Friday, April 30, 2010

Oklahoma



"Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.
Oklahoma, Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
Makin' lazy circles in the sky."

According to the Republican controlled Oklahoma state legislature last Tuesday, Curley McLain and Laurey Williams better not be doing anything other than hawk watching while they "sit" alone, because if Laurey got into a little trouble, and Curley decided he wanted to go back to his cows, she'd be in for a parcel of misery.
Parcel.
The right to lifers in the state House and Senate took it upon themselves to override the Governor's veto of two restrictive laws regarding a woman's right to choose in matters concerning her pregnancy. The first requires that the woman requesting an abortion must view, or at least be present when a doctor or technician performs an ultrasound of the fetus, while the state of it's health is narrated to the patient. The other, and in my mind the more insidious, removes the ability of the mother to sue the doctor if he chooses not to inform her of potential birth defects.
Supporters said the second measure was aimed at preventing women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities. The House votes were 81-14 for the ultrasound provision, and 84-12 for the withholding information. The Senate voted 36 to 11 for each.
"We must move to stop the degradation of human life seen in recent years and stand up for those who cannot defend themselves," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa.
This is wrong in so many ways I hardly know how to begin, so I'll let someone else do it.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which immediately filed suit claiming the laws unconstitutional, disagreed with the legislatures stated motivation in enacting these laws.
CCR Staff attorney, Stephanie Toti says they were not motivated to "protect the heath of the mother, and promote informed decision making before the procedure."
"The effect of these laws is to manipulate the flow of information about options. It's an attempt to coerce a woman to choose the option that the state thinks is best," Toti says. "These laws threaten women's health by reducing access to safe abortion care. They really humiliate women who are seeking abortion and fail to accord them the dignity that they ought be accorded by law."
Keri Parks, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, believes the reason for the legislatures continuing efforts is purely political in nature, that they desire to gain "pro-life" votes in the upcoming midterm election.
Whatever the motive, the state Supreme Court is getting tired of the legislatures antics, stating they our ignoring the states own constitution, and their attempts "a waste of time for the Legislature and the Court, and a waste of taxpayers' money."
A week ago a Oklahoma district court ruled as unconstitutional a 2009 law that created a public web site where doctors were required to post personal information of patients having abortions.
Oklahoma's Governor, Brad Henry, a Democrat, who had vetoed both bills, said the ultrasound law was an unconstitutional intrusion into a woman’s privacy. He agreed with me concerning the insidious nature of the second law: “It is unconscionable to grant a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform pregnant women in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on a patient,” Mr. Henry said.
Which is true.
I have to admit that I am a little perplexed, which is not unusual for me. Currently there are only three clinics within the state that provide abortion services (and it is also bizarre that a state law should be solely targeted to so few individuals), and one would think that the operators of these clinics are in that business because they wish to be, and therefore relucent to enforce these new laws forcefully. Do not the law makers realize this?
In any case, over 20 other states have enacted similar laws aiming to prohibit a woman's ability to undergo a legal medical procedure, either because they wish to imbue their own personal and religious beliefs onto others, or for political gains, or both. Some have readily admitted that they will continue to pass these laws in order to have them introduced within the justice system for the sole purpose of having them eventually heard in the Supreme Court of the United States, in an ongoing effort to overturn "Roe vs Wade." All of this in a effort to impose their will onto the rest of the country.
Now I'm an atheist. None of my friends are atheists, or my family, which makes me a lonely atheist. Be that as it may, I have never felt the need to impose atheism onto anybody else. I have never used this web site to promote atheism when I clearly could on a daily basis, if I so felt the need. But I have no desire, feel no need, to do so. I am quite happy to allow others to have their own beliefs without me interfering in them. I will certainly explain my position, and why I believe what I do, and I have done so. But other than that I am perfectly satisfied to let others belive whatever they want to, what ever helps them in this crazy world we live in.
So I am always perplexed at the need, the compulsion, that some have who would wish to impose their will, their world view, onto everyone else. I think it may have something to do with inadequacies within these people, insecurities. They are so insecure in their persons, and beliefs, that anyone who appears to differ with them is recognized as an intolerable threat.
But what if these folks who promote the right to life movement (by the way, The Republican Party, seen by the right as the champions of the Right To Life Movement, will never, ever allow Roe V Wade to be repealed. They raise too much money with it as a wedge issue during elections) are sincere, and truly believe that a fetus is a human being, with the same rights as those humans who have already been born, and there must be many, I admit that. Heck, The Declaration of Independence guarantees it: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Well I have to postulate there is no such thing, in nature, and in human nature, that provides a "right to life," and agree with the late Dr. Carl Sagan and his lovely wife, Ann Druyan:
"There is no right to life in any society on Earth today, nor has there been at any former time… : We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; kill deer and elk for sport, leopards for the pelts, and whales for fertilizer; entrap dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; club seal pups to death; and render a species extinct every day. All these beasts and vegetables are as alive as we. What is (allegedly) protected is not life, but human life.
And even with that protection, casual murder is an urban commonplace, and we wage “conventional” wars with tolls so terrible that we are, most of us, afraid to consider them very deeply… That protection, that right to life, eludes the 40,000 children under five who die on our planet each day from preventable starvation, dehydration, disease, and neglect."
It is a common argument from the other side, the pro choice side, the the pro life side is only concerned with the unborn. That when children are born they remove all of their support, allowing mothers and children to live in adverse circumstances, or with crippling medical difficulties unaided. That right for lifers are the same people who advocate gun ownership, deportation of all illegal immigrants, war on Iran, and so forth. And to a great degree there is evidence to support that position.

According to UNICEF, the world’s premier children’s organization:

2.5 billion people (1/3 of the world's population) lack access to improved sanitation

1 billion children are deprived of one or more services essential to survival and development

148 million under 5s in developing regions are underweight for their age

101 million children are not attending primary school, with more girls than boys missing out

22 million infants are not protected from diseases by routine immunization

8.8 million children worldwide died before their 5th birthday in 2008

4 million newborns worldwide are dying in the first month of life

2 million children under 15 are living with HIV

500,000 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth

When these issues are addressed by the "Right To Life" movement I will feel much more comfortable in taking them seriously. When everyone addresses these issues then maybe some credence can be given to the claim, that at least for humans, a right for a chance of life truly exists.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Salvation Diary 28


"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke
http://amandamilke.wordpress.com/

May 2 Thursday Day 232


...a nuclear reactor control room, along with Jack Lemon and Jane Fonda. "The China Syndrome," being this morning's movie.
I had lots of energy (please excuse the unintended pun), and was still feeling good.
But that would change.
I got to work early and got some writing done.
At breakfast Jack Crossley sat at my table and told me that while job hunting yesterday he had felt like getting drunk. He has fourteen months of sobriety so I asked him what he did about it, hoping that he didn't give in to the urge.
"I uuh, stopped off at a A.A. meeting in Glendale. That's why I didn't get back until almost ten last night. Umm, uuh, they made me lead the meeting," he added with a shy grin.
To get Jack Crossley to lead an A.A. meeting, a man so withdrawn he easily manages to isolate himself in a house full of 100 men, is no small thing.
I asked him if he had drank.
"No."
"Good for you, Jack. I'm glad you told me this. It makes me feel better. It helps me."
Last night the L.A. Center gave me a call and let me know that one of our trucks had been spotted in Highland Park making a drop off. They provided me with the vehicle's license plate number.
We only had one truck out the night before, The Night Crawler, driven by John Jimenez, with Darrell Sipp as his helper. Highland Park is way out of our service area, and our trucks do not drop things off, they're out there to pick things up.
Something was afoot.
When the Night Crawler returned last night I checked the License plate. The number L.A. had given me was very close to John's truck, Red Shield 21. Not exact, but close, too close to be a coincidence.
I liked both John and Darrell. John is a quiet guy, easy to get along with, who has always impressed me as being very serious about his program and wanting to stay sober. Thirty years old, an intelligent man with a wife and two children. He is well liked around here. He had just been made an employee because Ernie was short on drivers, and had been helping Robert with the morning donut runs. He hadn't even finished his 24 weeks of mandatory meetings.
So I was very surprised to get this report.
I had to tell Frank Corona about the call. It's my job, and I can't let my personal likes and dislikes interfere with that job, although I sometimes do. Besides, L.A. would probably call back, and then there would be questions about why I hadn't passed on the information, if in fact I hadn't.
They later fired John for making an unauthorized stop.
He came to the residence to pack his stuff and talked to me about it.
"I made a stop in Highland Park to see my mom," he told me.
The only reason that had come to mind for making an unauthorized stop would be to steel stuff.
Just like Larry and I did on the second day I was here.
"My mom had gotten a threatening call from a bill collector," he went on. "You know how those guys can get."
I nodded yes, that I knew.
"I tried to calm her down, to make her feel better. Frank found out about it and had to let me go."
"How did they find out about it," I asked, feeling like an absolute jerk.
"Someone at the L.A. Center saw us, I guess. Frank said I could come back Monday, and be re-admitted as a client. I've never finished anything in life. I'd like to finish this program."
I told him that I hoped to see him on Monday.
Even though it was not my fault I felt pretty miserable.
We have a lousy system here. To help keep production up Ernie Sens will yank beneficiaries out of the program, guys in an early and fragile stage of recovery, and make them employees, subjecting them to stresses and pressures they sure don't need. The men of course, go right along with it, anticipating the meager compensation. When you're unemployed even a low paying job looks good. The Center always needs drivers, and drivers are faced with the most temptations and stress.
And the Salvation Army, like most armies, is a very unforgiving employer.
I remember the last birthday dinner night we had here, when John asked about the canteen cards and socks the Major always gives as presents. John was concerned that he wouldn't be able to receive his socks, as it was the month of his birthday and he would be away, working the Night Crawler during the dinner. He was joking, not really caring about the cards and socks.
"I'll tell you what," he said. "You can forget about the cards and socks. Just have the Major and the other guys remember me in their prayers, and we'll call it even."
I told him that I would, and I did.
I hope he comes back, and I hope they let him back in.
One other thing caused me to feel a little uneasy today, other than allowing myself to worry about smoking again.
Ernie made my friend Tom Rotsch an employee.
A driver.


