Friday, May 30, 2014

The Vaccine Controversy

Once upon a time in the first half of the twentieth century and for centuries before that, there were numerous diseases that could kill you. OK, here in the first part of the twenty-first century there are still many diseases that can kill you. The sad part is that some of these diseases were almost eradicated.

Polio is one of the most significant of these illnesses. In the early 1950's and before, parents were terrified of this debilitating and often fatal disease that usually struck children. There were other diseases that often spread like wildfire, measles, mumps, chicken pox, whooping cough and others that were less serious but not benign or without consequences. Then there was the Salk polio vaccine. It was like a miracle. You get a shot or two and polio was no longer a threat. Our parents couldn't get us inoculated fast enough. The normal procedure was to go to a school or some other public building on a Saturday to get a free polio shot. Besides our parents, the government was anxious to rid us of this devastating affliction. I'm old enough to have gotten some of the earliest polio vaccine shots. It was at a public school in my neighborhood with hundreds of other kids. I didn't attend that school but that was the designated place. The inoculations were widely advertised and promoted by TV, radio, newspapers, schools and churches. And they were free. The government realized that prevention was far more economical than treatment after the fact not to mention the reduction of family pain and grief.

There was no concern about mercury in the vaccine, autism or for that matter any side effects. The stuff they were shooting into our arm would, for the most part, prevent polio. Polio was the enemy, polio was a killer and crippler of children. With the help of government, parents and schools we virtually eliminated polio by the final quarter of the last century in this country. There was the occasional isolated case and a few scattered breakouts but for the most part polio was gone. The Salk polio vaccine shot gave way to the Sabin oral vaccine. No more shots, you just ingested a sugar cube that had been infused with the vaccine. I seem to remember that it was pink.

After the polio vaccine success, other diseases were targeted. There were breakthroughs in mumps, measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and others over the years. All of these are survivable for the most part but have consequences for many. The vaccine for all these diseases when I was growing up was to catch the bug, sometimes a little on purpose to get it over with. I had mumps, measles and chicken pox as a child, They ran through classrooms and schools in waves. Once you had the disease you were immune. Now there are vaccines to prevent these illnesses before they and their side effects infected their victims. From my experience, none of these ailments were pleasurable. Mumps hurt my ears and throat, measles and chicken pox were uncomfortable and itchy. There was fever and achiness involved. With the measles I had to stay in a darkened room because of some issue with bright light. I'm not sure if that was/is real or some old wive's tale. It meant no TV or reading plus I was moved to the guest bedroom which faced north and only had one window. My bedroom had west and south facing windows. The radio was my friend. Worst of all, I had to miss some school time. OK, that was actually the best part. Plus Mom was very sympathetic.

After several generations of effective vaccines and aggressive dissemination we had virtually eliminated these diseases. Now because of wars, terrorism, politics, religious objections, stupidity, selfishness, fake science and a few celebrity kooks we have reduced inoculations or rebelled against vaccines. The problem with this selfish resistance to vaccines is that it only takes a few unprotected people to allow the disease to reappear and regain a foothold.

There is a new measles outbreak in United States this year. Supposedly the worst since the disease was virtually eliminated by vaccines. One of the sad facts about this outbreak is that those who decided not to be vaccinated spread measles to those who can't be vaccinated, like children under a year old.

That behavior seems very selfish to me. There will always be those in our society who legitimately can't be vaccinated. Some are too young, some are too old and some have medical conditions that prohibit vaccination. Barring those reasons everybody else should be in favor of eliminating these diseases. Religious opposition to good health and elimination of unnecessary pain, suffering and death seems backwards. The fact that these illnesses were almost eliminated when people were being vaccinated and now they are reappearing when people are skipping the shots should be proof that they work.

The autism argument doesn't seem to hold water. Every legitimate study has shown that there is no connection between youth vaccinations and autism. I'm not naive enough to think that we don't have an issue with increased incidents of autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies and other conditions with our children. Part of the increase in cases has got to be due to better and more aggressive diagnosis. Some of these conditions were not even identified when I was a child so obviously they couldn't be diagnosed. That fact aside, I think there have been environmental, diet and behavioral changes in the last 40 years that have contributed to the increase in these conditions. I have thoughts on those issues too but I'll save that for another time.

