T   P   O
The Patient Ox (aka Hénock Gugsa)

G r e e t i n g s !

** TPO **
an irreligious blog
with egalitarian and individualist tendencies!

On the menu ... politics, music, poetry, and other good stuff.
There is humor, but there is blunt seriousness here as well!

Parfois, on parle français ici aussi. Soyez bienvenus!

Intelligent comments are always welcome!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Petra ( Holding Serve and Nerve! ) - by TPO

Petra (Holding Serve and Nerve!)
by TPO

Well, today Petra Kvitova, this wonder girl, did it again! She beat another opponent and it is on to the final match with Maria Sharapova on Saturday, July 2nd.

I've noticed the umpire likes to say, "Quiet, please. Play!" In Petra's case, it goes without saying. She's a class act!

Again best of luck, Petra!

video source: www.wimbledon.com

the revenge of e e cummings - by The Boston Globe

e. e. cummings

the revenge of e.e. cummings
Boston Globe Editorial - April 29, 2008

(Item: A new study warns that writing text messages could hurt a writer's command of standardized English.)

WE HAD to LOL when we read how txt-msg lingo is replacing stndrd english in student academic pprs. 1 casualty of da trend is uz of capital letter to start a sentence. kids feel free to lowercase everything. pnktu8n is also dissed. tchaz try to help but its often 2 l8.

new paragraphs r not uzed in txting either. kids prolly think all dis iz ok cuz even Richard Sterling, emeritus xecutiv director of the ntl riting prjct, gives it the nod. natl riting prjct is sposd 2 improve riting instruxn in americas schoolz.

"i think in the future, capitalization will disappear," he sed in the nytimes. 4 lazy students dis is 2G2BT!

a big natl study by the College Board and Pew Project on the Internet and American Life finds teenagers riting more b/c of txting but in a hybrid language with conventions of its own: call it Textlish. they don't consider it frml english but 64 percent admit it seeps into their writing at school.

we get da need for shorthand when thumbs fly on tiny keypads. but we thot technology wd enhance communication, not blur every boundary b/w frml language and slang. and dont even get us started on emoticons!

1 yng friend of rs recently sent us a hand-ritten thank-u note. we were thrilled at 1st but her spelling wuz awful b/c deres no spellcheck for pen and ppr. same ish w/ txting. ppl get uzd 2 slang and 4get the real words. btw, all of us w/ email addresses r guilty 2, since email usernames r all lowercase and include many weird squiggles. somehow, tho, gnr8ns of secys managed to transl8 Gregg or Pitman shorthand squiggles n2 grammatically correct correspondence 4 their bosses.

well, tempora quid faciunt. dis not lingo but latin: times change. early america's founders wud uppercase almost every noun; maybe Sterling really is a visionary. Still, on the 25th anniversary of "A Nation at Risk," the seminal report on America's educational challenges, who wudda thot the big threat to riting wd b the cellfone?
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"The First Dream" - by Billy Collins

Billy Collins (1941 - )
"The First Dream"

The Wind is ghosting around the house tonight
and as I lean against the door of sleep
I begin to think about the first person to dream,
how quiet he must have seemed the next morning

as the others stood around the fire
draped in the skins of animals
talking to each other only in vowels,
for this was long before the invention of consonants.

He might have gone off by himself to sit
on a rock and look into the mist of a lake
as he tried to tell himself what had happened,
how he had gone somewhere without going,

how he had put his arms around the neck
of a beast that the others could touch
only after they had killed it with stones,
how he felt its breath on his bare neck.

Then again, the first dream could have come
to a woman, though she would behave,
I suppose, much the same way,
moving off by herself to be alone near water,

except that the curve of her young shoulders
and the tilt of her downcast head
would make her appear to be terribly alone,
and if you were there to notice this,

you might have gone down as the first person
to ever fall in love with the sadness of another.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tribute to Petra Kvitova - by Hénock Gugsa

Tribute to Petra Kvitova
by  Hénock Gugsa


Petra Kvitova (a Czech great!) - by TPO

Petra Kvitova (1990 - )
From Czech Republic

She is seeded number eight right now. I am specially wishing her great success at Wimbledon this year!

Best of luck, Petra!

video source: www.wimbledon.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bachmann on the Loose ! - by TPO

Bachmann on the Loose!
by TPO


Be very wary!
Lock your doors, stay inside.
Keep your children's ears covered.

Michele Bachmann is on the rampage!!

The Original Tweeters! - by TPO

"Chickadees tweet about themselves!" (*)
by Martha Heil (**)

A short tweet from a chickadee can tell other birds their sex, species and geographic location, according to new research.

Chickadees are talkative little birds, with several different calls encoding meanings from indicating the presence of a predator to more complex expressions that express triumph or attraction. Different species of birds may join their flock because chickadees have a distinct call to indicate a source of food.

Their long call is sounded as "chick-a-dee-dee," and has multiple meanings, but the meaning of their shorter sound — a "tseet" — was until recently a mystery to the researchers studying the small song birds.

Researchers from the University of Alberta in Edmonton found that the "tseet" call is like a vocal identity badge that uses different tones and decibel levels within the call to identify the sex, species and location of the bird. They studied mountain chickadees, found throughout the Rocky Mountains, and black-capped chickadees, which live primarily in the deciduous northern areas of the northern United States and Canada. The researchers found that each can decode the calls of the other species. However, it may not be easy for them to detect the opposite species’ sex from the call alone.