May 3 Friday Day 234


I woke up, went back to sleep, woke up again, went back to sleep again. Woke up, had lunch, then went back to sleep. Again.
Then I got up and went to work.
I did not feel good anymore.
Kevin Rockoff told me, among other things, that Ernie Sens had made my friend Dennis Smith an employee today as well. He'll be the new Night Crawler.
I remembered Dennis telling me yesterday after hearing about John Jimenez, that he would never work full time again for the Salvation Army.
"I've driven too many trucks for these guys," he told me, "and I've relapsed every time.. They make me a driver and within five weeks I'll be back on the streets, using."
So I asked him today, why did he take the job of Night Crawler.
"It's just temporary," he said. "I'll do it for a little while. Until Art Svensk retires, and I take over for him. I made sure Ernie knew it would be temporary only! And besides, I can go to school in the mornings!"
I told him that I would kill him if he relapsed because of this.
Dennis, myself, Tom Rotsch, Harold Eversley, and perhaps, Kevin Rockoff, I personally believe have the best chance for anything like long term sobriety this go around. Including myself in this list is itself a relapse warning sign. I can never allow myself to become over confident. The men I've mentioned are the one's I'm most aware of... there are probably a lot more. I hope there are.
I would hate to see anyone else's chance cut short due to the Sally's thirst for drivers.
I'm afraid I've already seen it too many times. Lee Franklin, Luis Carter, John Jimenez, are just a few. When these men become employees they are instantly transformed from recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, into workers, and if they've got a problem they better learn to deal with it themselves because the Salvation Army doesn't want to hear about it.


May 4 Saturday Day 235


Curtis Carter did not make it back last night for curfew. He had a pass for the night, having just finished his thirty day restriction, but had voided it earlier in the day.
He came back this morning and talked to Robert. When Mr. Vasquez told him he'd have to take a urine test to get back in, Curtis silently withdrew.
I wish him well.
I got out of bed at about 10:00, or so, and took a long shower. I talked with God awhile, prayed or whatever, then had lunch.
I wrote in the library after lunch, then went to the liquor store to buy some cigarettes. There was another fair in the park today. One booth afforded me the opportunity to register to vote, which I did. As a reward for doing so the nice lady who registered me threw a handful of confetti over my head.
I returned to the residence, and after removing most of the multicolored paper from my hair, I returned to library to write about "speed." I would do so for the rest of the evening.


May 5 Sunday Day 236


For myself, I have used amphetamines for many years.
It began back in high school where I experimented with most of the drugs I've come into contact with. We called them "uppers," "whites," or "cross tops," because the tiny pills were white in color, and had a cross (+) stamped onto one side. Ten for a dollar back then. Two or three would be enough to get me "wired," the euphoric, or energetic state I desired. I would hardly ever stop at two or three. If two or three made me feel real good just think how I'd feel taking all ten. I would usually wind up taking all ten, and then manifest very energetic drug seeking behavior until I found some more.
"Moderation," was not a word that much concerned me.
Diet pills worked just as well. My mom had bottles of them in our refrigerator at home. And once I discovered that they had much the same effect as the uppers I bought from my friends at school, the amount of pills in my mother's medicine bottles mysteriously decreased over the months until one day, lo and behold, the bottles disappeared altogether!
Amazing!
Surprisingly I was never caught, or charged by my family with the theft of those pills. One of the only times I was not busted for doing something like that.
That is of course only until my mom reads this.
Uppers allowed me to stay awake while drinking or getting stoned smoking marijuana. Beer and uppers were always a good combination. The beer took the edge off of the amphetamines, making me more mellow, and the speed allowed me to drink much more than I could normally, while not getting slow, lethargic, or stupid. Usually never.
And I'd get crazy on them. Not at times that anybody would notice. I would stay awake three or four nights in a row manufacturing the greatest sexual fantasies imaginable. I could never perform sexually while on speed, just fantasize a lot.
That could be frustrating at times.
In my twenties I found a more potent form of the drug called a "Black Beauty," a large black capsule, bought for two or three dollars apiece. The effect brought about by a single capsule would easily last for up to 24 hours.
For the most part I always took the amphetamine orally. Besides having no access to needles, they always turned me off. In later years I would sometimes snort the drug, inhale the crumbled pills, or the contents of the capsules through the nose. Amphetamines are quite irritating to the nasal passages though, and half of the time I would sneeze out more of the drug than I would take in.
I took amphetamines a good deal while in my teens, slowly tapering off while in my twenties, hardly at all in my thirties, where I now find myself. I stopped using the drug mainly because I disliked the aftereffects... the come down, the horrible feelings of fatigue, depression, and wretchedness that followed so close behind each instance of prolonged use. Eventually the bad points of amphetamine use outweighed the good, and that fact somehow made its way through the ten or more centimeters of skull that surrounds my brain.
I graduated from frequent large doses to small doses once or twice a year. My history of the use of LSD is very similar.
Well, on to other matters.
Dennis Smith did not last the weekend.
Yesterday I saw him sitting in the car he had bought from Ernie Sens. He smiled at me. He soon left and did not return by curfew. I didn't write him up. His being an employee now an A.W.O.L./A.C.O. wrap wouldn't stick. Even then, he did not follow procedure by neglecting to sign out in the employee pass book, a small requirement when a resident employee spends the night somewhere else.
I didn't see him all day today. I hope he's alright.
I had intended to go see "The Silence of the Lambs," again, and get another dose of Anthony Hopkins's Dr. Lecter, but the film had finally disappeared from the theater up the street. Instead, after chapel I returned to my room and watched some movies on television, and read. I felt tired because I had gotten up very early. I fell asleep while watching a lecture concerning Buddhist theory on PBS.
An interesting episode of "Star Trek, the Next Generation," tonight, reminiscent of the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s.
After which I secured a fairly decent seat for the Sunday night VCR movie, "Ghost," starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg. Demi provided most of the emotional content for this film. She's a great crier.
Near the end of the movie, as the bad guys got dragged down to Hell, a lot of comments like, "Makes you think about how you live your life," were made from the audience.
Mass guilt trip.
I went upstairs and watched "Married with Children," then finished reading the James Bond book and went to bed.
I've been having trouble getting to sleep lately, and tonight was no exception. I stopped trying to fall asleep and dropped off instantly.


May 6 Monday Day 237


No sign of Dennis yet. Rumor has it that he was in the front office this morning.
Curtis Carter was hanging around the lobby before lunch, waiting for today's board meeting determination.
Before lunch I went to the warehouse to look for a small cardboard box to use as a shipping container for the present I had bought for my mom for Mother's Day. I could not find one. Marvin Smith has taken over the bailing job from Hobart Rodgers, and is so efficient that he tears apart every box he receives immediately after receiving it in preparation for it being crushed and bailed, giving box hunters like me nary a chance to pounce upon an unsuspecting receptacle. Marvin felt a little guilty because he had no boxes to give me, so he went to the dock and scrounged one up.
I have given my mom a five inch long glass piano that can be utilized to hold various small objects within it's body by lifting the hinged lid. Pins and needles, candy, or what not. Totally useless really. I wrapped it carefully in newspaper, packaged it, and after lunch took it to the postal outlet on California Street to be mailed.
Afterwards I made what is becoming a weekly trek to P.C.C. This time I wished to find out the schedule for the English placement exams. Something I could have done on any of my previous visits, but being an alcoholic I tend to go out of my way to make everything a lot more difficult than it has any right to be. I discovered that I could take the test next Monday at 12:15PM. I must remember to take a pen and #2 pencil along.
From the college I walked west on Colorado to the Academy theater, where I had noticed "The Silence of the Lambs," was still playing. However, I found out that the first show would not begin until 5:00, many hours away, and I did not want to see it badly enough to wait around in the hot sun, so I caught the 256 back to the residence.
Where I worked out vigorously, then went to the park to lay out in the hot sun which I had earlier avoided. I listened to classic rock and roll while getting thirty minutes on each side.
Upon returning to the residence I worked out yet again, then showered and had dinner. Barbara Grothe sat with me, and gave me a tape to listen to. She had purchased it at a seminar she had attended over the weekend. The tape was all about guilt and shame. I listened to it up in my lonely room, and would now know everything there was to know about guilt and shame if I had not fallen asleep about half way through.
But perhaps all of that guilt ridden and shameful knowledge is up there in my subconscious, having been taken in subliminally. Sure feels that way.
When I woke up I wrote for a while in the lobby where I finally caught up with Dennis. He did not offer any explanation for his unexpected disappearance, and I did not press. I was just glad to see him safe and sound. He did tell me that he caught hell from old Ernie, but he would remain an employee, with no punishment, restriction, or whatever.
Odd.
He did look a tad guilty and shameful, but maybe Barbara had gotten to him.
At 8:00 I watched the fourth installment of "The Astronomers." Tonight's show dealt with gravitational wave theorists, and quantum cosmologists. Stephen Hawking made a brief appearance. Remarkable man. This was the least informative of the episodes I've seen thus far, seemingly looking like a self admiration hour.
I watched a last hour of a T.V. movie, read, then went to sleep. My work week would begin in a few hours.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Erin's Problem 2




