomb shelters often did so in secret, as a precaution against invading neighbors.

The U.S. government authorized the construction of numerous bomb shelters to protect people and institutions indispensible to national security. There is a bunker underneath the White House to protect the President and his family, and another at Camp David in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. A government relocation facility (no longer operational) was built beneath the lush garden landscape at Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The North American Air Defense Command(NORAD) resides under 2,000 feet of granite in the Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado. An "underground Pentagon" is located inside Raven Rock Mountain near Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. The National Archives has a protective vault beneath it not for people but for precious documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and even the United Kingdom's Magna Charta.

Bomb shelters gradually fell out of vogue as detente set in. Now that the Cold War is over, most people wanting fortified structures are seeking protection from theft, kidnapping, and extreme weather such as hurricanes or tornados. Even so, the demand for bomb shelters has not disappeared entirely. Modern bomb shelters with state-of-the-art equipment are still in production.

To be continuned.

Part II
Part III
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Gilmore Radicals
Okay, I admit it. I often join my wife to watch her favorite show, Gilmore Girls. It's not terrible. So, anyhoo, there's a slightly interesting interview in the New York Times with the show's creator. I know I shouldn't be surprised by anything a hollywood person does these days, but sometimes it is still difficult to fathom. Here she is "smart people" she wants on her show (the transition in the interview is something of a non-sequitir, but that's not so important):

"I tried to get Christiane Amanpour on the show. And I refuse to give up. And I tried to get Angela Davis on the show. And I tried to get Noam Chomsky on the show. The man is booked up for the next two years, by the way. Noam Chomsky is very busy."

And, shucks, it's too late for Susan Sontag!
Kerckhoff Coffeehouse: Entertaining You For a Fortieth of a Decade
Three months ago today a bold, rickety, and poorly planned idea took hold: That a handful of pals, geographically scattered, some institutionalized, all married, would cobble their various rants into a blog. That idea, nurtured with our sweat and thriving off the callouses on our typing fingers, has now achieved a Google relevance rating of 3/10, which I think we can all agree stinks.

Thank you for visiting. Balloons and ice cream are in the parking lot.
Goodbye, Johnny

Johnny Carson 1925 - 2005
Saturday, January 22, 2005
The Left Will Eat Itself
Conservatism is certainly not one specific idea or agenda. It is a fairly big tent that encompasses social, economic, foreign policy, and moral issues. Those, like me, who would label themselves as conservatives certainly have a whole spectrum of opinions on each of these issues. On issues ranging from abortion to our appropriate role in the Balkans, conservatives frequently debate among ourselves. Nevertheless, there is a general philosophy that can more-or-less include almost all conservatives. Broadly speaking conservatism stands for free markets, a strong military (and among us neo-cons assertive use of it), a limited government domestically, and a general suspicion of tampering with time-tested social traditions.

The left, on the other hand, IMHO has long ceased having a set of core beliefs and has instead become a coalition of distinct, and frequently competing, constituent groups. These groups have nothing in common with each other ideologically other than their opposition to conservatism, but as they all oppose different pieces of conservatism, their agendas are frequently at odds with each other. I always love stories when two lefty groups crash head-on with each other, never before having realized that they have been working for exactly opposite things. They are frequently confused and disoriented, since heretofore they always thought lefties were all on the same side of things, the good side.

Here are some examples:The most recent news item that caught my eye in this genre of left vs left was this story out of UCLA.

Two tenured professors resign from UCLA
LOS ANGELES -- Two tenured art professors have resigned from the University of California, Los Angeles, because the school refused to suspend a graduate student who may have used a gun during a classroom performance art piece.

Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins, internationally known artists who taught at UCLA for more than two decades, filed their retirement papers Dec. 20.

"They feel this was sort of domestic terrorism. There should have been more outrage and a firmer response," said Sarah Watson, a director at a Beverly Hills gallery that represents the couple.
Too funny. Post-modern free expressionists vs discipline-free publicly sponsored higher education and defendant rights. I guess art can only horrify and offend Christians. When it horrifies artists, the line’s been crossed. Anyone think the ACLU will defend the student by arguing he has a combined first and second amendment right to free speech with a firearm? Me neither.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Next Axis of Evil Target: Iran
Iran in Spotlight at Start of Bush's Second Term

My response to The Scot's comment in the last post seems to have been channeling this article. The administration is clearly preparing the press and the country for the next conflict: Iran.
"You look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list," Vice President Dick Cheney said.
Rice listed Iran among six "outposts of tyranny."
How much of this media play is targeted to (1) the Iranian regime, to make it clear we're serious and give us a diplomatic advantage? (2) Iranian dissidents, to encourage them to foment revolution? (3) the American people, to prepare us for possible open conflict? I don't know.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Liberty's President

