A few days ago a suicide bomber took out a nightclub in Tel Aviv, just two weeks after a few, fragile cease-fire was brokered between Israel and Palestine by Sharon and the newly-elected Abbas. This would normally be cause for great concern - and still is - but the response to the attack has been quite interesting. Normally, the group responsible for the attack comes forward almost immediately, and congratulations are offered by the other groups. Not this time. Instead, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades all condemned the attack. Islamic Jihad later claimed responsibility, but it is thought that this was at the behest of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, in order to deflect attention from Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian masters.
Why the difference this time? Well, first of all, Arafat is dead. I think we're now just starting to see exactly how poisonous the man really was, if all it takes is his death to bring about such immediate progress. But second, I'd venture to guess that the recent, overwhelmingly successful Iraqi elections had some small effect. The Arab world still doesn't like us, but the elections did give us some small boost of goodwill. Even better, rumor has it that officials are in negotiations with insurgent leaders to broker a political settlement to the conflict. American troops would be much more welcome as guests than as occupiers.
This is starting to get a little encouraging. We'll see what happens.
I've been getting a really positive response to the last post of a medical nature that I wrote, and as I was responding to a comment left by Mesh, I realized that I had enough for another one. This is about the various major schools of medicine and alternative medicine.
Once again, this is just me talking. The information provided herein is accurate as far as I know, and interpreted by me for my own uses. I am not a doctor, and have no formal medical training. Caveat emptor.
The following are some of the major branches of Western medicine. I'm not going to get into Eastern or tribal medicine, as the former is a whole different ball of wax and the latter is not really all that relevant. Essentially, what we've got here is the main trunk of scientific medicine that traces its lineage all the way back to ancient times and up through such minds as Hippocrates, Aristotle, etc., and that tradition's various bastard children: homeopathy, chiropractic, and osteopathy.
"Allopathic" refers to scientific medicine as proscribed by the AMA, etc. When you meet an MD, they're a practitioner of allopathic medicine. A better term would be "Hippocratic", as what is in view is the current manifestation of Western scientific medicine dating all the way back to the Greeks. This is the standard to which everything else is an "alternative". The thesis of Hippocratic medicine is that the body is, more or less, a chemical machine, and that disease is the result of chemical abberations caused by some combination of diet, genetics, infection, and environment, among other things. [Actually, the term "allopathic" was coined by the founder of homeopathy as a perjorative, but the term has stuck and has largely lost its negative connotations.]
"Homeopathic" is a specific branch of alternative medicine which deals with the administration of extremely dilute solutions of various minerals, vitamins, and herbs, solutions so dilute that the solute is undetectable. The thesis of homeopathic medicine is that all substances have various spiritual/metaphysical properties, and that symptoms are the result of imbalances in these substances. The theory goes that water retains a "memory" of things once dissolved in it after they are removed, and that this "memory" can be used to correct imbalances of various sorts in the body. Unsurprisingly, there is no evidence to indicate that this does anything at all, and the original founder of the discipline - an 18th-19th century German - was something of a mystic.
"Chiropractic" refers to another branch of alternative medicine which focuses on manipulative therapy, especially of the spinal column. This was founded by an American magnetic healer around the turn of the last century. The essential thesis is that all disease is caused by irregularities in the nervous system, which in turn cause imbalances in the body's natural intelligence/energy. These irregularities are called subluxations, and are normally treated by manipulating the spine. Like homeopathy, there is no good evidence to suggest that chiropractic does anything that a decent backrub can't.
"Osteopathy" was originally very similar to chiropractic, and was also founded in the American Midwest in the late 19th century. It is another manipulative therapy field, and originally stated that all disease was the result of misalignments in skeletal structure which produce interruptions/aberrations in blood flow. Osteopathic practice has moved far from its roots, however, and today osteopathic medicine is essentially "Hippocrates lite", as osteopaths prescribe drugs and perform surgeries in ways generally indistinguishable from normal doctors. In fact, osteopaths are licensed physicians in all fifty states and the percentage of osteopaths that perform the manipulative therapy upon which osteopathy is based has been steadily shrinking.
So there's that. I'm sure I've missed something. I'm sure someone will point it out to me. I'm tired. I'd say I'm going to go to bed, but circumstances have conspired to make that pretty unlikely.
Normally, you wouldn't catch me dead talking about socialites in anything but abstract terms. But last weekend, Paris Hilton's T-Mobile Sidekick was hacked and the photos, emails, and numbers stored therein plastered over the web. I though this was fairly amusng, but not really newsworthy, hence the lack of comment.
