Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017

We've had quite a divaricate year, all in all, one with a split personality, one that feels differently to me depending on whether I think about what happened in my personal life or what happened in the nation and the world.

Perhaps it is always that way, but 2016 certainly feels different.

Personally I had a lovely year. My incredible wife and I enjoyed good health, a great deal of happiness, and the frequent company of our wonderful friends and family. We welcomed a beautiful new granddaughter, and I retired in the fall and have been busy with our new puppy since then. I've been playing better golf, on the whole, and have had many fun rounds with great friends.

Our children have largely been healthy, though there have been instances here and there of less than stellar health. But no one has been seriously ill, and there have been no deaths in the immediate or extended family.

All to the good.

Nationally it has been a time of enormous upheaval, culminating with the election of the worst candidate for president since at least Andrew Jackson and quite possibly since the founding of our nation. We elected a racist, misogynistic, narcissistic sociopath the likes of which this country hasn't seen since, well, I don't know when.

We've seen the ugly racism that has been hiding just beneath the surface of too many people's consciousness explode into overt and vicious racism. It's as if all the grotesque biases lurking in the shadows have been given expression and general approval in the name of "making American great again." Far too many people are saying, We've finally rid the White House of that blackie and have installed our very own white supremacist in his place. Hooray!

Sickening. Disgusting. Abhorrent.

Internationally we've seen atrocities in Aleppo, Russian interventions in Syria and Ukraine, and horrors committed by the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Horribly sad.

I will remember 2016 like I remember 1968, as a tumultuous, life-altering period in our history and my own life. We all will emerge from 2016's grip, without question, and we will survive as a people the next few years, but we will not be the same. We weren't the same after WWI, nor after WWII, nor after Vietnam and the Nixon years, and we will be forever changed again after we push through this current period. 

I know not what 2017 will bring, inwardly or outwardly, but I know that we as a people, and I personally, will work through our issues as best we can, day in and day out. For in the end, that is all we can do.

I wish us all a healthy, happy, and meaningful new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wishing Us a Better 2017 Than Our Hellish 2016

We lost far too much and far too many this past year.

We Mourn

We mourn so many people who gave so much to all of us:

(L. to R, top to bottom) John Glenn, Muhammed Ali, Gene
Wilder, David Bowie, Gwen Ifill, Leonard Cohen,
Toots Thielemans
  • Alan Rickman
  • Alan Thicke
  • David Bowie
  • Gene Wilder
  • Gordie Howe
  • Gwen Ifill
  • Harper Lee
  • John Glenn
  • Jon Polito
  • Kevin Meaney
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Muhammed Ali
  • Patti Duke
  • Prince
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Ron Glass
  • Sharon Jones
  • Toots Thielemans
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • ... and to many more

We Lost or Are Losing

We've lost or are losing:
  • Our collective minds
  • Some of our humanity
  • Our hope
  • Distinction, professionalism, compassion, elegance, competence, and intelligence in the Oval Office
  • Some freedoms
  • Some privacy
  • Some independence

Wishes and Hopes for 2017, in No Particular Order

One of too many imbeciles
  • I hope our new president starts no new wars.
  • I wish for a few common sense laws being passed.
  • I wish we could find common ground on critical issues.
  • I hope our president-elect doesn't say and do too many stupid things. What "too many" means will, I'm sure, change over time.
  • I hope we continue to fight for what we believe is right and to step up when we see imbeciles acting intemperately, crassly, meanly, or just plain cruelly.
  • I wish the world cuts us a bit of slack and understands that the absurd buffoon in the Oval Office doesn't represent us as a people.
  • I wish my family and friends experience good health all year through.
  • I hope our children can find happiness, comfort, and peace now and always.
  • I hope to continue to watch my grandchildren grow bigger, stronger, and more intelligent with each passing day.

And I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, prosperous, and conflict-free 2017.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Take Andy's Rather Odd Questionnaire TODAY!