I didn't hear Bush deliver his inaugural address other than soundbites, but I read it. (Click on the picture for the entire text. You'll be glad you did.) Like Reagan, and unlike his father, he has a clear vision of what our Nation should strive for and the role it should have in the world. He has already named this century "Liberty's Century" and has clearly set himself and our Nation on a course to be a beacon of freedom to the world.
For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it."
Thank God for four more years.
ABC News loves to hate Bush
Blogger John Hinderaker found this on ABC News website yesterday:

"For a possible Inauguration Day story on ABC News, we are trying to find out if there any military funerals for Iraq war casualties scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20. If you know of a funeral and whether the family might be willing to talk to ABC News, please fill out the form below."

Hinderaker gets to the bottom of ABC's motives by noting "that only the families of Iraqi war dead need apply. If a soldier died in Afghanistan, or aiding tsunami victims in Indonesia or Sri Lanka, or in a training exercise, never mind. That isn't the
'balance' ABC is looking for."

Instead of using a fallen soldier to make the President look bad on his 2nd inauguration (like ABC) President Bush pays tribute to all faller soldiers today "Some have shown their devotion to our country in deaths that honored their whole lives--and we will always honor their names and their sacrifice."

Check out John Hinderaker site at http://powerlineblog.com/archives/009245.php

Unfortunately, ABC News pulled the link once this story was making its way around the blogosphere. But they got what they wanted: Tonight on the 6:30 (EST) ABC News, Peter Jennings showed footage of a fallen Texan soldier's funeral which took place this morning. Somewhat surprisingly, ABC quoted the soldier's brother who said that his brother completely believed in the cause he was fighting for in Iraq and lived everyday proud to be a U.S. soldier.

In other news, the President's speech was great today. The "Bush Doctrine" may be to guarantee assistance to the people of any nation who are fighting for their own democracy.

Shaun of the Dead
You gotta see this movie. It is terrific - very clever script, astute direction, bloody zombies. And I don't mean "bloody" in just the British sense. I even recommend the DVD extras, such as "plot holes," which humorously fills in a few gaps.

I'm not kidding. Rent this now.

Holocaust lessons meet Muslim rebuff in France
It all comes together in France, doesn't it?
My rant of the day: I hate the word "progressive" as it is used in politics, mainly since it has come to mean "liberal".

Wasn't James Madison extraordinarily progressive when he wrote a constitution that limited government's power rather than defining people's rights? But surely Madison's extreme libertarianism would never be labelled "progressive" today even though it revolutionized that way countries would govern themselves for 200+ years and counting.

Isn't President Bush's proposed Social Security plan progressive in that it's progress to give people control of their fortunes and take individuals' welfare out of the hands of bureaucrats? Isn't it progressive to create democracies in parts of the world that have never known representative democracy? But certainly Bush is not a "progressive" according to the media who uses the term.

And besides, progress is clearly subjective. My Uncle Spanky thought seeing a breast during the Super Bowl was progress. But my Aunt Chastity thought finally fining the networks for the same act was progress.

I won't even start ranting about how liberal and conservative are adjectives and don't mean a thing without a noun attached ...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Cable TV Fun
In case you've missed them, some of Nomad's favorite new shows:

Battlestar Galactica on SciFi
Any geek out there remembers the remake "miniseries" that came out last winter with Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell (among others). I was pretty miffed when the series ended after 2 shows with the Galactica fleeing and the Cylons in hot pursuit.

Well, they've finally made a real series out of it. Showed the first 2 post-miniseries episodes last Friday night (and have continued to show them throughout the week). It's much better than the original, and must-see for anyone into deep space programming. If electricity's not your thing on a Friday night, check tv.yahoo.com for other showtimes.

Tilt on ESPN
I got bit by the poker craze just as it was getting popular. It's just fun to watch people when they're lying with straight faces with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. So, ESPN's made a new series based on some down-and-dirty poker sharks in Las Vegas. First runs are on Thursday nights. I enjoyed the first episode, and plan to watch more.

Back for a Second Season: Dog the Bounty Hunter (A&E)
Take Patrick Swayze's "Roadhouse" character, age him 20 years, and make him a born-again Christian bounty hunter and you've got a start to this Hawaiian reality show. Good campy arresting-bail-jumpers fun, Dog's family would do any trailer park proud. When he's not throwing bad guys to the ground, he's feeding them tough love on their way to prison.

