Monday, December 17, 2007

Entrapping a predator?

Living in Florida, I know a little something about gators. They are natural hunters in search of prey. That’s all they do. When silly humans do stupid things, like throw morsels of food at them, being kind and all, they don’t realize they are sealing the reptile’s fate. No longer will that alligator live in fear of people. They will move in on civilization and seek out food. Cats, dogs and children become easy targets. Professional trappers are called to take care of the problem. They will be destroyed in most cases because once they lose fear, your home is their home. Gators and humans have certain things in common, uncannily. Both are hunters/gatherers. Both are predators. Humans are intellectually superior, though, and we can rationalize. Unfortunately, the desire to pounce sometimes outweighs the fear of being caught and those types become more like the animal that must be trapped and dealt with. Human error. Unfortunately, for some gators, that's human error, too.

I read an article online that took aim at NBC and the author called it, “the predator network” for airing its series, “To Catch A Predator”. Personally, the article offended me. I am familiar with that writer, and by his own admission, he has no children, and cannot speak for the millions of parents out there, yet, he became the supreme authority on the subject. NBC is taking advantage of sick minds and profiting from the venture, he said. I asked if his intent was not to make money off the sales of his books? Is NBC not a business out to make money? So what if they take these people off the streets of America while making a buck? At the same time, aren’t they enlightening parents and others the world over about the evils lurking out there? He started his post by stating it’s “where pedophiles are entrapped in online chat rooms and in-person…” to justify his defense of sick minds and went on to explain why they should not be incarcerated. They should be treated medically. He closed his comments with a question about why parents don’t know what their children are doing on the Internet. No mother and father can police their children 24 hours a day. Parents can’t stand there watching intently over their shoulders as children research school projects and chat with legitimate friends. They have other obligations, like fixing meals and doing laundry. Things only parents know about. If he had a 13 year old child and the same scenario arose, would he be singing the same tune?Let's start off by describing what the term entrapment means. According to Wikipedia:

In jurisprudence, entrapment is a legal defense by which a defendant may argue that he or she should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law, because he/she was induced (or entrapped) by the police to commit those acts.

Note the words, “legal defense.” This means charges have been filed. Let’s allow the court system to sort this out according to community standards. What plays in Peoria might not carry a tune in New York City and that’s why one person should not make the call here. What about undercover sting operations? They can be highly successful. Imagine, provocatively dressed working girls standing on street corners waiting for johns may just be employed by the police department. Is it wrong to stop a potential crime before it occurs? Is “to catch a [potential] rapist/murderer” in such a manner entrapment? Clearly, what plays in Peoria does carry a tune in New York and soliciting a prostitute, whether real or planted, is against the law.

Recently, an attempted robbery took place in Statesville, NC, and the whole thing was captured on video tape. After the alleged robber forced the employee into the office to open the safe, he pulled the trigger at the worker’s head. MISFIRE! The employee took his only chance at that most opportune time to defend himself. After a struggle, the robber relented and fled. Because the gun misfired, the robber can’t be charged with murder if he’s ever caught. Could he be charged with attempted murder instead, along with other crimes? You bet. The attempted murder charge applies because the intent was there. The quasi-inducement was knowing there’s a safe inside that business. “Well, Your Honor, my client wouldn’t have robbed the place if there was no safe, no money.”

In the case of child predators, I’ve heard, “Besides, the person they’re going after is no child at all. He/she’s an adult pretending to be underage. How did they hurt a child when none even existed and no real physical contact occurred? That’s entrapment!” If a person hires a hit man to kill someone and the assassin is really an undercover law enforcement agent, can the perpetrator be charged with a crime? How can entrapment be part of the defense when the person solicited the cop, not the other way around? The “hit man” was no more of an assassin than the young boy or girl were underage and it’s the same with child predators. They purposely seek out chat rooms and personal blogs in search of children. They do the initial soliciting. Many times, they describe what they’d like to do with those underage bodies and attach explicit photos of themselves. Should that be legal, too, protected by free speech?

Because of that author’s rejection of incarceration and belief that sexual predators and offenders should be sent to mental health institutions for rehabilitation, shouldn’t those options be left in the hands of the court system instead? Let the law work, not one man's opinion. Who writes the laws? If you don’t like them, vote. Any candidate who wants to give predators a break would never get elected.

Are prisons only meant for those who actually commit horrible crimes against children and get caught? Or should there be no prisons at all, no matter what the crime? Everyone guilty of a crime should be sent to mental health institutions? What about that author? If we were standing face to face, I’d be tempted to wring his neck and I am a very nonviolent man. I don’t need to say I can’t stand the thought of an adult touching a child. Lock them up and throw away the key as far as I’m concerned. What would he choose to do to me in that fictional scenario? Jail, along with NBC’s broadcasting license? Yes, he’d be the first to call the police, but I know what he says about them, too, and it’s not pretty. It's also selective. He gets to play God, but he doesn't believe in him, either. Very confusing, isn't it?

In any event, I can hear myself telling the judge, “Your Honor, I did perform a violent act against an adult with the common sense of a 5 year old. He induced me! It was entrapment!”

Sunday, November 25, 2007



Five years ago, two days shy of the first anniversary of one of America's saddest days, I visited Ground Zero. This isn't a story about that. This is about how, on that day, I became the proud owner of a very nice Navy blue shirt with the NYPD logo embroidered on the left breast. I also have a matching hat. It's a fine looking shirt and they're both the genuine things. If you ask me how I got them, I may have to, well, never mind. Let's just say I have my "connections", if you know what I mean. I seldom wear the shirt, so it's in very good shape. One time, a friend asked me to help with a delivery at the business she managed. I happened to be wearing the shirt that day. I went outside and the truck driver got very nervous for some strange reason. Here we are in Florida, probably not where the driver was from, and the guy was clearly afraid of that shirt. Maybe, he was wanted up there, but even if I was an NYPD cop, what could I have done to him here? Make a citizen's arrest? The cops would laugh at me and tell me to go home and change into my Superman costume.

Almost without fail, whenever I'd wear it, I'd get asked the same question, "You NYPD?" I got kind of tired of coming up with an answer explaining how I came to own it, knowing that I'd have to kill them if I told them the truth, so I changed my answer.

"Retired," I'd say, and that was the end of it. Nobody asked me any more questions about it, like, what precinct and so on. Besides, I'm in my fifties and I could have easily had a long, distinguished and highly decorated career by now as one of New York's Finest. One simple response ended the discussion and I never worried too much, because these were always people I didn't know and would more than likely never see again. I knew I couldn't get in any kind of trouble, anyway. After all, I wasn't impersonating an officer, I was impersonating a retired person and anyone who is stupid enough to believe an out of shape guy like me could have been an NYPD cop is, well, let's just say I know of a certain bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn I could sell them. Cheap, too.

A couple of years ago or so, I was hanging around my favorite watering hole, Spatz, in Winter Park, when an older gentleman walked in. Mind you, my days of drinking are pretty much over, but not then. The man bellied up to the bar and sat down next to me. He noticed my shirt.

"You NYPD?"


"No kidding? I'm retired from the Detroit Police Department!" he said, excitedly. (At least, I think that's the city he said, but I wouldn't testify to it.) Then I thought, what if he starts talking police stuff to me? He did, like we were old pals. I've had plenty of police friends throughout the years, from chiefs to PO's, state police, sheriffs, detectives, you name it. I used to play poker and get drunk with a few of them, so I had no problem talking to the guy. We were in a bar. Bar talk is cheap.

"What were you, a patrol officer?" I asked. You know, a beat cop.

"Yup," he responded. Then, he went on to tell me how he used to take money from tow truck drivers. It was payola. Come and tow this car. Pay me. He said he made a couple of hundred bucks a week skimming that and other ways. They all did it, he said, like it was routine.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Hell, no. You were a cop. New York City. You know exactly what I'm talking about."

"Of course I do, but no matter what business I'm in, I would never take money. Never." I was offended by what he was telling me, I don't like crooked cops, but I guess I started it by lying to him about my profession in the first place and playing along with him.

