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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, June 30, 2005
A Democracy Convulses
As the summer Israeli disengagement from Gaza gets closer, tensions rise.

PALM BEACH HOTEL, Gaza Strip. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers raided a Gaza Strip hotel Thursday to remove about 150 Jewish extremists who barricaded themselves inside several weeks ago to protest Israel's planned Gaza pullout.

About 10 busloads of soldiers and paramilitary police raided the Palm Beach Hotel and went room-to-room to remove the extremists, who had stockpiled food and surrounded the hotel with barbed-wire fences. Some squatters were carried out by soldiers holding each limb, and arrests were reported.

No one resisted violently, but several squatters burned tires in protest, with smoke billowing from the hotel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The opponents were being loaded onto buses by the soldiers.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, protesters against the disengagement plan blocked traffic.

These pictures are another reminder of something so obvious it needs to be repeated: Israel is a liberal democracy. If Israel's critics who call it a totalitarian regime were right, these people would be dealt with much more harshly and there wouldn't be any reporters around to document the protest. You ever see protesters blocking traffic in Egypt or Jordan? No? Everybody must be very content there.

I have no right to offer advice since I don't live in Israel. I don't pay taxes there. My house isn't on the line. My children will not serve in the IDF. This is just the humble suggestion of an outsider who wishes Israel well.

Pro-disengagement Israelis: Realize that families who have lived in Gaza for decades moved and built a life there with the encouragement and support of the government. They're monumentally screwed. You should feel bad for them, publicly. I want to see public fundraisers by leaders of the lefty Israeli parties to help Gaza families relocate.

Anti-disengagement Israelis: Lose the references to WWII. You get no sympathy by drawing similarities between Jews deported by Nazis and Israelis relocated by a democratic government. Protest all you want but make sure the nuttier among you don't get violent. I swear, if an IDF soldier so much as sprains an ankle dragging you to a police bus, I and a bunch of Americans are going to come over there and kick your @sses.

Both sides should take a big breath and two steps back. Palestinians won't destroy Israel this summer, but at this rate, Israelis could.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Summer Camp That's a Piece of Heaven for the Children, but Please, No Worshiping
Kids bored this summer? Send 'em to Athiest Summer Camp!
Ty Pennington of Exteme Makeover: Home Edition was on KROQ (a local radio station) this morning. I don't watch that show regularly, but I admit the times I have watched have been pretty touching. Up to a point. See, if I were one of the people contributing my time and/or money to building a house for somebody in need, I think I'd be a little put off by some of things they do. I mean, building a house, even a slightly cool or fancy house, is one thing. But a wall of nine flat-screen televisions? That might be going a little too far for this thing we call charity.
You Should Know Better Than That
(This is a fictionalized account fabricated around a kernel of truth. The kernel is small enough and surrounded by enough lies that the true patient who inspired this story and the details of his medical problems are unrecognizable. I’ve also altered two somewhat graphic words by changing the letter “e” to “3” so that search engines don’t bring people here for all the wrong reasons.)

John Smith is 78. I've been taking care of him for years. His urologist called me a few days ago after receiving some worrisome test results about him. The urologist asked me to tell Mr. Smith about the abnormal results during his visit with me the following day. The reason he didn’t just give him the results over the phone is that Mr. Smith is quite deaf and phone conversations with him are difficult. So it was left to me to give him the bad news.

Doctor Bean: Good to see you, Mr. Smith.
John Smith: Heya doc.
DB: I have some news I have to give you about the tests Dr. Roberts ordered.
JS: Wha?
JS: Oh good. What's it say?
JS: Huh?
JS: Oh, Lord! Syphilis!? Am I gonna die?
DB: [quietly] Eventually, but not from this; probably from failing to hear a car horn.
JS: Speak up, doc!
JS: Oh good. I'm so embarrassed. How did I ever get syphilis?
DB: Don't be embarrassed. Well, um, how long have you had the sore on your p3nis?
JS: Eh?
JS: Oh. That. It comes and goes. Doesn't hurt though. You think that's how I got syphilis?
JS: Oh, 'bout a year, a year and a half.
JS: I shoulda told you, doc. I didn't know it was syphilis. I'm so embarrassed. How could I have gotten syphilis?
DB: Well, when's the last time you had s3x?
JS: Wha?
JS: Oh. S3x. It's been many many years, except for once about a year and a half ago.
JS: Yuh.