I Love the 90s Part Deux on VH1
Pop culture is fun. And, VH1 has perfected the pop culture cable TV formula. Their latest "I love the" series is just as good as those that came before it, with lots of "oh yeah" memories and heaps of dry wit from a menagerie of B-list celebrities you've kinda heard of. Check your listings.

MXC on Spike
This is no longer new, and it's getting a little repetitive, but hey, Japanese people getting muddy with blunt-force sexual double entendre commentary is always good for a 5 minute pause when you're channel surfing.
New JibJab
'Nuff said.
TV Tax
So I bought me a TV the other day. Bottom-of-the-line, 50%-off, cruddy 23-inch to replace my equally cruddy 13-inch (what can I say, my eyes are going bad). So on top of the $60 for the TV, Best Buy charged me an $8 "recycling fee." The receipt came with a glossy insert stating the following:

State of California Recycling Fee.
Beginning January 1, 2005, California Law requires retailers to colelct recycling fees on customers' purchases of many CRT and LCD products, including some TVs, monitors and notebooks. These recycling fees are remitted to the State of California in accordance with legal requirements.

It refers to a website for more info.

Didn't we elect the Governator to reduce taxes??? Was this some referendum from some long-ago election? What's going on here? I now have even more incentive to go online and ensure I buy from non-California-based businesses in the future! Sure, this price was so low in the first place I wasn't deterred. But what about when I need to pimp my ride with some flat tellies? Or bust out a 52" plasma for the home theater?

Okay, fine, if you're gonna blow ten grand on a screen you won't miss the extra few bucks for this fee. But what about the poor schmuck who just wants a nice TV at the lowest possible price? Call it what you want, this thing is a tax.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Reporting for Duty
Showed up for jury duty today. I wasn't called to a courtroom and I'm done for the year. Now, I'm not volunteering to go back sooner, and I don't mean to be a boy scout, but I was a little put off by the way everyone cheered when we found out we could go home. I'm really busy at work right now and it would have been pretty difficult to serve on a trial right now, but if I were I'd be glad to have the chance to be a part of the system for a while. You know, do my, well, duty. If I were on trial or involved in a civil suit (God forbid on both counts), I would not want my fate to be decided by the schmucks who just couldn't get out of it, and just wanted to be done as soon as possible.

Guess thems the breaks.
Quote of the Day
Today's quote comes by way of "The Scot" in an email he sent me earlier today:

"Some members of Congress will claim that the federal government needs the power to monitor Americans in order to allow the government to operate more efficiently. I would remind my colleagues that, in a constitutional republic, the people are never asked to sacrifice their liberties to make the jobs of government officials easier. We are here to protect the freedom of the American people, not to make privacy invasion more efficient. Mr. Speaker, while I do not question the sincerity of those members who suggest that Congress can ensure that citizens' rights are protected through legislation restricting access to personal information, the only effective privacy protection is to forbid the federal government from mandating national identifiers. Legislative 'privacy protections' are inadequate to protect the liberty of Americans..."

--Texas Representative, Ron Paul

Update: Here's context for my blogbuddies (Bean and Ralphie) who were too lazy to do the Google search themselves. ;-)

New 747 or New Concorde?
Yahoo! News - Airbus Unveils Largest Commercial Jet

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

800 passengers? That's one big freakin' plane. I can't help but wonder though, whether the A380 won't be the heir to the Concorde rather than the 747. I tend to agree with Boeing's belief that the real market opportunity is in shorter, direct routes using smaller planes. I think the profitability - even through the nightmare of 2001 - of airlines like Southwest bears this out.

How much demand is there going to be for an 800 passenger long-range jet? Particularly in light of the dissipation of the hub-and-spoke business model of how airlines operate. And, how long will it take for that demand to translate into recouping the $13 billion R&D investment the French have put into this plane?

Perhaps my thoughts are colored by my distaste for most things French, but I have a feeling that their penchant for glory before sense may have led our brie-eating friends into a colossal mistake.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Which one is a joke?
Race of The Moons
This movie, showing six of Saturn's small ring-region moons as they raced around the planet, was made from images taken by the Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 15, 2004.

The moons appear in following order (their diameters are given in parentheses): Janus (181 kilometers, or 113 miles), Atlas (32 kilometers, or 20 miles), Epimetheus (116 kilometers, or 72 miles), Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles), Pandora (84 kilometers, or 52 miles) and Pan (20 kilometers, or 12 miles). Each moon is marked by a colored circle that corresponds to the key at lower left.
I posted this because I was sure our 5 or 6 readers were clamoring for more astronomy and more animation. There's a higher resolution version if you follow the link.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Feds, Anabolic Steroids, Followup
A few weeks back, I brought up Senator McCain's foray into baseball's steroid problems.