Oh yes, Erin's problem. She's a space alien... nope, just kidding. As far as I know she is a very viable human being, so the aliens must be after her, as the picture above would suggest. I certainly would be if I were an alien.
But I digress.
As I've mentioned, my lovely case manager has left us to return next week.
Unfortunately for Erin she has chosen to go during AMC's "Rambo Week," so she'll miss the American Movie Classic channels playing of "First Blood," and "Rambo, First Blood 2," in their entirety, every freaking night this week, "in case you've forgotten how good he is!"
(Yesterday I received a free steak, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich form the Subway franchise, with my 8 ounce cup of coffee. 8 ounces. When I went downstairs to meet Paul to go, I saw the older gentleman, Nikita, who informed me, "You know Rambo's on all week!" while smiling famously. "Yeah, really?," I asked him.)
However, Rambo doesn't have anything to do with Erin's problem, or dilemma, which may be more accurate. And it's a serious dilemma.
While driving back to the Las Americas one recent Tuesday morning, after enjoying a nice breakfast at the local Starbucks, Erin and I discussed the new Health Care Reform Initiative that President Obama had just signed into law.
She didn't know anything about it.
Now my lovely case manager has not overly concerned herself with keeping up with the local, national, or international news stories or current events. She's much too busy being a twenty five year old young woman (twenty six next month!) who enjoys many other interests, and who focuses most of her energy into those, which is fine. I did much the same for the greater portion of my life. It wasn't really until George W. Bush got into office, and the excesses of his administration, gradually woke my lethargic, drug and alcohol riddled brain, and I began to take interest.
Erin does involve herself with a group who monitors locations where suspected human trafficking may be taking place each Monday night, which is exceptionably laudable, and even possibly dangerous, which makes me worry about her, but I applaud her efforts. Human trafficking and modern day slavery in the United States and throughout the world, is a subject which interests me very much as well. She's taking action. I as of yet have not.
Also, recently she has expressed a sincere desire to learn more about the world around her, current events, and the political process. That's why I recommended she watch "The Daily Show," and "The Colbert Report," which if nothing else would be a fun way to keep up and learn.
But that morning while driving back, Erin told me what troubled her.
Her ex-boyfriend was a conservative, and had expressed a typical conservative view point when talking about the health care reform effort (i.e., why should hard working people pay for those who don't work, the overall quality of health care will suffer, it's a government take over, death panels will kill granny, on and on). While driving back I expressed a few progressive talking points (i.e, runaway health care costs were bankrupting the nation and the Republicans would like to leave it just the way it is, the United States is the only industrial nation that does not provide universal heath care to all of it's citizens, health insurance companies are nothing but blood sucking leaches, and granny is too old anyway).
After I finished Erin seemed unimpressed with my impressive argument and expressed in no uncertain terms what the problem was.
I paraphrase: "You know Rick, you're so good looking..."
Just kidding. She really said this... I paraphrase: "You know I hear what you're saying, and I hear what my dad and Shane have told me, and I don't know who to believe, or which is telling the truth, it's just so hard to make up my mind with all of the information that is available... I wind up not thinking about it at all."
That's a significant problem. And lovely Erin is not the only one which is affected by it.
So, what's the answer? What will help her wade through all of the available information, or propaganda actually, which is specifically designed to warp one's thinking to a certain end?
Good question! Glad you asked. And I will try to answer in as bipartisan a fashion as I can possibly muster.
Erin is correct. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there, and a great deal of it is biased. The right-wing, or conservative talk radio, or television network coverage supplied by Fox News dwarfs that of the left-wing, or progressive media, but still it's there and the viewer has a choice. But what to choose?
First dear Erin, I would submit one needs to take an introspective look at one's self. What kind of person are you, how do you feel about social issues, do you care about your fellow citizens, or... not so much, do you concern yourself with what affects you, and those closest to you primarily? How do you feel about the world around you, what are your goals, how would you like the country to be? One needs to know one's self in order to take a position.
And then, well there's no getting around it, it takes a lot of work. Like what was mentioned in Monday's post (see, Why Trust? 2), one needs to investigate an issue your interested in, lets say health care, then one needs to become familiar with the subject by doing independent research using as unbiased sources as can be found. Fortunately, with the advent of the Internet this is a whole hell of lot easier than it was just a few years ago. Still, it takes time and effort. I should know, I spend more than half my day doing just that, and I've been doing it for years, and I still consider myself a novice in many areas, and the pressure to keep up with all of the current information is nothing less than daunting. But it needs to be done.
Next, one armed with information needs to take a position. To make a stand.
There is a conservative stand. There is a liberal stand. There is a libertarian stand. There is a socialist stand. There is a capitalist stand. There's a religious stand. There's all kinds of stands one can make, which one needs to correlate with one's own core beliefs.
Now that you know where you stand on a certain issue, how do you get more information, who do you trust to advise you. Certainly you would trust those friends and relatives that take a similar stand that you do, and you can debate those who don't. That always makes for lively conversations!
How about the media? Who do you trust to keep you well informed on the issue you're interested in?
Let's say the right is represented by Fox, the left by MSNBC, and possibly the center by CNN, or PBS. One needs to do a bit more work here, not just follow those reporters or commentators who tell you what you want to hear, because they may by lying to you. Shocked? Yes, it is true, some will "misinform," to advance their own agenda.
So throw idealogy aside and "fact check" what Rush Limbaugh is saying, or Keith Olbermann, seeing who is lying or speaking truth on a consistent basis (there are sites devoted to doing just this, notably FactCheck.org). Once you've accomplished that you will have a fairly reliable source of information which is consistent with your core beliefs.
And those need to be your beliefs. Not your dad's. Not your mom's. Not Aunt Bette's. Not your college professor's. Your beliefs. Your parents influenced you more than any other individuals, but you need to make up your own mind, not be an extension of them.
And finally, who do you want to represent you in government? Obviously you want somebody who comes the closest to sharing your core beliefs. Armed with your trusted sources of information hopefully that will now be a much easier choice. Make an informed choice, stand by it, defend it, own it.
Never become a "low information voter." Research and information will win the day.
Dear Erin, I hope you read this sometime and take it to heart, and above all I hope it helps. If not now, maybe at sometime in the future.
Now it's my hope that I haven't helped to create a little pint-sized Republican, right-wing lunatic.
We shall see.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Erin's Problem




My lovely case manager has abandoned us and flown off to New Jersey, which just adds insult to injury.
She was last seen last Wednesday, the 21st, and not expected to return until May 3rd, next Monday morning. Thus I am forced to eat breakfast today with case manager Paul, and... Hardy, at our local Subway sandwich store, who is giving away breakfast sandwiches this morning for some reason, and 8 ounce cups of coffee.
8 ounces.
And here's a shout out for case manager Paul's dear mother, Kathy, who I've been told reads this blog from time to time. Hi Kathy! You have a fine son. A little spacy sometimes, but fine. He is very well thought of around these parts, dedicated to his profession, and an outstanding human being.
Paul I accept cashier's checks, money orders, and good old American greenbacks.
Kathy, I took it upon myself to teach your son all about Henry Fonda movies last week during Movie Day, where we saw "Mr. Roberts." This week we'll start on Peter Sellers with the first Pink Panther film, and continue on with a little "DR. Strangelove, (or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,"), and back to the Fondas with "The China Syndrome," after that. We keep pretty busy around here.
He and I will be singing a song a little latter today... he even brought his guitar.
Good of you to force him to learn how to play a musical instrument as a young child. My mother tried to get me to play the accordion, but I quickly became disinterested.
Now on to Stephen Hawking.
The British theoretical physicist debuted a new television series, "Hawking's Into the Universe," where he promoted the idea that aliens may not be as friendly as we would like, and when they come to Earth, they will come with advanced technology to subjugate our planet for its natural resources. He sites past human behavior and disparities in technology as the model, such as Columbus arriving in the New World, which didn't exactly turn out well for the Native Americans.
Well this relates to what we were examining yesterday, dear readers. Authorities make mistakes.
Dr. Hawking is a brilliant scientist... in his field, which deals with astrophysics, not exobiology. As far as guessing what an extraterrestrial civilization would do when it notices our presence in space, well, your guess is as good as his.
His theory is not knew. Hollywood has made millions with the idea of invading aliens, coming to eat us, or steal our water (such as in the television series "V" which is on this evening as a matter of fact), or just kill us for the pure sweet hell of it ("Independence Day" "War of the Worlds"), our take over our bodies ("The Thing," and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), or any combination thereof. In only a few instances have the aliens coming to visit been benign ("The Day the Earth Stood Still" (the original, and my version, although we did threaten a bit), "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind").
But I disagree with Hollywood and Dr. Hawking.
I don't think we can really compare any advanced extraterrestrial civilization with ours. Evolving on two totally independent environments is undoubtedly going to bring about fundamental differences in both biological and technological evolution. However, considering that science and the laws it has discovered our the same throughout the universe, certain aspects, laws of nature, and thermodynamics and physics, for instance, will be the same for any evolving life form, which will need to face many of the same obstacles and fortuities.
It is my position that any advanced civilization that is capable of interstellar spaceflight will certainly be capable of mining raw natural resources throughout the billions of unoccupied solar systems that abound throughout the Milky Way. There is nothing special about our solar system except that intelligent (which is somewhat of a matter for debate) life has evolved here... we have evolved here. Life has evolved here. And life is certainly more rare and precious than raw materials or water. Aliens advanced to a point that they can travel to our solar system will also be advanced enough to synthesize their own food, negating the need to eat us. There is nothing on the Earth that can't be found in abundance in billions of other places, negating the need to steal our water and minerals.
So why would they come here? My guess is they won't. It's just too damn expensive.
Interstellar distances are so vast it would be prohibitively costly for any civilization to physically roam from system to system. It just takes too much energy and time (unless you wish to speculate, like Dr. Hawking did, that some civilizations are so advanced they are able to harness tremendous amounts of energy and in doing so create what are called a "wormhole," which would allow them to travel great distances throughout the universe virtually instantaneously. However the viability of this approach is far from certain, and may be impossible for any civilization).
The cheapest way to explore the galaxy, to send and receive messages, is by utilizing the electromagnetic spectrum, such as using radio or optical light waves, which travel at the speed of light, which Eienstien tells us is the cosmic speed limit, as fast as anything can go that was slower then it was to begin with. The time involved in having an interstellar conversation is still truly cumbersome to say the least. A simple, "Hi! How are you?" "I'm fine, thank you. How are you?" could wind up taking anywhere from 50 to 1,000 years or more. Still it's the fastest way we currently know of.
And if I were a civilization bent on colonizing the rest of the solar system, and perhaps other galaxies as well, I would have to agree with associate professor PZ Myers, of the University of Minnesota, who speculates such a society would send out robotic spacecraft that "would bombard atmospheres with bacteria, sow the planet with algae, fungi, and lichens, and work its way up to grasses and trees and rodents and birds. And then it would start unspooling the stored genetic information of millions of humans into infants that would be raised onboard, educated by machines, and eventually transported onto the now hospitable planet surface to build a new technological civilization. Communication between planets would be limited and slow, and all the planning would be long-term — thousands to tens of thousands of years — so this wouldn't be so much the growth of a human empire, but an organic expansion."
I believe sending out these robotic spacecraft are still to slow, but a viable option. A truly menacing civilization wishing to exploit other intelligent civilizations, might send out genetic instructions that would eventually end with the same result such as that above, similar as the alien in the film "Species." That's how I'd do it.
Something to think about.
Hey... this is important stuff!
Now what was the title of this post?