The research that broke the bird's short tseet down into nine different sound characteristics — of which only seven were used by the birds to identify themselves — was reported in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

The researchers' next step is to slightly change the bird's songs, manipulating the individual acoustic features within the tseet call to help determine how the vocal ID badges are constructed.


(*) - Originally published in MinnPost.com (Scientific Agenda, May 3, 2010)

(**) - Martha Heil reports for Inside Science News Service.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Bus Ride to Fugue (Part II) - by Hénock Gugsa

The Bus Ride to Fugue (Part II)
by Hénock Gugsa
The door opened again with a hiss, but this time the noise was somewhat different. Inside the bus, what I heard was eerily similar to the sound of a lung ravaged by tuberculosis. It was a labored whistle, and it sent a chill up my spine. I was seized by an urge to get up and make an expeditious exit from this dark place. But, something else happened to distract and dissuade me from such a normal, instinctive impulse … laughter!

Two rambunctious Hispanic youths boarded the bus. The first one to come aboard appeared to be the older of the pair. He seemed good-humored enough although his compadre was definitely jollier and more animated. He was also the one who was laughing the loudest as he told his jokes. They were speaking neither English nor Spanish. I believe it must have been Spanglish, because I could pick up the English words interspersed with Spanish.

The two amigos were headed toward the back of the bus … they must have had the same notion as I had earlier. Halfway down the aisle, the younger fellow stopped, turned, and hollered at the bus driver, “Hey, señor driver, are we going to Fugg?”

The silence in the bus now was even more deafening than before. The older compadre quickly said, “It is fee-you-guh, pendejo.”

Fuh-guh, few-guh ... what’s the difference, Carlos? There are no mamasitas where we’re headed anyway!”

“Enough, Pepe. Sometimes you joke más que necesario.”

Pepe again looked back at the bus driver who showed no sign of giving these two guys the time of day. Shaking his head in mock disbelief, Pepe followed his friend to a pair of seats near where I was sitting.

“¡Hola! hombre.” Carlos said to me. Pepe shot a friendly nod in my direction, and the friends sat down quietly.

I kept looking out the window at a gray nothingness as my mind started to revert to its previous state of unease and even dread. This went on for maybe the next ten minutes or so. But then thankfully, the spell was broken by the wonderful Pepe. It was even surprising that he could keep quiet for that length of time.

Pepe turned toward where I sat, smiled and said, “Are you going to phuh-guh too?”

That certainly came out of left field. I was so floored that I had no immediate response. Carlos, fortunately, came to the rescue.

“Forgive my friend, señor. He likes to joke too much. I am Carlos, by the way. My friend, the payaso here, is Pepe.”

“Nice to meet you both, I’m Matt.” I said, happy to find some friendly companions on this trip.

“Are you going to the factory too, Matt?” Carlos asked without much preamble.

Before, I could respond, Pepe cut in and said, “No, Carlos. I don’t think Mateo here is a factory hand like us. He look more like a professor to me. Am I right, Mateo?”

“Actually yes, Pepe. I teach English at a community college here in the Twin Cities. How did you guess?” I asked somewhat nonplussed.

“Ah, señor. Pepe here jokes a lot, but he’s very observant too. He saw that you are quiet, well-mannered, and maybe too much into thinking. You are also a serious type, but you are friendly too. Otherwise, we would not talk to you.”

“Si. You are not like that zombie bus driver over there. ¿He’s muy malo, non?” Pepe said and he started to chuckle.

“I’m visiting a friend up in Fugue. He just got hired at the piano factory up there. He used to teach music, but he got laid off a year ago.” I explained.

“Carlos and me ... we got laid off too. We used to work for a construction company. I’m the best roofer in the world, ask Carlos.”

“You are good, Pepito. But you are not the best.” Carlos chimed in.

Pepe was looking somewhat pensive as he blurted out what was on his mind. “So, Mateo. Do you know anything about the factory? Carlos and me, we’re going up there because they hired us thru an agency without too many questions or explanations.”

“Actually, I had never heard of Fugue until two weeks ago when I got the invite from my friend.” I said with a slight tremor in my voice.

Pepe looked at his friend, and groaned. “Ooohhh, we are so fuhgged!”

However, that running joke was now sadly getting stale. At this point, I was only beginning to grapple with the realization that we three were the only normal and natural beings on this bus. Everything around us had already been emitting that  ominous atmosphere of doom and gloom.  We were in serious trouble here!

… Continues … in Part III

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Introduction To Poetry" - by Billy Collins

Billy Collins

Billy Collins (1941 - )
"Introduction To Poetry"
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Man in the Uniform - by Elissa Ely

The Man in the Uniform
Elissa Ely
(The Boston Globe, 07/01/2010)

YOU DON’T want medications, although you’re depressed. You don’t want the cloudy, emasculating service that the clinic calls supportive psychotherapy. You don’t want to apply for a check from the government. You want one pair of size 15 extra wide regulation black work boots. They cost about $100.

You have a week to find them. If you do, a security firm will hire you. The interviewer likes you, and he doesn’t know you have been sleeping on a mat in a church shelter, homeless since your last company folded and you lost your apartment. They will supply your uniform. The boots are the sticking point.

There are clothing rooms in the Day Shelter, filled with coats, socks, dresses, even suits. There are shoes, too, and some are probably black, but none are size 15 extra wide work boots. An APB goes out to other Boston shelters. Someone appropriates $29.99 from an emergency slush fund, and you buy a pair of Payless black sneakers, tight around the toes, but workable.