Kerckhoff Coffeehouse: McCain's Steroids Push Puts Him in '08 Mix

I still think he's a tool, but I was interested to learn that anabolic steroids ARE in fact on the federal controlled substances list. Some reading:



A Bush Democrat

Chaim Witz (a.k.a. Gene Simmons)

While my Jewish bretheren were honoring the Sabbath on Friday night, I was watching Hannity and Colmes. They had Gene Simmons, of KISS fame, on. He surprised me by being articulate, and well-educated. I've since learned that he speaks 4 languages.

To the point. When asked how he voted in the presidential election, he explained how he was a big Clinton supporter, and how he'd voted for Gore in 2000. In 2004, however, he voted for George W. Bush. He went on to explain that certain issues were just too important; namely the War on Terrorism and Iraq. He felt Bush was the better man to tackle these crucial issues.

A quote from a piece I found at Newsmax:

As for fellow libs in the entertainment biz, Simmons says that he’s “ashamed to be surrounded by people calling themselves Liberal who are, in my opinion, spitting on the graves of brave American soldiers who gave their life to fight a war that wasn't theirs ... in a country they've never been to ... simply to liberate the people therein.”

I don't predict anyone referring to Simmons as a so-called "values voter" any time soon. Rather, I think Simmons represents (if a bit iconoclastically) a bloc that played a significant role in Bush's reelection. These voters may differ on social, economic and other issues, but they understand the importance of the war against Muslim extremists willing to go to any length to destroy our way of life, and they understand that George W. Bush and the GOP are by far the more serious of the two parties in dealing with them.
On the Inauguration
So, the liberals are asking President Bush to use the money from the inaugural balls to help our troops or vaccinate tsunami victims. They point out that the sainted Franklin Roosevelt cancelled both of his balls during the Second World War. Too bad Roosevelt didn't use the money he saved to bomb the railway lines into the death camps or rescue the boatload of Jews that he turned away from our shores.

The subject of Americans squandering money while other starve comes up frequently, whether in the form of "human need not corporate greed" bumper stickers or people within the Jewish community decrying the lavish spending on weddings that bankrupt families trying to "keep up with the Schwartzes".

People, we need to understand that we are a rich country, richer than all other countries. We must make peace with this fact. Almost everything we own is above our need for subsistence. The guy driving with the "human need" bumper sticker could bike, or take the bus. Every birthday party we throw, every Nintendo we buy, every muffin and capuccino is money that could be spent vaccinating children or feeding the hungry. And, the richer we are, the more money we waste. My parents "wasted" $25,000 on my wedding to Dr. Bean. Aaron Spelling "wasted" 1 million on his daughter's wedding. What all of these people forget is that every Nintendo, every flower arrangement and chicken dinner at the inaugural employs someone, in this country, who needs a job. All Americans "waste" money. Vast amounts of money. We are also extremely charitable. We must get over our collective guilt and stop the hypocrisy. Our President won a hotly contested election and may be, as far as I am concerned, the savior of Western Democracy. The inauguration parties are paid for by private donations. Let him have some fun.
It’s Good, Though
Today is even more chaotic than usual in the Bean household. Our 11 month old has her first cold and she’s emotionally quite traumatized by it. Our 3 year old is very irritable today for reasons that remain mysterious. The other two seem OK, but the day is still young.

Sunday morning breakfast is a bit of a Bean family tradition. ball-and-chain typically makes us all a big yummy meal. It’s the only nice breakfast that we enjoy as a family, since during the week we’re all running off to school or work at different hours and eating something quick, and Saturday morning we just have a little snack before heading off to Synagogue (and a huge Saturday lunch thereafter). So Sunday morning as the kids congregate in their pajamas in front of cartoons, ball-and-chain usually makes a big stack of pancakes. Today half were blueberry and half were chocolate chip. Yum! Sunday breakfast is just another of myriad reasons why ball-and-chain is Supreme Empress of Domesticity.

Now bear with me through a brief but necessary tangent. I have a somewhat peculiar dietary quirk. I really crave protein. A meal just with starch may taste yummy but will leave me just as hungry as before. Spaghetti with marinara sauce without either a mountain of cheese or some meatballs is for me a punishment or at least a snack until I can get a burger. (Are other people like this? Is it a male thing?) So the hard-working ball-and-chain typically fries me an egg to enjoy with my Sunday morning stack o’ pancakes. On aforementioned egg I usually dump a little salsa or ketchup. Today, we didn’t have salsa, so ketchup it was. Thus ends the tangent. Thanks for reading it.