"You never took any grafts? Just what did you do for the New York City Police Department?"

"Internal Affairs." I don't know why that popped out of my mouth, but suddenly, his whole demeanor changed. He stopped talking. The friendly smile disappeared. I turned to answer someone else and when I looked back, he was gone. Just like that. I don't know where he went, but I'm sure he thought I'm no pal of his. Cops don't like the IAD. I guess it's kind of like the IRS or Homeland Security sniffing around your household, asking questions. They make you feel guilty even if you didn't do anything wrong. Worse. Cops busting cops. Messing with the brotherhood. Ruining careers and stripping pensions. Even if exonerated, it's an onus that's tough to shake.

Too bad he left like that. I didn't get the chance to ask him who his superior officer was. It wouldn't have mattered. I'm sure he's retired, too. Probably owns a towing company in Miami.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stupid Product Ideas

I like to think of myself as a pretty creative guy. I did spend a good part of my life in advertising and design, and as a child, I drew portraits and painted in oils. Sometimes, I get these brilliantly stupid ideas I think big companies should try.

I know it's a little late for Halloween, but plenty of bars now offer buckets of beer for a set price that's cheaper than buying them individually. Suppose Budweiser has a special promotion on that theme (and offers it in six-pack form, too.) Produce a reddish hued beer, let's say a heavy bock brew, change the name of this beer only to Bludweiser and sell "Buckets of Blud". Blud Light, too.

McDonald's offers Chicken McNuggets year round with a selection of dipping sauces. Why not offer a seasonal alternative, like Turkey McNuggets with cranberry and spicy pumpkin dipping sauces? I mean, they bring back the McRib sandwich periodically. Heck, they could sell them from October through December and stuff their pockets full of wampum.

We're in the middle of the NFL season. Too bad Pizza Hut doesn't sponsor the "Pizza HUT, HUT, HUT Halftime Report" on one of the networks. I think it would be a great promotion. Then, offer a special deal on delivery.

Anyway, those are my ideas for now. I've been tossing them around for a long time and I had to get them out. Wouldn't it would be funny if one of them popped up sometime?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Halloween Story (True)

This is the story I wrote last year. I am reprinting it because of the holiday. Don't be frightened.

The Night I Screamed On Halloween

Recently, I was telling my mother about my scariest Halloween moment. She questioned whether she would have let me venture out on my own at the tender age of 6. I was with a friend from the neighborhood and we were in the same class at school, so I wasn't really alone. I told her, sure, why not? Times were different then. You left your windows open at night. During hot summer months, most houses were without air conditioning and the only thing that separated you from the rest of the world was a screen door. Crime wasn't something that was ever present in your mind. It was a different time...

It was a chilly autumn night, that 48 years ago when I lived in Somerville, New Jersey. It was my first foray out with a friend on Halloween. No moms allowed! I was a man this night, or so I thought. Howard and I went out to make the rounds just as darkness fell. There were lots of kids in all sorts of costumes running around, stopping at each house. Some homes were decorated and they seemed like the most inviting, the ones that would give out the best candy! We saw the flickering of candlelit pumpkins with each eerie twist and turn throughout the neighborhood. Skeletons hung from trees and porches, swaying in the gentle breeze. We talked of ghosts and goblins and tried to stay away from dark alleys and back yards. No way! Oh yeah, houses with their lights off, too, because that meant they were going to grab you and take you to the basement where you'd never be seen again. Or else, they weren't home.

I had a double shopping bag to stuff all that tooth rotting goodness in. There were no paper or plastic options at the grocery store back then. These were the days of old when the milkman left glass bottles of milk at your doorstep and on freezing winter morns, the cream would expand and push the cardboard cap up and out a few inches. Brrr. Rabbit ears were the best way to watch our round screen black & white TVs.

Howard kept insisting that we finish the night at his house. OK, I said, you already stopped at mine when you came to get me. That was our first treat and my mom always had good ones. He lived five or six houses up and across the street from mine. When you're six years old, that's pretty far away and I wasn't too crazy about being almost out of sight of my own place. I was approaching unmarked territory. At least, at night. Halloween night! We'd been out long enough and had plenty of goodies to last a long time. We probably had bewitching hours, anyway. There might have been school the next day.

"OK. Let's go to my place," Howard said.

"I'm ready," I replied. Besides, I was getting tired from all that trick or treating and having to rip off my mask to show everyone who I was. "Oh, you're Sam & Dottie's boy."

We walked up the sidewalk and scaled the stairs to his front porch. It was dark and spooky and I sensed evil lurking about. We knocked and suddenly the door opened.


"I want to see a trick!" his father exclaimed. A trick? I didn't know what he was talking about. Saying trick or treat meant I was going to get candy. What was this trick thing all about?

"When you say trick or treat, I can ask you to do a trick first. Then I give you a treat. Do you have a trick?"

Howard and I gave each other a puzzled look and said, "Huh?"

"Well, then, I have a trick for you," and just like that, his top teeth popped out and back into his mouth in an instant. I froze in my tracks and just stared up at him. Then he did it again. Those teeth popped out of his face and dangled for a second and then zipped right back into his mouth.

I let out a blood curdling scream that woke the dead at the cemetery down the street. Every police department in the county would come to the rescue if they heard it today. I turned to run, when all of a sudden, Howard's mom came from behind his father and quickly came out the door to comfort me. Whatever his name was, she sure did scold him.

"He shouldn't have done that." The guy was rolling on the floor in laughter. Howard didn't know what to do. "Sometimes when people's teeth go bad, they get pulled and new ones won't grow in like they do after your baby teeth fall out. They're replaced with fake ones so you can chew your food and have a nice smile. That's what happened to Howard's dad." She turned to him. "Apologize right now!"

I don't remember if he said anything or not. He was still laughing. I was pretty rattled and couldn't stop shaking in my boots. She said she would walk me home. I was not about ready to venture out of that neighborhood by myself. When we got back to my place, she explained to my mother what a horror filled trauma I had just gone through. I sensed a snicker or two and I'm not talking the candy variety.

"Mom? Can I sleep with the light on tonight?" I asked. "I'm never going back to that house again," and I never did. "Mom, would you lock the front door, just in case?" For the longest time, I wouldn't even look at that place and I sure was glad when we moved.

When I was older, I wondered how the father of a six year old could have lost his teeth so young. Maybe, he ate too much Halloween candy.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Odds & Ends, Blood Test Results - Taking the good with the not so good

Odds & Ends

If you would have told me a year ago, "Hey, Dave, a year from now, you'll be taking 5 prescription medications a day, you'll hardly ever put a drop of alcohol to your lips and you will no longer be smoking," I would have laughed in your face. Some fortuneteller you are.

I recently had a discussion with my sister-in-law about one of those mysterious liquid supplements that are meant to cure you of all sorts of ailments. I didn't pay much attention to what it was because I don't believe a cure-all exists anywhere in any form. We read about some never heard of fruit that Amazon natives have been using for hundreds of centuries. We hear it cures cancer, diabetes, hypertension, liver and kidney diseases and bad breath, to mention just a few. Then, and on the other side of the spectrum, we'll learn about all kinds of supplements, each designed to perform a certain function to enhance your life and health. Ginkgo biloba for the mind, for instance. My best advice to you is to not believe everything. For one thing, since the FDA (or any other country's equivalent) doesn't necessarily regulate natural cures, i.e., herbal supplements, how do you know what it will do if you don't let your doctor know first? Every person's body is different. No one pill will work for everyone. Some people have allergies, others don't. Blood types vary. Men and women are different. Men don't suffer from iron deficiencies, for example. Supplements don't always mix well. I've often read to not take St. John's wort with ginkgo biloba. Did you know that? The list of reasons can go on and on and it is impossible to take supplements that promise an eternal life, free of maladies. Besides, my prescription blood pressure medication is derived from snake venom. South American variety. I have a printout that tells me of possible interactions.