But today, Fred Durst's Sidekick has also been hacked with similar results. This is starting to get really amusing. Not only is whoever is responsible for this pulling off a really great prank, but he's doing it to the people who most richly deserve it. I can't wait to see who he nails next. I also can't wait to see just how many years he'll do for this.
What do you do when the temperature doesn't get above freezing for about nine months? Why, you spray water out of a few pipes 24 hours a day and see what happens.
I saw something like this in a state park in western New York a few years ago. There was a fountain the park service didn't turn off. Just kept growing and growing, but since there was only one pipe, and it pointed straight up, what you got was a single, ribbed column about 20-30 feet tall. With water shooting out the top. The resulting metaphor is left as an exercise to the reader.
This is going to be a bit of a departure from the normal fare that gets posted around here, so be forewarned. I'm learning more about disease and health care - which is kind of why I'm here - and some of the things I'm learning are a bit counter-intuitive. Expressing things in textual form helps me think through things, which is largely why this space operates.
So if you aren't interested in the technical side of health care, feel free to skip. Otherwise read on.
I really am at school now, even if it doesn't look like it very often.
All of the below is based primarily on stuff I know. I make no claims to its accuracy, but it all sounds right to me. If you're asking me for medical advice, you're asking the wrong guy.
When a patient presents to the emergency room, the triage nurse, ED nurses, house staff, and attendings are all running through a list of things they're looking for. In fact, the list can be summerized in a single item: organ failure. If all your organs are functioning properly, then no matter what condition you've got, it ain't gonna kill you, no matter how much it hurts. On the other hand, if your organs stop working - especially your heart - you die. Pretty much right then and there if it's your heart or brain, but in a matter of minutes to hours for other organ systems.
There are a few key things to watch for in terms of organ failure. This list is fairly short, and consists of things that will kill or permenantly impair you in very little time: MI, stroke, kidney failure, respiratory problems, and adequate dehydration and circulation/profusion (while not organ failure as such, inadequate hydration or profusion leads to organ failure really quickly). I'd add trauma to the list, but that tends to be something you don't have to look particularly hard to discover.
The reason that health care providers look for those things is because when it comes down to it, those are the only things that will actually kill you. Cancer doesn't kill people. Never has. When a cancer grows to the point that it interferes with the operation of your organs, you die, but only because your organs have stopped working. The cancer itself is only as dangerous as its potential to harm other parts of you. So when someone "dies of cancer", what is really being said is that the cancer grew to the point that it impaired the working of the deceased's organs to the point that they could no longer support life.
AIDS hasn't killed anyone either. You can live for years with AIDS. What kills you is opportunistic infections that attack immuno-compromised individuals. Most people don't have to worry about internal fungal infections because the human immune system is really good at killing them, but if you don't have an immune system to speak of... bad things happen. One of the reasons that AIDS patients in developed countries do so much better than those in developing countries is that the odds of normal, everyday infection by normal, everyday diseases is so much lower.
With this in mind, there are basically two kinds of diseases: those that will certainly kill you unless something else does first, and those that will only kill you if you can't kill it fast enough. The first category consists of things like ALS and MS, which are, in essence, a form of chronic, gradual organ failure. These will kill you every time, but in many cases, this takes so long that people die of something else - including old age - before these diseases do the job.
The other kind of diseases are things that don't actually kill you outright, but can compromise the functionality of your body to the point that you die. These can be divided into infections - bacterial and viral - and other things, like cancer and various genetic diseases. Take the black death, for example. This is a bacteria, Yersinia pestis, that still kills a few people out West every year. It has bubonic, pneumonic, and septisemic courses and is still quite serious: septisemic plague is universally fatal without medical treatment. Why? Because the infection is so powerful that your organs shut down before the body has time to marshal an adequate defense. But if you can get the patient to the hospital, administer antibiotics, and stabilize their vitals, they'll live. In 85% of cases reported, patients were able to be stabilized in the hospital.
This is basically the way it works: you get sick. The infection, viral or bacterial, starts to multiply, and frequently releases toxins into the bloodstream. But the body works to fight the disease, and in all but a few cases - HIV being a notable one - the body will eventually defeat the invader. Dysentary is caused by a bacteria that the body can defeat every time, but as the bug causes vomiting and diarrhea, you can dehydrate so fast that you'll die before the immune system has a chance to work. But with IV fluids and antibiotics, you'll be fine.
