Posted by: carolinagator | December 2, 2009

Climategate: My Two Cents

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, then you’ll likely have a flavor of my worldview and my life experiences.  While there is no prerequisite reading needed to understand this post, background is usually useful in interpreting someone’s opinion, which is more or less what this post is about.

First, I generally agree that the earth has been slowly warming over the past several years, at least by the reported temperatures measured by scientists working in this field of study.  I’m not sure that this fact is being challenged by many neutral observers.  The controversy comes as people offer explanations for the observed warming.  I have been generally skeptical in believing that the cause of warming should be attributed to man’s use of fossil fuels.

For the past couple of weeks, there has been increasing controversy over leaked emails from climate researchers, suggesting that data was fudged.  In addition, there is alleged collusion between researchers to alienate scientists who hold opposing  viewpoints.  I don’t wish to argue politics, viewpoints, or science.  I would like to comment on how important, and how very frail, is the element of integrity in this dramatic situation.

Whether it be the noble field of science, the sacred area of religion, or the fundamental area of marriage and family, integrity is the glue that holds everything together.  I’m not sure what the truth will turn out to be in regard to climate science, but because of a breach in the integrity of the process, I’m not sure it even matters any more.  The concepts of truth, morality, and nobility of thought and intent are the foundational building blocks of trust.  Trust is such a fragile thing that when one crack appears, the whole structure is doubted.  I have unfortunate experience in this area of life, and I’ve learned the hard way about the pain from loss of integrity.

I’ve been amused at how various scientists, politicians, and even regular guys like me have tried to explain away or smooth over this breach of trust.  Some have said that it was really no big deal.  Others have explained that nuances in expressions were unfortunate but benign.  And the hard core members try to ignore the trust factor and focus only on the science.

There is but one way to remedy this situation.  In fact, there is only one way to fix an integrity problem, no matter which arena of life is affected.  Truth must come to the surface, no matter how ugly or dark.  Integrity can never be restored outside the cleansing action of truth.  If the data was manipulated, then say so.  Admit it.  Then let the data speak for itself.  If proper scrutiny reveals that the data is valid, then the accusations are false, and faith is restored.

Of this I’m certain: the issues that have been raised about climate research will not go away on their own.  There are plenty of politicians and others that have money, careers, and reputations on the line who will see to it.  The debate over climate change will now be secondary.  And it’s all because of the importance and fragility of that most important quality: integrity.

Posted by: carolinagator | November 26, 2009

Allen Iverson’s Legacy

It was reported today that Allen Iverson, professional basketball player, will retire.  This is big news, and was relatively unexpected.  If this ends up being true, then a truly talented player will be done.

Iverson’s career has been an impressive collection of individual accomplishments, and I want to emphasize the word individual.  In spite of being only six feet tall, Iverson is a 10 time all star, and ends his career with a 27.1 ppg average, which is fifth all time.  Yet, for all the gaudiness of his stats, he never played on a championship team.

While I’m sure that fans of the NBA (and fellow players, too) will admire Iverson’s career, Iverson’s career should be recognized for two thing: as changing the cultural climate of professional basketball, and reminding us of the importance of the team over the individual.  Let me explain.

First, Iverson singlehandedly ushered in the “gangsta” persona of NBA players.  His cornrowed, tattooed appearance, as well as his hip hop musical performances off the court made him the first superstar to embody the gangsta profile.  While this has no doubt connected with the young and the urban fans, it has, in my opinion, alienated older fans who wear their pants above their hips and listen to music other than hip hop.  The only other contemporary NBA player who tried to distinguish himself culturally was Denis Rodman, but Rodman wasn’t urban or gangsta.  He was just weird.

Second, Iverson was the first NBA superstar who seemed to unashamedly put himself and his stats above the rest of the team.  There have been brash and self-centered stars before (Charles Barkley, Rasheed Wallace, and a few others come to mind), but Iverson was different.  His game superseded his team, and that factor absolutely played a part in his retirement.  In spite of his stellar individual stats, and in spite of his relative youth, no team is currently interested in his services.  He actually started the NBA season with Memphis, but quit because his coach didn’t start him.  The same thing happened with his previous team, too. Listen closely to Iverson’s statement announcing his retirement, and see if you can’t pick up the emphasis on self:

“I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn’t help my team the way that I was accustomed to,” it read. “However, that is not the case.”

Many analysts believe that Iverson’s announcement is a ploy, and he will catch on with a team soon.  That may be true.  But I don’t think it’s an accident that no team is interested right now.