So let me set the table for you, as it were. At the center was a plate with a mountain of pancakes. Each Bean had a plate with some pancakes, the youngest two precut to accommodate their under-developed motor skills. Next to the central pancake plate was a plastic jug of maple syrup, and in front of my plate a plastic bottle of ketchup. So I eat my ketchupy egg and start working through the pancakes. Various children are yelling about various injustices done to them and ball-and-chain and I alternate a few seconds of eating with a few seconds of appeasing and dealing with the little ones. As I slap my fourth or fifth pancake on my plate I think to myself “Self, I think I may need a second egg today. I should make it myself since ball-and-chain is dealing with the kids.” Then I reach for the syrup and one of the kids starts yelling that another of the kids is in the way so she can’t see the TV and I think at the same time (1) “mmmm….. that second egg with ketchup will be soooo goooood” and (2) “how many of the kids could we sell to medical experiments in India?”. So I’m absent-mindedly squeezing an inverted plastic container over my pancake when ball-and-chain starts laughing at me uproariously.

I put ketchup on my pancake.

I put an egg over that. It was good.

(If you’re really bored there’s another yucky food post.)
Headline of the Day
Abbas Extends Hand in Peace to Israel

The story as a whole is relatively even-handed. The lead paragraph, however, caught my eye:

"RAMALLAH, West Bank - Mahmoud Abbas extended his hand in peace to Israel as he was sworn in as the new Palestinian leader Saturday, but the Israeli army killed eight Palestinians in the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) and 46 election officials resigned over alleged ballot irregularities, crushing optimism for an early resumption of the peace process."

I mean, in AP's (via Stephen Gutkin) world, here's old peace-loving, olive-branch-handing-out Abbas just giving his utmost to make peace work in this strife-riddled region, but those rascally Israelis just won't stop killing people long enough to listen. Ahhh, journalism.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Martin Luther King's Heir

"the poverty pimps and victim pimps keep telling the victims to stay where they are, 'You can't get up, you can't do this, you can't do that.' ... I'm telling you, you better get up."

Dr. Cosby's been spending more and more time speaking his mind to impoverished, inner-city black communities over the past couple of years. His no-nonsense message is making headlines and creating waves throughout the black-victimhood-promoting establishment. The quote above comes from a speech he delivered yesterday in Detroit. Bravo!

Dr. King delivered freedom from institutionalized oppression to American blacks. Finally, we have a high-profile, charismatic individual to deliver the message that freedom without personal responsibility has become its own prison. That for King's vision of "free at last" to become reality, impoverished, inner-city American blacks must stand up out of the victimhood-culture quagmire, and assume control over their behavior, and over the collective behavior of their communities.

Here's a link to an earlier speech (I'm hoping the entire Detroit speech will be posted soon):


Update: Added items in red italics to clarify about and to whom Dr. Cosby was speaking.

Welcome to Titan!

Huygens Lands on Titan

Artist's impression of Huygens touchdown

The European Space Agency's probe Huygens, after being released by NASA/JPL's Cassini spacecraft on December 25, has successfully fallen through Titan's atmosphere and landed on the surface. The next few days the data from this mission will reveal the first pictures of Titan's mysterious surface as well as the composition of it's atmosphere. Titan is Saturn's largest moon, and is one of the few moons in the solar system with an atmosphere, and is only the 5th body in the solar system that we've ever landed on.

Update: The first images of Titan's surface are now coming in. Click on the image to read more.

My previous posts on the Cassini-Huygens mission:
Titan or Bust 12/23
Dione and Saturn 12/17
Behold Titan 11/24
Titan's First Close-Up 10/26
Close-Up of Titan Tomorrow 10/25
Thursday, January 13, 2005
'Ali G' Comedian Risks Riot at U.S. Rodeo
I know I shouldn't, but I find this kinda funny. He had a show a while back where he discussed war, violence, and "other things that are good for a bit of a laugh." When he's interviewing clueless subjects, however, it can be cringe-worthy.
Does killing method matter?
Check this out:

OAKLAND, Calif. - The San Francisco Bay Area's legal community is abuzz over a death-penalty appeal that claims a respected late Jewish judge advised a prosecutor to exclude Jews from a jury because, since the Holocaust, 'no Jew would vote to send a defendant to the gas chamber.'