Things look up. You begin the job training. It’s tiring, because you sleep badly in the shelter, where some of the neighbors are intoxicated, and others are threatening. You wait until everyone is asleep before you can relax, and then, you spring awake four or five hours later. But fatigue is secondary. This job will purchase an apartment’s first and last months’ rent. When that happens you will sleep better.

Every day, you wear the uniform. It’s pressed and professional. But in the shelter there is no closet to hang it in at night. (There is also no shower, though you finesse this by using rubbing alcohol from the Dollar Store, two for $.99, which someone said will clean pores.)

After about a week, the uniform starts to wrinkle, and the supervisor takes you aside. He likes your work and wants you to stay. All you have to do is keep the uniform clean. The uniform is the face of the company. He doesn’t understand why this is hard.

You don’t want him to know you are homeless, having already discovered that it tends to create an unattractive impression. You need the job in order to free yourself. You could point out that you have clean pores, through effort and ingenuity, which can represent the company.

This should not be a problem. But you have no closet. You have no regulation boots. And therefore, it turns out, you have no solution.


Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Shotgun Boogie" - by Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary Clooney (1928 - 2002)
"Shotgun Boogie"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Revenge ... wasteful & unproductive - by Y. Gefen

Part 3
by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen

Last week we began discussing the reasons for the commands to not take revenge or bear a grudge. We discussed the opinion of the Sefer HaChinuch about the reason for the prohibitions to take revenge or bear a grudge. He wrote that if a person causes us pain of some kind then that is a result of Divine Providence and it is futile to feel resentment towards him. The other commentaries offer other explanations:
The Rambam (Maimonides), the great commentator who lived around 1000 years ago, writes simply that the matters over which we may feel vengeful are, in truth, not important enough to get upset about. There are far more important matters in life than when a person wrongs us - at the time we may feel very upset, but later on we realize that what he did was really not of such significance.

The author of the great ethical work, ’Orchos Tzadikim’ writes that to take revenge is forbidden because it demonstrates the characteristic of cruelty - trying to cause harm to another human being is cruel and unjustified even if he caused us harm.

Another possible explanation of this prohibition is that if everyone were to continually take revenge on each other then society will become very unpleasant, characterized by tense relationships and a feeling of distrust. We can all make mistakes and occasionally cause harm to other people - this alone need to cause great dissension. However, if we take strong action every time we felt wronged then society would constantly be characterized by conflict and discord. Consequently the Torah instructs us to try to be forgiving and judge others favorably, thereby maintaining a society of healthy relationships.

The commands to not take revenge or bear a grudge are not easy - we can easily feel slighted by other people’s behavior towards us. However, like all commandments Hashem does not demand anything that is beyond our capability. By working on our character traits we can reach the level where petty incidents do not affect us and we can forgive people, recognizing that they are humans and all humans make mistakes.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and torah.org

"Nine Things ..." - by a misanthrope

"Nine Things I Hate About People"
by a misanthrope

[** Warning: The misanthrope in question uses very foul and angry language. It may not suit delicate or well-mannered society.]

1. People who point at their wrist while asking for the time.... I know where my watch is, pal. Where the hell is yours? Do I point at my crotch when I ask where the toilet is?

2. People who are willing to get off their ass to search the entire room for the T.V. remote because they refuse to walk to the T.V. and change the channel manually.

3. When people say: "Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too". 
Damn right! What good is cake if you can't eat it?

4. When people say "It's always the last place you look". 
Of course it is. Why the hell would you keep looking after you've found it? Do people do this? Who and where are they? Gonna Kick their asses!

5. When people say while watching a film: "Did you see that?"
No Loser, I paid $12 to come to the cinema and stare at the damn floor.

6. People who ask: "Can I ask you a question?"
.... Didn't really give me a choice there, did ya sunshine?

7. When something is 'new and improved!'. 
Which is it? If it's new, then there has never been anything before it. If it's an improvement, then there must have been something before it, couldn't be new.

8. When people say: "life is short"
What the hell?? Life is the longest damn thing anyone ever does!! What can you do that's longer?

9. When you are waiting for the bus and someone asks: "Has the bus come yet?"
 If the bus came would I be standing here, dumb-ass?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Man Is An Island - John Donne

No Man Is An Island
John Donne (1572 - 1631)

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good Food Tips - Dave Zinczenko

Good Food Tips
Dave Zinczenko
(Editor-in-Chief, Men's Health)

Two out of three people in America today are either overweight or obese. That means every time you sit down in an airplane or a packed movie theater, more likely than not you’re going to wind up as the lean center of a fat sandwich. But as you look right and left and see nothing but heft, you can’t help but think, What happened?

How did we all get so darn fat?

Well, the simple answer is that we eat more calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that American men eat 7 percent more calories than they did in 1971; American women eat a whopping 18 percent more—an additional 335 calories a day! But the harder question is this: Why do we eat so many more calories? Are we suddenly more gluttonous? Do we have some kind of collective death wish? Is the entire country hellbent on qualifying for the next season of Biggest Loser?

No. There’s an even crazier reason .... It’s the food!

We’ve added extra calories to traditional foods, often in cheap, mass-produced vehicles like high fructose corn syrup. These new freak foods are designed not by chefs, but by lab technicians packing every morsel with maximum calories at minimum cost—with little or no regard to dietary impact. Indeed, Eat This, Not That! 2011 has uncovered the truth about some of your favorite fast food and grocery store items and how they're causing you to pack on unnecessary pounds. It’s enough to kill your appetite, which—in these cases, anyway—would be a good thing.

The great American staple. Don’t worry, burgers really do come from cows—but have you ever wondered how those giant chains process and distribute so much meat so cheaply? And . . . are you sure you want to know?