I’ve played right much basketball in my day, and I can recognize talent.  Allen Iverson is certainly talented, and will likely be remembered as the best small guard ever to play the game.  However, I believe Iverson’s career has the opportunity to stand as evidence that today’s “me first” attitude that seems to be so prevalent is ultimately hollow.  Iverson teaches us that is possible to win the battle but lose the war, and in basketball, one man can never beat five, no matter how talented the one man might believe himself to be.

Mr. Iverson, I salute your talent and celebrate your career.  But because you valued  individualism above team, the end of your career will likely be unsatisfying.  Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by: carolinagator | November 24, 2009

These Guys Have It Going On

I was just a little boy when the Muppets showed up on Sesame Street.  They quickly grew from a bunch of lovable puppets that helped kids learn to read to stars of their own movie and TV show.  I thought the untimely death of Jim Henson might be the Muppets’ undoing, but I was wrong.  After all these years, they’re still at it.

I came across this Muppet video on YouTube, and I suspect this thing is going to go viral in a hurry.  Maybe you can say you saw it here first.  Hope you like it as much as I do!

The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted by: carolinagator | November 20, 2009

Forgetting What Is Behind (ahem…)

Well, it’s all over (the colonoscopy, that is).  And it wasn’t so bad.  After a few more trips to the bathroom during the night, we were up and out of here early.  The staff at the day surgery center was really nice, and they seemed pretty sympathetic to the blowout process of the day before.

After donning the standard gown with no back to it, I was hooked up to an IV and wheeled down the hall to the procedure room.  They promised me some good stuff in the IV, and I remember thinking that it had better be some good stuff, because everything had tightened up to the point that there would be no colonoscopy without it.  When everything was ready, I was asked to roll onto my right side.  The nurse produced this big syringe of milky white stuff  and told me it was time to go to sleep.

I’ve had some surgery before, and I’ve never been able to remember going off to sleep.  This time was different.  I remember a really warm feeling all over, then my vision got blurry, and the next thing I knew, the nice lady with the syringe was telling me it was all over.  I remember dreaming before I woke up, which was a first for me, too.

So into the recovery room I go, where my wife was waiting.  There was only one final hurdle remaining before all this would be a distant memory… passing gas.  During the procedure, the surgeon blows you up with air so he can see what he’s doing, and he doesn’t bother returning things to the way he found them when he finishes.  So, it’s up to you, the patient, to get rid of the excess gas.

The nurse told me that not only did I need to pass gas, but she needed to hear me do it.  I was still a little under the influence, and I was right in the middle of explaining how I would be embarrassed to fart in front of her (a lie), when I cracked one off that any large bull would be proud of.   Without so much as a smile, the nurse looked at me and said, “Not bad, but I’ve heard better.”  That sort of hurt my pride, and I determined to myself to do better next time.

The results were completely normal, so I’m good for another 10 years.  I’m just glad all this is over, and I can get back to life (see photo).

Posted by: carolinagator | November 19, 2009

Embracing The Horror

It’s finally my turn.  For no other reason than being 50 years old, I am scheduled early tomorrow morning for screening colonoscopy.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I completely understand why this is happening, and I am all about having a preventative mindset.  But some things in this world just ought not be, and this is one of them.

As you can imagine, the last couple of weeks have been filled with good-natured razzing from my friends.  Those younger than 50 are shaking their head and telling me what a bummer this is.  The veterans have done their best to paint the process as something that I might not survive.

Today is “prep” day, which means I have been at home this afternoon doing my impression of the space shuttle blasting off from the launch pad.  My doctor gave me a choice of taking either a course of pills or some liquid to clean me out.  I chose the pills.  For future reference, they were right expensive.

So today at noon, I took 4 pills with 8 oz. of liquid.  Four more at 12:15.  Four more at 12:30.  Four more at 12:45.  Four more at 1PM.  I kid you not.  They tasted like salty rocks.  Then, bloated from pills and about a gallon of liquid, I sat down to await my fate.

I’m not finished yet.  It hasn’t been all that bad so far, and the words “so far” are the most important.  I was afraid I would be torn to pieces by this stuff, but it hasn’t been quite that bad.  However, I’m losing fluid really fast.  It feels like kerosene coming out now, and I’m thinking of calling my friend who has a baby and asking for some baby wipes with aloe.  In a couple of hours, I have to take 12 more pills, then an hour later I get to take two Dulcolax tablets.  It’s shaping up to be a long night.  Hope I don’t have to have a skin graft.

Tomorrow is the big show.  They tell me I won’t remember a thing, compliments of Versed and Fentanyl.  I’m all for that.

So, for now, I’ll keep embracing the horror.

Posted by: carolinagator | November 11, 2009

A Slice Of Americana?