In this world where people can transverse the globe in hours we need to be more diligent than ever. We need to eradicate the diseases we can at the source and protect those in other places for the times those viruses hop a plane or ship. When science  gives us a 99.98% cure for a devastating problem, we should accept it. When the vaccine is effective at prevention and elimination of side effects or death we should embrace it.

Fake science, fear mongering and a few bimbo celebrities should not be able to trump the medical facts. Always do the research and always question your doctor. That said, don't give more credence to Jenny McCarthy than you do to your doctor, the Journal of Pediatrics or other reputable medical publications.

I'm not sure of the exact way to solve this problem. I'm not in favor of arresting people for refusing a shot or tying them down while the vaccine police inoculate them. I am in favor of denying access to public schools for those who lack the proper vaccinations. Maybe denial of reentry into the US after a trip abroad without the required vaccinations or a quarantine period. No get out of jail free card for moral, social or even religious objections. If you feel so strongly that vaccinations are evil then either home school your kids or start an inoculation free school. Don't join the local youth athletic program either.

We all have to make sacrifices to live in society. We have rules and laws about driving, taxes, zoning, watering our lawns, vehicle inspections, trespassing and a million others. Most without religious, fake science or celebrity exceptions. Why can't vaccinations be included among the stuff we have to do to live in society or suffer the consequences or pay the price if we don't.

This balance of personal freedoms versus societal needs is always tricky. I usually come down on the side of personal choice and freedom. In this case I deviate from that norm because innocent children are involved. Little Johnny doesn't deserve to get polio, measles, smallpox or mumps because you have an objection to getting a shot. Get with the program or stay isolated.

Agree, disagree, think I'm nuts?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Rhetoric vs Reality

This past Monday, May 26, 2014, was Memorial Day. A day we remember and honor those members of the armed forces who died in their service to our country. It has unofficially expanded into a day we also thank all veterans and those on active duty. It is good to remember these men and women who paid the ultimate price for us. It doesn't matter whether the war, police action or conflict was one you personally agreed with or ultimately proved to be a good use of our military forces. That's an issue for our political leaders and historians to debate. Those who died during their service were doing what was asked of them by our country regardless of their personal feelings. Up until 1973 they may have even been forced to serve through the draft. We owe them everything. Since our country has been in so many wars, every generation has suffered a loss.

I delayed this post until after Memorial Day because I didn't want to clash with that noble and needed remembrance. What I have to say will probably piss off some readers.

This country has become one in which rhetoric and reality are no where near in sync. That disconnect spreads across many areas but I will narrow in on the treatment of our service men and woman and veterans. I'm sure you saw or participated in all kinds of Memorial Day celebrations. PBS had a special on Sunday night, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) aired war movies all weekend, every newscast covered the local festivities, there were celebrations, events and parades all over the country. And while Memorial Day is a somber, sad and poignant day for many, it is also the unofficial beginning of summer and barbecue season. Most importantly it is a big day for retail sales, 30%, 40%, 50% or more off everything, especially mattresses.
In Texas and some other states you can buy certain "Energy ☆" rated appliances tax free. It only mildly bothers me that many people think Memorial Day is just another three day weekend that is meant for grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and drinking beer. I suspect those people haven't been touched by the sacrifices of war. I'm not saying we should stop having cook-outs or we shouldn't take advantage of the sales at Walmart, Sears or Sleep Experts. Families that have suffered the loses get together around the grill and they need to save a few bucks too. Let's just remember our heroes first.

This is the reason for Memorial Day.
Normandy American Cemetery - 9,387 Combat Death Graves 

While I don't feel any animosity toward the grillin' and chillin' individuals, I can't say the same about our national political leaders. I would bet that 99% of our US senators and house representatives were out sometime during the Memorial Day weekend giving a speech about how they value our active armed services members, veterans and especially those who gave their life. Then on Tuesday (or whenever they finally go back to work) they will return to Washington D.C. and find new ways to screw both active and retired service personnel. These screwings may be direct or by omission. They are not the exclusive province of either political party. Both Democrats and Republicans have been equally guilty. This is also not just a 2014 problem. We have been screwing our service men and women almost constantly since the American Revolution. It would take too much time to outline all the broken promises.