The Truth: Most fast-food hamburger patties begin their voyage to your buns in the hands of a company called Beef Products. The company specializes in taking slaughterhouse trimmings—heads and hooves and the like—that are traditionally used only in pet food and cooking oil, and turning them into patties. The challenge is getting this byproduct meat clean enough for human consumption, as both E. coli and salmonella like to concentrate themselves in the fatty deposits.

The company has developed a process for killing beef-based pathogens by forcing the ground meat through pipes and exposing it to ammonia gas — the same chemical you might use to clean your bathroom. Not only has the USDA approved the process, but it's also allowed those who sell the beef to keep it hidden from their customers. At Beef Products’ behest, ammonia gas has been deemed a “processing agent” that need not be identified on nutrition labels. Never mind that if ammonia gets on your skin, it can cause severe burning, and if it gets in your eyes, it can blind you. Add to the gross-out factor the fact that after moving through this lengthy industrial process, a single beef patty can consist of cobbled-together pieces from different cows from all over the world—a practice that only increases the odds of contamination.

Eat This Instead: Losing weight starts in your own kitchen, by using the same ingredients real chefs have relied on since the dawn of the spatula. (Here are the 15 best dishes for quick and easy weight loss.) If you’re set on the challenge of eating fresh, single-source hamburger, pick out a nice hunk of sirloin from the meat case and have your butcher grind it up fresh. Hold the ammonia.

When you buy bean dip, you expect it to be made from beans. And when you buy guacamole, it seems reasonable to expect it to be made from avocados. But is it?

The Truth: Most guacamoles with the word “dip” attached to the label suffer from a lack of real avocado. Take Dean’s Guacamole, for example. This guacamole dip is composed of less than 2 percent avocado; the rest of the green goo is a cluster of fillers and chemicals, including modified food starch, soybean oils, locust bean gum, and food coloring. Dean’s is not alone in this offense. In fact, this avocado caper was brought to light when a California woman filed a lawsuit against Kraft after she noticed “it just didn’t taste avocadoey.”

Eat This Instead: Avocados are loaded with fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Trading the good stuff in for a bunch of fillers is cheating both your belly and your tastebuds. Either look for the real stuff (Wholly Guacamole makes a great guac), or mash up a bowl yourself. Scoop out the flesh of two avocados, combine with two cloves of minced garlic, a bit of minced onion, the juice of one lemon, chopped cilantro, one medium chopped tomato, and a pinch of salt.

Bonus Tip: Unlike packaged-food manufacturers, fast-food and sit-down
restaurants don't typically rely on chemicals to enhance flavor. Instead, they pack in sugar and sodium, calorie counts be damned.

It seems like the ideal breakfast or snack for a man or woman on the go—a perfect combination of yogurt and antioxidant-packed fruits, pulled together in one convenient little cup. But are these low-calorie dairy aisle staples really so good for you?

The Truth: While the yogurt itself offers stomach-soothing live cultures and a decent serving of protein, the sugar content of these seemingly healthy products is sky-high. The fruit itself is swimming in thick syrup—so much of it, in fact, that high-fructose corn syrup (and other such sweeteners) often shows up on the ingredients list well before the fruit itself. And these low-quality refined carbohydrates are the last thing you want for breakfast—Australian researchers found that people whose diets were high in carbohydrates had lower metabolisms than those who ate proportionally more protein. Not to mention, spikes in your blood sugar can wreck your short-term memory, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Not what you need just before your urgent 9 a.m. meeting with the boss!

Eat This Instead: Plain Greek-style yogurt, mixed with real blueberries. We like Oikos and Fage brands—they’re jacked with about 15 to 22 grams of belly-filling protein, so they’ll help you feel satisfied for longer. And blueberries are another great morning add — scientists in New Zealand found that when they fed blueberries to mice, the rodents ate 9 percent less at their next meal.

Bonus Tip: Daily e-mails (or tweets) that contain weight-loss advice remind you of your goals and help you drop pounds, according to Canadian researchers. We're partial to our own Eat This, Not That! newsletter, and to the instant weight-loss secrets you'll get when you follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/davezinczenko).

Nothing makes a PB&J feel less indulgent like a scoop of low-fat Jif. It’s low fat, so it must be better for you . . . right?

The Truth: A tub of reduced-fat peanut butter indeed comes with a fraction less fat than the full-fat variety—they’re not lying about that. But what the food companies don’t tell you is that peanut oil—the fat in peanut butter—is a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that can actually help fight weight gain, heart disease and diabetes! Instead, they’ve tried to cash in on the “low-fat” craze by replacing that healthy fat with maltodextrin, a carbohydrate used as a filler in many processed foods. This means you’re trading the healthy fat from peanuts for empty carbs, double the sugar, and a savings of a meager 10 calories.

Eat This Instead: The real stuff: no oils, fillers, or added sugars. Just peanuts and salt. Smucker’s Natural fits the bill, as do many other peanut butters out there. We especially like Peanut Butter & Co. Original Smooth Operator and Original Crunch Time.

Bonus Tip: The average American drinks 450 calories a day—a quarter of the calories you're supposed to consume during an entire day!