To be continued.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Trust? 2



I've been trained by the likes of astronomer Carl Sagan, and professional skeptic, Dr. Michael Shermer, to be skeptical about just freaking everything. They've ruined me, I admit it!
I no longer believe in Santa Claus. I don't think the Tooth Fairy really puts quarters (dollars now due to inflation) under children's pillows at night. I challenge the idea that the Easter Bunny is the source of Easter eggs (I'm not willing at this particular time to debate the existence of Leprechauns, the wily bastards!) Why do I doubt these things that millions of children take for granted? Because there are simpler more reasonable explanations that explain the evidence provided without having to resort to supernatural causes. In these three instances (Santa, Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny) the veracity of the claims for their existence can be easily challenged with some simple research. A Google search can disprove their existence. The point I'm trying to make is that with a little work there is no reason to rely on trust when considering any possible position, or phenomenon, or point of view.
In the case of Lawrence Stowe for instance, for me, if I were unfortunate enough to contract MS or ALS, or any other terminal illness, I would make it my job to become the world's best authority on that particular illness. Armed with that type of information I would be better equipped to deal with the disease (see the film "Lorenzo's Oil"), I certainly would not be taken in by the likes of Stowe (no matter how much his lies compelled me to want to believe him), for what evidence did he offer other than his word? Absolutely none. His word, telling me what I most wanted to hear, with nothing to back it up. Even without being an expert on the disease I would at least thoroughly check Stowe's background, get testimonials from former patients, check authorities in the medical community to verify if the type of stem cell therapy Stowe offered was an accepted form of treatment, and why was Stowe the only one offering it if it indeed was a viable form of treatment. I would at least do those things (most which could be done on the Internet) before I gave Stowe, or his likes, a single red penny.
And like it or not, I would have to go where the evidence took me, not where I would like it to go. Indeed, I would like his story to be true. I would like to think that I had somehow stumbled on to some new fangled treatment option that hadn't been discovered by the mainstream medical community yet, and that I would gain the use of my body and life back. I would like those things, but that doesn't mean I'm going to get them. And the patie... victims of Stowe and Morales certainly didn't get their life back, did not improve their condition in any way whatsoever, no matter how much they wanted too. "Want" and "Like" have nothing to do with the real world we find ourselves in.
Sociopaths like Stowe will always be around to take advantage of those who are weak, sick, frightened, and naive. But potential victims have tools that are available, if they choose to use them, that promote critical thinking, so having to trust an unknown supposed authority, such as Stowe, does not become necessary. In fact, one of the tools of Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit (see, The Demon Haunted World, p. 210) states that "Arguments from authority carry little weight - 'authorities' have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts." That's precisely why patients regularly get second, even third or more opinions from medical doctors when faced with a difficult diagnoses.
I of course recommend as mandatory reading for every citizen who wishes to be informed Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World," and Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Weird Things." In order to make sense of the real world around us we need to arm ourselves with the tools to separate fact from fiction in order to formulate an appropriate world view based on one's independent observations and critical formulations. I'm not talking about accepting a particular doctrine or position on anything. What I am promoting is a rigorous scrutinizing of information before accepting it as being true. How simple is that?
Apparently not very simple at all, as most people do not do this. That's why program's like "Ghost Hunters," is such a hit on the Sci Fi Network. As far as I know the ex-plumbers who run the show have never caught a single ghost! Instead they spend most of the show in the dark scaring each other silly, making up very dicey evidence as they go along, then calling it paranormal activity by the end of the show. And that's entertainment. It's much more fun to believe that there are ghosts out there and an afterlife than to go where the actual evidence takes us, which has never, ever presented unequivocal evidence for the existence of ghosts.
Besides medical problems and ghosts, the inclusion of critical thinking can affect almost all aspects of life. Here are two examples of why one should not take at face value what "authorities" have to say. It would seem "authorities" have their own agenda.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel keeps spewing the misinformation that the current effort at financial reform, or regulation, will ensure future government bail-outs, when in fact it does just the opposite. He knows this. Still he persists, repeating the lie, along with his fellow Republicans, hoping that his political base will not bother to check the facts and continue to believe him, and vote to promote his position, which is to continue the reckless deregulation of financial markets. It is very simple to discover the truth in this matter. One just needs to do the work.
Fox News, the authority which has sparked the Tea Party movement, has gotten these poor fools all worked up on various issues, but especially on high tax brackets, when in fact taxes are currently at a 60 year historical low. President Obama has actually cut taxes for 95% of the nation, but the Tea Partiers go on complaining about high taxes. Doesn't make much sense really when confronted with the facts.
My dear friend Michelle and I differ in our attitudes on various subjects, and I once apologized to her for holding "so liberal" views by telling her that was what logic demanded. She retorted by telling me I was using my logic to foster my continued world view, as if there where separate systems called "logic" that can be deployed at any time to promote a particular position. I respectfully disagree with my dear friend, and believe there is a system that when utilized can lead to the truth in all matters, if one is courageous enough to use it and follow it's conclusions, no matter what your view may have been before the investigation. That system is called science, and one of its by-products is the ability to employ critical thinking.
I invite all of you dear readers to use the tools that are available to us to explore this wonderful, majestic, and fascinating world and universe that surrounds us.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Trust?


Ashley


Catalina

"I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." --Thomas Jefferson to William C. Jarvis 1820

First off, happy birthday wishes to two lovely actresses, Ashley Judd and Catalina Sardino Moreno!
Last night I was forced to take a break from watching the same movies I've seen a hundred times before on cable television (they advertise these things as if they had just been discovered in some vault that hadn't been opened for the last 60 years ("The network premier of 'The Mummy,' on AMC. Story matters here."), when this was the 20th time they've shown the thing that week), and watched the CBS news program, "60 Minutes."
The first half of the program was entitled, "21st Century Snake Oil," and described a modern day con man, in this case a man, if you can call him a man, named Lawrence Stowe, and his partner Frank Morales. These two pray on the fears and anxieties of terminally and chronically ill patients who suffer from various fatal diseases, such as ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and multiple sclerosis, by the use of stem cell therapy. For a certain price ($125,000.00 was mentioned last night, the price of the "permanent fix." Supposedly there is a "temporary fix" that costs less) Stowe claims he will completely reverse the debilitating effects of the disease, in a word, "cure" them, saving their lives in the process. He'll sit right in your living room, smile to your face, and make these claims, all the while knowing they are completely bogus, and those individuals who have already been dealt a poor hand in life, who out of fear of a certain lingering death, who embrace the empty promises of Stowe and Morales, will just face further unnecessary suffering, for them and their families, at the hands of these two inhuman monsters.
There is no cure for ALS or MS. At the present time those who are diagnosed with these diseases face a slow, painful death. Stem cell therapy is the standard of care in only leukemia and certain, rare, diseases of the blood - nothing else. Intelligent, well educated people who suffer from diseases such as ALS and MS ofttimes are susceptible to the false claims of con men like Stowe because they've heard something about the possible miracle cures due to stem cell research, but don't know enough about the subject to be able to counter persuasive arguments, even if they wanted to, which quite often they don't. Those suffering from ALS will slowly lose their ability to move, to breath, and face certain death. Who wouldn't reach out for any chance of avoiding all of that and indeed make a full, long lasting recovery? Put in that position, even I might grasp for that chance. And sociopathic assholes like Stowe and Morales know that, and take advantage of that, and them, in order to do what? Steal these poor unfortunate people's last monies from them, adding more than just insult to injury.
But last night Stowe got caught. CBS reporter Scott Pelley had secretly taped the claims Stowe had made, then confronted him, on tape, with his intended victims present.
Interestingly enough, even when presented with insurmountable evidence that he was a certain fraud, Stowe sat for more than two hours still attempting to advance his argument that he offered these terminally ill individuals their only and last chance at recovery, and complete rehabilitation. Now he knew that these claims were baseless. He knew he was lying, and that he in fact offered no hope whatsoever to these sick people (unless you take into account the position that he had lied so much and so often that he actually believed his own lies, which in itself is just another form of pathological mental illness). His final words to Pelley were to the effect that Pelley was condemning those patients who believed he was a fraud to certain death and insurmountable misery. He tried to make Pelley feel guilty for not believing his lies.
This man is clearly a sociopath. He doesn't come after you with a knife like Halloween's Michael Myers, but he has no sense of how others feel, no empathy. He doesn't have that ability. He doesn't care. He is terminally selfish, and anything that does not affect him personally he just couldn't care less about.
And there are hundreds of millions like him.
Now I've just written that given the extreme circumstances surrounding being confronted with a terminal illness, even I might grasp at any chance of survival, even that which is offered by Stowe (who is still at large and operating a foundation ("any amount of donation is acceptable") which can easily be found on the Internet. The Food and Drug Administration is "investigating.") if I couldn't find anything else... but probably not. Why? Because I've been trained... trained to be skeptical.
Of everything!

To be continued.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Salvation Diary 27


"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke
http://paintsplatters.wordpress.com/

April 28 Sunday Day 228


I had Wolf wake me at 6:30. No use waking up at 4:00, as there were no good movies on, and I probably wouldn't get up that early anyway.
I was able to do a little writing before chapel. Good thing too, because I passed out afterwards. I slept for most of the afternoon.
I felt lonely and depressed today for some reason. I let little things depress me, like not having a car, or any money, or in fact a job. I thought about how hard it's going to be to start all over again.
I felt lonely because my family lives so far away, and I don't have anyone around who's close enough to care about what might be happening to me one way or the other.
I felt depressed because I don't have a girlfriend, someone I can share life with and care about.
When I have a girlfriend, I don't want one.
And when I don't, I do.
Very depressing.
If I were not living here I'd probably relapse on a day like today. Hopefully by now if I were living on my own I'd have enough sense to get to an A.A. meeting.
Too much time on my hands and no desire to get up and do anything.
What a way to feel on my big day off.
Since I do live here and didn't feel like drinking, and didn't feel like going to an A.A. meeting (relapse warning sign), I watched "Star Trek, the Next Generation," instead. A hearty substitute. It went a long way in cheering me up. An excellent new episode in which Q revisits the Enterprise, and sends the crew to his version of Sherwood Forest.
Ha!
Then I read, and smoked cigarettes, and read some more, and watched "Married with Children," then read some more. I read about life in America after a limited nuclear attack. The book was "Warday," be Whitley Strieber and Jim Somebody. Wishing the day to end I went to sleep.