"I take Peruvian Ma La Qua Potion every day and I haven't been sick in 48 years." - Ellen B., Baltimore, MD

Do you know Ellen B. or anyone who does? I didn't think so. She doesn't exist, but her fictional testimonial does.

I average anywhere from 80 - 130 visitors a day now on this website. Am I bragging? No. A good chunk of those hits are from people searching for information on diabetes. One such search is on "coconut cures for diabetes" and one of the very first things a doctor told me after being diagnosed with type 2 was to avoid all coconut like it's the plague. I know for a fact that I ate a Thai soup for dinner one night before I was officially diagnosed, but testing my glucose levels twice a day, and my sugar skyrocketed. The culprit? Coconut milk in the soup base.

Blood Test Results

Every diabetic must undergo blood work every three months for the rest of their lives to show how glucose levels are and how your kidneys and liver are functioning. The doctor will prescribe and adjust your medications accordingly. A short time ago, I went in for tests and had a follow-up visit a week later.

"No really bad news to report," my doctor told me soon after he entered the room.

"Good. Then I can leave?"

"No, there are a few things we need to discuss."

The fasting level of my glucose on the morning of my test was 140. That's high. My overall level for that 3 month period was 5.6, up from the previous test of 5.5. Not bad at all (Previous test results and ranges can be found here). He proceeded to double my Glucotrol/Glipizide medication, but, at least, I'm not on Metformin yet. Glucotrol stimulates insulin production in the pancreas. Metformin slows glucose production in the liver. As long as my pancreas is functioning modestly, I'm in better shape overall.

"You know I take cinnamon capsules everyday, right?"

"Cinnamon shows a lot of promise in diabetics," he responded. I used to take 3,000mg a day, but have since dropped it to 1,000. I give some credit to cinnamon for that 5.6 number.

My cholesterol went up. Originally, I was put on 40mg of Lovastatin. That brought those numbers way down, but at the same time, greatly reduced my good cholesterol, too. He put me on a combination prescription of 500mg Niacin/20mg Lovastatin. This time, my overall cholesterol was 181, triglycerides were 184, LDL was 101 and my good cholesterol (HDL) jumped from 29 to 43. He doubled my medication to 1,000/40. Niacin helps bring good cholesterol up and it did, but 20mg of the statin wasn't enough to keep the bad down. One of the unpredictable consequences of diabetes is that medications are constantly adjusted and when you think you've gotten it under control - POW - something else pops up.

"Your urine was very yellow and thick."


My blood test said TURBID. That means cloudy. My specific gravity was low. He wasn't too concerned, but these might be signs of excreting red blood cells, which leads me to his next discussion.

"I'm a little concerned about your platelet count. It's been testing low, but not too low to warrant further testing at this time. I wouldn't worry about it yet." YET? When a doctor brings up something that concerns him, you tend to get a little bit nervous. "If it remains low or drops, we'll have to set you up with a (bone marrow) biopsy. In the meantime, we'll keep a close watch on that number from now on." My red cell count was low, but he didn't mention it.

"Oh, great news! I noticed that on my previous tests, especially since my brother-in-law went through AML (leukemia) and his platelet counts were really bad."

"Well, you don't have leukemia because your other numbers are within range."

"Are there any supplements I can take to increase my platelets?"

"No, but there are prescription medications available. Like I said, don't worry about it yet."

OK, I won't worry, but it will be on my mind. "Does it have anything to do with the diabetes?"

"No. Are you ready for your prostate examination? Remember, we discussed it last time?" Oh, yeah, how could I forget?

It ain't fun getting old. Does anyone know where I can order that Peruvian Ma La Qua Potion?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New National Park Will Open Soon

(API) Big Oyll, Texas - The George W. Bush National Forest & Wildlife Preserve, in honor of the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, is scheduled to open to the public soon. "We have to clear out more trees, but it shouldn't take long," a park ranger stated, on the condition of anonymity. "Next year, the Dick Cheney Hunting Preserve will be open in Buck Shot, Wyoming."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rated R for Rectum

We've known each other for a number of years and our relationship has always been professional, although, he has told me things that I would say are rather intimate. I haven't seen him in months and he told me then that it was time. "I'm not ready," I responded. "Next time." Yesterday was that special day.

Other than high school gym class and the showers we took together, I had never been naked with a man, certainly not in an intimate fashion by any means. Actually, it was my high school doctor some 40 years ago. Women, I love them. Men? Never.

Somehow, he convinced me to unbuckle my belt and slowly drop my pants. What compelled me to do such a thing? Could it be that, after all these years, I needed to get this done? To put it behind me, so to speak, so I could get on with my life and to feel like the manly man I truly am? You know, men doing manly things together. Bonding.

He touched me. He touched me again. I coughed. I coughed again. He asked me to turn around. I acquiesced for the simple reason that it was a friendly request and I liked his demeanor. He made me feel calm. Besides, it wasn't like he was just a stranger in some back alley, probing and chipping away at my masculinity. Assume the position! I was not looking forward to what he was about to do.

He penetrated me from behind. I could not gaze into his eyes. Ooh, I silently moaned. It was a new sensation and I sensed that this man knew what he was doing. I've been touched there before, but this was the first time it was a guy. For a fleeting moment, I felt like a woman. "You should have had this done years ago." I didn't know what to think. He was right, but I didn't quite know how to respond. How should I react? What should I have said? Before I had a chance, it was over.

"Is that it?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "Your prostate is a little spongy, but not bad for a man your age."

I pulled my pants up. After all that anxiety and trepidation, it turned out to be a simple procedure. "You know," I said, "that was nothing compared to that barium enema you put me through months ago for polyps I didn't have."

"Yes, but we did find out you have diverticulitis. I would recommend that you start taking saw palmetto to help keep your prostate healthy. Other than that, you're good for another year." I felt whole.

"Great!" I exclaimed, as I limped out of his office. I can't wait to mark it on my calendar.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Should restaurants be required to list calories and fat grams on their menus?

Again, this was a matter of debate at, where writers are invited to express their opinions, for or against. This is what I wrote.

Should restaurants be required to list such information on their menus? I can think of a simple way to circumvent that problem. Have the wait staff memorize and recite each item instead, but then I would probably have to listen to all sorts of disclaimers about the increased risks of heart attacks and strokes from consuming one of those meals. My ears would clog and my blood pressure would rise from having to listen to all those asterisks. You want cream* and sugar* with your coffee*? Here, you'd better read this first.

Time for a reality check.

I used to make a marinade I sold in the Orlando, Florida market. It was my own recipe and the first thing I did was call the FDA to find out what I needed to do to make it shelf stable. The advice the kind man at the other end of the phone gave me was just that. What he told me was common sense and not governed by law. One of the things I remember was that I should put a lot number on each bottle to protect me in case of a complaint. That way, if I produced a thousand bottles in a particular batch and there was only one complaint, certainly, I was not at fault. 999 bottles stood behind the integrity of my product and, obviously, other factors were involved, such as whether the person marinated the food in the refrigerator, as I clearly instructed on the label.

He told me to take random bottles to a testing lab to ensure that bacteria levels were safe. They were and this protected me and the consumer. Back then, small batch food goods did not need labels listing "Nutritional Facts", but I thought it was only right to provide information anyway and it made me look more big time than I was (the FDA defines a small business as one with food sales of less than $50,000 a year or total sales of less than $500,000.) Needless to say, it was not cheap. I had to give up my secret recipe to a different type of testing lab in order to determine the nutritional values, but my secret was safe with them. When you make thousands and thousands of bottles of marinade over a period of many years, one should feel compelled to offer practical and educational information to allow the consumer to decide, whether law or not. Besides, the cost was passed on at the wholesale level and given the price of the lab work, it didn't amount to too much in the overall scheme. Initially, yes, but not so much in the end because it worked by volume sales.

Since the FDA's effective date of May 8, 1994, I have been reading nutritional labels on all sorts of packaged food items I buy. I have been aware of trans fats for a long time and I insisted that nothing of that nature would ever go into my product when I made it. I used olive oil. My marinade was low in fat, sugar and sodium and packed with flavor. Since being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last year, I am even more keenly aware of what I eat and I read labels with a vengeance now. Have you heard of "interesterified soybean oil" or "high in stearic acid"? I have and I've written about it on a diabetes post.

