Archive for February, 2010

…I will banish people who use the phrase “it is what it is“.

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Scene: Interior, Kitchen, Night

[The camera opens on an unidentified male, approximate age of 35. His back is to the camera and he is staring through a sliding glass door. Because of the time of day and the lighting, we can see his reflection in the door. He is average looking, of medium build, short black hair. He is obviously deep in thought]

[There is little sound. What audio there is that can be heard by the audience is the man’s thoughts]


Where is it?

I’ve looked in the junk drawer.

I’ve looked in between all the sofa cushions.

I’ve looked under the bed.

I’ve looked all around the inside of the car including the trunk.

I’ve looked in all of my jacket pockets and all of my pants.

I’ve even looked through the litter box in case Fluffy ate it.

Where is it?



The preceding vignette was brought to you by the news that the Virginia Lottery announced that a winning Mega Millions lottery ticket bought August 21, 2009, in Leesburg, Virginia and worth $250,000 (there’s your number for the day) went unclaimed and expired on February 18.

And you thought you were having a bad day?

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On February 17 of this year the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reopened four rest stops on Interstate 81 that were closed last year by Governor Tim Kaine to save money and help close the state’s budget gap.

Over the next two months, VDOT will use $3 million in funds to reopen the remaining fifteen (15) rest stops and to maintain them through the end of June.

On the first hand, I am overjoyed by the re-opening as I was driving down I-81 last fall in desparate need of a facility only to find orange cones blocking my way to blessed release. My bladder almost burst until my prayers were answered by an off-ramp and an open gas station several miles down the road.

However, I wonder if this decision is one step ahead and two steps back as VDOT also estimates that it will cost $7.5 million in the next fiscal year to maintain those rest stops. It certainly would be a shame if the new governor, Robert McDonnell, had to make the same decision this summer as his predecessor made last year because the state’s budget woes were in the same mess.

Better to stop now and fix the mess you’re in rather than hope there’s a rest stop a few miles down the road.

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Sometimes the outcome of my super-secret process to produce items to write about via ceditra (patent pending; consult your tax advisor) throws me a curveball where all I feel like doing is throwing up my hands and throwing in the towel. But then I feel the challenge of the throwdown as the gauntlet of the challenge of randomness has been thrown down.

Can you sense the theme I’m throwing out?

From page 848 of the Oxford Pocket American Dictionary of Current English (Oxford University Press, 2002) comes this word:

throw, v, propel with some force through the air of in a particular direction

At first, when encountering this word, I had no idea (as I usually do when first contemplating my ceditra entries) what to write about with the theme of throw. But then (as usually happens), inspiration threw me a life line.

With that introduction out of the way, I present to you nine memorable THROWS in the news (in alphabetical order).

1) Ax: Okay, technically it’s a tomahawk, but I wanted this to be first. On The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, a segment in 1965 had guest Ed Ames (who played Mingo in the 1960s television series Daniel Boone) demonstrating how to throw a tomahawk. It did not land where he wanted it. Watch the video here.

2) Chair: In the 1980s, the basketball coach for the University of Indiana was known for his temper. For Bobby Knight, this was certainly the case in 1985 during a game against the Purdue Boilermakers. In protest against a call made by a referee, Coach Knight hurls a chair across the court. Watch the video here.

3) Cow: Never easy to accomplish, but the makers of Monty Python and the Holy Grail managed to pull off this feat (watch video here) and it has been inspiring modern catapulters ever since

4) Dinner: On January 8, 1992, while on a visit to Japan and during a dinner with Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi, President George H. W. Bush becomes ill and throws up on his host. Watch the video here.

5) Football: Oh, so many great moments to choose from. There is the Immaculate Reception (1972) and The Catch (1982), but for sheer throwing volume, I will have to go with the 1984 Hail Mary pass thrown by Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie to win the game in the last seconds again the University of Miami Hurricanes. Watch the video here.

6) Game: To throw a game is to lose the game intentionally. The best (or worst) example of this is the Black Sox Scandal of 1920 where the members of the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series.

7) Pie: The pie in the face is a classic of slapstick comedy, but when used in real life it can either be terrifying of hilarious (depending if you are on the receiving, throwing, or viewing end). In October of 2007, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was on the receiving end of a custard projectile. Watch the video here.

Eight) Shoe: In December of 2008, while on a vist to Iraq and during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President George W. Bush had two shoes thrown at him by reporter Muntadar al-Zeidi. Watch the video here.