Cancer works a little differently, because it's your own body gone nuts. Still, every cancer treatment course currently out there is essentially a way of poisoning you in such a way that the cancer dies faster than you do, whether that's with drugs or radiation. That's why chemo patients are so sick: they're getting pumped full of toxins that the cancer, because it tends to consume materials much faster than the rest of the body to support its growth, will be affected by at a greater rate than you will. This doesn't always work, but it's all we've got at the moment.
Sepsis is a very serious condition that accounts for more deaths in ICU patients than anything but coronary disease. Sepsis is the systemic infection of the body by one of a number of bugs, and leads to inflammation, impaired circulation, and systemic organ failure. It is divided into SIRS (systematic inflammatory response syndrome), severe sepsis, and septic shock (sepsis with organ failure). Mortality rates are 20%, 40%, and >60% respectively.
Sepsis is a "disease" (it's really a response to one of any number of actual diseases, but the response is fairly uniform) in the second category. It won't actually kill you outright, but can cause the organ failure that will. But if you can stabilize the vitals - O2 saturation, blood pressure, etc. - patients do a lot better. The trick is doing that, because you can't tell someone has sepsis just by looking at them. They'll complain of fever and general malaise, if they're responsive at all, but you can't tell if your kidneys have stopped working on your own. It involves pretty technical diagnostic tools: bloodwork to detect the presence of lactic acid in the bloodstream, indicating poor profusion. Culturing blood samples to detect and identify infections. Unfortunately, diagnosing sepsis can take so long that by the time the patient gets to the hospital, they're already really sick. Once systemic organ failure starts, it's really hard to get people back to health. It's doable, but it's always better to prevent organ failure in the first place.
I'm getting involved in a project that is trying to do just this. A company has developed a catheter which can be used to monitor vital signs in real time - O2 saturation, blood pressure, but especially lactic acid counts, which previously took a bit of time to get - and administer things like pressors, antibiotics, and fluids like any other catheter. The idea is to identify patients with sepsis very early, and get them immediately on a 6 hour treatment course, attempting to stabilize their vitals by any means necessary (epinephrine is part of the clinical pathway if necessary).
All I'll be doing is managing the patient database. Mostly chart abstraction, but it's a way to get involved. I'm pretty excited about it, as the physician I'm working with is really great.
I'm massively enjoying my new Atlantic subscription, and here's another excellent bit of writing. It's an analysis of The Fourth Network: How Fox Broke the Rules and Reinvented Television, and winds up being a pretty insightful commentary on Fox itself. The essayist obviously watches way too much TV, but the one upshot of that is that he seems to be able to intelligently synthesize television with the rest of the culture. He doesn't actually like Fox, but he views the trifecta of CBS/ABC/NBC as being so institutionally petrified that the smarmy delusion of cultural unity that they peddle had become "artifice long before it stopped being tenable," hence the titular quote.
Again, sorry if that link doesn't work. Nothing I can do about it.
I just got back from my first experience with underground cinema. In that the theater was actually located under Broadway on 61st St. I saw The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino as Shylock. It's taken pretty much directly from the play, though it is abridged somewhat to fit into the two hours allotted for normal feature films these days. Pacino does an excellent job, and Lynn Collins plays an excellent Portia.
On the whole, it was quite good - it's Shakespeare after all - but there were times when the director seemed not quite capable of moving beyond the story's roots on the stage. When two characters are engaged in dialog, frequently the rest of the characters will kind of just stand around and watch them. This can happen on stage without it looking too weird, but on film, it doesn't work as well.
The original play is arguably a tad anti-Semitic, and Radford makes much use of this fact in ways that could really have used a little more subtlty. Yes, we get the idea that the Renaissance church was decadent, corrupt, and hypocritical. We've heard all this before. There was a reason for that thing called the Reformation, you know. The political overtones were a bit disappointing, especially as he had such great materials to work with in both script and actors. Fortunately for the film, they are both excellent enough to more than carry the less-than-steller writing and directing.
That's the title of the most popular show on Al Jazeera, which has been referred in this space before in less-than-kind terms. I'll stand by them, but this show, "Opposite Directions", seems to be really something (link goes to an Atlantic article, and subscription is required. Sorry).