By replacing one fat with another less saturated one, has it made it safer to consume? Labels on packaged goods don't tell you that and they aren't required to do so. For example, a recent study of interesterified fat was found to depress the level of HDL (good cholesterol) more than trans fat. In addition, it raised blood glucose levels and depressed the level of insulin. This suggests that interesterified fat could lead to diabetes. The nutritional panel alone does not paint you (oil base, of course) an entire picture, so you've got to read the list of ingredients, too, to formulate what may or may not be healthful to eat. I wonder what type of fat is replacing partially hydrogenated ones in the restaurant industry as many of them now tout ZERO TRANS FAT!? Something to chew on and I guarantee it won't be listed on any menu.

In the late sixties, through the seventies, I was in the restaurant business. I think we can all agree that it is a very competitive industry, but do you have any idea how much it would cost to produce such information? OK, perhaps the big shot corporations can absorb the cost and pass it on through a modest increase in price since they deal in volume, but what about the small Mom & Pop shops? How can they cost effectively do what the Dardens of the world can do? If Olive Garden sells a spaghetti with meatballs dish with nutritional info for $8.95, how can Momma Lombardo down the street compete after paying the cost of a lab test? She has to sell her dish for $13.95 to recoup. Where went the competitive edge? What about daily specials? Would poor Momma have to send off a list of ingredients for testing before she could offer it? How can a profit be made on a one time special, made up that day at the whim of the chef because an exotic fish became available if the proprietor must send the recipe out first for scrutiny and inspection? Meanwhile, the fish and tomatoes are rotting while she awaits the results. Maybe, the chef makes up the dish as he goes and continuously samples and adjusts it. Needs a little more wine, less chicken stock, he thinks. Oops, I smell a lawsuit because the data doesn't match the end result. The food police are on their way!

What about government sanctioned standardized guidelines instead, made readily available (for a fee) to businesses and open for the taking, so that a particular dish sold at any restaurant should approximately contain this amount of calories, fat and everything else required by law to disclose? Offer different versions on the list, from rich in calories to guilt-free. Categorize lists according to cuisine. Remember, I did not have to place nutritional facts on my marinade bottle. That was left for mass produced products. Some restaurant chains already list information on the menu or on a separate sheet and it helps with sales as more and more diners become nutritionally savvy, but big chains can afford dietitians. A lot of their food comes out of regional commissaries. Would I want to require it? No. Let supply and demand dictate whether it is offered. If customers demand it, restaurants should supply it. Or don't eat there. Soon, the message would become clear by the empty tables if that's what people want. Personally, I don't want to ruin my appetite by having to read what I already know might not be good for me. Not on the menu, at least.

Lobster Bisque....................................................................................9.00
Our secret family recipe, just the right serving size of 637 calories, made with 68% of your total fat 25g (100%), saturated fat 15g (60%), trans fat 3g (15%), cholesterol , etc., etc., etc. % of your daily values, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Yummy.

Prime Rib..........................................................................................28.00
Depends on whether you eat the fat or not.

Offer a separate printout if it must be required and place it on display for consumers to take or leave. Does the government really have to tell me this menu is USDA, United States Disclaimer Approved, before I order Momma's special, Fettuccine Alfredo, made with cheese, heavy cream, egg yolks and a dash of statin, and it's about to fill me with a month's worth of badness at one sitting? It kind of takes the fun away from eating out. Maybe, I'll call for takeout instead, but then, I'd have to listen to all those asterisks over the phone first.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Fred Ressler, of Pareidolia fame, turned me on to an interesting website called Urban Dictionary. It is a slang dictionary where readers submit their own words and definitions. Velvis is a word I came up with in 1984, back when sniglets were in vogue. A sniglet is a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn't.

Velvis belongs in a class of art by itself. Similar categories would include, but is not limited to, assembly line rug/beach towel prints and paintings of heavy metal rock stars and jungle animals. Generally, you'll find these items for sale at flea markets, yard sales and high volume intersections (in gas station parking lots), in the urban sprawl. This genre should not be confused with collections of plastic flamingos and anything to do with Dale Earnhart, although in most cases, they are sold side by side.

A genuine Velvis is a velvet painting of Elvis.

Floyd traveled around the country, including in the ghetto, searching for Velvis paintings to add to his art collection.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Should cell phones be banned in restaurants?

This was a matter of debate at, where writers were invited to express their opinions, for or against. This is what I wrote.

For all you know, I may be sitting here at the Tech Noir Internet Cafe, eating my Bavarian Ham and Brie Croissant with arugula, baby spinach and alfalfa sprouts while working out deals with my day trader over the phone, between sips of my iced frappe latte parfait with imported organic vanilla bean essence. If food is served, it is a restaurant, at least to the health department. I'm not, but you can picture that scenario, and in this kind of establishment, cell phones may play a crucial role.

I think everyone would agree that smoking is not a healthy vice. Neither is second hand smoke and that is why many states have banned lit cigars and cigarettes from all public buildings and that includes restaurants. Cell phones cause no health danger, other than the fights that might ignite from the rudeness of blabbers and those who want a nice, quiet repast. That could be a problem.

I certainly wouldn't go to a 5 star restaurant and read the Podunk Times while slurping a delightful lobster bisque. Chomping my filet mignon drenched in ketchup with my mouth open? How rude. On the other hand, I have no problem with cell phones down at the fast food joint and local greasy spoon, where the hustle and bustle of activity and conversation tend to neutralize cell phone chatter. "You want fries with that?" Personally, I don't like to carry on a private conversation in front of people, especially strangers. Who I talk to and what I talk about is no one's business but mine, but there I might be inclined to answer and talk as quietly as I can without disturbing others. In between bites, of course.

Back to smoking for a moment. You don't see churches with NO SMOKING signs hung all over the place. They don't need them. You don't normally see TURN OFF ALL CELL PHONES signs, either. It's just common sense and proper etiquette that tell us to refrain from certain behavior depending on the setting. Why can't people learn to take that same politeness and respect with them wherever they go before the government intervenes at the behest of the annoyed? Since restaurants aren't the only places that suffer from this form of aural intrusion, where would legislation stop?

As far as I'm concerned, a cell phone is nothing more than a phone that's not plugged into a wall and it works almost everywhere. It is a utility, for crying out loud. Oops. Did I just scream that? In the past, we couldn't take our phones with us. Now we can, and the main problem lays with the courtesy challenged, those ego-fed bean heads who want to show others, especially strangers, how important they are. All other conversation must cease. Look at me! I think it should be at the discretion of the individual restaurant to allow or bar cell phones. Because ambience and cuisine vary tremendously, it should be a management decision. There shouldn't be an across the board ban.

All of this kind of makes me wonder, do parents still teach their children to sit up straight and chew with their mouths closed? Do they tell them to hang up the phone, it's time for dinner? Probably not.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Wooden Knechel


My brother, Sam, is a very talented guy. Whenever he puts his mind to something, he does it. For the past several years, he's been crafting objects out of wood; goblets, canes, trivets and an assortment of other things. Friends and relatives encouraged him to start selling what he makes. After making gifts for people, he decided to give it a try. He asked me if I could design a website. Sure, I could design it, but I had no idea how to implement it. Then I got Dreamweaver and it opened up a new world of opportunities.

Recently, he set up a web package with Network Solutions and we went to work building a temporary site with one of their templates. He's done most of the work, I just set up the initial one. This one will remain up until my design is ready. That means a complete selection of photo samples and many of them are still in the works. Please stop by and visit his site. That won't cost a thing, but if you like what you see, e-mail him for information.

Wood Creations by Sam

Hand Crafted Designs for Your Home & Heart

He specializes in:

Goblets and Wine Glasses

Canes and Walking Sticks

Trivets and Coasters

Knobs and Drawer Pulls

Vessels and Vases

All are custom made to your liking. You can even choose from an array of woods, including exotics.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Preparation is the key to exterior house painting

I know it's a little late in the season, but this was a recent topic brought up by Helium, a user-created reference website.