** [General]EAT-RIGHT RULE: If your food can go bad, it's good for you. If it can't go bad, it's bad for you. **

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Quand on n'a que l'amour" - Lara Fabian

Lara Fabian
  "Quand on n'a que l'amour"
Lara Fabian (1970 - ) 

Quand on a que l'amour
A s'offrir en partage
Au jour du grand voyage
Qu'est notre grand amour 

Quand on a que l'amour
Mon amour toi et moi
Pour qu'éclate de joie
Chaque heure et chaque jour

Quand on a que l'amour
Pour vivre nos promesses
Sans nulle autre richesses
Que d'y croire toujours

Quand on a que l'amour
Pour meubler de merveilles
Et couvrir de soleil
La laideur des faubourgs

Quand on a que l'amour
Pour unique raison
Pour unique chanson
Et unique secours

Quand on a que l'amour
Pour habiller matin
Pauvres et malandrins
De manteaux de velours

Quand on a que l'amour
A offrir en prière
Pour les maux de la terre
En simple troubadour

Quand on a que l'amour
A offrir à ceux-là
Don't l'unique combat
Est de chercher le jour

Quand on a que l'amour
Pour tracer un chemin
Et forcer le destin
A chaque carrefour

Quand on a que l'amour
Pour parler aux canons
Et rien qu'une chanson
Pour convaincre un tambour

Alors sans avoir rien
Que la force d'aimer
Nous aurons dans nos mains
Amis, le monde entier

"Quand on n'a que l'amour" - Jacques Brel

Jacques Brel

"Quand on n'a que l'amour"
Jacques Brel (1929 - 1978)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Discussing Besa with Norman Gershman - NPR

Baba Haxhi Dede Reshatbardhi
Discussing Besa with Norman Gershman
NPR (National Public Radio)
Liane Hansen, Host (Weekend Edition, 08/30/2009)
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please try IE, Google Chrome, or Apache ///

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Letter of Health Denial - Elissa Ely

A letter of health denial
by Elissa Ely **

Boston Globe (June 11, 2011)

EVER AN unwelcome guest: the pharmacy review letter. This one said that the patient, whose name and birth date headed the page, would no longer be covered for name-brand medication he had taken for years. He had a new Medicare Part D insurer, whose formulary carried only generic.

Neither the patient nor I knew he had a new insurer, but we had gone through the details of his medication incompatibility many times with the old insurer. When he took generic pills, he became nauseated and dizzy. Then he grew disgusted and stopped the medication altogether. Then he was hospitalized.

In the end, a more expensive brand was cheaper than another inpatient admission. Prescribing it required submitting prior authorization paperwork to the old insurer each year; the same questions were asked and the same answers given. This exchange had just occurred a month earlier. We were expecting to be left alone when the letter arrived.

“If you decide an exception request is appropriate,’’ said the letter, “contact us by mail, by fax, or by telephone.’’ I dialed the phone number. After a few firm operators, the pharmacy review representative came on. I told him I would fill out any prior authorization form necessary, but each insurance company uses its own template. Would he please send me theirs?

The representative asked for the patient’s insurance identification number. I looked at their letter. There was no identification number on it, and we of course had none, since we had not known he had new insurance.

I did however have his name and date of birth. The representative took them, and put me on hold.

Hearing interim music over years, captive and waiting, one develops certain distrusts. The likelihood of being disconnected is directly proportional to the amount of time spent listening. You must find a way to listen without listening; a koan that cannot be answered.

I tried to listen without listening until the rep returned. He had bad news. Based on the name and birth date, this patient did not exist in their database. That meant they could not send the form that needed filling out, which meant the name brand med could not be prescribed. It was an impediment to the deterrent they had already raised.

At this point, a visitor from another planet, sent to assess our heath care coverage system, might wonder. If a patient doesn’t exist, how does his insurance company send a letter denying him meds? Maybe an alien civilization could follow the logic.

The pharmacy review representative had no answer. I had no answer. The patient, who existed in actuality but not on paper, had no answer and soon, would have no medication. This left the interplanetary visitor to explain. While he was considering, there was nothing to listen to except silence.


** Elissa Ely is a psychiatrist.

The Bus Ride to Fugue - by Hénock Gugsa

The Bus Ride to Fugue
by Hénock Gugsa


I am sure of it ... I must have been brainless that foggy Thursday morning last fall when I stood at a curbside, a few blocks from my house. I was waiting for the bus that would take me north to Fugue, Minnesota. Of-course, like most people, I had never heard of it before. You can’t find it in any listing or on any map anywhere. But, I was going there because an old friend of mine whom I hadn’t heard from in three years had moved to a cottage not far from there. He had kindly invited me to come up for a weekend and visit at my convenience. I had just returned home from Baja California where I had spent a few vacation days of glorious sun and fun. But, I still had a few more free days left, and so I decided to go up to Fugue and visit my friend. And yes … in spite of the lateness of the season, I was hoping to do a little bit of fishing and maybe some duck hunting. And if nothing panned out, I could hopefully still do some hiking and take in the season’s wondrous nature sights.

Fugue? Who would name a town “Fugue”? It must have been a music lover extraordinaire, very possibly a Bach devotee. Actually, I’m told, there is a factory up there that hand-builds these huge church organs that bring tears to a priest’s eyes. But all the same … if it hadn’t been for my friend, I would never have heard of such a place.

The charcoal grey bus arrived at the curbside, and its doors opened with a menacing hiss. I stepped up and got in … but before I took a seat, I approached the bus driver to ask if I was on the right bus and what the fare was. This man was an exact replica of the prison guard from the movie, Cool Hand Luke. The tall guard with the reflector sunglasses, the imperceptible limp, the cane, and the telescoped rifle at his beck and call … the man who never uttered a word but spoke volumes with his menacing silence.

