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.