Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wedded Bliss

To date, my journal has steered well clear of most controversial aspects of religion and politics here in the USA. However, there should be nothing controversial about this:

In Atlanta, Georgia, a 37 year old woman is charged with a variety of sexual offenses against a 15 year old boy by whom she is pregnant.

Nothing remarkable about that you might think, just a sorry tale, and indeed you would be right. Whatever the circumstances, it's hard to accept that this woman shouldn't have known better.

This is where the story takes a turn for the bizzare. The couple are planning to marry, and the law will allow it. Georgia allows the marriage of children, of any age and without parental consent, if the girl/woman is pregnant.

Let's try to count the number of ways this is wrong ...... I lost count!

This is a charter for child abuse. No if's but or maybes. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is state sponsored pedophilia. Quite frankly, I am struggling to understand why George Bush doesn't have tanks surrounding Atlanta/Hartsfield International Airport, securing access for *Cotton Storm*, the operation to liberate this Third World abusive regime.

This law was enacted in the sixties, in an attempt to prevent or reduce the numbers of children born out of wedlock. What the hell were they thinking?

And where were the church leaders while all this was going on? They are, apparently, able to dictate which books are available in schools, prevent our children participating in normal *teen* activities and reach right into the Oval Office. What they seemingly cannot do is stop legislation that sanctifies child abuse. I wonder why?

Is it, do you think, because they were too busy opposing effective sex education, and the use of contraception in a manner that might have reduced the unwanted pregnancies in the first place?

All this, and I haven't even mentioned Roe v. Wade !!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

House Rules

We try to extend a *liberal* outlook into aspects of family life. Both Jodie and I believe in helping the kids understand why they should or shouldn’t do stuff, rather than simply telling them how to behave. *Telling them* never seems to work anyhow :(

As a consequence, there are very few *rules* in this house. Generally there are only two:
  1. No writing on the walls
  2. Obey all the rules!
Recently however, there has arisen the need for a third rule:
    Whatever you want to say, if it starts with the name of a brother or sister, we don't want to hear it.
Those blessed with just the one child might not readily see the imperative for this rule. I feel confident though, that parents of two or more children would agree that this rule ought actually to be hard-coded into the genetic make-up of all children. Quite frankly, the fact that it isn’t is ample evidence to disprove the theory of Intelligent Design.

“Michael hit me, Mom”, “Natalie bit me”, “Mackenzie said I am dumb” …. By the time breakfast is over, replying with “Not hard enough, apparently”, “Bite her back” and “Well are you? Ok then, ignore her”, is all wearing a bit thin.

It seems to me that Rule #3 is eminently sensible. I don’t, however, hold out too much hope for real success with it, judging by the amount of writing on the walls!

Later ….

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Coughing Re-visited

So I apparently need to explain *Cough Syncope* some more. I’ll try to do it slowly, using little words! To help a little, I offer this from MedicineNet.com:

Definition of Syncope

Syncope: Partial or complete loss of consciousness with interruption of awareness of oneself and ones surroundings. When the loss of consciousness is temporary and there is spontaneous recovery, it is referred to as syncope or, in nonmedical quarters, fainting. Syncope accounts for one in every 30 visits to an emergency room. It is pronounced sin-ko-pea.
Syncope is due to a temporary reduction in blood flow and therefore a shortage of oxygen to the brain. This leads to lightheadedness or a "black out" episode, a loss of consciousness. Temporary impairment of the blood supply to the brain can be caused by heart conditions and by conditions that do not directly involve the heart:
Non-cardiac causes: Syncope is most commonly caused by conditions that do not directly involve the heart. These conditions include:
  • Postural (orthostatic) hypotension: Drop in blood pressure due to changing body position to a more vertical position after lying or sitting;
  • Dehydration causing a decrease in blood volume.
  • Blood pressure medications leading to low blood pressure.
  • Diseases of the nerves to the legs in older people (especially with diabetes or Parkinson's disease) when poor tone of the nerves of the legs draws blood into the legs from the brain.
  • High altitude.
  • Brain stroke or "near-stroke" (transient ischemic attack).
  • A migraine attack.
  • Fainting after certain situations (situational syncope) such as:
  • Blood drawing,
  • Urinating (micturition syncope),
  • Defecating (defecation syncope),
  • Swallowing (swallowing syncope), or
  • Coughing (cough syncope)
that trigger a reflex of the involuntary nervous system (the vasovagal reaction) that slows the heart and dilates blood vessels in the legs and cause one to feel nausea, sweating, or weakness just before losing fainting.