9) Snowball: The place: Washington, DC. The time: December of 2009 right after one of the many snowstorms to hit the area. When it was over, several people advertised through Twitter that a snowball fight would be held downtown. Apparently, no one told the police officer about this flash mob because as he stopped his car on the snowy street during the melee, his vehicle was hit by thrown snowballs. His next move was to get out of the car and brandish his gun. Watch the video here as the snowballers chant “Don’t bring a gun to a snowball fight”.

I do so love living in the DC area.

Oh, why were there only nine items listed instead of the traditional ten? Because I threw the last one out.

That’s all from here…I’m throwing back to you in the studio, Ted.

(How many throw puns can one post have?)

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Local Teen Flies High” I predict the headlines will be as they go to print to congratulate Ashley Caldwell on her 10th place finish in the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the sport of women’s aerials.

Caldwell, at 16, is the youngest American to compete in the 2010 games. She was born in Montgomery, Maryland and currently resides in Hamilton, Virginia (just off Interstate 85).

Hope to see you in Sochi, Ashley and congratulations again.

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Taking this whole “creativity through randomness” down another path, I have decided to see what I can do with a particular number. So, I grabbed my handy d20 (geek that I am, this is always at the ready) and after rolling twice (once for the tens digit, once for the ones digit), I have come up with the number 36 (and there was even more rejoicing!).

So now what?

Well, since I like NASCAR, I guess I’ll just have to follow the Number 36 car this season.

So, allow me to introduce the driver I will be following this season, in the Number 36 Wave Energy Drink Car, Mike Bliss.

We’re two races into the season and Mike Bliss stands in thirty-fourth place (not thirty-sixth?!?) in the Sprint Cup standings after finishing forty-second at Daytona and twenty-second in Fontana.

Go, Mike, Go!

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Ceditra: To outlast me

Once again I dive into my archive of ceditra entries:

From July 6, 1998
From page 551 of The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1998

more than 200 caves in Europe, mainly in S. France (Lascaux) and N. Spain (Altamira) show remarkable examples of wall painting

I haven’t personally seen the wall paintings but I have seen the photgraphs of the Lascaux paintings. I seem to remember that a new batch of paintings were discovered a few years ago, but I can’t recall the place ot how old the wall drawings are.

Maybe the wall drawings served as a memory aid. “Here’s how many deer and other animals we have killed this year”, they say. That’s one option, but the most fascinating aspect of these early art works it that we’ll never know for sure why they were created.

I like to think they served some function other than a purely practical one. They may have indeed been practical, serving as a record of the clan’s deeds or as a how to guide to trap animals (an early Hunting for Dummies), but I would like to think there’s something more.

Maybe it’s overly romantic to think that a person in the caves of Altamira put their hand to the wall and brushed crushed up dye all over it, thus creating a reverse sillouhette of the hand, in an attempt to have a presence after their life was over. They could point to their hand and say to their kin, “I may be gone some day, but this hand will always remain as a reminder that I was once here.”

The hunts depicted are the permanance of the tribe. “For those you looking at these walls, seeing the deer fall, know that many have come before you to produce you and now it is your turn to make your mark on the tribe and these walls so that you may be remembered by those that you produce.”

I can see art as creation – an example of the individual’s mind to be like God and create something out of nothing. The wall was blank – now it contains a deer. The canvas was blank – it now contains Impression, Sunrise. The parchment was blank – it now contains The Tale of Genji. The air is silent – it now contatins “Purple Haze”.

There is some need to take whatever is buzzing in your head and to simply get it out in any form.

But it is the permanance of art that gives the task of creation its greatest allure. Because I know I am finite, I desire to become infinite. Having children is one way of doing that, but each offspring have their own agenda of immortality. Infamy can also earn one a spot in the annals of history. However, I do not want to be remembered for a spectacular failure or a highly immoral act.

I believe it is through art and the process of creation that one can survive one’s own time on earth. We still speak of da Vinci and Shakespeare and Dickinson and O’Keefe.

While I would not begin to presume to put my name next to those, I believe that is what drives me in my artistic pursuits – to leave something behind for others. Whether it’s this collection, the last book by Benjamin Spondar, my Cavland drawings, my Trangoe poetry, or any one of the undone short stories rattling in my head, I want to leave something of me to outlast me.

Back to 2010 and maybe I’ll share in future posts what Ben Spondar, Cavlands, and Trangoe are. But the desire to leave something behind that outlasts me is still present.

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When I Rule The World…

…my first edict will be to mandate public flogging for all those who do not understand how to use the “Reply All” function of email properly.