April 29 Monday Day 229


I got up in time to be dressed and ready to go out before lunch (cheeseburgers). I then headed for the good old bus stop and caught a ride to Pasadena City College, where I zipped right into the administration building and handed in my admissions application. A very nice lady took my application and asked if I had brought my school transcripts. I told her that I had not, and that I would need to get them. She gave me a special, secret form to help me do that. I needed to send this form to my last school, Pierce College, in Woodland Hills, and they would send my records directly to PCC. The nice lady also told me to pick a date for the school orientation meeting, so I could get orientated. I choose the 4th of June, at 2:30 in the afternoon, because it interfered least with my work schedule. She also made a registration appointment for me for August 23rd.
Then I was off like a shot.
I stopped by the bookstore once again to see if there were any Fall schedules available. No luck there.
And I made it back to the residence in time to grab my blanket and hit the park for an hour of afternoon sun.
I think that is what was depressing me yesterday. It's too damn sunny around here!
After being hit up a few times for spare change I made my way back to the residence, worked out, and got ready for dinner (meat loaf).
I read from Chronicles II while relaxing on my bed. When I couldn't take anymore, I went to the lobby to write.
I had not smoked up till this point in the day. I had done this in preparation for my Sixth Step, and in observance of Japan's Greenery Day. But one of the men who was just about to check out of the program, came and sat nearby and began to harass me. He insisted I provide him with some kind of documentation, proof of his residency or something, which I could not give to him. He should have been asking Ed Reitz, or Mr. Vasquez. I told him this and he got all mad, calling me some pretty descriptive names and inviting me outside. By this time I was a little mad as well, and not only because of his actions, I was already tense from nicotine withdrawal. I was seriously considering taking the guy up on his offer, smashing his stupid little face in and teaching him some manners.
The rock band Mott the Hoople wrote a song about just this type of situation. I went like this: "Violence, violence, it's the only thing that will make you see sense."
But I thought better of it. Almost always anything is better than violence. If we got into it I would probably get thrown out of here, or at least lose my job. The other guy was leaving anyway and had nothing to lose. So I swallowed my anger, a bitter pill.
But I did go and buy some cigarettes.
Damn.
I guess God didn't want me to quit smoking today (major, but typical cop out).
I decided the best course of action was to isolate for the rest of the evening. I'd be a lot safer that way.
I watched part of "The Astronomers." This episode involved searching for clues to the origen of the universe. The Big Bang, and all that. There are certain questions astronomers have about the formations of galaxies. Huge lumps of localized star systems, gas, and dust formed in what was believed to have been a very smooth and uniform dispersion of matter and energy directly following the event known as the Big Bang. Various theories have been put forward to explain the discrepancy by physicists such as Stephen Hawking. One of them may be correct, maybe not. Experimentation, observation, theoretical calculation, and time will tell.
Maybe.
A beautiful map of the dispersion of the galaxies throughout the universe was shown. The Great Wall it is called, the largest known structure. When one realizes, or attempts to realize and picture the magnitude and size of these intricate lattice conglomerations and the vast empty spaces in between, one can begin to appreciate the meaning of the word Humility.
I read for a while, then went to sleep soon after. I dreamt of floating through the void.


April 30 Tuesday Day 230


I woke up in a B17 Flying Fortress, busy dropping bombs on the hapless Japanese fleet.
At least that's what they were doing in the 4:00AM movie I woke to.
A worthy endeavor, I suppose.
I made it to work on time this morning. Did some writing, handed out bus tickets, walked around and looked at things. The usual stuff.
Michael Green was sent back from the warehouse and told to sit in the lobby until ten o'clock, until the powers that be could figure out what to do with him. He had gotten his supervisor, Charles Parsons, all mad at him.
Michael is a small, shinny black person, who wishes to become a model. He can be very independent and stubborn at times, which is what got him into this jam. He and Parsons could not reconcile, so Ernie Sens eventually offered him a choice of either working in the residence or leaving the program.
He left the program. Had his mother pick him up, and that was that.
I wish him well. Nice fellow actually, lots of spunk.
The ADx man came to refix the machine. He brought a cohort with him this time. Maybe the two of them can patch it up. I hope so as we're getting a goodly back load of urine here.
I got off work at 2:35 (Robert was late again), and tried to take a nap, but couldn't quite drift off.
I read until 5:30, then went down to the lobby to check out what Jill was wearing tonight, which is where I'm at right now. It's 5:53:30PM real time, and Jill has not yet arrived for her 5:45 group. I will wait a while longer.
Here she comes! Intensely beautiful, as always.
She walked through the door at 5:56, wearing a flowing ankle length black dress, with a smart gray business coat. Everything she has on goes extremely well together, setting off her deep, luscious eyes. I watched as she was slowly introduced to someone, a visitor, who was conducting a survey and wished to sit in on her group. She acquiesced.
She did an exemplary job of not noticing I was there. Her back is turned to me as she leaned on my front desk, talking to the elderly survey taker. I noticed that she was wearing black shoes, which accentuated her hair, which a little darker tonight than usual.
Odd.
As usual different men gathered around her, flock is more like it. They were mainly the guys who were in her group wanting to know when she was going to get on with it.
She walked toward the small dinning room, but was waylaid by Wilford Maze. Wilford told her that he did not wish to attend her group tonight. He had something more important to do. He gave her a hard time. Wilford is an ass. She told him that she will talk to him about it later, and demanded that he attend her group as scheduled.
Good for her.
She finally got her group started at 6:06:32.
Well, enough excitement for one night. Now that the high point of my week was over, I believe I'll leave real time and go upstairs and smoke an unauthorized cigarette.
After I finished with that I returned downstairs to the canteen and ate a nice grilled cheese sandwich while talking to Mr. Schimmele about initiation rites held aboard U.S. Navel vessels that pass the equator. Jill came and asked Ed McNicol for something. I was too busy pretending to ignore her to notice what it was she asked for. I kept up the conversation with Schimmele, while keeping a peripheral eye on Jill. She was there a good two, two and a half minutes. We ignored each other beautifully.
What a turn on!
Teasing her by dashing back upstairs, I began reading a James Bond novel (a habit I acquired years ago from my father), and watched an excellent movie on T.V., "The Accused," starring Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis.
I went to sleep shortly after the movie ended.
Tonight, what was thought to be a meteorite, interacted with the atmosphere above Los Angeles and the fog near the ground, creating a huge flash of blue-green light, causing a sensation throughout the entire city.
Being asleep, I didn't notice.


May 1 Wednesday Day 231


I woke up inside a diesel submarine with Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine, drifting around a mine field.
Well, if that don't beat all.
Once at work I learned from Mr. Rockoff that someone had thrown a rock through the thrift store window and made off with as much loot as they could within five minutes. Mostly portable TVs, and VCRs. It was a fairly gutsy heist, considering the store faces Del Mar Blvd., one of the main thorough-fairs in Pasadena running east-west. The burglary occurred sometime between 1:00 and 1:15AM. We know this because Mr. Pandolfi had been wandering around out there at that time, amazingly enough, doing his job. When Wolf discovered the broken window he notified Mr. Vasquez, who had just retired for the evening having finished his shift. Robert wound up spending the rest of the night inside the thrift store, watching the "Late, Late, Late Show," and had in fact also witnessed the Glen Ford/Ernest Borgnine debacle. While he was there he held on to a small hatchet, something he found in the store, just incase the burglars returned.
I met Mr. Borgnine once. When the Universal City branch of Bank of America first opened, he was there, I guess helping them promote the opening. He was wearing his Commander Quinton McHale uniform on from "McHale's Navy," which he was filming at the time (so this would have been some time between 1962 and 1966), and was on his way back to the set when a young boy out on the sidewalk asked him for his autograph.
That was me. I remember him as being very nice.
I've asked like about three people for their autographs in my entire life. Ernest was one. Another was that of a young, promising actor by the name of Peter Duel. I had helped my dad with a delivery and met Mr. Duel outside one of the large, cavernous sound stages that make up the front lot inside Universal Studios. I asked him if he was the guy who had played in the TV show, "Love on a Rooftop," with Judy Carn from "Laugh In." He said that he was. He was also very nice. He was concerned that I might not be able to handle all of the stuff I was carrying. I assured him that I could.
"Of course you can," he said to me.
Peter Duel would later go on to star in the television show, "Alias Smith and Jones," a rip off of the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." It would prove to be a big success for Mr. Duel, and his co-star, Ben Murphy.
Apparently he was not as happy as one would think because he wound up shooting himself in the head.
Misery knows no boundaries.
Doug McClure, at the time an actor on the TV show, "The Virginian," gave me an autographed picture of himself dressed as a cowboy. Today he is in a sitcom about a teenaged half-breed, alien girl living with her mom on Earth.
I believe the police eventually caught those responsible for breaking into our thrift store. Or else they caught somebody who was out thieving that night. Our guy who worked in the TV shop was requested by the police to help identify some stolen property.
After Wolf relieved him at the store, Mr. Vasquez came back and had breakfast, then went to bed. I told him I'd give him some extra canteen cards for his trouble.
He had ran all of the samples the night before, so there was no urine for me. The ADx machine seems to be working all right now. Could use a bit of calibrating though.
So when I wasn't too busy I worked out a little, helped Schimmele move a rather large table from the basement to the chapel in preparation for tonight's big safety meeting, did my laundry, read some of the Bible, and did my Sixth and Seventh Steps.
The Sixth I did before lunch. The Seventh after the Sixth.
The Sixth Step assumes we "Were Entirely Ready to Have God Remove All These Defects of Character." I prepared for this by not smoking this morning, and intending not to smoke for the rest of the day. A cigarette fast. This was intended to be symbolic of being ready to have God, or my conception of God, or my higher power, remove all of my character defects. I also read, and reread, the Sixth, and later the Seventh Steps as outlined in the 12 & 12 (the "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions").
I felt ready. I felt good. I flipped my decision making coin, which allows me to talk to my higher power, and it told me, "Go for it!"
So after lunch I did the Seventh Step. "Humbly Asked Him to Remove Our Short Comings." This I did by being ready to continue to not smoke, reading and rereading the outline, and reciting the Seventh Step Prayer found in the Big Book.
After I said the prayer I felt very good, which was how I felt for the rest of the day. I let God worry about smoking. He, or She, or Whatever, is much more capable of dealing with it than I am.
Instead of chapel this evening we had a nice safety meeting. We talked about safety. We were all shown a video concerning dangerous chemicals found around the work place, and how to deal with them in a safe manner. Afterwards, as the men filed out they were required to pass by a long table, the very table Schimmele and I had brought up earlier, and sign their name on three different sheets of paper. Ron Collins, Frank Corona, and myself made sure this was done all correctly and succinctly.
I still felt good. Clarence Orion's daughter and I kept giving each other the old eye.
Kathy was here tonight as well. Very cute, very busy, and very serious.
I kept myself busy for the rest of the evening. I tried as best as I could to not to let myself sit and think, which of course can get anyone in the most impossible trouble.
On the whole I was successful. Whenever I found myself thinking I began to read that James Bond book, which immediately ceased all cognizance.
I made my way to my room after work and went straight to bed. I even managed to drop off despite the enormous amounts of coffee I had consumed earlier. I dreamed of swinging on a rope through a dark nothingness, jumping off into...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Depressed 2