Now it appears from reading this, that nowhere is it suggested that a single low dose of Sudafed, a minor painkiller and a couple of beers are responsible. For what it’s worth, the ER doctor was totally unconcerned. His view was that only the alcohol was likely to have contributed (it lowers blood pressure), but even then, only marginally.

I go to the trouble of offering this explanation not because I am defensive about it, but simply to let y’all know that feeling smug by thinking you are safe because *yer not that stoopid*, actually offers you no protection at all … you heard it here first!

Actually, having just re-read that passage above, there are a few cause of Syncope that may, or indeed may not, bear further examination ….

Can you imagine suffering *Defecating Syncope*? Jeez! Don’t squeeze so hard, take your time sister. This being a family journal, we have probably explored that scenario quite far enough. Still, as a guy I imagine I would prefer *defecating syncope* to *urinating syncope* …. Less far to fall!

What comes from all this? Only one thing really. If you feel a major coughing fit coming on, or you are experiencing one, sit down. Do not stand and try to walk, you might not make it. Simple.

By the way. The cuts on my head are healing nicely, and it finally feels like I am getting over this cough.

Steve and Natalie sporting matching *owies*

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Proud Parent Syndrome

I am proud of both of my boys, but on this day, I am particularly proud of Thomas.

After many years of dedication and commitment, Thomas graded today for, and achieved, 1st Dan (Black Belt) in Shenen Jitsu (Karate).

He isn’t yet 13 years old.

Many congratulations Tom …. You earned it.

Also, a warm mention to Tom’s Mum, and other family for the continued support they offer. It is appreciated.

Cough Syncope (It makes you fall over)

Thomas …. When you read this remember … I am ok.

All is well and there is nothing to worry about (
I’ve had the flu! Nah, not the *bird* variety, just your common or garden upper respiratory viral infection. Generally I am rarely sick. When I am, I simply find the whole thing a bit of a bore. Quite frankly, sneezing, aching joints and coughing gets old pretty quickly. But ya just keep on *keeping on*, and try to be pitiful, for sympathy, while still doing what you need to do.

That is pretty much how this dose of flu was, until last night.

It started on Thanksgiving, and proceeded along a well-trodden yet desperately annoying track for a week or so. By Friday I was thinking about whether or not we would make the bar that night. It’s a karaoke bar, and I love to sing ….. without the singing, and feeling sick would be a bit like denying yourself a chocolate, then sitting watching everyone else eat them!

In the end we went, and it was ok. I coughed a bit, but sang four songs and didn’t massacre any of them more than normal. My throat was feeling pretty ropey when we got home tho, so Saturday was doubtful.

In the event, we went to the bar after returning from the Okmulgee Christmas Parade, and dinner with the family. During dinner a friend had called and asked if we were coming out ….. he said George was complaining the list of singers was too short, and where was the Limey Bastard!!!

We got there at 10.15pm, via home for me to swallow a swift Sudafed and a couple of painkillers. Yes, I am aware of the consequences of alcohol and medication but … it was the first meds all day, and there wasn’t going to be much alcohol and I wanted to sing a new song dammit!

As we walked in, George appeared and said I was next on, unless I wanted to wait until we had drinks. Nope, gimme the mic and stick on The Dance … it’s easy, and my throat needs *easy*. All was well, and apart from the occasional mild cough, I felt good. The bar was pretty empty, and even the air smelled a little better than normal (I’ll vote, by the way, for a smoking ban in OK bars).

After that I stumbled through Alan Jackson’s *Remember When*, but nailed *Wonderful Tonight* pretty well. Jodie loves that song, and I like to sing it for her. All through, I was coughing a little and was close to thinking maybe we should go home soon. What happened next came right out of the blue.

I had just finished that last song. I was sat at the table next to Jodie, and chatting to Chris, another friend. I felt my chest tighten, and began to cough hard. I needed air. Go outside, it’s cold …. refreshing. I push my chair back, stand, turn. I am coughing so damned hard and my lungs seem to be fighting my diaphram. The door is there, just there, two or three steps ……..