As I write this, the news is full of stories about the problems with the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospitals. If you think this is a new problem, you are probably under 20 years old. The VA has been a mess for years. The mess has transpired over multiple administrations and congresses. During these messes, we hear the same indignant and amazed statements from every politician in the country. They say that this "is not acceptable", "we owe these veterans everything", "we made a promise to these brave men and women", and on and on... A couple of years ago we had the budget sequestration (is that even a real word?) that required across the board cuts including the military. No rhyme or reason to the cuts. We have weapon systems and other equipment that are funded based on which congressional district they will have an economic impact on and produce jobs in. No regard to whether they are what the Pentagon asked for or needs. Some of the latest budgets submitted by the Pentagon cut housing allowances and rate of pay increases. There are proposals to eliminate PBX and BX stores, yet over $100 million in food stamps were used in those stores. There is talk of reducing the retirement benefits both by dollar amount and when they can be collected.

It used to be that once a sailor, marine, soldier or airman got home from combat, they were pretty safe. It now appears that the VA may be as dangerous as the battle field.

For the uninformed, the fact that someone can retire after twenty years of service even though they may still be in their forties may seem generous. In some ways it is but military service is not a normal career. Never mind the fact that you might get shot at or killed doing your job, there are other differences. You also get to be separated from your family for extended periods of time. You, and your family, are sent to wherever the Navy, Marines, Army or Air Force want you. Your spouse may or may not be able to find a job at each location let alone establish a career. The kids will attend a half dozen or more schools, trying to fit in and make new friends. I went to school with many of the same kids for 12 years. Several are still dear friends to this day. Service brats don't get to do that.

This country in general and the Pentagon in particular piss away enough money every few days to take care of the active personnel and veterans. Just close a couple of outmoded and inefficient bases in some powerful congress member's district. Why are there Navy bases in Indiana or North Dakota?  How can we have a new aircraft program (F-35) that is billions and billions of dollars over budget and years late? We seem to be able to piss away millions and billions on equipment, weapon systems and bases but we can't find a couple of bucks to make life better for the troops.

Many of us have heard cliches similar to "it's not what you say but what you do that counts". If that is true then our executive and legislative branches of government have been complete failures. They will all be out campaigning on a strong military and support for the troops platforms. Unfortunately when push comes to shove they will vote for the new laser nerf solar powered ballistic missile system assembled in their district, but against increased pay or benefits for the military personnel.

Everybody says how much we appreciate the members of our military. Some of you may actually mean it. Unfortunately actions speak louder than words. Our government speaks one way and acts another. Businesses brag about hiring veterans yet the unemployment rate for veterans is higher than non-veterans. Some businesses shy away from hiring members of the National Guard or military reserves because they fear they will be called up for active duty. With an all volunteer armed forces, fewer families are impacted than in the past. Hardly any wealthy or even middle class families feel the effects of our wars or often shoddy treatment of our military personnel. Others of us worry about our loved ones in the military every day. That worry often continues long after active duty. Hopefully there is an after active duty to worry about. This lack of evenly distributed pain and sacrifice is one of our problems. Those sacrificing are now a rather small minority. Underfunded minorities stand little chance in our current political landscape.

The Defense Department, the VA and their medical facilities should be the best funded, most efficient parts of our government. Sadly they are neither.  

The rhetoric was especially thick around Memorial Day. The actions will be especially thin in the weeks to come.

Thank you to all who have, are now or will serve in our military. You all deserve better from your government and fellow citizens.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Scattershooting 05-25-14

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great

Leo Durocher 

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

Seems like good advice -

Monday (5/19) was the 40th anniversary of the Rubik's cube and I still haven't solved it.

How ridiculous do you have to be for fellow Fox News pundits to say you've gone too far? Pretty F-ing ridiculous. This is the network that thinks Cliven Bundy is a patriot.