So we had a good, long, loud talk about condom use. I tried to reassure him, and I prescribed his antibiotics. When I left the exam room to let him get dressed everyone in the waiting room looked at me and smiled. I stared at my shoes and rushed into the next room.
My previous reflections on doctoring:

I Really Appreciated This Visit
If I could be a doctor...
If I could be an astronaut...
Gawsh, You’re Awful Purdy!
Going Around
What Is It?
The Secret To Longevity
Thank You, Doctor
Senior Sadness
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
A Mothering Moment
Yesterday I enrolled Stretch (our 10 year-old son) in the novice swim team in our town. This is not a namby-pamby swimming lesson but an honest to goodness workout, Monday through Thursday. In the middle of the session, there is an actual swim meet. I thought it was time. He thought he was ready. That is, until he got there. He was surprised by the rigorous swimming. He had to swim two laps of an Olympic sized swimming pool; not mess around, but actually swim freestyle. After two laps, he got out of the pool, spoke to the coach and came up to the bleachers to see me.

“I can’t breathe in the water.” He said.

“You just aren’t used to that amount of exercise.” I said.

Nevertheless, scared and shaking he asked the coach to be excused early and we left.

All night he complained. He was too weak to swim that far. The other people were watching him and that frightened him. He couldn’t breathe. The other children were all stronger swimmers. You get the picture.

I need to stress that I am his mother, not his father. I would have liked nothing better than to tell him that he never had to go back to the nasty large pool to be pushed around by the mean old coach. My better parenting instincts prevailed, however and I told him that he would have to go every evening and try his best and that we could discuss the issue on Friday. After all, it is not the Bean way to be a quitter.

Today was the second session. We just returned home from swim team and I think it would be fair to say that Stretch kicked butt! Did he have the best form? No. Half the time he looks more like he’s drowning. Was he the fastest? No. Did he finish all his laps? Yes. And, afterwards gave me thumbs up from the pool. Me! The woman whose mere existence embarrasses him. Afterwards I told him that I was prouder of him than I had ever been.

“You know,” he said “before I started I knew you would be proud of me.”

It’s all about a positive attitude.
Jonah Goldberg Is A Hero
Goldberg pegs the funny meter.

About a month ago, I helped a Muslim woman with her groceries in a supermarket parking lot. She was dealing with her kids and her shopping cart started to roll away from her car with the groceries still inside. As it rolled, I saw a decent society of tolerance and kindness rolling away. The cart’s one wobbly wheel — going chapocketa, chapocketa, chapocketa — was onomatopoetically tapping out a small drumbeat for the forced march to oblivion of all we hold dear.

Thank goodness I was there.

Thank goodness this country produces heroes like me.
Stop working right now and read the whole thing or regret it on your deathbed.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I know you've been watching the recent Supreme Court decisions as attentively as I have. I know you're asking:
These questions and others are asked, and their answers speculated on, in a new blog at National Review Online all about the goings-on at the Supreme Court called Bench Memos. Another place to get your right-wing news analysis fix!
Back On Top
Blogger never fixed the bug that had the body of the blog down below the right sidebar, but through The Jewish Connection, a blog that was having the same problem, I found Velvel, who figured out a patch that I applied. It worked!

Free matza ball soup for Velvel. Thank you!
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Scroll Way Way Down
Hello there. Our template seems to be broken. Everything else works OK, but the body of the blog is way down here. Nomad has already spent a lot of time troubleshooting this and we've found another blog with the same template that's having the same problem. We think / hope it's something that Blogger is working on and will resolve soon. If not, I will certainly drown myself in the toilet.

Thank you for your patience. We'll keep this as the top post until things are better to remind you to scroll way way down and to remind you that there are fresh posts below.

Croissants are on the house until this is fixed.

UPDATE: All is well again. Croissants will be marked way up to make up for our losses last week.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Property Wrongs

It seems Cox & Forkum were as incensed about the recent Supreme Court decision expanding the reach of eminent domain as I was.
Friday, June 24, 2005
The Return of a Classic
I’ll leave you for the weekend with a bit of news from the Bean household. In January I introduced you to Ribs, Duodenum, Spine and Brain, a song that became a favorite in the Bean family. It had lapsed into disuse for a few months and was requested by my four year old just a few days ago. She really likes it. If you weren’t visiting us in January, take a look.
Redistribute Fat, Not Wealth
Remember, Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Supersize Me? In it he ate at McDonald’s for a month, gained 30 pounds and developed fatty liver and lots of other health problems. Ms. Soso Whaley saw the documentary and thought it was nonsense pseudo-science propaganda. So she ate at McDonald’s for a month, lost 10 pounds and dropped her cholesterol by 40 points, and made her own documentary. The link at the title to this post takes you to her interview by National Review Online. Her message: it’s the customer’s choices that separate a healthy diet form an unhealthy one, not the restaurant.