Proust had his questionnaire. Facebook is filled with them. I thought I would do my own, a wee bit odd though it might be. Unlike Facebook questionnaires, however, my questionnaire will not be used to identify your possible passwords!

Give it a go!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

My Responses to Bernard Pivot's Questionnaire, with Apologies to James Lipton

At 66 I thought it might be time to do my own Bernard Pivot questionnaire, the one the incomparable James Lipton uses on "Inside the Actor's Studio."

Here goes.

What is your favorite word?

What is your least favorite word?
The N word

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

What turns you off?
Lack of compassion

What is your favorite curse word?

What sound or noise do you love?
My wife's laugh

What sound or noise do you hate?
Donald Trump's sniff

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Symphony conductor

What profession would you not like to do?

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Don't fret none, it's all right.

If you'd like to do your own, here are the questions:

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Four Tips for Spotting Bogus News Stories

How many times have you seen a headline that seems ridiculous? And then how many times have you passed that story along on Facebook or Twitter?

Don't feel guilty. It can be difficult to tell the difference between fake and real. Here are four tips on quickly making that differentiation.

  1. Check the URL. The web address, or URL (Uniform Resource Locator), indicates the origin of the article. In the graphic below, the URL is suspicious because it ends with "" rather than the expected ".com". The ABC News site has been around for a long time, so it most certainly would have a dot-com domain (the letters after the last dot), not dot-com-co. So pay this site no mind.
  2. Check the logo and overall look of the site. Does the logo look real? Does the site look professionally developed, like the majority of major news sites you visit? If not, treat the page with great skepticism.
  3. Look at the footer. Is there a fairly distinct, definitive footer? Or is the footer just one line with fairly vague titles? For instance, the footer in the graphic below looks scant and not what you might expect from a major news organization. The real ABC News website's footer is shown at the bottom.
  4. Look for an About page. If you don't find one, chances are good that the site is suspicious and should be avoided.

Real ABC News footer:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sexuality More Static Than Previously Thought

Alfred Kinsey
(Great biography here)
I've thought for a long time that human sexuality was fluid, that there were a nearly infinite number of forms. Much of that thought was based on information from Alfred Kinsey's landmark studies back in the 60s, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. A new study has made me rethink that concept.

Kinsey and his colleagues conducted an enormous number of interviews and individual studies—more than 17,000, in fact. His work was both hailed as a new psychological benchmark in human sexuality as well as derided for its rather unconventional research techniques. In any case, Kinsey described a rather linear spectrum of sexuality, with exclusively heterosexual at one end, exclusively homosexual at the other, and a fluid baseline of varying bisexual responses.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Washington, however, indicates a more categorical model. The researchers studied behaviors of 33,000 individuals. The results indicated that a model of distinct categories suits the understanding of sexuality better than does Kinsey's spectrum model.

In the category model, individuals may be said to belong to one of a number of categories. The category with the greatest number of people is—no surprise there—heterosexuals. Just 3 percent of males and 2.7 percent of females were found to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The researchers did describe some fluidity within the categories, but for the most part sexuality was seen as rather static.

Basically we heterosexuals are pretty much the same. One category, lots and lots of people.

But for everyone not heterosexual, the categories are far more complex. "There is a class of people who are heterosexual," explains Alyssa Norris, lead author of the study, "and then a class that’s non-heterosexual. There’s a fantastic amount of diversity within those classes, especially that non-heterosexual class.”

That doesn't mean we should put any more labels on people than they already have; it just means that diversity rules the day. Fluidity, not so much.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Please Stop Calling Gayness a 'Lifestyle'

Okay, straight people, listen up. Gayness is not a lifestyle. It's not a choice. It's not a preference.

It is a biological condition. A genetic manifestation. Innate. Something you're born with.

X Chromosome
According to biologists the X chromosome and chromosome 8 seem to be heavily involved in determining sexuality. There is a great deal more to be learned but genetics is, without question, the key.

Which means that you can no more "unlearn" gayness than you can change your eye color. You can't wish away a genetic predisposition to baldness. Believe me, I've tried. Your genes are your genes, and that's it.