But first these messages -

For some reason the Fort Worth Star-Telegram thought it would be good marketing to deliver a free newspaper on Tuesday morning. The problem is it was a Sunday paper. Is delivering three day old news really an enticement? I stopped taking the paper over a year ago. The price kept going up and the paper kept getting smaller. I don't remember what the rate was when I stopped but the paper seems even smaller. You know what I discovered, the internet and TV are full of news. Think I'll resist this clever marketing campaign.
This innovative sink may be a good idea, but I'm pretty sure Little Johnny is going to pee in it at some point.

God @TheTweetOfGod - 
If you say something stupid and then defend it by saying "I have a right to say it," you've now said two stupid things.

It's the third Hump Day of this National Bike Month. Another great day in D/FW for a ride. So find a hill to pedal over. Your choice, one or two humps. Happy biking.


This stuff is delicious. How can you go wrong smoke, jalapenos and cheese. Break out the Triscuits and enjoy.

My little red buddy stopped by for a snack today. He doesn't often come this close to the patio window.

I did not know this -


Monday, May 19, 2014

Old Age Onset ADD

Is it possible that the older we get the more our probably always present attention deficit disorder (ADD) comes to the fore? I think I've always been rather easily distracted but there was usually a school assignment to finish, job to get done, a deadline to meet or a goal to achieve. The daily jobs, deadlines and goals have either been eliminated or the schedule is much more flexible. That can be both good and bad.

The terms for this behavior have changed over the years. When I was growing up very active kids were called rambunctious, wild, hell-raiser, rowdy or usually just plain trouble-makers. Kids who didn't or couldn't pay attention or concentrate were labelled as slow or dumb. Neither behavior was ever thought of as a medical or mental condition. By the time my generation had children, the words attention deficit had entered our vocabulary. A couple of years later hyperactive got added into the equation. So what was once attention deficit disorder (ADD) is now attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I'm confident that shortly our medical, educational and government bureaucracy will find another condition to add (not ADD) to the mix thereby requiring a new acronym. The possibilities are endless. You could add (again not ADD) chronic, severe, genetic, extreme, environmental, inherent, late or early onset, drug induced, natural, unnatural or a thousand other descriptors to the basic ADD. There will of course be a specific treatment, protocol and/or drug for each of these variants.

I know times change and I know this will sound like "back in my day" crap, but please look at this picture of one of my elementary school class pictures. Two things, notice the size of the class, it's over 50 (there was a second class the same size) and secondly, find the fat kid(s). There also was not an expert pediatric pharmaceutical nurse practitioner at the school. Our school was truly a drug free zone.

No one in this picture had ADD or ADHD. I don't remember a big allergy problem either. Some of them were a little rambunctious and some had trouble staying focused but that wasn't a disease, syndrome or condition. It was just being a kid. We played outside, often all day. 

In the last 50 years we have become an obese drug dependent society. I often ride my bike past an elementary school that backs up to a park with a bike trail that runs for a few miles through residential neighborhoods. There are never more than a dozen bikes in the bike rack and often there are none. I'm pretty sure those kids aren't walking to school so they are getting there by car or bus. I go to the local park to watch youth baseball and see a field full of out of shape, unengaged players. Get outside, get dirty, inhale the pollen. It will make you stronger and healthier.

Back to my original premise. I'm sure I have ADD. I'm also sure I don't have ADHD. there is no hyper involved in my behavior. The reasons I think I'm an ADD guy is that I can not watch TV without doing stuff on my PC and/or tablet or reading some old style paper based media. I have eight blog posts partially written in draft mode. I currently have three books next to my recliner that are partially read. There are a few other books scattered around that have been started. I often get sidetracked on Google or my way to the kitchen. When I retire for the day I hit the power button on the radio next to my bed. Sometimes I get up after tossing around for a couple of hours. Seems I can't turn the brain off.  Of course I'm watching the morning news on TV while I type this post. 

Now I  have to admit that once I do get to sleep I can run off 10, 12, 16, 20 hours straight. I can also stay up for a day or two or three straight. My internal clock is truly screwed up. Thank you all those years of 24 hour IT support and night shifts. Yet, I don't feel the need to take drugs like Lunesta to go to sleep or Modafinil to stay awake.
Without the need to meet work imposed schedules and deadlines, I have become more ADD. When I think of something, I better do it immediately because in approximately 22.85403296 nanoseconds I will be distracted and forget the original task. I must leave this room with a purpose or I'll forget the task by the time I get to the next room which is about 6' (4 steps) away. Have no fear though, I'll have about 34 other thoughts/ideas on the way. 