Customer choice! What a healthy reminder for our society. The corporate bogeymen aren’t responsible for your wellbeing – you are.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
High Court Expands Reach of Eminent Domain
(reposted for Doctor Bean)

This is a major defeat for private property rights. The Supreme Court ruled today that cities can use their eminent domain power to take private property (family homes in this particular case) against the will of the owners for private projects. Before, eminent domain was constrained to public projects such as roads or parks. In this case, the court ruled that the city can take the homes so that a private developer could build office buildings that would provide the city with more tax revenue. This is a very bad decision, and will certainly lead to influential businesses using local government to trample over the rights of small property owners. Ruling in the minority against this disaster: O’Connor, Rhenquist, Scalia and Thomas.

Will this persuade any liberals that liberalism no longer stands for protecting liberty? If you want government out of your bedroom, maybe we can start by keeping government from tearing your whole house down.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Seeing Through My Eyes
A while ago David Bogner posted about stealing bandwidth. I was guilty of this ever since I started blogging and never knew it. Since blogger doesn’t host pictures, every time we wanted to show a picture of something, I would find it elsewhere on the web and put a link to that picture in my post. I never stopped to think that this meant that every time someone entered our humble Coffeehouse, their computer also loaded the image from whatever server I found it on. So the Coffeehouse was using the other server’s bandwidth while displaying the picture they made available. Bad.

I finally got around remedying this. A picture-sharing program called Hello has partnered with Blogger to host pictures and publish them on blogs. From now on if I find a (non-copyrighted, of course) picture on the web I want to post, I’ll first make my own copy and use Hello to keep it on Hello’s server and not abuse the random shmoe that originally had the picture.

The added advantage this has is that I can finally publish the hideous pictures I take with my Treo! Joy! If that doesn’t decimate our readership, nothing will.

So to inaugurate Hello picture hosting at the Coffeehouse, here is a brief photo-journal of my last few days. You can click on the pictures if you have the poor judgment to want to see bigger versions.

Sunday was our four-year-old’s birthday party. Fun was had by all. She’s the one holding her crown in her right hand.

The Princess at her Party

Our male readers are certainly wondering if Cinderella arrived. She did. And she was lovely, but her dress, sadly, was much more modest and well-fitting than last year.

Cinderella Entertaining Her Young Charges

And of course, they decorated their own cupcakes.


Finally, here’s a memento from my day at jury duty.

LA City Hall
Succah boycott
Just in case you were planning to buy a succah (a sort of hut for the "feast of tabernacles") this year... apparently the owner of one succah website in particular is denying his wife a "get" (Jewish divorce document), and the Orthodox Union is recommending a boycott of his product until he does so. Interesting.
How Do I Leave A Comment In Real Life?
The internet is a many-splendored thing. Every time I get used to a new thing I can do with it, I find something else it's good for. It turns out it's also good for (hold on to your hats) meeting nice people.

Torontopearl of Pearlies of Wisdom and a frequent commenter here spent four days in LA. She was coming out to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Ariel Avrech who passed away two years ago at the age of 22. Thanks to the hospitality of ball-and-chain and her mom, we had her stay and hang out with us when she wasn't with the Avrechs. She writes about her trip here. We all (Ralphie too) had a lot of fun getting to know her, and it's odd realizing that without the internet, even with mail and telegraphs, this would likely never have happened.

What she doesn't realize is that we're all going to show up unannounced on her Toronto doorstep one day, make ourselves at home, and refuse to leave.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
How'd You Get So Funky?

I just saw the King Tut exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Call me low-brow, but I like this a lot more. Not just because it's more entertaining. I actually think it's more relevant. Go ahead. Insult me in the comments. I can take it.
Gravestone Digs?
Through Galley Slaves, I found this picture of Terri Schiavo's gravestone.

Depending on your point of view, you could take the side of the comments on the link above, or you could just see it as Michael Schiavo's consistency on the matter. Either way, I find it kinda creepy.

I guess it could also be a doctored photo or something. You never know on this here Internet.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Today, the Constitution rests on my shoulders. Today, I fulfil my civic duty in service of the cause of Justice. Today, I ensure the right of defendants to a trial by jury. Today, a whole bunch of my patients will be inconvenienced and I will lose some money.

Yes. I'm on jury duty. I'll try to give periodic updates throughout the day. Mostly, I'd just like some pity.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Happy Father’s Day
My dad has lived the Chinese curse of living during interesting times. He was born in 1929 in Bucharest, Romania to a life of relative wealth and comfort. His dad owned a textile factory. As a young boy he would have been reasonable to expect a relatively uneventful and pleasant life. World War II, like for hundreds of millions of others, erased those expectations.