So please...


That is all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

A Grandparent's Dilemma

My poor grandson has developed the same thing his poor mother, my daughter, had, and it sucks.

My daughter had childhood asthma that lasted well into adulthood, as it sometimes does. I remember so many times how absolutely petrified I was whenever she had an asthma attack, struggling to breathe, the tissues over her collarbone sucking in with each breath. Horrifying for any parent, and especially so for single parents, of which I was one.

Single parents often have no one to support their decisions, no one to consult with, no one to help calm their fears or share in the parenting load. For me, that's what proved so difficult, making the parenting decisions pretty much in isolation. I had some wonderful friends, and I dated here and there, but I didn't have a partner in my home, day in and day out, until my daughter was into her late teens.

Like every single parent, I made parenting decisions based on my knowledge of what the experts said I should do, plus what my own gut said. I did have one advantage when it came to healthcare crises: I was a practicing RN.

As a critical care nurse at the local hospital I had a host of tools at my disposal, including syringes, injectable epinephrine, and because I knew the best pediatricians and best respiratory professionals around, whatever prescriptions I needed to control her attacks. Even with all of that, though, even with all of my knowledge and medicines at the ready, her attacks scared the bejesus out of me every time.

And now my poor daughter, with no healthcare training whatsoever, has to deal with her son's sudden episodes of asthma. She lives five states and eight hours away, so it's not like I can just run over there anytime there's trouble.

When her son has an attack she sometimes calls me for feedback. I try to help but it's hard. I hear the terror in her voice, and I want so much to help her make the decisions she needs to make, but I just can't.
Should I give him more albuterol now or later?
Should I give him a dose of prednisone now? If so, how much?
Should I take him to the doctor now or wait until morning?
Is he going to be okay or am I being silly to worry about it?
He was only recently diagnosed with asthma, so my daughter is still learning about his particular needs. She will become more knowledgeable about his condition and more skilled in treating attacks and preventing new ones, absolutely, but this early period is the most difficult for a parent to deal with.
I so wish I could do more to help her through this period, but ultimately those decisions must be hers alone. And that is a frustrating, maddening, and just plain miserable feeling for any parent of an adult child.

Hang in there, my darling daughter. You can do this, and it will get better.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

As Fate Would Have It (A Story of Love Damn Near Missed)

Once upon a time, a lovely couple my wife and I know—let's call them Brian and Kathy because, you know, that's who they are—met under the most delightful circumstances, circumstances that might have never happened at all but for a barrage of fateful moments.

Moment #1: Let's Call It 'The Point of Contact'

Brian, a serious, studious business major at the university, was the manager of the cafeteria one particular day. With longish but neat, dark brown hair, glasses, and a bushy mustache of the kind in style at that time, Brian cut a managerial but approachable figure. That particular day, of all the dozens of days Brian had served as manager, was to be his last there forever. He would never again step foot in that cafeteria, manager or not.

He happened to be standing, on that particular day, near the entrance to the cafeteria, gazing absentmindedly at the line of students coming through the doors. Normally students needed to show their student ID to the person manning the register to prove they were valid, enrolled students. Very strict were the people at the register, normally. But today wasn't normal, really. It was the very last day the cafeteria would be open; most students had already left for home.

From his vantage point Brian had a clear view of any student coming through the doors. That spot wasn't a typical one for him. He usually wandered the cafeteria and kitchen area, checking this and that, answering questions, and making sure the entire operation flowed smoothly. He didn't stay long at that particular spot on that particular day either, just a very few moments. For the rest of that day, and for the rest of his life, he would never return to that spot.

Moment #2: Let's Call It 'The Bike Ride'

Kathy, a petite, bouncy, talented voice major with wavy, shoulder-length brown hair and bright, brown eyes, was wearing overalls that day, with a white tee shirt and a pair of sandals. She had just moved off campus, so she wasn't supposed to be eating in the cafeteria anymore.