When I was young, in the 70s, my boss used to lay me off during the summer months because he could get 3 school kids to work for what he was paying me. It gave me the opportunity to paint residential and commercial buildings. I took pride in my work and made pretty good money, too. Back then, I preferred oil base or alkyds over latex because there was less of a chance for mold and mildew to build up.

About 8 years ago, my father asked me if I'd be interested in painting his house. Sure, I said. I wasn't going to charge him for my work, but I certainly wasn't going to pay for the cost of preparation and materials. Two of my friends were professional painters. Since I had been out of that field for many years, I wanted to know what, if anything, was new since the old days. I told them I prefer oil over latex. They were adamant in their reply, "No! Latex today is much better than it was back then. It has much better mold inhibitors now. Oil base will actually encourage mold, especially here in Florida." The last time I painted anything was back in New Jersey. In Florida, structures have to contend with incredible heat, the effects of the sun and torrential downpours. The sun, in particular, lightens and deadens paint.

"Make sure you have the house pressure washed and sealed before you do it. That is very important," they both told me, "or the paint won't stick. About a year or two from then, the paint will peel." I passed that information on to my father and he said, no, I just want it painted. I went back to my friends and told them what he said. "When you run your finger across the surface and that chalky stuff comes off, that's dead paint. Try painting chalk and see if it sticks. Go ahead."

They'd had these problems before, obviously, with cheap customers wanting to save a dime. These same people would run back to the painter to complain at the first sign of trouble. Did I want that? No, so I told my father I wouldn't do it unless he prepped the house first. "Knowing you," I said, "you'll run back to the paint store to complain and the first thing they're going to ask is, did you pressure wash and seal it first?" He relented and agreed. He had no choice if he wanted the job done. I told him to get it washed and I would seal it.

The house is made of cement blocks and part of it has a stucco finish. I made sure all wood trim was scraped, allowed to dry and then primed. I always apply two coats. When I began painting, I dug out the foundation and painted my way from top to bottom, allowing that area plenty of time to dry out as well. In the case of erosion, I didn't want any areas exposed that did not show paint. Afterward, I filled the soil back in place. I made sure to paint under window sills that had never been painted. For some reason, many contractors avoid taking the brush to areas you don't normally see and that exposes part of the building to the elements. Besides, suppose someone's planting flowers along the side. They look up at the sill and see sloppy, unfinished work. Not good. I told you I am meticulous and eight years later, the house still looks great.

A few months after I completed the job, the next door neighbor, not to be confused with the "keeping up with the Joneses" type, decided to paint their house. About a year or so later, the paint began to crack, peel and bubble. Bubbling occurs from a moisture build up underneath that part of the paint. The neighbor came knocking one day and wanted to know why his house was doing that, but not my parent's.

"Did you pressure wash and seal it first?" my father asked.

"No..." he replied.

"Aha," he said, already primed with a response, "you didn't do it right!" A lesson to be learned.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quit Stalling and Resign, Sen. Larry Craig

Sometimes, I don't understand Republicans. When Newt Gingrich was bashing Bill Clinton, demanding his resignation for cheating on his wife with that woman, Miss Lewinski, he was cheating on his own wife at the time. He even admitted it, divorced his wife and married the woman. How virtuous. When Republican representative Henry Hyde, then head of the House Judiciary Committee, was in charge of deciding whether to pursue Clinton's impeachment, he failed to disclose that he was guilty of the same indiscretion years earlier, even worse because it went on for four years and the intimacy went deeper, if you know what I mean. Both he and the woman he had the affair with were married at the time. When the Internet magazine, broke the news, he dismissed it as one of his "youthful indiscretions."

One of my Republican friends told me then, "Well, at least he didn't do it in the White House." I responded by asking him what difference does it make who it is or where it's done. If it's a preacher or a deacon, whether in the church sanctuary or in the back seat of a car, cheatin' is cheatin' and that is immoral.

Cheating isn't my main point here, although Sen. Craig is married. It is the hypocrisy inherent in politics and it seems to be reeking more than a public mens' room from within the Republican party. From Bill Clinton's self-made problem and the self-righteous attempts by cheating Republicans to chop off his head, to Mark Foley and holier than thou religious icons, there are just too many conservative Republicans getting themselves into moral dilemmas. Gay and straight. What bothers me most is the double standard many Republican voters display. Reverse any of the above scenarios and these people would sing a different tune. If Clinton were Republican and the Democrats were going after him, well, you get my point. Republican sinners are not as bad as Democratic sinners. God is always on the side of Republicans, the more conservative, the better.

The hypocrisy in Craig's case stems from his series of votes against gay rights and his support of a 2006 amendment to the Idaho Constitution that bars civil unions and gay marriages. Look, I don't care if the guy is anti this or anti that, but stand by your principles. Certainly, we elect our officials based on the premise of honesty and integrity. We want them to stand tall and fight for our rights and to do what we feel would be best for us in our communities and throughout the nation. We expect them to be intelligent and have more common sense than the average sexual deviant this man has turned out to be.

What would prompt him to walk into a very public mens' room and signal the guy next to him that he was "in the mood?" I've been known to be a betting man and odds are, the guy sitting there is doing a natural body function at the time. Wow, that's a real turn on, isn't it? May I wipe when you're done? How sick. Maybe, I don't know enough about the gay lifestyle, but if that's how they hit on each other, I don't want to know any more about it. As a straight male, I've never had the desire to hit on a woman while she's engaged in an extremely personal and private moment like pinching a loaf. Something tells me she's not going to be in the mood at the time, either. In the senator's instance, this was a total stranger, sight unseen. I guess it didn't matter who he was or what he was doing, he liked his shoes.

Rumors have been flying all around on Sen. Craig for years. This is not new and he has been written about in the past. Up until his guilty plea for a misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the bathroom arrest, everything previous was speculation - their word against his - and he and his staff shrugged it off and found these rumors to be laughable. Now, he should move from the closet, not the men's room, to out in the open and admit he's gay or bisexual and get on with his life. What makes him think we would buy his lame 'lack of legal counsel and not enough time to prepare a defense and that's why he pleaded guilty' excuse? He had two months to try and there was too much evidence against him. Waving his senate credentials in the face of the arresting officer who asked for his ID, for example, implied that this was not the first time he's used his power to get out of trouble.

Senator Craig, it's time to resign. Do all you can to shield your family from the plunge you are about to take. You already sh*t and it's time to get off the pot before you flush more Republican politicians down the toilet with you. They're already in enough trouble and voters want to wash their hands of the likes of you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Chemistry student's explanation of Hell

This is from an e-mail my brother sent me. I can't vouch for it's authenticity, but I found it to be rather interesting and worthwhile to publish here.

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."


Friday, August 17, 2007

How the FBI deals with Internet terrorist threats


I once met with an Orlando FBI special agent with information regarding an unsolved murder case. I had been playing around with local authorities on another matter and something pertaining to that case crossed my path. Unfortunately, I didn't tell him anything he didn't already know, but because of this, he proffered a small amount of tidbits the FBI was aware of. A young woman was picked up at a bar I used to stop at once in a while. She was never seen again. This happened before I ever frequented the place and I did not know her. Because the crime crossed state lines, the feds got involved. The trail led to a ranch in Texas where several sets of human remains were found, but none belonged to the girl in question. Since the prime suspect did not own the property, there was no way to prove the bones were directly linked to him. Oh, they know who did it, but they were having a tough time proving it. That is all I was told. No name. No town. Just the basics. I was on a need-to-know basis and I didn't need to know anything more. The only reasons I was privy to anything at all was because of my affiliation with someone else and my knowledge of the case. That was the only time I ever met with a federal agent.