My dad still has the newspaper announcement reporting that my grandfather's factory had been "nationalized" (i.e. confiscated) by the Romanian government at the beginning of the war. The article is just a single column and reports (in Romanian, of course) that the factory of “the Jew, Grandpa Bean” had been appropriated. Nice. Keep that in mind when radicals here accuse the U.S. government of fascism or Nazism.

I had always learned that the Jews of Romania were relatively spared during World War II compared to other Eastern European countries, so I never realized the odds that my dad beat as a Holocaust survivor. It was only recently, when I read Johnson's A History of the Jews that I realized what relatively spared meant. Half of Romania's Jews were murdered. Elsewhere, like Poland, it was much worse. My dad and his family were deported to a concentration camp in Belarus. They were able to bribe their way out and spent the rest of the war hiding in Bucharest.

My dad went to university and became an electrical engineer. He met my mom and proposed marriage on the condition that she understood that they would leave Romania as soon as they were allowed. They married and asked permission to emigrate. They were finally allowed to leave when I was 5 and my sister was 1. (How they finally got permission to go is another interesting story.) We all arrived in Israel shortly before the Yom Kippur war. That war, as well as other facets of Israeli life, convinced my dad that he could not stay in Israel either. So at the age of 9 I arrived in California. My dad then spent the next two decades commuting and working so I could get through college and medical school.

He is now 74 and lives with mom in a suburb of San Diego, about 5 minutes from my sister and her family. He is enjoying retirement and is a loving grandfather to his six grandkids.

Thanks for everything, dad. Happy Father's Day.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Birthday Party
This Sunday will be the birthday party of our middle daughter. She is turning four. The dearth of invitations my children receive indicates that the birthday parties of my youth are disappearing. However, since it is my intention to relive my childhood through my kids, my children always have birthday parties. The standard party involves snacks, birthday cake, entertainment, and goody bags. For older kids, I usually provide crafts. For younger kids, however, I favor an entertainer of some sort. This year, we will have Cinderella again. Ralphie and Doctor Bean undoubtedly remember her fondly. It seems that as she bent over to entertain her little charges, her blue ball gown would gape away at the chest. Therefore, I was really hoping my daughter would choose Parker, her music teacher, instead. But no, she wanted Cinderella again. The best part of planning a party in Los Angeles is that RSVPs seem to be optional. I invited 36 kids (I know, but I had to invite her entire pre-school) and I know for sure that 16 kids are coming. Oh well, I can always make more pb&j sandwiches. She should have a memorable day and the guests will certainly leave happy. On Monday, I will stock the coffeehouse with cupcakes with the frosting licked off. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Happy Tax Free Day (Israel)
The Western Word gets published.
Schiavo's Autopsy Results Released
Terry Schiavo's tragic case generated many posts and many comments at the Coffeehouse. (Most of it is here if you weren't a Coffeehouse regular at the time.) Her autopsy results help answer some of the questions surrounding her case.
Terri Schiavo (search) died from dehydration and was not abused before her 1990 collapse, an autopsy report revealed Wednesday.

The report also showed there was no evidence Schiavo was given harmful drugs or other substances before her death.
"There's nothing in her autopsy report that is inconsistent with a persistent vegetative state," said Dr. Stephen J. Nelson, a medical examiner who assisted in the autopsy.

Thogmartin also said Schiavo was blind, her brain was half its normal size and she was suffering from severe osteoporosis at the time of death.

"The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain. ... This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Tsunami Warning CANCELLED
Tsunami Warning Cancelled

You can put your pants back on now.
Book Review -- Guns, Germs, and Steel
Guns, Germs, and Steel
The Fates of Human Societies

Jared Diamond

In the interest of fairness I must disclose that during my years in medical school at UCLA Dr. Diamond lectured to us several times. I recall him being a brilliant scientist who wears crazy tropical shirts. ball-and-chain, while she was a graduate student, also had some interactions with him, one of which would make an entertaining post, if I can persuade her to write about it.

Guns, Germs, and Steel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has an ambitious goal. It attempts to explain how different human populations developed differently, and to which initial factors the differences in development may be attributed. He begins with a dramatic example. In 1532 Attahuallpa was emperor of the Incas, the most advanced state in the New World. King Charles I was king of Spain. Under orders from King Charles, Spanish conquistadores under the leadership of Francisco Pizzaro traveled to the New World to establish colonies and bring information and treasure back to Spain. In this clash of civilizations, as in most, the two sides were not at all evenly matched, and the outcome was sealed at the very outset. Pizzaro's men rode horses and had guns. The Incas had no large domesticated mammals and no technology nearly as complex as guns. The Spaniards could communicate over long distances with great precision by writing. The Incas had no alphabet. The conquistadores, hailing from a dense population through which many epidemics circulate periodically carried lethal germs from which the Incas had no immunity. In November 16, 1532 Pizzaro captured Attahuallpa. This lead eventually to the conquest of the Incas and to many other European powers colonizing the New World with similarly lopsided victories over the native populations. Even if the intentions of the Spanish would have been entirely benevolent, it is likely that the Incas would not have survived long after the initial contact. The question that Guns, Germs, and Steel tries to answer is: What determines which societies will develop a complex centralized government, technology, writing, and immunity to many germs? What was it about the origins of European and Native American civilizations that allowed one to develop guns, germs and steel while the other did not? Put another way, why was it not Attahuallpa who sent explorers across the Atlantic to capture the King of Spain?