She was exhausted from moving. She was completely broke, didn't even have change in her purse. Her hair was a mess, she had no makeup on, and she was hungry, so very, very hungry.

She thought, If I can get into the cafeteria without having to pay, I can eat and then tuck some food for later inside the bib of my overalls. So she hopped on her bicycle and rode to campus, about three miles away. She prayed, first, that no one would she knew would see her looking like such a wreck and, then, most of all, that the cafeteria people wouldn't give her any trouble.

Kathy parked the bike outside the cafeteria doors and cautiously headed inside, head down, arms in pockets, like a convict on the run. She arrived just in time to notice the manager—Brian? Was that his name?—standing on the other side of the registers. Oh, great.

Moment #3: Let's Call It 'The Feeling'

Brian decided that it was time to check on the kitchen. That was the precise second when he spotted a pretty, brown-haired coed walking in. She had her head down but he could still make out her features. Hmmm.

The girl walked by him and headed toward the food stations. Brian turned to a colleague, who had just wandered next to him, and said, "See that girl? I'm going to ask her out."

"You?" his coworker asked. "You've never done anything like that, Brian. No, I don't think you'll do anything with that girl."

But there he went, making a beeline for the girl with the brown hair. Without knowing why but knowing absolutely that he must, Brian swept up behind the girl and tapped her shoulder.

Moment #4: Let's Call It 'Busted!'

Oh, no, thought the girl. He's going to ask for my ID. Now what?

The girl turned and looked up at the manager, someone she had seen in the cafeteria many times. He said, "Hi. I'm Brian, and I was wondering if you would like to go out sometime."

Wait, what? He's asking me out? Hallelujah, I'm okay! I can eat!

"Uh, yeah, okay," the girl stammered. "I guess so."

"Great," said Brian, "what's your number?"

There were no cell phones in those days, so the girl grabbed a nearby napkin, wrote her number as fast as she could, and gave it to Brian. As Brian looked down at the napkin, the girl dashed away.

Moment #5: Let's Call It 'The Singer'

As soon as she walked away, Brian's stomach dropped. He realized he hadn't asked her name. Now what?

He knew that if he couldn't discover the girl's name, he would never call her, ever. He just wouldn't. He would just rip up the napkin and toss it in the trash, and that would be that. No, he had to get her name. He turned to the nearest food counter and asked the girl behind it, "Trish, do you know that girl's name?"

As fate would have it, that particular girl on that particular day happened to be a voice major. Not a biology major. Not an English major. Not even a business major. No, Trish was a voice major, the same major as the girl.

"I think her name is Kathy," answered Trish. And it was.

Moment #6: Let's Call It 'The Call'

A couple of days later Kathy was sitting in her new apartment, watching the telephone technician finish installing her phone line. Seconds after he told her, "Okay, you're all set," the phone rang while still in his hand.

Kathy figured it was the phone company testing the line, but then she heard the guy say, "Hello? Yes, it is. Yeah, sure. Ma'am, it's for you."

Are you kidding me? Kathy was dumbfounded. How could anyone be calling her? She hadn't given anyone her number ... oh, wait. Yes, she had given the new number to the guy in the cafeteria. Brian, was it?

Sure enough, it was Brian, asking her to dinner. They talked, she said yes, and a few days later Kathy and Brian went on their first date. That was 33 years ago, and they've been together every day since.

Today, whenever Brian and Kathy tell the story of how they met, they ponder all the what-ifs. What if Brian hadn't been standing at the entrance at that particular time on that particular day? What if traffic lights had delayed Kathy's bike ride even 30 seconds? What if Brian hadn't acted on that sudden, irresistible, completely foreign impulse to ask someone he had never spoken to out on a date? What if Trish hadn't been a voice major and hadn't known the name of that girl? What if Brian had placed that phone call before the technician had installed the new phone line instead of after? Would he have ever called back?

Luckily for them, and us, all the stars aligned and these two wonderful people found each other.

Just in time.

