Archive for October, 2005

National IPF awareness week

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Even though it’s now over, I wanted to mention National Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis week. This is an annual awareness campaign sponsored each October by the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, an organization seeking to educate the public about this incurable and mostly overlooked disease. You might say that I have somewhat of a vested interest in this subject, but I’ll write more about that at another time. For now, rather than me trying to fumble with the words, please click this link if you’re interested. Thanks.

Columbus, Shalumbus

Sunday, October 9th, 2005

So why does Christopher Columbus get all the glory? According to most people, Columbus was not the first to discover America. In fact, today, October 9, is Leif Erikson day as decreed by no less an authority than President George (“W”) Bush hisself. Look here if you don’t believe me.

The Wisdom of Anna Quindlen

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

One of my very favorite writers is Newsweek’s Anna Quindlen. Few people put things in clear perspective with such eloquence as Anna does. This column appeared in the September 19, 2005 issue, and its message bears repeating.

Don’t Mess With Mother

The long view is not about patching levees, or building houses, or assigning blame. It’s about changing the way we all live now.

By Anna Quindlen

The dark aftermath of the frontier, of the vast promise of possibility this country first offered, is an inflated sense of American entitlement today. We want what we want, and we want it now. Easy credit. Fast food. A straight shot down the interstate from point A to point B. The endless highway is crowded with the kinds of cars large enough to take a mountain pass in high snow. Instead they are used to take children from soccer practice to Pizza Hut. In the process they burn fuel like there’s no tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s coming.

The cataclysm named Katrina has inspired a Hummer-load of rumination, about class, about race, about the pathetic failure of the Feds after four long years of much-vaunted homeland-security plans. The president made himself foolish, calling for an investigation into who fouled up, perhaps ignorant of Harry Truman’s desk plaque reading THE BUCK STOPS HERE. The press rose to the occasion, awakened out of its recent somnambulant state, galvanized into empathy and rage. The public was remarkable, opening their homes and their wallets.

But the failure by government, in the midst of a hurricane season forecast early on to be a monstrous one, illustrates once again the lack of a long view. The long view at the moment is not about patching levees, or building houses, or getting oil rigs back up and running, or assigning blame. It’s about changing the way we all live now.

Both the left, with its endless talk of rights, and the right, with its disdain for government oversight, suggest that you can do what you please. Americans have taken the message to heart, and nowhere is that clearer than in the mess we’ve made of the natural environment. How many times do we have to watch homes cantilevered over canyons surrender to a river of mud or beach houses on stilts slide into the surf to know that when we do high-stakes battle with Mother Nature, Mother takes all? Once I heard a businessman at a zoning-board meeting say, “Well, a person can do what he wants with his land.” Actually, that’s not true; that’s why zoning exists. Is any city, town or state brave enough to just say no to waterfront development that destroys dunes, despoils water and creates the conditions that will, when a storm strikes, create destruction?

New Orleans lived for 80 years with the granddaddy of all environmentally misguided plans, the project that straightened out the mighty Mississippi so its banks would be more hospitable to homes and businesses. Little by little the seductive city at the river’s mouth became like one of those denuded developments built after clear-cutting. It was left with no natural protection, girded with a jerry-built belt of walled-off water, its marshland and barrier islands gone, a sitting duck for a big storm.

But it was not alone. Everywhere in the country, wetlands disappeared and parking lots bloomed during the past half century of mindless growth, in which bigger was always assumed to be better. While the streets of European cities were filled with tiny compact cars, the SUV took over American roads. Show houses sprang up that will soon present an interesting lesson in what happens when cathedral ceilings meet sky-high fuel prices. In the aftermath of Katrina, one displaced person after another told TV reporters that at least they were alive, their family was safe, the stuff didn’t matter. If only that were the ethic for the long haul. Consumption used to be the name for a mortal wasting disease. It still is.