To this broad question, Dr. Diamond asserts that two general answers have been proposed:
1) that there were differences in the humans of the different populations that accounted for the different development of their societies, and
2) that there were differences in the environments of the different populations that accounted for the different development of their societies.
Answer (1) implies that there were various innate strengths in the Spanish or flaws in the Incas. This answer found much favor after Darwin's work, since it became easy to speculate that inherited differences in the populations accounted for their societies' differences. This, of course, supported all sorts of racist preconceptions, and served psychologically to blame the loser of the clash for his defeat.

Guns, Germs, and Steel is a comprehensive and detailed argument for answer (2). The book deals with the origins of human societies on all continents and attempts to show for each one how the geography, botany, and zoology of the region affected the development of civilization in pivotal ways. Diamond's argument can be distilled to the following points (with apologies for the oversimplification).
Diamond supports this case very well and with myriad detailed and convincing examples.

Though a strong argument for answer (2), Guns offers no evidence or argument against (1) at all. Diamond states that from his experiences, he believes New Guineans are as intelligent as Americans, but this is the only comparison between individuals in the entirety of the book. No studies are cited that compare individuals of different populations in intelligence, or in any other characteristic.

Conservatives, of course, offer a third possible answer to the book's central question. Conservatives argue that is neither heritable human traits nor geography that is pivotal in history but culture. They would argue that it is frequently the ideas of a civilization that lead to its spread or its demise and that its environmental resources are secondary. Guns does not deal with cultural comparisons in any way. Diamond partially covers for these flaws by admitting in the epilogue that he does not account for the unpredictable effects of individuals or of culture on history, essentially conceding that he is simply ignoring alternative theories.

This is a sweeping, deep, and very edifying book. Though, at over 400 pages, I sometimes found it a slow grind, I learned much from it (and I hope I was able to teach you some of that in this review). Despite the fact that I disagree with the liberal underlying premise that individuals and culture are irrelevant in the broadest trends in history and that environment is solely determinative, I now have a much better appreciation of the effect of the biological environment on early human societies. If you're interested in human history and prehistory, read it.
Monday, June 13, 2005
7.9 earthquake shakes northern chile - USGS - Yahoo! News
Strong earthquake shakes northern chile - USGS - Yahoo! News

My first reaction is that I hope to hell the Pacific tsunami warning system is on this.

Edited to add: Here is the Tsunami Warning Center's release:

ISSUED AT 2259Z 13 JUN 2005





ORIGIN TIME - 2245Z 13 JUN 2005
DEPTH - 104 KM





Hopefully, this is accurate. I believe it was earthquakes in Chile that devastated Hilo, Hawaii twice in the past 60 years.

Now, I'm just hoping that the earthquake was remote, and that loss of life was minimal. 7.9 is a huge quake.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Happy Shavuot!
I'm working on a book review of a pretty great book, but there's no way I'm going to have it done before sundown. Ralphie, ball-and-chain and I are going to be off the web for about forty-eight hours for the holiday of Shavuot. The rest of the Coffeehousers will inform and delight you until we return.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Wall Street Journal: "American medicine isn't adept at pain management."

That and the conservative case for medical marijuana (on which I personally am somewhat ambivalent due mainly to ignorance).
Thursday, June 09, 2005
A Japanese logic puzzle is sweeping the globe. It is called sudoku, a combination of the Japanese words for number and single.

I first learned of it in the May 21st Economist. The "easy" puzzle shown below is taken from that magazine.

Fill in the blanks so that every row, column, and block (separated by white space) contains 1 to 9.