Courtney


Phoebe Prince

First of all I want to wish one of my favorite actresses, the lovely Courtney Peldon, a very happy 29th birthday. She's one year away from me not mentioning how old she is.
Now I feel a little better.
But yesterday was a different matter.
It had rained in the morning, but by the time I got downstairs for the Monday morning Garden Club meeting it was beautiful outside. The sky blue, the air crisp, and the ground of the garden only damp, rather than muddy, so we would be able to get some work done.
I went to the case manager's office. Knock, knock.
"Come in," I heard case manger Paul say without much conviction.
"Hey Rick," he said.
"Hi Rick," my lovely case manager, Erin stated. "What's up?"
"Garden Club," I said.
"You're early."
"So?"
"I'm eating my breakfast," she said. She was busy dissecting an apple.
"I've seen you eat before Erin. It's okay. How was your weekend, Paul?"
"Fine..." Paul at times does not feel the need to elaborate.
"How was your weekend Erin?"
"Great. I took Julia to the airport last night..."
Julia, Erin's life long best friend had returned to the east last night. I was a tad indifferent. Julia had elected to isolate throughout her brief visit to Los Angeles, and sleep in every morning, and jog around Santa Monica in the afternoon, never making the trip downtown to see us, even after I had sent her detailed directions on how to get to the Las Americas all on her own. This depressed me for some reason.
"How was your weekend, Rick?" she asked taking a bite from her nice apple.
"Oh, you know, same old thing. Went to see "Murder by Death," at the Troubadour Friday night. You ever hear of "Murder by Death," Paul?"
"No."
"Then picked up some girls, and the rest of the weekend was just one long sexual rampage. Quite frankly, I'm disgusted with myself..."
"Huummmm," Erin quite adroitly commented.
"And I cleaned my microwave. That was exciting."
Knock, knock.
"Come in," both Paul and Erin intoned.
And then... Hardy, my arch rival entered.
My day went downhill from there.
It was determined that the case manager's didn't have enough petty cash to make a run to Home Depot to buy more plants. Oh no, they had plenty last week when they made mass amounts of meat lasagna at the Olympia. But when it comes to us here at the good old Las Americas suddenly they're bankrupt. So we were stuck with going out back and raking up wet leaves.
Hardy found a large piece of electrical cable laying on the ground which he got $19 for at the recycling center, the bastard.
Later in the day I took my depressed, sorry ass to the VA Clinic for the Depression Drop In Group, facilitated by the lovely Dr. Kimberly, and her cohort, intern Lorena.
Lorena is lovely as well... for a girl.
Lately there had been a lot of depressed veterans coming to the Depression Group, much more than the usual two or three regulars who show up every week. Yesterday there were twelve. We began the session as we usually do, each of us checking in, which means each took turns saying their names, then making a brief statement about how they happened to be feeling that day.
When it got to my turn I addressed the group, all of them total strangers to me by the way, and told them I was feeling a little more depressed than usual.
"Why is that, Rick? I see you rated your depression at four today, which is a little high for you. What's making you feel depressed?" Dr. Kimberly asked.
"Oh, I don't know. A lot of things really..."
"Name one..."
"Oh... Hardy..."
"What? Who?"
"Chevron commercials depress me..."
"Chevron commercials?"
"Yes. They have these crappy commercials on tee vee... I'm sure some of you must have seen them. They show pictures of these little kids in various situations, landscapes and things like that, the narrator is this sweet taking, mild, very sincere sounding asshole talking about how Chevron's not only in the energy business, and all, that it's in the "human energy business," whatever that means, with this soft piano music playing in the background, trying to sound like Chevron is just so concerned about people and therefore the environment and all..."
"I've seen those commercials," one of my fellow depressed veterans said.
"... all the time I know what a tax evading, polluting, battery technology restricting, evil entity it really is. Chevron cares about as much for people, here in the U.S., and throughout the world, about as much as a shark does right before tears your leg off for a quick lunch..."
"Well," Dr. Kimberly said, "You really shouldn..."
"Selfish people depress me. Greedy people. You know like this guy Blankenship, who runs Massey Energy, the company that was responsible for that mining accident which killed twenty nine people recently."
"Yes, I've heard of that," Lorena broke in, "but you..."
"That bastard had been proud of the fact they he was able to evade safety precautions, and tie up the hundreds of violations they've received in the courts by appealing them, who has Congress eating out of his hand through campaign donations. He's nothing but a freaking mass murder who should be treated as such. Will he ever see in inside of a courtroom? Hummm? Hell freaking no..."
"Well I can see where that might be a concern, but..."
"Republicans depress me..."
"Oh no," Dr. Kimberly chimed in, "let's not get started on..."
"Every freaking time they make some kind of freaking announcement they say that they, and only they, know what the AMERICAN PEOPLE want. The American people want this, the American People want that... what do they have the American people in their freaking pocket or something? I ask you! How the hell do they know what the American people want. If they were so in tune with what the American people wanted the American people would have freaking voted for them! They're so out of touch with the American people it's freaking pathetic is what it is, lying sociopathic bastards..."
"Richard it sounds like you're actually more angry than de..."
"Ignorant people depress me," I continued. "Present company excepted of course." (Several of my fellow vets looked at each other oddly). "You know they have this custom in Islamic countries called honor killings. They're just an assault on poor helpless women, is what they are. There was this teenage girl in Turkey, I think it was, fourteen or fifteen I think, who was buried alive by her own family... her own family... those who should have been protecting her and loving her, they buried her alive. Her crime? Talking to a boy. Talking to a freaking boy, that was her crime."
"That's awful, but..."
"She was awake when they did it. Dirt was found under her fingernails like she was trying to claw her way out..."
The room was silent for a moment.
"Bullies depress me. Like those who tormented that poor little fifteen year old Irish girl in Massachusetts. Phoebe was her name..."
"Phoebe Prince," Dr. Kimberly helped.
"Yeah, Phoebe Prince. Beautiful girl. Irish. I'm Irish... she was hounded by two guys and seven other girls I believe, each and every day simply because she had had a brief relationship with one of the guys, and because she was pretty... and because she spoke with a beautiful accent and therefore was a little different than them. They freaking tormented her to death is what they did, to the point where she couldn't take it anymore and she hung herself." My eyes began to tear up a little at this point. I'm such a sissy. "Where were the freaking adults, that's what I want to know. Where were the parents? Her's and their's? Where were the school officials? That really depresses me."
I stopped for a moment, then went on.
"Religious zealots depress me..."
Leona tried to break in. "Richard, do you think..."
"Like the Republicans, they always know what God wants, or what God is thinking. God it seems, is always trying to promote whatever it is they're promoting. Gee, what a coincidence. And God is always against those who oppose what they are trying to do. It must be nice to be able to converse with the almighty creator whenever they want. Where do you sign up for that kind of connection, freaking AT&T?!"
"Rick..."
"You know what else freaking depresses me, since you asked. Freaking cable tee vee movies depress me, that's what. Every freaking week they play the same freaking movies, over and over again..."
"Rick, we've already gone over this subj..."
"When one channel stops playing the same freaking movie over and over again, then it gets picked up by another channel, and they start playing it over and over again, sometimes the same night!"
"Rick..."
"Yesterday there was so many movies on tee vee that I'd already seen before I was forced to watch freaking shows about animals. Freaking animals!"
"Well, I think we should..."
"Did you know that the Cooking Club started ten minutes early last week. By the time I got there all the jobs had been handed out already..."
"That's terrible Rick. Okay Harry, how are you doing?"
On and on.
I felt much better as I walked back to my box.
There was a new movie on last night. "The Stepford Wives," with Nicole Kidman.
It sucked.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mind Control 2




Does this seem like a rash statement? Let's see.
When most think of the term "mind control," (or brain washing, coercive persuasion, thought control, or thought reform) they may think of the film "The Manchurian Candidate," or the novels "1984," or "A Clockwork Orange," where a subject is subjected to a process (either or all of the following: torture, hypnosis, drug therapy, sleep and sensory deprivation, psychological harassment, etc.) in order to coerce that subject to think or do things that the ones applying the process wish them to do. In the case of the "Manchurian Candidate," get the subject to assassinate a presidential candidate through something akin to hypnosis, and against that subject's own free will. In "1984," and "A Clockwork Orange," use of brutalization, selective shock treatment, and a form of hypnotic conditioning, respectively, are utilized to modify the subjects behavior toward a desired result not of the subjects choosing.
In these fictional accounts the process of mind control is successful to varying degrees. In reality this type of mind control doesn't seem to work very well at all.
During the Korean and Vietnam Wars the Chinese used coercive techniques on American POWs in order to disrupt the ability of the prisoners to organize and maintain morale and hence to escape, and then offering better living conditions and food, they were able to get some American soldiers to adopt communist ideals and make anti-American statements. But studies have shown that most of those soldiers adopted these positions not because of any mind control techniques the Chinese interrogators may have used, but rather just to avoid extreme physical abuse, and most individuals reverted to their previous conditions after they left the coercive environment.
Other examples of mind control stem from manipulation of converts into new religious movements, or cults, some psychologists suggesting that the use of, among other things, systematic deception, behavior modification, the withholding of information, and emotionally intense persuasion techniques to recruit and maintain members. However critics state that if these techniques were really effective one would expect these movements to be much larger in size than they typically are, and indoctrinated members would never leave these movements, which has not been the case.
Enhanced by a sense of religious fervor and belief in an afterlife, the techniques suggested above can have enormous effects on many people who are susceptible to them, hence the mass suicides we have seen as a result in membership in some of these "cults," such as at Jonestown in 1978.
Of course the most common form of mind control which has been utilized throughout recorded history is torture, or the threat of torture, to coerce victims into providing information, or to perform specific acts. There is no intention to sustain any long term lasting effects on the mind to influence future behavior, rather it is used to obtain short term results.
Okay, let's consider other more subtle forms of possible thought manipulation.
Propaganda. As opposed to impartially producing information in a balanced manner so individuals can have a chance to make up their own minds, propaganda is "information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause. (my Sage Thesaurus program)." Wikipedia tells us, "Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda."
We see the use of propaganda today everywhere. In politics both parties use it routinely to promote their own causes... candidates use it to get elected, some (notably George H.W. Bush) have openly admitted they will say anything to get elected.
The most common form of propaganda in use to today, the most prevalent, is advertising. Everyday, in most industrialized countries, there exists a constant barrage of one sided information attempting to push and prod us to buy one product over another, whether we need it or not, in an never ending crusade to separate us from our hard earned cash. Rarely is this information impartial. Rather lies, deception, false testimonials, humor, misinformation, attempts to stir up sentimentality or patriotism (such as in ads promoting recruitment into the armed services), and all types of persuasive strategies are employed to make us act in certain manner (buying, or doing things). This is blatant propaganda seen on a massive scale, and an obvious attempt to influence our thinking in such a way that may or not be beneficial to us, and thus a form of attempted mind control.
And then there is the act of learning. At the beginning of this post I said that your parents were the first, meaning they had the opportunity to influence your young mind before anyone else (independent of "instinct," or those behaviors that are hard wired into our brains from the instance of birth, such as the instinct to survive, or "fight or flight," motivations, those behaviors that are not taught to us externally, but from the history of our species as a whole, and that most other animals and insects share).
One of our species distinctive characteristics is our ability to learn from past generations, and thus advancing our base of knowledge to such a degree that human beings now can enjoy and be terrified by the technical advances we have made throughout our history.
The act of teaching our children is a long, difficult process, first begun by the parents, (behaviors and norms), and then conducted (in most instances in this country) by professional teachers that our society trusts to impartially provide the information and skills they will need to survive and prosper in the real world they will soon find themselves in. When the teaching process is deliberately manipulated toward providing only a biased point of view, rather than an impartial one, it becomes something less than teaching, it is a form of propaganda, and an attempt to influence the minds of our children when they are most susceptible, and thus this practice is despicable in its practice and implementation.
Last month the Texas Board of Education, headed a Don Mcleroy, a right wing ideologue and former dentist, is attempting to approve a social studies curriculum removing our third President and founding father, Thomas Jefferson, from "a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century," because he coined the term "separation of church and state, which Mcleroy and the 9 other Republican members of the board do not believe exist, and that it is not one of the bedrock structures of this country. They are attempting to get the publishers of textbooks (Texas is the second largest market for textbooks (California being the first), and when publishers bow to the pressures the Board imposes to edit their books in certain ways, it becomes a very powerful influence and might become the standard for textbooks issued to other states as well, therefore providing the opportunity to unduly influence the minds of children throughout the nation, and not limited to the 5 million school children in Texas alone, although that would constitute a horrendous act in itself) to extol the virtues of the NRA, Confederate leader Jefferson Davis and Joseph McCarthy, that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president in history (we're still paying for his tax cuts and spending, and the recent mining catastrophe in West Virginia where 29 people lost their lives is a direct result of Reagan's efforts to destroy labor in this country), and that black people and Hispanics hardly exist, and many other extremist right wing and religious right policies and standards.
Impartial historians and teachers should set the standards for what is taught to our children, not political and religious zealots of either side.
This is nothing but a clear attempt to rewrite history and influence the minds of millions of children to their detriment, to influence their future thought processes and behavior, the very definition of the act that titles this post.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yoga 3