Hell, I sure would. The horror of the Holocaust isn't necessarily that gas was used to kill the victims - indeed, in many places it was good ol' fashioned bullets - but the scope of the killing itself. That's why I was annoyed during the first Gulf war when various talking heads would comment on the specter of poison gas scuds, saying that Israel would not tolerate the mass gassing of Jews after the Holocaust. Um, would they have before? Would they tolerate, God forbid, mass killing by other means?
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Thank You, Doctor
I practice Internal Medicine. Internal Medicine is a terribly vague name that’s stuck around for historical reasons. It is simply primary care for adults, the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of medical problems in grown-ups. In other words, internal medicine is for adults what pediatrics is for kids.

It’s taken me a few years in practice to realize that the moments that I think I’m being a terrific doctor and the times my patients think I’m being a terrific doctor are very different. Let me explain.

The times that I most use my brain and my training are when I make a difficult diagnosis. When I first make a diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism, or temporal arteritis, or herpes zoster (shingles) a day before the rash appears, that’s when I think my years of learning have paid off. That’s when I’m most delighted with my performance and think that I’m a good doctor and that I’ve done my patient an important service. I’m not saying that my patients are ungrateful for this, but their perception of such an event is very different than mine. They are delighted that the right diagnosis was made and a course of treatment begun, but they have no idea what a relatively rare condition they have and that many other internists would have needed to send the patient to a sub-specialist to figure out what was going on. In other words, patients generally expect excellent care, and when they receive it, their expectations are met, not exceeded. Just as I have no clue if the problem with our computer network is hard or easy when I call my computer guru; I’m just happy when he fixes it. I have no way of judging if the fix he just achieved could have been done by an amateur, or if what he just finished was the trickiest challenge of his career thus far. I expect a working network, and he delivers. He gets my respectful gratitude, but not my awe.

So when are my patients really impressed and grateful? When do they invariably send me gift baskets with touching letters telling me how lucky they think they are that they found me? I am most appreciated when I help care for a loved one during his last days of life. People are the most grateful when I help a loved one die comfortably and with some measure of dignity. I’m not talking about euthanasia. (I believe euthanasia is murder and should remain illegal, but that’s for another essay.) I’m just talking about taking care of a woman as she dies of Alzheimer’s or cancer or heart failure or what-have-you, and assuring that she doesn’t suffer and that those around her as prepared for her death as I can make them. Patients love me for that. The ironic thing is that intellectually it’s much easier to do than to make a tricky diagnosis. Caring for dying patients certainly takes some training, lots of sensitivity, and an ability to communicate bad news clearly, but it takes very little actual knowledge of diseases. It’s not the stuff that will provide correct answers on the board exams, but it provides the respect and gratitude of people whom I’ve supported through their darkest days. That’s an extraordinary privilege, and just one more reason why I love my work.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Hear that? He said "Jew" bite!
Somebody call Australia's answer to the ADL! They have a street called Jew Bite Road!
Gere's appeal perplexes Palestinians
On one hand, a sweet Shut Up and Sing (or act) moment.

On the other hand, the Palestinian soap worker seems to already be aligned with Gere politically.
Monday, January 10, 2005
McDonald's in Israel is airing this commercial for their new McShwarma. It's a hilarious parody of Pulp Fiction. Enjoy!

(By the way, I can't catch the last line. I think it's in Hebrew. If anyone can translate it for me, I'd be much obliged. Via An Unsealed Room.)
CBS Fires 4 After Bush Guard Story Review
CBS Fires 4 After Bush Guard Story Review

"The independent investigators added, however, that they found no evidence of a political bias against Bush."

Laughing my rump off.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Meet the New Boss
Exit Polls: Abbas Wins 66 Percent of Vote

Cox and Forkum

“Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again.” -- The Who
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Unfit For the Office of Former President
The framers of the Constitution made a provision for the removal from office of the President during his term – impeachment. What they did not anticipate was that we would have a former President who so erodes the dignity of his former office and is such an embarrassment to the American people that he no longer deserves to be a former President. We have no mechanism for forcibly removing a man from the role of former President, but if we did, Jimmy Carter would certainly trigger such a mechanism. Is there a living totalitarian mass-murderer that he has not embraced? Is there an armed enemy of democracy whose public image he has not helped polish through his obsequious visits? His most recent public appearance provides the final photo I would use if I were making the case before Congress in imaginary proceedings. This man is not fit to be a former President.
Former American President Jimmy Carter, right, and former Republican Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman pay their respects at the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at his former headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Saturday Jan. 8, 2005.

(Click on the picture for the whole article. I found the story in LGF, but the rant is all mine.)
Friday, January 07, 2005
The Aristocrats!
Galley Slaves: Torture
Some good stuff as usual over at Galley Slaves, run by some Weekly Standard folks. You know, the young turks, the ones who "get" this whole "internet" "thing."
Greetings from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
It is old news that Jan Egeland, the U.N. Undersecretary of Humanitarian Affairs criticized the U.S. for being "stingy" with relief funds. I e-mailed Mr. Egeland to learn more.