- - - - 1 - - - -
3 - 1 4 - - 8 6 -
9 - - 5 - - 2 - -

7 - - 1 6 - - - -
- 2 - 8 - 5 - 1 -
- - - - 9 7 - - 4

- - 3 - - 4 - - 6
- 4 8 - - 6 9 - 7
- - - - 8 - - - -
China Arms bill should affect Israel
Israel shouldn't be selling arms to China, period. Why shouldn't this bill apply to Israel?
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Dean calls GOP 'a white Christian party'
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, unapologetic in the face of recent criticism that he has been too tough on his political opposition, said in San Francisco this week that Republicans are "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Howard Dean is the Democrat that has helped Republicans most since Al Sharpton hit the scene. Who woulda thunk? For over a decade, it turns out I've been in a white Christian party! Hey, Oven! You're a white Christian. Is it cool with you if I stay in the GOP, or is it better if I take off and find somewhere where there are more folk like me? What a maroon!

Republicans, of course, are ecstatic over his public buffoonery.
"Where do I sign up on a committee to keep Howard Dean?" crowed GOP operative Jon Fleischmann.
Hmmm... Mr. Fleischmann, that's a pretty Jewish-sounding name. You sure you're in the right party?
(Article found via James Lileks' new Screedblog,
a repository for his right-wing rants!)
Vader Interview
Meryl Yourish interviews the Dark Lord of the Sith. I told you Lucas got it wrong.

hat tip: Galley Slaves
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Bear
Many of my posts make me seem more thoughtful, more intelligent, more caring, and more dedicated than I really am. Not this one. This one reveals me to be vain, superficial, and whimpy.

Oh, and hairy. Very very hairy. Beneath my white doctor's lab coat, under the tie, under the pressed white shirt, is a very fuzzy dude. Here's a recent picture of me camping.
Usually when I go swimming someone either calls the police or just shoots me with a tranquilizer dart. I had become used to this, but my long-suffering wife, the lovely and hard-working ball-and-chain, finally decided she had grown weary of being married to a gigantic version of something a cat would cough up. So I made an appointment for laser hair removal to have my back defoliated. The appointment was today. I took a gram of Tylenol before the visit. It was two orders of magnitude too little.

My "laser technician" (a drug rep, if you know what I mean) rubbed some topical anesthetic on my back and had me sit around for 30 minutes. Little did I know then that the icky feeling of gel on my back making it feel a little numb was by far the best of the visit. Then she gave me protective goggles, lest I inadvertently participate in laser retina surgery. Then she tortured me in a way I'm sure is identical to what is currently being experienced by political prisoners in Cuba. Between yelps of pain I was actually giggling that the rebel base is on Dantooine. I got about two thirds of the way through the "treatment" and just couldn't take any more. I rescheduled the rest for next week. Then I have to repeat the whole thing every month for about half a year.

ball-and-chain thinks my back looks great, but I won't let her touch it until the blistering subsides.
Monday, June 06, 2005
Jerusalem Day
I mused a few days ago about phrases that changed the world because I think there is a phrase that is much less well known that is as historic as any of the ones I listed.

On this day in 1967, in the final hours of the Six Day War, the crackling voice of Israeli Defense Force Colonel Motta Gur announced over the army wireless “Har habayit beyadenu.” The Temple Mount is in our hands.

I had intended to write a post trying to capture the momentous importance of the dramatic end of two millennia of Jewish exile from Jerusalem, but David Bogner at treppenwitz did it far better than I could. Read it, and reflect how lucky we are to be living now.
Good for the Jews
The New York Marriott lists "Sabbath Locks" (probably just plain ol' non-electronic locks) not once but twice in its list of Highlights. We've come a long way, baby.
Last Word on Grey's Rabbi
Apparently the rabbinical consultant for Grey's Anatomy was as appalled at the episode as everyone else.
I Really Appreciated This Visit
Judy Fischer*, a woman in her 60s, met me three months ago at the suggestion of her cardiologist. She had seen a long string of internists and found them unsatisfactory for various reasons. From speaking to her cardiologists, I learned she was emotionally needy and difficult to please – the stereotypical difficult patient. Our first visit three months ago went without incident.

She returned today. She’s been caring for her daughter while her daughter is treated for ovarian cancer. She’s an anxious wreck and it’s making her asthma and her menopausal hot flushes worse. She’s been trying to diet and exercise, but hasn’t lost any weight yet, probably because her anxiety is making her overeat. I adjusted her asthma medications and suggested a short term tiny dose of estrogen to get rid of the hot flushes, but mostly I just let her vent, and I agreed with her that all of these physical symptoms are the understandable consequence of the terrible stress she’s under.

At the end of the visit, when I shook her hand, she said “I really appreciated this visit.” After I stepped out of the examining room I peeked at my watch. We had spent 20 minutes together, exactly as much as was scheduled.

It’s too early to pat myself on the back and think that I’ve forged a successful relationship. In another three months I may inadvertently upset her and she may switch doctors again. Still, I’m surprised how much worse she was advertised than she is in person. Maybe she just needed someone who took the time to let her talk. Maybe she just needed 20 minutes.