Have you ever received an e-mail from a person or organization that threatened the national security of the United States? I did. It was chilling and I immediately forwarded it on to the FBI. Today, with the proliferation of blogs and comments, there are probably a lot more nasty words being passed around, especially on controversial blogs, and more so than when it was just through e-mail accounts. Below is the letter I received (addressed directly to me) and the FBI's response.

Personally I don't see much difference between Americans and Israelis.
Both are regrouped scumbags from all over the world and both massacred
the original inhabitants of the lands.

America is terrorist state since it was created, Jews didn't told
Americans to butcher Red Indians, Jews didn't ordered Americans to
massacre Filipinos, Jews didn't asked Americans to invade Caribbean
islands and annihilated people in there, Jews didn't dropped nukes
over Japan, Jews have no aims in butchering Vietnamese, Laotian nation
or Cambodians.

Americans did those things because they were born MURDERERS.
Now, regarding Palestinian cause, Americans are not under the control
of Jews, but in fact Israel is the one under the control. Americans
can flix their muscles whenever they want, and Israelis can't help
but to obey the orders coming from Washington.

Blaming Jews is the thing that makes Americans sons of b*tch feel
slightly comfortable with, because it gives them the sense that they
are under the control of external power and they wouldn't do what
they did.

This is bullsh*t, Americans are our enemies as being Arabs.
And one day when we are finished with Israel, we will force the
bastards behind the Atlantic to pay it back with their own blood.

Arabs don't forget nor forgive.

Sorry if my words hurt you, but it's not a personal.

Revolution till victory

Marvin Wingfield

Here is the FBI response:

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 16:11:16 -0500
From:"FBI Internet Tips" <>
Subject:FBI Response

Dear Mr. anonymous: (of course, I supplied my real name)
Thank you for your tip to the FBI Internet Tip Line.
It is being evaluated for it's strategic value, and
will be disseminated, if appropriate, for further
action. It is the policy of the FBI to not provide
results of that evaluation or action to the providers
of information. I would recommend that you contact and lodge a complaint with them regarding the
sending of the email message. You should be aware
that there is a high probability that is
unaware that these messages are being sent from their
email system.

David N. Rushing/jbv
Supervisory Special Agent
FBI Headquarters
Washington, DC

The key element here is that information provided to the FBI is not shared back. They do not keep you in the loop, so it's not like dropping by the local police department and asking, "Hey, Chief, what's up with that case you're working on?"

The FBI does not take threats lightly, but what constitutes a real threat? Where is the line drawn between idle insults and the real thing? The FBI is bombarded by citizen complaints every day and many wasted hours are spent deciphering what is and what isn't worth pursuing. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of "boy who cried wolf" types out there. Some bordering on delusional paranoia.

What the FBI will do, if warranted, is interesting. The complete capabilities of the FBI's "Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier" are closely guarded secrets, but here are some of the things the malware collects, according to Wired News:

IP address

MAC address of ethernet cards

A list of TCP and UDP ports

A list of running programs

The operating system, type and serial number

The default Internet browser and version

The registered user of the operating system and registered company, if any

The current logged-in user name

The last visited URL

A computer is sent a secret spyware program that settles into a "pen register" mode and CIPAV monitors the computer's internet usage, logging everything for 60 days. The information gathered is likely sent on to an FBI technical facility somewhere in Virginia. The educated guess is Quantico, because that's where Carnivore operated. Carnivore was a "packet-sniffing" policeware program. Essentially, a packet sniffer is a program that can see all of the information passing over the network it is connected to.

Wired News reported that under a recent ruling "by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, such surveillance - which does not capture the content of the communications - can be conducted without a wiretap warrant, because internet users have no 'reasonable expectation of privacy' in the data when using the internet." See: Warrantless Monitoring of Internet Traffic

Dissenting and insulting e-mails and blog comments are one thing, and courts generally uphold First Amendment rights, but anyone would be a fool to send real or implied threats via any means, including through anonymizers. They are morally and ethically wrong and always remember that Big Brother is watching.

For further reading on a case the FBI investigated in June, 2007, please go to:
FBI's Secret Spyware Tracks Down Teen Who Made Bomb Threats

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God, I don't miss it at all

I ran into an old buddy the other day. He asked me why I haven't been hanging around the bar lately. I told him I'm not really drinking anymore.

"Well, you can still come around once in a while, right? You don't have to drink, you know."

I know, but if you stop believing in God, you don't feel like hanging around a church much, do you?"

He agreed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quite the Endeavour


I just came in from watching the space shuttle Endeavour lift off. It was a glorious moment and it's still the best attraction Florida has to offer. It was picture perfect, too. I stood in my back yard and followed the bright flame as it rapidly disappeared into the light blue sky. The puffy contrail momentarily stood still giving pause to reflect upon the timeless grace, power and magnitude of this magnificent launch. Then, it wafted away. I went back inside and witnessed what most of the nation was seeing on their television screens. Times like these become an inspiration for America, a moment to forget our woes. This is when we all unite and say Godspeed.

"Class is in session!" the NASA announcer said as the shuttle separated from the main engine and gracefully entered into orbit. Let this be a lesson to us all. As these brave souls journey onward and upward to a place where hatred carries no weight, where there are no borders and enemies do not exist, we must learn to forge ahead and make our world as safe as that oasis in the sky.

My brother, Sam, shuttles VIPs to launches. He drives for a large transportation company and took the two photos below. The first one (taken with his cell phone) was Endeavour on the pad the day before the launch. The second picture (taken with his digital camera) speaks for itself. He said it was very hazy as it lifted off the pad. What I saw from Orlando was very clear once it appeared over the tree tops.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Knechel, Jr.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Knechel, Jr.

The bottom picture looks better if you click to enlarge it.

Photos courtesy of Sam Knechel, Jr.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Go for Barack?

I'm not paying too much attention to the presidential wannabees just yet, and I'm certainly not about to pick on one party and not the other, but I sure am getting a kick out of the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama squabble. As long as I started listening to election time politicians, and that was quite some time ago, I've always noticed, or so it's seemed to me, that Democrats pick on each other more than Republicans do. The Democrats try to outdo each other in the liberal department while the Republicans do the same thing on the conservative end. Boy, we've got a long way to go before November, 2008.

Personally, I think Obama is a pretty good guy. I'm not talking political views at all. I'm saying he's the kind of guy you probably wouldn't mind having as a neighbor, a good family man who keeps his yard well manicured, someone who would throw a nice, clean party. As a professional, if he was in the medical field, I'd have no problem having him as my doctor. He seems intelligent enough, in other words, and certainly honest and straightforward. But, does intellect translate into common sense? I don't know if he's quite presidential timbre yet as a first term senator and I don't want my president sitting down with a nut who says the Holocaust never took place and Israel must be destroyed. Clearly, the man is a little green in the world of international politics and diplomacy. Granted, they all go in that way, but should a statement about meeting the renegade leaders of the world in your first year as president have been made so prematurely? Sure, you're president from day one, and you've got the first 100 days honeymoon myth on your side, but it takes a while to get all your players in place, such as diplomats and appointees that must have Congressional approval. One year's time is much too short to understand the workings of a complex world and to have it all done your way. His challenge to his opponents to do the same thing was wisely declined by Sen. Clinton.

When he made the statement that he would be willing to meet, without conditions, in the first year of his presidency, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, it lowered his stature to their level. Yes, I'm all for keeping lines of communication open, but for him to meet face to face with maniacs? It makes those nut cases heroes at home, strong leaders on the world stage and powers to be reckoned with and respected. I'd like to know where he plans to hold these slumber parties, too, these love feasts. Would he throw them a state dinner?

Here's the scary part. What would he do for an encore? The Obama/Osama Summit in '10? Oh my.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


On Monday, I went to see my doctor. I had some back door work done a little while ago and was diagnosed with diverticulosis. No polyps though, and that's a good thing for a guy who's soon to be 55. I've got to go on a higher fiber diet. That's the good news.