*Wake up Steve!* It’s Jodie ….. mmmmmm, I’m cosy and warm, why is she yelling at me. And what the hell are these people doing in our bedroom? Weird. *Steve! Steve! Are you ok?* ….. Damn …. It dawns … I’m still in the bar, and something just went terribly wrong. Must get up, Jodie wants me, and George …. I can see Rick and Chris. What the hell happened?

So I sit up. I suddenly take in great globs of info all at once. I must have fallen down, the music is playing but Rick stopped singing. He is here with the microphone and Britney has dialled 911 and is talking to the emergency services.

*I’m ok*. I am feeling great, I can breathe, I’m not coughing and I appear to be the only person in the bar not worried about me. My face hurts though and I’m scared. This is just not normal and I want to go home. *Take me home Jodie, please*.

*I’m taking you to the hospital*, she says. Hell no! That’s gonna cost a fortune, and I’m fine, I just need to go home. I ask George to get Rick to come to our house when he finishes the song (still not apparently thinking straight). I needed to be out of there, to calm down, to let our friends see all was well, and sleep, I wanna go to sleep. My face hurts, and I can feel a lump on my forehead. The worst problem though is that my glasses are all bent out of shape, and I’m having real trouble keeping them in a position where I can see well.

We get outside. *Are you driving?*, I ask Jodie, and receive the kind of withering look such an inappropriate attempt at humour deserved. *Get in. We are going to the hospital*. I persuade her that we should go home first, then, reassess when I’ve cleaned up a little, and had a glass of water.

I tried, a guess a little half-heartedly, to suggest all I needed was a good nights sleep. After all, I just feinted, right? Surely if Jodie keeps an eye on me we will be ok. She isn’t buying it for a New York second. Honestly, I looked at her and she was scared stiff. Only a doctor was going to reassure her, and I wasn’t dumb enough to try to suggest otherwise, anymore.

I’m going to cut a long story mercifully short here. I have, in the past, made remarks about the US Healthcare system. Those comments have been a mixture of positive and otherwise, and they still stand. Having now experienced the ER in a large city hospital, I have a little more to say, but in the next post or so.

Suffice it to say that I am fine. Maybe just a little more in touch with my own mortality than I was yesterday, but fine nonetheless :)

Howard Stern

I like Howard Stern.

I have been thinking ahead to the point where we will be able to justify a subscription to satellite radio, and decided that Sirius will be the service we choose. Howard's program was part of that process.

I had been wondering why he was prepared to swap his massive *Earth bound* audience for the relatively untried new service, and one with only 2 million subscribers.

Then I discovered he had signed a 5 year contract worth ... wait for it ...

500 million dollars !!!

So, that nicely explains THAT!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Road Rage

LONDON (Reuters) - Deaths from car crashes in developed countries are nearly 400 times greater than those resulting from international terrorism, according to a study published on Thursday.

As many people die every 26 days on U.S. roads as were killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks, and politicians should bear this in mind when allocating resources to combat two "avoidable" causes of death, researchers said.

I have been driving for what seems like *forever*. Actually, it is 30 years, or thereabouts, since I first donned a bright yellow crash helmet and wobbled precariously down Bybrook Road on a second hand moped.

In the years that followed, I estimate that I have driven between three and six hundred thousand miles, on both sides of the road, in about ten countries and on two continents. I have taken, and passed, driving tests in cars, vans, mini-buses, motorcycles, forklift trucks and on a tractor.

At the same time I have been involved in five minor accidents. Only one of these was my fault (the most recent one) all were minor, and only one involved an injury (to me). I have ten years no claim discount with my most recent insurance company.

I consider myself to have an average driving record, and I think I am an average driver. I am actually aware that I am not quite as good as I was ten years ago, and have responded by generally driving a little slower, and more carefully. Ironically this probably makes me a safer driver than before, and doubly ironic is the fact that the only accident I have ever had that was my fault, was the most recent. This was a minor *rear-end* on a wet Interstate 40. The cars in front were stopped, I *very nearly* stopped too, but the Teflon Tyres on the pickup didn’t want to cooperate …. Such is life.