Well, so there I was in the presence of another menace … but this one was twirling a tooth pick at the corner of his mouth. At first, he looked up at me uncomprehendingly. Then he said gruffly, “You pay when you get there. Take a seat.”

Obviously, service with a smile was not his cup of tea, but I swallowed my indignation. I  nodded that I understood, but still demanded to know where the bus was headed.

The bus driver put the behemoth in first gear and got it rolling again. He looked up again, scowled at my favorite, lucky green shirt and whispered, “Fugue.”

I walked to the back of the bus to be close to the little restroom. As I was bee-lining to an ideal-looking location, I noticed that the few passengers already on the bus were very, very quiet. They were nondescript in appearance, no flashy colors anywhere. More depressing, the theme and decor inside the bus was just as dark and gray as it was on the outside. The windows on both sides and the rear were grainy and non-transparent. And earlier, I had noticed that the windshield was tinted black inside and outside except for a small rectangular area directly in-front of the bus driver. 'That ought to help the driver some,' I'd thought sardonically at the time. But now, I was beginning to realize that I was inside a dark, gloomy, and ominous place. Jonah probably had felt more comfortable inside the whale's belly.

Two miles down the road, the bus stopped again to pick up more passengers.

… Continues in …
Part II

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reactions to Sarah Palin 's Recent Gaffes - TPO

"Palin's gaffes: One if by land, two if by sea"
Boston Globe Editorial (06-09-2011)

Sarah Palin may not become president, but in Boston last week she demonstrated her fitness for one of those “Jaywalking’’ segments on “The Tonight Show,’’ in which Jay Leno stumps passersby with elementary questions.

During a swing through the North End as part of her “One Nation’’ tour of historic sites, Palin visited the Old North Church where two lanterns, lit on the night of April 18, 1775, spurred Paul Revere to “spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm’’ of British plans to capture the patriots’ military stores in Concord.

But when reporters asked Palin about Revere’s significance, she said he “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms. By ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.’’ Revere, in fact, rang no bells and fired no shots, and it was the Americans he set out to warn, not British troops.

But when asked about it, Palin insisted she was correct. “I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere,’’ she told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there.’’

There are worse things than flubbing a question about history, yet Palin, like so many politicians, seems incapable of gracefully conceding an error. It’s no sin to be hazy on the details of Paul Revere’s ride. But voters might well entertain doubts about a politician too stubborn — or arrogant — to accept a simple correction.
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Religious Sociopathy - by Rev. CJ Conner

Burt Lancaster as "Elmer Gantry"
Religious Sociopathy
by Rev. CJ Conner (*)

Dr. Martha Stout ponders the question: "Could it be that all of the world’s greatest human tragedies are attributable to only 4% of the human population?" I think about the fact that most of the destructive socio-political movements in the American Church are pushed by a miniscule minority of voices who are well organized into national voting blocks. They in no way represent the faith and belief of the majority of Christians, but have found their way into the halls of power. Here are some characteristics of the sociopathic personality that Stout outlines in her book, "The Sociopath Next Door."

1) Despite their ability to know and distinguish good from evil, they suffer from a total lack of conscience and can do anything at anytime to hurt and harm another. In the church, this is usually manifested in destroying the ministries of people they disagree with. Black-listing pastoral candidates and pastors, for example, that don’t agree with the top leadership’s social agendas in the Mainline Church, is common. There are stories of Bishops and pastors that have undermined ministries, broken up marriages, leveled serious false charges against those that disagree with them, and taken and sold off congregational property to "win" their agendas with no remorse for the hurt, carnage, and damage they cause to others.

2) The Sociopath is unable to develop any kind of true, loyal attachments to people. This inability to be genuinely connected to others renders their experience of life bland, colorless, boring, and tedious. Consequently, they turn to power, not love and relationship, as the primary motivational factor for their lives. The sociopath seeks to gain power through which she can find some sense of connection to humanity by causing the suffering of others. The more she is able to make another suffer or hurt, the greater her sense of personal power, and the more exciting and invigorating life becomes. Stout says that the motivation for self aggrandized power is so strong in the sociopath that many of them work hard to place themselves in leadership positions because the authority of an office or position gives the sociopath the tools and avenues she needs to both feed and fuel her mental illness.

3) You can not judge or pick out a sociopath by their appearance. They look well put together, often charming, and are consummate actors. This is why they are masters at getting regular, normal, healthy people to provide aid and support to their mischief and abuses.

Stout writes, "In a confusing irony, conscience can be rendered partially blind because people without conscience use, as weapons against us, many of the fundamentally positive tools we need to hold society together- empathic emotions, sexual bonds, social and professional roles, regard for the compassionate and the creative, our desire to make the world a better place, and the organizing rule of authority. And people who do hideous things do not look like people who do hideous things. There is no "face of evil."…

We try, consciously or tacitly, to judge a person’s character by his or her appearance, but this book-by-its-cover strategy is ineffective in nearly all cases. In the real world, the bad guys do not look the way they are supposed to." In the American Church, for example, the Mainline denominations generally appeal to all of the things listed above, and in fact we see the Mainline church working very hard to keep the focus on things like "sexual bonds" and "healing the world"- causes that draw people in while their leaders are busy working on a whole agenda of evil things.

4) Sociopaths tend to be inordinately focused on sexuality and are often hypersexual. The more taboo the expression of sexuality, the better for the sociopath. Anybody following the news coming out of the Mainline denominations knows that the religious leaders have put most of their energy the last few years talking about all manner and form of sex. This obsessive preoccupation with sex, and with normalizing socially unacceptable sexuality, is the mark of a sociopath.