P.S. Brian attended a college reunion a couple of years ago and happened to come upon that colleague who had told Brian that he wouldn't "do anything with that girl." The man asked Brian, "Whatever happened to her?"

"I married her," Brian said. "I married her."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gotta LUV That Spam!

And now, a short piece composed entirely of sentences and phrases of e-mail subject lines of spam messages I've actually received. No lie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

No Politics on the Golf Course!

So today I played a round of golf with three very pleasant guys. (I played horribly. I think maybe I was going back too far in the backswing, I'm not sure. But I digress.)

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Politicians on the course, good.
Political talk on the course, not good.
They were very pleasant indeed. One of the gentlemen had been a pilot for several airlines and had shuttled around the world major league baseball teams, LPGA players, George W. Bush, President Obama, when he was a candidate, Barbara Streisand and her husband James Brolin, and many more big names. Very cool.

This pleasant gentleman also called President Obama "the antichrist."

Well, isn't that just ducky.

Thanks to a conversation on the fifth tee, I discovered that all three of the men were raging Republicans and were thrilled with the recent election's outcome. "What did you think of the election," one asked, "did you like it?"

"Loved it!"


One asked me if I liked it.


And then I shut up. I let them talk. I hated that they had even brought the election up, but then they were best friends and had been for many years, so really, I was the interloper. I took the high ground and bit my tongue. And lip. And half of my middle finger.

I shut up because it was the better part of valor—and also, I must admit, because I had been playing wretchedly and just didn't need to get all exorcised.

All in all, I had a nice time, but I do wish people would avoid talking politics or religion on the golf course.

I don't need the stress, man!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Maybe It Won't Be All Right

Donald Trump, a despicable human being, won the presidential election last night, and I am scared out of my mind about what he might do.

  • How many troops will die in a war he is almost certain to start?
  • How many poor people will die without the care they would have received from the Affordable Care Act, if he succeeds in dismantling it?
  • How many LGBTQ individuals will lose their job when laws protecting them are torn apart?
  • How many blacks will be jailed or killed while we make America great again (read: reverting to a time of overt, unjustified, and officially sanctioned racism)?

I wonder whether the political system is strong enough to prevent Trump and his Republican Senate and House from destroying Social Security, reversing gay marriage rights, or repealing Roe v. Wade. Whether we'll be strong enough to prevent the start of a faux-democratic dictatorship. Whether Trump and the Supreme Court justices he ends up appointing will eventually demolish the social gains we've made through FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society.

I hated Nixon, and I couldn't stand George W. Bush and his evil sidekick, but I was never as afraid for my country as I am now. I was never as ashamed of my country as I am now. I was never as disgusted with the outcome of an election as I am now.

Presidents tend to moderate once in office, but this president-elect, this destructive, misogynistic, racist, mentally disturbed cretin is different. No one knows what he will do in office, what kind of damage he will do, what kind of havoc he will wreak. We've never faced an enemy like this, and it scares me senseless.

Now, maybe he'll be okay. Maybe he'll moderate and collaborate. Maybe he won't be as destructive as I think. If so, I'll be enormously, eternally grateful.

But I'm not betting on it.

Now, I'll give the man a chance out of the gate, I really will. I promise.

But I also promise this: If he proves as Trumpy as he has in the campaign, as I believe he will, I will fight as hard as I can any stupid, corrupt, hateful, insane ideas. I will join any rebellion against him and scream with delight when he is finally, inevitably overthrown.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rock, Paper, Scissors. Garbage.

Okay, I admit it. I have no clue how Rock, Paper, Scissors works.

I mean, I know Scissors beats Paper. It can cut paper, so it wins.

But what's the deal with Rock? I mean, doesn't Rock win all the time? It can beat the bejeebers out of Paper, certainly, and can absolutely destroy Scissors.

So why doesn't everyone throw Rock all the time?

See? I'm missing something.

Moments later.

Okay, I just looked up the rules. Really, I did.