The nurse took a blood glucose test and my sugar came in at 208. That didn't make me, the nurse, nor the doctor happy at all. What happened? Here, I was boasting about my proud numbers in my last diabetes post. My A1c had dropped from 8.0 to 5.5. I have no idea what it would be today and I'm not scheduled for more blood work until the beginning of October. I had been crowing about the supplements I truly felt were working in my favor. Today, I'm not too sure. This afternoon, the magic number was 227. I'm certainly not going to stop taking what I do because he had told me on my last visit that everything was safe, that none of the supplements would harm me. Now, if I run out of something, I won't be so quick to jump in my car to replenish supplies. Besides, everything adds up in cost. I read a lot and listen to plenty of advice from people who have all sorts of natural cures. As a matter of fact, one commenter addressed gymnema sylvestre as an herbal alternative to the prescription drug I take now. It looks promising, but it doesn't come cheap. It's about the same price and until I do further research, I'll stick to my present plan. When I went to pick up some prescriptions recently, I bragged to my pharmacist about my A1c number and how the supplements might have helped. She told me to keep in mind that when I was diagnosed, I stopped eating sugar and that probably had a lot more to do with that number than what I was taking on my own. If I can get my number down to 4.0, then she'll start listening. By the way, she has faith in supplements.

The doctor instructed me to double up on the Glucotrol (Glipizide) XL if my numbers are high. He wrote out a prescription for 60 pills instead of the usual 30. Unfortunately, that also doubled the price. When I tested my sugar last night, I checked in at a much more comfortable 110. The double dose seems to be doing the trick. I took one in the morning and one in the mid-afternoon.

The same person who mentioned gymnema sylvestre also told me about taking niacin to reduce cholesterol. From what I have learned, it does help. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks is that it has a tendency to raise blood sugar. One of the things of much concern to my doctor was that my good cholesterol (HDL) was very low. Overall, all my choesterol and triglycerides have gone way down from the Lovastain I've been taking, but it seemed to have lowered the good stuff, too. Initially, I was taking 40mg daily, but he reduced it to 20mg. Because of the low HDL number, he decided to take me off straight Lovastatin immediately and put me on Advicor, a combination of 500mg niacin and 20mg Lovastatin. He says this will raise my good cholesterol. Unfortunately, it doesn't come without side effects, some of which can be pretty nasty. It's the niacin. They include feeling flush, itching, tingling, dizziness, rapid or pronounced heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, chills, swelling, rashes, abdominal pain, back pain, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. Oh, I did mention high blood sugar, didn't I? About 45 minutes before popping one of these pills, I took a couple of Tylenol to help minimize some of the side effects. Then, I took it, ate a pear and went to bed. I quickly fell asleep and woke up this morning with no ill effects. Maybe, I was a little groggier than normal, a little more light headed, but that was all.

I don't take issue with natural remedies. In many cases, they can be quite effective and beneficial in treating different ailments, but I question their reliability. The FDA does not clinically test supplements for safety, effectiveness and problems if taken in conjunction with other supplements. For example, you shouldn't mix ginkgo biloba with St. John's wort. Sure, the Chinese have been dispensing this root and that herb for thousands of years, but can we say for sure they work better than prescribed medications that have been tested? Without the knowledge of someone well trained, such as a medical doctor, can we be our own physician? If you get a bad toothache, are you going to make tea out of a powdered root or go to a dentist? In many cases, there is no real alternative to traditional treatment. Certainly, in the case of diabetes, every person with the disease has their own fingerprint. Watermelon spikes my sugar. My mother, on the other hand, can eat it and it doesn't bother her the same way. She has been diabetic for 26 years and has been taking prescribed medicines a long time. To think that doctors and pharmaceutical companies have been conspiring with the FDA in order to fool the public is just pure bunk to me. Of course, crooks exist in every profession, but a vast conspiracy? Come on, now. When billions of dollars are pumped into research and development of drugs that are quite effective in the end, what is wrong with taking them? In my case, every prescribed medication has a generic alternative. How is the doctor getting rich off me or the millions of other diabetics taking the same things? It is my decision to ask the pharmacist to give me the generic version and I don't think a doctor would tell a patient you can't do that.

I will continue to explore other treatments and maintain a very open mind, but in the meantime, I will stick with the tried and true. I really don't think I am as qualified as those who have spent thousands of dollars and many years studying to become the doctors and specialists they are. Most pharmaceutical companies offer free medicines to people below a certain income level. Advances in today's medicines are absolutely amazing and I am not going to jeopardize my life because of conspiracy theories. Besides, I think some of the complainers are ones without health insurance. If they had it, they wouldn't have to pay much for their drugs, so they might not be as compelled to seek out alternatives. Think about that next time you bite into your fresh baked cookie made with refined sugar and bleached, enriched flour, something I can't and won't eat anymore.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cross Posted On My Other Blog

Gay Muscle Penis and Akismet Spam

One of the nice features of WordPress is the ability to catch spam comments and put them in a sort of limbo state for my approval or deletion. Very rarely are any of these comments allowed through to the legitimate comment section. A while back, I activated comment moderation, in which every comment written about one of my topics will never go directly to a post. I must approve it first. This way, nothing pornographic or meaningless gets through.

In my capacity as administrator of this blog I can add words to be blacklisted and I can limit the amount of hyperlinks allowed for all incoming comments. This is a great method of screening out the rot. Many of these comments have a dozen or so links to all sorts of back alley websites. Unfortunately, sometimes a good, legitimate comment gets stuck there, too. Even worse for me, is that I have to scroll through each and every one of those comments to weed out the good from the bad. Every once in a while, I find a good one. Sometimes I miss, for which I apologize.

I can understand a correlation between most of these spam comments and some of my posts. A good example of this is my category on diabetes. Because of medical terminology and descriptions of assorted prescription drugs and supplements, I get thousands of spam content for Viagra, Propecia, Oxycontin, Crestor and a slew of other drugs. I can understand how spam spiders find me through words I have written and somehow expect me to publish the garbage they have sent in from the dark corners of the globe. Trust me, I can get upwards of a thousand a day and if I don't have time to search through all of them, that's where the good guy gets lost. I delete them all.

What puzzles me the most, though, is where do the porn ones fit in? What links them to me? I have never written anything pornographic on this blog. I know, once they latch on to you, they will sink every decayed tooth into you and that may explain it somehow. I remember, a while back, I wrote a piece about a silly watch purchase I made many, many years ago. A Hamilton watch, or what I thought was one, turned out to be a "Harmilton." OK, that helps explain why I still get those persnickety "Counterfeit Rolex" spams, but why porn? Even if I was gay, why would I be interested in "Gay Muscle Penis" which further insults by including tons of links to "porn babes" and "naked and nude underage nymphets?" Let's not forget those "tender, puffy nipples," gay guys, as if that would interest you.

Before I retired for the night, I threw out over a hundred spams. This morning, I woke up, powered up the laptop, went to my site and found over 200 comments caught in Akismet. What is the logic behind these comments? They are never going to be published. Maybe, these entities assume all WordPress users are stupid, but I seriously doubt it. I think they solely do it to aggravate the living crap out of us.

Monday, July 09, 2007

1977 New York Yankees

I read something of interest in the sports section this morning. Starting tonight, ESPN is running an 8 part, 1 hour miniseries about the 1977 New York Yankees, titled, "The Bronx is Burning". It premieres tonight at 10pm and will run on subsequent Tuesdays in the same time slot. It brings back mostly fond memories for me, back when my close friend, Frank, and I were in the Jaycees together, playing softball against the PBA, Rotary and other organizations and I was dating Dale Ungaretta, from Plainfield, NJ. She was a hotty. I was living in Sergeantsville, NJ at the time and managing the Weiner King in Warminster, PA. That was back when Frank's wife's best friend, Jim Deckett (sp?), used to convince our wives and girlfriends to go dancing at gay disco bars and one night Frank, was beating me at pool until I convinced that one guy he was my squeeze, that he had a really big stick. From that point on, Frank lost. Boom ba boom ba boom. Fly Robin Fly. Frank and I hated disco and we never went out on the dance floor. Well, unless it was a slow dance. It was a time when Son of Sam walked the streets of New York, and terror struck the night air. For a long time, when we wanted to hit the big city, it was Philadelphia instead.