The response from OCHAWebmaster@un.org:

We regret that Mr. Egeland's statement was taken out of context and misinterpreted. He was not referring to any specific country, but rather was encouraging rich countries to make contributions commensurate with humanitarian needs. Mr. Egeland has acknowledged the generous contributions of many countries in response to the South Asia Earthquake and Tsunami disaster.

Thank you for your concern.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Tony Blair: Palestinian Authority Must Reform
Tony Blair has said that the onus is upon the Palestine Authority to reform before a full peace conference on progress in the region is held.
Blair is the only leader in Western Europe that isn't an apologist for Arab terrorism and understands what democracies have to do when attacked by totalitarian regimes.

Anticipate prompt hysterical seething from Arab leaders in response. My predictions: Mahmoud Abbas complains "Onus? Bogus!" while Abu Mazen quips "Blair knows where he can put his onus."

(Hat tip: Gindi)
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
AP Headline of the Day
From today's Associated Press:
State Legislatures Grapple Over Issues

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT!! I'm not even going to click the link. It's too perfect as it is, and finding out more about it would certainly ruin the magic. State Legislatures Grapple Over Issues. REALLY!? NO! You're kidding me. STOP THE PRESSES! I'd better call all of my friends; this is clearly a story for the ages.


State Department Report on Global Anti-Semitism - US Department of State
Just skimmed it. No comments yet.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Glad To Be Home - Happy New Year
My family and I just returned from a three-day cruise to Baja. Our first cruise, in fact. I brought in the New Year drinking and dancing with my wife while the kids played and watched movies at Camp Carnival. We had a good time. A few brief comments about the trip:

1. They serve lots of food all day long. It's all pretty good, but my strategy was to avoid the ordinary stuff that I eat often and focus on the fancy food: lobster tails, jumbo prawns, crabcakes, sushi, and of course caviar.

2. Booze is extra. My strategy was to bring stuff from home. Wine and champagne is OK, although there is a corking fee when you have it with dinner. You're not supposed to bring hard liquor, but I find that Bombay Sapphire gin looks a lot like water in a plastic bottle in a baby bag.

3. Baja was fun, but I ever take another cruise, I think I'll try a more interesting destination, such as the Caribbean or Alaska.

4. Tsunamis are not very impressive in deep water. If one were to cross our path, we might not have noticed.

Jews Have Lost Their Minds
Rabbi Daniel Gordis (whom ball-and-chain and I knew before he moved to Israel) argues that Jews have forgotten how to argue. It's a great article that's worth reading if you're interested in the infighting between Jews about Gaza, the Palestinians, and the whole Zionist enterprise. (Hat tip: Jack).
Monday, January 03, 2005
Not Itsy-Bitsy Spider
Warning: This post may be of limited interest to those without little children.

Anyone who’s ever taken a kid to a mommy-and-me class or been in any situation where lots of toddlers are being supervised knows the perennial favorite song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”. The lyrics are truly timeless and are reproduced below for those who are not familiar with them.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Knees and toes
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
Knees and toes

You can hear the tune here, and if you haven’t, you should, for it is most glorious. Now, the important thing about the song is that it’s done with hand motions which are also very nicely described at the same site.

Well, I’ve never been quite happy with this song. The anatomical terms are way too easy, even for little kids, and if you’re going to do hand motions with it, you might as well pick more tickly body parts for some fun. So about a month ago, I created this.

Ribs, duodenum, spine and brain
Spine and brain
Ribs, duodenum, spine and brain
Spine and brain
Axilla, tympanic membrane
Ribs, duodenum, spine and brain
Spine and brain

I think you’ll agree immediately that it’s a superior song. The hand motions simply involve putting your index finger on each body part, or as close as you can without causing pain. For example, a tap on the head is fine for “brain”; no need for neurosurgery. For those who need a little refresher on their high-school anatomy, the duodenum (doo-OD-en-um) is the first part of the small intestine. It is above and to the right of the belly button. An axilla is an armpit. A tympanic membrane is an ear drum. You can’t touch it with your finger, but a finger in an ear does quite nicely.

It’s become a favorite in the Bean household. Our 6 year old girl, after we sat down and practiced saying doo-OD-en-um, has been singing it to her younger sisters to the delight of all.

Sing it to your kids three times, and it’s yours.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
Frickin' Laser Beams
Anyone following this laser beam story? Bizarre.