The host is Faisal al-Kasim, a British-educated Syrian with dual British/Syrian citizenship, runs a talk show in which really, really good questions are being asked. Like "When was life better, under colonial or Arab rule?" (86 percent of respondents said they'd like to to be re-colonized.), "Are Arab regimes refraining from condemning the abuse in Abu Ghraib because they're committing far worse atrocities in their own prisons?" (84% of respondents said yes).
Al-Kasim is no fan of the West as such, but is convinced that until the Arab world addresses the problem of "Abu Qarib" ("close to home") it has no business complaining about Abu Ghraib, especially in light of what went on there up until 2003. He's hosted a liberal Arab woman with a traditionalist women in a debate over polygamy. He's hosted an Egyptian general implicated for war crimes and a leader from the Holland-based Center for the Support of Democracy in the Arab World in a discussion of prison abuses. This guy is just amazing. I'd really like to find sub-titled episodes, but that seems unlikely.
The Atlantic article is quite good - like most of the things published therein - and it ends with the following rumination:
"The show [I saw taped] was refreshing in the liveliness and openness of its debate, and its being beamed around the Arab world simply could not have been imagined even a decade ago. Yet it was also emblematic of the problems afflicting Arab society—pitting a grim, powerful, and reality-denying general against a man who can question authority only because he lives in Holland."
Just when you though that Wal-Mart didn't have anything going for it, college students - especially in rural areas - are finding that the stores make an excellent staging area for various not-strictly-retail games, including "10 in 10", where two teams spend ten minutes filling a shopping cart with random objects from around the store, switch carts, and compete to see who can be the first to return to the front of the store with an empty cart, all the items having been returned to the shelves from whence they came.
In retrospect, that was a really long sentence. Thank you. Thank you very much.
The whole flat-as-a-pancake and boring-as-drying-paint reasons aside, the good people of Nebraska have just extinguished a 2,000 ton burning pile of manure.
Yes, you read that right. Apparently the manure reached some kind of critical mass and spontaneously ignited, burning for around four months. Apparently, crap has a critical mass. I'm taking bets as to how long it'll take Kos or Salon to reach that point.
If I could write half as well as this guy...
Slate has a great piece on revamping the current train-wreck that counts as a medical malpractice system in this country. The suggestion is the transition to a "no-fault" insurance, similar to what many US states have in place for auto insurance and what Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and New Zealand have in place for malpractice insurance. In short, in exchange for the guarantee of compensation should an avoidable error occur in the provision of health care, the patient agrees not to sue. This cuts down on legal overhead and creates a system in which a significantly higher percentage of patients who do suffer from avoidable error are compensated, all while not creating conditions in which charges of negligence, incompatence, and malice are necessary.
I'm all for it. But I do think that simply not allowing lawyers to take a chunk of awards would the current system a lot.
I've got my soundtrack for the next few days.
I'll be seeing the band in Philly on 3/25 and in New York on 3/26. Heck yeah.
You know how a lot of current pop music sounds manufactured and, well, all the same? Well, this just takes the cake.
Hit the link (3.86MB mp3, modem users beware) and see if you can identify the songs.
Left channel: "The Scientist" by Coldplay.
Right channel: "Pieces" by Sum41.
Can we say all say formulaic?
I just got me one of these. Heck yeah.
Okay, slow news day. Sue me.
Three BitTorrent streams on top of DC++ will do the trick quite nicely, thank you. I'd be annoyed if it weren't for the fact that I'm getting mad loot this way.
It turns out that destroying the earth - literally destroying mind you, not rendering uninhabitable or sterile - is a lot harder than it looks. The earth weighs in at about 5.973 sextillion tons. That's 5.973e27, or 5,973,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons. Of mostly iron. Turns out that the only guaranteed ways of actually destroying the earth take about a year per ton of mass the earth possesses (which would take orders of magnitude longer than the current age of the universe), and the only fast ways take quantities of energy that a decent sized star would take a while to produce.
Ain't gonna happen folks.
Just in case anyone was worried about that. I'm just sayin' is all.
I'm pretty anti-litigation most of the time, but I think that the NJ Attorney General has got a really good case here. He's suing BlockBuster for deceptive advertising with their "No Late Fees" campaign.
The campaign itself of bollocks. True, the traditional late fee which grows in magnitide every time you miss a return deadline is gone, but what's replaced it is not a grace period, but an easy way for BlockBuster to unload their surplus inventory and make money doing it. They'll just charge your credit card if you keep the movie more than a week after it's due.
"No late fees" my eye. I really hope NJ wins this case, because this is one of the clearest examples of false advertising that I've ever come across.