5) Sociopaths have no intervening sense of obligation to other people. They will betray whoever is convenient at the moment. They can’t maintain healthy and stable relationships primarily because sociopaths view people as disposable when their usefulness to their needs or agendas runs out, particularly if those people won’t help them with their mischief and abuse anymore. The people who were their "best friends" yesterday become their latest project of abuse, harassment, and emotional torture the next.

6) Sociopaths are not the most conscientious of workers, but they know how to make a splashy entrance from time to time, or initiate some new project, to maintain the appearance of normalcy- to keep people from finding out about their sociopathy.

One Bishop I read about is up for re-election after nearly six years in office. He worked a ruthlessly destructive and hurtful agenda during his tenure in office. Six months before the denomination was due to elect a new presiding Bishop, all of his divisive projects and agendas became suddenly quiet and he made a splashy show by introducing an initiative to get the denomination to read their Bibles and learn about evangelism. For 5 1/2 years these two things were not anywhere on his priority list, but conveniently just before an election, they became important. Sociopaths know that most people will be none the wiser, and after the election, this man will most certainly promptly go back to socially engineering the Church in his image.

We should also think about the fact that the Mainline denominations have so dumbed down their theological curriculum and requirements for pastors in seminary that they have become an easy place for the typical sociopath to sneak into influential positions of power and authority. The Mainline Seminaries of today have become the perfect sanctuaries for sociopaths who are looking for an easy ride to power.

7) Sociopaths lack remorse. They have absolutely no sorrow or shame for the things they do wrong and the ways they hurt other people. In fact, more than lacking in remorse, they often justify what they do- if not externally, at least internally. Their efforts at self-justification usually involve whole other layers of hurting others as they lie and falsely report about them to justify their sociopathic behavior.

Sociopathy is incurable. Even if it were curable, sociopaths almost never want to be cured. They look at people who allow an overriding sense of obligation mitigate their responses to situations and consider them total fools. Sociopaths can oftentimes be heard as describing the conscience that others possess as a weakness and an impediment to personal power and progress. All of the Mainline denominations have adopted these ideas amongst their leadership in their "church-based organizing" models, and have sent people to week long brain washing sessions to inculcate them with the cut throat, self-interest focused world of sociopathy. The skills people "learn" there have become the new virtues of the Mainline, and the behavior that sociopaths routinely engage has in many parts of the country become highly regarded and honored by church folks.

9) Sociopaths want you to pity them. In some strange and perverted twist, lacking the capacity to pity or empathize themselves, they know that pity is one of humanity’s greatest vulnerabilities and most of us believe the ability to pity is a part of what’s wonderful about people. We become totally vulnerable in the face of somebody that we pity. The sociopath knows that once he has your pity, he has you in his power and control, able to trick or convince you of virtually anything.

Stout says, "The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy." Consider ALL of the arguments you hear about maintaining and codifying the newly revised position and teaching of the Mainline churches on sexuality. The crux of the discussion about gay marriage, and practicing homosexual pastors, for example, always seeks to win your pity.

Another church leader I know fashions herself as the eternal underdog that the whole world is against, invoking the pity factor and drawing people in to assist her in constructing her scaffold of sociopathy through which she exercises her authority in destructive and egregious ways, leaving a writhing path of pain and desolation in her wake. Expelled from her denomination because they caught on to her, she has no problem quickly moving on and drawing others right into a new sociopathic scheme.

Another national leader is the master at putting on the pitiful face and drawing sympathy from the crowds as he refers to those who disagree with his radical socio-political agendas as persecutors. He tops it off by comparing his "persecution" to the suffering of Christ. When talking about those who disagree with his support of a whole number of social justice agendas, he reminds his listeners that "We are sharing in Christ’s persecutions."

When the shoe is on the other foot, however, Sociopaths have no regard or empathy for the other, and will ruthlessly attack those who once pitied them or were loyal to them, often in subterfuge so they can maintain their cover. There are some good Church leaders out there, I can’t deny that. But if 20% of your top religious leaders are sociopathic, what does that mean for the identity of your denomination? What can we do when the vast majority of the 80% of the leaders who aren’t sociopathic have been totally and completely bamboozled and conscripted into the army of the sociopaths? What happens when the ELCA, the ECUSA, or the PCUSA organically take on the characteristics and identity of the sociopaths that lead them? If the sociopathic identity is pure clinical evil, then how can we remain Christian in these denominations without a "purging of the temple" so to speak?

And so, finally, young people who thirst for a genuine, real relationship with God are fleeing the Church for other options- because a denomination that has taken on the identity of its sociopathic leaders has along with them lost its ability to be genuinely, really, in relationship with God. Others still within the Church, who also thirst and hunger after righteousness, are dying on the vine of the superficial spirituality that sociopathic religious leaders can fashion at best. They are moving towards schism and rebirth to reclaim the true humanity that their denominations have lost.
(*) - Rev. CJ Conner, Author of “Jesus and the Culture Wars,”
Note from TPO: I came across the above quite some time back at "http://revcjconner.com/?cat=27".
I believe the writing is very instructional. It is particularly apropos in light of all the false prophets, and other crooks who are out there preying on the innocent and the gullible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Ne Me Quitte Pas!" - Nina Simone

Nina Simone

Nina Simone (1933 - 2003)
"Ne Me Quitte Pas!"

Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit déjà
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le cœur du bonheur
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Moi je t'offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu'après ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D'or et de lumière
Je ferai un domaine
Où l'amour sera roi
Où l'amour sera loi
Où je serai reine
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
For Jacques Brel!
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je t'inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants-là
Qui ont vu deux fois
Leurs cœurs s'embraser
Je te raconterai
L'histoire de ce roi
Mort de n'avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
D'un ancien volcan
Qu'on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu'un meilleur avril
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu'un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s'épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

[ Mon choix est la France ??!!]
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Je ne vais plus pleurer
Je ne vais plus parler
Je me cacherai là
A te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t'écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L'ombre de ton ombre
L'ombre de ta main
L'ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas.

Bon soir.

Wisdom from the Dog - Gareth Cook

"How kindness built civilization"
[Wisdom from the Dog]
Gareth Cook (The Boston Globe - June 5, 2011)

IT’S ABOUT time the dog got a little more respect.

If you’ve ever owned a dog, be it a prize purebred or a lovable mutt, then you know that they are smart. Well, now science is catching up.

In some ways, it is increasingly clear, dogs can be even more intelligent than chimpanzees, who sit much closer to humans on the evolutionary tree. And this remarkable gift, according to a fascinating new theory, reveals something profound about the origins of intelligence — and, possibly, the origins of our own humanity.

For many decades, the dog received relatively little scientific attention, explains Brian Hare, the Duke scientist who has offered the new theory. For Hare, this changed after a conversation with his academic adviser, scientist Michael Tomasello. The two were discussing the limits of chimp intelligence.

Although chimps are considered socially sophisticated creatures, they struggle to understand even basic human gestures like pointing.

Young children follow a pointed finger, and know that the thing being pointed to is important. But this requires tremendous cognitive leaps. It requires knowing that there is another animal out there with thoughts of its own. That this other animal knows something that I don’t. That it is trying to communicate to me. The fact that even our closest living relatives have trouble doing this suggests its difficulty.

Yet Hare had a thought: My dog can do that.

Indeed, back in his parents’ garage, with a video camera running, Oreo and Daisy easily passed the test. Hare placed two cups on the floor, one with a treat underneath. He pointed to the right one, and a dog went to get the treat.

Since then, researchers have found many ways in which dogs outsmart chimps. In another experiment, there are two humans, one with a blindfold: Which one do you beg for food? Dogs get that. Or if there is a forbidden treat, dogs are more likely to understand they should steer clear if a human’s eyes are open.

Where, Hare wondered, do these abilities come from?

The answer came from an amazing experiment in Siberia. In 1959, Russian scientist Dmitry Belyaev set out to understand domestication. He gathered wild foxes, and separated them into two groups. One, he bred randomly, as a control. The second, he bred for kindness. Only the foxes that were the nicest to humans — the ones that would approach a person without fear or aggression — got a chance to mate.

By the time Hare visited Belyaev’s old compound in 2003, this selection process had been repeated over many, many generations. He tried his two-cup test with the wild group, and they failed. The nice foxes, though, were just like the dogs — they understood pointing. They had leapt past chimps.

Hare suggests that dogs went through essentially the same process, over a much longer period. Many thousands of years ago, wolves began to approach human settlements, looking for scraps. Some of those wolves would been less fearful, less aggressive. These animals were rewarded with more food. Over time, these wolves became our dogs.

To understand what makes this insight so important, with implications for our own origins, remember that Belyaev’s foxes, and the early dogs, were not selected for intelligence, but for niceness. The animals became nice, and intelligence followed naturally.

Chimpanzees are clearly smarter than dogs in many ways, says Hare, who heads the Canine Cognition Center at Duke University. But chimps are also emotionally volatile, so much so that they can find it hard to cooperate, even when it’s clearly in their own interest. A chimp’s social abilities have been circumscribed by its emotional explosiveness.

Human intelligence is often described as a steady accumulation of new kinds of smarts, as the brain expanded. But Hare has come to believe this would not have been possible unless our species first made an emotional breakthrough — the ability to tolerate each other, to be kind enough, and patient enough, that we could cooperate more deeply. This led to language, tools, and civilization.

It’s an insight that Hare would not have had were it not for dogs. And so it deserves to be dubbed the Wisdom of the Dog: To be smart, first play nice.


Gareth Cook can be reached at cook@globe.com

Monday, June 6, 2011

Catastrophic Blunderers - TPO

Catastrophic Blunderers

James Buchanan (1791-1868) - 15th U.S President ... a do-nothing, "après-moi, le deluge" type. He knew a great storm was building, but he left it all to Abraham Lincoln to confront and take on.

Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937) - Secretary of the Treasury in 1929. His prescriptions for the economic disaster of the time ...
"Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks,
liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate ... it will purge the rottenness out of the system."

Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) - British prime minister, 1937-1940, a total dupe, and Hitler appeaser, who nearly brought shame to Britain.

George W. Bush (1946 - ) - 43rd U.S President ... two wars (one completely unjustifiable), and an economy near shambles at the end of his second term.

John S. McCain (1936 - ) - Republican U.S Senator and 2008 Presidential candidate from Arizona ... couldn't even remember how many homes he owned.

Sarah Palin (1964 - ) - Alaska's half-term Republican governor, and McCain's vice-presidential candidate ... screws up on facts and history almost on a constant basis, but never admits or owns up to mistakes ... like many dangerous demagogues, charismatic and lucky.

Michele Bachmann (1956 - ) - Republican U.S. Representative from Minnesota, identical to Sarah Palin on approach to facts and history ... fanatical, and even a bit of a religious zealot.

Our reaction to these people can only be to wish to ...

William Holden and Peter Graves - Stalag 17

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? - by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.