Lovely Beth
http://bethdian.com/


2010 L.A. Marathon Runner

I worked like a little devil up in my box until 12:45, then left the building dressed in my yoga clothes (shorts and T shirt), and made my way to the Defiance Space, behind the Produce Hotel.
For the second time in recorded history case manager Paul arrived for Yoga Class before the class actually started. The only other time this has occurred was for the very first class, so many years ago.
Erin was already there, along with... Hardy. And one other guy from some other hotel. Our lovely and esteemed teacher, Beth soon arrived and prepared for the class.
I took off my shoes and socks, took everything out of my pockets, and took up a position on a mat between Erin and... Hardy.
Right to left on mats was lovely Erin, myself... Hardy, Paul, and the guy from some other hotel. Beth took up a position in front of us where we could easily see her, where she would demonstrate the various positions, and lead the session. She hooked up a little musical producing device and placed it on the cement floor near her own mat, which would provide soothing yoga music throughout the session. The lights were lowered.
I hadn't been to class for awhile, and Beth said she was glad to see me back.
"Thanks," I said. "I'm super ready to get started. I even want to try the Rabid Monkey position."
"Are you sure? That's a pretty demanding position."
"Oh yeah."
Erin and Paul also wanted to try some different positions, and it was decided that today would be crazy position day, just for a change out of the ordinary.
"Alright, everyone will need their sausages," Beth instructed.
What she meant by that was we were each to have a rolled up disaster blanket, that we would use to rest various parts of our bodies on, or which would be useful when sustaining the different exercises we would be attempting. Those of us who did not have a sausage already went to the storage room and got one. I rolled mine up nice and tight, to where my sausage was about five inches in diameter, and two and a half feet long. Mine was the best sausage there I must say, much better than... Hardy's.
"Alright, let's get started," Beth said. "Today, instead of beginning with our breathing like we normally do, we'll begin with Cat/Cow. So everybody on their hands and knees..."
Cat/Cow is one of my favorite positions as it is relatively an easy one to attain and maintain. All one needs to do is get on your hands and knees and arch your back up in the "Cat" position, then the exact opposite, down, like a cow with udders. Back and forth. I could do Cat/Cow all day.
We all knew how to do Cat/Cow as we do it most every week. Still it is our habit to watch Beth as she demonstrates every position, new or old.
I have to admit something here. Our esteemed yoga teacher Beth is a beautiful young woman, as you can clearly see from the picture above. And watching her demonstrate the positions, especially those like Cat/Cow when she is facing away from me, well let's just say the effect can sometimes be a tad... disconcerting.
All warmed up now Beth put us through our respective paces. Erin, Little Miss Super Flexible, and Paul, being the youngest of our group by far, usually have no problem achieving some of the more difficult positions. Hell, most of those I couldn't have attained even when I was their age. I've never been able to even touch my own toes while standing. However, I have the upper hand in those exercises that require more arm and upper body strength, like yoga push ups, where I leave Erin in my dust.
All warmed up Beth directed us in the standard Downward Facing Dog position, the Rotating Blue Jay, followed closely with Paul's favorite, the Unruly Woodchuck. I preferred the Screaming Chihuahua myself, which came next, then we graduated to the Prancing Goldfish, then to Erin's fave, the Crazed Pygmy Jerboa.
Next the Lazy Starfish, followed closely by the Promiscuous Pika, the Horrendous Tadpole, and the Ambiguous Giraffe.
I was really working up a sweat with that freaking tadpole thing (it's not as easy as it looks), and after the giraffe, Beth instructed us to get our sausages ready.
"No Hardy, roll it back up the way you had it," she said.
"Like this Beth?" I showed her my sausage.
"Yes Rick," she replied, "your sausage is good."
"Thanks Beth."
We used our sausages with the next two positions, the Supportive Skunk, and the Dancing Octopus.
"Erin, stop grabbing my sausage," I had to keep telling her.
We abandoned our sausages for the Worried Rhino, Excited Zebra, and the Sleeping Mole.
"Now here's some really difficult ones," Beth proclaimed. "Some of these I have trouble with."
Geeze, that's was all I needed to hear. That Sleeping Mole thing almost wiped me out.
In rapid succession we moved to the Flying Pig, the Swimming Squirrel, the Homicidal Armadillo, then finished off with the Pissed Off Jackalope and the Mildly Aggravated Flea.
We then took back our sausages to lie back on as we regained our breathing.
Next week Beth said we would try the infamous Ice Skating Cobra. I for one can't wait.
For those of you, dear readers, who are in the Los Angeles area, or thereabouts, who would like to hire Beth to teach yoga, please follow the link provided above.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Salvation Diary 26


"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke
http://paintsplatters.wordpress.com/

April 23 Tuesday Day 223


I can be fast when I want to.
Wolf woke me at 4:00, and I switched on the T.V. just in time to witness James Cagney happily excepting his first gun in "Public Enemy." I closed my eyes for a second, and when I opened them it was 5:45. After putting them back in their sockets I raced to the bathroom, shaved, showered, and dressed, and was at work by 6:00.
Good thing too. Robert was up and getting ready to pick up the day's donuts. It's never good to let your boss know when you're late.
Robert would be running around the residence for most of the day, as we're still not sure if we're going to be inspected or not.
Mrs. Col. Johnson was now in the downstairs apartment, her husband in the hospital. Major Johnson told us at lunch that she and her son would be taking the Col. up north somewhere, to their home later in the day, which is exactly what they did.
We heard rumors that the inspection has been canceled, been postponed, going to be conducted By Col. Allen (Major Johnson's boss), or just by Major Johnson himself. We don't really know what's happening, and to tell you the truth I'm getting pretty sick and tired of the whole thing. It's been a long time since I've been required to stand an inspection, and I didn't like it then either.
Our ADx urine analyzer is acting silly. I had one lonely urine sample to run, but the machine would not let me do it. It kept telling me that the R boom would not home. That of course meant that the boom arm, which positions the probe, which in turn draws the urine to be sampled, deposits it into the mixing cartridge, dilutes it, transfer the heady mixture into a glass tube or cuvette where the sample will be read via polarized light measuring the rotation speed of specific molecules by the photometer, was not working properly. I checked the troubleshooting section in the operators manual and could find nothing that would cause this malfunction to occur.
I was perplexed!
As I later ran a photocheck, which does not require the use of the boom, the machine told me by printout that there was no carousel in it, when in fact there was. I know there was. I had put it in there.
As I said, it was acting silly.
I would have called Abbott Labs 800 number to discuss the situation with their people in Dallas, but at that time Jack Crossley began shampooing the carpet right outside the Sample Room's door, and was making such a racket that I would not have been able to hear anybody on the phone.
I would let Robert deal with it.
Although I spent most of the evening upstairs in my room playing with my computer, I did manage to see Jill. I was sitting in the canteen with Dennis Smith, eating a nice cheeseburger. Denis was talking about his first meeting with Maggie Harbottle and Major Foote. Dennis had the same reaction that I had, the same frustrations. Maggie wants him to do anything but what it is that he wants to do. Anyway, Jill came in and sat with one of her clients. She took a box of Trivial Pursuit questions from the recreation cabinet (obviously a psychological counselor type ploy used to draw information from her subject), and began asking her client questions. Without being asked Dennis and I involved ourselves.
I hate Trivial Pursuit. Everybody does. Except Jeopardy contestants, and pretty marriage and family counseling type students.
Jill's a nice lady. It bothers me that I don't have, nor probably never will have, a basis to talk to her in a manner other than a superficial one.
That's the way it is sometimes. You like someone, and want to get to know them, and there just never seems to be the time or opportunity to do so. I know I say I'm in love with her and all, and in a way I am, but really all I'd like to do is find out if she could be a friend. And that will probably never happen. It would be too threatening for her I'm afraid.
Bummer.