First, a note about the venue. The Used Book Cafe is part of Housing Works, an advocacy group that dedicates its efforts to homeless people with HIV/AIDS. All of the proceeds from their sales and shows goes towards advocacy and charity for these people. The stores are run entirely by volunteers, and everything you see for sale has been donated. Their thrift shops have been the source of numerous items of clothing for me.
Back to the show. There were two openers. The first was Emiliana Torrini an Icelandic-Italian folk-singer chick. Sounded nice, but didn't really do anything for me.
Neither of these did anything for me, but that's probably because I wasn't entirely in the mood for slow, emotional folk music. That's where Doughty didn't disappoint. It was pretty clear that the only reason most of the crowd was there was to see him, as there were at least 50% more people in the room for his set than there were for the openers, and the crowd response was a lot more enthusiastic as soon as he got on stage.
He really seems to enjoy himself on stage and interacts with the crowd a lot. Most people will probably remember him best from the estimable Soul Coughing, but his music now seems a lot... happier. A lot of the Soul Coughing corpus was pretty dark. There are definitely elements present that clearly identify both his previous and current work as being distinctively his - vocal style, and a way of having lyrical phrases wrap around musical phrases that adds a sense of motion and energy to the songs - but the tone is very different. As good as Soul Coughing is, I'd say his work has improved with age.
Doughty is releasing two albums in the next two months, and I'll probably get both of them, as songs he played last night and on Wednesday are showcased there.
Next up: "12 Angry Men" on 42nd St. I'm thinking of going either tonight, tomorrow, or Monday. I mean, heck, why not?
DNS is acting up this morning. I can get to sites my browser has near the top of its cache, but anything that needs a DNS lookup doesn't work.
This isn't really what I wanted to do this morning.
Click on "GB" and then on "Videos" for some of the greatest video shorts on the net. I'd link directly, but the site is Flash, so that ain't happening.
I know we need to work on fixing the trade deficit, but seriously, you can have her back. That's not an import we value all that much.
A weird mood for a surreal show. The Polyphonic Spree are... nuts. I don't know quite what to make of it.
First off, Mike Doughty opened up for the Spree. I really enjoyed his set, though apparently he thinks his set was a little rough (cool pictures with the link). I didn't think so. I just found out that he's playing a benefit concert at Housing Works Used Books Cafe tomorrow, and I'm thinking of going. The guy is good.
So, the Spree. Huh. There was this giant banner that said "HOPE" behind the stage. Their set opened with a bunch of people up on the balcony doing some kind of interpretive movement to a loop of music that had so much bass that either the speakers were fuzzing worse than a two-week shadow or the unidentified object on stage with the same resonent frequency was vibrated within an inch of its existence. I didn't enjoy this very much.
But after about ten minutes, they got on stage, and things got started for real. It's your basic... well... okay, it's not your basic anything. No one is doing what they're doing. There were twenty-one people on stage (I think; they kept moving around, so it was hard to get a good count). We had a guitar or two, a French horn, a trombone, a flute, timpani, a drum set, a harp, a violin, an electric bass, two keyboards, and an eight member choir. In typical Spree fashion, everyone was wearing brightly-colored choir robes. The ladies' were tapered fairly nicely, but the guys kind of looked like they were wearing day-glo sacks. And everyone was moving.
The lead singer and responsible party for the Spree, Tim DeLaughter, was all about getting the crowd to sing. It took a little encouraging, but a lot of people participated. He'd actually tip the microphone out over the crowd and let the people in the front hold it over their heads. I would have sung a bit more if I'd known the music better.
Here's the thing: for some reason I found the whole experience a little unsettleing. Let me start by saying that while I enjoy Together We're Heavy, I find that the album kind of runs together, and if I'm not looking at the media player, I can't tell when one song stops and the next starts. This means that I have a bit of a hard time really getting into the music, as it kind of fades together into a really pleasant stream of background noise. So right away, I knew I wasn't going to be able to really get into this show the way I have with other shows. I expected this, and had decided to not let it bother me. It didn't. As a matter of fact, I felt like I wasn't the only one in this situation, because there were a lot of people who looked like they were having a good time that also looked like they weren't quite sure what was going on.