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Parasites in the News

This month, it was announced that Richard Neutze, a professor at the University of Gothenburg, was awarded the Faculty of Science Research Award for his and his team’s work studying how proteins transport substances across cell membranes. Professor Neutze’s research, in fact, may lead to new ways to help prevent the spread of malaria.

For those who do not know, malaria is a disease caused by a parasitic micro-organism that belong to the genus Plasmodium, such as P. falciparum and P. ovale. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 190 and 311 million people worldwide contracted malaria in 2008 and between 708,000 and 1 million people died from the disease. In the United States, on average, 1,500 people are infected annually with malaria even though the disease has been eradicated from this country.

While I offer hearty congratulations to Professor Neutze and his team for his achievement and for the possibility of a potential advance in the prevention of malaria, please excuse me while I temper my enthusiasm because we have been down this road before.

It was eight years ago this month that Professor Henri Vial and his team at Montpellier University in France announced a new compound, called G25 that promised a new way to prevent malaria by interfering with the reproductive cycle of P. falciparum.

Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of G25 or Professor Vial because nothing further comes out of that 2002 announcement.

Eight years after the announcement of G25, African citizens (for malaria is a disease that mainly afflicts sub-Saharan Africa) are still relying on the same compounds, such as quinine to treat malaria that have been around since the 17th century.

Eight years after the announcement of G25 and four centuries after quinine, there is still no method to prevent malaria. The disease can only be treated once a person has it.

This really should come as no surprise as the majority of malaria sufferers are poor and therefore there is little profit motive for major pharmaceutical companies to come up with a drug to prevent malaria. This helps explain why the major announcements in the past decade concerning promising treatments for malaria come from universities (G25, Neutze’s work on membranes) and non-profit organizations (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).

While there are examples of anti-malaria drugs created by major pharmaceutical companies (Novartis and Coartem ), Big Pharma goes for the conditions that afflict people who can pay. This is why there are at least three major drugs for male impotence (e.g., Viagra, Cialis, Levitra) and who-knows-how-many for depression (e.g., Prozac, Cymbalta, Paxil, Zoloft, etc.).

When some companies do get into the malaria market, the profit motive is not far behind as highlighted by this story showing that forty percent of anti-malaria drugs given in three African countries were of low quality.

I’m not sure which parasite is more insidious, P. falciparum or companies that prey on suffering.

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Twice in our country’s history, a collection of states, mostly from the South, have felt so strongly about an issue, that they have fought against its citizens, other states, and even the federal government itself.

The first time was in 1860 when, after the election of Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina felt so strongly about the federal government’s inability to rein in the northern states and the laws of those states proclaiming that a slave who made it to their borders would be considered free. South Carolina felt so enraged by this defiance of the U.S. Constitution, that they declared their intent to secede from the Union. Because of their twin beliefs of slavery and that the U.S. Constitution trumps state sovereignty, South Carolina and ten other states broke away from the United States to form the Confederate States of America.

For this, the U.S. Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 resulting in the death of over 779,000 Americans (number taken from page 141 of The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2010).

The second occurrence happened in the 1950s and 1960s when Southern states felt so strongly about state sovereignty when it came to the issue of racially integrating schools, that they defied the federal government.

In 1956, members of Congress published the “Southern Manifesto” from Southern states calling for massive resistance against Brown v Board the Education, the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that called for the integration of schools.

In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to block nine African-American students from attending Central High School in Little Rock. It took President Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to send in federal troops and to federalize the Arkansas National Guard before the students could attend the school.

In 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace defied federal authorities in not allowing the desegregation of the University of Alabama. When President John Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard, Wallace stepped aside and two African-American students were allowed to attend.

One rebellion by Southern states caused the U.S. Civil War and the other rebellion helped pass the sweeping civil rights legislation of its era by showing the horrible conditions African-Americans had to endure.

The time is again coming when a collection of states is throwing its weight behind an issue that will put itself in direct confrontation with the federal government.

The issue this third go-around is over health care and pending legislation in Congress that would require all individuals to purchase health insurance. The Virginia Senate passed a bill by a margin of 23 to 17 that would make it illegal to require people to buy health insurance..

According to the Associated Press, lawmakers in 35 states are considering legislation or amendments to their state constitutions that would reject the individual mandate.

If Congress passes legislation with an individual mandate and states pass laws in direct defiance, only time will tell if the coming civil war will result in bloodshed, sweeping court rulings and legislation, both, or neither.

The irony in this dust-up is that while the conservative blogosphere is manning the ramparts with the idea that the individual mandate is unconstitutional (like here and here and here and here), National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” aired a story on February 15 showing that the concept of the individual mandate was invented by a conservative health economist, Mark Pauly.

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