I do often wish I could stay more focused. I'd like to finish the three or four books I have started. I have
plenty more on the to-be-read shelf. I'd like to finish the blog posts still in draft mode. I have other topics in the queue. I'd like to remember why in the hell I went into the kitchen or study or bed room or bathroom.  Wait, I usually do remember why I went into the bathroom. I do that more often than in the past.

I like the lack of schedules and structure in my life, I just wish I could remember why I opened the refrigerator. Oh wait, the fridge is where I keep the beer. That is most likely why I opened that large cooling appliance in my kitchen.

Stay focused -


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Scattershooting 05-18-14

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great

Sandy Koufax 

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

Bet your kids don't get this one.

From Twitter -
God @TheTweetOfGod 
Overwhelming scientific evidence suggests a startling number of people are capable of ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence.

It was another Bicycle Month Hump Day. A kind of cool May day here in D/FW but fine for a bike ride.

It keeps on keeping on. Today the Rangers placed two more of their starting pitchers, Perez and Harrison, on the DL. One might need Tommy John surgery and one may need a spinal fusion. In a related story, they also unveiled their new logo.
Friday (5/16) was Bike To Work Day. I don't have any work to bike to but I'll figure out some other destination. Have a great day, ride a bike.

Time for testing. Just downloaded the ISO and booted from a USB stick. Plenty to test but new Mint releases are usually very solid. The Mate version is available too.

Saturday (5/17) was the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that struck down school segregation and the whole "separate but equal" farce. It would take more than ten years to implement the ruling in many places. Some of us lived through that often ugly period. We still have work to do.

Sunday morning while I was at Panera eating breakfast I noticed an electric bike chained to the same post I had chained my bike to earlier. Mine is on the other side of the patio screen. I later saw the rider, an old guy, crank it up and take off. He was on full power, no pedaling at all. Even later another old guy got on my bike and took off. He had to pedal.

I've posted a couple of things today about the Panera in Hurst, TX. One more thing. I got to the store about the time they opened at 7:30. There was already a short line to order. Before 7:45 I had ordered and gotten my coffee from an almost empty decanter/thermos (light roast) at the coffee counter. I chose a table by the window overlooking the outdoor patio since my bike was chained just outside that patio. I noticed one of the patio tables had dirty soup bowls, dishes and cups on it, obviously from the day before. I was there for over an hour and the patio table never got bused and the coffee decanter never got refilled. The place was not very busy, moderately steady but no big rush. Seems a little negligent. My breakfast sandwich was very good as was what coffee I was able to get. Maybe some management training and employee kickass is in order. The little details count.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Scattershooting 05-11-14

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great

Warren Spahn

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

Hope everyone had a Happy Cinco de Mayo. We had to power through the lime shortage this year.

2 + 2 = ?

Happy birthday (5/6) to Willie Mays. The best baseball player ever and my childhood sports hero. Say Hey Willie.

Wednesday was the the first hump day of National Bike Month. Enjoy.

Since Thursday was the closest #TBT to Mother's Day I chose this picture. It is one of Mom's favorite times. She had all the Holmes boys together. It was July 1996. This didn't happen often enough due to the age difference of the grandkids and our spread out family. Love you Mom and miss you. 

Thanks to all the military spouses, especially my great daughter-in-law.

What a great day for a bike ride. Temps in the mid 80's, no wind, a little overcast. Everything is green and the creeks have water flowing thanks to yesterday's rains. The bluebonnets are in bloom. As an added bonus I got a very low electric bill today too. No A/C and no heat needed for the past month. Springtime in Texas is pretty damn nice.

Got my notice today that Netflix is increasing their price to $9/mo. I thought it would be a bigger increase. They also said that because I'm already a subscriber my rate will stay at $8/mo for two years. Either way it's a bargain. House of Cards by itself is almost worth the cost. Watch good stuff on your phone, tablet, PC or TV.

Happy Mother's Day! A special thanks to all mothers, especially to my dear departed Mom, the mothers of my two sons and the mother of my two grandsons.