* I’ve changed her name and the details of her medical problems.
My previous reflections on doctoring:

If I could be a doctor...
If I could be an astronaut...
Gawsh, You’re Awful Purdy!
Going Around
What Is It?
The Secret To Longevity
Thank You, Doctor
Senior Sadness
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Tiananmen Square at 16 Years
Gateway Pundit reminds us of the massacre that happened 16 years ago today and links to coverage of the only commemoration of the event, a protest in Hong Kong.
Phrases That Changed the World
I was working on an entirely different post (which I still hope to have for you in the next day or two), when I got sidetracked by an interesting list I found myself building.

There are some very short phrases that are etched in our minds because of the historical or cultural event they capture, phrases that almost all of us know and that have become immortal because they define an event or a movement that permanently changed the world. When such phrases are spoken or written all of history seems to split into what came before and what came after. Here are some such phrases that come immediately to mind.

I'd love to hear your contributions. What I'm looking for are phrases no longer than several words that are widely recognized and tied to a specific important time in history. If you can, include a link to verify the details.

The Coffeehousers will pick the contribution they find most worthy. We've given up on trying to make coffee come out of your USB port, so the best contribution will win a double espresso out of your speakers.
Friday, June 03, 2005
The Rains Are Blamed for Lame Insane House Placement
Rain-Filled Winter Blamed for Laguna Beach Landslide

Sometimes bad things happen to me. Sometimes those bad things are very expensive. At those times, I'd love to get everyone else to pick up the tab for my misfortune, but how?

Well, here's an inspiring example. A bunch of beautiful homes in Laguna Beach just slid down the canyon in which they were built, and the owners are trying to see if FEMA will pay for the damages.

The soil gave way near the site of an even more devastating 1978 slide, which destroyed 24 homes. Like that disaster, this one left behind a surreal landscape: houses, cars and streets that had been tilted and buckled, collapsed and smashed, with residents left to stare numbly from a distance.

It also appeared to validate the warnings of geologists, some of whom had questioned the wisdom of building in the canyon. And it raised questions about the safety of other hillside communities in Southern California in the aftermath of the near-record rainfall.
So there was a slide in the 70s in the same area in which homes were lost, and there were geologists who didn't think that it was a safe spot to build. So why is this a possible federal disaster that involves FEMA? Because it might be due to weather. See, they didn't anticipate that it might rain a lot during the winter. So, the "Rain-Filled Winter" is blamed. I don't remember any typhoons ripping the houses from their foundations, but I guess if the rain did it, then we all have to pay. I'm going to build my dream palace on a rickety cliff overhanging boiling pits of lava. I'm not buying insurance either.
Fruity Flies
Sorry, couldn't resist.
The Survival Kit
Many years from now, when I install a bomb shelter in my backyard, I think I'll pack a little Diversity Kit of my own. Only I'll call it a Survival Kit because (A) its purpose is to help me and my loved ones survive a state of emergency, and (B) under such circumstances I won't give a crap about diversity.

Bandages, gauze - To remind you to stop bleeding if you are cut by broken glass, flying debris, or an especially insensitive remark.

Assorted ointments and medicines - To remind you that untreated infections can cause severe pain and permanent disability, and lower your self esteem.

One week of fresh food and water - To remind you that hunger and thirst can really hurt your feelings.

Swiss Army knife, flashlight, compass, radio, extra batteries, matches, plastic sheets, bleach, duct tape, eating utensils - To remind you of the rich diversity between yourself and a caveman.

20 Gauge shotgun and a good supply of ammo - To remind you that, under extreme conditions, some people need an advanced course in sensitivity.

$25,000 in 1-oz. gold coins - To remind you that paper currency is only as good as the government that backs it.

The Holy Bible - To remind you to love the Lord and keep His Word.
EU Constitution Worries Aspiring Members
Or: We Still Want In. Can We Have France and Holland's Seats?

VIENNA, Austria - Stuck on the sidelines, the nations with the most to lose in the European Union's deadlock over its proposed new constitution could be the countries that don't yet belong.

As Europeans took stock Thursday of the charter's troubles, leaders and ordinary citizens in Turkey and across the former Soviet bloc worried that the crisis might conspire against their dreams of joining the EU.

Having worked tirelessly and against all odds to prepare for membership, many couldn't help but wonder whether Europe is coming apart just when they're getting their acts together.
Ain't that a crying shame? They've been manicuring their lawns and painting their houses hoping to get voted into the neighborhood homeowner's association just as they realize that they live in Watts and their neighbors are goons.

Then the anxiety reaches laughable levels.
This week's momentous repudiations by the Dutch and the French — both founding members of the now 25-nation EU — "shattered the very concept for a European Union," said Ivan Krastev, a political analyst in Bulgaria, which hopes to join with neighboring Romania in 2007.