But things started getting a little weird when I saw the "HOPE" banner behind them. I didn't know exactly why at first, but something about it bothered me. As the show progressed, I grew increasingly restive, and I think I've figured out why. Most of the music I listen to doesn't deal with the things of the faith, and I'm perfectly okay with that. It's not a requirement. Take Wilco for an example. Really great stuff. Not religious in the slightest, and only vaguely spiritual in rare occasions. But the music is mostly about the joys and pains of life and relationships, and those are the kind of things that everyone experiences. But when artists want to start talking about things like hope and joy as such, like DeLaughter wants to, I get a bit antsy. In the midst of all the exuberance, something felt empty, and this was exacerbated by the fact that had the content been different, the format could have easily placed us in a revival meeting or Pentecostal worship service. I really felt like they were trying to take all the things they like about religion in general and Christianity in particular and showcase them while leaving Christ out of it.
It's weird. When Christ is in view, the smallest things can give me great joy, but without him, it doesn't matter how energetic or exuberent the proceedings, it just leaves me hollow. I tried to tell myself to just enjoy the music for what it is, but I found myself thinking that it's just undirected enthusiasm and groundless optimism. Call me a cynical pessimist if you want, I'll answer to that, but for me, the absence of true Hope was palpable.
I wound up having to leave before the show actually ended, as I had to take a chemistry exam this morning, and the Spree didn't take the stage until a bit after 10:30PM. But by the time I had left, I kind of felt like I'd seen what I came to see.
Oh, and if you ever go to a show at Irving Plaza and can't get right up next to the stage, the view from the balcony is really good.
Most of us probably thought that Rathergate was mostly over when the January 10 report was published and three executives were asked to resign. That right there would have been a decently satisfactory end, as various heads promised to roll, and it became obvious that the reason that Rather is resigning ahead of schedule was probably to avoid getting axed altogether.
But it only gets better. Just when you thought the credibility of CBS couldn't get any more tarnished, the three executives that have been asked to resign are refusing to do so and hiring lawyers.
This is gonna get juicy.
Lest anyone suggest that I'm saying that the Anglican tradition is inherently superior to all others, allow me to draw attention to one little flaw I discovered in my lectionary readings this evening. Yesterday, the reading from the Old Testament was Deuteronomy 8:11-20. Today, the reading was from Deut. 9:4-12. What, you might ask, happened to verses 1-3? They are as follows:
"Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, 'Who can stand before the sons of Anak?' Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
It seems that's just a bit too... bloodthirsty for the Anglicans' taste. We can't have God killing people, now can we?
In all fairness, I don't know of many traditions that have consistently dealt with passages like this one in a positive way, but I've never seen their ommission enshrined so clearly before either. Oh well. I'll just read the whole thing anyway.
Germany's economy shrank by 0.2% last quarter. Welfare-statism doesn't work. It happened to Sweden in the last decade, and it's happening to Germany now. Let's all hope Bush can make the changes to Social Security that he's talking about and that someone, somewhere, gets rid of that idiotic prescription drug benefit.
That, continuing in the vein of Friday's post, is the name of a website which hosts the magnificent "Hall of Douchebags", which consists mostly of miserably terrible band photos, mostly in front of brick walls. You've just got to see this to believe it.
Anyone down in Chattanooga mind putting me up for a few days during the week of March 14?
That's the conclusion you come to if you compare the penalties for downloading a movie vs. simply ganking it from the nearest retailer.
Someone want to explain to me why this makes any sense at all?
Replacing some small businesses and their moderately paying jobs with a bunch of low-pay Wal-Mart jobs in the same area, or replacing some small businesses and their moderately paying jobs with a bunch of Wal-Mart jobs out of town? Because that's probably the choice that the people opposing the construction of a new Wal-Mart in Queens are going to have to face. Wal-Mart - or at least its business model - is the way of the future, and there's a good case to be made that the little mom-'n-pop corner stores are actually ripping off the poor by charging inflated prices to a captive audience.
In the long run, consumers benefit from lower prices (provided they aren't deflationary prices), and thus the economy benefits. This may be a short-term bad thing for certain interest groups that have based their personal fortunes on structural inefficiencies in the economy - unions, small store owners, etc, - but it's a better thing to replace some jobs with worse ones than to either move jobs out of town or to take advantage of those people who are so poor that they can't travel far enough to buy things they need.
So build the Wal-Mart. Maybe that'll be a first step in correcting the absolutely insane prices in this town.
I just got back from church where I formally observed Ash Wednesday for the first time. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. And just what I needed right now.
Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins.
His mercy endures forever.
Let us pray.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing you have made
and forgive the sins of all who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Lesson: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Blow a trumpet in Zion;
sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
nor will be again after them
through the years of all generations.