April 24 Wednesday Day 224


I felt absolutely lousy this morning, like I had a hangover or something. Maybe I felt that way because I hadn't gotten enough sleep. But usually when I don't sleep much I just feel tired for a little while in the morning, not bad.
It seems (because you notice it more) that the best time for everything to go wrong, or fall apart, is when you're not feeling up to par.
Ron Collins came into my office before morning devotions to tell me there was a sick person in the upstairs bathroom. We went together to take a look and found Vernon Smith (a fellow Steinbeck fan) clutching his head in apparent agony. He was disoriented, and could barely walk. We took him to his dorm so he could lie down, then I went for help. Charles Parsons came from the warehouse to drive him to U.S.C. Medical.
Vernon came back to us later in the day, and the story I eventually got out of him (he was still pretty messed up) was that he had had a reaction to medication he was taking, causing severe cramps to the muscles of his neck and back. U.S.C. gave him more pills to take, and sent him back to us.
Now certain people around here are afraid of catching spiral meningitis.
About five others complained of illness (two couldn't make it out of bed) and received bed rest. Reuben Perez was one of them. At ten thirty he left the residence saying he was going to see a doctor. He is one of our diabetics. Two days ago he was walking around with uncontrollable shakes and had gone to Huntington and been given something for it. Today he went all the way to Olive View (another county run facility) in Sylmar, north of the San Fernando Valley. That's where he gets his insulin from, and all of his medical records are located there. It's about a three hour bus ride from Pasadena though. At 8:30PM he called and said he was still waiting to be seen by a doctor. He was worried about being A.W.O.L., and that he might get into trouble considering he had not bothered to get a day pass to begin with. In any case, he would be staying overnight in Sylmar.
Mr. Vasquez got up early to pick up the donuts, and at morning devotions he made this now famous announcement outlining the great towel resolution.
Let's go back in time for a moment. About a year ago, Col Allen ordered all the A.R.C.s under his command to provide fresh laundered towels, each and every day, to all the residents. A reasonable request one might say. Instead of each man having his own towel issued to him, or for that matter, his personal towel from home, the Colonel wanted a pile of clean towels placed in the shower areas each morning so the men could pick one up upon showering, then throw it in a hamper to be washed after use. This strategy completely eliminated the messy wet towel in the dorm locker syndrome. The other A.R.C.s had implemented this plan months ago. Mr. Vasquez just hadn't gotten around to it yet.
Robert had anticipated problems with the new system. Indeed, there are certain drawbacks to the plan. The laundry man's work day would be twice as long with the added burden of at least 106 towels to wash 7 days a week. The washers and dryers were not made for this type of use (they were in fact being used constantly already by the men doing their laundry). Also, the boys had a tendency to use more than one towel (one to dry their hands, one to dry their feet, one to use as a bath mat, on and on), insuring there were never enough clean towels for everyone.
It would be quite a headache.
The private towel system was working just fine. Major Johnson never inspected upstairs, and in fact thought that Col Allen's order had already been carried out months ago.
If the inspection had not been postponed because of Col. Johnson's illness we would have been caught with our pants down, or our towels awry, if you will. So Robert announced the new plan to the men this morning, to a multitude of grumbles, mumbles, and groans. Possibly a few genuine moans in there as well. The most asked question was what if I have my own towel from home? Can't I use that, and wash it myself? No. No. No. Robert would say. If they had their own personal towel, they were to be put in a plastic bag and put at the bottom of their locker where he couldn't find it easily. Or take it back home. Any wet, or dirty towels found in a locker during the work day would result in a couple of hours of extra duty on Saturday morning for that individual.
More grumbles, mumbles, and groans.
Before leaving the building Robert told me he would be back later in the day to get the new towels ready.
He never came back!
Given its momentum, this idea should fizzle out all together in a week or two. At least until the next inspection, or until Robert retires.
Richard, my counselor came in, and it was his day to talk to me. I forced myself to do something I had put off for two weeks now. My Fifth Step.
This is the Step most people are reluctant to take because it requires one to lay one's self out completely open to another individual, and action none of us have any natural inclination to do. Especially us alcoholics and drug addicts. We like to hide. It took only 45 minutes to tell him the whole sordid tale.
"Admitted to God, to Ourselves, and Another Human Being, the Exact Nature of our Wrongs." Pretty scary. Richard qualified as a human being. I'd already admitted the exact nature of my wrongs to God and myself while writing my Fourth Step, along with numerous times in the past when I have reminiscenced over various mistakes and triumphs I have made and experienced. Now I feel I may move on to Step Six.
Whoopee!
I had thought I would feel relieved when I had finished with Richard, and I did in a way. I was definitely glad I had done it, and that it was over. I still felt bad though. And tired.
The ADx man got here at dinner time. I had given him ambiguous instructions on how to get here, so he had probably gotten lost once or twice on the way over. He looked the machine over, asked me what had happened to it, said he needed some parts and would return tomorrow.
Chapel went well. Thank God. It was the only thing that did today.
Matt Moreth dropped by looking for Richard Bennett. He seemed troubled, and I asked him what the problem was.
"I whe whe whe whe whe went, ou ou out la last night. A a a an an an and, got, pla pla pla pla er pla pla pla pla plas plas plas wh pla pla plas plastered."
I told him not to let it get him down, and to have a cup of coffee while he waited. He grabbed the coffee, went out the front door, and disappeared.
I know exactly what he's going through. I hope to God he comes back. I just learned from Paul Wisely that Matt's wife is expecting a child. Matt needs to end his relapse before things get out of hand.
Romy, Ben Driscoll's counselor, came to my office. He told me he thought that a lot of Ben's problems had started in his youth. Very Freudian. Ben told him, in his typical disorientated and round about fashion, that he had been abused physically, and that his father had had access to thorazine, and used it to shut his children up.
There are monsters in this world. They are real.
Throughout this hectic day I did manage to get a little writing done.
And to end on a happy note, I fell in love. With Kathy, our new counselor. I found out she is a recovering alcoholic or addict, recovering something at least, just like me. 3 years sober. I accidentally heard her talking to Bill Rauschemplat. She gives me the impression of being a very sincere and dedicated individual, very serious about what she does, in tune with reality, meaning that she is aware of the hazards recovering counselors face (burnout, relapse, stuff like that), hard working, conscientious, and has the ability to laugh with others, and at herself. All wrapped up in a cute little brunette package.
I think this is a charming way for a young girl to be. Recovering or not.
Too bad she's married.
At least I got the impression that she's married. I shall have to investigate.


April 25 Thursday Day 225


I looked at my clock. It was 6:50. I closed my eyes, thinking it must be my day off. Then I though, no, it's not my day off, and shot out of bed, cursing Pandolfi, Rockoff, Saddam Hussein, and any other foreign sounding people.
As my velocity approached close to that of light, time dilation occurred. For me it appeared that I only spent 1 minute, 38 seconds, shaving, showering, and dressing. To a stationary observer, 12 minutes, 42 seconds elapsed before I was ready for work. I didn't have time to worry about gaining infinite mass.
Just I reached for my door knob, Mr. Vasquez knocked.
He looked at me with a slow smile. "You alright, Joyce?"
"Yeah, I'm alright. I just woke up ten minutes ago."
"Alarm didn't go off, or something? Well, that's alright. No big thing. About Perez..."
He went on to tell me what to do about Reuben Perez, who had been transfered to High Desert Hospital, in Lancaster, suffering with gall stones and a liver infection.
And so my day began. I felt a lot better than I had yesterday. Maybe the extra unauthorized sleep helped. And knowing that I didn't have to work all day tomorrow helped.
I kept myself as busy as possible and the time flew by. I wrote a lot in the morning, but barely had time to read.
I met Harold Eversley and Carlos Noble in the parking lot after dropping off the morning paperwork.
Harold stretched out his long arm, supporting a huge smile, saying, "Gee, it sure feels good now that I have a full years sobriety."
"Hey Harold," I said, "that's great! Fantastic. Congratulations." We shook hands.
Miracles exist, they are real. Harold is a recovering crack addict. He gives me, and everyone else around here a lot of hope for our own futures.
The lovely Mrs. Strickland was inside at the desk. She had come over from Canoga Park to help Mrs. Johnson with some project. I didn't say anything to her, and I don't believe she recognized me. She didn't say anything if she did.
The Pasadena A.R.C. is in the midst of an opossum attack. They're all over the place. They just walk around, keep to themselves, look us over with big opossum eyes.
The ADx man spent most of the afternoon here. He claims to have replaced a broken thermoster module, whatever that is, and that everything is now working properly.
But as I ran some samples I started to get some peculiar readings, and it began to eat up my reagents. So I stopped fooling with it.
I was talking to Eugene White later in my office. He was telling me of the frustrations he was experiencing in the program. He doesn't think that everybody is serious enough about staying sober, and this causes him distress affecting his own program.
I tried to remind him that probably 50% of more of the guys here were using this place for reasons other than to learn how to stay sober, and that he should not let that interfere with what he was doing to try to get better. Outside, in the real world, I told him, most people won't be overly concerned with maintaining their sobriety. That's why A.A. is so important.
We talked about this and that for about twenty minutes. I hope he left my office feeling a little better. I know I did.
I heard a scratching at my window and turned in my chair to see two great big, stupid, opossum eyes looking inquiringly at me. We stared at each other for a few moments, trying to bridge the gap evolution had placed between us. I watched as it turned and slowly lumbered away.


April 26 Friday Day 226


I slept in until ten. It felt good, but I was having disturbing dreams again, so once I woke I stayed awake.
I believe I dreamed that I stabbed someone in the eye who was asleep or dead, and walked away as if nothing happened. I hoped that no would notice and that no one would bother me about it. I remember feeling remorse afterwards, wishing that it had never happened.
How weird.
After lunch I tried to write in the lobby but there was too much activity going on there, and Rockoff kept wanting me to fill in for him while he roamed around.
About twelve of the guys had been selected to go on a camping trip to Camp Craig, near Malibu. They used to film the exterior shots of the television show "M.A.S.H." close by.
Kevin Rockoff was going, but had neglected to find somebody to finish his shift.
So I got volunteered.


April 27 Saturday Day 227


I slept in again until lunch time. Then I went to the park and laid out in the glorious sun, while listening to rock and roll on the radio. Old Beatles songs and Jethro Tull.
I exercised a little when I returned, read in my lonely room, and got ready for work.
I had not smoked all day today, preparing for my Sixth Step, but during my first half an hour or so at work, I got so irritable and snappy at everybody (I even started yelling at Frank Corona over the telephone), I thought it best to break down, go to the store and buy some cigarettes before I either got fired or killed.
Around 6:30, as I went to put up the damn bar in the thrift store parking lot, I noticed Eddie Acuna and Hobart Rodgers sitting at the wall at the far end. Eddie called me over and told me they had talked to Clarence Orion, and he had told them to come back in the program on Monday. He asked me for a couple of dollars to hold them until then. They reeked of booze. I asked them if they had seen Gillespie. They had seen him just that morning. He had stopped drinking and gotten into detox.
I didn't give them any money. I instead told them to follow me back to the residence where I gave them some jelly donuts, and asked them to do themselves a favor and get here early Monday morning.
I wrote for most of the evening. Everything went pretty smoothly until Art Martinez came in at 11:57, three minutes before curfew, and blew a .05. I had to ask he to leave.
I wish him well.