Bulgaria's independent Dnevnik newspaper echoed that bleak outlook, saying "the collapse of enlargement verges on national tragedy."
Shattered concept? National tragedy? Oh, my! But the kicker comes a few paragraphs later:
Spurred by dreams of unprecedented prosperity, stability and freedom of movement, EU candidates like Romania have spent the last decade constructing democracies and building market economies from scratch. Having invested so much, they have the most at stake.
Now, I know that leaders of Eastern European countries don't come to the Coffeehouse for advice, but they should. The advice here is good. Here's some now, and it's free!

Building democracies and building market economies are very good ideas, even for their own sake. Some measures of the success of these endeavors are the liberty and the prosperity of your citizens and the extent to which they participate in the ownership and governance of your nation. The extent to which these reforms makes you better friends with France is much less important. If you do well, in a generation France and Holland may well be begging to join the Romania-Bulgaria Free Trade Zone. I suggest you don't accept them.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Another Blow to the EU Pipe Dream
Dutch Voters Reject EU Constitution

For years, I've been telling people that the European Union is just a bad idea, doomed from conception. Sovereignty is a big deal, and the whole premise of the EU is an erosion of sovereignty.

The dreamers envision the EU becoming a "United States" of Europe. But, they fail to understand the fundamental differences in history that make such a vision a fallacy. Where the colonies of the United States shared not only common backgrounds and language, they also shared an isolation from the rest of the civilized world, and a recent ancestry based on separation from that world (they and their recent forebears bailed out of Europe to try a new experiment). The commonality of their history of separatism, and their isolation from Europe, combined with shared interests (like expansion and defense/offense against indeginous peoples) served to form a strong bond between the colonies.

And, yet, despite all of these commonalities, the United States still found itself in a war to the death with itself, less than a hundred years after its founding.

Europe has none of the United States' historical shared motivations. Rather than a new society, Europe is a group of very old societies. These societies are not terribly open to new ideas, as were the colonies; rather they're set in ways, established over centuries of history and routine. Language, rather than a uniter, divides the population of Europe into dozens of separate entities. Culturally, the difference between an Athenian businessman, an Irish farmer and a German millworker make Alabama sharecroppers and Massechusetts lawyers seem like family. The interests of each population are so distinct, and so misunderstood by the elitests driving the European unification as to make centralized authority over them absurd.

50 short years ago, the entire continent was slaughtering each other. 25 years before that, the same. Europe couldn't even maintain a unified front as a military power in the face of 40 years of Soviet threat, and now they're selling the concept that socialist economic unification will provide sufficient impetus for people to relinquish sovereignty that, in most cases was only achieved through war in the first place?

I'll say it again. The European Union is a pipe dream.
The Diversity Kit
Friend of mine was given this at his government job, and sent it to me. The things on the list were actually included in a little ziplock accompanying the list:

Button - To remind you to "button your lips" to keep from saying hurtful things about others and to keep from making remarks or jokes which might be racist, sexist or in any way hurtful to others.

Lifesaver - To remind you that you can be a lifesaver to others by courageously standing up to negative statements which can erode an individual's self-esteem.

Band Aid - To remind you to heal hurt feelings whether they are yours or someone else's.

Rubber Band - To remind you to be flexible. Someone else might have a better idea or a different experience which can provide valuable solutoins.

Toothpick - To remind you to "pick out" the good qualities in everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, age, or any other factor which differs from yours.

Eraser - To remind you that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and we need to ease our embarrassment when a mistake has been made by ourselves or by others.

Tissues - To remind you to dry someone's tears, or perhaps your own, so you can see the tears caused by racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

Mint - To remind you that, in valuing diversity, you are worth a mint to your organization.

Rainbow - To remind you of the many colors and cultures in our world, and to show you how beautiful these can be when blended together.

What a wonderful way for my friend's government employer to spend tax dollars.

Except that my friend is an adult.

I kept most of the items in the kit. The button to repair my favorite shirt. The Lifesaver, because it's banana flavored: MY FAVORITE!! The Band Aid, because I might cut myself some day. The rubber band to keep my bread fresh. The eraser, because the one on my pencil is worn to the nub, and I might need it to erase something I've written in error.

I blew my nose with the tissue, and ate the mint because my breath currently reeks of the onions I had with breakfast. The toothpick was handy for prying that sausage from between my molars.

The rainbow colored swatch is bound for our local landfill, where I hope it will serve to inspire rats and seagulls to coexist harmoniously.
The gadget yarmulka
Now available free after rebate from Cingular with coupon code "KIPPAH"

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