Yet even now," declares the LORD,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments."
Return to the LORD, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep
and say, "Spare your people, O LORD,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
'Where is their God?'"
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
He forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities.
He redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;
He satisfies you with good thnigs, and your youth is renewed like an eagle's.
The LORD executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed.
He made his ways known to Moses and his works to the children of Israel.
The LORD is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and of great kindness.
He will not always accuse us, nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.
As a father cares for his children, so does the LORD care for those who fear him.
For he himself knows whereof we are made; he remembers that we are but dust.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Lesson: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,
"In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you."
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
Glory to you, Lord Christ.
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
"Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Christ.
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great
devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and
it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting. This is season of Lent
provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy
Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
[Imposition of Ashes]
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
And so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment
Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother's womb.
For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
I shall teach your ways to the wicked,
and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
O God of my salvation.
Open my lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Litany of Penitence
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.
Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.
Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.
Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.
Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
[Eucharist: (The Great Thanksgiving: Eucharistic Prayer A]
Let us pray.
Eternal God, heavenly Father,
you have graciously accepted us as living members
of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and you have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve you
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It involves a number of modifiations to existing practice. First, require that every person living in America require health insurance - private health insurance. Link this with something important, like a drivers license or something. No insurance, no license, that kind of thing, though the drivers license as such may not be a good idea since you kind of need that to be able to afford insurance. Maybe include it with your tax return.
Second, mandate the basic level of insurance that will meet the above requirement, and mandate that the provision of this level of care be offered on a non-profit basis. That's right, non-profit. Which means it'd be a really rudimentary care level, probably covering mostly emergency and preventative care (immunizations, etc.), with some basic antibiotic and other meds, but not much else. Certainly no electives like psych meds, plastic surgery, or orthodontia. Anyone who wants more than this basic level of care is welcome to pay for it, and insurance companies make a profit by offering increased levels of care, levels whichwhich may or may not be regulated into distinct levels, as long as the pricing is left up to the market.
Third, divorce health insurance from employment by allowing people to pay for insurance and medical bills with pre-tax money. So employers could pay their employees their salary plus whatever they'd have spent on health insurance. So you can have as much or as little health insurance as you want, but it's all pre-tax, just like it is for people whose jobs provide benefits under the current system. It'd also enable wage-earners whose jobs don't provide benefits (a lot of them, these days) to buy insurance with the same advantages that more fortunate people can.
Fourth, completely reconceive the Mediplans. Stop using them to pay for health care directly. Instead, use them to provide a modest subsidy to the health insurance companies who are taking a revenue hit for providing a public service, but use most of the funds to help out people who cannot afford the basic level of care, just as the Mediplans are supposed to do now. You'd demonstrate eligibility pretty much the same way you do now. Additionally, by removing the government as a payer, you'd eliminate a huge amount of irrationality and inefficiency in medical pricing, and would allow the actual price to emerge. Right now no one has any idea what health care really costs, because prices are set by pointy-headed pencil pushers with no economic or medical training. I think this would probably result in decreased prices (the Mediplans pay about 30 cents on the dollar, so hospitals wind up charging three times what they probably should), but it would definitely make them more uniform and sensible.
I think this could work pretty well. Suggestions/comments/criticisms?
I haven't seen enough of the data - heck, the article doesn't even show figures - but some scientist is convinced that the higher rate of breast cancer in developed countries as opposed to the rest of the world is due to...
wait for it...
electric lights. Yep, that's right. He says the artificial light serves to mess with the body's internal clock and sets off hormone imbalances which have been linked to breast cancer.
I'm skeptical. If he's looking for a reason that women in wealthier countries are more likely to get breast cancer, I'd suggest that it may have something to do with the fact that they live long enough to get it instead of dying of malnutrition, violence, or infectious disease. I'm just sayin', is all.
I lost my freaking cell phone today. I had to shell out full retail price for a new one. This does not make me happy. If you've talked to me in the past six months or so and I haven't sent you an email already, I'd appreciate it if you'd send me your number.
The Big Three American auto manufacturers will spend an estimated $1.3 billion to pay 10,000 union employees to not work. It's called a "job bank". It can also be called "highway robbery", "insane", and "yet another reason unions tend to be evil".
And people wonder why American manufacturing has having trouble competing with Asia.