I was in Orlando all day yesterday attending a business conference called “Get Motivated.”  The purpose of the conference was what the name stated.  I was one of 13,000 people attending at the Amway Arena, the home of the Orlando Magic.  The conference was an organized function, ultimately designed to offer services for which the attendees would sign up for… for a fee, of course.

I’m not writing about this to let you know I was at the conference.  Instead, I want to let you know what I observed about the other 13,000 people who were there.  Throughout the day, there emerged a “personality” of the crowd, characterized by what they applauded for, what they laughed at, and what they thought was outrageous.

Before I tell you what the crowd was like, let me first identify some factors that might explain what I saw.  First, the crowd was from Central Florida.  I am a relative newcomer here, but as I understand the people who live here, they are by and large fairly conservative in their political views.  I’m sure the spectrum of viewpoints was represented, but still, I would say that at least many folks in this part of the country are down home country folk.   Second, the lineup of speakers were for the most part from the conservative side.  The speakers included Lou Holtz, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Laura Bush, Terry Bradshaw, Zig Ziglar, and others.

Here are some characteristics of the crowd that I noticed.  There were many references, by almost every speaker, to the military, and the crowd erupted in long and loud cheering every single time.  The conference gave away door prizes during the day, and one prize was a cruise.  To win the door prize, attendees had to stand up and dance to music being played.  Judges were spread out over the arena, and those who danced with the most conviction were selected to come up on stage to compete for the prize.  Among the 10 people picked to go up on stage was a Marine in dress uniform.  As the 10 finalists danced on stage, the emcee would hold her hand over each dancer, and the loudest applause would allow the contestant to continue.  The dancers were going wild trying to win… all except the Marine.  This guy just wobbled around bashfully while the others were laying it all out there.  But who do you think the crowd picked?  Yep.  The Marine.  The others didn’t have a chance.

Another interesting characteristic of the crowd was their vocal distaste for the concept of political correctness.  Over half of the speakers, in one context or another, expressed the view that political correctness is going to be the death of this country.  Each time this was mentioned, the crowd erupted  A similar response was evoked when the topics of the traditional family and the country’s deficit was mentioned.

So why should I be surprised?  After all, I am in an area that, while maybe not terribly conservative, is certainly not strongly liberal either.  And the lineup of speakers certainly seem to lean to the right.  I came away surprised because it was strikingly clear to me that this kind of public mindset is really different than the mindset the media describe.  This realization was stunning in its clarity.  It was so striking that I sensed it immediately.  And it was weird.

So tonight, I’m wondering about some other parts of the country.  I wonder how the people in Atlanta, or Nashville, or Kansas City, or Denver really think.  All things being equal, it wouldn’t be hard to think that there are more conservative people across America than we are being led to believe.

Whether that’s true or not, it was still cool to see how much support our troops received from the crowd.  And yes, I voted for the Marine, too.

Posted by: carolinagator | November 2, 2009

Is Life Becoming A Little More Valuable?

The sanctity of human life has scored a couple of points this week.  Earlier, I read about the dreadful turn of events for suicide clinics in Switzerland.  Authorities are looking into stricter criteria for allowing people to end their own lives because of accounts of people dying who do not meet the current standards.  I was appalled to read that people are scheduling “suicide vacations” to Switzerland, checking into these establishments, and ending their lives.  And many of them are not suffering from terminal illnesses, but are clinically depressed, etc.

You would think that these organizations would be glad to make sure the people who are put to death… excuse me, suicide assisted, have testimonials from their doctors as to having a terminal illness, and that their death is imminent within weeks or months.  But actually, the opposite is the case.  The “suicide hotels” are bucking the proposed rule changes.  Don’t forget that their financial viability depends on a certain amount of people using their services each month.  You can read the article here.

And now for a true miracle.  I read today about a Planned Parenthood leader who resigned because of a guilty conscience after seeing an abortion using ultrasound.  Abby Johnson, who has worked for and actually led a Planned Parenthood clinic in Los Angeles, experienced a life-changing change of heart.  “I just can’t do this anymore,” she said.

Ms. Johnson’s change seems to be genuine, and she even describes it as spiritual, citing a sense of “a load of guilt being lifted.  “She is now hanging out just down the street, at the Coalition For Life.  You can watch the news video here.

In a time when life seems more expendable by the minute, it sure is nice when a ray of light pokes through the clouds.  And two rays at the same time…. that’s a bonus.

Posted by: carolinagator | October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It’s that time again…. the doorbell rings, and it’s the munchkin from down the street dressed up as either a princess or the Incredible Hulk, standing at your door.  Mom or dad is usually a couple of steps back, offering moral support.  The kids seem to always forget to say, “Trick or treat” when you answer the door.  You throw a handful of candy into their bag, close the door, and wait another 2 minutes before it rings again.  Halloween.