Seems that Paper "covers" Rock? So Paper wins over Rock? How lame is that? Rock, what, just sits there and lets itself get covered? What a whuss.

That's it. I'm done with Rock, Paper, Scissors. It's One Potato, Two Potato for me all the way!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Getting Ready to Rumble! Or, You Know, Write.

My first two weeks of retirement have been spent partly getting used to being retired and mostly working around the house, doing a bunch of things I needed to do and normally would have done on weekends.

Well, I'm almost finished with those kinds of things and will soon be really digging into my writing. I've got so far a pretty solid idea for a trade biography and one for a smaller biography for teens. I'm still working through the concepts and may, in the end, ditch them both, but it's a good start.

I'm trying, for these first projects at least, to kind of stay within my strengths and knowledge areas. I think that's safest, but then again, it might be better to break away from that approach and take a leap. We'll see.

Okay, that's it for now.

Wait, there's one more thing. Make sure you get out there and vote. For Hillary.

Not for that moronic, insane, disgusting pile of ass dandruff. You know the one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Newly Retired and Loving It...So Far

There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
— Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes
I've been hugely fortunate in my life to do the things I've wanted to do and get paid for them. I loved my time as an operating room technician (now called a surgical technician). I loved most of the years I practiced nursing, especially those spent in the ICU/CCU (now called the SICU and MICU) and in alcohol and drug rehab. I loved my years teaching nursing, especially my course on geriatric nursing. And I've fully enjoyed my time publishing reference and textbooks for a variety of healthcare students, from medical assisting to nursing to physician assistant students. It's time now to switch gears and do something else I want to do. I just won't get paid for it. Bummer. I retired on September 30, 2016, and so far, I'm loving it.

Here are my thank you's from my "work" blog in case you missed them.

Thank You

I've met so many wonderful people over the years that I couldn't possibly thank them all for their many kindnesses. But here are some friends and colleagues, some living, some now gone, I'm extraordinarily grateful for having known:
  • Nancy Macaulay, friend, mentor, and nurse extraordinaire
  • Pat Schull, the best business mind I've ever known and an incredible person to boot
  • Nancy Webb, by far the best editor I've ever worked with
  • Vince Marteka, who helped refine and strengthen my writing in his warm and welcoming way
  • Rob Craven, Jr., for his generosity and for helping me find golf again
  • Nancy Dunbar, a ridiculously good nurse gone far too soon
  • Glenn Bricker, MD, who helped point me to a career in healthcare a waaay long time ago
I would like to express my gratitude as well for the honor of knowing and working with many magnificent authors, people who moved me through their friendship, professionalism, and dedication, Here are some of them, in no particular order:
  • Sharon Eagle, bravery beyond compare
  • The amazing and wonderful Carol Tamparo, and also her delightful husband Tom
  • Cindi, Cheri, and Candy, my marvelous drinkin' buddies
  • Sue Perreira, that great ball of fire
  • Mort Diamond, O! Great Man O' Words
  • Jim Cawley, Rod Hooker, and Mona Sedrak, the perfect trio of dinner guests
  • Connie Lieseke, Terri Brame, Jackie Thelian, and Nancy Gardner, who didn't benefit from their terrific books anywhere near as much as they should have
  • The remarkable Debbie Sullivan
  • Bill Tindall, Ed Weber, and Dennis Blessing
  • Arlene Muller, Scott Massey, Jack Coulehan, and Marian Block
  • The incredible Barbara Gylys and her hugely talented daughter Regina
  • Gary White, a multitalented rock star

What's Next?

So, what's next for me? Well, at this point I have three adorable grandchildren to fuss over. I have many books I want to read and many golf courses to bungle my way through. Mostly I want to write what I want to write, not what someone else wants me to write, and right now that's a biography. I haven't settled on a topic yet, but I hope to soon. First, though, I'm going to do a whole bunch of nothing for a few weeks, which actually may be the last time I'll be able to do so for many years to come. At least one can hope. Farewell, godspeed, and thank you.