What I find really odd is this line: "It is against federal law to intentionally shine a laser beam at a commercial airline flight."

How did this become law? Sounds like a fairly obscure occurence, no?
Info on Tsunamis
I've been having a hard time grasping the nature of last week's tsunami. From the video pictures of the advancing waves, it just didn't appear as devastating as it was. I suspected that this was because of a massive size difference between a tsunami and the common wind waves that we see at the beach every day. A difference that was more represented in the lenth of the wave than the visible height as the wave rose from the surface approaching land.

So, I did a little bit of looking:

The image most people have of a tsunami is a large, steep wave breaking on the shore. This image is hardly if ever the case. Most tsunamis appear as an advancing tide without having a developed wave face, resulting in rapid flooding of low-lying coastal areas. Sometimes, a bore can form during which an abrupt front of whitewater will rapidly advance inland much similar to the tidal bore formed at the mouth of large rivers.


Tsunamis are unlike wind-generated waves, which many of us may have observed on a local lake or at a coastal beach, in that they are characterized as shallow-water waves, with long periods and wave lengths. The wind-generated swell one sees at a California beach, for example, spawned by a storm out in the Pacific and rhythmically rolling in, one wave after another, might have a period of about 10 seconds and a wave length of 150 m. A tsunami, on the other hand, can have a wavelength in excess of 100 km and period on the order of one hour.

So, to understand the nature of this beast, it seems that it's better to view it as its out-of-use name of tidal wave suggests. Its mass is not represented by its wave height, but by its enormous wave length. This mass manifests as a rapidly advancing tidal surge. The ocean essentially rises up and occupies low-lying areas.

The most telling pictures from the day of the event are the ones showing the rapidly flowing water returning to normal sea level. Massive rivers of returning saltwater, channeled into shallow ravines and other channels formed by man-made structures, formed over thousands of miles of normally dry coastal areas. To my mind, it's as if thousands of Mississippi Rivers just appeared out of nowhere in the middle of daily life, swept away victims, and then just disappeared.

Still difficult to fathom.


Complete Devastation
This cycling image shows before and after satellite overviews of a village in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, pre- and post-tsunami.

The only comparable devastation I can imagine was the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Click the image for a larger version. Here is a link to more satellite overheads:

18-month-old baby found floating on a mattress
An 18-month-old Kazakh baby, apparently unharmed, has been found in Thailand’s Khao Lak tourist resort in southern Phang-Nga province which was devastated by the killer tsunami last Sunday.

A small miracle for which to be thankful. Amazing to consider that, for the last week, and with the rest of the area in chaos, somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean, this child was floating quietly on a matress.
A New Seasonal Picture
Attentive Coffeehouse browsers will have noticed that in the left column, below the contributors and above the list of links, we've had a picture that we've used as a seasonal decoration. I had a menorah up for Chanuka, Oven put up a painting of the Madonna and Child for Christmas, and I had a festive "Happy New Year" greeting after that. I had a happy snowman ready to go for after New Year's, but recent news makes that feel somewhat lame. I'm taking the liberty of putting up a picture from World Vision's site of some children effected by the tsunami, with a link to World Vision's donation site. Hugh Hewitt recommended donating through them, and a lady in my synagogue who works with international aid organizations (NGOs) also said that they were a reliable group and that their money is used wisely. That's good enough for me. Unless other Coffehousers object, I'd like to leave it up for a couple of weeks. If you haven't given yet, and your children aren't hungry, cough up.
Yahoo! News - Abbas Wants to Protect Mideast Militants
Same dog droppings, different day.
Saturday, January 01, 2005
Pics of the Day
Destroyed houses are seen in this aerial view of the town of Meulaboh in Aceh province, Indonesia, which was flattened by tidal waves on Sunday, photographed on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2005. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made his second visit to the region since Sunday's earthquake and tsunami to assess the damage and inspect relief efforts. (AP Photo/Dudi Anung)
The mind still reels at the magnitude of the death, injury and damage, not to mention the impending disease and further death. We need the aerial pictures, the satellite pictures, and the statistics to try to understand the enormity of the problem. But we need pictures of individuals to remind us of the meaning, the sadness. We should try (though there is no way) to fully understand the misery of the picture below, and then multiply that in our minds by thousands.

A child orphaned by last Sunday's earthquake cries as aid workers escort the baby into the Halim Airport terminal, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The first four of at least 20 orphans ranging from 9 months to 2-years-old arrived late Saturday night in the Indonesia capital of Jakarta for treatment. Earlier in the day, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made his second visit to the region since Sunday's earthquake and tsunami to assess the damage and inspect relief efforts. (AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah)

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