Halloween seems to have changed a little since I was a kid.  There doesn’t seem to be quite as much excitement as there used to be.  I remember looking forward to dressing up for days, and after we trick or treated, we would meet up and run around the neighborhood for a while, looking for an opportunity to throw an egg or a roll of toilet paper.

What brought about the changes?  First of all, there is a safety concern these days for our kids that wasn’t necessary in years gone by.  In the 70s, stupid people began to put razor blades in apples and taint candy with unhealthy stuff, and suddenly parents had to scrutinize what their kids were bringing home.  Not only that, but today, parents are concerned (and rightly so) about the safety of their kids while out trick or treating.  When I was a kid, my parents didn’t feel the need to accompany me.  But for most parents today, going along is a no- brainer.

Another change is in the way Halloween is viewed by the religious element of our society.  This is interesting, because it’s been an evolution of how some churches view Halloween.  When I was a kid, I don’t remember any type of objection of celebrating Halloween from within the church.  Kids dressed up, went out, collected candy, and that was that.  Then, in the 70s and 80s, there arose an objection to Halloween on the grounds that it celebrated a pagan holiday, which was inappropriate for church goers.  Today, there has arisen a different reaction to Halloween: the Halloween alternative.  Many churches, mine included, are offering an alternative to the traditional celebration of Halloween.  They invite children to come to the church, dressed in their Halloween costumes, and offer candy, games, and fun in an environment where the atmosphere can be somewhat controlled.  Other churches offer fall festivals and other alternative celebrations.

However you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) Halloween, have fun and please be careful.  I read an article this week that said tonight, Halloween night, is the night where more children are hit by cars than any other night of the year.  I hope that when you answer the doorbell and a munchkin is standing there, it will take you back to your childhood and kindle fond memories when life was a little simpler.

Happy Halloween!

Posted by: carolinagator | October 28, 2009

Need a Casket? Try Wal Mart…

That’s right, Wally World is now a place where you can buy your casket.  No, they aren’t on display at your local store.  They are  from Star Legacy Funeral Network.  Check out the Wal-Mart site here. Along with urns, Wal Mart is providing burial vessels for what are often big savings compared to the prices charged by funeral homes.  Lest you think Wal-Mart is blazing some kind of new trail here, they are actually following the lead of Costco.  Coverage in the mainstream media can be found here.

Just in case you’re wondering if the logistics of buying a casket at Wal-Mart will work when someone dies, you can relax.  Caskets are shipped within 48 hours (which is usually enough time), and federal law requires funeral homes to accept caskets from third parties.

According to the article in USA Today, funeral home operators are not really worried about their new competitor.  Caskets have been available online for some time.  And the funeral director interviewed in the article made a great point.  He said, “Wal-Mart can’t offer one thing funeral directors do have: the ability to comfort someone during a trying time. There’s no question in my mind as a funeral director for nearly 40 years that the most critical element is the human contact.”

I happen to agree.  The price of a casket might be important to people planning their own funeral, but when the time comes to carry out those plans, survivors care much less about price and much more about comfort, help, and understanding.




Posted by: carolinagator | October 26, 2009

A Vote For Vaccinations

A few days ago, I was listening to a snippet from a talk show, where Bill Maher and Chris Matthews were debating the merits of H1N1 Vaccinations.  Bill Maher was on a rampage, convinced that vaccinations were dangerous.  It looked for all the world that he was searching for something to be indignant about, asserting that “nobody is looking into the safety of these vaccines,” and suggesting that we are all being subjected to media propoganda.  Chris Matthews made excellent arguments, causing the audience to erupt in applause several times.  Maher, however, would not be denied his rant.

Maher is not alone in questioning the need for vaccinations.   Meryl Dorey and others are on various crusades against vaccinations.  I think their cause is absolute nonsense.

My objections to their assertions come from an important anniversary.  This month, in 1977, the last recorded case of smallpox was documented.  Thanks to vaccinations, this catastrophic disease that has killed tens of millions (not a typo) of people has been eradicated.  Have you ever seen a person who has contracted smallpox?  Take a look here: WARNING- this is disturbing.  Imagine where we would be if Maher and Dorey were ranting during the outbreak of smallpox….

The major concern regarding vaccinations, as I understand it, is safety.  I am pretty certain that there will be a small number of untoward reactions in some people.  However, the potential for saving uncountable lives is undeniable.  I hope good sense comes to the rescue of good science, and these who are seeking notoriety for notoriety’s sake are shouted down.

Older Posts »