Last year, researchers at Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream developed what is now called thermoacoustic refrigeration. They're excited because it's a more "environmentally friendly" refrigeration system that doesn't need unpleasant hydroflorocarbons to work (the HFCs are used because they are highly compressible, a necessary feature for conventional refrigeration systems but a rarity amongst liquids, which are generally only fractionally more compressible than solids, i.e. not very much).
Unfortunately, this is where the good people at Ben and Jerry's have been unable to see out from the dense cloud of incense or through their nappy dreads to understand that this form of refrigeration is probably more environmentally costly than conventional alternatives. Why? Because power consumption goes way up. And where do you think we get our power? Well, thanks to environmentalist nutjobs who oppose the development and implementation of clean, nuclear power plants, we get our power from burning coal and oil. Which is messy.
So congratulations: you have indeed reduced the amount of HFCs that you're using, but you've probably at least canceled any environmental gains out entirely by jacking up your consumption of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.
It's this kind of thing that makes me really dislike moonbats.
This is not a person with which I can have a rational conversation, because it is obvious that Mr. Shafer subscribes to a version of reality that only intersects my own on the level of certain fundamental physical constants. I hope he is happy in his little world, because it sure looks strange from where I'm sitting.
Yeah, so I just finished watching Napoleon Dynamite. I guess all I have to say is that if you take the eccentricity and mildly obsessive-compulsive parts of Wes Anderson's films and leech out most of the truly human moments, you'd get a movie something like this one. I suppose Anderson should be flattered by this sincere imitation, but in another sense, Hess just doesn't get it. A lot of Anderson's characters are lovable bastards/failures, and he manages to get us to feel for them almost innately. Napoleon is just a dork. It's as if the entire state of Idaho is somehow living Uncle Rico's dream by never having left 1982.
I hate the freaking '80s.
1) Temperatures above 20F. Even better, temperatures above 30F. There's a unique delight in being out in cold weather when one is dressed for it. This does not apply to temperatures below 10F. There's nothing pleasant at all about those days. But today was nice.
2) Two Crooked Fingers shows being released on eMusic. One is the show I and some friends attended in October. Twenty-one tracks of goodness, especially "Chumming the Ocean" from Bachmann's Archers of Loaf days. Also a number of racks from the forthcoming Dignity and Shame. The other is a show from November in San Diego. Not as long, but some good stuff there too. And both are free if you sign up for their two week, fifty track trial.
Pitchfork is reporting that Ryan Adams has three - count 'em, three - albums planned for 2005, one of which is a double. He's also planning spring, summer, and fall tours. The article is a little incredulous. Which is kind of understandable, given the poor quality of his last album and the rather dubious proposition that any single artist can turn out three solid albums in a year. Still, I'm willing to at least give him a shot given the quality of Heartbreaker, Gold and parts of Demolition. We'll just have to see what happens.
Germany, the largest economy in Europe, sports prodigious social security-type welfare programs and provides education, health care, unemployment, and age-related benefits to, well, just about every citizen. Sounds okay until you learn that they've just reported unemployment figures around 11.4%, with more unemployed citizens since any time after World War II.
It's like I've been saying: social welfare programs may provide short-term benefits (short term being defined in decades here), but long term they destroy economies. France has unemployment at 9.7%, Spain at 10%, and Italy at just over 10%. The UK is the only major European economy with a sane rate of unemployment (4.6%), and they're one of the least socialist states in Europe.
You figure it out.
I'm currently doing my taxes, which is pretty boring, except for the refund part. I figured something out though. If you go to Intuit's website and choose TurboTax online, they'll charge you to file with them. But if you go to the IRS website and follow their link to TurboTax, you can do the same thing for free.
The C train is mostly back to normal now. Heaven knows what the original estimates were about. What was supposed to have taken five years took a week and a half. Not that I'm complaining or anything.
It seems that the moonbats who have been so concerted in their hatred of the Bush administration, who insisted that our occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with democracy, and denied that free elections on Jan. 30 were possible predictibly have no comment on the rousing success of said elections on Sunday.
So this evening I'm walking down Manhattan Ave. towards 110th St. when I see about fifty pairs of women's dress shoes on the sidewalk, scattered around the trash piled up for removal tomorrow. They were just there. Some of them were grouped in pairs, but there were plenty that weren't. It wasn't outside any kind of communal or commercial establishment either, just a brownstone row-house.
Sometimes I really don't get the people here.
That's what was on the side of a bus that I saw heading east on W 116th St. this morning while walking back to my apartment. Apparently it's Korean or something, and I'm sure that looks less... unpleasant in the original.
Only in New York, I suppose.