So, with my experience of a variety of driving conditions, vehicles, roads and countries, I have reached a few conclusions.

The first is that the worst driving I have ever encountered is here, in the United States. Not everywhere, y’understand. I had no issue at all in Maryland and Washington DC, but *here* here …. Oklahoma. Yes, by the way, I have driven in both France and Italy!

I need to be mindful that *I* am the newcomer, the one unused to local customs and traditions. Like the one that says that *weaving in and out of fast moving traffic in a bright red Chevvy pick-up with *spinners* on the wheels* is not only appropriate, but positively life-enhancing. Let us neither forget the charming habit of joining a highway, from a minor sideroad, by pulling straight out into the off-side lane and proceeding to drive along at 30mph, just a few yards in front of cars bearing down on you at anything up to 90mph. Don’t worry, they’ll swerve round you. Seriously though, the practise of *under-taking*, that is, passing on the inside of slower vehicles is the norm. It takes some getting used to. Try it in the UK and you’d expect a blast from the guy you passed at best, and a prosecution for dangerous driving if you were seen doing it.

I am not suggesting that *under-taking* is inherently dangerous, but it is when you aren’t expecting it; and Limeys just don’t expect it ( From what I see daily, many Americans don’t expect it either.

As I drive the streets and highways around here, it’s surprising there aren’t more accidents. People on phones (every other car it seems). Folk reading the paper, putting on make-up (British women, and some of the men, do this too), chastising the kids, not strapping kids down, dogs jumping around ……. The worst feature though is simply a general lack of awareness of what is going on around, coupled with a few complete lunatics who, quite frankly, shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Not in a million years.

I have long held the suspicion that every new safety and comfort development the car makers comes up with, further isolates the driver from the road, and other road users to the point that some of them don’t seem to realise that others actually exist. When I started to drive (first motorcycles, then cars), drivers were constantly made aware of the limitations of their vehicles, and had a much greater *contact* with the road and other road users. There was also a good deal less traffic to contend with, and speeds were lower.

These days, all that is reversed. Crumple zones, side impact bars, anti-lock brakes, seatbelts, airbags ….. you actually have to work quite hard to hurt yerself in a modern car, although try and remember that other road users don’t benefit in the same way. At the same time, better heating, audio systems, sound-proofing and, especially here, suspension set so damned soft you wonder if there is a road at all; all serve to encourage a belief of *quiet invincibility*.

Why else would a guy, with his wife and kids in the car, tailgate an 18-wheeler at about 80mph on Highway 75? I mean, he can’t see past, he couldn’t possible stop in a hurry. If the truck brakes hard, this nice family is dead. The guy doesn’t want to kill his wife and kids so I can only assume he simply has no concept of the danger he just put them all in. I know a degree of tailgating by aggressive drivers has always happened, but this is different. It’s routine! Commonplace and frightening.

Washington DC (like the UK) has already outlawed the use of a handheld phone while driving. If it’s a good idea in DC, where the important people (sic) live, then surely those in the *flyover* states deserve the same level of protection? I know there are those who will wish to defend their (probably Constitutional) right to call their Mom while driving, but the UK banned the practise and hey! the world as we know it did not end. It’s just a small example.

One thing that I do like here is the idea that a State issued drivers license is a privileged, not a right and, in some States, it can be suspended for not being a *good citizen*. There are, however, serious issues of double jeopardy in the way this idea is implemented.

It does seem to me that one of the ways we can reduce the accident rate is to help drivers regain their awareness of their surroundings, in a much more meaningful way. If we can drastically reduce the vast number of minor accidents caused by inattention, etc, then the way is clear to identify the real abusers, and get them off the road.

To the brain dead moronic tailgaters there is an easy answer. The problem appears to be one of their neanderthalic belief in their own invincibility. This is a cause for concern because it’s always some poor innocent they kill, someone who had no choice but to stand in the bus queue they ploughed into …. You get my drift …..

After the first offense I suggest they are made to drive *adapted* cars. It can be a model of their choice, but here is the rub. All the safety devices are removed. No anti-lock brakes, no airbags or seat belts. Remove the side impact bars. Then, bolt a 10 inch steel spike to the centre of the steering wheel.

That should slow the buggers down.