I wonder who will play the role of my favorite baseball player, ever, good old number 15?

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Very Heated Debate

When former vice president Al Gore appeared on NBC's Today show recently, he said he remembered when global warming wasn't a bipartisan issue like it is today. I agree. I've said for some time now that political attachments to Big Oil have turned this issue into the beast it has become, twisting it, full steam ahead, into not just partisan politics, pitting conservatives and liberals against each other in hotly contested debates, scientist against scientist and the common sense of "us" against the common sense of "them." In the meantime, the temperature rises. The outer fringes talk nothing but politics, even when many are not even registered to vote. One side knows for a fact that humans have nothing to do with global warming, that everything going on is due to natural causes. The other side says Bush is responsible for global warming because he refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty. Somewhere in between, millions of open minds exist, although I sometimes think the far right is incapable of being open to anything other than their own fiery brand of self induced righteousness.

Surely, global warming, fossil fuel consumption and the use of alternative sources like wind, solar, water, hydrogen and nuclear, will produce opinions from all sides, but each answer, whether right or wrong, will mostly be political in nature. Politicians from each state are free enact their own laws that go above and beyond what Washington does. California is a perfect example. Individually, we might choose to switch from incandescent to fluorescent lighting in our homes and, yes, as such, we can all do our small part to ultimately build it into something of significance, something to feel proud of. We can help save the planet and stop fueling al Qaeda and other militant groups at the same time by cutting our dependence on oil. Motor vehicles play an extremely large role in what impacts the planet.

Presidents take stands and that makes a nation move in one direction or another. Starting with Richard M. Nixon, when, during his administration, the first Earth Day was held, a lot of folks didn't like what the president was saying, let alone what he chose not to do, yet his administration was responsible for lowering the speed limit to 55 mph nationwide. Was this from how he felt about global warming? Of course not, but he was well aware of how many billions of gallons of fuel we would save by driving 10-20 mph less, and that meant billions of dollars of less revenue in the pockets of middle eastern oil sheiks, too. You see, Tricky Dick wasn't as much in bed with Big Oil as some of today's leaders. How odd that thirty-some years later extremists from the far right would consider what Nixon did back then as downright liberal. Nixon a liberal? Give me a break. He was never an environmental visionary, but as self centered as he was, he took the nation's best interests to heart when he lowered the speed limit, under protest from Big Oil and the politicians whose coffers they filled. How well I remember the days of the 1973-74 oil embargo, when we had to ration fuel by taking turns at the gas pumps, alternating odd and even license plate numbers with days of the week. If you had an odd number, you could not buy gas on a designated even day. That was back when fuel was leaded. Something needed to be done to cut fuel consumption and for all his faults, Nixon did just that.

Under Gerald Ford's tutelage, according to the NHTSA website (, "The 'Energy Policy Conservation Act,' enacted into law by Congress in 1975, added Title V, 'Improving Automotive Efficiency,' to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act and established CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks. The Act was passed in response to the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. The near-term goal was to double new car fuel economy by model year 1985." CAFE stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy and since 1983, manufacturers have paid more than $500 million in civil penalties. Most European manufacturers regularly pay CAFE civil penalties ranging from less than $1 million to more than $20 million annually. Asian and domestic manufacturers have never paid a civil penalty.

Next came Jimmy Carter. He certainly took environmental issues to a higher level, but he knew more about "nucular" fuel from his old Navy days. He was not attracted to Big Oil at all. Peanut oil, yes. He didn't hang in there long enough to impact the world, let alone the United States.

Ronald Reagan brought the oil giants back into the fold and raised the speed limit to 70 mph under the auspices of freedom. Freedom to roam, like the settlers of yore. I remember a political cartoon that ran during the Christmas season, sometime while James Watt was Secretary of the Interior from 1981-1983. It depicted the Watt family decorating their tree which was a miniature oil rig. He will never be remembered as a friend of the environment because of his open hostilities and his strong support of the development and use of federal lands by foresting, ranching and other commercial interests. During a 1991 speech to the Green River Cattlemen's Association in Wyoming, Watts said, "If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used."

George H. W. Bush knew a thing or two about big oil, but under his presidency the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 forced the oil companies to eliminate lead from all U.S. motor fuels by January 1, 1996. Why? According to the EPA, lead is extremely toxic. Studies have shown that exposure to high concentrations of lead, especially in young children, can result in damage to the central nervous system and may be associated with high blood pressure in adults. Exposure to lead typically occurs from air inhalation and ingestion of lead in food, soil, water and dust. Back then, clean air was as much of a political issue as it is today, but something was done. If you don't believe the EPA was correct to whittle away at your God-given, all-American rights, by all means, feel free to go out and munch on some old paint chips. It's funny how attitudes change over time, but never at the present. Only years later. How dare the government tell me I can't paint asbestos and chew on it while I inhale some good old fashioned polyfluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons. If you disagree with me, you're a goddam liberal.

Next, we had Bill Clinton, a friendly sort of fellow. Well aware of global warming, he pretty much stayed in the middle of the road on issues of the environment, although he did lean a little more to the left of conservative thinking and he did have the father of modern day environmentalists as his vice president. Like all politicians, he had plenty of cronies back in Arkansas. According to the state website (

"By the end of 1993, oil recovery from over 200 active fields was in excess of 29,000 barrels of oil and approximately 105 million cubic feet of gas per day. Oil and condensate reserves as of January 1, 1994 were calculated to be in excess of 205 million barrels while the gas reserves associated with the oil and condensate were calculated at over 466 billion cubic feet."

Are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in bed with Big Oil? I don't think there's a person alive, Democrat, Republican, conservative or liberal, who would touch that one with a 10 gallon gas can, lest they be branded a fool and an idiot.

Tom and Ray Maggliozzi, of Click & Clack and Car Talk fame, printed a letter in their syndicated column from a guy who increased his mileage from 34 to 44 mph by driving 60 mph instead of 75 mph. He wondered why, and at $3.00 per gallon now, is that a way to kick our oil habit? The boys answered in their normal, humorous manner, but when all kidding was set aside, they explained how wind resistance plays a major role in fuel consumption. You may wonder, they went on, how much more wind resistance there is at 75 mph compared with 55 mph. A lot, apparently. Here's what they had to say:

"Wind resistance increases by the square of your speed. If you square 55 (55 x 55), you get 3,025. If you square 75 (75 x 75), you get 5,625. So, the wind resistance at 75 mph is nearly DOUBLE what it is at 55 mph. Wind resistance is a HUGE drag on your mileage. And it's even worse if you drive some some unaerodynamic rolling hatbox, such as an SUV."

Liberal thinking? Not if you follow scientists who believe in the laws of physics and what the Maggliozzi boys explained was based on solid fact. Ask Isaac Newton. He was quite the liberal in his day.

This all leads me back to square one, I mean Al Gore. When Al Gore, Jr. was recently arrested for possession of marijuana and an assortment of prescription drugs, he was clocked driving on the San Diego Freeway at about 100 mph in his hybrid Toyota Prius. Such is the sad state of understanding from both sides. Here is a fine example of conflicting dynamics at work. On one hand, we go out and purchase cars and other goods to save the planet from destruction and turn right around and ignore it all by racing down roads at 100 mph. Doesn't that give license to buy a giant SUV and drive the speed limit? Of course, I use these examples as exaggerations, but what will come of those who are always in the right, never willing to bend and work with the other side? While the earth becomes more fragile, our egos do not. They are tempered by the heat we create amongst ourselves. One day, someone or something is going to break and suffer a meltdown unless we work together to resolve the global warming issue. Is it all from the hands of humans? No. Is it all by the forces of nature? No. Yet, that seems to be the all consuming argument, the 'you're either with us or against us' approach from both sides, and that's not fair. If Newton was alive today, I wonder what he'd say? I wonder what type of vehicle he'd be motoring around in? I wonder what Al Gore drives.