This administration of big-oil guys is the last place to look for leadership on conservation. Many Bush supporters scoff at global warming as a lefty myth, and early on the president made his position clear when he made the United States one of two industrialized nations to reject the Kyoto Protocol, the plan to curtail climate change by cutting down emission levels. But there has been no powerful national leadership from either party on this front in recent memory. Political officials have bowed to the public’s thirst for more, more, more.

The effects of disaster fall disproportionately on those who have less, as they did during Hurricane Katrina, when poor families had no cars to flee in, when there were no immediately available means for a second act in another town and another home. But between the blackouts, the fuel costs, the eroding coastlines, the disappearing open spaces, it is going to become harder and harder to overcome the effects of blind overgrowth even for those of means. Get ready for the $100 tank of gas, and an Armageddon of our own making.

New Orleans will be rebuilt, but rebuilt how? In the heedless, grasping fashion in which so much of this country has been built over the past 50 years, which has led to a continuous loop of floods, fires and filth in the air and water? Or could the new New Orleans be the first city of a new era, in which the demands of development and commerce are carefully balanced against the good of the land and, in the long run, the good of its people? We have been crummy stewards of the Earth, with a sense of knee-jerk entitlement that tells us there is always more where this came from.

There isn’t.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Psst! Hey, you! Wanna see a photo of my cute, hairy little pussy?

Friday, October 7th, 2005

Now that I have your attention (you were expecting … what? get your mind out of the gutter), this is mainly an experiment to try uploading and placement of images in this here blog. If you’re into cute cat photos, I’ve got a boatload of ‘em but I’ll spare you – at least for now. I have two cats, and tend to take pictures of them when either (a) they do something adorable, which is fairly often, or (b) i’m totally bored, which also happens on a regular basis. So, a cat pic may crop up here and there on occasion. Blogger makes this pretty easy, and overall I’ve been quite pleased with how this thing works. Leave it to Google to take blogging to the great unwashed masses. It used to be that long ago (i.e., last month), publishing a blog was an arduous process that required a degree in computer science, so only those who really really had something important to say went to the effort to do one. Now, if someone of my ilk can blog with only a few lazy-ass mouse clicks, that’s gotta mean something, and I’m not sure it’s all good. The ten-horned beasts may not be far behind.

Just a-lookin’ for a name

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

OK, now that I’m here, the first order of business is to pick a name for this puppy. This is an exercise that I’m sure anyone who has started an online journal before has gone through. Sure, maybe some folks have pet names they’ve nursed all their lives, or something that’s been revealed to them in a blinding flash of inspiration. But I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired lately so I’m stuck searching for a name that’s unique, clever, memorable, but not too damn cutesy. None of the names I’ve thought of so far really click. I’ve gone from banal (“Bob’s Blog”) to oblique (“The Electric Pillow”). I originally was going to call it “The Toasted Times”, but the more I thought about it…ehhhh. I live in East Texas where there’s lots of pine trees so maybe “The Pine Tree Times”, “Journal O’The Pines” or “Behind The Pine Curtain” might work. Dunno. I suspect musicians go through this sort of thing when they first get together and try to come up with a name for their band.

Anyway, knowing that far greater minds than mine are out there, I thought I would use this first post to ask for input. Does anyone like any of the names I’ve thought of so far, or care to offer a suggestion? I’ve found a couple of random blog name generators online, like this one but the results have been pretty lame (“Empty Confessions”? Sounds more like a soap opera.) Then there’s this site that generates a name based on a single word input. And my blog identity crisis is evidently not an uncommon occurance, as this guy has tried the same approach. (“Birth of A Notion”? “Grump Up The Volume”? I don’t think so.)

So please, suggest … something. Anthing. And if this blog goes on to achieve international acclaim, you will feel the thrill of knowing that YOU helped christen it. Now wouldn’t that be more satisfying than a lousy royalty check?

And so it begins…

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Oh boy! My own freaking blog in cyberspace. How exciting, how original, how unique. Yes, just me and 6,047,292 other blogs out there. Whether I have anything to say that will be even remotely interesting to any other human being is debatable, but I’m gonna give it a shot and see where it leads. Thanks for reading … more to come!